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The story of a mythical witch and a servant who knew everything

Ceridwen was a mythical witch, and according to legend, was the wife of Tegid Foel, the giant after whom Llyn Tegid, Y Bala, was named.

Ceridwen and Tegid had a son called Morfran, but he was so unsightly that the people of the area called him Afagddu.

A cauldron of ‘Awen a Gwybodau’

Ceridwen decided that she would produce a potion to make Morfran more beautiful. She prepared a cauldron of ‘Awen a Gwybodau’ (Inspiration and Knowledge). The cauldron had to be boiled for a year and a day. Gwïon Bach, a servant from Llanfair Caereinion, was given the task of stirring the potion and keeping the fire burning.

According to one version of the legend, drops of the potion fell on Gwïon’s finger, and the drops were so hot that he put his finger in his mouth. When he did so, he came to know everything.

A mythological chase

Gwïon was so frightened that he ran away, but his fear was nothing compared to the rage of Ceridwen.

Gwïon turned himself into a hare to flee from Ceridwen, but the witch was cunning and turned herself into a greyhound to outpace him. Gwïon then turned himself into a fish, and he jumped into the river, but Ceridwen turned into an otter and swam after him.

Ceridwen had nearly caught Gwïon when he turned into a bird and flew into the air, but Ceridwen turned into a hawk and edged closer and closer. Gwïon saw a pile of corn, turned into a grain of corn and jumped into the pile, but Ceridwen saw her opportunity, turned into a hen and ate all of the corn, including Gwïon.

Ceridwen soon realised that she was pregnant and that the baby inside her was Gwïon. She was furious and intended to kill the baby until she gave birth and saw how beautiful he was.

Becoming Taliesin

Instead of killing Gwïon, Ceridwen wrapped him in animal skins, placed him in a coracle, and put it to sea. He was found by a man named Elffin near Cors Fochno in Ceredigion, who called the baby Taliesin because of his high forehead.

The village of Tre Taliesin near Aberystwyth was likely named after Taliesin.

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