Cerridwen Welsh Celtic – Goddess of the Cauldron from deity-of-the-week.blogspot.com
There are several possible interpretations of the name ‘Ceridwen’. The earliest recorded form, found in the Black Book of Carmarthen, is Cyrridven. This was interpreted by Sir Ifor Williams as “crooked woman” (cyrrid < cwrr “crooked or bent”? + ben “woman, female”), although the precise meaning of cyrrid is uncertain. Another possible meaning for the second element, based on the much more common form ‘Ceridwen’, is “fair, beloved” or “blessed, sacred” (gwen, mutated here to -wen, is a common element in female saints’ names, e.g. Dwynwen).
According to the late medieval Tale of Taliesin, included in some modern editions of the Mabinogion, Morfran (also called Afagddu) was hideously ugly, so Ceridwen sought to make him wise. She had a magical cauldron that could make a potion granting the gift of wisdom and poetic inspiration. The mixture had to be boiled for a year and a day. Morda, a blind man, tended the fire beneath the cauldron, while Gwion Bach, a young boy, stirred the concoction. The first three drops of liquid from this cauldron gave wisdom; the rest was a fatal poison. Three hot drops spilled onto Gwion’s thumb as he stirred, burning him. He instinctively put his thumb in his mouth, and instantly gained great wisdom and knowledge.
Ceridwen chased Gwion. He turned himself into a hare. She became a greyhound. He became a fish and jumped into a river. She turned into an otter. He turned into a bird; she became a hawk. Finally, he turned into a single grain of corn. She then became a hen and ate him. When Ceridwen became pregnant, she knew it was Gwion and resolved to kill the child when he was born. However, when he was born, he was so beautiful that she couldn’t do it. She threw him in the ocean instead, sewing him inside a leather-skin bag. The child did not die, but was rescued on a Welsh shore – near Aberdyfi according to most versions of the tale – by a prince named Elffin ap Gwyddno; the reborn infant grew to became the legendary bard Taliesin.
Cerridwen lived on an island in the middle of Lake Tegid with her two children — the beautiful Creidwy and the ugliest boy in the world, Afagdu. To compensate her son for bestowing such a body on him, the goddess brewed a magical formula that would make her son the most brilliant and inspired of men. For a year and a day, she kept herbs simmering in her caldron, which she left under the care of a little boy named Gwion.
One day, while the goddess was out collecting more herbs for her brew, a few drops of the bubbling liquid splattered onto Gwion’s finger. Scowling in pain, he stuck his hand instantly into his mouth. Miraculously, he was able to hear everything in the world and to understand the secrets of both the past and the future.
His enchanted foresight showed him how angry Cerridwen would be when she found a mere mortal had acquired the inspiration intended for her son. So he ran away; the all-knowing Cerridwen realized what had happened and pursued him. Gwion changed himself into a hare; Cerridwen pursued him as a greyhound. So they ran: he as a fish, she as an otter; he as a bird, she as a hawk; he as a grain of wheat, she as a hen.
It was in the final form that she caught and devoured him, bearing him nine months later as a child. She threw the baby into the water where he was caught by a prince and grew into the poet Taliesin, the greatest poet in his language. Thus the Welsh expressed their understanding that death and rebirth were necessary for true inspiration to be brought into this world, showing the Muse, the goddess of inspiration, in a somewhat more terrible form than she appears in other cultures.
Crone of Wisdom:
The Legend of Gwion:
In one part of the Mabinogion, which is the cycle of myths found in Welsh legend, Cerridwen brews up a potion in her magical cauldron to give to her son Afagddu (Morfran). She puts young Gwion in charge of guarding the cauldron, but three drops of the brew fall upon his finger, blessing him with the knowledge held within. Cerridwen pursues Gwion through a cycle of seasons until, in the form of a hen, she swallows Gwion, disguised as an ear of corn. Nine months later, she gives birth to Taliesen, the greatest of all the Welsh poets.
The Symbols of Cerridwen:
The legend of Cerridwen is heavy with instances of transformation: when she is chasing Gwion, the two of them change into any number of animal and plant shapes. Following the birth of Taliesen, Cerridwen contemplates killing the infant but changes her mind; instead she throws him into the sea, where he is rescued by a Celtic prince, Elffin. Because of these stories, change and rebirth and transformation are all under the control of this powerful Celtic goddess.
The Cauldron of Knowledge:
Cerridwen’s magical cauldron held a potion that granted knowledge and inspiration — however, it had to be brewed for a year and a day to reach its potency. Because of her wisdom, Cerridwen is often granted the status of Crone, which in turn equates her with the darker aspect of the Triple Goddess.
As a goddess of the Underworld, Cerridwen is often symbolized by a white sow, which represents both her fecundity and fertility and her strength as a mother. She is both the Mother and the Crone; many modern Pagans honor Cerridwen for her close association to the full moon.
Nine months later she gave birth to Taliesin, who would be the greatest of all bards.
Called “the White Lady of Inspiration and Death”, Cerridwen’s ritual pursuit of Gwion Bach symbolizes the changing seasons. Her cauldron contains awen, meaning the divine spirit, or poetic or prophetic inspiration. Her link as the Mother of Poetry is seen in Her reborn son Taliesin, and in the Welsh word that makes up part of Her name, cerdd, which also means poetry.
The potent nature of her brew has, today, transformed Cerridwen, in some eyes, into a goddess of fertility, creativity, harvest, inspiration, knowledge and luck 14 . A festival in her honor is celebrated on July 3rd, and the pink sow, a symbol of fertility, good fortune and enrichment, is said to be her matron animal 15 .
Handid rydd fy nhafawd
Yn adddawd gwawd Ogyrwen.
Is not my chair protected by the cauldron of Cerridwen?
Therefore, let my tongue be free
In the sanctuary of the praise of the Goddess.
The Bard Taliesin
The Welsh Goddess Cerridwen brewed a magical potion for her son, to make him the most brilliant and inspired of men. She set a boy named Gwion to stir and guard the cauldron, and a few drops bubbled onto his hand. Gwion instinctively sucked the burned hand, and instantly all the wisdom and knowledge of the universe was apparent to him. Cerridwen, angered, pursued Gwion as he shapeshifted from one animal to another and finally to a grain of corn, whereupon Cerridwen, who had shapeshifted as well and was now in the guise of a hen, ate him.
Nine moons later, Cerridwen gave birth to Taliesin, the greatest of all bards. In him was all the wisdom of his mother’s magic. Cerridwen’s cauldron is but one of many magical cauldrons and vessels in Celtic lore. It is a powerful symbol of transforming magic, and of the lessons learned through change and experience, as well as divine creative inspiration.
Mary Jones Celtic Encyclopedia entry
And anotherCeltnet — Cerridwen: a Cymric Goddess (Blessed Poet or Beloved)
One thought on “Goddesses – Cerridwen (Welsh Celtic)”
prophecy, is the keeper of the cauldron of knowledge and inspiration in the Underworld ✨
LikeLiked by 1 person