Cerridwan is a Celtic goddess who represents the Crone aspect of the three feminine powers. She is the goddess of Wisdom, Inspiration, Knowledge, Fertility, Harvest, Transformation, Death and the Celtic Underworld.
A shape shifting goddess, Cerridwan had a son named Afagdu who was extremely ugly. Wanting, as all mothers do, to give her child the best chance in life she created a magik brew within her cauldron, which contained all the knowledge and wisdom the world holds and would make her son revered for his inspiration, wisdom and prophecy.
Cerridwen worked on the potion for a year and a day, perfecting the brew with care. She left the brew in the care of her servant boy Gwion Bach. Whilst stirring the cauldron the potion spilled onto his hand. He put his hand to his mouth and took the potion into his body. On doing so he aquired all of the power within the potion. Fearing Cerridwan’s wrath once she realised what had occurred Gwion fled with Cerridwan in pursuit. Using his powers Gwion changed form. As he became a hare, so Cerridwan shifted form into a greyhound. Gwion changed to a fish and swam through water with Cerridwan behind in the form of an otter. He then took to the sky in the form of a swallow. Cerridwan shifted into the form of a hawk and continued her pursuit. Finally Gwion became a grain of wheat and attempted to hide in a field. Cerridwan became a hen, found Gwion and ate him.
On consuming Gwion in his form of grain, Cerridwan became impregnated. As her baby grew inside her she became overcome with wrath and hatred for the unborn child, whom she knew was Gwion reborn as her child. She planned to kill the child, but when he was born his beauty was such that she could not bring herself to harm him. Instead she wrapped him in leather and set him afloat on the sea.
The child was found and rescued by Elphin who raised him as his own. He was named Taliesin and he grew to be the best and most revered bard in all of Wales.
Beyond the myth of Cerridwan and her cauldron is the importance of Cerridwan and what she represents within Pagan religion. In Celtic mythology, Cerridwan is the keeper of the cauldron of the Underworld. She stirs the cauldron which holds all the world’s inspiration, knowledge and wisdom. As the goddess of transformation, Cerridwan’s cauldron contained in addition all the souls of the dead. She stirred the cauldron and in doing so brought forth rebirth.
Cerridwen is represented by the sow. The sow is highly revered in Celtic mythology and has affinities with the moon and the goddess, as a giver of life and death and a symbol of nourishment and truth.
Cerridwan can also be associated with the Buddhist symbol of the Wheel of Life which symbolises birth, life, death and rebirth; continuous change and transformation which are all of the facets Cerridwen herself represents.
The cauldron is an integral part of Wicca. Symbolically it represents the Goddess, fertility and the essence of femininity. It is used for practical purposes such as cooking meals (if large enough). It is often the focal point during rituals, it can be used for burning incense in, or filled with water and used for scrying. It can be used during spells or to place items inside for brewing, or charging.