Ceridwen was a Welsh goddess of unknown attribute. Some would call Ceridwen a witch, and she was often depicted as an old hag. She had the ability to shift-change.
Ceridwen was the wife of Tegid Foel. Ceridwen was the mother of a daughter named Creirwy, and had two sons, Morvran ab Tegid and Morfran (Y Fagddu or Afagddu). Creirwy was the fairest maiden in the world, while Morvran was ugly but a strong warrior. However her youngest son, called Afagddu or Avagddu ("utter darkness"), was extremely ugly (and perhaps deformed) that no one would accept him in the noble society, unless he was gifted in wisdom and poetry.
From the cauldron of inspiration, known as Amen, Ceridwen was determined to make her son, the wisest and most inspirational bard from three drops of her brew.
However the brew would take a whole to make, so he had two servants to keep the fire lit and continuously stirred the cauldron. One of the servants was named Gwyon Bach (Gwion Bach). Her plan was in ruined when three drops scalded Gwyon Bach's thumb, making Gwyon put his finger in his mouth. Gwyon instantly gained the knowledge and skill of the bard, instead of her son Afagddu.
Ceridwen in rage, set out to kill Gwyon. Gwyon and Ceridwen went through several metamorphoses of different animals. Gwyon as a hare, Ceridwen as a greyhound; he as a salmon, she as an otter; he as a bird, while Ceridwen had transformed into a hawk. When Gwyon turned himself into a grain of seed, Ceridwen as a hen, swallowed Gwyon, and became pregnant.
When Ceridwen gave birth to a son, she knew her child was really reincarnation of Gwyon Bach, who retained memory of his previous life, as well as his skill as a bard. Ceridwen had intended to kill the infant, but could not bring herself to perform such murder, because of the baby's beauty. So Ceridwen put the baby in a leather bag and threw him into the sea.
Elphin (Elffin) rescued the child from the weir, and he named the infant (Gwyon Bach), Taliesin.
See Taliesin in the Mabinogion.
Not much is known about Ceridwen beyond the story of Taliesin, though her name and her cauldron appeared frequently in allusions of medieval Welsh literature.
Nothing more was said about her son, Afagddu. In the story of Culwch and Olwen, it mentioned that Ceridwen's other son, Morfran had also fought in the battle of Camlann, sustaining no wound, because he was so ugly that the enemies thought he was demon, would not come near him. Morfran had hair on his face like that of a stag. Ceridwen
by Christopher Williams
In Welsh medieval legend, Ceridwen was an enchantress, mother of Morfran and a beautiful daughter Creirwy. Her husband was Tegid Foel, and they lived near Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid) in north Wales. Medieval Welsh poetry refers to her as possessing the cauldron of Poetic Inspiration (Awen) and the Tale of Taliesin recounts her swallowing her servant Gwion Bach who is then reborn through her as the poet Taliesin.
Ceridwen chased Gwion. He turned himself into a hare. She became a greyhound. 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. When Ceridwen became pregnant, 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 leather-skin bag. The child did not die, but was rescued on a Welsh shore - near Aberdyfi according to most versions of the tale - by a prince named Elffin ap Gwyddno; the reborn infant grew to became the legendary bard Taliesin.
Ronald Hutton suggests that Ceridwen first appeared as a simple sorceress character in the Tale of Taliesin, of which the earliest surviving text dates to the mid-16th century, but which appears from its language to be 9th-century in composition, according to Hutton. References to Ceridwen and her cauldron found in the work of the 12th-century Gogynfeirdd or Poets of the Princes (such as Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr) he thus considers later, derivative works. In them, according to Hutton, Ceridwen is transformed from a sorceress into a goddess of poetry. Citing this and a couple of other examples, Hutton proposes that the Gogynfeirdd substantially created a new mythology not reflective of earlier paganism. Nonetheless, references to Ceridwen's cauldron (pair Ceridwen) are also to be found in some of the early mythological poems attributed to the legendary Taliesin in the Book of Taliesin.
The Victorian poet Thomas Love Peacock also wrote a poem entitled the Cauldren of Ceridwen. Later writers identified her as having originally been a pagan Goddess, speculating on her role in a supposed Celtic pantheon. John Rhys in 1878 referred to the Solar Myth theory of Max Muller according to which "Gwenhwyfar and Ceridwen are dawn goddesses."Charles Isaac Elton in 1882 referred to her as a "white fairy".Robert Graves later fitted her into his concept of the Threefold Goddess, in which she was interpreted as a form of the destructive side of the goddess.
Graves' theory was appropriated by Wicca, in which Ceridwen plays a role as a goddess, her cauldron symbolizing the feminine principle.