Ah, Ceridwen. The badass biddy who suffers no fools and has no qualms about hitting you upside the head with a clue by four should you refuse to listen to what she has to say. Her love is of the tough variety, but it is love nonetheless. Ceridwen’s cauldron has been busy of late. Have you noticed?
It always amazes me how many macrocosms and microcosms I notice exist when I step back, pause and take a look at what is happening around me and within me. On a very large scale, in the cauldron we call the United States, there has been some stuff brewing for some time now, and it doesn’t show any signs of simmering down anytime soon.
This seems to be true in other parts of the world as well. Issues of political division, racism, poverty, civil rights, and gender discrimination are just a few of the topics that have made headlines and polarized society increasingly over the past few years. Similar issues have also erupted from time to time in the larger pagan community in the past few years.
My first instinctual reaction to all of this as an empath and a (reformed) people pleaser is to step away from the cauldron, quietly and slowly, and go on about my merry way. I can feel the toxicity of these situations far too well and I worry about the effects of that toxicity on my body, mind and spirit. Yet by turning a blind eye and walking away, my foundation weakens and I may end up being complicit in perpetuating principles that go against my own values.
Furthermore, if there is one thing I have learned from Ceridwen, it is that there is truly only one antidote to a poisonous brew, and that is to be brave enough to look into the cauldron and be willing to stir the pot if needed. Any other action, in my experience, only provides a temporary reprieve and leads to a “Groundhog Day” type of existence as Ceridwen continues to place her cauldron at our feet, whether we like it or not.
For those of you unfamiliar with Ceridwen’s story, I will give you an overview. Ceridwen – a witch renowned for her way with herbs and magic potions – has a daughter who is considered to be extremely beautiful and a son that well, let’s just say would be getting a lot of left swipes on Tinder if you know what I mean.
In order to overcome her son’s ugliness and darkness, she begins brewing a potion that will make him exceedingly wise and therefore attractive. Ceridwen has a blind man working for her to keep the fire under the cauldron burning and has a young boy by the name of Gwion stirring the pot until such time as the potion is ready.
Unfortunately, when the potion is ready, its three drops of Awen (divine inspiration) end up on Gwion’s finger (by choice or by accident, depending on which version of the story you believe) and he sticks the finger in his mouth. By doing so, he acquires the wisdom that Ceridwen has been reserving for her son.
In a fit of fury, Ceridwen begins chasing Gwion and they both undergo several transformations until finally Ceridwen ingests Gwion in his form as a seed and becomes pregnant with him. Unable to kill the child once it is born, she sends him down the river in a coracle where he is found by another family and becomes known as the great wise man and poet Taliesin.
While the chaos that is erupting around us might seem daunting, it does us good to remember Ceridwen’s story, with a focus on what the cauldron contains within itself. First and foremost, we must be willing to confront ourselves within the cauldron to gain a better understanding of our own viewpoints, triggers, shadow aspects and learning curves which might be impacting how we view the conflict at hand. Once we have done this, we can then explore the larger communal cauldron of conflict.
Into the actual cauldron of conflict that I mentioned earlier goes diverse viewpoints, all fighting to be the ingredient that comes out on top and/or has the strongest presence. Mix in some passion, lots of fear and anger, a few dashes of confusion and a handful of misunderstandings and personal baggage and it’s easy to see why this bubbling, boiling, chaotic brew can be quite intimidating, if not downright scary. Yet, if we are willing to look into the cauldron and take our time stirring what is there, we begin to see a multitude of perspectives (aka ingredients) that we may not have noticed before.
As we stir, the brew becomes clearer, and we begin to sense which ingredients make sense, which resonate with us, and which we have a strong aversion to. We are therefore in a position to help improve the brew by fostering its healing effects and working to rid or negate the brew of its more harmful effects. In Ceridwen’s story, after the necessary incubation time and the constant stirring of the pot, the poisonous potion she brews is distilled into three drops of pure inspiration, clarity and wisdom. The remainder of the potion breaks the cauldron and seeps into the land around it, killing animals and plant life with its toxicity.
There are times when ignorance is bliss because we are not in a safe space or state of mind to peer into the cauldron’s darkness, and that’s ok. In those instances, turning away for the time being becomes less of a reluctance due to an aversion to growth or feelings of discomfort and more of an act of self-care.
Aside from those instances, if we are willing to look into the chaos of conflict and really sift through it with a critical eye, we too may be able to distill and ultimately absorb the situation with clarity and wisdom while releasing that which is poisonous to our spirit and does not serve us in any capacity. This is true whether the cauldron symbolizes our country, our community (spiritual or otherwise), our relationships or ourselves.
If we are willing to do the challenging, confusing, and sometimes terrifying work of facing the murky abyss that the cauldron holds, we often find that Ceridwen rewards us with a crystal clear vision; a light to help guide us through the darkness. The freedom you feel upon tackling her quest and the loving nod of approval you are rewarded with makes it all worthwhile. If nothing else, doing the work is usually less painful than one of her “clue by fours” upside the head. In addition, her constant nagging and whispering in your ear just may cease…if only until the next cycle comes around.
I would love to write more, but I hear bubbling nearby and a cackle in my ear. It’s time to go see what She’s cooking up for me now…