The magically born child of Cerridwen,
who lived in Penllyn with her husband Tegid Voel and with her children, who number either two or three, the former number
being most usual. These children were the fairest maiden in all the world - Creirwy - and the most ugly and disadvantaged
man ever to have been born - Afagddu. Some sources name a third son, Morfran Ab Tegid, but it is usually thought that he and
Avagddu are one and the same.
Cerridwen sought to compensate her son
for his disadvantages by brewing a potion of Inspiration and Science in a vast cauldron, a brew that had to boil for a year
and a day simply to produce the three drops that would bestow the gifts she sought for her son. Having collected together
all the necessary ingredients, she set Gwion Bach, the son of Gwreang, to stir the mixture and gave the blind man Morda the
job of kindling the fire beneath the huge pot. She ordered them never to cease with their allotted task or they would have
to answer to her.
Every day Cerridwen added more herbs to
the brew. Towards the end of the year three drops of the fluid fell onto the thumb of Gwion Bach, who immediately sucked it
to cool it and thus ingested the full potency of the brew. He at once knew that his life was in danger and fled. The cauldron
then split in two and the remainder of the potion, poisonous now that the three divine drops had been produced, ran into a
stream and poisoned the horses of Gwyddno Garanhir.
When Cerridwen returned to find her years
work spoiled, she immediately suspected Morda and struck him around the head with a log until one of his eyes fell onto his
cheek. As he still protested his innocence, Cerridwen realised that it was Gwion Bach she was after. Setting off in hot pursuit,
she soon started to gain on the fleeing boy. Sensing her approach he turned himself into a hare, but she countered by turning
into a greyhound. Gwion Bach leapt into the air and, changing into a fish, dived into a river. Cerridwen followed as an otter.
Once more Gwion Bach sensed her approach, and he jumped out of the water and changed into a bird. She did the same and became
a hawk. At length Gwion Bach flew over a barn and dropped himself onto the threshing floor, there changing into a grain of
wheat among the thousands that were strewn about the floor. Cerridwen landed and changed herself into a black hen and soon
afterwards swallowed Gwion Bach.
Cerridwen soon found that she was pregnant
and nine months later gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Cerridwen could not bring herself to kill him, so she threw him
into the river. The bag caught on the fish weir of Gwyddno Garanhir where Elphin found it. The first thing he saw as he opened
the bag containing the babe was the babys forehead, at which he proclaimed "Taliesin" which means radiant brow, and thus the
child received his name. Much later, Taliesin was said to have rescued his foster father Elphin when the latter had been imprisoned
by the rival prince Maelgwyn, an episode which forms the subject matter of Thomas Love Peacocks novel The Misfortunes of
This is the traditional view of the magical
conception of Taliesin, although an alternative story says that Taliesin was magically created by Gwyddion Fab Don, and that
he was originally a God.
Taliesin became famed for his poetic prowess.
Urien of Rheged was said to have once been poetically addressed by Taliesin, but it appears that the poet was not a resident
of Rheged and possibly has a Southern Welsh origin. The book of Taliesin, which was probably compiled in the fourteenth
century, id thought to contain some authentic poems of Taliesin, whose historicity is now regarded as without doubt, living
in the sixth century. The manuscript for his work is now in the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.
Taliesin appears amongst the seven survivors
of the expedition led by Bendigeid Vran (Bran the Blessed) to Ireland against King Matholwch. Later this story was to be refined
in the Prieddeu Annwfn, which said that he was one of the seven who survived an expedition into the otherworld to secure
a magical cauldron.
Both Welsh tradition and the Vita Merlini
make Taliesin a contemporary of Myrddin (Merlin), representing the two talking with each other. The verse ascribed to Taliesin
is somewhat difficult to understand, being constructed in an obscure manner with Shamanic undercurrents right the way through.
This has led some commentators to ascribe the verse to Myrddin, saying that only it only later became attributed to Taliesin.
Other sources add that Taliesin had a son named Addaon, who was subsequentially killed by LLongad Grwrm Fargod Eidyn.
from Celtic myth and legend
by Mike Dixon-Kennedy.