Written by: Paul Mitchell
Stories are an integral part of the practice of many modern Druids. They offer gateways to spiritual contemplation in their telling and receiving. In my studies with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) I combined my previous meditative practices with Tarot and my developing druidic path.
The tale of Cerridwen and the brewing of the Awen is a classic, used in some Druidic schools to help explore ideas. I chose this story as a basis for this exercise and have repeated it for this blog. I found cards I felt represented the main characters involved, others to represent the activity and how characters changed. The process of identifying the cards was important, reflecting first on the character or the event, then considering which cards would best represent them. In this process the context of the cards was set.
The full spread is offered in figure 1. The characters on the left; the Death card hovering overhead, as the expected death of the King overshadows the nub of the story – Cerridwen’s desire to help her dark son become wise in a way that the meant those who mock his misshapen form would respect him.
Figure 2 shows the characters. The story line flows from the King’s place – with the Queen of Swords representing the Queen / goddesses decision to take action. She travels to the Druids on the hill. Here the Druidcraft Tarot comes into its own, the Fferyllt demonstrating the magic brew and the very cauldron in which the Awen is brewed.
A boy (the Fool) and an old man of good standing (Two of Wands) are hired to stir the brew for a year and a day. It all goes a bit wrong (Three of Swords) and the boy becomes The Magician – later The Sun. Cerridwen becomes The High Priestess. If you don’t know the story I encourage you to look it up. It’s wonderful!
In laying out the cards I get a sense of elements of the story I am drawn to. I might lay out a different part of the tale, perhaps Cerridwen’s search for ingredients to make the magical brew, perhaps the famous shape changing chase, perhaps the very moments the cauldron cracks. Choosing the cards for each part of the tale will help me explore my thoughts and understanding.
Next I chose to “interview” the story. I ask Morfran, Cerridwen’s son, what it is he is hoping for as the story begins. Fig 3 shows the Nine of Swords: A sense of either no hope, or a need to conquer fears and doubts. I ask what the work of the boy (The Fool) and the old man (two of Wands) is: I draw Strength and The High Priest. Just what I might expect.
The meditation I engaged in whilst undertaking my OBOD studies really helped me in my journey. Stories have a myriad of tangents to travail, characters to ‘interview’, events to explore. I have gone on to use another process, inspired by this, as part of my magickal works with Tarot, something I’ll be returning to soon. Along with this came another gift. In the true spirit of the Awen I found that my meditation had planted the seeds of a song – A Mother’s Love – that tells Cerridwen’s story in searching for the Awen for her son. So as a use for Tarot I found it to be a cornucopia of great things and stuff!
Paul Mitchell is a Druid graduate of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. He has a long, if intermittent, relationship with Tarot and the practices of magick. He is a musician, performing solo as well as with the English Folk group Mad Magdalen.