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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 06:28 GMT 07:28 UK
Archbishop made honorary druid
Dr Rowan Williams (right)
Crowds turned out to see Dr Williams' induction
Archbishop of Canterbury elect Rowan Williams has been inducted to the Gorsedd of the Bards in a ceremony at the National Eisteddfod despite a row about the honour.

Dr Williams joined the circle of bards during the ceremony at the Maes in St David's, Pembrokeshire.

What is the Gorsedd of Bards?
Created in 1792 as celebration of Welsh and Celtic heritage
Gorsedd is Welsh for "high seat"
Rituals look back to era when Celtic druids - religious professionals - led society
Compared to English honours system
Currently 1,300 members
His 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.

And the Gorsedd's archdruid has used the furore to rail against the English establishment by saying he does not want Dr Williams to leave Wales - because he will be wasted in England.

Retired lawyer Dr Robyn Lewis said: "Quite frankly, we do not want him to go to Canterbury.

"We feel he deserves it, but we feel we need him here.

"He is a fluent Welsh speaker for a start, and that will be wasted in Canterbury, wasted on the desert air."

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

And after the ceremony at the Eisteddfod, he again sided with the suggestions that the English establishment knew little about its Welsh counterpart.

He said: "It's been rather depressing, frankly, to see how little people know about Welsh culture and Welsh institutions and how ready some people have been to accept very fishy information from very strange sources about all this."

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.

Former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies, cricketer Robert Croft, opera singer Bryn Terfel and the Queen are all members of the group. Usually, members must be Welsh speakers.

Dr Williams has written a number of books on the history of theology and spirituality and has published collections of articles and sermons, as well as a book of poems in 1994.

Like other members, he will adopt a unique bardic name in the complex ceremony, as the National Eisteddfod gets into full swing.

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Dr Rowan Williams
"It's been rather depressing, frankly, to see how little people know about Welsh culture and Welsh institutions."

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06 Aug 02 | Politics
07 Aug 01 | Wales
01 Jul 00 | Wales
28 Jun 99 | UK
07 Aug 98 | Politics
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