Inspired poetry, regarded as a vital skill of the pagan Celtic seer, fits in with the shamanistic tenet that one must bring back any information gained from the Otherworlds to benefit the people.
One challenge to this is that visions wildly pouring forth while in deep trance can easily be forgotten during the return to ordinary waking consciousness.
They are much more likely to be retained and recalled for later use when placed in some sort of pattern which the cognitive mind can hold onto.
Through the uses of rhyme, alliteration, meter, repetition and tune to this end, the crafts of music and poetry became intimately connected with magical practice and otherworldly power and knowledge in the Celtic world.
Besides voicing deep and otherwise hidden wisdom gained while in an altered state, bards used sound to harm, heal, and alter moods and probability.
Poetry and music were not considered beaux-arts to the pagan Celts, but tools of raw magical power.
Scorching satirical poetry known as the briarmon smetrach was intended to ‘puncture’ and to publicly destroy reputations.
Well-aimed, the poetic form known as glam dicin was used to drive out rats and to disfigure or even kill an opponent.
The Irish cattle-rustling epic Tain bo Cualgne describes the bardic warfare employed by Queen Medb against her enemy Fer Diad:
Then Medb sent the Druids and satirists and harsh bards for Fer Diad, that they might make against him three satires to stay him and three lampoons, and that they might raise on his face three blisters, shame, blemish and disgrace, so that he might die before the end of nine days if he did not succumb at once (Kinsella 1969).
Bardic incantations could also be used to end hostilities. Diodorus Siculus observed this magical use of sound in the late 1st-century B.C.E.:
Frequently when armies confront one another in line of battle with swords drawn and spears thrust forward, these men intervene and cause them to stop, just as though they were holding some wild animal spellbound with their chanting. (Diodorus Siculus 31, 2-5, as cited in Ireland, p. 181).
Tacitus describes the effect of this weaving of enchantment against Roman invaders on the Isle of Mona in 60 A.D.:
On the shore stood the opposing army with its dense array of armed warriors, while between the ranks dashed women in black attire round the Druids, lifting up their hands to heaven and pouring forth dreadful imprecations, scared our soldiers by the unfamiliar sight so that, as if their limbs were paralyzed, they stood motionless and exposed to wounds. (Tacitus, AnnalsXIV, 30)
Finally, bardic powers could also be used to heal – as when a master harper restored speech to the dumb prince Maon through his music.
The small harp was often employed by bards as a magical tool.
Part of the Celtic harper’s toolkit was working knowledge of the Adbhan Trireach or ‘Three Noble Strains,’ attributed to the chants for childbirth sung by the god/spirit Dagda’s harp Uaithne.
Each Strain was not only entertainment but a form of enchantment: ‘Sorrow-‘ or ‘Lament-Strain’, which could reduce listeners to tears; ‘Joy-Strain’, which could turn tears to laughter; and ‘Sleep-Strain’, which could soothe listeners’ hearts into deep sleep.
Gaining songs of power from spirits is a common element occurring in many shamanistic cultures.
Text above from the section Druidic and Bardic Powers of Enchantment in Celtic Shamanism: Pagan Celtic Spirituality by Tina Fields, Ph.D https://indigenize.wordpress.com/about/spiritual-ecopsychology/celtic-shamanism/
My digital manipulation of source material is intended for purposes of commentary & creative pastiche/creating a new work incorporated with original art & based upon Marilyn Monroe Reading Ulysses, Long Island, New York, 1954. Photo by Eve Arnold.
Original photo by Eve Arnold as well as information about Marilyn Monroe’s reading habits and book collection can be found at http://www.booktryst.com/2010/10/marilyn-monroe-avid-reader-writer-book.html