Thoughts on Ceridwen and Gwion Bach

  • The cauldron was heated for a year and a day. It distilled all wisdom into three drops: the rest of the liquid was a bitter poison.

Takeaway: wisdom does not come easily or without cost. Wisdom comes from bitter experience. Those who never suffer setbacks do not acquire wisdom. There is always a price: and sometimes that price is not always paid by the person who acquires the wisdom. We can probably all think of occasions when we hurt other people, inadvertently or  otherwise. We may have reflected upon our actions, and regretted them, immediately or later. We may well have learned from them, and become a wiser and better person for the experience. But: the other persons still got hurt, and we often can’t remedy that. The three drops contained all knowledge and all wisdom: how much hurt, and upset, would have been needed to provide that?

  • Where was Afagddu during the year and a day?

Ceridwen seems to have decided that Afagddu should receive the benefit of the cauldron, without contributing. Had he received the distilled wisdom, he would not have worked for it. Presumably, Ceridwen would have guided him and mentored him. What might he have become? And how hurt and disappointed must he have been, to see his path to acceptance and a place of honour taken by another? A question with a complex answer: why did Ceridwen not obtain another cauldron, and more herbs, and tried again? Perhaps because Llyn Tegid was poisoned, and no other water would do (why not?). His chance came, and he lost it, and neither was any doing of his. Is this a lesson that we should not shelter others or, through our love for them, stifle their opportunities to learn and do for themselves?

  • Gwion was a random beneficiary of a lot of planning and hard work that was intended for someone else. He received a great gift – and it killed him.

For all his sudden insight… he was not able to escape Ceridwen’s wrath. He had all the knowledge in the world: but it wasn’t gained from his own efforts and practice, so he was unable to apply it effectively.  He was swallowed as a seed, and that seed impregnated Ceridwen so that he was reborn – but it was Ceridwen’s love, not his knowledge, that saved him.

  • Ceridwen puts the reborn Gwion into a coracle, and sends him to the sea. He floats there (for forty years?) before returning to land.

Perhaps this is Ceridwen returning things to balance. Having borne a son, she has given him all she has to give – a sets him free to shape his own future, according to what the world sends him and where the sea takes him. He returns to the lands of Gwyddno Garanhir, whose horses were poisoned by the broken cauldron, and restores his family’s fortunes.

 

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