Meaning Of The Word Awen
Awen is a Celtic word meaning the flowing spirit, the divine inspiration, the all, a spiritual awakening. Some dictionaries translate it as poetic inspiration as it is expressed by the Bards of Druidry in their poetic storytelling.
These soothsayers were known to attune themselves to the Awen for their inspiration. The pronunciation of the word is not dissimilar to the Hindi Om as the sound AR vibrates the heart chakra and opens us up to receiving the fluid (aw) essence (en) that is Awen. Most Druid Ceremonies begin with a cascading chant of the Awen to open the individual’s spirit to the spirit of inspiration.
Awen Meaning Celtic Symbol
It consists of three rays of light emanating from three points of light and surrounded by three circles like ripples of light, ever-expanding. It is symbolic of the triple nature and training of the Druid path where you work through the above three grades, studying the ways and nature of nature.
In the book of Taliesin, written in the 13th century, there are a number of poems by these medieval bards referring to the Awen. Prydyddy Moch, known as the poet of the pigs, says the Lord God will give thee the sweet Awen, as from the cauldron of Ceridwen.
Ceridwen is the Goddess of the Bards and the myth of Taliesin and Ceridwen tells of brewing a cauldron for a year and a day to receive 3 drops of Awen, which will make the receiver all-knowing.
The story is considered an instruction manual for Bardic initiation. Gwion, the main character of the plot, encounters three receptacles of transformation, the cauldron, the womb, and the leather bag from which he finally emerges as Taliesin. The most inspired Bard of all time.
This is my version of the story … Once there was a Goddess called Ceridwen who lived with her noble husband and two children near a magical lake on the fringe of an ancient forest. Their daughter was a beauty to behold.
Wherever they went people were bewitched by her beauty, but her son was shunned as he was as ugly as his sister was beautiful. Most people could not lay eyes on him in their repulsion.
Ceridwen stood at the door of the nursery one night and watched as her little girl slept peacefully, her beautiful curls fanned across the pillow and framing her perfect features and silky complexion, looking content and resting easily in her cot. Her son, Morfran, was restlessly tossing in his sleep with nightmarish dreams of rejection and disapproval.
Ceridwen was heartbroken that her son’s life would be impaired because of his ugliness and decided that if he could not have good looks then she would see to it that he would have great wisdom and inspiration so that people would see past his appearance.
That night she bridled her favourite mare and set off to the mountains to ask the Pherylith – the Alchemists who lived at the mountaintop – if they would give her the recipe for the Awen.
For many hours her faithful steed and she galloped through the night until, just as the sun emanated his warming warning glow, she arrived at the majestic iron gates of the keepers of all knowledge.
She slowed to a trot and the gates opened by themselves as if they were forewarned of her approach. Inside the gates, she dismounted, and robed magi attended to the slathering mare with some fresh food and water.
Ceridwen was guided to the appropriate Grimoire and allowed to copy the recipe. It required a special cauldron made specifically for the purpose and the collection of various rare and exotic herbs which were to be picked at very specific times and places.
The brew was to simmer for a year and a day and at that time three drops of the elixir would splash out of the cauldron, making whoever ingested them all-knowing, and bestowing them with the gift of Awen. But, she was warned, the rest of the brew would turn to deadly poison.
Ceridwen set to work immediately on her return. She engaged the services of an old blind man named Morda and a young boy called Gwion she had met wandering through the woods to stir and attend to the cauldron. She set them up with supplies and firewood in a small log cabin by the lake where the boy learned of many worldly things.
And so it was, that on the eve of the long-awaited day, Ceridwen arrived at the little cottage with her ugly son Morfran, awaiting the magical three drops. But alas, they sunk into a slumber moments before the potion was ready and it was Gwion, as he stirred the bubbling pot who licked his finger when the Awen took flight. The cauldron cracked, screaming in its death throes, and the remaining liquid spilled out through the door, flowing towards the lake and killing everything in its path.
Ceridwen awoke in a fury and Gwion ran for his life with the Queen of the witches hot on his tail, her arms outstretched before her reaching for Gwion’s throat with her long daggered claws.
Instantly Gwion realised that he now had the ability to shapeshift and turned himself into a hare and ran towards the brambles. Ceridwen just as quickly changed into a greyhound bitch and increased her advantage in the chase. Gwion came to a river and as quickly as he thought it, changed once more into a Salmon.
She became an Otter and the pursuit continued. He leapt from the water and became a bird of the air; Ceridwen a Hawk, and the relentless hunt continued. In desperation, Gwion looked down and spotted a pile of wheat and dived into it and scattered it everywhere as he became a single grain. Not to be outsmarted, Ceridwen turned herself into a hen and with her finely tuned senses, which were the result of a lifetime of training, she honed in on Gwion and ate him.
Several weeks later Ceridwen discovered she was with child, and with a newfound respect for the power of the Awen she surrendered her desire for revenge, and when the child was born she lovingly stitched him in a leather bag and set him adrift on the ocean.
In a far-off place, in the shire of Gwynedd, Lord Gwyddno Garanhir had a son who was considered the unluckiest boy in the land. Each year the Salmon would come to spawn at a weir close by and on.
May Eve Gwyddno sent his son Elphin to catch the fish with the hope of turning his luck, but alas, there were no fish. Feeling despondent Elphin paddled in the shallows unaware that his luck was about to change yet another unexpected twist of the Awen.
To his surprise he notices a greased leather bag hooked to one of the pylons of the pier. With great curiosity, he unstitched the bag and was astonished to find a baby within, whose forehead seemed to shine when the sunlight hit it. “I shall call you Radiant Brow!” he declared which is in Welsh in Taliesin.
“Yes.” Replied the baby. “That is a fine name.”
Astonished to hear a baby so small speak he wondered how this could be.
“Elphin of the generous spirit,
Cowardly is your purpose,
You must not grieve so heavily.
Better is good than evil omens.
Though I am weak and small,
Spurned with Dylan’s wave,
I shall be better for you
Then three hundred shares of salmon.”
And so it was that Taliesin was reared and cared for by his loving family, and as he grew his reputation spread throughout the land as that of the greatest bard of all times.
The King heard a word of this and wanted to buy his services as he claimed to have a team of the best Bards in the land. Taliesin could not be bought, nor would he feed the false power of the King and refused his offer. In response, the king had Elphin locked and chained in one of his dungeons.
Taliesin appeared to the king saying, “I have come to salvage Elphin’s honour and his freedom. Taliesin is I, Primary chief bard to Elphin.” There ensued a competition to prove who was the greatest bard in order to secure Elphin’s release.
When it came to Taliesin’s turn he sang to the winds and created a great and frightful storm around the castle, shaking it to its very foundation, and the king became frightened and sent men to bring Elphin to him and conceded defeat. And so the story goes.
The poetic genius of the 13th-century writings of Taliesin, obtained from the cauldron of the Goddess was held in great respect by generations of Bards, who, over a period of several centuries continued to attribute poetry to him and to view him as the pre-eminent master of their craft.
Awen Druid Meaning
So much is to be gleaned from this work, like the journey through the ancient forest that is Druidry, the wisdom to be found is never-ending. Taliesin encounters each initiation through the actions of Ceridwen, who is a catalyst throughout.
The three receptacles of a cauldron, womb and leather bag represent a series of initiations as Bard, Ovate, and Druid. The drink from the cauldron opens the mind of the bard to the gift of Awen, the sojourn in the womb of the Goddess gives the Ovate wisdom to understand it, and the ordeal of being cast into the sea in the leather bag enables the Druid to conquer the ultimate fear. The fear of death.
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