The tale of the Sorceress Ceridwen, from Arthurian
and Celtic Mythology
During the times of legend, the era between the departure of the Romans and the arrival of the Saxons, on the Celtic island of Britain, there once lived a sorceress named Ceridwen.
Ceridwen had two children, one a girl, who was very beautiful, and one a boy called Afagddu, born so ugly that even the Gods recoiled in horror.
Ceridwen decided to concoct a potion to aid her son: she hoped to turn him into a man of high intelligence and great vision, a man who would be admired and respected by others.
Ceridwen had one great advantage over the other sorcerers and Druid priests of her time: she was the guardian of a magic cauldron, a vessel of great power and one of the fabled Treasures of Britain. However even using the power of the Cauldron, the spellbook said that the potion Ceridwen sought must be brewed for a year and a day, and not even Ceridwen could go that long without sleep. So she cast another spell, to enslave a young boy named Gwion, and made him stir the mixture.
Towards the end of his epic year of service, Gwion was unfortunate enough to spill three drops of the potion onto his hand. Ignoring the dire warnings Ceridwen had instilled into him, he licked a sip of the burning syrup.
Instantly he gained all the wisdom and knowledge that was to have been Afagddu's, and the potion became useless.
In fear for his life, Gwion fled.
Now filled with the knowledge of the ancients,
Gwion first changed himself into a hare in an attempt to hide from Ceridwen. She matched him by becoming a greyhound. The two animals plunged into a river, whereupon Gwion took the form of a trout and Ceridwen pursued him in the body of an otter.
Gwion desperately tried to escape by changing form again, becoming a swift that flew into the air, but Ceridwen followed on as an eagle. Finally, Gwion flew into a corn field and turned himself into a grain of wheat, hoping that he would not be noticed, but Ceridwen metamorphosed into a hen and ate him up.
By doing this Ceridwen defeated Gwion, yet became pregnant by the act of eating him. When she gave birth she could not bring herself to raise Gwion's son but neither could she slay a helpless infant, so she placed him in a coracle and threw him into the turbulent waters of the River Wye.
The coracle was washed up on the shores of South Wales where the baby was found by Prince Elphin. He adopted the child and named him Taliesin, who grew up to become the greatest bard the world had never known.