I love to explore the Divine Feminine and write about Goddesses. For a list of those, click on the link: Goddesses. In order to become more balanced within ourselves and, through that, to bring greater balance and harmony to the world around us, we must find greater balance between the masculine and feminine energies within ourselves that each one of us possesses, regardless of physical gender or any other ways of self-identification.
Goddess of Death, Rebirth & Transformation
Cerridwen is an enchantress. She gets mentioned in medieval texts of legends and is a Celtic Welsh Goddess of the Moon. Her name is supposed to be derived from two root words, cyrrid, often translated as crooked or bent, and ben/ven means woman or female. However, it is possible that wen also derives from gwyn, which means beloved, fair, sacred or blessed.
Another theory is that the Goddess’s name stems from cerru, which means cauldron. And indeed, in some medieval texts, Cerridwen is said to be in possession of the cauldron of poetic inspiration, called Awen, which could also be the root meanings for her name. There is no conclusive evidence in linguistic research to prove either theory, but going with my personal intuition, I think we don’t have to exclude one for the other, but rather, embrace both and thus creating a richer, more detailed energy pertaining to this Goddess.
Cerridwen is a dark Goddess who, according to legend, swallowed her servant who was subsequently reborn as the greatest Welsh poet and bard in medieval history by the name of Taliesin. Thus, she is Goddess of inspiration and poetry, but is also a dark Goddess for her destructive powers that precede the rebirth and transformation she also facilitates.
It is unfortunate that not more , especially older texts on this Goddess remain than medieval ones, as her existence reaches back much longer. The oldest surviving text stems from the 16th century, but according to linguists, is much more likely to be copy of a 9th century composition. There are other references found to Cerridwen and her cauldron in a 12th century text as well, in which Cerridwen is transformed from a sorceress and enchantress to a Goddess of poetry.
In later literature from the 19th and 20th century, there were various theories on the origin and function of this Goddess. In one by Max Müller, she and Gwynafar were said to be Goddess of the Dawn, in another by Robert Graves, she is fitted into the concept of the Threefold Goddess in which she was the destructive aspect. Charles Isaac Elton called her the White Fairy, and in Wicca, she is the Goddess of Death (or powerful change), Rebirth and Transformation.
The Magic Potion
However, this ancient Dark Moon and Mother Goddess, also referred to as Great Mother, White Lady of Inspiration and Death, Goddess of Nature, the Old One, the Hag of Creation and Grain Goddess, is a complex and powerful one. Legend tells her story to be one of love for her children, but also of trying to meddle in their lives.
Used to taking command, she was not always able to give others the freedom to lead their own lives according to their wishes, but (tried to) force “their best interest” on them according to her own perspectives. In the trinity of the Great Goddess, Cerridwen takes the crone part, Arianrhod is the Mother and Blodeuwedd the Maiden.
Legend tells that Cerridwen had three children, one of them a very ugly boy. So she thought to cook up a concoction which would grant her son great wisdom as compensation for his ugliness. This had to be cooked in a cauldron for a year and a day. A blind man was ordered to tend the fire and a young boy was given the task of stirring it. However, three drops spilt onto the boy’s thumb and because they were burning hot, the boy put his thumb instinctively in his mouth, thus being gifted the benefits of the concoction that was meant for Cerridwen’s son.
All at once Gwion’s whole world began to change. He was able to hear everything that went on in the world and he was able to understand all the secrets of the universe, as well as the knowledge of the past, the present and the future. Luckily for him, the sudden increase in his awareness allowed him to perceive what exactly Cerridwen would do to him, once she realized that it was he, rather than her beloved son, who had acquired the formula’s magickal powers.
As only the first three drops were giving the desired effect and the rest of the brew was poisonous, the boy knew Cerridwen would be furious and he fled. Cerridwen pursued him, however. The boy, now being wise and knowledgeable in the arts of shapeshifting and magic through the concoction he had ingested, turned into a hare, a fish, a bird and a single grain of corn respectively. However, Cerridwen matched him each time by becoming a greyhound, an otter, a hawk and a chicken. In this last instance, she found him and swallowed him.
However, because of the magic potion, the boy did not die, but Cerridwen became pregnant and decided to kill the baby as soon as it was born to take her revenge. But when the boy was born, he was so beautiful that Cerridwen was not able to kill him after all, but instead, set him out to sea in different containers, according to different reiterations of the legend. He was finally washed ashore and raised by a childless prince called Elfin and his wife, later becoming the aforementioned great bard Taliesin. Elfin and his wife called him Taliesin because of his beauty. The name means Beautiful Brow.
In my historical romance novel The Dark Duke, the female MC Elizabeth has to learn to embrace her dark side in order to achieve her goal of not only admitting to herself that she is in love with a man who is much more experienced than herself but also has a dark side but in order for her to make him believe that her love will remain true, she has to embrace her dark side, in order to be able to accept it in the man she loves. Because she is unable to do so at first and still clings to her girlish notions of pure romance, she falls sick.
Only when she faces herself and embraces her own darker sides and feminine powers, is she able to overcome her illness and channel her energies into something more productive and ultimately more successful. Her path, especially in view of the fact that the story is set in Regency England, is not an easy one. Expectations and the pressure from society, the ton, and her family are opposed to her even entertaining such thoughts, let alone become empowered and fight for her love. But Elizabeth pursues her dreams through trials and tribulations and ultimately gains the prize she had worked for so long and hard on herself.
Cerridwen is said to transform into a White Sow to speak to her people; this animal is associated with dark prophetic powers. In Celtic mythology, white animals play a prominent part. The most famous example of this is probably the White Horse of which there are 16 carved in hillsides in the UK alone. The Westbury White Horse is possibly the most prominent of them all.
Cerridwen is the dark crone aspect of the Goddess, symbolising the cycles of nature, death, rebirth and transformation. Due to her giving birth to the poet after swallowing the servant, and having two children of her own, she is also associated with fertility, which is symbolised by the grain of corn she swallowed as hen when pursuing the servant boy who transformed himself into this grain. Cerridwen also presides over the Underworld. In Pagan and Wiccan tradition, Cerridwen’s sacred feast is on July 3rd which is called gwyl o ceridwen.
Cerridwen is the Dark Great Mother whose energies are not always easy to deal with, but working with one’s shadow parts is always very rewarding. There is great healing and transformation to be found in exploring this part of the archetype in our own psyche. It is worthwhile to allow ourselves to die inwardly, meaning to purge ourselves and let go of the smaller version of ourselves we’ve been thus far, in order to make room for a greater, grander and more authentic one. This is by no means a one-off occurrence, but an ongoing process in our personal development, shifting and upgrading to an ever higher consciousness.
It is as throwing a pebble into still water and watching the concentric circles spread their ripples further and further outside. Each transformation we undergo is another of those ripples expanding. Each “death” of the old, limiting parts of ourselves is the result of a former development within ourselves and the foundation of a new one. There is no beginning and no end really, it is a continuous process of expansion, of seeing and living different aspects of our divine selves, not only in this lifetime, but also others.
Cerridwen’s energies can be overwhelming when you are taken unawares and surprised by them. It can get worse when you try to resist the change and transformation your soul calls you to undergo. You may feel steamrolled by it all even. However, when you prepare yourself to tap into these powerful energies of the Dark Mother, enter gently and at your own pace, it doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience, but rather, one of great self-empowerment, of deep insights and great wisdom gained. Profound transformation can be triggered when you allow yourself to be cooked in Cerridwen’s cauldron of creation and re-creation.
In my romance novel Snake Goddess Rising, the female main protagonist, Shanti, is the second known traumatised woman in her matriarchal line, seeking for the help of the Cobra Goddess Manasa. Her own mother had been unable to conceive, so had petitioned at the shrine of the Goddess and subsequently become pregnant with her daughter Shanti. Shanti herself has three children, but their father is not in the picture, neither as a partner for herself nor as a father for her children.
She travels to Manasa’s shrine in India, in the hope of finding the same benevolence of the Goddess there as once her mother had. And indeed, a man shows up in the picture, but Shanti is not sure of his affections, as outer circumstances are traumatic and inwardly, she has to slowly learn to trust a man again and get to know him to be sure he is worthy of her trust. Moreover, the Goddess has more plans for her and Shanti finds herself having very intensely transformational, albeit very exhausting experiences along the way. When she finally trusts the Goddess and the new man in her life and surrenders to her own innate wisdom and intuition, life suddenly becomes much easier.
Cerridwen has always been considered an extremely important Goddess across all traditions, standing tall in the company of such other Goddesses as Dana/Danu, Isis and Durga. She is most certainly more than merely the Celtic Goddess of Inspiration, Intelligence and Knowledge. She is also an extremely powerful example of the Divine Feminine, and for that reason, she will always represent freedom for each and every woman who chooses to work with her powerful energies.
There is a part of you that has to die in order to be reborn. Just like the Phoenix, dying in the fires of destruction to be reborn again and rise out of the ashes, so there is a new you emerging when the old has died to clear the space for the new. She is also associated with the White Sow, Hawk and Hen. Read up on more Power Animals here.
You can also use crystals in your Goddess work and a stone closely connected to Cerridwen is the Moonstone. It is a stone for new beginnings. It enhances your sensitivity, intuition and psychic abilities, and will help with revitalising your aura.