When Cerridwen Chases Us

Followers of Cerridwen soon learn that she is much more than just the keeper of the cauldron. She is more than just a mother, a goddess and a witch. She is also a shape-shifter, an initiator and a force of transformation. When she chases us, transform we must or we will be consumed. Just as Cerridwen chased Gwion Bach through the three realms of Land, Sea and Sky, through numerous transformations, so are we challenged by her to transform our own lives. Gwion was the young, innocent boy that Cerridwen assigned to stir her magical cauldron, but symbolically he is all of us. As followers of Cerridwen, we are also asked to stir the cauldron and boil the broth ourselves. If you are a son or daughter of Cerridwen, you can be certain she will challenge you through the three realms. When she pursues us, we grow and change into something different than we were before. If we do not, we become stagnant and overtaken.

The legend says that Cerridwen as a greyhound chased Gwion Bach as a hare. This is the realm of the Land. The land represents our life on the material plane. Working, paying the bills, putting food on the table, material possessions and taking care of our health are all associated with the land. Cerridwen challenges us to be the best we can be in these areas. Are you unhappy with your current job? Do you have health issues or money problems? Look to her for inspiration on how to address these issues. The land also relates to herbs, plants, animals and nature. Have you lost your connection to the natural world? Make it a priority to spend time in nature on a regular basis. Visit a park or go for a hike. Study herbal lore and learn how to use plants in your magical practice. As Cerridwen chases us through the realm of the Land, she also encourages us to examine our goals and ambitions. Ask her for guidance about how best to achieve them. Cerridwen in her Mother aspect wants to see us succeed.

As Cerridwen’s story continues, we learn that as an otter, she chases Gwion Bach as a salmon. This is the realm of the Sea. The sea represents our emotions and feelings. Not only our anxieties and fears, but also our lusts and passions. Cerridwen challenges us to examine our feelings, to embrace our emotional selves as part of who we are. Allow her to inspire you with ways to keep your emotions under control. Ask for her assistance dealing with strong feelings like anger and vengefulness, for she has experienced these things. As a powerful witch, Cerridwen can help us gain confidence and self-esteem. She can help us gain mastery over our emotions. She can inspire us on how to love others better and have temperance when our emotions are getting out of control.

Further along in the ancient tale, we read that Cerridwen as an eagle chased Gwion Bach as a wren. This is the realm of the Sky. The sky represents our connection to divinity, to spirituality and to magic. Cerridwen challenges us to develop our magical selves. As a goddess she desires to see us remain sensitive to the unseen realms. As a witch she wants us to become adept in the ways of magic and enchantment. As a mother she longs for us to maintain our connection to her. Do you have a spiritual practice? Do you set aside time to connect with your divine guides on a regular basis?

The story of Cerridwen is many-layered and filled with hidden lessons. Indeed, it is the foundation of modern Druidry. She is the archetypal cauldron-stirring witch. She is a goddess of inspiration and transformation. She is a fiercely devoted mother. She chases us through the realms of land, sea and sky for our own benefit, and we are transformed.


The Mabinogion

The Mabinogion, or more correctly, The Mabinogi, are a collection of ancient Welsh tales that were originally preserved in written form in the White Book of Rhydderch (1300-1325) and the Red Book of Hergest (1375-1425). Portions of this mystical text were written as early as the second half of the 11th century, and some sections are much older still. The stories are believed to have been passed down from a bardic oral tradition. It is from this older, oral tradition of story telling that many of the fantastic and supernatural elements of the tales have come. The tales, which are outwardly concerned with the lives of various Welsh royal families – figures who represent the gods and goddesses of an older, pre-Christian mythological order – are themselves much older in origin. It first came to general literary prominence in the mid 19th century, when Lady Charlotte Guest published her translation of 11 medieval Welsh folk tales under the title “The Mabinogion”.

“Mabinogi’, derived from the word “Mab”, originally meant “boyhood” or “youth” but gradually came to mean “tale of a hero’s boyhood”. It’s these first four heroic “tales”, or the four “branches” of Pwyll, Branwen, Manawydan, and Math, which make up The Mabinogion.

A single character, Pryderi, links all four branches. In the first tale he’s born and fostered, inherits a kingdom and marries. In the second he’s scarcely mentioned, but in the third he’s imprisoned by enchantment and then released. In the fourth he falls in battle. The Mabinogion concludes with the Book of Taliesin, which is believed to have originated in the 6th century.

All of the stories are set in a mystical and magical landscape which corresponds geographically to the western coast of south and north Wales. The Mabinogion is not only to be enjoyed as a work of entertaining stories, but also as a tool for meditation and introspective journey work. There are many lessons hidden between the lines of the tales, and the gods and goddesses contained within it’s pages are worshipped to this day. Rhiannon, Mabon and Cerridwen all make an appearance in the Mabinogion.

The Mabinogion is recommended reading for all students in the House of Blackthorn.


The Sovereign Witch

One thing that seems to be lacking in modern Witchcraft is the embracing of Sovereignty. Indeed, it is a concept that many do not understand. Old World witches were always sovereign, unencumbered by man-made redes or threefold laws. Before modern Wicca, witches were simply witches. They were respected and feared in equal measure. You wanted to be in the witch’s favor. Unfortunately, the balance seems to have shifted, and witches are not taken as seriously as we once were. Many come to Witchcraft with romantic, New Age ideas about what a witch is. They picture the witch as someone surrounded by sage smoke, pretty crystals and Enya music. Many practice a form of Witchcraft that has been watered down and sanitized, made more palatable for outsiders. Love and Light, Blessed Be and all that. The Wiccan Rede has become a disclaimer of sorts. “It’s okay that I’m a witch because I follow the rede”. There’s this idea that “good” witches follow the rede and “bad” ones do not. This is not accurate. There is darkness in witchcraft as well as light. There is destruction as well as restoration. There is retribution as well as healing. As witches, we are not docile and harmless. We do not turn the other cheek. To provoke a witch is dangerous and foolish. Healing and cursing are two sides of the same coin. When people see that we embody both of these aspects, then perhaps we will gain more respect.

Below is an except from Druid Magic: The Practice of Celtic Wisdom, by Maya Magee Sutton, Ph.D. And Nicholas R. Mann, which gives a druid perspective of sovereignty.

To be sovereign means to be self-ruled, self-governing, independent, exercising personal power from the overarching viewpoint of wisdom. It is ethical rather than moral, based on self-responsibility rather than authority. Each of us must take the responsibility for acting in the best manner we can in every situation. There is no outside force imposing rules on us; no one else can tell you what your truth is, but you know it just the same. You know when you act from the inner place where your divine self reigns. The truth of Sovereignty puts enormous responsibility on each of us. There is no church ordering our behavior. How can we best apply self-sovereignty today? One answer is to acknowledge our personal strength, wisdom and power flowing from within. Think about the things you will stand up for, fight for and even die for. What issues are you willing to speak out for in public? What cause do you support with your heart and head, and not just with your monetary donations? Acknowledge those things, act on them, and let them empower you”.

Druidry places a huge priority on peace and finding peaceful solutions. The druids were known to be peacemakers, after all. There are times, however, when there is no peaceful solution. That is when the Witch must step in and take matters into his/her own hands. The truth is that “Love and Light” is not always the answer. Not everyone is interested in peace. When I tell people that I’m a druid witch, I typically have to explain what that means, and then they ask, “But you only do good magic, right?” I smile at them and say, “Usually”. They wonder if I’m joking, but they get the point.

Blackthorn Druid Witches are encouraged to embrace their sovereignty, search their hearts, and make their own choices in every situation. They take personal responsibility for their own magic, just like the witches of the old world.

Rick Silfies Potter

The Song of Amergin

In Irish lore, Amergin was a bard and judge of the Milesians, who took control of Ireland from the Tuatha Dé Danann. The Milesians had to win the island by engaging in battle with the three kings, their druids and warriors. Amergin acted as an impartial judge for the parties, setting the rules of engagement. The Milesians agreed to leave the island and retreat a short distance back into the ocean beyond the ninth wave, a magical boundary. Upon a signal, they moved toward the beach, but the Druids of the Tuatha Dé Danann raised a magical storm to keep them from reaching land. However, Amergin sang an invocation calling upon the Spirit of Ireland, that has come to be known as The Song of Amergin. He was able to part the storm and bring the ship safely to land. The Song of Amergin is often recognized as Ireland’s first written poem, and Amergin as Ireland’s first Druid. There are several musical versions, but it can also be explored through meditation. This ancient, mystical poem from the Irish Mythological Cycle contains imagery that can be visualized in the mind’s eye while in an altered state of consciousness.

I am the wind on the sea,

I am the wave of the sea,

I am the bull of seven battles,

I am a stag of seven tines,

I am the eagle on the rock,

I am a flash from the sun,

I am the most beautiful of plants,

I am a strong wild boar,

I am a salmon in the water,

I am a lake in the plain,

I am the word of knowledge,

I am the head of the spear in battle,

I am the god that puts fire in the head,

Who but I spreads light in the gathering on the hills?

Who but I can tell the ages of the moon?

Who but I can tell the place where the sun rests?

The Irish choral group ANUNA have a beautiful version of the Song of Amergin, entitled Wind on Sea.

Celtic Tales: Deirdre of the Sorrows

The story of Deirdre originates from the Ulster Cycle, a group of legends and tales dealing with the heroic age of the Ulaids, a people of northeast Ireland from whom the modern name Ulster derives. The stories, set in the 1st century BC, were recorded from oral tradition between the 8th and 11th century and are preserved in the 12th-century manuscripts The Book of the Dun Cow(c. 1100) and The Book of Leinster(c. 1160) and also in later compilations, such as The Yellow Book of Lecan (14th century). Below is a short version of the tale. A longer version can be found at this link.

A girl-child was born to Siobha on the night of a full moon. Her proud father, Feidhlim cradled her gently in his arms and named her Deirdre. He took her to the druids and asked them to foretell his infant’s future. The druids looked towards the stars and glanced sadly at the newborn. “What do you see?” Feidhlim asked the druids anxiously. They answered “This child will cause great trouble. She will grow up to be the most beautiful woman in Ulster but she will cause the death of many of our men.” When the Red Branch Knights heard the druid’s prognosis, they were uneasy and wanted the child immediately killed. They journeyed to the King and urged him to take action. King Connor was reluctant to deny the child’s life and came up with a plan. “Deirdre will be reared far away from here and when she comes of age, I will make her my bride.” This was deemed a satisfactory solution and King Connor set about finding an appropriate guardian for the child. He sent her deep into the forest to stay with a wise woman, a witch named Leabharcham, who would care for and teach her.

As foretold by the druids, Deirdre grew to be a beautiful, though lonely young woman. One night Leabharcham discovered she had been sleepwalking and watched over her for the remainder of the night. When she awoke in the morning, Deirdre told Leabharcham of a dark-haired warrior who had been in her dreams for a month. “He is tall and handsome with raven-black hair. His skin is snow-white and he is fearless in battle.” Leabharcham recognised Naoise, one of the sons of Uisneach from this description and her brow furrowed with worry. “He is Naoise, one of the sons of Uisneach, but you must not mention your dream to a soul. You are to be married to King Connor very soon.” Deirdre begged Leabharcham to send for Naoise so that she might meet the man of her dreams. Leabharcham refused at first, but seeing how unhappy Deirdre was, she quickly relented. Deirdre and Naoise met and fell in love at once. “I cannot marry Connor now” Deirdre said, “we must flee Ulster straight away.” They set off and travelled all over Ireland but no one would help them, fearing the wrath of King Connor. Finally, they set sail and settled on an island off the coast of Scotland.

They lived happily on the island for five years until one autumn evening, a messenger arrived from the King. The messenger conveyed King Connor’s forgiveness and asked Deirdre and Naoise to return home. Deirdre didn’t trust the King and wanted to stay on the island but Naoise believed the news and began to prepare for the journey home. They set off shortly afterwards but Deirdre had a sense of foreboding and begged him to turn back. Naoise reasoned with her, promising that everything would be fine. When they arrived, they were sent to the fortress of the Red Branch Knights instead of directly to the castle and Deirdre was convinced they were walking into a trap. No sooner had they entered the fortress than they were surrounded. Naoise and his brothers fought bravely but they were outnumbered. They were captured and brought before the King. “Who will kill these traitors for me?” asked the King. None of the Red Branch Knights would kill a fellow knight. Suddenly an unknown warrior from another kingdom stepped forward and cut the heads off Naoise and his brothers with a single sweep of his sword. So great was Deirdre’s sorrow that her heart broke and she fell upon Naoise’s body joining him in death. Deirdre’s father left Ulster for Connaught and joined Queen Maeve in many bloody battles against the Red Branch Knights. Deirdre had brought sorrow and trouble to Ulster just as the druids foretold.

The Irish Triads

The Irish Triads are triple wisdom sayings that relate lessons of how to live a life of goodness in wisdom, prosperity and happiness. There are many ancient Irish and Welsh triads, a number of which have been Christianized or glossed-over with Christian imagery. Below are examples of triads that appear to have escaped the tamperings of Christian scribes.

  • Concerning three things that hide: an open bag hides nothing, an open door hides little, an open person hides something.

  • Three errors not acknowledged: fear of an enemy, torment of love, and a jealous persons’ evil suspicion of their mate.

  • Three possessions we value most take away pride from us: our money, our time, and our conscience.

  • Three things by nature cause their possessor to err: youth, prosperity, and ignorance.

  • Three things resemble each other: a bright sword which rusts from long staying in the scabbard, bright water which stinks from long standing, and wisdom which is dead from long disuse.

  • Three things not easy to check: the stream of a cataract, an arrow from a bow, and a rash tongue.

  • Three things hard to catch: a stag on the mountain, a fox in the wood, and the coin of the miserly scrooge.

  • There are three things each very like the other: an old blind horse playing the harp with his hoofs, a pig in a silk dress, and a merciless person prating about piety.

  • Three things as good as the best: bread and milk against hunger, a white coat against the cold, and a yeoman’s son in a breach.

  • Three sweet things in the world: power, prosperity, and error in action.

  • There are three things which move together as quickly the one as the other: lightning , thought , and the help of the Mighty Ones.

  • Three things not loved without each one it’s companion: day without night, idleness without hunger, and wisdom without reverence.

  • There are three whose full reward can never be given to them: parents, a good teacher, and the Mighty Ones.

From Trioedd Ynys Prydein: (The Triads of the Island of Britain).

In the House of Blackthorn, students learn to write their own triads, which can be used as an incantation or part of a magical working. New classes begin September 2019. To schedule an interview, contact houseofblackthorn@yahoo.com.