Filidhean - what it means and why we chose it
Filidhean, the Scottish Gaelic plural for filidh, is the name for the ancient poets, storytellers and lore keepers of Ireland and Scotland. The filidhean originated in Ireland (fili) but migrated to Scotland as many poetical and musical traditions did. The filidh were not a small-scale group but were professionals with strict rules and a clear hierarchy. At the bottoms of the hierarchy are bards, which are presently more well known than the filidh. Bards acted more as crowd pleasers, travelling from town to town reciting or singing what new prose was popular. However, to rise in the hierarchy, a bard had to recite a certain amount of script in both Latin and Gaelic as well as be versed in contemporary and ancient literature. The role of the filidh was to keep the memory of the people and the culture alive and was considered of great use in education as well. Being a filidh was one of the highest honours in the literary and aristocratic society and was mostly a position gained through family lineage as well as through the mandated hierarchical steps.
Our duo chose this name as both Elena and Allison are greatly interested in folk storytelling and we do not believe this is solely seen in prose. As musicians, we view music as a form of storytelling and we are trained to weave images or plot lines into our music. Celtic music is one of the greatest platforms for this type of storytelling as it comes directly from a culture of oral tradition. A tradition that for a very long time had no written representation.
The Scottish plural spelling was used as Allison’s family heritage comes from the lowlands of Scotland (Johnstone). While there is no direct indication that there were filidh in her lineage, her family was a strong promoter of Scottish culture through the many fiddlers, singers and Highland Dancers (one of whom won the National Highland Dance Championship just prior to immigrating to Canada). Storytelling has been a strong interest for both Allison and Elena and their duo was created out of the fusion of music and Celtic history. Listen to our music, hear our stories and if you like give us suggestions on what stories you want us to share!