I was in a group discussion the other day when the question of Ceridwen arose. People had a number of questions about the story. Not surprising really, It is one of the most profound of the old Welsh legends. It tells of the birth of Taliesin, the greatest of the ancient Welsh poets or Bards. The legend has it that an old blind man, Morda is his name is set to stir the cauldron of Awen. To make sure it doesn’t boil over. Morda falls asleep and three drops of the precious liquid fall on the thumb of a little boy.
Just so we don’t get lost in translation; the boy’s name is Gwion Bach, literally “Little innocent” The old man is Morda, “Sea Father” Ceridwen is a lot trickier. The oldest manuscripts write her name as Keridvan or in modern Welsh spelling Ceridfan. “Fan” means place Cerid could be “loving” or it could mean “Crooked” or “Bent.” This would seem to reference the crescent moon. There is a deep study here and we have by no means uncovered all of the secret lessons hidden in this legend.
The part of the story that had almost all of my friends questioning was in regard to the action of Ceridwen. When she discovers that the Awen was taken by the young boy, the legend states that she beat Morda until his eye fell out. In Pagan groups Ceridwen is viewed as a Goddess. In fact there is ample evidence from legends and other sources to convince us all that she has always been a Goddess, so what is this passage all about? How could this be the behavior of a Goddess? I had to remind my friends of an important part of the story. Morda was blind. She was beating out the eye of a blind man. So what good was the eye to him? There are meanings within meanings inside these old tales. We are lulled into thinking that blind means “Not-seeing” Instead we should ask; “What was he blind to?” If we think of this part of the story as Morda losing that which prevented him from seeing clearly, then we realize that Morda also went through a transformation gifted by the grace of the Lady. It all revolves around a question that everyone in my group thought they had the answer to. The question of; what was in the Cauldron? What was it that Morda was stirring for a year and a day?
Almost everyone thinks it was the Cauldron of Inspiration. It is not.