Goddess of Poetry

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Sixteen years ago I met a gentleman who taught a course in Robert Graves ‘The White Goddess’ at the University of Oregon. He was amazed at the extent of my Biblical knowledge and my ability to see what others don’t. Casey Farrell could hold much information in his brain the same way Rena Easton can in regards to memorizing poetry.

Unbeknownst to me I rendered Rena as the White Goddess in 1971. It was this painting that bewitched my famous sister ‘Rosamond’. I mention Gwion Bach in a claim I filed against the estate of Christine Rosamond Benton. Too bad Rena has no one to share her poetry with, for I believe she is the embodiment of Cerridwen, the mother of Gwion Bach, or Taliesin of the Arthurian Legends. Rena Easton appears to be stirring the pot as Cerridwen, who is sometimes called ‘The Goddess of Poetry’. Rena is Mnemosyne, the mother of the Muses, because she has committed to memory thousands of poems. That she is now associated with Arthurian Legend, makes her a candidate for Mary Magdalene.

Jon Presco

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mnemosyne

Graves described The White Goddess as “a historical grammar of the language of poetic myth.” The book draws from the mythology and poetry of Wales and Ireland especially, as well as that of most of Western Europe and the ancient Middle East. Relying on arguments from etymology and the use of forensic techniques to uncover what he calls ‘iconotropic’ redaction of original myths, Graves argues for the worship of a single goddess under many names, an idea that came to be known as “Matriarchal religion” in feminist theology of the 1970s.

The Golden Bough (1922, but begun in 1890), an early anthropological study by Sir James George Frazer, is the starting point for much of Graves’s argument, and Graves thought in part that his book made explicit what Frazer only hinted at. Graves wrote:

Sir James Frazer was able to keep his beautiful rooms at Trinity College, Cambridge, until his death by carefully and methodically sailing all around his dangerous subject, as if charting the coastline of a forbidden island without actually committing himself to a declaration that it existed. What he was saying-not-saying was that Christian legend, dogma and ritual are the refinement of a great body of primitive and even barbarous beliefs, and that almost the only original element in Christianity is the personality of Jesus.

Graves’s The White Goddess deals with goddess worship as the prototypical religion, analysing it largely from literary evidence, in myth and poetry.

Graves admitted he was not a medieval historian, but a poet, and thus based his work on the premise that the

language of poetic myth anciently current in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe was a magical language bound up with popular religious ceremonies in honour of the Moon-goddess, or Muse, some of them dating from the Old Stone Age, and that this remains the language of true poetry…

Graves concluded, in the second and expanded edition, that the male-dominant monotheistic god of Judaism and its successors were the cause of the White Goddess’s downfall, and thus the source of much of the modern world’s woe. He describes Woman as occupying a higher echelon than mere poet, that of the Muse Herself. He adds “This is not to say that a woman should refrain from writing poems; only, that she should write as a woman, not as an honorary man.” He seems particularly bothered by the spectre of women’s writing reflecting male-dominated poetic conventions.

Cerridwen and the Arthur Legend

The stories of Cerridwen found within the Mabinogion are actually the basis for the cycle of Arthurian legend. Her son Taliesin became a bard in the court of Elffin, the Celtic prince who rescued him from the sea. Later on, when Elffin is captured by the Welsh king Maelgwn, Taliesen challenges Maelgwn’s bards to a contest of words. It is Taliesen’s eloquence that ultimately frees Elffin from his chains. Through a mysterious power, he renders Maelgwn’s bards incapable of speech, and frees Elphin from his chains. Taliesen becomes associated with Merlin the magician in the Arthurian cycle.

In the Celtic legend of Bran the Blessed, the cauldron appears as a vessel of wisdom and rebirth. Bran, mighty warrior-god, obtains a magical cauldron from Cerridwen (in disguise as a giantess) who had been expelled from a lake in Ireland, which represents the Otherworld of Celtic lore. The cauldron can resurrect the corpse of dead warriors placed inside it (this scene is believed to be depicted on the Gundestrup Cauldron). Bran gives his sister Branwen and her new husband Math — the King of Ireland — the cauldron as a wedding gift, but when war breaks out Bran sets out to take the valuable gift back. He is accompanied by a band of a loyal knights with him, but only seven return home.

Bran himself is wounded in the foot by a poisoned spear, another theme that recurs in the Arthur legend — found in the guardian of the Holy Grail, the Fisher King. In fact, in some Welsh stories, Bran marries Anna, the daughter of Joseph of Arimathea. Also like Arthur, only seven of Bran’s men return home. Bran travels after his death to the otherworld, and Arthur makes his way to Avalon. There are theories among some scholars that Cerridwen’s cauldron — the cauldron of knowledge and rebirth — in in fact the Holy Grail for which Arthur spent his life searching.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taliesin

In Welsh medieval legend, Ceridwen was an enchantress. She is the mother of a hideous son, 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 is regarded by many modern Pagans as the Celtic goddess of rebirth, transformation, and inspiration.
In 19th century literature and etymology the name Ket, Ked and variants were assumed to relate to the goddess Ceridwen.[1]

According to the late medieval[6] Tale of Taliesin, included in some modern editions of the Mabinogion, Ceridwen’s son, Morfran (also called Afagddu), was hideously ugly, so Ceridwen sought to make him wise in compensation. She made a potion in her magical cauldron to grant the gift of wisdom and poetic inspiration, also called Awen.
The mixture had to be boiled for a year and a day. She set Morda, a blind man, to tend the fire beneath the cauldron, while Gwion Bach, a young boy, stirred the concoction. The first three drops of liquid from this potion gave wisdom; the rest was a fatal poison. Three hot drops spilled onto Gwion’s thumb as he stirred, burning him. He instinctively put his thumb in his mouth, and gained the wisdom and knowledge Ceridwen had intended for her son.
Realizing that Ceridwen would be angry Gwion fled. Ceridwen chased him. Using the powers of the potion 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, being a Goddess (or enchantress, depending on the version of the tale), she found and ate him without trouble. But because of the potion he was not destroyed. 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.
Later interpretations[edit]
It has been suggested 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.[3] 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.[7]
The Victorian poet Thomas Love Peacock also wrote a poem entitled the Cauldren of Ceridwen.[8] 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 Müller according to which “Gwenhwyfar and Ceridwen are dawn goddesses.”[9] Charles Isaac Elton in 1882 referred to her as a “white fairy”.[10] 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.[11]
In Wicca, Ceridwen is a goddess of change and rebirth and transformation, and her cauldron symbolises knowledge and inspiration.[12]

Morfran (Middle Welsh: Morvran; probably from the Welsh mawr, “big”, and brân, “crow”[1]) is a figure in Welsh mythology. Usually portrayed as a warrior under King Arthur, he is noted for the darkness of his skin and his hideousness. He appears in the narratives about the bard Taliesin and in the Welsh Triads, where he is often contrasted with the handsome Sanddef “Angel-Face”.
Appearances[edit]
He appears in the Tale of Taliesin (Hanes Taliesin), where he is depicted as the son of Ceridwen and Tegid Foel, and is given an extremely beautiful sister named Creirwy.[1] In later versions of this tale his characteristic ugliness is transferred to a brother, Afagddu (Middle Welsh: Avagddu; from y fagddu, “utter darkness”), though Ifor Williams suggested this name arose as a nickname for the famously gruesome Morfran.[1] In the story Ceridwen tries to help her son make his way in the world by creating a potion whose first three drops would bestow the drinker with knowledge of the future. Unfortunately, she gives Gwion Bach (the bard Taliesin) the job of stirring the brew; he splashes three drops on his fingers and licks them, whereupon he gains the knowledge, and Morfran/Afagddu remains ugly and despised. The story has a parallel in the Irish tale The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn, in which the young hero Fionn mac Cumhaill receives prophetic wisdom intended for his master Finn Eces by consuming the Salmon of Wisdom.[2]
Morfran eil Tegid (Morfran son of Tegid) appears in several of the Welsh Triads. In Triad 24 he is recognized as one of the “Three Slaughter-Blocks of the Island of Britain”,[3] while Triad 41 celebrates his horse Guelwgan Gohoewgein (Silver-White, Proud and Fair) as one of the “Three Lover’s Horses of the Island of Britain”.[4] In other triads he is associated with Sanddef, whose beauty is as notable as Morfran’s ugliness. In a triad preserved in the prose tale Culhwch and Olwen, they are named as two of the three men who survived the Battle of Camlann, in Morfran’s case because his ugliness led everyone to believe he was “a devil helping, for there was hair on his face like the hair of a stag.”[5] This triad was adapted in the 15th-century triad collection known as “The Twenty-four Knights of Arthur’s Court”; Morfran and Sanddef are two of the “Three Irresistible Knights”, as their peculiarities made it “repugnant to anyone to refuse them anything.”[6]
Morfran is further mentioned in the 12th-century prose tale The Dream of Rhonabwy.[7] Rachel Bromwich notes that a 12th-century poem by Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr contains a reference to an otherwise forgotten early poet named Morfran, and suggests a connection with the Morfran of The Tale of Taliesin who was the intended recipient of the cauldron of poetic inspiration.[2] Scholar Thomas Green further suggests a connection with the character called “Osfran’s Son”, who is buried at Camlann according to the Englynion y Beddau (Stanzas of the Graves).[8]

The earliest documented permutation of the name KERDWIN is Cyrridven, which occurs in the Black Book of Carmarthen.[2] Sir Ifor Williams translates this name as “crooked woman”, although the precise meaning of the stems cyrrid and cwrr (sometimes translated as “crooked” or “bent”) is uncertain.[3][4] Ben/ven means “woman” or “female”. If wen is not a corruption of either of these, then it may derive from the adjective gwen, meaning “fair”, “beloved”, “blessed”, or “sacred”. Wen is sometimes suffixed to the names of female saints names (e.g., Dwynwen).[5]
Legend[edit]
According to the late medieval[6] Tale of Taliesin, included in some modern editions of the Mabinogion, Ceridwen’s son, Morfran (also called Afagddu), was hideously ugly, so Ceridwen sought to make him wise in compensation. She made a potion in her magical cauldron to grant the gift of wisdom and poetic inspiration, also called Awen.
The mixture had to be boiled for a year and a day. She set Morda, a blind man, to tend the fire beneath the cauldron, while Gwion Bach, a young boy, stirred the concoction. The first three drops of liquid from this potion gave wisdom; the rest was a fatal poison. Three hot drops spilled onto Gwion’s thumb as he stirred, burning him. He instinctively put his thumb in his mouth, and gained the wisdom and knowledge Ceridwen had intended for her son.
Realizing that Ceridwen would be angry Gwion fled. Ceridwen chased him. Using the powers of the potion 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, being a Goddess (or enchantress, depending on the version of the tale), she found and ate him without trouble. But because of the potion he was not destroyed. 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.
Later interpretations[edit]
It has been suggested 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.[3] 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.[7]

The Victorian poet Thomas Love Peacock also wrote a poem entitled the Cauldren of Ceridwen.[8] 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 Müller according to which “Gwenhwyfar and Ceridwen are dawn goddesses.”[9] Charles Isaac Elton in 1882 referred to her as a “white fairy”.[10] 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.[11]

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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1 Response to Goddess of Poetry

  1. Reblogged this on rosamondpress and commented:

    European Women were great warriors before the arrival of Christianity. They were expected to contribute to the defence of their tribe and community. Sending women to fight ISIS as a female Christian warrior, is a impossible read.

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