The first mention comes from ‘The History of the Britons’ written by Welsh monk Nennius around 830. In ‘The Tale of Taliesin’ (written in 14th century) the main character is said to have received ‘sweet Awen’ as a gift from God, straight from the cauldron of Caridwen the Sorceress.
Ah – opens up life, wakes joy, brings force and creativity
Oo – the force and energy start to bloom, the change begins
En – the end of transformation process, changing reality on the outer and spiritual plane.
Flowing essence or flowing spirit/spirituality
Chanting this long vibrating mantra lets us experience divinity and become divine beings ourselves. Awen brings us three gifts: a gift of poetic inspiration, a gift of prophecy and shapeshifting.
Scientist claim that Celtic culture has been born in Europe (probably somewhere north of Alps), at the territory of southern Germany. However its quick expansion saw the Celts possess the huge part of Europe: from modern France and Switzerland to Moravia, Lower and Upper Silesia (5th and 4th century B.C.). Celtic culture came to British Isles between 5th and 2nd century B.C. Despite its wide scope our knowledge about it is far from satisfying, especially when it comes to the issue of Celtic spiritual development system. It is believed to be based on the hierarchy of three castes of priests: bards, ovates and druids. The latter, considered as the most advanced ones, held many crucial spiritual functions, celebrating important ceremonies. The word ‘druid’ may come from Celtic ‘drúisi’ meaning a wizard or Indo-European ‘uid’ meaning insight. Adding the prefix ‘dru’ we get a new word: ‘druid’ meaning ‘the one who can see more’. So the path of spiritual development starts from a bard (travelling poet and singer) through the ovates (people becoming educated philosophers, wizards and prophets) to the druids (located at the highest level of this hierarchy). The druids are the ones who have experienced the greatest insight.
The key question that must be asked is: How could they go up in this ladder? What is the path leading from the role of a bard to the role of a druid? According to many legends, myths and stories, the answer is related to the mysterious word: Awen.
The first mention about Awen may be found in ‘The History of the Britons’ written by the Welsh monk named Nennius around 830. According to the Welsh dictionary from 19th century the word comes from the combination of two words: ‘aw’ meaning liquid, something that flows and ‘en’ meaning ‘living essence’. Having accepted this etymology, we can understand Awen as a ‘flowing essence’ or ‘flowing spirit’. It is important that Awen is female. The most popular story mentioning Awen is ‘Chweld Taliesin’, a story of a bard serving great sorceress Caridwen in the times of legendary King Arthur (quite popular in the 14th century). In this tale Taliesin receives a gift from God: sweet Awen straight from the ‘cauldron of Caridwen’. Caridwen is told to have been cooking in her cauldron, full of mysterious substance and herbs, for one year and one day. Finally, there are three drops coming out of the cauldron. The person they will fall onto, will be given three gifts: a gift of poetic inspiration, a gift of prophecy and a gift of shapeshifting.
This story is supposed to be a kind of instruction for the initiation of bards while the three drops (or, in other versions, three vessels filled with magical potion from the cauldron or three rays of light coming out of the drops as they are represented in the modern symbols of Awen) stand for three levels of the initiation: a bard, an ovate and a druid, with a gift of Awen being responsible for it with every sip being taken. The final sip provides a druid with a power to overcome an ultimate fear: the fear of death.
The cult of Awen returned in the neo-druidic movement in the form of triple repetition of the word ‘Awen’. Singing this long vibrating syllable like the legendary Tailesin used to do, allows us to touch divinity and become divine beings ourselves. Many contemporary practitioners of Awen claim that each of the three intonated sounds has a specific meaning. ‘Ah’ opens up the life, wakes the joy, give us strength and creativity. ‘Oo’ makes the strength and energy (created by the ‘Ah’ sound) bloom, finally obtaining powerful transformation force. The final sound of ‘En’ finishes the process, so the energy generated by the previous sounds is able to change reality: both on the outer and inner (spiritual) plane.
So Awen creates the divine energy, makes it flow and wakes up our spirituality. According to the contemporary druids, it is like opening a gate through which the shining sun and blowing wind will work together to make sure that all the necessary work will be done.