3786 – Cerridwen’s Spell A4 art print

Physical description:
A4 print on art paper. Signed Kate in bottom right hand corner.
Museum classification:
Goddess
Size:
21cm x 29.5cm
Information:

This excerpt is taken from the maker's online shop (etsy.com):

~ Cerridwen’s Cauldron and the birth of Taliesin ~

Far below the majestic peaks of Aran fawddwy on the shores of the sacred lake known as Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake) lived a powerful wise and witch by the name of Cerridwen, she was married to the nobleman Tegid foel who gave his name to the lake. They had two children a daughter known as Creirfyw or ‘The finest’ as she was the most beautiful graceful creature who ever lived and a son Morfran or ‘Sea Crow’ who was as hideous as Creirfyw was fair, his ugliness was such that he was renamed Afagddu meaning utter darkness and he was shunned by all who laid eyes on his monstrous form.

Cerridwen loved her son dearly and her heart was saddened deeply by his lack of acceptance in the community so she decided to help him using the three crafts she possessed; magic, witchraft and divination. If Afagddu could not be beautiful he could be wise and she set about creating the brew of awen in her mighty caldron. Awen was the flowing spirit of inspiration itself and once it was prepared Afagddu would only need three precious drops to become wise beyond all measure and the greatest of all the storytellers then he would surely be loved by all.

The potion of awen is not easy to create, it takes a year and a day of hard strenuous labour so to help her in her task Cerridwen employed the blind man Morda to stoke the fire and a small boy Gwion Bach to constantly stir the brew. Cerridwen herself would be kept busy constantly collecting all the magical herbs, plants and funguses needed from the lakes shore to feed the bubbling brew.

When the magical concoction was almost ready Cerridwen rested against a tree stump exhausted from all her hard labour. Contented that soon Afagddu would be wise beyond measure she drifted into a deep sleep just as the contents of cauldron began to boil. As Morda stoked the fire and Gwion Back frantically stirred suddenly they heard a crack as the cauldron began to break open spitting out three drops of hot scolding liquid onto Gwions thumb. He cried out in pain as he stuck his thumb into his mouth to try to cool his burning flesh, in that moment Gwions eyes rolled back into his head as he became filled with all the knowledge of this world and the otherworld, becoming the prophetic spirit of awen itself.

As the cauldron shattered into a million pieces its three drops of awen gone the rest of the brew became a toxic poison seeping into the lake, Cerridwen’s eyes flew open in rage. Gwion Bach was now filled with a power and knowledge to rival Cerridwen’s and instantly knew of her fury. He ran for the hills shape shifting into a hare so he could run faster, Cerridwen shifted into a greyhound and began to gain ground on Gwion who had by now reached a stream, jumping in he turned himself into a salmon, Cerridwen jumped in after him becoming an otter, Gwion feeling the otters whiskers on his tail turned instantly into a wren and flew up from the stream, Cerridwen now a hawk was fast in pursuit, exhausted from the chase Gwion spotted a pile of grain on the floor and headed towards it turning himself into a single grain of wheat. Never one to give in Cerridwen turned herself into a large black hen and proceeded to gobble at the pile of grain.

Cerridwen sure she had won the chase soon discovered the magical grain had grown in her belly and she was with child, enraged she vowed to drown the babe in the lake as soon as it was born. When the time came and the babe flowed out along with her screams she looked down at the child, bestowed with the gifts of awen he was the most beautiful child she had ever seen and she couldn’t find it in her heart to kill him. Instead she set him adrift into the sacred waters of Bala Lake inside a leather coracle. Eventually one Samhain eve the coracle was discovered by Gwyddno’s son Elffin, amazed by the beauty and otherworldliness of the child inside Elffin named him Taliesin or Shining brow. Taliesin went on to became the most famous bard in Britain and is said to be the basis of Merlin.

 

 

Ceridwen is mentioned in the Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh tales compiled from two late-medieval manuscripts ' the Red Book of Hergest and the White Book of Rhydderch. The collection is best known today in its early nineteenth century form edited and translated by antiquarians William Pughe and Lady Charlotte Guest. In the Mabinogion Ceridwen is married to Tegid Voel and they dwell in an underwater Elysium, Lake Tegid, with their three children: the fair maiden Creirwy, a son, Morvran, and the 'most ill-favoured man in the world', Avagddu. To bestow knowledge upon Avagddu, Ceridwen prepared a cauldron of inspiration from which three drops of inspiration were produced. One of these drops falls upon the finger of Gwion Bach (a male servant) whom Ceridwen set to stir the cauldron. He put the finger in his mouth, received the inspiration and fled, pursued by Ceridwen. After a long pursuit, Ceridwen assumed the form of a hen and swallowed Gwion as a grain of wheat. She gave birth to Gwion anew, and threw him into the sea. Elphin rescues Gwion, and renames him, Taliesin. In terms of Ceridwen's role in ancient Welsh religion and culture, it is unclear whether she may be accurately called a pre-Christian deity. What it is certain is that she was a powerful enchantress who featured in a vibrant bardic, and then later, literary culture in Wales. J.A. MacCulloch writing in 1911 suggested that Ceridwen was 'worshipped' by bards in a manner similar to that of Brigit/Brigid. He goes on to state that Ceridwen may have also been a corn-goddess, 'since she was called goddess of grain, and tradition associates the pig ' a common embodiment of the corn-spirit - with her.' See J. A. MacCulloch, The Religion of the Ancient Celts, 1911. A site associated with Ceridwen is the chambered cain or cromlech of Pentre Ifan which was known as 'The Womb or Court of Ceridwen' according Professor Evans-Wentz, although it is unclear what source is being used to make this statement; see Walter Evans-Wentz, The fairy-faith in Celtic countries, (University Books, 1966). The archaeologists Anne Ross (1967), and more recently Miranda Green in her book Celtic Goddesses (British Museum, 1995), have both robustly asserted that Ceridwen was almost certainly a goddess. Ronald Hutton recently argued that Ceridwen was not considered to be a goddess until the late nineteenth century, when a tradition of writing emerged that reflected 'a need to conceive of a single Great Goddess, related to motherhood and the natural world'. Hutton quotes the Welsh scholar Sir Ifor Williams, who suggested that the name Ceridwen derived from 'Cyrriddfen' meaning 'crooked woman', which places her in tradition of witchcraft and magic (see Hutton, Pagan Britain, Yale: 2013). Of course, the issue of Ceridwen's origins as a goddess or witch can be seen as part of a wider cultural debate as to the role of women in history and religion. Ceridwen's role as an enchantress, as a mistress of a seemingly elven submerged realm, her ability to transform into animals, her role as a giver and taker of life, and finally, her contested claim to divinity and the political ramifications of this ' firmly place her in a modern living witchcraft/Goddess tradition.

Awen symbol appears on the cauldron (image below shows Awen symbol).

Cerridwen is mentioned in The Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh tales compiled from two late-medieval manuscripts – the Red Book of Hergest and the White Book of Rhydderch. The collection is best known today in its early nineteenth century form edited and translated by antiquarians William Pughe and Lady Charlotte Guest. In The Mabinogion Cerridwen is married to Tegid Voel and they dwell in an underwater Elysium, Lake Tegid, with their three children: the fair maiden Creirwy, a son, Morvran, and the ‘most ill-favoured man in the world’, Avagddu. To bestow knowledge upon Avagddu, Ceridwen prepared a cauldron of inspiration from which three drops of inspiration were produced. One of these drops falls upon the finger of Gwion Bach (a male servant) whom Cerridwen set to stir the cauldron. He put the finger in his mouth, received the inspiration and fled, pursued by Ceridwen. After a long pursuit, Ceridwen assumed the form of a hen and swallowed Gwion as a grain of wheat. She gave birth to Gwion anew, and threw him into the sea. Elphin rescues Gwion, and renames him, Taliesin.

Academic debate

In terms of Cerridwen’s role in ancient Welsh religion and culture, it is unclear whether she may be accurately called a pre-Christian deity. What it is certain is that she was a powerful enchantress who featured in a vibrant bardic, and then later, literary culture in Wales. J.A. MacCulloch writing in 1911 suggested that Cerridwen was ‘worshipped’ by bards in a manner similar to that of Brigit/Brigid. He goes on to state that Cerridwen may have also been a corn-goddess, ‘since she was called goddess of grain, and tradition associates the pig – a common embodiment of the corn-spirit - with her.’ (See J. A. MacCulloch, The Religion of the Ancient Celts, 1911.) A site associated with Cerridwen is the chambered cain or cromlech of Pentre Ifan which was known as ‘The Womb or Court of Ceridwen’ according Professor Evans-Wentz, although it is unclear what source is being used to make this statement; see Walter Evans-Wentz, The fairy-faith in Celtic countries, (University Books, 1966). The archaeologists Anne Ross (1967), and more recently Miranda Green in her book Celtic Goddesses (British Museum, 1995), have both robustly asserted that Cerridwen was almost certainly a goddess. Ronald Hutton recently argued that Cerridwen was not considered to be a goddess until the late nineteenth century, when a tradition of writing emerged that reflected ‘a need to conceive of a single Great Goddess, related to motherhood and the natural world’. Hutton quotes the Welsh scholar Sir Ifor Williams, who suggested that the name Ceridwen derived from ‘Cyrriddfen’ meaning ‘crooked woman’, which places her in tradition of witchcraft and magic; see Hutton, Pagan Britain (Yale: 2013). Of course, the issue of Cerridwen’s origins as a goddess or witch can be seen as part of a wider cultural debate as to the role of women in history and religion. Cerridwen’s role as an enchantress, as a mistress of a seemingly elven submerged realm, her ability to transform into animals, her role as a giver and taker of life, and finally, her contested claim to divinity and the political ramifications of this – firmly place her in a modern living witchcraft/Goddess tradition. 

The following is from a card from GoddessGift.net that accompanied the object: “Cerridwen is a great earth Goddess associated with the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth. We worship her at harvest time. She tends her cauldron of wisdom and inspiration. Her totem animal is the white sow and she is a shapeshifter, able to be seen as a greyhound, an otter, a hawk, and a black hen. She was mother to the great Celtic bard Taliesin (often thought to be Merlin) according to a favourite Celtic regeneration myth. He attribute[d] his magic talents to her.”

 

 

 

Resource:
Object
Materials:
Art paper and paint
Copyright ownership:
Kate Monkman Freerangefairies