Billy The Celt – Bard of Glastonbury

7 minute read
Billy The Celt
Billy The Celt – On Glastonbury Tor

MW: As part of this month’s adventures into Glastonbury, I attended the bardic trials, in which 11 poets competed to take part in the final (19th May) and become the next chaired bard of Glastonbury.

I met the current Bard of Glastonbury, Billy the Celt, who kindly agreed to an interview. The following chat touches on Billy’s unique relationship with the Bardship, we speak about living in Glastonbury, old stories of St. Dunstan the alchemist, we learn what a bard really is, and we hear a genuinely wise and humble man talk about his life and experience in his year as the chaired Bard of Glastonbury. 

A Bard is like an elected poet who speaks for and inspires the people of the town, they are chaired for a year. In the old days, the Bards were the keepers of the oral traditions and trained for 12 years to learn the stories, poems and to adeptly transmit the wisdom of the ancestors to the tribe. Nowadays it’s not as demanding, but still, a role that comes with great responsibility. The Bard is obliged to speak at public events and write poems for the community when they need it. 

I remember a few years ago I was singing in a pub here and this really old lady with a big smile and bright blue eyes, wobbled up to the stage, squinting at me and then shouted to the room: “Now there’s a bard if ever I saw one!” while shaking her walking stick at me! I didn’t know what a bard was back then, but I now feel the calling very strongly indeed.

Yesterday, I took part in the Open Gorsedh and was initiated into the collective of the Bards of Ynys Wytryn (Glastonbury), and I met that woman again. 

This month has led me deeper into this tradition and highlighted how important poets are to a community. We become polluted by this idea of fame and fortune and being known all over the world, but the real true calling is in the community and sharing our creative gifts closely and intimately with those around us, only when we realise that can we start to expand in a healthy creative way. We learn so much through that giving. It warms my heart to know it.

Watch the full interview here:

Order Billy’s book – 16 poems from his year as the Bard of Glastonbury – Contact

Interview with Billy The Celt – (Partially transcribed)

BTC: I’m Billy the Celt, the chaired Bard of Glastonbury. Every year there’s a competition to choose a new bard we just had the heats for that competition, the bardic trials, 11 entered, 5 qualified for the final which will be on 19th May. 19th May is very significant in Glastonbury because its St. Dunstan’s day, the patron saint of alchemy and musicians. A renowned alchemist who became the archbishop of Canterbury.

What is a bard?

There have been bardic traditions in all kinds of cultures. In the Celtic cultures, the bard was important because there was mainly an oral tradition and the Bard would hold the history and the wisdom of the tribe. He was the wisdom keeper of the community, he had many gifts: he was a healer, the shaman of the tribe, the medicine man, because he held all the knowledge. It was the duty and responsibility of the Bard to acquire that knowledge for the benefit of the community, and that would go into the bard studying druidic tradition also. 

M.W. I read that they go through 12 years of training.


M.W. Did you go through 12 years of training?

(Laughs) No, I went through 120 lifetimes of training! (Laughs again). I always knew I was from that ancient Celtic line of bards. As a child, I had a very photographic memory for song lyrics. And I would recall songs after hearing them once or twice. Even if have not done a song in 10 years, as soon as I pick it up the lyrics unfold. I have always had a gift for remembering words. I’ve always loved spoken word, I’m also a musician and singer, a big part of the bardic tradition as the story’s and wisdom would be held in the songs and poems.

What the bard should also do is focus the collective intention of the group, tribe, community. Which is what the bards used to do in ancient times, if the tribe was going into battle then the bards would be called upon to come and inspire. The word inspire comes from Latin “inspiritus”, to take into Spirit. The bard would come and tell great stories, of victories and great heroes, through poems and song and it would lift the army into Spirit. And it was was said that the army with the best bards would win the battle. That word inspire is really the work of the bard. You’re basically taking the people into Spirit.

M.W. Why does Glastonbury have a Bard? 

Glastonbury is one of the town’s that really holds to that tradition, I believe that through the nature of Glastonbury being such a strong spiritual energy on the earth And also that this is probably one of the Celtic kingdoms of Britain capitals in England. I feel that when your coming from the East and you get to Stonehenge, once you get there it’s like the gateway into the Celtic kingdom, and I feel the energy change. And in Glastonbury, it’s really amplified, as most things are here. I believe that your thoughts and feelings are amplified here. Where the ley lines cross, the nodes. The ancient people’s story is that it creates a vortex of energy and they used that for transportation, to visit other realms and other dimensions.

Its a very powerful place Glastonbury, a really strong spirit of love and unity and community, but I feel like it also a place where old souls gather to meet again and you find your ancient tribe and your soul family.

M.W. When I’m in Glastonbury I feel especially creative and inspired.

Yes, it really stimulates it. What a lot of people find when you come to Glastonbury for the first time to connect, you immediately feel at home and most people you meet are kindred spirits and like-minded, you don’t get that abundance of empathic understanding and relations in other places. You feel like your being understood and you can actually grow and expand your awareness and your own consciousness.

What brought you to Glastonbury?

The ancestors and spirit lead me here. But I always knew I would come here, before I was even conscious of the town, I knew I would come. I’d been to the festival a few times and 20-30 years ago, to the Tor for the solstice but never really connected with the town.

When I first came it was really spirit guided and I knew as soon as I came it was an ancestral homeland, a familiarity but also a soul resonance with the land and with the people. And all kinds of Glastonbury magic and synchronicity takes place, it becomes the order of the day, the moments. Anybody who’s spent time here understands that, it seems to be in its own time bubble and energetic space.


Whats creativity to you?

Creativity to me is life breath, through music and poetry and word-smithery and storytelling we find a release form what could be called the control system, you break free, because your frequency changes, you ascend into a different frequency. And if you go into spirit through beautiful words you’re changing your frequency, you’re going into Spirit, you’re inspired. So you move away from all the trappings of that control system. Not just about legislative control also about the social programming, the mental programming. Spirit yearns to be free of that because it imposed by someone else since we were tiny. We find our liberation and freedom through creativity.

As it’s life breath for me, I always found my life would flow and I was much happier when I was being creative. When I was writing composing or playing music, it was like the energy you and your spirit is allowed to flow and that takes you somewhere else. So it releases you from that political dogma, that agenda.

Creativity is essential for the etheric well being of the human being, allowing our spirit to fly and to soar. A lot of the poetry I write is very much about that. Again I don’t feel like I write it, it comes through me, so creativity could be considered a direct link to Spirit.

M.W. That leads me to my next question: Where do your poems come from?

They come through me, I never feel they are my property, I feel it’s my responsibility to deliver them and share them with the best intentions, so if there are any messages coming through, that they messages are felt with the heart.

If I was to stand and recite poetry and I’m in an egotistical space, it’s a very different energy than when I go into Spirit with the poem, people feel the energy of somebody who’s in the spirit

That’s what the bard was, a conduit of spirit, for example, there’s a poem I wrote called St. Dunstan’s track and when it came it literally gripped me. That can be spirit realm, but also the ancestral Bards, and angels and spirit guides can be speaking through me because I’m the Bard of Glastonbury and people are going to listen. I feel blessed to be that conduit if that’s the case. 

When St. Dunstan’s track started coming to me, it came in 3 or 4 waves but when it came I was pacing around in my room, I couldn’t sit down, I can’t think about anything other than: I have to get this out. There are all kinds of ideas stirring up and things coming in; it can be a snippet of an idea, it can be little bits of story or information and it starts to find this cohesiveness and it comes in this poetic resonance and I’m off, I’m physically in the world, but I’m completely somewhere else.

There were bits of story floating around about St Dunstan, the story about him playing his harp and when he played his harp he was close to God. If you think that every note played with reverence, is gonna be creating an energy and a resonance through the people and the land. And the devil tries to disturb that, and this is something that goes through the Bible and through all the ancient religions, that the shadow beings and fallen ones are always trying to take the peace from the ones that work in the light.

So the devil comes and tries and disturb him when he’s playing his harp, and he put the devil’s nose in hot tongs and told him to be gone.

Listen to the full interview here:

Order Billy’s book – 16 poems from his year as the Bard of Glastonbury – Contact