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Title: The role of the bard in contemporary Pagan movements.
Author: Letcher, Andrew James.
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Winchester
Date of Award: 2001
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This thesis presents a study of Bardism, a genre of performance (of poetry, story, music, and song) found in contemporary Pagan movements. This research is informed by three principal theoretical positions: neo-tribal theory, performance theory, and postmodem critiques of methodologies of participant-observation (the position adopted here being one of reflexive ethnography). Research was undertaken within two study groups, contemporary Druidry and EcoPaganism. Overviews of belief and practice within these groups are presented. The processes by which individuals within these groups come to be identified as Bards are analysed. Bards must meet the neo-tribal expectations of performance: they acquire their skills by trial and error. The function of Bardic performance is analysed: Bards contribute to the invention and maintenance of tradition, and hence to the maintenance of neo-tribal identities. Identities are articulated and performed with reference to an imagined past. The contexts in which performance occurs, and staging arrangements are discussed. Performance typically occurs at events, festivals and camps, which disrupt the quotidian: they are camivalesque moments. Staging, within these moments, requires compliance with tacit codes of behaviour. The meanings signified by Bardic music, and Bardic choice of instruments, are discussed. Particular emphasis is given to the sound of the music. Finally an ethnography of practitioners' experiences of 'inspiration' or 'awen' is presented. The way in which non-ordinary experiences such as inspiration are legitimated is analysed. This work describes a previously unstudied aspect of Paganism. Further it contributes to the 'detraditionalisation' debate, by providing evidence for the emergence of new traditions, identities, and structurating forces within the neo-tribe.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available