Eisteddfod honours ‘pagan’ archbishop

BBC, Aug. 5, 2002

Archbishop of Canterbury elect Rowan Williams is being inducted to the Gorsedd of the Bards in a ceremony at the National Eisteddfod despite a row about the honour.

He will don a long white robe at St David’s, Pembrokeshire, while ‘druids’ recite a prayer, trumpets blare a fanfare and a 6ft 6ins sword is unsheathed above his head.

He admittance to the mythical circle of scholars and stars who have contributed to Welsh cultural life will be one of his last duties as Archbishop of Wales.

But his induction has already proved controversial, with a national newspaper repeating evangelical concerns he was dabbling in paganism.

On Sunday, Dr Williams hit back at claims aired in The Times newspaper he was getting involved in druidism and paganism.

Rev David Banting of conservative Church of England evangelical group Reform said he should “should concentrate on the celebration and promotion of the Christian faith … rather than dabbling in other things”.

Dr Williams said: “The suggestion that the Gorsedd is even remotely associated with paganism is deeply offensive…

“… not just in its suggestion that I would wish to associate myself in any way with paganism, but also to those people… who appreciate the Gorsedd and eisteddfod.

“When approached by the Gorsedd and invited to receive the honour of being admitted to the Gorsedd, I was delighted to accept.

“The National Eisteddfod and the Gorsedd are an important and integral part of Wales’s national life and admission to the Gorsedd is one of the greatest honours which Wales can bestow on her citizens.”

The Gorsedd is a creative invention which first gathered at Primrose Hill, London, in 1792, and made its first eisteddfod appearance at Carmarthen in 1819, standing around a circle of stones.

Today the circle numbers poets, writers, musicians, artists, sportsmen and women, and others who have made a distinguished contribution to Wales.

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