Nine Maidens

Nine Maidens Whose Breath Fueled the Cauldron
(o anadyl naw morwyn)

The SeaThe mysteries of the Cauldron represent the inner and sacred teachings of creation, transformation, and regeneration. In both myth and legend the cauldron is known to brew potions, aid in casting of spells, produce abundance or decline, and is a holy vessel for offerings to the powers of the Great Goddess. Its chief power is that of transformation, spiritual and physical. The Cauldron bestows wisdom, knowledge, and inspiration.

Within the tale of the Cauldron of Cerridwen many aspects of the Mystery Teachings are found. Cerridwen is preparing in her cauldron a brew meant to give enlightenment to her son. The potion is required to brew for and year and a day. Such a time period is symbolic of initiation. In this tale of Cerridwen, Gwion, for whom it was not intended, tastes the potion. This makes Cerridwen angry, and she pursues the offender. Both of them transform into various cult animals during the chase.

Included in the potion of Cerridwen were yellow flower known as Pipes of Lleu (cowslip), Gwion's silver (fluxwort), the borues of Gwion (hedge-berry), Taliesin's cresses (vervain), and mistletoe berries mixed with sea foam. The brew was poisonous and had to be handled properly. 

This potentially fatal potion was prepared for willing initiates whereby by their consciousness would retrieve the genetic memories of their ancestors. 

In the Celtic myth the cauldron of Cerridwen was warmed by the breath of nine maidens and produced a brew that that conferred inspiration. Here, in comparison, are striking similarities to an earlier Greek tale in which the nine Muses gave inspiration to humans. The Cauldron was located in the realm of Annwn (the Underworld) and, according to the Taliesin's poem "The Spoils of Annwn" the breath of nine maidens kindled the fire beneath it. Oracle speech reportedly came forth from the cauldron. 

The Breath of Awen

Welsh bardic literature refers to the "cauldron of inspiration" which contains a mysterious substance called awen, the Welsh equivalent of imbas. Awen literally means "flowing spirit" and is bestowed only by the generosity of Ceridwen, the poets’ muse and mistress of the cauldron. An early poem by a Welsh bard describes his experience of awen when he taps into its powerful force: " The Awen I sing,

From the deep I bring it,
A river while it flows,
I know its extent;
I know when it disappears;
I know when it fills;
I know when it overflows;
I know when it shrinks;
I know what base
There is beneath the sea."

Here the source of awen is in the depths of the sea, a traditional location for the Celtic Otherworld. But it emerges also from the depths of the poet himself, who may have drunk the "intoxicating mead" of the druids. The flowing drink from cauldron or cup sets into motion the flowing spirit from deep within.

Awen ... is the energy of divine inspiration, the flow of spirit, the essence of life in motion. It is the exquisite power of sacred relationship, the power that floods through the body and soul when spirit touches spirit, life is acknowledged, a moment's experience shared, divine energy exchanged. Awen is the focus of the deep inner quest; it is what we all seek as we stumble through life, that which brings us wisdom, clarity, freedom, ecstasy, the joy of being alive, simply being, peaceful, presence. It is fire in the head, poetic frenzy, lust for breath, complete purpose in perfect serenity.


The roots of the word inspiration speak of breathing 'life' itself into something; as in myth many references are made to the divine blowing life into clay. For us to write, compose, dance or create anything artistically we seek to imbue that creation with a 'life' of its own. To give breath and soul to our creation we appeal to the goddess that She might favor us with the ability to infuse 'life' into our creation. 

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