Her Voice is the Song of My Heart: the Formation of Cerridwen’s Song Wheel

Her Voice is the Song of My Heart: the Formation of Cerridwen’s Song Wheel

For the last seven months (and four newsletters) this column has taken the form of a journey around the British Isles – like a magpie, I have picked up treasures. For me, the treasures of these Isles are the songs and stories, which form part of the beautiful and ever-changing tapestry that is our folk tradition. I have gathered up seasonal stories and songs of birds, fairy queens, Goddesses and wise women. The process has been, and will continue to be, intuitive. We must find our own way into the song traditions of our lands – each journey will be different and I have found that songs and stories have a way of finding us when we most need them. 

I have marvelled at how Cerridwen has laid out little gems for me on my travels – lines of poetry which have synchronicity with Her own story. As I research and write this column each season, of one thing I am sure; we are all connected through words. The Goddess of Inspiration blows Her breath across the landscape and songs can spring up in the unlikeliest of places. Like the Willow, they can root easily and grow almost anywhere.

Tree of Strings
Tree of Strings – for gathering songs (Image credit: Elan)


As we near the Avalon Cauldron Gathering, I am taking a breath and a pause from delving into folk tradition and memory. I am preparing for a workshop which will explore Cerridwen’s Song Wheel more deeply and it is this which I have chosen to focus on for this season’s column.


Defended is my song that rises from Cerridwen’s cauldron;

Free is my tongue, in the song of praise and exaltation of ogyrwen.

My song in praise of the ogyrwen, who is satisfied,

Together with milk, dew, and acorns.

From ‘Defence of the Chair’ trans. from the Welsh by Kristoffer Hughes


This is my chair, my cauldron, and these are my rules,

My perfect language is a consistent one.

From ‘The Chair of Cerridwen’ trans. from the Welsh by Kristoffer Hughes


Cerridwen is the Goddess of the Bards in Celtic tradition. In the excerpts above, we see Her identified as ‘inspiration, a component of the Awen.’ Kristoffer Hughes writes that ‘yet again we see… the term song or to sing, continuously referred to when the Bard speaks of the Awen.’

In the spirit of song and the Awen, the Cerridwen Song Wheel was first manifested more than a year ago and was introduced at the 2022 Avalon Cauldron Gathering. In our Priestess training we work with the seasonal wheel of the year. Cerridwen’s plants, trees, animals, and crystals form part of our magickal experience as we journey around that wheel. As I neared the end of my Second Spiral training, another component began to form for me – Cerridwen’s Song Wheel. So many of us are fascinated by Cerridwen’s cauldron and the wisdom brew within it. We think of the leaves, flowers, roots and berries, which may have gone into this brew, the waters of Lake Bala in which this plant matter was steeped for a year and a day, and the fire beneath the cauldron, which kept everything at the right temperature until the time came for the brew to be imbibed. 

Wild garlic
Image of Wild Garlic Harvest by scym from Pixabay

However, there is another component of the wisdom brew which plays just as important a part in its creation – Cerridwen’s own breath. She sang spell songs over the cauldron as each plant was added. Song is an integral part of the creation of the magick, and from that realisation came the need within me to give more attention to Her Song Wheel. At first it was no more than an idea and a design painted on cloth and laid out on the floor, but in the months that have passed, as I have connected with Cerridwen with this work, the Song Wheel has transformed into a living, breathing embodiment of Cerridwen’s inspiration of Song in the world. 

Image credit: Elan


Each part of the Wheel symbolises something of the experience of song, its essence and meaning, its formation and creation. Some of this inspiration is taken from our Celtic heritage of bards and poets, and other aspects are formed from the wider folk tradition as well as more modern interpretations of our priestess traditions. In the North, in the season of Air, there is the poetic inspiration and impetus to hear Cerridwen as Goddess of Inspiration in the silence of the metaphorical dark hut of winter, just as the bards would have spent time in their dark huts to memorise the hundreds of lines of poetry as part of their training. In the North East there is the poetry of healing and spell songs of the Swynwraig. In the East, in the season of Fire, there are the songs of battle and protest, and the voicing of anger at the injustice of the world. I believe that the Druid priestesses who took their last stand against the Romans on the Isle of Anglesey would have known this season of the song Wheel in their hearts, as would the protesters of modern times like the women who stood their ground and sang their songs at Greenham Common. In the South East, in the season of love at Beltane, there are the praise songs of love and devotion. Moving to the South, in the season of Water, we feel the flow of rhythm and metre – we understand how words and music can meet and merge. In the South West, in the season of Creatrix and Mother, we find the songs of ancestral and priest-ess lineage, and the genealogy of motherline and Goddess. In the West, we go deep into the earth to experience the songs of land and belonging and in the North West, journeying into the Otherworld, into Annwn, at Samhain, there is the initiation of the Song Priest-ess. It is there that we find the songs of death and rebirth and we also experience how a song, in its purest form of magick, can be a death and rebirth in itself. At the centre of the Wheel is the Cauldron of Inspiration and Cerridwen. 

Slowly, as the months passed and we entered into 2023, the Song Priestesses stepped forward to me from every direction, voicing their essence – ‘I am She…’ – through poetry and song. Nine Cerridwen priestesses will embody these Song Priestesses at the start of this year’s song workshop at the Avalon Cauldron Gathering as we call in Cerridwen’s Song Wheel in public for the very first time. 

This is an ongoing process of learning. I am not entirely sure who or what the Nine Song Priestesses are at this point. They may be embodiments or manifestations of the essence of song, or they may be something even older – something that Cerridwen was aware of as She sang over Her cauldron. Even before words, there has been song. Some scientists theorise that it was the birds that first taught us language. As we learned their melodies, their music became the bedrock of our own speech. The first language spoken was likely to have been birdsong. In ancient culture, singing became an important skill – passing on creation stories, remembering lineage and memorising migration routes and resources. 

Nightingale, image by wal_172619 from Pixabay

At this year’s Song Workshop at the Avalon Cauldron Gathering, we will make our own song brew in the central cauldron, as we sing songs in circle. Music, as well as words, can change the structure of water. This is why Cerridwen sang spell songs into Her cauldron as She made the wisdom brew. As sound travels through the medium of water, it gets absorbed – caught by the molecules within the medium. The medium actually changes some of the acoustic energy of the sound wave into heat. I hope our own song brew will be an act of creation that is infused with love and joy. That is, after all, why we often sing in community in the first place.

In her book, Why We Sing, singing therapist, teacher and performer, Julia Hollander, explores the ways in which singing has always been there for us, at the root of what it is to be a human being. She asks what it is about song that brings communities together in harmony but also in protest? How come an activity that helps to embed languages and maths formulae can also be used to rehabilitate Long Covid sufferers? And what magic is at work when people who have lost the power to speak are still able to sing? Her book was born during the Covid pandemic when so many people felt starved of contact and connection. It has made me appreciate, yet again, what Priestess Bee Helygen did each Monday during, and for a time after, lockdown – as a Priestess and voice in the Goddess community, she took time to go live each week on Facebook to sing songs. Several years on people still remember this and I believe that it is not only because of the healing that this brought into people’s homes, but also the wisdom she passed on. Not everyone knew the Goddess songs she was singing and therefore Bee was also passing on a lineage, which is a major function of the folk tradition. She was also very real – she went live each week whether she felt ‘ready’ or not. She did it for the love of the song. And this transmission of music and words is a manifestation of love in one of its purest forms.

One thing is clear to me as I continue this column and my work with the Cerridwen Song Wheel. Cerridwen, as Goddess of Inspiration, moves us to sing because of the song itself. There should be no ego here. It is not about us as individuals or even about us ‘finding our voices’. It is about the continuation of the magick of the song down the ages. The song must be carried forward. The song is eternal.

Blessed Be and may our voices carry on the wind to meet and merge in this season of Love.


Avalon Cauldron Gathering – Celebrating the love to the Dark Goddess in Avalon


Elan, Priestess of Cerridwen

West Lothian, Scotland

Elan Clark - Priestess of Cerridwen

Instagram: @elan_and_the_hare

Elan is a scholar, writer and editor in the field of Celtic Studies. She has a PhD in Gaelic poetry and teaches university classes in Celtic culture and literature.

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