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The Story of Ceridwen

Author: John Patrick Parle

Copyright © 2001

Beneath Lake Bala lived the goddess
Ceridwen and her husband Tegid the Bald. They had a beautiful
daughter and three sons, one of whom was viewed as ill-favored and
repulsive. His name was Avagddu. Ceridwen very much wanted to find
some consolation for her son Avagddu, so she created a cauldron of
inspiration to give him superior knowledge and wisdom.

Cauldrons play an important role in Celtic mythology. They
pop up in any number of key stories. The Irish Dagda has a cauldron
that gives unending nourishment. Brân's cauldron can give life
back to the dead. Ceridwen's cauldron came with three muses, and helped
her to be associated with the field of language, poetry, and letters.
Through her cauldron, Ceridwen became the Welsh goddess of

According to the tale, Ceridwen was one day gathering herbs
of virtue to put into her cauldron. In her absence, she arranged for
a person named Gwion to stir the pot. Just a few drops from the
cauldron fell on Gwion's finger, and he discovered that when he put
that finger into this mouth, he became a master of knowledge. This
enraged Ceridwen, because she intended this inspirational gift to be
reserved for her son Avagddu.

What followed was a "transformation combat," in John Arnott
MacCulluch's words--a good example of the shapeshifting often found
in Celtic mythology. Ceridwen began to chase Gwion with vengeance,
and through his new power, he changed himself into a hare. Ceridwen
responded by changing into a greyhound. He then became a fish, and
she an otter. Gwion turned into a bird, then she a hawk. Finally, he
turned himself into a grain of wheat, and she into a hen. Ceridwen's
hen ate the wheat, from which in legend caused her to conceive and
later give birth to a beautiful son, afterwards renowned in Welsh
myth as Taliesin.

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