This is the first appearance of the Welsh Goddess Cerridwen, Who keeps the cauldron of inspiration. The meaning of Her name is a little obscure, but it may be related to words for 'poetry' or 'cauldron' and the -(g)wen on the end, which usually means 'white', may, since it is used of a Goddess, mean 'blessed' or 'holy'. She is said to live at the bottom of Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake) in Wales. Her story:
Cerridwen was the mother of a girl and a boy; the girl, named Creirwy, grew up to be the most beautiful woman on earth, but the boy, Morfran, ('Great Crow') was conversely relentlessly ugly. To make up for Her son's hideous looks Cerridwen decided to brew a magical potion that would confer upon Him divine poetic inspiration and the gift of prophecy; this potion, however, was a large undertaking, requiring a year and a day to brew. To help Her in this She enlisted a blind man and a servant boy, Gwion Bach, to attend to the fire and stir the cauldron.
At the appointed hour She set Morfran by the cauldron, and exhausted, went to sleep; but something went awry, and the three magical drops intended for Morfran fell instead on Gwion Bach.
And so the first thing Gwion Bach understood with his newly acquired gifts of prophecy and inspiration was that Cerridwen was going to kill him. So he quite wisely fled, taking the form of a hare.
Cerridwen awoke in a rage and pursued him in the shape of a greyhound. He changed into a fish, and She became an otter; then he became a bird, She a hawk. Finally he fled to a granary, where he took the form of a single grain of wheat. Cerridwen, not to be thwarted, became a hen, Who without much trouble located him and ate him.
But of course this is myth; and so soon enough Cerridwen found Herself pregnant with the boy. When He was born He was so beautiful She could not kill Him, as She had intended; still, wanting nothing to do with Him She set Him adrift in a coracle, a small boat. Three days later, on Calan Mai (the first of May, or Beltaine) He was found, caught in a fish-weir; and in time He grew up to be the divine poet Taliesin.
Though Cerridwen is quite clearly a mother She also has crone or hag like elements, perhaps because of Her reputation as a sorceress, or because She is a negative or devouring mother. Which is perhaps a little unfair; after all She was quite determined to help Her elder son Morfran. And perhaps it can't be broken down that simply anyway. She is probably more properly thought of as a Goddess of transformation--of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Though Her cauldron is specifically a source of awen, poetic or prophetic insight, in other tales from Celtic lands cauldrons are a means of regeneration and rebirth. The tale of Branwen from The Mabinogion features a wondrous cauldron: if a man slain that day is placed within it, the next day he will be alive again and his strength at its peak; the only caveat being that he will lose the power of speech. Death, after all, is silencing, and one does not come through a transformation without change.
So this week is about transformation and inspiration both; but there is a very strong element of unpredictability. The best laid plans, well, they will go awry, and all your hard work may seem dashed. If you can see it through, however, things will loop around to something really quite wonderful, perhaps more wonderful than you could have imagined. Trust this process, if you can; at the least patience will help.
Or it could be that you do get what you want, and things go off without a hitch; but you come to the realization that what you thought you wanted wasn't. Because you have changed. Perhaps those plans have not yet come to fruition; this may be a good time to reevaluate things in light of where you are now. Do those plans still serve you? How have you changed?
In the story above, do you identify with Cerridwen or Taliesin? Your answer will offer insight as to where you are in your transformation. And yes, we are all in the middle of that process, always.
Me, I always felt more for Cerridwen than for the boy. In fact I felt compelled to write Her story, the first one I wrote for the Goddess deck book, because I had read Ari Berk's version of Taliesin's tale for his and Brian Froud's The Runes of Elfland book; I wasn't intending at all to write stories (or rather, I wasn't intending to channel stories, 'cause really, I swear I'm not writing them myself) at all. But She demanded I take down Her side of the story.
So what does She say?
Would you be divinely inspired? It will cost you. Of course. That is how it is.
Throw it all in the pot. ALL. Your life's work, your life's blood, your life. Boil it down to its essence. Boil off the distractions, the extraneous, the unnecessary. Be transformed. It is the only way.
But you know this already.