For this week’s Femme Fatale Friday, I have decided to write about Cerridwen, the Welsh Celtic Goddess of Inspiration. I would like to give a brief note on the Welsh pronunciation of her name. Her name is pronounced Ker-id-wen. She famously had a connection to the great Welsh Bard and Poet Taliesin. That is the story I will be covering here, as it is Cerridwen’s most prevalent and famous tale.
Cerridwen was a great brewer of potions, as well as being the Goddess of Inspiration. She chose to use her ability with magical brews in order to create a potion for her son, who had been born indescribably ugly. Cerridwen thought that since she could not fix her son’s ugliness, she could at least gift him with absolute knowledge. This is where her potion known as Awen comes in. This potion will give the person who drinks it complete knowledge.
The story of Taliesin begins when he is a young servant boy then known as Gwion Bach. He was tasked with stirring the brew of Awen in order to make sure it is properly brewed. While Gwion was stirring this potion, just before it was perfectly ready for Cerridwen to give to her son, as it took a year to brew, some of the potions splashed on Gwion’s hand. Out of sheer instinct, Gwion thrust his fingers into his mouth and sucked off the potion.
When he took this potion he was given all of the knowledge and wisdom that was intended for Cerridwen’s son. This was a terrible occurrence for Cerridwen because the potion could only be consumed by one individual and she could only brew it one time! This means that Gwion was the one that got the benefits of the potion, not Cerridwen’s son as intended.
When Cerridwen realized that Gwion had received the knowledge she meant to gift to her son, she flew into a rage and gave chase. Gwion transformed himself into a hare and she into a greyhound. Next, he transformed into a fish jumping into the river and she became an otter. Then he became a bird and Cerridwen became a hawk. Finally, Gwion became a stalk of grain (either corn or wheat) and she became a hen. As a hen, Cerridwen gobbled him up and became pregnant. It is in this way that Gwion was twice-born (important in mythology connecting him to figures like the Greek God Dionysus). Gwion was now also Cerridwen’s son, as she was the second woman to give birth to him. Gwion was renamed Taliesin and he went on to be the Great Bard we remember him to be!
I hope you have enjoyed learning about Cerridwen and her nature as a Goddess of Inspiration and magic. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a lovely image of Cerridwen. I found the image on https://www.etsy.com/listing/966305329/cerridwen-cauldron-goddess-witchcraft.
- Cerridwen: Celtic Goddess of Inspiration by Kristoffer Hughes