The Order of the White Moon Goddess Gallery Presents
Witch-Goddess of Transformation
A Level 2 Final Project for the Sisters of the Rising Moon School
Level 2 Adept and Member of the Order of the White Moon
(© 2019. All original material in this site is under copyright protection and is the intellectual property of the author.)
Imagine, if you will, that your mother is a sorceress,
Powerful and Wise,
Who would do anything for you.
Who longs to give you anything you lack,
Who will help you grow into your Divinity.
What would you ask of her?
What gifts would you claim?
She is called Cerridwen,
And she knows you by name.
(Poem and photo by Lunaria)
How do her followers pray to her?
First, fear not. She loves her offspring fiercely. Trust her love for you.
Second, be brave. Her cauldron will not serve the timid.
Amongst bards, it is the custom to tell her tale, to sing her songs and to write poetry in her honor. So deep is their attachment to her, that to this day they refer to themselves as sons and daughters of Cerridwen!
Here is a particularly fine example of this devotion, which also happens to tell the the tale of Cerridwen and Taliesin.
(By permission of the composer and performer, Damh the Bard)
Since she is the Keeper of the Cauldron of Inspiration, you can be assured she will give you the words, the tune, the drumbeat, whatever you need, to communicate with her.
She will meet you between the worlds, for hers is a liminal space: between sleeping and waking, between day and night, at the edges of consciousness;
in groves and near henges, where Druids to this day celebrate her; between land and water, meadow and forest, and every in-between place you can imagine—and some she will surprise you in! (Such as between washing and rinsing a dish—but don’t get me started.)
Here is a chant I offer. If it speaks (or sings!) to you, join in. It is sung 3 times.
Stir your cauldron, Cerridwen,
Deosil and widdershins;
One to bless and one to ban,
Flowing from the great Awen.
(music and lyrics by Lunaria)
(Original art by Lunaria)
How does she answer?
She is not notoriously subtle.
A personal story. When I was wondering if, indeed, she was truly calling me, I asked for a sign.Within 5 minutes my husband had quit his job.Now this man is the most reliable, practical, dedicated, predictable man imaginable, but HE QUIT HIS JOB. Opening up all kinds of possibilities that weren’t there before.
Whew. Keep your eyes and ears and chakras open, and she will transform something in your life; maybe even something you had given up on.
She’s a noticing sort of a goddess. In her story, (I hope you listened to Damh the Bard), her son didn’t have to even ask. She saw him—apparently a horribly ugly baby—and knew she must do something to help him become so wise his appearance wouldn’t matter. She will notice what you lack; and she will go about filling that empty space with a unique potion to help you heal and become whole.
So if you aren’t ready to change, she may not be the goddess for you!
Be aware: As with all mothers, she can be fierce! When Gwion sucked the drops of her potion that were meant for her son, what did she do? She chased him. And caught him. And ate him. And gave birth to him. And planned to kill him…But she took one look at that baby face and couldn’t do it.
Just when you think she might be about to destroy you, she relents, remembers you are her child…and in Gwion’s case, envelopes him in a coracle and sends him out to sea…to become what she had meant her son to be: the greatest of bards, the wisest of men.
I cannot tell you how she will reach into your life. She seems to tailor her responses to your needs, the way any good mother responds to the unique personalities of her children. She can be immensely helpful if you need a bit of inspiration for a creative project, or to help you transition from one stage of life to the next, or when some aspect of you must die for something else to be born. And above all, I would say she is a supreme helper of mothers, for she was such a devoted one herself!
She will never ask you to be LESS than you are, but she may well insist you become MORE than you thought you could be. She will change you, challenge you, and ultimately, welcome you into the dark cauldron of death and new life.
Here she hovers in a yew tree, for she and the yew are linked by their common associations with death and new life.
(Photo by Lunaria)
What is her role in initiation?
Sometimes new life begins with an initiation. Referring to the Tale of Cerridwen and Taliesin, Mara Freedman, author of Kindling the Celtic Spirit, writes:
‘Gwion’s initiation begins in earnest when he undergoes the shapeshifting battle with Cerridwen. A sequence of events unfolds that describe a process of "uncreation," or reverse evolution. In Western esoteric lore, the act of creation is seen as a process of descent through the four elements, beginning with fire, primal energy; through air, the mental plane; water, the imaginal plane; and finally earth, the physical plane. Gwion first becomes a creature of the earth as the hare, then of water as the fish, of air as the bird, and lastly as a fiery spark of potential life, symbolized by the grain of wheat. Now he is literally swallowed up by Ceridwen, the goddess who deals death to create new life, as the seed falls into the darkness of earth to be transformed in the spring.’
In my experience, this is the essence of transformation. As a student, there is a great deal of unlearning to do, before we can accept that which has the power to transform us. We may also be asked to unbecome, a term I have coined to refer to the willingness to stop being who we think we are, in favor of opening to the possibilities of who we might be.
It’s not a comfortable process; it is, indeed, a kind of shapeshifting. We transform, bit by bit, into something else, with no end in sight. Gwion had no clue at any point in the chase, his purpose was to be Taliesin, the great Bard. He just became one thing and then another because he HAD to. Cerridwen was chasing him!
And when Cerridwen, the hen, ate Gwion, the grain of corn, he must have felt destroyed. But his apparent destruction led to a rebirth that was beyond anything he could have imagined. Cerridwen is the catalyst of Gwion’s initiation, a role she delights in playing for any who are open to her.
In his book Cauldron Born: Exploring the Magic of Welsh Legend and Lore, Kristoffer Hughes calls her ‘…The witch goddess, the initiatrix, the great devourer of the profane’ (p. 127).
Let her devour whatever in you does not serve your highest good and she will help you transform into all you were meant to be—which may well be beyond your imagining.
Three of the shapes Cerridwen shifted into when she was chasing Gwion.
(photo by Lunaria)
How does she assist with prophecy/divination?
I’d like to return first to the tale. It is clear that the moment Gwion accidentally imbibed the potion, Cerridwen knew it—and was furious! So, obviously one of her gifts is claircognizance. She knew what had happened even though she wasn’t there to see it. I call these situations ‘knowings,’ when I know something for sure without anything in my environment to back it up. I will share with you an example.
When my dad had a heart attack, my family and his doctors assured me I needn’t come home from Germany where I lived at the time; he was going to be fine. I ‘knew’ better. I flew home. Throughout the days that followed, the ‘knowings’’ just kept coming. That’s the room where they give the families the bad news. It was. That machine is for your dad. It was. The code they just called was for him. It was.
I believe that Cerridwen has been accompanying me throughout my life, but I hadn’t developed the spiritual eyes to see her. She made her presence known in situations like those above, as well as in moments of creative inspiration. Kristoffer Hughes writes that the ability to know Awen, which Cerridwen brewed in her cauldron, arises only after the initiation into the Celtic mysteries. This is a very personal, as opposed to group, initiation (Cauldron Born, p. 55).
Another way in which she aids in prophecy is by bestowing the ‘Prophetic Spirit.’ She distilled it into the potion that became Awen, so that Gwion, transformed into Taliesin, possessed the gift of prophecy. Thus, she is capable of bestowing it at will. If, as a mother, she deems it to be for our good, she gives it. You may ask, or you might not need to.
A claircognition that is not personal may be called prophecy. I knew Pope John Paul II would be shot. I have no idea how. My response to the news was, ‘Oh, so it really did happen.’
I have also found calling upon Cerridwen when doing divination using the Tarot incredibly empowering. The most accurate and helpful readings of my life have occurred when I called upon her first. In the near future, when I plan to begin scrying in earnest, it is Cerridwen I will call upon.
Cerridwen in one of my maple trees.
(Photo by Lunaria)
How does she assist in Magick?
As well as the above types of magick, Cerridwen is a ‘sentinel to the mysteries’ (Hughes, p.127). An ancient manuscript describes her as an adept in three branches of magick: ‘magic, witchcraft, and sorcery,’ (manuscript by Elis Gruffudd, quoted by Hughes, p.136). Further, Hughes calls her ‘…the totemic witch queen of Celtic/British Witchcraft, the mother of every witch and druid who lives and practices the art of Celtic magic,’ (p.136). This is my lineage, both in spirit and in body, which is why she is my goddess, my mother.
She is a walker-between-the-worlds. In order to brew the Awen, Cerridwen consulted the Pheryllt, ‘…the great ancient magicians who were watchers from the otherworld,’ (Hughes, p.38). Further evidence of this skill is in her aspect as a sow. ‘Pigs have long been associated with the indigenous underworld of the Celts…and were believed to have free rein to travel between both worlds,’ (Hughes, p.148). She will assist in shamanic journeys, in mediumship, in any form of magic that requires access to the world of spirit.
She is a shapeshifter par excellence. The forms she takes—all stories agree on this, although some of the animals differ—demonstrate her mastery of the elements of earth (greyhound), air (hawk), and water (otter). (Of her mastery over fire we shall speak later.) Some see in the tale of the chase a kind of reverse evolution, suggesting that we must be reborn, eschewing our supposed maturity, if we are to become all we are meant to be. Given her abilities and her generosity as mother, she is well able to help us become whatever we need to in a given situation.
She is a potion-maker of unparalleled skill. The definitions of Awen are as fluid as the substance itself. It has been described as the Celtic pagan equivalent of the Holy Spirit. It has been said to contain ‘all the wisdom, knowledge, and sciences of all the worlds both seen and unseen,’ (Hughes, p. 39). Modern-day practitioners of Celtic spirituality see Awen as ultimate truth, which keeps us on the path of truth so that we are not deceived by the machinations of the world, (Hughes, p. 59). Ask her assistance in making teas, incense, cooking, or any activity which requires bring together different ingredients to make a magical brew. Ask her wisdom if you would know the truth about a person, situation, or yourself.
But where is her mastery over fire? Ah, it is the fire of her love for her son, the fire beneath the cauldron, the fire of her spirit, that began the whole tale! Here we must consider the symbolism of the cauldron as womb. As passion begets children, the cauldron—in the form of those three sacred drops that burn poor Gwion’s hand—exudes wisdom. Cerridwen lends fire to our intention and discernment to our actions. She is the ultimate magical mentor.
Cerridwen, mistress of earth, air, wind, and fire. (Photo by Lunaria)
In Conclusion…The Beginning
If you would like to know Cerridwen, the easiest way is to read or listen to her story and imagine yourself inside it. It is your story now. If you find your heart racing, your spirit burning, then that may well be her calling to you. Ask her if it is. Ask her for a sign, if you wish.
Perhaps the greatest lesson that practitioners of magick can take from her story is that things do not always go as planned. She thought she was boiling the potion for her son…but it ended up transforming Gwion into Taliesin. However great our will, our concentration, our intent, Awen may have other plans. And that is as it should be. The force that flows through us is greater than any individual. It is our job to trust it.
Cerridwen Altar (photo by Lunaria)
From the Cauldron Born: Exploring the Magic of Welsh Legend & Lore by Kristoffer Hughes
Damh the Bard, Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, for use of his song ‘Ceridwen and Taliesin’ at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5X_b6HEysE
Mara Freeman, author of Kindling the Celtic Spirit, for permission to use her quote from The Chalice Center page on Cerridwen http://www.chalicecentre.net/cauldron-of-changes.html.
Finally, I wish to give credit to Lady Awen who so beautifully created the Cerridwen figure in the photos above. Her work is available on Etsy.