Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Mystical, Magical White Cats of Ceridwen

Long, long ago, as told in the Tale of Taliesin, under King Arthur there served a warrior so ugly, he was called Big Crow, or Morfran.

His mother, Ceridwen, was a beautiful goddess.

Ceridwen decided that, if she could make Morfran spectacularly wise, perhaps no one would notice that he looked like, well, a big crow.  She had a magical cauldron with which she could whip up a potion that would grant Morfran the gift of wisdom and poetic inspiration. With the help of her white cats, who carried out all her orders on earth, Ceridwen assembled the necessary ingredients.

The mixture had to be boiled for a year and a day, which was no mean feat, even for a goddess. But Ceridwen had help, even beyond her white cats.

Morda, a blind man, tended the fire beneath the cauldron.  And a young boy name Gwion Bach stirred and stirred and stirred as the cats circled around his ankles.

The first three drops of liquid from this cauldron would give wisdom.  The rest would be a fatal poison, not fit for the compost heap.

When at last the potion was ready, three hot drops from the cauldron spilled onto Gwion's thumb, burning him.   Gwion immediately put his thumb in his mouth, to numb the pain.  And instantly he gained great wisdom and knowledge.

Ceridwen was furious.  Her work had been for naught.  She chased Gwion. But, now being very clever, he turned himself into a hare.

So Ceridwen became a greyhound.

Gwion became a fish and jumped into a river.

Ceridwen turned herself into an otter and went after him.

Gwion turned into a bird...

...and so Ceridwen became a hawk.

Finally, Gwion turned himself into a single grain of corn.

Ceridwen turned herself into a hen...

...and ate him.

The white cats just watched.

When Ceridwen became pregnant, she knew it was Gwion, and she was determined to  kill the child when he was born.  But when he was born, he was so beautiful that she couldn't kill him.

Instead, she sewed the baby into a leather bag and threw him in the ocean.  He was rescued on a Welsh shore, near Aberdyfi, by a prince named Elffin ap Gwyddno.

The reborn baby, who had once been Gwion (and a kernel of corn) grew up to became the legendary bard Taliesin.

Ceridwen, meanwhile, returned to life with her cats... and a son who looked like a Big Crow.

 Their legend, as a bracelet, can be found here.


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