The Magic of Meaning 2019
This is the 7th incarnation of The Four Branches of the Mabinogi course, and in each successive incarnation we have gone a little deeper every time. That will be no less true of the 2019 version.
As with the earlier versions, the course is focussed on interpretation, feeling out the contours of the ancient myths contained in The Four Branches of the Mabinogi, and attempting to apprehend the old truths concealed in its symbols. Put simply, they can be read as teaching tales, instructive stories that have an almost (but not quite) allegorical quality to them.
The Four Branches of the Mabinogi is an old Welsh classic first written down about 900 years ago. It appears to be a collection of traditional tales that probably originated in the oral storytelling tradition of the early Welsh. The only real certainty is that these tales were written down by some talented, but unknown, author.
The Four Branches are set in a past where the Welsh aristocracy still claim the Crown of London, and consider the whole of Britain to be their sovereign territory. Historically speaking, this would have been sometime between 350 and 500AD. For this reason, The Four Branches could preserve one of the oldest versions of ‘Britain’ to have survived.
As a result, the tales can tell us much about what Britain was, is and could still be. They explore in great detail the possibilities and problems that arise for those who seek to claim dominion in these lands. As one would expect of such tales, The Four Branches contain some quite traditional ideas. One of the most common is the idea of aristocracy and inherited nobility, an idea that sits at the heart of many cultures to this day.
But even though The Four Branches are almost exclusively concerned with the nobility, what’s surprising about these ‘nobles’ is that their lineage rarely has anything to do with what kind of people they are. The tales suggest nobility isn’t something that’s inherited from your family or determined by your gender.
The nobility of The Four Branches is something that arises from personal integrity and wisdom, not genetics. More often than not it’s the nobility of heart, not he nobility of inherited status, that’s put in service of the land and the people.
It’s obvious when characters diverge from the path of nobility because they always cause suffering, and not always their own. When the ‘nobility’ fail to act from a nobility of heart, the repercussions can be apocalyptic in magnitude.
So often in the tales the positive lesson is brought into relief by a negative example. Ignorant aristocrats inevitably make bad, blinkered decisions, and when they do, the right course of action is stressed by its absence. It’s for this reason that The Four Branches can be read as lessons for civil life, a life in a civilised Britain.
All of the information you need about taking part is provided below, but should you have any further questions, please get in touch here.
The Shape of the Course
The course that lasts 12 weeks, and is made up of 12 online sessions held every Wednesday at 7:30pm (UK time) beginning September 25th. Each chapter of the course is made up of:
A section from The Four Branches. It helps if you’re already familiar with the tales, but you can also read the appropriate section before each chapter as you work through the course. The text of The Four Branches of the Mabinogi is not supplied with the course materials, you will have to buy a copy. The translation I prefer is by Sioned Davies in The Mabinogion (OUP 2007). There is also a Kindle edition. Please DON’T use the Lady Charlotte Guest translation that’s freely available online. Don’t use any translations earlier than 1960.
An online lecture and discussion held every Wednesday, 7:30pm (UK time). For those of you who have sat courses with me in the past, you’ll have a fair idea of what we’ll be doing. For those of you who are joining us for the first time, it’s pretty straight forward: I present some materials, then ask some questions and we talk. We’ll be using the free Zoom conferencing software for the course. If you’ve never used Zoom, it’s like Skype, but has a few more bells and whistles. Every Wednesday I’ll email you a Zoom link for that week’s online session. When using Zoom for the first time, after clicking on the link you’ll be prompted to download a small piece of software. Agree to all of the permissions and you should be guided through to an online chatroom. If you want to try it out before we begin, let me know and we’ll arrange a test call. You don’t have to use the video option if you don’t want to, but you will need to use your screen as I’ll be sharing images and text with you.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: I do sometimes make the recordings available for sale to the wider public. If you don’t wan’t to feature in those publicly available recordings, please let me know as I can easily edit you out. I will remind you all of this before we begin, but unless otherwise stated, by subscribing to the course you give permission for me to use your contribution to the recording. This use will only ever be within the context of the recorded discussion, never out of that context.
3. Every online session is recorded, so if you miss one, you can either listen back at a more convenient time, or download the recording to listen on another device (I’ll make a page where all of the course recordings and notes will be hosted).
Booking your place . . .
Please pay the deposit of £30 on this page (second option 'The Magic of Meaning') before 18 September 2019. Please pay the remaining £60 fee by 25 September 2019. If you’re paying by instalments, please pay the second instalment of £30 by 16.10.19 and the third instalment of £30 by 13.11.19. If you're on a low income I always reserve a few discounted places, so please do get in touch if you feel you can’t pay the full amount.
Apart from the deposit, all payments to be made via Paypal to
gwilym_morus [at] hotmail.com
That’s about it. I look forward to seeing you all online in September. Again, if you have any questions, please get in touch here.
diolch yn fawr