(From Watkins’ Mind Body Spirit magazine, issue 33, Spring 2013)
Myths and legends are the foundations of traditions and religions; they arise from the heart of mankind in an attempt to make sense of the world and his place within it. According to the mythologist Joseph Campbell they are “The organisation of images metaphoric of experience, action and fulfilment of the human spirit in the field of a given culture at a given time” (A Joseph Campbell Companion, Harper Collins, 1991). Myths and legends are indicative of our journey in search of truth, to find meaning in life and living and we find them in every single culture on earth. Without exception, every religious movement and tradition has a series of myths or legends that caused their formation and initiated its followers to seek further, to delve into the hidden heart of mystery in search of truth.
Myths do not teach us the meaning of life; instead they provide us with keys to experiencing it with lucidity, to be present, to be fully here. The archetypes of myth and legend are born from the cauldron of mystery and are representative of our greatest spiritual ideals, they act as allies that guide us to understand and know the spiritual potential of being human, of total immersion in life and the mysteries of the spirit. Humans crave mythology, and one could argue that we are continuously creating new and applicable mythologies by means of our modern multimedia technologies. But the old myths of mud and blood continue to sing from the land, whispering to those who would stop and listen to their wisdom. We may look elsewhere to distant cultures and shores for inspiration, for seeds of truth that hide within a tale, and this exploration may well bring deep magic and wisdom to the seeker, but what of the voices of our own land – the ancient myths of Britain?
I wrote “From the Cauldron Born: Exploring the magic of Welsh Legend and Lore” to fulfil my own desire to find meaning in the old tales of Britain, and although the myths are identified as Welsh, this can be misleading, for they are older than the people of Wales and belong to the island of Britain as a whole. They are the myths and legends of the Celts, an enigmatic culture that continues to this day, and one which captures the heart of magic in its repertoire of mythology. But to assume that these myths belong only to the Welsh would be foolhardy. They are also your songs, the songs of this ancient land.
The legends and mythologies of the Celts are steeped in mystery, and may at first appear to be beyond any form of comprehension; many have lost their way in the Celtic forests of metaphor and secrets and turned towards clearer paths with established teachings. But we are not without guides; for the mythologies themselves act as our teachers and lead us deeper into the groves of wisdom that continue to sing from the landscape of Britain.
At the heart of Celtic myth stands the cauldron, a vessel which embodies the spirit of mystery; it is protected by ancient and powerful archetypes, nine maidens who kindle the fires beneath it with their breaths, and a goddess who epitomises the transformative and inspirational quality of the Celtic mysteries. The mysteries which they guard are not relics of an ancient forgotten time; they are as relevant today as they were to our Celtic ancestors of the deep past. The survival of the myths and legends of the Celts stands as testament to their relevance. Nothing is truly lost, forgotten for a while perhaps, but the power of myth to transform and bring meaning to the experience of life transcends diversity and the changes that happen to society.
The new pagan traditions invoke these myths and take meaning from them in a manner which causes the seeker to taste the experience of living in a way that transforms him. The myths of the Celts – captured and transmitted by the Welsh – embody the timeless wisdom of the spirit, and teach us how to be fully present, to know ourselves and our place in the world, to sense the origin of the soul and express that in a manner which inspires others.
The witch-goddess Cerridwen tends the cauldron, it is your cauldron! Dare you approach it and drink the magic of Celtic myth and legend? Let me show you how…
Kristoffer Hughes was born in the mountains of Snowdonia. He is the current head of the Anglesey Druid Order, a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and a Mount Haemus Scholar. He is a frequent guest speaker at conferences and camps throughout the UK and the USA. He works professionally for Her Majesty’s Coroner.