Ogyrven /|\



Mor wyf gert geinrwyf, hyglwyf hagen,
Mor wyf hygleu vart o veirt ogyrven
Mor wyf gwyn gyfrwys nyd wyf gyvyrwen
Mor 6yf gyfrin fyrt kyrt Kyrridven

Strong is my muse, though I am feeble,
Great is my name among the bards of ogyrven,
Grief is my companion, I cannot be joyful,
Initiate I am in the craft of Ceridwen

So sang the bard Cynddelw Prydydd Mawr (Cynddelw the Great Poet) in a long elegy on the deaths of Ririd Flaidd and his brother Arthen*. The word ‘ogyrven’ in the second line is often simply glossed as another word for ‘awen’, and it certainly can be used in that way. A poem in The Book of Taliesin, however, speaks of ‘seven score ogyrven which are in awen’, suggesting that an ogyrven is a single stream of a multi-streamed awen. Another poem in The Book of Taliesin indicates that awen has a threefold structure: ‘when from the cauldron comes three streams of awen’.  Iolo Morganwg adopted the term from early Welsh poetry and made each of the streams of awen in the symbol /|\ an ogyrven or gogyrven. But for the early bards it was linked , as in the verse above  from the 12th century, with Ceridwen as the source of inspired poetry. A poem in The Black Book of Carmarthen speaks of ‘autyl Kyrridven ogyrven amhad’, suggesting that a poem inspired by Ceridwen has many streams of ogyrven and again indicating the plural nature of the ogyrvens of awen. 

The word Ogyrven or Ogyrvan is also used to to refer to a person, as in a poem by another early bard Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd [featured in an earlier post ~>]. This poem speaks of Ogyrvan’s Hall which seems to be located in the Otherworld and John Rhŷs suggested that Ogyrvan was a king in that world. He is variously described in different places as a father of Guinevere and elsewhere (in only one isolated case as far as I can discern) of Ceridwen**. Detractors from this view suggest that there is a confusion with the mutated form of Gogfran, a giant, as in a poem by a later bard, Sion Cent: ‘Gwenhwyfar … daughter of Gogfran gawr’. 

Gogfran/Ogrfan may then be a representation of a father figure of a significant daughter whose divine status makes him appear as a giant. So the sense of Ceridwen as the ‘daughter’ of such a figure carrying divine inspiration from the Otherworld into our world. Such ‘confusions’ may then  be the expression of a link between poetic inspiration and its source in an awen or muse goddess whose ‘giant’ father dwells in the Otherworld. Gods, after all, can be both distantly anonymous and manifest identities.


Annwfn ei hun sydd felly.



*My translation of the text of Cynddelw's lines as given in the original mss version in Gwaith Cynddelw Prydydd Mawr(i) ed Nerys Ann Jones and Ann Parry Owen (Caerdydd, 1991) 

** In The Burning Tree Gwyn Williams (Faber 1956) p.222

1 comment:

  1. Interesting to hear that Ogyrven was seen as the father of Ceridwen in one source. Very different to the ogyrven (as spirits?) rising from her cauldron like her children! Just shows 'confusions' exist within the source material!

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