On many occasions I am asked to give the meaning of a place or name.  Here is an example which may demonstrate my approach in these matters.  Kerridwen, like so many other names, presents a plethora of problems.  Usually I can get to the roots of these in Middle Welsh but this name proved a trifle more difficult.

Starting with the ending, we find 'wen' meaning 'white', i.e. she is the White Lady or a Lady from Faery.  We see a similar descriptor or personage in the Faery Queen who abducts Tam Lin.

The 'kerrid' portion is very nebulous.

   
Let us now examine 'ker' or 'ger'.  This is where the mutation of letters can complicate tracing a root - e.g. a 'k' changing to a 'g' or an 'm' to an 'f' after the definite article or various prepositions.  'Ker' can mean near, by (of place) and before/beside which I feel helps very little. This would leave us with the second syllable 'rid or 'ryd' which has no meaning at all.

On examining the double syllable 'cerydd', we find the meaning ‘correction’, ‘rebuke’ or ‘censure’ which also has little bearing in the legend of the lady.

There is, however, a more obscure word 'cerdd' which may be a contraction and which means art, music or poetry.  Now this is a strong possibility as Kerridwen prepared in her pair (cauldron) a draught of awen (inspiration) which imparted the gift of inspiration to any who partook of it.

 

It was designed to give her ugly son Afagddu great artistic ability but which gave Gwion, who imbibed by accident, the gift of all knowledge.

So here I feel we may have touched on the derivation of the name - cerd(d) + wen = the White or Faery Lady who is the giver of inspiration i.e. the muse of the artist or mystic.  And remember that she was venerated by the druids of Eryri (Snowdon) who were the artists of their day - bards, seers, musicians etc.

 
'Cerddwen' would have been be a little difficult to pronounce and could conceivably have evolved into Cerdwen then ceridwen - the 'i' assisting the flow of syllables.  (When two consonants are juxtaposed thus, an unwritten vowel is placed between.  E.g.:- ‘readr’ (waterfall) which is pronounced ‘reader’ or ‘readir’.  Annwfn is yet another example.

Lastly, remember that the letter ‘k’ took predominance over the ‘c’ in Middle Welsh – hence Kerridwen.  (The double ‘r’ I am unable unfortunately to explain – perhaps a further subtle change which ‘cerd’ or ‘cerdd’ sustained.)

So there you have an interpretation which is solely mine - possibly another could come up with an equally valid etymology of the lady’s name.

 
As inspiration is a process which affects the mind (the airy realm of Penarddun, the Moon Goddess) we find Kerridwen associated with air as her ‘car’ or chariot was pulled through the skies or airy realms above Eryri (Snowdon) by the ‘dragons of Beleu Mawr’. 

This gives her a tenuous link with the pantheon of Dôn and Beleu.


Snowdon summit
 
Being, therefore, the giver of inspiration (the infusion of Spirit into the conscious via the unconscious) she could perhaps be looked on as but a finger of the Great Cosmic Goddess or Spirit (Dôn) which reaches out to stir i.e. awaken the human mind to creativity all to Her honour.

Note:-

Although no mention is made in legend to her origin, we know she married Tegid Voel and mothered three children: Creirwy, Morfa and Taliesin (who was ingested by her and reborn).  Vide the Legend of Kerridwen.

In her myth she also shape-shifted into a hound, an otter, a hawk and finally a hen in her vengeful pursuit of  Gwyion bach.

Her totem animal, the white sow, demonstrates Kerridwen's aspect as shape shifter. The great bard Taliesin also accredits his magic talents to her.  Kerridwen is 'The Old White One', a Sow-goddess who travelled the country distributing gifts of grain, bees and her own young, as the flesh of the pig was preferred to meat.  (The stealing of y mochen from Pryderi by Gwydyon in the Legend of Math confirms this fact.)

So in addition to Kerridwen, the White or Faery Lady who is the giver of inspiration, we may add the epithets of death, fertility & regeneration, owing to Her consuming Gwyion, Her conception of him anew and his regeneration as the reborm Gwyion or Taliesin.

 


The Circle of Divinity
Domain of The Unmanifest

This is a more recent exercise in the derivation of a name.

"Ceu" in all Welsh words denotes a hollowing out, so -
 

  • ceubren   = hollow tree
  • ceubwll   = pit
  • ceudod    = cavity
  • ceufad     = canoe
  • ceuffordd = tunnel
'Gant' is the mutation of "cant" meaning a ring.   Cant (ring) becomes Y Gant (the ring)

So Ceugant would seem to point to an unbroken continuum (ring) in the substance of which there is nothing (i.e. 'no thing' as a Buddhist might say) or. in the parlance of Neometaphysics, "aware nothingness".

The meaning we arrive at is an unbroken (timeless?) abstraction or Unmanifest Infinite Divinity.


 
Llanbedr Y Cennin

This is a small village in North Wales on the western side of Conwy Valley.  The village lies on the eastern edge of the Snowdonia National Park and above the village is the Iron Age fort of Pen y Gaer.

What is the importance of Llanbedr?

'Llan' means 'church'.  'Bedr means 'Peter'.   We now have 'church of Peter' or the 'holy place of Peter'.  Peter in Christianity held the keys of heaven and hell and was, therefore the 'gate-keeper of the mysteries'.

Now we have the expression 'holy place of the keeper of the mysteries' for Llanbedr.

What about 'Y Cennin'?   'Cennin' is a plural noun meaning 'leeks' - a symbol of Wales.

The whole name - Llanbedr Y Cennin, then, means ' Holy place of the keeper of the mysteries of The Leeks', i.e. Holy place of the keeper of the Welsh Mysteries.

And the keeper of the Mysteries of North Wales was Math fab Mathonwy, Yr Arglwyg Tyghet - The Lord of Fate/Destiny.

The peak of the mountain above Llanbedr is reputed to be Kaer Dathyl, the seat of Math, lord over Gwynedd.   I remember one visit to Llanbedr, in the late 60s or early 70s, when chatting with a local inhabitant in Ye Olde Bull Inn, the village hostelry, and asking him: "Was there ever a castle on Pen Y Gaer?"   "Oh no!" Said he.

"Then", said I, "Why is it described as "Y Gaer - the castle?"    "Oh, I don't know see", said he in a very puzzled manner.

Such is the lack of knowledge of local topography at times in Wales.   Much has been lost.  Probably this fellow had heard of the name 'Mabinogion' but had never read it.   Is it any wonder that the Christian Methodist heritage encourages hundreds of supporters at a rugby match to sing "Guide me, O thou great Jehovah" like good little ersazt Jews instead of "Men of Harlech" or Captain Morgan's March'!  Thank goodness The Welsh Folk Song Society was founded in time to rescue most of the Welsh heritage in song before Methodist hymn-singing in the chapels had obliterated it.


Pen Y Gaer from the air showing an extensive 
defensive arrangement of stones. 

One more short tale which I cannot explain and I leave the reader to decide the importance of it.  The very first time I ventured to the summit of Pen y Gaer in the 1960s, the mid-afternoon was somewhat misty.  On reaching the common ground atop the Pen, I could have taken the left or right path but the summit was obscured by now by a heavy mist.  What was I to do?  My mind was shouting in desperation "Right or left?!"

At that point, the mist lifted for about two to three minutes and a white horse - stallion or mare I still cannot tell, appeared on the left, the summit of Pen Y Gaer and started down a winding path by a few yards.  It stopped, seemed to glare down at me then turned to continue back up hill until it vanished.  "Dammit", thought I, "The bugger's showing me the way!" and up I went via the same path the horse had trod.

Now by the end of the week I decided to revisit Pen Y Gaer in a fine summer evening - a complete reversal of the weather conditions of the previous visit. There by chance on the common ground near the summit, I met the Head Teacher of Tal-y-bont Primary school in the Conwy Valley, near the villages of Llanbedr & Dolgarrog, and told him of my experience a few days before.

His remark astounded me.  "No horses up here - plenty hill sheep as you can see but no horses.  Never have been and never will be."  As he appeared to have no mystical turn of mind, I did not pursue the matter further or indeed raise the subject of Kaer Dathyl.  But I still wonder - who or what led me to the summit that misty afternoon?


Ye Olde Bull Inn, Llanbedr y Cennin.


Gareth on the summit of Pen y Gaer in 1975.

Another inset here - two friends of many decades who are Alexandrian Wiccans and who know of my system of worship and travels in Wales decided to take a  holiday in North Wales in 2011 or 2012.  Although having been told of how to reach Pen y Gaer, they never took the trouble to visit this important Keltic site but were quite happy to sit in the local hostelry at Rowen, which is but two miles away, and as Burns would have said "getting fou and unco happy!"

Which again demonstrates the lack of willingness in Wiccans to learn
anything new or experience anything different.  Nor am I perturbed
that our intrepid duo may read this, as the admission of visiting this 
website I know full well would surely stick in their throats!


Y Ty Gwyn (House of Gwyn)
public house in Rowen.

                   .. 
Farewell Arianrhod
     
,,

Hello Aranrot

  .

ARIANRHOD is usually translated via the Modern Welsh as 'arian' meaning 'silver' and 'rhod' meaning 'a wheel'.  This has led many erroneous conclusions that she is the Moon Goddess and, as we know, Penarddun is the Keltic Moon Goddess without doubt.

Graves vaguely refers to her as a triple goddess while Squire, Ross and all others perpetuate the mistake by regurgitating the 'silver wheel' translation.

Let us for a moment review the validity of this translation, keeping in mind that the adjective in Welsh follows the noun it qualifies.  The name or phrase, then, would logically appear as 'wheel of silver' or 'wheel the silver'- 'of' being redundant in Welsh.  Her name would be, therefore, 'Rhod arian' or 'Rhod yr arian' (Rod aryant in Middle Welsh) which is not the case.  This should lay the ghost of this erroneous derivation once and for all.

One must, however, return to the Old/Middle Welsh form of her name which was 'Aranrot'. We read in Ifor Williams' 'Pedeir Keinc y Mabinogi' (Caerdydd 1930): 

  1. "a dyvot y drws porth Caer Aranrot, ef a'r mab yn y llong" - "and came to the entrance of the gate of Caer Aranrot, he and the boy and the ship". 
  2.  
  3. "Cyrcha Aranrot ferch Dôn dy nith, merch dy chwaer" - "seek Aranrot, the daughter of Dôn, thy niece, thy sister's daughter". 
  4.  
  5. "Hwythau a ddaeth at Math mab Mathonwy, a chwyno'n ddicllon am rwystrau Aranrot a wnaethant" - "They went thereupon unto Math the son of Mathonwy, and complained unto him most bitterly of Aranrot".
These are but three examples from many of the original form of the name in elder texts in the original language.

Now, when we see the Middle Welsh 'aran' meaning 'hill' and 'rot' meaning 'circular', we arrive at the 'round hill' as the correct translation and round hills always represented the pregnant belly or breasts of the Earth Goddess (vide The Paps of [Goddess] Anu - twin hills in County Derry in Ireland, Silbury Hill in England and many more).


Silbury Hill

She is without doubt the Earth Goddess and mate of the Sun God Gwydion to whom she bears twin sons in the myth.
                  

Copyright ©  Gareth Pengwerin 

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