Celtic Goddess Cerridwen
6-1/4 inch high cold cast bronze statue
Cerridwen is one of the Old Ones, one of the great megalithic pre-Christian Goddesses of the Celtic World. Although, in her story, she embodies all three lunar aspects of the Goddess, Maiden, Mother and Crone, she is primarily worshipped in her Crone aspect, by and through her Cauldron of Wisdom, Inspiration, Rebirth and Transformation. The cauldron has an intimate association with femininity, together with the cave, the cup and the chalice, and the association of femininity with justice, wisdom and intelligence goes back to very ancient times.
Cerridwen was originally worshipped by the people of Wales. It is told that she lived on an island, in the middle of Lake Tegid, named after her husband, with her two children, a beautiful daughter, Creidwy, and a very ugly son, Afagdu. To compensate her son for his unfortunate appearance, Cerridwen brewed a magical formula, known as “greal”, (is this where the word Grail came from, I wonder?) which would make Afagdu the most brilliant and inspired of men. For a year and a day, she kept six herbs simmering in her magical cauldron, known as “Amen”, under the constant care of a boy named Gwion.
One day, while Gwion was stirring the cauldron, a few drops of the bubbling liquid spattered on his hand. Unthinkingly, and in pain, Gwion, sucked his burned hand, and, suddenly, he could hear everything in the world, and understood all the secrets of the past and future. With his newly enchanted foresight, Gwion knew how angry Cerridwen would be when she found he had acquired the inspiration meant for her son.
He ran away, but Cerridwen pursued him. Gwion changed into a hare, and Cerridwen chased him as a greyhound; he changed into a fish, and Cerridwen pursued him as an otter; he became a bird, and she flew after him as a hawk; finally, he changed into a grain of corn, and Cerridwen, triumphant, changed into a hen, and ate him.
When Cerridwen resumed her human form, she conceived Gwion in her womb, and, nine months later, gave birth to an infant son, whom she, in disgust, threw into the water of a rushing stream. He was rescued by a Prince, and grew into the great Celtic bard, Taliesin.
Cerridwen's cauldron is an ancient feminine symbol of renewal, rebirth, transformation and inexhaustible plenty. It is the primary female symbol of the pre-Christian world, and represents the womb of the Great Goddess from which all things are born and reborn again. Like the Greek Goddess, Demeter, and the Egyptian Goddess, Isis, Cerridwen was the great Celtic Goddess of inspiration, intelligence and knowledge, and was invoked as a law-giver and sage dispenser of righteous wisdom, counsel and justice.
The image of her cauldron, holding the magical potion of wisdom, is, perhaps, the mythical origin of the Halloween image of a cauldron-stirring hag, making up her witch's brew. The brew had to simmer for a year and a day, a common passage of time in Celtic lore, and a standard time before magickal initiation. Today, many Druidic pagans believe that her shape-shifting chase after Gwion was meant to represent the different elevations of Druidic initiation rites. The chase can also be seen as representative of the many changes our souls must make, into different forms, and over different human lifetimes, before we can discover the very reason for our existence.
The potent nature of her brew has, today, transformed Cerridwen, in some eyes, into a goddess of fertility, creativity, harvest, inspiration, knowledge and luck. A festival in her honor is celebrated on July 3rd, and the pink sow, a symbol of fertility, good fortune and enrichment, is said to be her matron animal.