Cerridwen is the Mother Goddess of ancient Welsh legend. She is one of the Old Ones, of the old order of witchcraft. She is strongly associated with the cauldron. As with the cup and chalice, the cauldron is a symbol of femininity, fertility, abundance, rebirth and transformation. The cave, representing the womb of earth, is also strongly associated with Cerridwen. She is a goddess of the otherworld, with many attributes.
Cerridwen is seen as the triple goddess. The maiden, the mother, and the crone are all aspects of the feminine cycle and the phases of the moon. The Horned God, who is representative of nature, wilderness, sexuality, hunting and the life cycle, is her counterpart. Cerridwen and the Horned God balance each other.
Cerridwen had two children, twins, and wanted only the best for them. Her daughter, Creirwy, and son, Afagddu, were symbolic of light and dark. Creirwy, the light, was beautiful and fair, while Afagddu was dark and ugly. Cerridwen knew the herbs needed to make a potion that would help her son become wise, charming, and handsome. Cerridwen is the goddess of rebirth and transformation. From her cauldron come the potions to transform.
The cauldron, like woman, is magical and mysterious -- like the womb, it brings forth life. Feminine energies are imbued into the cauldron from Cerridwen and it is the symbol of her witchcraft.
To enable her son, Afagddu, to have all in life he needed, Cerridwen created a potion for him. For one year and one day she tended her cauldron. Each day, according to the lunar cycle, she added the herbs that would work magic on Afagddu and produce a transformation in him. Her servant and student, Gwion, had the task of keeping the fire at just the right temperature and stirring the potion. When the potion was complete, she would give Afagddu just three drops to drink, which would give to him all the wisdom of the universe, along with the charm and masculine attributes he so needed.
On the morning of the last day, the potion was ready and Cerridwen was on her way to the cauldron. Suddenly she heard a loud crash and a yelp. Gwion had unintentionally knocked over the cauldron. Three drops of the magic potion splashed onto his hand and he licked it off. The magic had gone to Gwion instead of Afagddu. Cerridwen was furious. Seeing her running towards him in fury, Gwion, now having the ability to shapeshift like Cerridwen does, turns himself into different animals and birds as Cerridwen pursues him. Finally, he turns himself into a grain of wheat lying in the field. Cerridwen then becomes a chicken and swallows the grain.
After nine months, Cerridwen gives birth to Taliesin, the bard. Not wanting the reminder of Gwion, who transformed into the charming and wise bard, Cerridwen tosses Taliesin the babe into the sea. A fisherman finds the babe and takes him home to his wife. They raise Taliesin as their own child.