The Goddess Way: Ancient Stories for Modern Hearts

Judith Shaw both paints and writes about the Goddess, great symbol of life, death and the natural world. For the past few years she has focused on the Celtic Goddesses, whose stories are explored here in The Goddess Way.

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Cerridwen, Goddess of Transformation, Inspiration and Knowledge

Cerridwen (kEH rihd wehn), Dark Goddess of Transformation, Inspiration, and Knowledge is best known as the mother of Taliesen, the greatest of all the Welsh poets. But her story is much older and her powers run deep. 

Cerridwen (White Sow or White Crafty One) has many other names: Dark Moon Goddess, Great Mother, White Lady of Inspiration and Death,Goddess of Nature, and Grain Goddess. She rules the realms of death, fertility, regeneration, inspiration, magic, enchantment, and knowledge.

Divinatory Meaning
Transformation, rebirth, poetic inspiration, spiritual growth, abundance. Something needs to change, to die in your life so that space is created, allowing new growth to begin. The entire womb of potentiality is open to you. Embrace the fires of transformation.

Her Story

Cerridwen, as a powerful Underworld Goddess, is the keeper of the cauldron of knowledge, inspiration, and rebirth. She emerged from an Irish lake, which always signifies the Otherworld, disguised as a giantess named Kymideu Kymeinvoll, along with her husband Llassar. 

The Irish were terrified of the couple's power and violently expelled them from Ireland. The Welsh King, Bran the Blessed, offered them safe harbor in exchange for Cerridwens magical cauldron, that had the power to resurrect the corpses of dead warriors which were placed in it.

The cauldron is a central image in the Celtic Mystery Tradition. There are three cauldrons: the Cauldron of Transformation, the Cauldron of Rebirth, and the Cauldron of Inspiration.  Cerridwens cauldron combines all three into one quintessential cauldron. Cerridwen, as the keeper of this archetypal cauldron, represents the womb of the Goddess from which all life manifests into this world. She labors continually at her cauldron, stirring up the forces of inspiration, divine knowledge, and the eternal cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. She is the Wheel of Life. She is also associated with the sow, which symbolizes good luck and spiritual growth, and grain, which symbolizes abundance and nurturance. Her color is green, the color of life. 

Cerridwen lived on an island in the middle of Lake Tegid with her two children -a daughter named Creidwy who was beautiful and bright, and a son named Afagddu who was ugly and dark. Even in her role as mother, Cerridwen ruled both the light and the dark. But like all mothers she wished only the best for her children. She was determined to use the powers of her magical cauldron to improve the life of her afflicted son.

She set out to brew a magical potion that, with just three drops, would transform her son into the most brilliant and inspired of all men. This potion had to be brewed for one year and one day to reach its full power. For that whole time the fire had to be kept at just the correct temperature and the potion had to be stirred at just the correct speed.  As this was more than Cerridwen could do alone, she hired a young boy named Gwion Bach to help.

On the final day of its making, while Cerridwen was out gathering herbs, an unthinkable accident occurred. Perhaps the fire got too hot, perhaps Gwion Bach stirred too hard, but three drops of the potion flew out of the cauldron and landed on his thumb. Scalded by the hot liquid, he instinctively put his thumb in his mouth to ease the pain. In this way all the power that Cerridwen had intended for her son, Afagddu, was instead transferred to Gwion Bach. 

Now having the power of knowledge and prophecy, Gwion Bach knew everything that would come to pass, including that, in her anger, Cerridwen would seek his death. So Gwion Bach fled immediately, and Cerridwen gave chase

Both underwent many transformations during this chase: he became a perch and she a pike; he became a hare and she a greyhound; he became a salmon and she an otter; he became a small bird and she a hawk. Finally he became a grain of wheat and she a hen. Determined to end his life, Cerridwen, as a hen, ate the wheat where Gwion Bach had taken his final refuge.

But the story did not end there. The grain took root in her womb and Cerridwen became pregnant. She knew her child would be Gwion Bach reborn, and she was resolved to kill him upon his birth. But once he was born her mother heart gained dominance over her anger: she could not bring herself to kill the radiant baby boy she held in her arms. Instead, she placed him in a leather pouch and set him adrift on a river, where he was rescued by the prince Elffin. Elffin and his wife, who were childless, decided to adopt the beautiful baby. They named him Taliesin, which means beautiful forehead. Taliesin grew up to be the greatest Welsh poet ever, whose words could heal all wounds and foretell the future. In the Welsh worldview, death and rebirth such as Gwion Bach/Taliesen experienced, were necessary for true inspiration to exist. 

May Cerridwens inspiration and knowledge be with you as you come to an understanding of the true nature of death. Through her wisdom we come to see that death is simply one point in the eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth. She is a full embodiment of the Divine.

Visit Judith's Etsy shop to view and purchase Celtic Goddess Oracle deck. 

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Judith Shaw, a New Orleans native and graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has always been interested in myth, culture and mysticism. Her work, inspired by the goddess, nature and sacred geometry, combines whimsy and the esoteric - whimsical tree paintings which often look like women dancing are intertwined with esoteric symbols such as those found in sacred geometry. After graduation, while living in Greece, the Goddess first appeared in her artwork. The Divine Feminine, in all of Her manifestations in this world, continues to inspire Judith.    Judith has also lived in Mexico and visited France, Italy, Turkey, China, Guatemala, and Jamaica. She now lives in Albuquerque where she divides her time between painting, writing, yoga, gardening, bee keeping, and hanging out with friends and family.  She is putting the final touches on a deck of Celtic Goddess cards which will be published soon.  


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