Preiddeu Annwfyn stanza two.
The second stanza begins with the poet declaring how much he is praised, and although at first sight it seems a rather boastful introduction, it is the work of ‘one of the cynfeiredd, or “first poets”’. (Matthews) It was by poetry and song that one gains immortality in this world, travelling the centuries, not be forgotten; we only need to think of Shakespeare to see how true that can be. Taliesin the poet and our guide, was not only alluded to by many other Welsh medieval poets; but his fame carries on down till our present time, as our examination bears witness.
Into the revolving fortress
The ‘Four-square fort’ which in turn revolves four times, appears to be the source of the song. According to Matthews a revolving fort is not an isolated phenomenon, it appears that Cú Rói Mac Daire’s fort revolves every night after dark, so that no one can ‘find the gateway the next day’. A place that not all could enter is a fitting place for our guide to be placed, of course to join him we too need to find the way in. We need all the awareness our faculties can muster as nothing remains the same for very long.
Its revolving four times could, be, as suggested by Matthews, the four seasons, or perhaps time itself as the stars move across the sky returning to the beginning, and revolving again. However, Matthews also points to something I find very interesting in relation to the turning, which is to consider the image of the mill. ‘Mills and turning towers fulfil the purpose of processing whatever is within them, and they often appear in Celtic myth as a place of assimilation or of after-death purgatorial refinement.’ So let’s for now look to the castle as a mill-like revolving fortress, which over time changes those within. Not everyone can get into this place as the way in changes frequently. No one can tell someone else how to get there, one has to get there on one’s own; however we can say, ‘look over there’.
Isn't it interesting that we now as we approach our second leg of the journey we have the numbers 1, (in the journey) which is 7 (of those who return) 3(in the ship loads) and now 4 in the castle and it’s revolutions.
For our present purpose; although the number 4 can have many meanings, we can see the four as the stations of death on the way to re-birth. We begin at the summer solstice, with the young king who surrenders his life. The next revolution; the place of the first harvest; the compass mill, oh how it turns. The next castle is in the land under the sea, and the fourth turn will takes us toward the castle of the underworld. All these castles are part of the greater mill or revolving castle, which turn within turns, we are just about to turn again.
And what of the Cauldron?
However to many the most outstanding portion of this stanza relates to the cauldron; this is no ordinary kitchen cauldron , and as we can see looking to the footnotes of the Higley where famed Cauldrons are noted. The Cauldron of Cerridwen , the source of Gwion Bach’s transformation; the Cauldron owned by Matholwch, King of Ireland, which brought slain warriors back to life, a battle in which none but 7 returned discussed in relation to the first stanza.
Now we have a Cauldron from which the drops of inspiration come, and from whence the “foremost utterance”; those original words of inspiration arise; however this Cauldron when in the wrong hands wreaks havoc, and eventually warranted destruction.
What is the nature of this cauldron? It is interesting to look for a moment to the words of Evan John Jones in The Star Crossed Serpent p62 linking the cauldron to the chalice. ‘The cup or chalice as a sacred vessel has many esoteric connections with the Divine Feminine. Symbolising the Mother’s Womb, it is the Cauldron of Inspiration, the magic vessel of several Northern European myths found within the halls of the Castle of the Pale Faced Goddess. Traditionally guarded by Nine Maidens (sometimes seven), it seethes with wisdom of all ages. But to gain this knowledge we must succumb to gestation trials within the shelter of the womb, followed by the birthing trauma both on physical and spiritual levels.’
So we have a cauldron which can give birth to our desires, which can be wisdom for the mystery seekers, inspiration for the poets, and death for the dealers in carnage, however we still need courage to get to it.
Who warms the cauldron?
As has been hinted at in the words of Evan John Jones, it is by the breath of nine maidens that the cauldron is warmed. These Nine maidens become very intriguing, and nine is a an interesting number in itself, but I can’t help be drawn to the Nine who according Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Vita Merlini, who dwelt on the Isle of Avalon. These sisters appear to be three times three as Morgen, (not yet of le Fay fame) Moronoe, Mazoe; Glitzen, Glitonea, Gliton; Tyronoe, Thiten and Thilton, this is a topic in itself worth exploration.
Matthews adds something interesting to the pot, ‘Breath was considered to be akin to the power of the soul, able to give life. Absence of breath was death. Isadore of Seville’s Etymologies, a source familiar to the composer of the Preiddeu Annwyfn, tells us ‘Soul (anima) takes its name for the pagans, on the assumption that it is wind – hence wind is called animos in Greek, because we tend to stay alive by drawing air into the mouth.’
Inspiration is kindled by the breath, wind, or animos of nine, or three times three. Staying with the number nine, we will look in greater depth at a later stage how our nine knots, kindled by the wind, can warm the cauldron.
It is easy to become aware of other nines of significance, one such nine comes to mind as the nine hazels growing over the Well of Segais, dropping the nuts of wisdom into the well, which the salmon then ate and became marked; these nine again are the guardians of wisdom.
Whose Cauldron is it?
Back to the cauldron, the object of our quest; it appears that the Cauldron belongs to the King of the underworld, its rich adornment defines its regal stature. This also shines a light on the point that ‘it will not boil the coward’s portion.’ As we know from tales of old, the hero’s portion was the best part, saved for the King or Queens champion. So this Cauldron is of royal status, and will only feed those brave enough to be one of the champions and are then invited along to dine at the King’s table.
Who takes the Cauldron?
To find the identity of those mentioned in the next two lines we need to look elsewhere.
First we see ‘The sword of Lleawc’ which may refer to the qualities of the sword rather than a person of that name. The name of this sword, according to Loomis in the footnotes to the Higley text points to ‘two separate adjectives, “flashing” and “death dealing” or “lightning and slaughter”, Graves calls this sword, ‘bright’ ‘flashing’. This makes sense when we take into account that in many tales of Arthur, swords were given names, especially those owned by the King himself. So this particular sword was not just any old sword, but one of fame (like Excalibur).
Now this sword is wielded by the hand of Lleminawc. Even though we cannot be sure of the identity of this person, it is worth considering that a certain, Llwch Llawwynnyawc, or ‘windy hand’, also called Llenlleawc or Llen Lleawc is mentioned in the tale of Culhwch and Olwen as a warrior amongst Arthur’s men who kills a Giant Dwrnach with Arthur’s sword, to enable the theft of the Cauldron. There does appears to be a significant link between sword and wielder, and it becomes easy to see how a sword, in the hand of a skilled warrior, one who has the right to the food from the cauldron, becomes one in intent and action.
However, trying to name the person who stole the cauldron may be a bit of a lapwing. And we need to take on board the suggestion that there may be scribal errors in this section of the poem as to the identity of the person with the sword. Understandably, when one considers there was no standard spelling in that era, confusion as to spelling may result. So let us not get too caught up with identity of this person at present, but look at what this passage reveals.
Interesting to note that-
According to Matthews’ the name Lleminawc means ‘leaper’ which was a title given to ‘Mab Darogan (son of destiny), the messianic Welsh leader who would one day overcome the English yoke.’ Higley points to Haycock, who suggests that the ‘leaping one’ ‘may be another epithet for Arthur’, if not specifically, it appears to point to a great leader, one who has to power to release those in captivity.
To recapitulate, many went with Arthur ‘to the harrowing’, but none but seven returned from Caer Feddwit; (Matthews translation) the castle of mead drunkenness. Therefore it does appear, from what we have just considered, that Taliesin the poet, in his condition of inspiration; is with Arthur. They have the cauldron which was gained by wielding an otherworldly sword, within the halls of the underworld.
As with any successful raid, then follows a celebration, as this fort or Caer is the fortress of mead drunkenness, or to broaden the term, ‘intoxication’. Who can keep their wits about them from the feasting hall of the king of the underworld? Only the seven are able to return.