Of Awen and Imbas – My Perspective

As I sit here on a Monday night, pondering what to write, I have put a favorite album of mine into the shuffle slot on my iTunes. “Misplaced Childhood” by Marillion was one of those albums that really touched me. The music is the perfect backdrop to some of the most evocative lyrics I have ever heard. It was this album that led me to find the poet buried deep inside of me. To dip my hands into the thick, sweet liquid of the river of creativity, what I would later in my life come to know as the “Awen” of my life, and the “Imbas” of my life.

For those not familiar to Druidry, its probably a good idea to do some explaining here. Awen, as noted by Penny Billington in her book The Path of Druidry, is “…understood as the flowing spirit of inspiration…” For me, this comes in the form of serpentine river of an unknown type of liquid that is nearly gel-like and has a distinct hue of reddish-gold. Now, that’s my mind’s eye creating an image I can work directly with, I’m quite sure your mileage will definitely vary. This is where I tend to put my hands when I meditate and seek inspiration, usually to solve some coding issue I have run across, or even to write an occasional poem. The point is not what it looks like or the consistency I find it to be in my mind’s eye, but finding it and utilizing it to help my mind find solutions or words I had not thought of before. Sometimes it is a full river of liquid, and sometimes I have to search hard just to find the slightest trickle. Even inspiration can run dry from time to time and force you to dig further and deeper than you thought was necessary.

Imbas or Imbas Forosnai, sometimes know as the “Fire in the Head” is somewhat the same, but its also not. I hope I can do a good job explaining this concept. Imbas forosnai is an odl Irish term that translates to “inspiration” according to Wikipedia. I’ll accept that for the moment, and include that this inspiration was gathered through a means of sensory deprivation, which I have never red or heard of an exact manner of doing so. Once the poet was in this particular state, it is stated that the poet would have the gift of prophecy, stating things without being aware that he or she was doing so. Now, my perception of this is a little different…its the point where the poet, the writer, the musician, the orater plies their craft without knowledge of what they say, write or play until the geas is removed from them. It can last for any period of time. The results can be jumbled or deeply inspirational, depending on the individual hearing or reading the work(s) in question.

Now, my meaning may be different than what is accepted and I absolutely understand that. I still stick to my understanding of what “fire in the head” is – that state of being the tool through which wording, music, or whatever is channeled through you into the physical world. It is a state where you have one foot in this world and one foot in the Other World and you serve as the conduit between the two. And yes, the danger of doing this is that the prolonged connection (whatever time frame that might be) could drive the individual, serving as the conduit, mad. One might even describe this state as a form of possession, but regardless of all that – it certainly does exist, and can be induced in many different manners (or even using no method at all).

Do I strive to find these two states? I seek Awen constantly. When I need to see things from a different perspective, seek a different direction, or even to change a prolonged mood – I reach for Awen. A momentary surge or push towards what I am seeking. That nudge that I need, no more.

Do I seek Imbas forosnai? Not really. I have experienced this state twice in my life. Once, while writing a research paper for a college class. The results were unusable, though I did find bits of information in what I did manage to write. The other time was around an ADF fire during a ritual. There was a moment where individuals were invited to step towards the fire and say something, anything. Most were offerings and thanks to the Gods. I had already mentioned to someone else that I probably did not have anything to say. Yet, I still strode to the fire and offered a statement, asking the Gods to protect the water-protectors at the Dakota Access Pipeline site. I knew nothing of what I said, only that I had said something. I asked several people what it was that I said…and I felt so stupid asking that question. I’m sure someone thought I was high on something. Except that I don’t do drugs, and had not a sip of whiskey to that point in the night.

Most folks will say “yeah, sure” in regards to all of this. I’m happy to end the conversation there and push off to a discussion on how their favorite baseball team is going to do this coming season. I don’t need to argue with people over what I experience. If someone is unwilling to be open to the idea, its far better to move on to another topic than to try and dissuade them from knowing what I did or did not experience. I don’t need to prove myself right or wrong – I am aware of what I experienced. I have no desire to argue the merit of what I had tried to convey.

As I finish this and try to find some way to close this post, I am confronted with my favorite lyrics from “Misplaced Childhood”:

A penny for your thoughts my dear
A penny for your thoughts my dear

“Lavender”, Misplaced Childhood, Marillion

Essentially I share this to convey some of my own experience with the “Fire in the Head”, and the manner in which I hold Awen within my life. Indeed, a penny for your thoughts, but I certainly hope you will pull back and ask for more. Its worth that…

  1. The Path of Druidry, Penny Billington. p205.

4 thoughts on “Of Awen and Imbas – My Perspective

      1. He’s also startlingly tall! He played Cheltenham Town hall when he was touring with Sunsets on Empire( think that was the album, it was a while ago) … described it as ‘being inside a f*cking wedding cake”. Wonderful stuff. Bloody difficult to sing, though. I can only assume he breathes through his ears!

      2. I’d heard he was fairly tall….and I have heard a few things outside of his solo work and that with Marillion…the guy has a great voice…and uses it very well to relay emotions. I have yet to see him live though…. 😦

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