Gorseth Kernow – The Cornish Gorsedd

Article published on April 14, 2008
community published
Article published on April 14, 2008
Gorsedd Kernow is an umbrella organisation with the stated aim of maintaining, and giving expression to, the national Spirit of Cornwall as a Celtic Country and in particular: To foster relations between Cornwall and other Celtic Countries To promote co-operation and goodwill between those who work for the honour of Cornwall To encourage the study and use of the Cornish language To encourage the
study of Cornish History, Art, Literature, Music and related subjects

The Mother Gorsedd is the Welsh Gorsedd, which has three Orders, but Gorseth Kernow only has one Order, that of Bards .The word “Gorseth/ Gorsedd” (Cornish and Welsh versions) means "Bardic Assembly" The Head of the Gorseth in Cornwall is known as the Grand Bard and there are at present about 490 bards, mostly in Cornwall, but also in the Cornish Diaspora, and in Europe.

One of the catalists in getting the idea of a Cornish Gorseth off the ground, in the 1920s, was the formation of the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies with branches in many Cornish towns, for it was the Federation who wrote to the Welsh Gorsedd asking that eight Cornish bards should be created at Treorchy in 1928 to form the nucleus of Gorseth Kernow.

Bards of Honour from other countries were introduced in 1932, as was the admission of bards through competence in the Cornish language. At this time also the bardic robes took on their current appearance with the introduction of black-gold-black across the head-dress of the bards and a distinctive head-dress for the Grand Bard and Deputy.

Gorseth Kernow, as with the Welsh Gorsedd and Goursez Breizh, holds an annual Ceremony with the bards dressed in blue, and the officers wearing copper regalia. The Gorseth possesses a buffalo horn, appropriately decorated, which is used to call the Nation to pay heed to the Gorseth, each quarter being called in turn, starting with the East and passing sunwise through the others.

Awards are presented, and the Lady of Cornwall brings a sheaf to the Men Omborth (Dais) to represent Cornwall’s harvest. She is accompanied by young girls who dance the Flower Dance. The Awards presented are for services to Cornwall and the Cornish people, or for Cultural achievements. There are also competitions held in literature, painting and photography.

Officers of Gorseth Kernow take their place in the community by serving on a number of committees and boards, and by campaigning on behalf of Cornwall’s culture in anyway possible. This aspect of the Gorseth has increased in recent years, because it has been felt for sometime that it should not just be for pageantry, but also to take action on behalf of our culture. Having said that, each bard represents the Gorseth in their own right and there are bards from many different aspects of Cornish Culture.

There is a great deal of cultural activity in Cornwall, a lot of it led by volunteers, and it is often under threat from outside pressures or under-funding. (Lowender Perran, which brings together musicians and dancers from all Celtic countries receives only 5% Council funding), so it is very important that all in Cornwall work hard to raise the profile of the Culture and ensure its future. Gorseth Kernow needs to play an active part in this.

The website for Gorseth Kernow: http://www.gorsethkernow.org.uk/