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The Welsh Alphabet

Updated on January 31, 2012

Wales, a land of Myth and Legend

Wales is a country filled with Myth and Legend. wales is the ancient home of the Bard and Storyteller, the Poet and the Singer. Even today, the highest honour Wales can give is to recognize the greatest poet in the land. Many of the tales, still told today, date from a time before the conversion to Christianity. That say a lot considering that Christianity has been on the British Isles since the first century.The power of these legends, to capture the mind and imagination of generations throughout the centuries is a tribute to their raw power.

There is more to these Myths and Legends than just tales around the fire. In days of old few people could read or write. In a society where everything centered on the land, when it was necessary to work from sunrise to sunset, who had time for education?

From what we know from the writing of, mostly Roman, contemporaries, the British did have an educated class. The Druids were set apart from the rest of the people. They were the Judges and lawmakers. They were also Teachers and Bards. The singers of songs and storytellers. How better to teach an uneducated people than with story and song. By remembering the story and singing the songs, lessons can be remembered almost as well as if they had been written. Within the Welsh Myth and legend lie hidden meanings both mundane and profound. The deeper one goes into these tales the more we discover.

The Peithynen containg a poem written using the Coelbren
The Peithynen containg a poem written using the Coelbren | Source

The ancient Welsh Alphabet

The Runic style alphabet used by the Druids of old was called Coelbren words were carved on flat pieces of wood held in a device called Peithynen Here is an image of the Peithynen containing the Coelbren currently exhibited at the national Museum of Wales.

The Coelbren containe twenty letters with another twenty to depict vowels and mutations. The legend behind the Coelbren (And there is always a story behind everything Welsh) is that the first man was walking through the primeval forest when God spoke his name three times. Seeing the light through the trees he was inspired to write the name of God. He wrote it thus /|\ This is called Awen and was the first letter to be written in Coelbren. Though Awen can be translated as "Inspiration" it means so much more. As the universe is the supreme act of creation, it contains within it all of the creativity and inspiration that can be found. So Awen is the personification of that inspiration and is sometimes translated as "Muse" The third verse of the Welsh National Anthem contains the line Ni luddiwyd yr Awen gan erchyll law brad "The Muse is not hindered by the awful hand of treason"

The Welsh Alphabet today

The Welsh Alphabet as we know it today is fairly modern. Spelling was not standardized until the 18th century. Prior to that time the spelling of words tended to be somewhat haphazard, frequently using a "V" and the letter "U" was used in place of the "W" causing even modern students of Welsh literature to mispronounce such names as Llew by still using the archaic spelling 'f Lleu.

The Welsh Alphabet Y Wyddor Cymraeg has 28 letters a guest letter frequently added is "J" After all, Jones and Jenkins appear as the last name of so many in Wales that it is fair to say that everyone is related somehow to someone with that surname. Also "J" is used in borrowed words like Garej In the Welsh Alphabet of today we do not find K, Q, V, X and Z Instead double consonants form one letter and have a distinct sound. They are; Ch, DD, FF, NG, LL, Ph, RH, TH.

The Welsh Alphabet by Lorin Morgan-Richards

The Welsh Alphabet by Lorin Morgan-Richards is, like so many things Welsh, a lot more than it nay first appear. First it is an introduction to the Welsh language and alphabet. It is also an introduction to the rich resource of myth and legend that formed the basis for the Welsh way of life and informs the culture of today.

Each letter has a stanza where reference is made to a character from Welsh legend. The poet weaves a rich tapestry of Welsh heritage, using a style reminiscent of the Bardic teacher or medieval Troubadour, teaching us the names od Gods and men through rhyme and meter. Alongside each letter is an illustration made by a varied group of talented artists. Look carefully at the illustrations. Each artist has been touched by the Awen in his or her unique way.

The stanza for the letter "B" refers to Bendigeidfran The giant king who made his own body a bridge for his people to cross a wide ravine to safety. His story is a message for those who aspire to leadership. He also presents himself as a leader who will be a bridge between worlds. Here, in the pages of this book, you will also find a bridge: A bridge between the old world and the new, a bridge between modern art and ancient myth. A bridge that we all may cross, fellow travelers on a great adventure.

As we turn the pages of this book and walk across that bridge, who knows but when the light is just right, we may see each other as we travel and share stories old and new.

Look for me, I'll be looking for you.


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    • iantoPF profile image

      Peter Freeman 6 years ago from Pen-Bre, Cymru/Wales


      Thank you for reading and commenting and especially thank you for your kind words. I'm sorry the video did not play. It's a video of me presenting the book at a Welsh cultural festival "Eisteddfod" here in Los Angeles. I hope you get to see it some time, it's on you tube.

      I look forward to seeing you on the bridge.

      Many Bright Blessings.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 6 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin


      You are an amazing writer. Oh, the history you told but you conveyed it in such an elegant manner.

      We forget the accessibility of education. I especially enjoyed your reference to the Druids, etc...

      I pray for all of humanity to seek to be a bridge to two worlds. Awesome! Sadly, the video the did not play on my old laptop.

      voted up and useful and awesome. Exceptionally well done.