Awenyddion

Awenyddion – An obscure practice described only briefly by Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales) in his Description of Wales, written in the late 12th century. The Awenyddion exhibited behavior that is reminiscent of possession and other trance practices of some shamans, as well as divination through dreams: Among the Welsh there are certain individuals called Awenyddion who behave as if they are possessed. . . . When you consult them about some problem, they immediately go into a trance and lose control of their senses. . . . They do not answer the question put to them in a logical way. Words stream from their mouths, incoherently and apparently meaningless and lacking any sense at all, but all the same well expressed: and if you listen carefully to what they say you will receive the solution to your problem. When it is all over, they will recover from their trance, as if they were ordinary people waking from a heavy sleep, but you have to give them a good shake before they regain control of themselves . . . and when they do return to their senses they can remember nothing of what they have said in the interval. . . . They seem to receive this gift of divination through visions which they see in their dreams. Some of them have the impression that honey or sugary milk is being smeared on their mouths; others say that a sheet of paper with words written on it is pressed against their lips. As soon as they are roused from their trance and have come round from their prophesying, that is what they say has happened.

It is difficult to speculate further on the shamanic or even sociopolitical status of the Awenyddion based on Gerald’s brief description, although the allusions to shamanic practice are intriguing. Nonetheless, Druid-shamans today use this source to reconstruct a practice of oracular seership meaningful for today’s Druid communities. In particular, Philip “Greywolf” Shallcrass has interpreted the Awenyddion as shaman-like druid-priests and has developed the practice as a druid equivalent of the Heathen seidr.

SOURCE:

Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007

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