This story was discussed by the Silsden Druid Group last night. To understand the meaning of the characters and the facets of the story is literally to become open to being re-born, to draw spiritual inspiration from nature, and above all to become the luminous powerful person you were born to be by becoming open to Awen: your own unique special refraction of divine inspiration. The moral of the story is that Ceridwen drove Gwion Bach into embracing change, transformation, inspiration and rebirth so that he ended up as Taliesin, the great prophet, teacher and magician.
1. The Characters
Cerridwen (The Witch Goddess) =
Lord Tegid Foel (Nobility and strength)
Their children are: Creirfyw (Heart of Beauty)
Morfran / Afagddu (Utter Darkness) (The Shadow, the Dance of Darkness)
Gwion Bach (Small Boy) who become Taliesin (Prophetic Spirit)
Morda, the Blind Man (Liminality)
The Wise (The Pheryllt)
Elfin (who discovers Taliesin at the end of his transformation and gives him his name)
2. Other Features of the Story
The Cauldron (The Womb of Magic)
The Three Drops (Divine Intoxication – the rest is utter poison)
3. The Transformations of Taliesin
a. hare greyhound bitch earth
b. salmon she otter water
c. bird hawk air
d. grain hen fire
4. Story Outline
Ceridwen desires to give Afagddu, her foul son, wisdom, so she obtains the formula from The Wise and hires Morda and Gwion Bach to keep the cauldron going for a year and a day. But it is Gwion Bach who receives the three drops of inspiration from the cauldron on the final day, not Afagddu, so he gains all knowledge, and the cauldron splits in two and all else in it is foul poison. Cerridwen is enraged, she hits Morda striking out his eye and pursues Gwion through four transformations, finally eating him when he is a grain of wheat and she a hen.
She gives birth to him nine months later, intending to kill him, but falls in love with his achievement and beauty so she floats him on the sea in a bag or coracle at Beltane. At Samhane, Elfin discovers the bag or coracle on his father’s salmon weir, opens it and discovers the child. Recognising his shining brow, Elfin calls the child Taliesin. Taliesin has all knowledge and goes on to become court druid and also the mentor of Arthur.