The name, Cerridwen, has been translated both as Cauldron of Wisdom and Fortress of Wisdom, caer meaning fortress and cerru meaning Cauldron. The powers attributed to Her show her nature as one imbued with great wisdom, prophetic foresight, and magical shapeshifting abilities.
Mighty in magic, enchantment and divination, the ancient Cerridwen lived upon an island in a lake, a place known as The Land Beneath the Waves.
It was on this island that She bore a son and named him Morfan, because he was black as a raven, but some also called him Afagddu1, saying that his darkness was ugly, so that Cerridwen worried that the life ahead of him would not be one of ease or pleasure. Therefore, She decided to give her son a birth gift of the magical powers that She possessed hoping to make his years on Earth easier for him.
Thus She prepared the Cauldron, known as Awen2, the Cauldron of the Deep, from which She planned to give him three drops of the liquid which would provide him with those powers, which were his birthright.
Into it She poured the waters of prophesy and inspiration and, carefully observing the movements of the Moon and the Sun and each and every star, She was able to add each herb, each root, even the foam of the ocean, all at the proper times. As the Cauldron brew began to boil, She arranged for a blind old man to keep the fire burning, and for a young lad named Gwion to stir the contents of Her Cauldron.
Nine women stood by. Some say they were Druidesses who could take the form of any animals, who also could blow the seas into a rage with their perfect poetry, and could heal all wounds and illnesses and foretell the events of the future. All believe that these nine women breathed upon the magic Cauldron as it boiled night and day for one year.
When the one day beyond a year's time arrived, which was the required time for the brewing, Cerridwen placed young Morfan by the Cauldron to receive the legacy She had prepared for him. In her fatigue, after all She had done for her son, She fell asleep and while She was sleeping young Gwion, pushed young Morfan aside and quickly scooped three precious drops of the brew and placed his hand in his mouth.3 The remainder of the waters split the sides of the Cauldron apart and poured out upon the ground.
The thundering noise of the Cauldron woke Cerridwen from her sleep and after realizing what had happened, She moved to punish Gwion. He quickly used the powers gained from the brew and changed himself into a hare and hopped off as quickly as his legs would carry him. Cerridwen took the form of a greyhound and followed in swift pursuit. But just as She was about to catch him, he changed into a fish and slipped into a river. Cerridwen quickly became an otter and continued after Gwion. About to be caught again, he once more changed his form, this time into a bird and flew off into the sky, only discovering the Cerridwen was close behind, having taken the shape of a hawk.
Fearing for his life, Gwion noticed a pile of wheat on the land below and changing himself into the tiniest of grains, dropped into the pile. Cerridwen's sharp eyes saw what he had done and taking the form of a black crested hen, She pecked at the grain until She found and ate the seed that had been Gwion.
But the tiny seed took root within her womb and began to grow. For nine months, Cerridwen proclaimed that on the day that Gwion would be reborn She would destroy him, but when that day arrived She relented. She placed him in a leather sack and threw him into the raging waters of the river, this just two days before the first of May.
Taliesin, thought to be the wisest and most profound of all Gaelic poets, claimed that he had once been that Gwion, born of Cerridwen's womb, Her Cauldron of Transformation. Saying that his leather sack had been fished from the river on All Hallow's Eve, Holy Samhain, when the dead souls rise, he made it very clear to all who listened that Celtic wisdom, poetry, magic, and foresight, the riddles beneath which divine knowledge lies, had once been stolen from the Cauldron of the Ancient Cerridwen. The Powers of the Sacred Female were stolen, taken from Her, and that his powers came from Her and the Cauldron of Magical Inspiration.
1 from "fagddu" meaning "gross darkness" - Draeconin.
2 "awen" means "poetic gift" or "muse" - Draeconin.
3 Another version says that Gwion accidentally splashed the potion and three drops fell on his hand, burning him. Without thinking, he stuck the burnt spot in his mouth to soothe it, thereby imbibing the potion. - Draeconin.