Awen – Part II – Taliesin
Let us take a closer look into some Celtic mythology for references to the Awen. We will find two main tales, one is the Welch tale of Taliesin, the other its Irish counterpart – the story of Fionn Mac Cumhaill.
In this second part of this little Awen series I will go over the story of Taliesin first.
Ceridwen was a well-known enchantress, sorceress in Welch legends. Her husband was Tegid Foel (“Tacitus the Bald”). Together they lived near Lake Bala (Llyn Tegid) in north Wales.
Ceridwen is the mother of two children, an extremely beautiful daughter named Creirwy and a son of a totally opposite character to her, Morfran, who was since birth portrait as hideousness and ugly.
No magic that Ceridwen tried could cure Morfran, nor give him any comfort or wisdom. One day though, she gathered her cauldron to make a potion to make him both handsome and wise. The mixture had to be boiled for a year and a day, which is a very long and deliberate task and magic.
To help her Ceridwen employed the help of two servants, Morda, a blind man, who tend to the fire beneath the cauldron, and a young boy, Gwion Bach, to stir the brew from time to time as well as not letting the concoction to boil over. Ceridwen knew that only the first three drops of the brew were effective when finished, while the rest would turn poisonous.
The time of the one year and one day approached and young Gwion accidently let the brew boil over the rim of the cauldron and the first three drops landed on his thump. Gwion immediately put his scorched thump into his mouth to stem the pain and burning. He received instantly, like a bolt of lightning, the wisdom and knowledge of Awen, which had been brewing in the cauldron.
Obviously Ceridwen wasn’t very happy when she found out about what had happened. Gwion ran away, terrified of Ceridwen’s temper, and turned himself into a rabbit; but Ceridwen followed and transformed herself into a dog. The boy changed himself into a fish and jumped into the river, swiftly followed by the otter formerly known as, Ceridwen. Gwion changed from fish to bird and Ceridwen turned her otter self into a hawk and continued the chase. Finally, the bird became a grain of corn; the hawk became a hen – and swallowed him up.
After that chase, when Ceridwen finally returned to her normal self, she discovered that she was pregnant and knew instantly that the baby she carried was Gwion. In anger Ceridwen planned to kill him as soon as he was born, but the baby was far too beautiful when he was born. His eye brows where radiating with light and wisdom.
She just eventually put him into a large leather bag and cast him into the sea. The bag was found in the nets of a fisher of the annual salmon catch on the Dovey River. Not knowing what to do which the leader bag he handed it over to his patron Prince Elffin.
On opening the bag, Elffin discovered the baby boy – Gwion, who had been reborn as Taliesin. This foundling was something of a child prodigy, because no sooner had poor Elffin placed the baby in front of him on his saddle than Taliesin, (which means ‘radiant brow’), started first speaking, then reciting, poetry and then making predictions about how Elffin would now defeat all his enemies. How could he do otherwise now he had Taliesin’s help?
Elffin’s luck changed from that moment and Taliesin, through his poems and his prophecy, became the most famous bard in Britain, inspiring the Celtic warriors against their Saxon invaders.
This are pretty much the bare-bones of the Tale of Taliesin and the inspiration of the Awen which transformed him into the Greatest Bard of Britain.
I would highly recommend the book ‘from the Cauldron Born‘ – by Kristoffer Hughes, which delves deeply into this subject and de-codes its hidden mysteries and many secrets. A truly fascinating read!