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Awen and 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).

It consists of the three rays of the Sun. I have seen two completely different explanations for its form. One says that at the time of the midsummer sunrise, the sun casts three spreading rays of light, the Awen, which open the gates of Annwyn, the doorway to the Otherworld.

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.

The origins of Awen

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.

 

 

Working with Awen, the inspiration of the Sun

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

  • Draw your Awen in sand, earth or soil or create one out of seeds, nuts or twigs and surround it with a circle to focus and concentrate the power.

  • Alternatively, as I have done, create one out of small stones or shells in your garden and surround it with an enclosing circle of stones. Work in sunlight when you can so the circle is filled with light and the pebbles gleam (you could of course use glass nuggets) When it snows the sun will melt away the whiteness leaving the symbol intact.

  • Indoors, you can create a miniature one from clay or on paper or create one with tiny quartz and citrine crystals to catch the sunlight, using Perspex rainbows and sun catchers at the windows if necessary amplified by golden candles.

  • Stand or sit facing South at the point where the three sunbeams converge. Work at the brightest part of the day, visualising brilliance if the day or season is dark.

  • Visualise one of the beautiful Celtic Sun or Fire Goddesses haloed around the Sun (remember Brighid hanging her cloak on the Sun Wheel?). Visualise Cerridwen directly ahead of you, stirring a cauldron of pure gold whose essence radiates as a rich rivulet of liquid gold around your circle. Feel also the golden soil of the Earth Mothers warming you beneath, heated by the molten volcanic forces, the Sun beneath the surface of the world

  • Breathe in the golden light through your nose, slowly and gently, exhaling darkness until you create a steady continuous rhythm and are no longer aware of your breathing but only the inflow of light from all around you, above and beneath and around into every pore.

  • As you continue breathing, visualise the light upwards, from your toes right to the tips of you fingers, downwards through the crown of your head, inwards like a rushing waterfall of light, in which up is down, in is out and you are the Light.

  • Begin your call ‘Awen’, at first low and slowly and then higher and with greater intensity but maintaining a comfortable pitch so you do not tip over and lose the sense of control and stillness within the cascading light water.

  • Continue until you can see light radiating from within you and you are connected with the source of power and inspiration.

  • Hold the moment when you feel totally at one with solar power and then allow the Awens to slowly fade and become slower until they are no more than a whisper and at last return to the heart of stillness and silence.

  • Make a sign, perhaps the Awen, in the palm of your hand, knowing that if you are far from home or anxious you can recall your sun circle and become once more connected to the light.

  • If as you work through this ritual you place beside you or hold a clear quartz crystal or citrine within the circle it will become empowered and you can paint on it in gold after the ritual the Awen symbol to keep you powerful and protected.

  • Allow the radiance also to fade slowly knowing it is always with you though unseen, for you are a daughter or Son of the light.

  • Thank the Sun Goddess and wise Cerridwen who has watched over you while you work and she may reward you with a few words of inspiration or a creative surge that can be manifest in your life

  • If your Awen is only a temporary one, one erase it or if permanent bury a small offering such as a crystal or a few herbs close to the sign.

Awen , inspiration and your life

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.

An Awen ritual, opening the doorway

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.

  • Begin once more by creating your Awen within a circle. This time draw the three drops of inspiration falling into it. On the first (from the left) Awen ray put a dish of sun herbs, bay, juniper, rosemary, sagebrush (American or Australian broad –leafed sage), saffron, St John’s Wort.

  • On the second Awen ray, set a golden candle, beeswax if possible, have it in a broad-based holder or on a small metal tray for safety.

  • On the third sun ray place a tiny gold-coloured or clear glass dish of sun water. If you work about noon, the ideal time, you could have left your sun water within the Awen circle to gather power from dawn; on each of the three drops of inspiration set a round crystal quartz.

  • Sit within the circle in front of the Awen facing South and the three drops of inspiration are furthest from you.

  • Begin by carrying out the earlier ritual to fill yourself with radiance, but this time as you slow your Awens, maintain the vision of the radiance.

  • Take a few grains of sun herbs and drop them into the candle flame, saying ‘Awen, ever flowing stream, I bring sun to your sun. Grant me, I ask, one drop of your sacred inspiration to flow within me, brewed in the cauldron of the Mother.’

  •  Dipping the index finger of your power hand into the Sun water, drink a single drop and. Say: ‘Blessings be.’

  • Repeat for the second and third drops, each time burning a few grains of herb and asking for inspiration, drinking the single drop and giving thanks.

  • After the third drop, after ‘Blessings be’, add: ‘Thus do I approach the doorway into light. I ask that I may see within what is right for me to know. I put my faith in the Sun.’

  • Focus on the three crystals and allow them to merge with the Awen symbol that will glisten pure gold and expand into a gold and crystalline doorway that will slowly open revealing golden light.

  • Blink and as you open your eyes you will see perhaps a single image framed against the radiance before it closes.

  • Now in turn, take each of the crystal drops and cast them into the sun water, asking for each an area of your life in which you need, creativity, inspiration or fertility. You may hear words in your head or see a sudden image in the water that will make sense in your dreams that night or during quiet reveries. Accept whatever you are given as a blessing.

  • Sit quietly and when you are ready, blow out the candle, sending love and light to anyone you know who is sick or distressed.

  • If your Awen is only temporary, as before erase it. But before you do so, bury the three crystals and the remaining herbs near the centre. If it is a permanent garden Awen, pour the rest of the sun water on it to purify it and again bury your offerings.

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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