cerridwen

Goddesses of Sorcery

June, 2013

An Assembly of Sorcerers

“There ye shall assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, and to these shall I teach things that are as yet unknown.” (1)

If you search on the internet for Witchcraft twenty-five and a half million sites come up! If you had the time to read them all, do you think that you would learn the secrets of the Goddess, also called “Sorcery“? Would those internet addresses reveal spells that would bring you love, wealth, health, immortality, riches, power and more? What is Sorcery?

Here’s the secret (the unknown): Sorcery is power; power to do whatever you want.

A funny thing happened and I would like to tell you about it. I noticed that all the Witches were developing powers. They were able to read peoples thoughts, see auras, touch people and heal their pain, know what would happen in the future, remember their past lives, speak to animals, hear the voices of those who had passed on and many other things, but most of all they were happy. You might not think that being happy is a magickal power, but really it is the goal of all Sorcery! Why would we be “fain to learn” if it didn’t make us happy? When I confronted them saying: “You all have powers!” They said: “No we don’t.”  They didn’t realize that their lives were full of magick and power. They couldn’t see it because to them it was normal and natural, just business as usual.

But they do have powers and they didn’t get them by reading books or the internet! The Goddess taught them all they know in a way so gentle and subtle they didn’t even realize it was happening. Even though they did not start the practice of the Craft to get powers they were drawn to the path of Sorcery by a Mystery as deep as their souls. Synchronicities called them; strange co-incidences led them to the Circle. They were searching for peace, for transformation and for Her, not for psychic powers.  So what happened?

As they began to worship, love and honour Her, they changed. This is the Mystery. Cell by cell and thought by thought they metamorphosed into something different: they became Witches. Witches connect with the Divine in Nature and believe that God is both masculine and feminine, that She/He is present, immanent, in the world. As they practice they awakened to that Divine Spirit. They became their authentic selves. Then the Sorcery manifest, just like seeing, hearing, tasting, and feeling. It was another sense, a natural part of their awakened selves until they became and assembly of Sorcerers.

Petitioning

Witches don’t usually call themselves Sorcerers, they call themselves Pagans or Witches or Wiccans. The term “Sorcerer” is more commonly found in Shamanic groups and Shamanic writing, like the books of Carlos Castaneda. If you want the Sorcery (power) they have; the happiness, inner dialogue with the Goddess, the ability to feel the God in Nature and the psychic powers, how would you go about connecting to it?

One way of speeding up the synchronicities that lead you to the Circle is to petition the Goddesses of Sorcery using stories, songs and poems in front of a “story altar”. Witches and Pagans visualize and connect with the Old Gods in five major Pantheons: Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Norse and Celtic, so the appropriate Goddesses to petition would be Hecate or Cerridwen.  The Goddess Hecate is associated with both the Greek and Roman pantheons as the Goddess of Witches and Sorcery.  Cerridwen is the Goddess of Witchcraft most usually invoked for Sorcery in the Celtic Pantheon.

 

 

Cerridwen

            We learn about the story of Cerridwen from the Mabinogion, (2) which is the cycle of myths found in Welsh legend. Cerridwen wants to brew a potion in her magical cauldron to give to her son Afagddu (Morfran), who is considered to be the ugliest man on earth. This potion will make him the keeper of all knowledge and the greatest bard that ever lived. She puts young Gwion in charge of guarding the cauldron and he has to stir it for a year and a day. A few hours before the potion is ready three drops of the brew fall upon his finger burning him. He puts his finger in his mouth to stop the pain and is suddenly blessed with the knowledge meant for Afagddu. Cerridwen returns, realizes that Gwion has taken the magick and chases him. They both change into many forms as they run but finally in the form of a hen, she swallows Gwion, who is disguised as a grain of wheat. Nine months later, she gives birth to Taliesin, the greatest of all the Welsh bards. He is so beautiful she cannot kill him so she puts him in a small boat and sets him on the water where he is rescued by a Celtic Prince.

 

 

 

Hecate

The first literature mentioning Hecate is the Theogony by Hesiod:

[…] Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honored above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honor also in starry heaven, and is honored exceedingly by the deathless gods. For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favor according to custom, he calls upon Hecate. Great honor comes full easily to him whose prayers the goddess receives favorably, and she bestows wealth upon him; for the power surely is with her.”(3)

 

There are many ideas and depictions of Hecate but she is considered to be one of the Old Gods, the Titons, who were giants like Cerridwen’s husband Tegid. They were in power before the coming of Zeus and the Olympian Gods. Her mother was Asteria (the Titan goddess of the Shining Light or “Star”) Zeus did not banish Hecate but shared with Hecate the power of giving humanity their heart’s desires.

She is usually honoured as the Greek goddess of the three paths or crossroads where three paths meet (not four), and so her images often have three heads facing in the three directions. She is the guardian of the household particularly the threshold, protector of everything newly born, and the goddess of Witchcraft. She has no consort and is seen to be a virgin Goddess.  Although she is a Moon Goddess her time of the Moon is usually the Dark Moon which connects her with the ability to see in the dark and travel to the Underworld. She is said to have the power to create or withhold storms making her the Goddess who was the protector of shepherds and sailors. Her symbols are dogs, torches and the owl.

Making a Story Altar

After reading about the Goddess you are working with create a short story or poem about Her. Now the fun part! Using images from the story create an altar that depicts parts of the story that inspire you. When I made my Cerridwen altar I used a small cauldron with a little doll popping out of it surrounded by tinsel to represent the birth of Taliesin. Around the base I put wheat and a little image of a chicken pecking up the grains. A story altar to Hecate would contain images of dogs, torches and owls and perhaps the triple crossroads.

The Ceremony

Cerridwen’s ceremony should take place on Full Moon Night, while Hecate’s ceremony should take place on the Dark Moon. Light a candle on your story altar and invite the Goddess you are working with to come. Now read the story in Her honour. Ask her to speed up the synchronicities that will lead you to the Magickal circle and the understanding of Sorcery. Sit in meditation for a while at the altar. Don’t forget to write down everything that happens in your ritual. You can keep the story altar up and repeat this ceremony each month and even leave offerings of food, flowers, bowls of water, or incense. Just make sure, and this is important, that you don’t let the altar get dusty and neglected. Better to take it down that to let it get forgotten as that could be seen as a slight to the Goddess.

Important Last Word

Witches honour the Goddess out of love, to connect with Her and to petition her for help, to help others and the world. The Powers are a side-effect of this honouring. If your intention is to become powerful so that you can manipulate or harm others the Goddess may honour you with other things than Sorcery; she may give you hard lessons that purify your heart. Fair warning dear Seeker!

References:

1. Charge of the Goddess by Doreen Valiente

2. http://www.sacred-texts.com The Mabinogion

3.  Athanassakis, Apostolos N., Theogony ; Works and days ; Shield / Hesiod ; introduction, translation, and notes, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983. ISBN 0-8018-2998-4

Hesiod, Theogony: text in English translation (link)

 

Gems of the Goddess

December, 2010

CERRIDWEN

images

Welsh Goddess of Wisdom

Her long dark hair spiraling down towards her cauldron of knowledge.  She stirs up a potion of transformation for her son Afagddu, who has become ugly and one who is greatly feared.  So Cerridwen set off creating the perfect potion to make her son glorious and loveable.

For one year and a day Cerridwen added herbs at all the correct astrological times to her potion.  She chanted and sang the right songs, as the servant boy who tended the fire watched her carefully.  Then on the very last day as she set out to get the last bit of herbs, she heard an enormous crash.  Cerridwen went running to see what had happened, and came to find her potion completely gone as well as the servant boy who tended the fire.  Outraged, Cerridwen set out after him, murder on her mind.  The two ran and ran, shape shifting from a dog perusing a rabbit, an otter chasing a salmon, and a hawk flying after a bird.  Until finally the servant boy transformed into a single grain that fell to the ground, just as Cerridwen transformed into a black hen and swallowed that grain whole.

Nine months later she gave birth to Taliesen, a great Welsh Poet.

Cerridwen is the Crone aspect of the Goddess, and was worshiped by the people of Wales during pre-Christian times.  Even today she teaches us all the power of feminine knowledge, and how inspiration can lead to beautiful transformation in our lives.

So when you feel called to do so, call upon Cerridwen for inspiration, and ask her to share with you some of her wisdom.  All you have to do is ask politely, and take a peak into that big black cauldron!

CONNECTING WITH CERRIDWEN

Engage in your own cauldron festivities.  With the holidays coming up, I’m sure that won’t be a problem.  Cook and brew what feels right, and dedicate it to Cerridwen.

SYMBOLS AND THINGS TO PUT ON YOUR ALTER:

White sow, cauldrons, astrology, herbs, nuts, corn, the moon, water, and dark colors

Goddess Cards

October, 2010

CERRIDWEN

Cerridwen

Samhain/Halloween

Samhain (pronounced “Sow-en”) or Halloween is the most magical night of the year! Celebrated on October 31st, beginning at sundown, it is the greatest of the four Pagan Sabbats that divide the ancient calendar into winter, spring, summer and fall. Samhain means “end of summer.” The summer reign of the Goddess is now over; the Winter King is on his way.

In ancient days, Samhain was the Celtic New Year, a time of gathering in for pastoral folk. Crops were harvested and stored. Animals were driven in from summer pasturage and slaughtered for food, or housed in barns and pens. People came home to ride out the harsh winter with families. Their very survival depended on the harvest and on a tightly knit community.

On this mysterious night when the old year turned to the new, the veils between the natural and supernatural world were thought to have thinned. The ghosts of ancestors, heroes, heroines, villains, and a host of fairy and otherworldly creatures, returned to Earth. Leprechauns might appear. Trees might talk.

The wise Celt honored returning spirits by setting out treats on the doorstep for them. Empty chairs were set at dining tables in case an unexpected ancestor popped in for a meal. Jack ‘o Lanterns were carved and carried to frighten off unfriendly ghosts. Costumes were worn as disguises to throw vengeful spooks off the track.

Samhain was also a night of serious reflection. Speculation about and resolutions for the future were made.

In this image, instead of the traditional black-costumed witch, I have painted Cerridwen, the wise Welsh triple goddess. (Maiden, Mother, Crone.) Cerridwen is celebrated as the “keeper of the cauldron.” Her story is powerful, and even a little frightening.

Cerridwen had two children: a beautiful daughter, and a very ugly son. To compensate for her son’s hideous appearance, the loving mother brewed a potent elixir of knowledge in her cauldron, intending to give it to Afagdu, so he might have wisdom since beauty had been denied him. However, as often happens, the magical gift went astray.

A young boy, Gwion, whose job was to constantly stir the magic brew for Cerridwen, accidentally splashed three burning drops of the mixture on his hand. He sucked on his burned fingers to relieve the pain. Instantly, he knew all the secrets of the past and of the future, as the gift intended for Afagdu became his instead.

The enraged goddess pursued Gwion to punish him. Using his newfound magical powers, the boy turned himself into many different creatures as he fled, trying to escape the Goddess. Finally, he cleverly turned himself into a single grain of corn. But Cerridwen turned herself into a hen, and ate the kernel!

From this seed, she became pregnant, and in due course, bore another son. This boy was so beautiful that she couldn’t bear to allow the jealous Afagdu to kill him, as she had promised. Instead, she sewed the infant into a bag, and cast him into the sea.

But even the wrath of Cerridwen and the malice of Afagdu could not deny the destiny of this magical child. A Welsh lord named Gwyddno Garanhir rescued him, named him Taliesin, and raised him to become the greatest bard and poet the Celtic world has ever known. He joined the court of King arthur at Camelot, where he became chief harpist and adviser to the legendary king.

Despite this fierce history, his mother, Cerridwen is revered as the goddess of inspiration, rebirth, regeneration, and divination.

On this night of introspection and new directions, she looks deep into her cauldron of water to see what the future may bring. She is focused, fearless, and filled with a discerning spirit. So may we all be.

Anne Baird, Designer/Owner of GODDESS CARDS, is a self-taught artist who has been painting and writing since childhood. Her chosen media for her unique line of greeting cards is watercolor, with touches of gouache, ink and colored pencil.

Her GODDESS CARD line grew from a birthday card she created for her daughter, Amanda, in 2001. Amanda was disheartened at being a curvaceous beauty in the Land of Thin. (Los Angeles.) That seminal card declaring, “You’re a GODDESS, not a nymph!” evolved into a long line of love notes and affirmations for ALL women. At over 125 cards, the line is steadily growing.

Anne is inspired by the archetypal Legendary Goddesses, who have so much to teach today’s women. Her greatest inspiration however, comes from the Goddesses of Today, who write her with wonderful suggestions and thoughts that expand her consciousness and card line.

She has launched  an E-Goddess Card website, where the Goddess on the Go can send Goddess “e-cards”, enriched with music and stories, at the click of a mouse. (A virtual mouse.)

Gems of the Goddess

October, 2009

Cerridwen – The Tiger Mother Goddess

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Cerridwen is known as the goddess of death, initiation, inspiration, magic, and regeneration. The Magical Welsh crone goddess Cerridwen (pronounced KARE 0id wen) was a shape-shifting goddess of dark prophetic powers, enchantment and divination.   She is equated with Hecate (Greek) and Balb (Irish).  She is also sometimes related to Muses (Greek) but in a dark and more violent form.

Cerridwen’s cauldron is a powerful symbol of transforming magic.  It contains all the knowledge in the world.  This is where the inspiration for the Samhain (or Halloween) Witch stirring a Caldron comes from.
The brew in the Cauldron (named Amen) is known as Greal.  This brew sits for a year and a day, which signifies the usual time for initiation.  The Cauldron represents the lessons learned through change and experience, as well as divine creative inspiration.  She is the tigress mother, dark goddess, prophetic crone, who pursues her interpretation of justice with unfailing energy.

According to the Mabinogion, Morfran (also called Afagddu), her son, was hideously ugly, so she wanted to give him something to help and decided to use her magical cauldron to make a potion granting wisdom. The mixture had to be cooked for a year and a day. Morda, a blind man and her faithful servant, tended the fire beneath the cauldron, while Gwion, a young boy, stirred the concoction. The first three drops of liquid from this cauldron gave wisdom; the rest was a fatal poison. Three hot drops spilled onto Gwion’s hand as he stirred, burning him. He instinctively put his hand in his mouth, and instantly gained great wisdom and knowledge.  Gwion knew he was in trouble and had to flee.

When Cerridwen heard of this news, she chased Gwion.   Both of them had the power to shapeshift.   He turned himself into a rabbit. She became a dog. He became a fish and jumped into a river. She turned into an otter. He turned into a bird; she became a hawk. Finally, he turned into a single grain of corn. She then became a hen and ate him.   This journey of shapeshifting is thought to be the representation of moving through the various levels of the Druid tradition.  It20can also mean the steps of transformation.   It is also similar to Merlin teachings to King arthur through inhabiting different animals to gain wisdom and knowledge.

When Cerridwen became pregnant from eating the single grain of corn, she knew it was Gwion and resolved to kill the child when he was born. However, when he was born, he was so beautiful that she couldn’t do it. She threw him in the ocean instead, sewing him inside a bag of seal-skin. The child did not die, but was rescued on a British shore by a Celtic prince named Elffin; the reborn infant grew to become the legendary bard Taliesin.

Cerridwen’s symbol is the white sow, representing the Moon.  The sow is also associated with plenty, healing and shapeshifting.  She is associated with death, fertility, regeneration, inspiration, magic, astrology, herbs, science, poetry, spells and knowledge.  She is most at home during harvest rites, spells and ritual for wisdom and knowledge and during waning moons.  She is also can help with learning about divination and journeying into past lives.

To bring Cerridwen in your life, work with her when you are trying to tap into your creative part of your feminine side and also motherhood or childbirth issues.  Her correspondences are pigs, cauldrons, vervain, the dark moon and hens.

As we move into Samhain, think about the wisdom and knowledge you would like to receive and grow during the next year.  Cerridwin’s Cauldron is waiting to help you.