AWEN & THE SUN
If you attend or watch a public Druidic ceremony, you will hear those assembled and maybe be asked to join in calling nine Awens. Rather like the Buddhist mantra AUM, this is the Druidic name for the life and inspirational force of generation behind the universe that is linked with the Sun. Some Druid/esses identify this as the sound that called forth creation. Books will tell you that this is pronounced AAH-oo-en, or AAH-oo Wen, as three equally weighted syllables as a monotone. But, in practice, when you have a lot of people calling Awen in the dusk or early dawn light, the sounds merge so that it becomes more like the sound of the sea, of wind rippling through plains of corn or the call of the birds going home at night, especially if it is called on a rising note.
So practise calling Awens, three, six or nine in monotones. Then as though you were ascending or descending scales, sing in a cave, a tunnel, in dense woodland in a valley of rocks or an old quarry and let the echoes swell your voice. Sing it as you walk, dance it in your grove, swim it through water and so the sound will become a part of you, like Aum, a creative sound that fills you with power and certainty and you no longer worry you are saying it correctly.
Awen is also a symbol drawn by Druidesses and Druids as a way of invoking and sending blessings (it is popular at the end of Druidic e-mails and can easily and legally be downloaded by right-clicking on the image and select "save as" for non commercial purposes).
The other view is that they represent the points at which the Sun rises on the equinoxes and solstices, that is due east at the time of the equinoxes, as represented by the central bar of the Awen.
A the time of the Summer and Winter Solstices the sun rises in the east-north-east and the east-south-east respectively, these would form the bars on either side.
An Awen turned to face the East shows the direction of the winter and summer solstice sunrises.
Though the Awen sign is itself not ancient, the formation of the three sunrises was marked by three stones outside a number of stone circles.
While the concept of Awen and its solar connections are popularly regarded as Revivalist, rather than an ancient Celtic symbol, some Druidessess and Druids do believe that Awen, translated as flowing spirit, may be an ancient concept that was Christianised. They point to such examples as tales of the sixth century bard Taliesin (although these tales were recorded centuries later) who claimed to have received three drops of Awen that splashed from the Cauldron of Cerridwen and these three drops are depicted in some symbols of Awen, falling from the sky.
Of course, if Awen does come from the Cauldron of Cerridwen then this solar power is female-inspired and directed and the solar connection is that it is brewed from herbs and flowers that grow in the sun. It represents a rebirth into light, such as the boy Gwion experienced when he was swallowed in the form of a grain by Cerridwen in the shape of a hen and was reborn from her womb as the bard/magician Taliesin nine months later. Gwion, foster son of Cerridwen, was stirring the cauldron at the time and claimed that three drops of inspiration splashed on his fingers accidentally, an explanation not accepted by the irate Cerridwen who pursued him in animal different forms in what has become a classic example of shapeshifting.
This Awen or inspiration was, as I mentioned earlier, endowed by women priestesss/Druidesses at early Druid initiations, for example at Pentre Ifan in Pembrokeshire. Initiates would remain in total darkness for several days awaiting rebirth.
Here, nine virgin piriestesses/Druidesses would stir and breathe the pure life force on a cauldron in which a sun brew of barley, flowers, herbs and sea foam was created. The would-be Bards each drank three drops to represent Gwion’s three drops of inspiration that he stole from the cauldron and the rest was poured away to symbolise cast the former life of the initiate
This may originally have been a solar goddess ceremony and may predate the Druid tradition and the three bars may have represented the triple or three aspected Goddess Brighid, Goddess of the Sun and of Fire.
The rays are sometimes positioned within the centre of a Triple Circle to represent the Three Celtic realms, Earth, Sea and Sky or the circles of existence and the passage of the soul or simply enclosed in a circle.
All this is pretty exciting – gateways of light into other realms and absorbing drops of inspiration or liquid light, distilled from the Sun at its times of power and brewed in the cauldron of Cerridwen.
So before we continue further into the philosophical and inspirational aspects of Awen let us make and use this sun symbol to access that doorway and absorb the power of the sun into our lives, winter or summer
There are numerous ways of obtaining the inspiration of Awen. As you learn more about Druidry, you may find that your spiritual and psychic awareness spontaneously evolve. As your words become more measured and less impetuous and situation driven, so they are wiser and in times of quietness, may even assume a prophetic ring. This may seem frightening, but it is a natural development.
So, too, may you find creativity in all its forms permeating even seemingly mundane aspects of your life, filling them with beauty and meaning for yourself and those with whom you come into contact.
To the modern Druidess, especially one whose definition of inspiration may be less tinged with aspirations towards mediaeval bardship (and mercifully less inclined to keep people sitting on a freezing hillside listening to her poetic renditions) the flowing life force may assume more practical applications. The trend is spreading throughout Druidry despite pockets of resistance, that it is a living faith, as much at home in the workplace and the shopping mall as in a grove or stone circle. It is seen as more important to practise than to preach. So the Celtic solar goddesses Sulis, Aine and Grainne actually walked the fields and hilltops in their summer finery, not only indicating the time of harvest but helping, no doubt to cheer a tired worker or soothe a crying baby. Then in the celebrations of harvest home leading the processions, they bound their spirit into the corn maiden created from the last sheaf.
Your Awen inspiration can prompt a period of channelled activity. This may involve problem solving and creative decision-making, or channelling and developing healing powers to bring peace and reconciliation to colleagues, neighbours and even stressed strangers. You may paint rooms and houses as well as pictures to brighten the lives of others and yourself. Digging, planting and weeding gardens or window boxes and nurturing new plant life can be an act of Druidic faith as can singing fretful children to sleep. Sculpting or putting up shelves, really caring about providing after school centres for children, preserving areas of wildlife from developers by peaceful but determined effort, all help to spread praise and positivity in a negative, cynical world.
However, there are times for personal ceremonial when inspiration is needed on the very deepest of levels, perhaps because an unexpected setback has shaken the roots of your confidence. We know the doorway is there in the Awen and so there may be times when we wish to look through it, though we may not choose to pass.
Over the months you may look for longer into the doorway and you may wish to stand in the entrance. You need not be afraid that you will be carried off psychically into the Otherworld and from the doorway you will see only light and beauty, in time you may have glimpses of your own unique vision of the Otherworld, what constitutes for each individual eternal happiness and peace.
The Celtc Druid/esses and their priestess forebears lived much closer to nature and could move from dimension to dimension as easily as we pass into the next room. Druidesses and Druids today have usually had to choose the earthly path. We have no communities to support us or free access throughout our physical world without danger from other tribes. So until we begin our own special final journey into eternity, we may have to be content with precious glimpses that fill us with confidence that our souls are immortal and that this is only the first part or a forgetful staging post of our voyage through many lifetimes into the lands of radiance.
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