The Mysteries of Cerridwen’s Waters

The Mysteries of Cerridwen’s Waters

For many of us,  the time of Litha is a celebration of emotions. Remembering what we honour and cherish. A time of cleansing and nurturing our souls, being creative and showing joy and laughter. Being playful and connecting with our fun side.

The story of our Dark Mother Cerridwen has many connections to water, some of these being connections to Her beautiful creatures that live within Her watery ecosystems under the oceans, in lakes, rivers and tiny rock pools. Her creatures have important roles to play in our world and some of us are very lucky to work with them on a daily basis and be privileged to see them in the wild. 

We can all agree that the sight of an orca spyhopping out of the water is a form of magick and Awen that ignites our joy and brings immense peace and calm, knowing that these creatures play a part as the guardians of our oceans. The orca is a spirit I will be discussing, but for the minute, let me take you back to the chase. A chase that could have been fatal for one boy called Gwion Bach.

After swallowing the three drops of Awen from the cauldron, Gwion had been given the knowledge of everything, the connections to all. He was all-powerful and was faced with the challenge of keeping himself alive as his first task. He was given the ability of shapeshifting and this is what saved his life and helped him to transform into Taliesin, the greatest Bard who has ever lived. One of the creatures he transformed into was a beautiful salmon to try and escape Cerridwen in the form of a very fast greyhound. 

The salmon is known throughout the world as a fish that returns home. Some species of salmon lay their eggs in freshwater and, when they have hatched, they travel and journey to the ocean, where they live until they have come of age, and then return to their home where they were born to reproduce. 

This journey is connected to Gwion because his transformation involved a journey as a very young boy to then return to his home, where he came from, as a new person, someone who is unrecognisable as Gwion, but who can and will be recognised as Taliesin. He will continue to journey from Annwn to our world to deliver his songs, poetry and creativity and will then return to Annwn on his deathbed to see his family once more. This cycle will keep repeating itself. Just like the salmon returns home, so does Taliesin and he is not the same as before, he has developed and learned more to pass on to the next generation. 

The legend of the journeying salmon has captivated people for generations. The journey of travelling  and jumping through the rapid rivers to then launch themselves up on to a waterfall. 

The salmon’s dilemma is one we can all relate to. Going against the odds to try and achieve our goals is a challenge – a salmon weaving its way through the seaweed and rocks in deep water, unsure of the twists and turns in front of them is just as challenging as some of the twists and turns we face in our daily lives. Also the unexpected nature of life itself.

Chasing the salmon quickly is Cerridwen in the form of the playful otter. Otters are very quick, playful and have strong bonds with their families. Families of otters will play games with each other and stay together and support one another. They have perfect streamlined bodies and are able to navigate waters with precision and speed. A group of otters is called a family. This relates to Cerridwen because this is what she was fighting for – Her family. Otters live in what is called a holt, which is a den that is made from sticks, twigs, mud, moss and grass. This gives a very comfortable and stable home to raise their cubs in the wild. The holts vary as otter species live all over the world and are adapted to their different environments. 

As explained earlier, otters like to make sure that members of their family keep together and one way to do this is by holding hands. They can also hold on to seaweed or other plant life while they sleep. Otters are adapted to be buoyant, so this means that they can hold hands while staying afloat on the surface of oceans and rivers. They can also keep their young with them on their bellies to keep them safe and to teach them to swim.

If we look at this aspect of otter behaviour, Cerridwen was doing this with Her son Affagdu. She was doing her best to keep him afloat, while at times he must have felt like he was sinking due to comments about his looks from his peers. She held on to him to stop him drifting from Her and to protect him from the depths to which he could have sunk because of his experience of being bullied by others. Cerridwen’s protective and loving nature appears when She shapeshifts into an otter.

Otters have appeared in other stories, within Norse and Japanese culture. In Norse, the dwarf Òtr was killed by Loki while he was in the form of an otter. As the story goes, Òtr’s father Hreidmar and brothers demanded a life for this atrocity from Loki and Odinn. Money was offered as an alternative and was accepted by Hreidmar. 


Obviously, when it comes to exchanges that involve Loki, nothing is as simple as it seems. Loki sought the help of the sea Goddess Ran and brought money and gold from the dwarf Andvari. Thistgold in particular had to fill the otter skin of Òtr and cover his entire body. There was also a beautiful ring. The gold and money did indeed fill the skin of Òtr and cover his body, except for one whisker. 

Remember that beautiful ring? Loki placed it on the whisker and then revealed that Andvari’s gold was cursed and that anyone who owned it would be destroyed. Odinn and Loki were free to go, but the curse remained with Òtr’s family. 

This story relates to Cerridwen with not just the otter and shapeshifting, but also the strong family love and justice for an action that had occurred. The fight for injustice for Òtr is very comparable to Affagdu and the otter is their watery connection. In also trying to help Her son, Cerridwen’s actions did lead to the land being poisoned and the cracking of the cauldron. This relates to the curse of Andvari’s gold. In striving for justice through anger, both stories only ended up in sadness and balance was restored in unexpected ways. 

In Japan, the otter definitely has a tale to tell. In Japanese stories, river otters are known as Kawauso. These creatures are able to shapeshift and play tricks on humans throughout the different regions of Japan. Some have been known to shapeshift into humans themselves. If Kawauso live to a very old age, they can transform into a Yokai. This is a transformation into a type of divine entity. This type of transformation not only relates to Cerridwen and Her journey, but also to Gwion because he transforms into Taliesin, a being that is all knowing and contains the essence of the Awen.  

With this beautiful season of Litha bringing its watery cleansing spirit to us, there may also be a spirit guide of the oceans, lakes or rivers that may come to work with you. It can be an emotional transformational time for us and I am definitely experiencing this as we come into this sabbat. As well as working with the energies of the otter and salmon, the energies and spirit of the orca has come through as a spirit guide for me. 

The Orca, also known as the killer whale, is another animal of magick and mystery. Balanced and beautiful, with black and white glossy, rubbery skin, they are a sight to see in our incredible world. Orcas form a family group called Pods and can have over 50 members in one pod alone. The meaning of their name is “of the Kingdom of the dead”, a misunderstood name given to them by sailors long ago.


Why is the spirit of the orca coming though strongly at this time for me? She has come through at a time of biological transformation in my life, a Rite of Passage that has come very early; menopause. It is not something at the age of 31 I expected. She presented herself to me during two journeys: both with Cerridwen. She has come to me because this transformation takes courage and strength,  releasing and letting go of my fertility and embracing the energies of the matriarch. 

Orcas are one of three mammals that go through the process of menopause, the other two being humans and pilot whales. This process brings the orcas who are going through this to the front of the group and they lead their pod. 

Menopause brings a wave of emotions as we release and let go and our bodies go through a huge amount of change. She came to me to help me through this change. To give me strength when I am crying and feeling vulnerable, to show that I can overcome challenges and won’t be told to back down, to be wild and free with the ocean and the water, to embrace its cooling and cleansing flow as my body turns up the heat and most importantly, to be me. 

Yes there is fear, anger, tears and sadness but I am embracing these energies of the orca, remembering that I am powerful, brave and strong, playful, kind and curious. Sometimes I feel trapped, but she helps me to feel free, encouraging me to tap into the flow of my creativity and not forgetting to play. To overcome fears of doctors and appointments, to hold steady and wait for test results. To hold my head up and lead, be that matriarch, to swim and sing, to pass on my knowledge and take care of my pod, my magical and spiritual family.  

If you feel called, take some time to think about the animals living in our waters, the beautiful life-giving waters that Cerridwen gifts to us. Light a candle, say a blessing, give an offering, listen to whale song. Let’s show our appreciation for our wonderful water creatures, let us show our joy at hearing them sing, play and being free and wild.

Blessed Be.



References and pictures from here. and pictures from here 


Kirsty, Priestess of Cerridwen in Training

Somerset, UK

Kirsty Reade

Kirsty is a Death Priestess of Avalon, Priestess of Anubis and is currently on Spiral One of the Priestess of Cerridwen training. She is a Wiccan and Witch with a passion for divination, ancestral work and research of ancient practices. A qualified teacher, Kirsty is developing learning practices to help others who are interested in the Pagan Pathway.

FaceBook Page: The Rainbow Wiccan

One thought on “The Mysteries of Cerridwen’s Waters

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *