This poem is the first of a series of excerpts from my book in progress ‘In the Deep’ and is called ‘In the Beginning’.
The title ‘In the Deep’ refers to Annwn, ‘the Deep’, the Otherworld in medieval Welsh mythology. The book is about the gods and goddesses of Annwn and their conflicts with the Children of Don. Most of these deities are found as euhemerised characters in the Welsh myths and were worshipped as gods in ancient Britain.
This opening poem, ‘In the Beginning’ was born from my long-standing fascination with creation myths. This began with the Bible where, in Genesis, we find the lines:
‘1. In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth.
2. And the Earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.’ (1)
This shows that, in the Biblical tradition, the deep existed before the Creator God.
In medieval Welsh literature God comes to replace Ceridwen, the Goddess of the crochan the cauldron or womb from which inspiration originates and, I believe, the universe was born.
This role is hinted at in medieval Welsh poems such as ‘The Childhood Deeds of Taliesin’:
‘I entreat my Lord
that I may consider inspiration:
what brought forth that necessity
at the beginning, in the world
which was in need?’ (2)
In my poem, ‘In the beginning,’ Ceridwen, Old Mother Universe, takes the place of the Biblical creator God.
The universe is born from the shattering of Her cauldron, a recurring motif in the Welsh myths. This mirrors ‘the shattering of the vessels’ in the Kabbalistic tradition.
- Marged Haycock (ed), Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, (CMCS, 2007), p 242
In the Beginning
was the breath,
the in-breath and the out-breath
of Old Mother Universe.
In the vastness of the Void she slept,
and in her sleep, in her dreams
she stirred Her cauldron.
And in her cauldron
she saw Her face in the Deep
and she saw it was surrounded by stars
and each star was the eye of a giant
and each was a fiery warrior.
By the light of the stars
She saw a nine-headed dragon
and knew her for the Mother of Annwn.
She saw the birth of the Gods
and the death of dragons
and the battles that would form worlds:
everything from the beginning
until the end of time.
Her vision was so sad and so beautiful
her cauldron burst and the stars poured forth.
Thus was the beginning –
the first breaking of the cauldron.
Thus from a big bang the universe was born.