Ceridwen and Taliesin

The Goddess Ceridwen lived in the mountains of Snowdonia in Wales. She had a beautiful daughter, Creirwy and a son, Avagddu, who was very, very ugly. Ceridwen believed that, despite his poor looks, he could at least have great wisdom.

She was gifted in many magical arts and alchemy and gathered rare and special ingredients to make an elixir of wisdom for her son. It was to be brewed in a cauldron for a year and a day. Ceridwen chose a blind man to make sure the flames kept the liquid boiling and appointed a young boy named Gwion to stir the elixir.

Close to the end of the year of brewing, a boiling bubble in the centre of the cauldron burst, splashing three drops of the precious liquid onto Gwion's finger. He immediately licked it to soothe the hot skin and in that moment was filled with all the wisdom contained in the elixir. The nature of the magic within the brew meant that the remaining liquid was useless and it burned through the cauldron and scorched the ground beneath. Gwion knew that Ceridwen would be raging with fury, so he fled.

The Goddess chased the boy. He was able to change himself into a hare and escape, but she transformed into a greyhound and ran after him. On reaching a river, Gwion turned himself into a fish, but Ceridwen became an otter, continuing the chase. He leaped out of the water changing into a bird and she transformed herself into a hawk to hunt him down. The boy made another change, this time into a grain of wheat – whereupon, Ceridwen turned into a black hen and ate him.

Nine months later she gave birth to a baby boy. She had intended to kill him, but on seeing his beauty, placed him in a leather bag and cast him into the sea. The bag was swept into the river Conwy and was discovered by a man named Elphin, who fostered him. Taking in the infant's beauty, Elphin named him Taliesin, meaning 'Radiant Brow' and Taliesin became the finest Bard.

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