Ynis Afallach Tuath


Avaloniana Path


The Wheel


Ynis Afallach Tuath




Great Mother of Death and Rebirth

(© Caillean)


Keredwen or Cerridween is one of the most widely known Goddesses of the Celtic pantheon

She represents the archetype of the witch, the old wisewoman,  she who presides over death and rebirth mysteries.

Her name means Divine Door, as only by passing through physical and initiatic death it is  possible to gain access to the knowledge of Mysteries and to spiritual rebirth.

She is associated with the waning, black moon, to the darkness of winter and to the festival of Samhain, over which she presides.

The cauldron is her symbol:

the Earth’s womb, the Great Mother who receives her children to make them ready for a new cycle, just as the seeds which lie asleep waiting for the spring  and carry in themselves the imprint of what they were and what they will be. Keredwen teaches us the mysteries of the neverending life cycles, the secrets of Transformation, she whispers in our minds what can be heard in the darkness of the Cave, in winter harshness, when we immerse ourselves in her cauldron down to the centre of ourselves, between tears and life, between light and darkness.

The witch is present at once in mythologies worldwide: Death and the secrets she keeps have from time immemorial drawn mankind’s attention towards the Great Initiatoress, the  inescapability               of our mortal fate.

In the Greek and Roman pantheon, we find Hecate, the Dark Lady of the Crossroads, the painful turning-points of our lives. She is usually in the company of dogs, animals associated with death as Guardians of the Door, psychopomps guiding the soul’s journey to the Otherworld as the well-known Anubis in Ancient Egypt.

In Egypt we find the Great Isis who puts back together the body parts of her slaughtered husband and gives him new life.

In Scandinavian mythology we have old Hel who reigns in the Underworld.

In Mexico we find the ‘Loba’, the she-wolf, who gathers the bones of the dead and breathes life back into them in her cave. Bones are considered a widespread magical  and symbolical element as they represent what remains of the individual and cannot be destroyed, a tangible sign that something stays on, that the Grim Reaper does not reap everything. It is out of bones that we start building ourselves up again every time we turn the page and open a new chapter in our lives. Cyclically we  face our inner darkness once again, like the Loba we enter our personal cave to pull back together our own torn up parts.

The Celtic myth which tells about Keredwen at length can be found in the Hanes Taliesin, a medieval Welsh poem, first translated by Lady Guest at the end of 1800 and included in the same collection together with the 4 branches of the Mabinogion.

The legend tells that Keredwen had two children:

The beautiful Creidwy and the very ugly Afaggdu. In order to give to the latter the knowledge of all things in the world an to compensate his deformity, the goddess brewed a magic potion that had to be stirred for a year and a day in her cauldron. When Keredwen had to absent herself, she asked the young Gwion to stir the potion in her place. One day Gwion burned his finger with three drops of the hot liquid and, by raising his finger to his mouth, he received all the knowledge meant for Afaggdu. Afraid of the wrath of the Goddess, Gwion ran away turning into a hare, a salmon, a wren, and eventually a grain of corn. Keredwen chased him in the form of  greyhound, then of otter and eventually of hen. In this latter form, she swallowed poor Gwion and, nine months later, gave birth to a son, who was destined to become the great Bard Taliesin. As he had conquered Knowledge at the price of toil, suffering, transformation and death. In the Goddess’ womb he had learnt the price and the responsibility that knowledge entails.

Keredwen goes on calling her daughters through the centuries, as even though life does not present most of us with the rigours of long ago, death and suffering remain constant phantoms in our life. Keredwen teaches us the courage of transformation, which is suffering and rebirth at the same time: everything passes by and resisting the flow is  pointless, the lady of death and rebirth urges us to carry on with courage. Only if we are brave enough to look at her in the face and hold her gaze will we find the reflection of what we really are.



Traduzione a cura di Abigail_derwen


© Ynis Afallach Tuath, 2008/2009
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