The Cauldron of Annwn

Updated: Aug 29, 2020

Despite Arhtu's impressive career, in the early days he felt rivalry with the former legendary King of the Islae of the Mighty, Bran the Blessed. Bran had given the gift of magical Cauldron of Rebirth to the Irish. It was believed that if the bodies of fallen soldiers were placed in teh cauldron their lives would be restored, though not their ability to speak. Bran would come to regret his generosity as it would lead to undue hardships for his people in the battles that followed.

The young and rather impulsive Arthur decided that hte best way to eclipse the exploits of the much loved Bran would be to win the mysterious Cauldron of Annwn for the people of Britain. The Otherworldly cauldron was known to be the source of poetic inspiration and propetic knowledge. As a Cauldron of Plenty it also sustained its people, but would not cook food for a coward.

The quest for the magical cauldron is a favoured theme amongst the myths of the Celts. The Book of Taliesin contains a wonderful poem telling of the quest for the Cauldron of Annwn, known as "The Spoils of Annwfn." Because of similaries in teh two tales, it is considered by some to be the model for the later Quest for the Holy Grail.

Three ships carried Arthur and his party from teh shores of Britain in serch of the Land of the Faery and its treasure.

Accompanying Arthur aboard Pridwen was a reluctant bard. Having had dealings with the Old Ones in the past, Taliesin was well aware of the dangers of entering the Twilight Land. Not only were they uninvited, but they planned to do battle and raid the stotes of the Fay. Such a journey was sure to bring misery and despair. Taliesin warned that no venture could be more fraught with perild but despite this Arthur and company pressed on.

The seas carried them to the desttined land where uncharted isles loomed to the soft glow of twilight. The company weaved through the islands, passing seven fortresses before reaching the revolving glass Castle of the Cauldron. Here the Forever Young mixed their sparkling wine and awaited the daring mortals. We do not fully understand the battle and events that followed. Taliesin's account is much like the mysterious land itself, only gently illuminated by twilight, still guarding many secrets.

On thing is certain is that the battle was dreadful beyond words. It would be the first and only time the king's army would battle the Fay.

Arthur did eventually reach the Cauldron of Annwn . It was described as dark blue, rimmed with pearls, and Kindled by the breath of nine maidens with a spring flowing beneath it. 'Twas a scene of great beauty.

A later version of the tale asserts that when Arthur grasped teh Cauldron he found he could not move it, nor release his grip. The Faery then captured him and threw him into the Prison of the Strange-Very Strange. This structure was made entirely of mortal bones with innumerable little cells built into its walls; none could escape this labyrinth. The prison held three other men of royal blood--three kings who had offended the Faery and now were doomed as were their lands, to suffer for eternity. Arthur languished here for three days and three nights, all the while in great agony, his mind curdled bythe power of the Fay. It was Llwch Lleminawc and Bedivere who rescued their sovereign breaking in the roof and returning him to Pridwen. Despite being back with his men, Arthur did not speak for a day and a night then only wept.

Though they had succeeded in stealing the Cauldron it could hardly have been called a victory, as only seven men returned to Britain when three ships had sailed.

The king did recovet hsi wits and from then on forbade anyone to speak of the raid on Annwn.

From Ferguson, Anna-Marie. Keeper of Words. 1995 Llewellyn Publications. St. Paul, Minnesota. (86-87)

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