Joined: 09 Feb 2007
|Posted: Thu Nov 10, 2011 9:01 pm Post subject: Attesting the flag by ' Touching the Trilliw '
|In the Yr Ardystiad ceremony's leaflet ( see http://repwblic.informe.com/viewtopic.php?t=438 ) I described taking hold of the flag, but it was by neccessity a short text in which I described the ceremony thus but did not explain its origins :
The ceremony begins when Yr Wladys Rydd, the Welsh equivalent of France's Marianne, having decided that everybody is assembled, takes hold of the Trilliw and points it heavenwards, which is the sign that everybody should gather round and be quiet. Whilst this ceremony draws upon the thoughts of contemporary republicans in Wales who are mostly atheists, it also draws upon our much older republican traditions in which the three fold flag was in itself a symbol not just of the nation but also of the god whose laws republicans sought to order our dissenting protestant society under.
Yr Wladys Rydd lowers the flag and in doing so gathers up its end to the staff so that its folds are wrapped against it and held in place by her left hand. She then offers it forwards horizontally and raises her right hand as the sign that everybody who wishes to should now come forward and take hold of the flag with their left hands and raise their right hands with their palms held open towards the flag. The " Open Hand " is a traditional Republican gesture symbolising our peaceful intentions towards the world and its peoples.
Yr Wladys Rydd then recites each part of Yr Ardystiad and the Ardystwyr repeat her words until she poses to them her final question: they each decide their own answer.
Rydym yn ardystio i'r faner hon
Fel symbol o'r Repwblic yng Nghymru.
Byddwn yn sefyll dros y Gwir
yn erbyn y Byd :
Pob cenedl yn anedig o un Pobl
Pob cyfraith yn anedig o un Cyfiawnder
Pob rhyddid yn anedig o un Tangnefedd
Oes heddwch ? ( Heddwch ! Oes ! Nag oes !)
We attest that this flag
Is a symbol of the Republic in Wales.
We will stand for the Truth
against the World :
All nations are born of one People
All laws are born of one Justice
All freedoms are born of one Peace
Is there peace ? ( Peace ! Yes ! No ! )
You will note two things about this that differ from other countries' flag ceremonies :
The flag is being attested to be A symbol, nobody is affirming it to be THE symbol of the Republic in Wales, nobody is swearing oaths upon it to commit themselves to some collective identity, nobody is pledging their uncritical allegiance to this rag on a stick.
The Trilliw is not an thing to be worship or adored in such a way as to displace our wits, it is not a sacred object to be treated with reverence and ringed around with fussy rules about it never touching the ground etc., it is a symbol of the ideal that we declare ourselves to be loyal to : The Republic is the Truth about the World : it doesn't concern itself with nations, laws or freedoms but with People, Justice and Peace.
Centuries ago, when tricolour flags were made in the mystical proportions of one to the square root of three ( 1 : 1.732~ ) the Trilliw was nothing less than a symbolic representation of the ' three in one ' god of Christianity, because these proportions yield up self-similar rectangles nesting within the Trilliw and the whole thing can be set out within the Star of David. Thus two hundred years ago those hoping to bring into being ' Y Repwblic yng Nghymru ' were literally thinking of refounding the Kingdom of God - or rather liberating this portion of it from the King of England.
Thus if you want something to be loyal to and hold sacred don't choose a flag or a nation or anybody who poses as a leader, priest or politician : choose Love, or Truth, or Peace, or Freedom - choose Life and work for it by conscientiously helping others, and make a point of affirming this in public by performing Yr Ardystiad.
Mostly however in the early 1800's they were waving Y Trilliw around in public just to annoy the authorities who naturally started seizing them and then passed laws against them. The red, white and green flag was the flag of international republicanism and originally common to supporters of the ideals of the French Revolution all over Europe, particularly associated with the 1793 ' Le Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen ' which David Williams of Caerphilly had been the initial draughtsman of.
Trying to get around these laws, the English laid the colours horizontally declaring the Triband to represent ' peace between the aristocracy ( red - as used in the House of Lords ) and the people ( green - as used in the House of Commons ). The Welsh republicans came up with something more cunning and original : Wales at the time only had one ' national ' flag, the three feathers on a black flag of the Prince of Wales, since Wales was in theory his personal possession, so to repudiate this they resurrected a version of the battle standard of Henry VII -' Y Ddraig Goch ' rendered as a dragon standing on a green mound, which was not actually the historic flag and may have had some sort of subversive meaning e.g. the mound being a place for a moot = ' democracy.' Again, this was done to doubly annoy the authorities because on the one hand they knew that it was displaying the hated red, white and green of republicanism - but they could hardly seize this flag because it was protested to be ' royal ' and ' loyal ' whilst simultaneously being a ' national ' flag to rally round to fight for the rights of Y Cymry. After more than a hundred years, the monarchy gave in and agreed to recognise a version of this as the official Welsh national flag in 1959, provided that the official version was as had appeared on Henry VII's standard.
The Irish Tricolour appeared in public in Ireland in 1848 but was apparently devised before that by exiles in Paris, and in its original orange, white and green order is fairly obviously the same red, white and green international flag with orange substituted for red to get rid of the aristocracy and to assert the message of peace between protestants and catholics, and it may well have been designed by a protestant because Republicanism in Ireland began in the Presbyterian community's fiercely democratic traditions - most probably why the same community rejected Home Rule as ' Rome Rule ' which proved to be more or less true in the Republic of Ireland under De Valera. The colours of the Irish Tricolour were reversed in the 1916 Easter Uprising.
Because the internationalist tricolour was based upon the French tricolour by substituting green for blue, once the French tricolour was reversed the international tricolour became green, red and blue. Thus the flags of Mexico and Italy have that order of colours but were differenced by the symbols placed upon them in the 19c. The Hungarian flag is a livery flag derived from a coat of arms which yielded the same colour order and when this was adopted in 1848 the English republicans had a problem with their flag being the same. One of their solutions was to adopt the blue, white and green Welsh Chartist flag that had been carried in the Newport Rising of 1839.
The red, white and green tricolours and tribands in use in Britain and Ireland were derived from the first flag of the first French Revolution which was red, white and blue in 1790 and stood for a constitutional monarchy - but after the monarchy fell that flag was reversed in 1794 with the radical blue of Liberty leading the flag. In 1838 Carmarthenshire lawyer Hugh Williams designed a triband for the Welsh Chartists that replaced the red band with blue, citing the colours devised by Iolo Morganwg for the Gorsedd and this flag was adopted by the English republicans following William J Linton's publicising of it in ' The English Republic ' in 1851. In 1848 the first flag of the second French Revolution was blue, red and white - aaaaand maybeeee - somebody knew about this when they designed the 1949 Welsh Republican Movement's green, red and white tricolour ? The WRM flag however most probably derives from the colour order chosen by the Urdd for their flag a few short years previously. There - three tricolour flags that have been used in Wales - or we could always fall back on Y Ddraig Goch.
Of course, anybody should also feel free to make up their own flag to represent the things that they wish to symbolise ... no harm in using a Union Jack really ... so long as don't hold it sacred ... I wryly suggested to Leon that I bring one along to offer for use in Yr Ardystiad at his Cardiff Bay Republican Day should any British Republicans turn up ( I knew that Suzanne was turning up as another speaker ) ... well, the idea amused me anyway ... you need a sense of humour to be a republican in Wales ...
Oh, yeah ... this is supposed to be about ' Touching the Trilliw.'
In Roy Clewes' book ' To Dream of Freedom ' on page 56 he quotes from the Free Wales Army's recruiting instructions ( 1964 ) :
" Oath of Allegiance
(a) Having enlisted and signed the neccessary forms and being accepted into the Army, the volunteer must read out and sign this oath in the presence of his Commanding Officer and Section. The oath must be taken while the volunteer is holding the Flag of Free Wales, " Y Ddraig Goch." "
Well, it is not the sort of oath that I would recommend to anyone, and I did not get ' Touching the Trilliw ' from them, nice bunch although the black faction are to drink with. Those were desperate times of frustration and despair when those words were written and our aim should be that they should never return - but that requires the white faction to campaign for an intelligently designed political system to deal with the next crisis, which may already be close ahead.
I was put in mind of ' Touching the Trilliw ' from an historical incident in 1831 described in Gwyn Alf Williams' book p123 :
" John Petherwick ... followed the crowd to his own works at Penydarren. There was a dramatic encounter as a large party under a banner entered the Puddling Forge shortly before two o'clock. " Take hold of the flag." one of the men said to Petherwick. " Why ? " " It's Reform." Petherwick did so. " Right." said the man " Now you are sworn in." ( From the testimony of John Petherwick - given 21 / 6 / 1831 - HO / 52 / 16 )
But this business of touching things goes back a lot longer than that in Wales, and way beyond into the earliest times of European culture. A famous image of somebody doing this is of Earl Harold Godwinson making his oath to Duke William the Bastard when caught up in the compromising situation of having been shipwrecked, captured and liberated by the Duke. Harold owed him one, and apparently promised to make him king of England and thus provided him with the pretext for the Norman Conquest of 1066. Harold is depicted stood between two saints' reliquaries, very obviously touching them as he makes his oath. William carried with him a papal banner that had been blessed on the pretext of the fact that Harold had broken his word made upon these holy relics, and was given it and permission to invade England on the basis of Harold breaking these oaths.
Long before this the Welsh had been collecting the relics of saints and using them for similar purposes, and they did not have flags to carry into battle so they carried, amongst other objects mounted upon poles to give signals in battles, the reliquaries of their saints' bones. ' Derfel Gadarn ' - Derfel the Powerful / Mighty - was reputed to have been a knight of King Arthur who renounced warfare after the slaughter at Camlan and became a monk, but this didn't stop people borrowing his bones when they wanted to wage war. Clearly people committed themselves to one another by swearing oaths upon them, but it seems that they actually also put them right out at the front to stiffen people's resolve to rally round and not lose one of the most venerated saints in Wales to their enemies, whoever they were.
Long before the Welsh emerged out of the fog of war at the collapse of the Roman provinces of Brittania, the Romans were doing the same thing. When the Romans made oaths they often had to do so by touching some sacred object, and if that object was out of reach they pointed their hands outstretched towards it. Cicero describes an oath made to Caesar by Octavian thus : " But what a speech ! He swore the oath with the words ' So may I achieve the honours of my father ! ' and at the same time he stretched out his hand in the direction of his statute." In this case it was his father's statue, and it would have to be his right hand because the left hand was considered inferior. This carries us into the whole territory of the spurious Roman salute invented by Mussolini and taken up by Hitler that I discuss in the thread on the Open Hand gesture, because it is derived from David's ' Oath of the Horatii ' where they are not saluting but swearing an oath in the way that I have just described - pointing their fingers at the objects that they are making their promises on, the swords. David created the stiff-armed fingers-pointing gesture because he wanted strong diagonals in the picture to furnish it with drama : assuming that it really did happen, they would have stood around the swords and put their hands upon them, in the manner that I designed for Yr Ardystiad.
Why then did I suggest that people should touch the flag, apart from the fact that it copies historical precedents in Wales ? Because I pretty much detest the idea that people in massed ranks should be hailing any Welsh flag in the manner of some Nuremburg rally. Fair dos if people march up and down with flags and I do not mind carrying one myself so long as I agree with what it stands for. I don't mind the Welsh Republican Movement tricolour of 1948, but it is a pity that by 1965 it was being carried by the Free Wales Army ( much as I like the people hanging onto that tradition ) I quite like the blue, white and green triband of 1838, but it is a pity that the following year it was hijacked and carried in the Newport Rising ( much as I am interested in that as an historic event.) I particularly like the United Britons' flag of 1792 because of its associated values, but then even that is associated with some violent events of long ago and somebody probably used it to greet ' La Legion Noire ' at Carreg Wasted in 1792. It is not particularly a problem whatever flag you carry, it is what you do with it. I'm not keen on militarism, not even on the appearance of it, and so what I wanted to do was something for people like me in the ' civilian majority.'
When you ' touch the trilliw ' to attest it as a symbol as somebody in a group huddled round Gwladys Rydd, you get a wholly different experience to some poor school child in America pledging allegiance by rote to Old Glory. You are in physical contact with other people, seeing them eye to eye, and it can be a very pleasant business as you shuffle around to make room for more to get close and feel others hands laid over your hands. There is apparently no room for insincerity in this situation, and whilst perhaps some insincere person can find it threatening others can take it as it is and have some fun with it - and because of that feel more alive.
( As to what the other hand is doing in Yr Ardystiad - http://repwblic.informe.com/viewtopic.php?t=477 )