January 8, 2013

Cerridwen: Welsh Goddess of Transformation

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , , at 2:57 am by Babs

Cerridwen (pronounced Ker ID wen – meaning “White Snow” or “White Crafty One”) is the Scottish or Welsh grain and sow goddess, keeper of the cauldron of inspiration and goddess of transformation.

It was in the beginning of Arthur’s time there lived in Penllyn a man named Tegid Voeland his wife Cerridwen.  There was born to him of his wife a son Creirwy, and they had a brother, the most ill-favored man in the world, Avagddu.  Cerridwen, his mother, thought that he was not likely to be admitted among men of noble birth by reason of his ugliness, unless he had some exalted merits or the books of the Fferyllt, to boil a cauldron of Inspiration and Science for her son, that his reception might be honorable because of his knowledge of the mysteries of the future state of the world.  Then she began to boil the cauldron, which might not cease to boil for a year and a day, until three blessed drops were obtained of the grace of Inspiration.

She put the servant boy, Gwion Bach, the son of Gwreang of Llanfair in Caereinion, to stir the cauldron, and a blind man named Morda to kindle the fire beneath it.  She charged them that they should not suffer it to cease boiling for the space of a year and a day.  She, herself, according to the books of the astronomers, and in planetary hours, gathered every day of all charm-bearing herbs.  One day, towards the end of the year, as Cerridwen was culling plants and making incantations, it chanced that three drops of the charmed liquor flew out of the cauldron and fell upon the finger of Gwion Bach.  By reason of their great heat he put his finger to his mouth, and the instant he put those drops into his mouth, he foresaw everything that was to come because he instantly became a great magician.  He perceived that his chief care must be to guard against the wiles of Cerridwen, for vast was her skill.  In very great fear he fled towards his own land.  The cauldron burst in two, because all the liquor within it except the three charm-bearing drops was poisonous.  The horses of Gwyddon Garanhir were poisoned by the water of the stream into which the liquor of the cauldron ran, and the confluence of that stream was called the Poison of the Horses of Gwyddon from that time forth.

Thereupon came in Cerridwen and saw all of the toil of the whole year lost.  She seized a billet of wood and struck the blind Morda on the head until on of his eyes fell out upon his cheek.  He said, “Wrongfully has thou disfigured me, for I am innocent.  Thy loss was not because of me.”  “Thou speakest truth,” said Cerridwen,  “it was Gwion Bach who robbed me.”  She went forth after him, running.  He saw her and changed himself into a hare and fled.  So she changed herself into a greyhound and turned him.  He ran towards a river, and became a fish.  She, in the form of an otter-bitch, chased him under the water, until he was fain to turn himself into a bird of the air.  She, as a hawk, followed him and gave him no rest in the sky.  Just as she was about to stoop upon him, and he was in fear of death, he spied a heap of winnowed wheat on the floor of a barn.  He dropped among the wheat, and turned himself into one of the grains.  Then she transformed herself into a high-crested black hen, and went to the wheat and scratched it with her feet, and found him out and swallowed him.  As the story says, she bore him nine months, and when she was delivered of him, she could not find it in her heart to kill him, by reason of his beauty.  So she wrapped him in a leather bag, and cast him into the sea to the mercy of God, of the twenty-ninth day of April.  So, the great poet, Taliesin made an entrance into this world; the original and 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 ward that makes up part of Her name, cerdd, which also means poetry.  Welsh Bards to this day call themselves Cerddorion (sons of Cerridwen).

Cerridwen signifies inspriation from an unexpected corner.  Plans may go awry; projects may change.  Do not be too quick to hold a project to its course – instead let it take its shape as it will.

Correspondences:  Sows, Cauldron, Inspiration, Shape-shipfters, Death, Enchantment, Dark Moon, Fertility, Divination, Hens, Poetry, Astrology, Crones, Knowledge, Herbs, Regeneration, Spells, Science

Cerridwen, The dark goddess of great wisdom, prophetic foresight, and magical shape-shifting abilities lends us her relentless energy and focus required to achieve our ultimate goals.

Suggested Mantra: Magical Energy

Suggested Affirmations:

  • What’s next?! (yeah!)
  • Success comes easily to me
  • I feel absolutely supercharged
  • My vital energy resurfaces naturally
  • My insecurity is replaced with wisdom
  • I am filled with energy to achieve my goals
  • I have abundant energy, vitality and well-being

Gemstones: Carnelian, Coral, Agate, Brown Jasper, Aquamarine

More About Cerridwen 

The Magical Welsh crone goddess Cerridwen was a shape-shifting goddess of dark prophetic powers, enchantment and divination.

Cerridwen is the keeper of the cauldron of the underworld and it is a powerful symbol of transforming magic, and of the lessons learned through change and experience, as well as divine creative inspiration.  The potion she brewed was known as ‘Greal’ (from which the word Grail probably came), and was made from six plants for inspiration and knowledge.

Her symbol was a white-corpse eating sow representing the Moon and the fecundity of the Underworld, and the terrible strength of the Mother.  She is often equated with the famous Greek crone, Hecate, and to the Irish Badb.  She is also sometimes related to the Greek Muses, only in a more violent and dark form.

She is the tigress mother, dark goddess, prophetic crone, who pursues her interpretation of justice with unfailing energy.  She correspondes with Brigit and is connected with wolves.  Some believe that her cult dates to the Neolithic era where she was originally a corn goddess.

More About the Cauldron

Though the cauldron is often associated with witches and witchcraft, it’s not really a common tool.  Cauldrons can be hard to find, large to store and not all that necessary for most rituals.

A typical or traditional cauldron is cast-iron with three legs, but you don’t need to be bound by this form or material.  Depending on how you plan on using it, your cauldron should be both fire-resistant and water-tight.  If you prefer the standard cast-iron variety, they are available from most Pagan shops in sizes ranging from very small (votive candle size) to large floor models.  If you do intend to light fires in your cauldron, I would recommend getting one with a lid.

The cauldron is a tool that represents the element of water, and the fertility and abundance of the womb.  Most folk and I know keep a cauldron more as an altar decoration rather than a real, working tool.  Though the cauldron is associated with water, it is often used in conjunction with fire when used in rituals.  Small fires are lit within the cauldron, usually when you don’t have access to an outdoor area for a bonfire.  Another use for a cauldron is water scrying, or any spells that require water to be kept on the altar.

One of the better known cauldrons is the one owned by the Celtic Goddess Cerridwen.  Her cauldron was called Amen, and contained knowledge.  She is often portrayed with it, and it is possible that the quintessential image of the witch and her cauldron came from these images of Cerridwen.

“I see the Wild Witches dancing in the moonlight, on the bluff above the raging sea.  I feel their Magic pierce the night, even as their Love touches me.  I see the Druids raise their arms, I hear their Shaman power call to me.  Feel the pagan Magick in your breast, expand, contract, and transform thee.

I am a Witch, Druid, and a Mystical Muse.  I am Magickal, Spiritual, and a Bard with Exciting News…”

– from the Bard by Rhuddlwn Gawr

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