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Owen 'Morien' Morgan

a brief biography

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a picture of Owen Morien Morgan

Owen 'Morien' Morgan B.B.D. was born in the Rhondda (Fawr) Valley, South Wales, in 1836, and this is the only picture of Morien that is known to us. It was first printed as the frontispiece to his book "Light of Britannia", which was widely published simultaneously circa 1893 by Daniel Owen & Co. Ltd, Cardiff, Whittaker & Co., London, and J. W. Bouton in New York. Morien was a journalist working for the Welsh daily newspaper, the "Western Mail", between 1870 and 1899, when he retired. He was described in the "Dictionary of Welsh Biography" (Blackwell 1959) as a "local historian", and in "The Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales" Oxford University Press, 1986 as a "miscellaneous writer" on druidism. .

Morien became facinated by local folklore, the details of which he gathered and studied, comparing them to similar traditions from around the world. He wrote from around 1870 until his death in 1921 about the local traditions of druidism, the remnants of which he found in the oral traditions of the valleys of South Wales. Many of these druidic traditions centred on the safe haven of Dinas, Rhondda, the ancient druid city to where many now believe the surviving druids fled and regrouped after their dramatic massacre by the Romans on Ynys Môn (Anglesey), North Wales, in A.D. 78.

Owen 'Morien' Morgan 1836 - 1921

Something of a local character himself, Morien was closely associated with Myfyr Morganwg (Evan Davies)<, another controversial figure in 19th century Wales, who was responsible for the continued publication of the "Myfyrian Archæology", and was the student and successor to Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams). Iolo Morganwg is one of the most controversial characters in Welsh history. A compiler of ancient Welsh traditions and manuscripts, Iolo worked in the same vein as William Stukely and William Blake. He outraged the so-called 'official' historians and academics of his day, who refused to accept that the ancient Welsh manuscripts he published were genuine, accusing him of forgery and collectively condemning his work as "druidic fictions". This open animosity still reigns today in 21st century Wales, as modern historians continue to deny and devalue the oral traditions of the South Wales valleys, and question the validity of the almost forgotten history of Morganwg (Glamorgan) that 'Iolo', 'Myfyr' and 'Morien' had struggled to bring to the attention of the world.

Much of the controversy surrounds the wide variety of opinion regarding the bardic Chair of Morganwg, and the associated claims that in the South Wales (Morganwg) area the original bardo-druidic practices and beliefs had continued unbroken since ancient times. These, according to Morien, were reflected in the local feasts and festivals which were governed by a living folklore - the druidic tradition which up until fairly recent times had still involved a fair element of skywatching at particular points of the natural (solar) year. Upon the death of Myfyr Morganwg, Morien succeeded him, assuming the title of 'archdruid' of the controversial 'Chair of Morganwg'.

"The Dictionary of Welsh Biography Down to 1940"
under the auspices of The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion:

"MORGAN, OWEN (Morien; 1836? - 1921), journalist and local historian. He never revealed the year of his birth but is believed to have been born in the parish of Ystradyfodwg, Rhondda, the son of a miner from Dinas. A journalist with the "Western Mail" between 1870 and 1899, he wrote - under the influence of the fictions of Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams) and Myfyr Morganwg (Evan Davies) - a number of books which include "Pabell Dafydd" (1889), which is about the Druids, "Kimmerian Discoveries" (n.d.), on the alleged Chaldean origins of the Welsh, "A Guide to the Gorsedd" (n.d.) and "A History of Pontypridd and the Rhondda Valleys" (1903). The last-named, although described by R.T. Jenkins as "an odd jumble of Druidism, mythology, topography, local history and biography", is of interest for its account of the industrial valleys of Glamorgan during the nineteenth century"

"The Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales"
compiled and edited by Meic Stephens :

"MORGAN, OWEN (Morien; 1836? - 1921), journalist and miscellaneous writer, who d. on 16 Dec, 1921 ("Western Mail"), was then said to have been over 80, and to have been a son of Thomas T. Morgan and his wife, Margaret, of Pen-y-graig, Rhondda. He had sedulously concealed his age. But the bishop's transcripts for Ystradyfodwg parish record the christening on 23 Feb. 1836 of 'Owen, son of Thomas and Margaret Owen of Dinas [Rhondda], collier' and it seems pretty certain this is our man, for Dinas adjoins Pen-y-graig. He asserted connection with the families of Morgan of Llantarnam (qq.v on p. 635) and Thomas of Llanmihangel, Glam. (see under Edwin family on p. 201). As a journalist, he worked chiefly for the "Western Mail", from 1870 to 1899, when he retired. His books, such as "Pabell Dovydd" (on Druidism), "Kimmerian Discoveries" (on the 'Chaldean origins' of the Kymry), "A Guide to the Gorsedd", etc., reflect the influence of Iolo Morganwg's fictions, and more immediately Morien's close association with Myfyr Morganwg (q.v. on p. 123) on whose death he assumed the title of 'archdruid' in succession. His "History of Pontypridd and the Rhondda Valleys" (Pontypridd, 1903) an odd jumble of 'Druidism, mythology, topography, local history and biography', is yet not without value, for its information on the 19th cent. development of the valleys.

The compiler, Meic Stephens, gives the following sources for his information about Morien :

"His own account in "Who's Who in Wales", 1921 edn.; articles in "Y Geninen", 1922, 100-3; information from the Keeper of Printed Books in the National Library of Wales. R.T.J."

It is interesting that both compilers appear to accept unquestionably that the work of Iolo Morganwg and his student and successor, Myfyr, should be described as "fictions", and not surprising that Morien's writings should be described as an "odd jumble". To anyone not familiar with classical mythology Morien's books can appear very daunting. Also strange is that one of Morien's books should be misnamed as "Kimmerian Discoveries". Little attention seems to have been paid to detail - look at his parent's surname!

Unless Morien wrote another book of that name, the real title referred to is "Kimmerian Revelations - The Mabyn of the Mabynogion" sub-titled "The Winged Son of Stonehenge and Avebury". This book has inspired many to look deeper into the astronomical basis of ancient mythologies generally, and there are now many writers and researchers doing likewise. The book has been reprinted recently by the Research Into Lost Knowledge Organisation (RILKO) under the english-spelt title "The Mabin of the Mabinogion", and was for many years the only one of Morien's books in print until "Light of Britannia" became available as a 'print-on-order' facsimile reprint in the last year or so. It is a treasure trove of ancient druidic traditions, offering as close a look as can be had into the ritual druidic practices of the people of the South Wales valleys (Morganwg) - practices which only died out with the coming of intense industrialisation a mere two and a half centuries ago.

There is no mention made of his book "Light of Britannia", and it has been commented that this may be because the book was prudishly ignored at the time of publication. The main reason for this seems to have been that in the sub-headings on the title page were the words "The Original Source of Phallic Worship Revealed". Morien found that the druids of Morganwg, in common with many ancient cultures, used simple Mother Earth - Father Sky sexual analogies to explain the interactions between the sky and our planet. The Sun was regarded as the 'holy consort' of the Earth, whose 'cariadwen' or 'holy sweetheart' she was, and when they 'joined together' at sunrise on the Vernal (Spring) Equinox this was regarded as the Earth and the Sun having 'consumated their marriage'. The fertilisation of the seeds in the Earth Mother's womb was perceived to have followed, and the spring flowers were regarded as the 'living proof' of this. The personification of the Earth and the Sun, and the seasonally-descriptive names given to them both throughout the ever-changing natural (solar) year, was the essence of the oral traditions of the druids of Morganwg, and, as Morien discovered, of many other ancient cultures as well.

It was these vestiges of ancient druidic lore that Morien sought to preserve for posterity in the face of a tidal wave of industrialisation and subsequent decline in the use of the Welsh language. This development Morien observed with trepidation as a process that, before his very eyes, was re-focussing local minds on the commercial cycles of the workplace at the expence of the celestial cycles of time - the sacred 'Amser' of the ancient Cymric peoples.

In "The Mabin of the Mabinogion", Morien introduces what he terms "The Druidic Cosmogany" - an ancient body of half-forgotten knowledge comprising the astro-myths of the ancient Welsh - both the Celts and their hosts and teachers, the native Hyperboreans. Peoples who were most likely the direct decendents of the original megalith-builders. The essence of these ancient astro-myths concerned simply the various interactions between the sky and the Earth, but more than this, Morien also revealed the many locations throughout Wales where the druids of old did their skywatching, and performed their simultaneous ritual enactments on the ground of the celestial drama they perceived to be happening in the sky.

Though there is no evidence that they ever met, his contemporary astro-mythologist and astro-archæologist, Sir J. Norman Lockyer, was researching and writing at the same time as Morien about similar traditions in Greece and Egypt. These two remarkable men shared a common respect for the true value of oral traditions and ancient mythology, and Lockyer, in his "Dawn of Astronomy", published contemporaneously with the druidic works of Morien, expressed the reasons for this shared respect most succinctly with the words:

"The determination of the stars to which some of the Egyptian temples, sacred to a known divinity, were directed, opened a way, as I anticipated, to a study of the astronomical basis of parts of the mythology. This inquiry I have carried on to a certain extent, but it requires an Egyptologist to face it, and this I have no pretentions to be. It soon became obvious, even to an outsider like myself, that the mythology was intensely astronomical, and crystallised early ideas suggested by actual observations of the sun, moon and stars."

Morien would have concurred. Once he began his journey into the druidic mysteries, and discovered the astronomical nature of some of the place-names in various localities around Wales, he realised that preserved in the very landscape itself, where the ancient druids practiced their skywatching, was the key to de-ciphering the astronomical wisdom passed down through millennia by oral tradition. As he compared the druidic traditions of Morganwg with those of the Greeks, Egyptians, Babylonians, and with both the old and new testaments of the christian Bible, he recognised the same patterns repeated again and again. At the basis of each of these supposedly separate traditions lay the natural (solar) year, and the seasonally-descriptive personifications of the Earth and the Sun throughout the annual cycle of spring, summer, autumn and winter. He found their stories so similar that he embarked upon a life-long study of cross-cultural comparisons that would have done any modern university professor proud - though all Morien received during his lifetime was derision and ridicule from dry and unimaginative academics for his efforts to throw greater light on the mysteries of our ancient druidic past.

On the title page of "The Mabin of the Mabinogion" Morien opened with a quote that summed up the conclusions he had arrived at after many years of studying the oral traditions of Morganwg, and comparing them with those of ancient mediterranean and middle-eastern cultures:

"Writers of good antiquity and able judgement have been persuaded that even the School of Pythagoras and the Persian wisdom took beginning from the old Philosophy of Britain." - Milton, The Bard.

Not everyone felt the same way about the writings of Morien as did many academics then and now. In the main library of the University of Wales at Bangor is a copy of "Barddas - The Bardo-Druidic System" by AB ITHEL B.B.D., published by the Welsh MSS. Society, 1862. Pasted to the inside cover is a newspaper clipping amongst many hand-written notes, including the signature of Morien dated 13/4/76. This would have been 1876, and serves to give a good indication that Morien was well into his studies by the age of forty. It reads:

"All who know Morien will agree that in the following englyn a Pontypridd poet, the Rev. D. Gwynfryn Evans, Glan Taf, has given a faithful pen picture of the Ash Grove Druid:-

"Mawr yw y gwr - Cymro i gyd - Derwydd
A gwlad Arwrtanllyd
Un o'd ei dafod hefyd
Heb os - pen oracl y byd"

Morien's torrential eloquence surely justifies this description of him as the greatest of the world's oracles."

It has been said that Morien received a stipend of £50 per year from the then Lady Bute. Exactly what this was for we have been unable to determine so far, but in an original copy of "Kimmerian Revelations - The Mabyn of the Mabynogion" belonging to The Morien Institute, another page has been included in the binding. On it there is a type-written poem signed by Morien, and dated May 25th 1918, just three and a half years before his death in December 1921. So far it has puzzled all who have read it, though it has been suggested that many of the ancient manuscripts that Iolo Morganwg claimed he consulted were in the possession of land-owners such as the Butes :

"Dedication to the Great White Thwone"

Against the Faiths I do not fight,
But for the Faith I think is right:
Melchisedek wore old Salem's Crown:
And Bute will not on him frown:
The Archon taugh(t) blood she was sin,
And reeking Altars disgraced their King:
Then sheath your swords ye mighty men,
And strike your harps in Cambria's Glen:
Let Fairies spin in moonlit sheen,
With Lady Bute their charming Queen."

The Morien Institute has recently discovered that the information we were sent regarding the whereabouts of some of 'Morien's' personal papers was false. We were led to believe that they had been provided by his family for research purposes to a local historian, Brian Davies, at the Pontypridd Museum. Mr Davies, however, knows nothing about them, but we hope to trace them in the near future. They must be somewhere, and if anyone reading this short biography of Owen 'Morien' Morgan can help in any way please contact us. Perhaps when they are found they will help to solve the riddle of the poem 'Morien' dedicated to the "Great White Thwone", and to Lady Bute?

Much work remains to be done unravelling the druidic mysteries of ancient Wales, and in the course of this work more information about the activities of Owen 'Morien' Morgan in the latter part of the 19th century, and early decades of the 20th century, continue to come to light.

It had recently been brought to our attention by a Morien Institute research associate that 'Morien' might also have been involved in 'rescue archæology' at a very early date. In the 1980 edition of the "Guide Catalogue of the Bronze Age Collection", compiled by H. N. Savory, and published by the National Museum of Wales, classed under "chance finds" there is an entry regarding the finding and donation to the museum of a bronze spearhead:

225 (PW 498). Bronze SPEARHEAD, tanged, with triangular blade bevelled at the edges and with double groove following the outline. Blade and tang are demarcated by a double chevron on one face and by an assymetrical chevron with three strokes on one side on the other. The tang tapers towards the end, which is irregular and may have had a rivet-hole which has now broken away. The conventional interpretation of this "Arreton Down" type as a spearhead is followed here, although G. Gallay has recently argued that related implements in the Rhône Culture of W. Switzerland and SE France are daggers ('Rev. Arch. de l'Est, et du Centre-Est' XXI, 1970, 369-91). L. 186; Wt. 102.2g. "D" metal (LN44). Found (in 1896) near Rhyd-y-cyllill, near Blaenrhondda, Ystradyfodwg, Glam. (SN 923015), PRW, 144 (fig.). Donor: Owen Morgan (Morien). 21.67."

At this present moment in time (October 2002) it is not known if 'Morien' was part of an organised 'rescue archæology' group, or whether it was one of his many related interests. He certainly walked the mountains of Cwm Rhondda and nearby valleys in the course of his researches, and may well have 'chanced' upon the bronze spearhead that he donated to the National Museum of Wales collection in 1896. Taking the local placenames as his guide, and knowing that ancient Celtic placenames were, in general, topographically descriptive, he sought out those places whose names described the risings and settings of the Sun at the equinoxes, solstices, and cross-quarter days.

During the course of his research he identified many of the locations in the Rhondda Valleys where the druids of Morganwg conducted 'simultaneous ritual enactments' of the events happening in the sky. Nowadays those 'events' would be described rather dryly in modern scientific terms as simply the interactions between the Sun and the Earth at those localities. But it should always be remembered that, in ancient times, these 'events' held a very much greater signifigance for the peoples of those times. Peoples who were still regularly witnessing the bombardments of cometary debris that had slowly tailed off over past millennia as the debris clouds depleted in content during countless periodic encounters with other celestial bodies in the solar system. And, as a result, the skies of past millennia were definitely much more 'dynamic' than those we observe today, and would have been described by those who witnessed them in terms of the'celestial battles between the gods' that we are all familiar with from classical mythologies.

Owen 'Morien' Morgan began his pioneering 'astro-mythological' research in the late 1800s - well before the events of July 16th. to 22nd. 1994, when the remnants of a fragmenting comet, P/Shoemaker-Levy 9, bombarded the planet, Jupiter. These 'events' gave rise to a radical re-think by astronomers, and by those in the historical Earth sciences generally, as the hunt for impact craters on Earth was injected with a desperate new vigour.

As a result of this 'new appreciation' of the dynamic nature of our solar system, it is being more accurately described as a 'cosmic shooting-gallery', and assorted 'ologists' from many disciplines are increasingly looking for the 'astronomical data' which they now realise has been encoded in the ancient mythologies of peoples from every corner of the world.

Thanks to the early pioneering efforts of radical historians such as 'Morien', and despite the many decades in between when 'astro-mythology' was dismissed or ignored by so-called 'serious scientific researchers', as we begin the 21st century it is finally becoming acceptable for academic writers to seek the accurate observations of ancient skywatchers encoded amidst the overlapping tangle of'astro-mythology' that has been preserved in oral tradtions everywhere.

We are always glad to receive information about astro-mythology, and the druids of Morganwg, and there are still many druidic traditions remembered in various localities in all parts of Wales. If you know of any druidic lore in your area, or if you have any details about Owen 'Morien' Morgan that could help build a clearer picture of his life and work, please contact us and contribute to the building of our Ancient Mysteries Archive.

 

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"The Mabin of the Mabinogion"
"Light of Britannia"

the key to the ancient druidic astro-mythology


"A Rattleskull Genius: The Many Faces of Iolo Morganwg"
Geraint H. Jenkins
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