Wednesday, May 5, 2021



There too upon the plates of purest gold was it duly marked in lettered runes,

Set forth and declared, for whom that sword was fashioned first, 

That best of things of iron with wire-wrapped hilt and snake-like ornament. 





This has been on my mind of late because I’ve been chewing my way through Lila, by Robert M. Pirsig. I’d written a post inspired by his book, Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In Lila, Pirsig unveils a grand philosophical outlook revolving around the ideas of value, quality and meaning. I am interested here from the perspective that objects can possess a value deeper than just financial. 

 

It wasn’t only the gods who possessed objects of power: Odin with his ring, Draupnir, and his spear, Gungnir, or Thor’s mighty Mjolnir, Freyja’s gold jewellery, Brísingamen — just as these supernatural powers enacted their roles in the higher realms, affairs were mirrored in the world of humans. The most famous objects were given names, they had pedigrees, history and power. Weapons were blessed with magical qualities and even personalities. Such items made powerful gifts, cementing relations between communities. 

 

Smiths put a vast amount of skill, time and energy into the objects they created, they wielded uncanny levels of expertise and these skills linked them and their creations with the otherworld in lore. Their craft was regarded as magical and their artistry was more than purely decorative. There are examples in literature, such as Beowulf, of swords possessing great renown. The medieval scribe, Saxo Grammaticus, tells us of a mighty blade called Skrep, which was hoarded away by the Danes and only taken up in times of great peril. 

 

It wasn’t only weapons that held such honours. Ceremonial accoutrements and jewellery were amongst the mix of special items. Some of these items might be inscribed with symbols, sigils, animal ornamentation, runes, etc — all part of the aspect of the item’s history and its power.   



Bronze disc from Venetia region, Italy. 



 

Within shamanic practice, many cultures use objects that are ‘possessed’ of spirits. For example, the Barama Carib shaman counts certain pebbles amongst his spirit helpers: these are the ancestral spirits of past shamans. Other tribes use rock crystals or carved totems.  Whatever the medium, the Shaman draws power from them.

 

In all these examples the objects are not just lifeless material, they are alive and carry great prestige. They possess a value beyond the monetary. In our materialist society, value is set at a financial level. Yet, as Mr Pirsig points out, value is not an empirical quality. This type of Value and Quality don’t exist, you can’t hold them in your hand, you can’t measure them, even at a quantum level, yet they exist and we acknowledge them. This is an important point. The materialist quandary has always been that abstract concepts exist, and yet from the reductionist viewpoint, concepts shouldn’t exist at all, or should be written off (like philosophy). 



References:



1 - Beowulf - Trans. J.R.R Tolkien

2 - Iron Age Myth & Materiality - Lotte Hedeager

3 - Lila - Robert M. Pirsig

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Odin Knows That Baldur Must Go






Baldur - Artwork by Dave Migman


Baldur's Dreams



As a youth, Baldur was plagued by nightmares. Visions of his death assailed his dreams and he went to Asgard for help. The gods were aghast; how could the mild natured son of Odin suffer so? Baldur of the radiant brow didn’t have a bad bone in his body. His father, Odin, would surely be able to put meaning to his dreams. 

 

Odin decided to go the land of the dead, for he knew well the ways of the dead. But an issue such as this, so close to his heart, urged drastic measures. He readied Sleipnir and charged along the road to Niflhel; a realm of dank mists that lay deeper than Hel’s abode. After slipping past the realm’s guardian, Odin entered by the eastern door. Beyond it he came to a hall decorated for a festivity. 

 

He sought the grave of a wise seeress and cast his magic to raise her. Odin announced himself as Vegtam, the Traveller, and asked her for whom the hall was made ready. Reluctantly the seeress answered his questions: the high chair was prepared for his son and it would be Hodr the Blind who would kill Baldur. Another of his sons, Vali, would avenge Baldur’s death.

 

Baldur’s mother, Frigg, devised a plan to save their son. She would travel the nine worlds and take a pledge from everything there was not to harm their son. Once her task was completed, the Asgardians tested the ploy by making Baldur stand in a field, while they cast different missiles at him. It worked; spears glanced from his skin, rocks bounced harmlessly from his radiant brow. He was invulnerable.

 

Loki was unimpressed. He disguised himself as an old woman, bent and buckled under her shawls. Visiting Frigg’s hall, Fensalir, he spied on the goddess until he learned that Frigg’s quest hadn’t totally gone to plan — there was one thing that hadn’t sworn the oath: mistletoe. It had looked too young to ask and therefore Frigg left it alone. Loki left the hall. 

 

He took a sprig of mistletoe back to the field, where the gods were still making sport of Baldur. He offered the blind god, Hodr, his sprig to cast. “Don't worry, I will guide your aim,” Loki assured him. Hodr tossed the sprig at the target and it pierced Baldur’s chest clean through. The radiant one fell dead upon the field. Odin not only felt the depth of the grief for the loss of his son, he also knew what Baldur’s death foretold. Ragnorak would surely come now. 

 

Baldur’s Brother, Hermod, sped to Hel at the instigation of Frigg. She reasoned that, with Hermod as emissary, they might broker a deal with Hel herself and ransom Baldur. Borrowing Sleipnir, Hermod departed for Niflhiem. 

 

Baldur’s funeral was attended by many others from across the nine worlds.  His still corpse was placed in his sun-ship, Hringhorni and the Aesir prepared a funeral pyre beneath the body. But when the gods tried to shift the ship toward the shore, it would not budge. A giantess, Hyrrokkin, was summoned from Jötunheim. She shoved the boat into the ocean with ease. At the sight of her husband’s body, Nanna, Baldur’s wife, dropped dead and was placed on the boat beside him. As the flames were set, Odin took his magical ring, Draupnir, and placed it on his son’s corpse. 


 



Hermod Rides to Hel - Artwork by Dave Migman



Who Won't Weep for Baldur?


Meanwhile Hermod rode to Hel and after riding nine long nights he reached the Hel-gate. There Hermod met with Hel. She had great power in that realm, more than Odin himself, for her minions were all the dead that didn't die in battle. She wasn’t going to surrender her new acquisition easily: If Baldur was so greatly loved, then he would only be returned on condition that everything in the nine worlds, dead or alive, wept for him. Baldur led Hermod from the hall, giving to him Odin’s ring, for remembrance.

 Trees wept, flowers wept, even the stones shed tears for Baldur – all except Thokk, a frost giantess. “Let Hel keep what hold she has,” she grumbled, and so Hel would do exactly that. Of course, Thokk was Loki in disguise, but the damage had been done and Baldur remained in the underworld. However, it was told that after Ragnorak he would be released, returning to the world of men in the new age that followed.  

 

Meanwhile another son of Odin, Vali, avenged his brother by slaying Hodr. The Aesir hunted down Loki, capturing him, they bound him in a cave, where a serpent spewed poison over his face. 




But What Does it all Mean?


 

This is a deeply significant story – Baldur is associated with the sun, not the sun itself, but brightness, light or radiance (some also suggest his name suggest has links with fertility too). He is a god of peace and virtue. Many petroglyphs of sun boats can be found Scandinavia, dating to the bronze-age, when solar cults were popular. There is even one example in which a giant lifts one up, evocative of Hyrrokkin’s role in shifting Baldur’s ship.  The tale is loaded with clever symbology, such as when Odin reaches Niflhel, entering via the eastern door — for though the dead are said to ‘sail out west’, entry to Hel’s domain is by the east. 

 

In many ways the tale parallels myths from other cultures and tells of the sacrificed god, who descends but is ultimately reborn. He is a solar deity, plunging into the underworld during the winter to stand in the court of Hel. He does not come there as one of her minions, but is set upon a high seat, honoured by his followers, the ásmergin, who provide him with food and sacred mead. The event is part of a cosmic cycle, and his killing and descent are necessary, for the cycle must be completed. Despite the efforts of his mother, his descent cannot be halted. 

 

Perhaps Loki understands this: Baldur is depleted. He stands in the field while the gods make sport flinging things at him — a scene that is hardly conducive with Baldur’s description as the fairest of the gods, for it’s almost as if they’re mocking him. Does Frigg’s word not stand alone, that they must take it upon themselves to test it out?  When Hermod seeks him in Hel, Baldur does not plead to be released, or protest his descent, in fact he and Nanna offer gifts that symbolise otherworldly fertility: Draupnir, a golden ring that begets more rings. Gold is also directly associated with solar-symbolism. 

 

It’s also of interest to note where Baldur goes when he’s slain. He does not perish in battle, so the hall of his father, Valhalla, is ruled out, he goes to Hel’s realm — but there he is honoured. 

 

The cycles of nature persist, even the gods cannot halt them. The Alfather knows this well. Gifted with prophecy and foresight, he knows what Baldur’s descent presages, the twilight of the Gods will come, all with be sundered. But the cycles persist, they are part of ancient culture. The new age will arise and Baldur will ascend once more.



 

Odin - Stone Carving by the Author, Dave Migman

 


One Last Mystery


The tale holds one final mystery, concerning the father and the son. In a riddling contest between Odin (disguised as Gestumblindi) and the viking king, Heidrek, the question is put forth by old One-eye: “What did Odin Whisper in Baldur’s ear while he was borne on the pyre?” Suddenly seeing through Odin’s disguise, Hiedrek cries in fury at his failing, for only Odin knows the answer to that question.


Read about Odin HERE



References:


1 - Encyclopaedia Mythology - Arthur Cotterell

2 - Encyclopaedia of Norse & Germanic Folklore, Mythology & Magick - Claude Lecouteux

3 - Encyclopaedia of Ancient Dieties - Charles Russell Coulter & Patricia Turner

4 - Norse Mythology - A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals & Beliefs - John Lindow

5 - The Poetic Edda - Various Artists

6 - The Prose Edda -Snorri Sturlusson

7 - Heathen Paths -Viking and Saxon Pagan Beliefs - Pete Jennings




Saturday, April 3, 2021

The Sacred Landscape of the Ancient Scottish Past - An Investigation

The Queensberry Hill from the Ae Forest
 


Queensberry - What’s in a Name



Seen from Dumfries and the Annandale valley, the Queensberry is a conical hill, rising above the foothills of the Ae and Kinnel Rivers. It sits alone, and is distinct from the other hills, rising like a fecund belly. 

 

I believe that landmarks, such as the Queensberry, were singled out as ‘manifestations’ of the divine in ancient times. In Scotland, the names of some hills, such as Caisteal na Caillich in Aberdeenshire, and hills called paps, are references to an ancient goddess. 


This being the case, my idea about the Queensberry isn’t so outlandish. 

 

But this hill had me stumped: did the Duke of Queensberry, and his estate, come from a family name, or was he named after the area? I set to work, ploughing through local antiquarian society records. From 1882 there is a reference to Queenshill, or Queensberg, in the description of a members’ outing. I also discovered that the first Earl of Queensberry, Sir William Douglas, was Viscount of Drumlanrig (1637-1695). The land was bequeathed to him during a visit by King Charles I, in 1633. Douglas built Drumlanrig Castle, but lived in Sanquhar castle.


I figured that I needed to find out if the hill’s name was Queensberry before William’s title. The best way to check this was to rifle through the National Library of Scotland’s online map vault. This is an amazing resource for anyone interested.

 

After much trawling, I found a hand drawn map by Timothy Pont, dated between 1583-96. Pont was a Fife man, who studied at St. Andrews in the 1500s. He undertook a mission to produce maps of Scotland and get them published, creating the first proper maps of the country.  In the sketch of the area in question, Pont names the conical hill as Queensberry - so the hill existed before the title. With a large grin on my chops, I ticked that box and moved on. What next? How about looking at the origins of the name? 

 

Etymologically let’s break it down: 

 

 Queensberry, Queensberg, Quenysbery, (c. 1485, Wallace).

 

 

Queen -  cwēn, Old English = a particular queen, or simply meaning ‘woman’. 

In Proto-Celtic: Ben, proto Indo-European, *gwenh = woman. 

Anglo Saxon - cenē, plural, cweneēs. Prot Germanic - *kwenō - kwenōniz = Queen

Old Irish ben, Irish - bean, Celtic bena.

 

Berry - Berg, Old English = A hill.


 

Queensberry from the Blue Cairn



The History of the Land 

 

The area was once Old Welsh speaking and of Brythonic Celtic origin - culminating in the kingdom of Rheged, which stretched as far as Carlisle and Stranraer. However, by the 6th Century A.D. the kingdom had fallen under the rule of the Saxon kingdom of Bernicia. 


The lands around the Queensberry, which includes the Forest of Ae, are still very much wilderness. The foothills that skirt the fertile Vale of Annandale, bordering the Kinnel to the east of this wilderness, and the the hills that gird Nithsdale to the west, are dotted with settlements, hill forts, enclosures and other archaeological remains. Cairns, such as Long Cairn, are situated in the heights. The rugged foothills have been lived on for centuries, for the lower ground was mostly bog and marsh.

 

Where ancient settlements existed in the pre-Christian past, we must assume that there was provision for each community’s needs; shelter, trade, food and worship. The Celts were known for their religious groves, but less so for their temples. It was said they worshipped in the open air. Geography, not buildings, were of importance to these tribespeople, especially pre-iron-age. 


It is nature that governs the choices of the sacredness of the terrain. A distinct landmark draws symbolic anchors. The stories carried by the peoples was transposed onto their settled locations, and, as new stories came, these were similarly woven into the landscape. The earth was no dead thing; it was animate, alive. Everything had its spirit, every fold in the land desired explanation. Some places just have presence. They affect us, draw us, almost inexplicably, like a mountain peak, a shard of rock. Heights draw the eye. 

 

The Queensberry hill, isolated from other hills, and therefore iconically distinct, formed a symbolic centre. I feel that this sacredness is hinted at in the name, and also location of the hill. 



Queensberry rising above the forest and the windmills



The Otherworldly Heights

 

The highlands, the peaks and the wilderness possessed an otherworldly aura to the ancient tribes. Here the liminal zone was one where boundaries between the mundane and the sublime were crossed. There’s a reason that the Bronze-agers chose to bury their dead on the hilltops. This was the realm of the gods and spirits, to which they consigned their ancestors, thus weaving their communities into the drama of the living land. These places were where commune was possible with the dead, with spirits and even their deities.  


This is not to single the Queensberry out as the only such hill. Of course not. The landscape of Greece abounds with sacred landscapes references - mountains, springs, rivers, etc - the Bronze-age British landscape was no different. There would be many sacred landscapes, pivoting on a sacred central point, with other sites radiating from it, according to myth and religious needs of the community. This template is still found in tribal societies and known from others in antiquity. 

 

This idea is important. In an age where everything it steadily commoditised, we need to regain this sense of sacred linking with the land. If we did see the landscape with a sense of awe, surely we'd respect it better? If the stories of your ancestors were woven into the basic tapestry of the land (your gods, your spirits), wouldn’t this make you less likely to abuse it? 


We can gain an immense sense of wonder at the science of it all, for sure. But when I walk amongst the wild, and walk the silent tracks, the Queensberry nudging into view, until it squats like a giant tumulus across the span of the horizon, I feel a sense of that awe that is ‘other’. The awe that is immeasurable, unconfined and wells from deep within.







Reference:

1 - The Transactions & Proceedings of the Dumfries & Galloway Scientific, Natural History Antiquarian Society - 1880-83, 1896-7, 1993 


2 - Celtic Place Names in the Borders - May Gordon Williamson


3 - An Etymological Lexicon of Proto-Celtic - Matasovic


4 - The Anglo Saxon Charms - Felix Grendon


5 - Gallo-Brittonic Etymological Dictionary - Edward Hatfield


6 - European Paganism  - Ken Dowden


7 - Ancestral Geographies of the Neolithic; Landscapes, Monuments & Memory - Mark Edmonds


8 - Cosmos & History - Eliade Mircea

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Aion - The Original Satan

 









He Who Holds the Keys

 

Having carved variations of this leontocephaline figure, I thought it was time to explore this ancient deity further. Appearing as he does with a lion's head on a human body, girdled by a serpent, this imposing figure is found in ancient Mithraic temples throughout the Graeco-Roman world. His imagery is loaded with symbolism, but before we delve in we need figure out just who he is. 


This deity was known by many names: Aion, Sæculum, Kronos, but these were really just conventions, for he was truly nameless. For the purpose of this post, let's stick with Aion. 


Like the Zoroastrian, Zurvan, Aion isn't just a god of time, he is time; unyielding and absolute. He is the heavenly gatekeeper around whom fiery diadems glow. He stands at the outermost region of the cosmos, that of the aether, seen by ancients as a realm of fire. In fact, some of his statues were constructed so that flames could blast from the mouth. His fearsome jaws tear apart his progeny at the termination of each cosmic cycle. In ways his aspect is formidable, frightening, yet the lion’s head suggests courage and determination. 


As we can see, Aion is often depicted holding a set of keys. Those initiated in his ways  would have known him as a keeper of two gates -  two ways to escape the endless cycle of life, death and rebirth. His silver key would open the Gate of Cancer, beyond which was the path to the ancestors and reincarnation. While the golden key would unlock the Capricorn Gate, revealing the way to escape the cyclic grip of necessity, through gnosis-like transcendence




From Ostia Antica



Aion’s wings represent four-fold time, while the serpent that coils about him, like an ouroboros, is cyclical motion; that of the sun, the planets and of time. While his body is adorned with zodiacal symbols, reinforcing his dominion over time and the process of the ages. He is sometimes attended by chthonic beasts, such as Cerberus, or flailing knots of snakes, all connected with the underworld. Sometimes he is portrayed with an eye on his chest, this 'eye of the soul' was also a symbol of divine intellect. The eye of Aion was used in magic too, inscribed on talismans and objects to bring power. 


In the city of Alexandria, Aion was worshipped under a number of guises, usually in conjunction with other deities: Pschai-Aion, Sarapis-Aion, Aion-Kronos amongst them. This coupling of deities reflects the idea that gods were not seen only as supernatural personages, but as metaphysical concepts. 


Early Christianity, seeking to escape the rigours of endless time via the teachings of Jesus - Aion, the figurehead of boundless time, became ‘Satan’. Indeed many of the trappings of Satan are evident in his imagery: his association with a realm of fire, the serpent and underworld affiliations. 


I haven’t yet managed to lay my hands on a copy of Carl Jung’s work, Aion, which delves into Christianity’s beginnings and associated symbolism, as well as exploring various archetypes. The title perks my interest. But in the meantime, I’ll keep carving him from time-to-time, drawn by the powerful imagery from over two-thousand years ago. 




References:


The Mithras liturgy - Hans Dieter Betz


Magical Practice in the Latin West - Richard L. Gordon &  Francisco Marco Simón 


Mystery Religions in the Ancient World - Joscelyn Godwin


The Mysteries of Mithra - Franz Cumont


#aion

#mithras

#time


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Tiamat - Animated Short

 This is a short video I made using my carved stones, stop motion style. The story is from the Enuma Elish: the ancient creation myth of Mesopotamia. 



There's something about these ancient creation myths I find compelling. There are many parallels and similarities between myths of various cultures (which I've been researching thoroughly and will become a book at some point). 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Thor's Might Hammer, Mjolnir



“Shut up you wretched Wight

or my mighty hammer Mjölnir

will take away your talk.”


From ‘The flyting of Loki’



Thor's hammer carved in jet by Stone Mad Crafts
Mjolnir in Jet, carved by the Author



All the best storm gods have a weapon: Marduk, Indra and Zeus had their lightning bolts, and Thor had Mjölnir*. This mighty hammer was forged by the dwarves of Nidavellir.  


Mjölnir could level mountains and was the doom of many a giant. Once cast from Thor’s hand, the hammer never missed its target and always returned. Its name means crusher. Anyone who has heard thunder rolling through the mountains, like a giant stone wheel, can imagine how such ‘kennings’ became part of the mythic cycle, for Thor is elemental and powerful. His following was great, and he was seen more of a god of the people than was Odin.


In one humorous tale, the king of the giants, Thrymr, made off with Mjölnir. He said he would only return it on condition that Freyja be his wife. However, Thor disguised himself as the goddess, dressed in her bridal gown, and once he was in possession of his weapon he defeated the giants. 


In another episode, Thor used his hammer to smite the dragon, Midgardhsormr. Here we have the ancient battle theme; the forces of order over those of chaos, signified by the great serpent crushed by the sky god’s might. 


Mjölnir talismans were a popular item, and have been found in various forms. Many were quite plain, though highly decorated pieces are known. Such talismans gave their wearers attributes associated with Thor. Mjölnir was a symbol of strength, bravery, and possessed protective qualities too. Replica hammers were also used to consecrate and bless events and places — for this reason, in Norway, Thor was also patron of married couples, and rites pertaining to the union of marriage. 


Their use continues to this day, as you can tell by the picture of the piece I carved in 2020. To see more of my stone carving work please follow my Etsy shop.



 

*also known as Mullicrusher.





Ref 


1: New Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology


2: The Essential Visual History of World Mythology - National Geographic.


3: The Eddas: Keys to the Mysteries of the North - James Allen Chisholm


4: The Forge and the Crucible - Mircea Eliade

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Cailleach





Caiileach - Art my Dave Migman


Names mean many things. They describe and assign. They form maps, they are changed and altered, even as they are heaped upon the land like stones upon a mountain cairn. Some lose favour, some cling tenaciously like lichen across the hide of slumbering giants and their kin. Across Scotland the gaelic name Callieach is used to describe many natural landmarks. Cailleach, The Hag, is a name that invokes the memory of an elusive goddess. Fragments of folklore and myth add potency to the claim that she was once a powerful goddess. Sometimes it is said there were many Cailleachs, as many mountains in the Highlands had their own. Cailleach as a name was used to identify hags, such as the three-headed Cailleach who, with a one-eyed, headless man, birthed the witch, Cuillionn.  She is a mountain goddess, who brings stormy weather, lifting her skirts she looses avalanches of boulders into the valleys. 




One of my carved stones representing the Cailleach as Cewidwen



She was known by many names across Ireland and the British Isles, these include; Callech, Carlin, Cally Berry,  Bhéirre and Black Annis.  She was sometimes accompanied by her husband, Voel Tegid. He is sometimes described as a giant, who stands on a single leg, and has one eye*.  Sometimes it is she who has one eye planted in the centre of her dark grey face. She is a creator goddess: powerful, ancient and to be respected. She is the old harvest wife,  ushering in the winter, and her reign lasts until she is reborn as the maiden in spring. It was once a custom in parts of Scotland  to create a female figure from corn cut after November 1st called the Carlin (another of her names).** Sometimes this corn would be hung to dry inside the house until the time for sowing in the spring. A similar custom existed in Wales too (where the hag was called the wrach). In Northern Ireland the corn was plaited and attacked by the reapers. Whoever cut through it, took it home to hang over his door and it was known as The Carley. 

Such traditions aren’t limited to the British Isles and Ireland. In Eastern Europe and beyond  this last  sheaf  of corn was known as the Baba (Hag, or Old Lady) and Mother-Corn. These and many other examples suggest the widespread belief in a divine mother goddess whose roots lie in very ancient cosmologies ( See Matronae Post).This might well reflect the morphing of medieval oral tradition amongst the people (well away from ear-shot of the priest and his pulpit). It could also reflect the echoes of ancient animistic forms of belief - the association of powerful spirits with certain locations in a world that was ‘alive’ in a magical sense. These might be traced back to Indo-European or even Pre-IndoEuropean migrations. 


My feeling is all these incarnations are one and the same, that they each contain seeds and commonalities despite regional variations.  Names such as Black Annis may also refer to the ancient Irish earth goddess Anu (Danu). I would also add that  the adder is said to provide the Cailleach Bheur’s power, and this would also link her with an Earth goddess archetype that is widespread across Europe and beyond. The Cailleach appears in Welsh mythology as Ceridwen and here her character assumes an inspirational aspect. 






Ceridwen


In the tale of the the birth of the famous welsh bard, Taliesin, the child Gwion tends Ceridwen’s magical cauldron (see post). The tale takes place in the dun of Tegid Voel.  Ceridwen has the lad stirring the potion of inspiration that she is concocting to gift her son, Avagddu, with knowledge to compensate for his ugliness. However some drops splash Gwion’s hand as he stirs  and he sucks his burning finger, accidently tasting the potion. Instantly he is overcome with a surge of knowledge as the potion takes effect. His immediate and pressing thought is how pissed off Ceridwen will be. So he flees, and there follows a  lovely chase sequence of shapeshifting forms as he tries to evade the raging hag. This scene culminates with Gwion being plucked up by the hag when he turns into grain and she a hen. However nine months later Gwion is magically reborn as Taliesin, the mythical bard. In this tale,  Ceridwen is the creator of the potion within the cauldron of inspiration. Such poetic awareness was known as Awen. It was the force of inspiration, a power sought by any aspiring bard. Of course it is apt that Nature herself, in her wild, unbridled form is key to providing such inspiration. In fact Gwion is taken into the cauldron of her womb and thus reborn inspired and filled with knowledge. 




Both Ceridwen and Voel are giants, their imagery is earthy and ancient. In the Welsh tales they are said to live in the middle of Lake Tegid, now called Lake Bala. It is interesting that an old myth persists in connection to a well in the nearby town called the Gower Well, in which a goddess was said to reside, and who must be appeased. In  this legend the tower of Tegid Voel, and the ancient city that surrounded it, were lost beneath the waves when someone forgot to cover the well one night. 



Click here to watch my animation 

  Ceridwen's Cauldron





Notes:

*This apparently reflecting a really ancient spell casting technique in which the caster would stand with one leg raised aloft, one hand behind the back and one eye closed.

** If the corn were cut before November 1st (Hallowmass) then it was referred to as The Maiden. Hallowmass is a Chritian festival lumped onto the pre-Christian yearly festival of Samhain, an important turning point in the yearly cycle. 



Reference:

Duanaire Finn: Book of the lays of Finn - Vol 3 - Gerard Murphy
Encyclopedia of Ancient Dieties - 
The Golden Bough -  James G. Frazer
The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe - Hilda Ellis Davidson
Celtic Myth in the 21st Century - Edited by Emily Lyle