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Ceridwen And Gwion_ (_gwiawn_) _bach's Transformation


Source: Welsh Folk-lore

But a striking instance of rapid transition from one form to another is
given in the Mabinogion. The fable of Ceridwen's cauldron is as

Ceridwen was the wife of Tegid Voel. They had a son named Morvran,
and a daughter named Creirwy, and she was the most beautiful girl in
the world, and they had another son named Avagddu, the ugliest man in
the world. Ceridwen, seeing that he should not be received amongst
gentlemen because of his ugliness, unless he should be possessed of
some excellent knowledge or strength . . . . ordered a cauldron to
be boiled of knowledge and inspiration for her son. The cauldron was
to be boiled unceasingly for one year and a day until there should be
in it three blessed drops of the spirit's grace.

These three drops fell on the finger of Gwion Bach of Llanfair
Caereinion in Powis, whom she ordered to attend to the cauldron. The
drops were so hot that Gwion Bach put his finger to his mouth; no
sooner done, than he came to know all things. Now he transformed
himself into a hare, and ran away from the wrath of Ceridwen. She
also transformed herself into a greyhound, and went after him to
the side of a river. Gwion on this jumped into the river and
transformed himself into a fish. She also transformed herself into
an otter-bitch, and chased him under the water until he was fain to
turn himself into a bird of the air; she, as a hawk, followed him,
and gave him no rest in the sky. And just as she was about to swoop
upon him, and he was in fear of death, he espied a heap of winnowed
wheat on the floor of a barn, and he dropped among the wheat and
buried himself into one of the grains. Then she transformed herself
into a high-crested black hen, and went to the wheat and scratched it
with her feet, and found him and swallowed him.

The tale of Ceridwen, whose fame was such that she can without
exaggeration be styled the goddess of witches, resembles in part the
chase of the witch-hare by the black dog, and probably her story gave
rise to many tales of transformations.

I now come to another kind of transformation. It was believed by the
aged in Wales that witches could not only turn themselves into hares, but
that by incantation they could change other people into animals. My
friend, the Rev. T. Lloyd Williams, Wrexham, lodged whilst he was at
Ystrad Meurig School with a Mrs. Jones, Dolfawr, who was a firm believer
in Rhibo or Rheibo, or witching, and this lady told my friend the
following tales of Betty'r Bont, a celebrated witch in those parts.

Next: A Man Turned Into A Hare

Previous: Early Reference To Witches Turning Themselves Into Hares

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