4. The Riddler

Questions to consider . . .

  • Taliesin uses wind, breath and air as metaphors for awen, implying similarities between them and divine inspiration. What attributes do they share?
  • We could describe awen as the supernatural stimulation of the imagination. In other words, imagination is the raw material that is refined by the spiritual awen. How do riddles, poetry and myth help in this process? How did the Welsh bards encourage the flow of awen by creating and performing these things?


The Gundestrup cauldron is a richly decorated silver vessel, thought to date from between 200 BC and 300 AD, or more narrowly between 150 BC and 1 BC. This places it within the late La Tène period or early Roman Iron Age. The cauldron is the largest known example of European Iron Age silver work. It was found dismantled, with the other pieces stacked inside the base, in 1891 in a peat bog near the hamlet of Gundestrup, Denmark.

Despite the fact that the vessel was found in Denmark, it was probably not made there or nearby; it includes elements of Gaulish and Thracian origin in the workmanship, metallurgy, and imagery. The techniques and elements of the style of the panels relate closely to other Thracian silver, while much of the depiction, in particular of the human figures, relates to the Celts, though attempts to relate the scenes closely to Celtic mythology remain controversial. Other aspects of the iconography derive from the Near East.

  • Marged Haycock, Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, ‘Angar Kyfundawt’, lines 229 – 240:
I was transformed a second time:
I was a blue salmon,
I was a dog, I was a stag,
I was a roebuck on the mountain,
I was a block, I was a spade,
I was an axe in the hand,
I was an auger [held] in tongs,
for a year and a half.
I was a speckled white cockerel
covering the hens in Eidyn;
I was a stallion at stud,
I was a fiery bull.
  • Dafydd ap Gwilym, ‘The Wind’, c. 1340:
Thief of nests, though you blow through leaves
No one blames you, nor are you halted
by a swift battalion, nor an officer’s hand,
nor a blue blade, nor torrent, nor rain.
No one can kill you (to say such a thing!)
fire won’t burn you, nor trickery weaken you,
you will not drown, you are forewarned,
you don’t get stuck, you are smooth.
You don’t need a swift steed beneath you,
nor bridge over estuary, nor boat.
  • Anon., ‘Song of the Wind’, lines 1 – 20:
Guess who it is:
Created before the Flood,
a stout creature,
without flesh, without bone,
without veins, without blood,
without head and without feet.
He is not older, he is not younger
than he was at the beginning.
He will not turn from his intent
because of fear or death.
He doesn’t have the needs
of creatures.
Great God, he is so lively
the first time he comes.
Great is the wealth
of He who created him.
Upon the plane, in the trees,
without hand and without foot;
without decrepitude, without age,
and no hurt to worry him.
  • Haycock, ‘Angar Kyfundawt:
Lines 88 - 89:
I know the set gradations  	 
of awen when it awakens.

Lines 176 - 186:
Awen I sing,
I bring it forth from the depth.
The river that flows at length,
I know its power,
I know how it ebbs,
I know how it flows,
I know how it gushes,
I know how it retreats.

Lines 112 - 119:
Who created poems?
Poems, who created them?
Who considered meaning?
It’s been considered in books
How many winds, how many waters,
how many waters, how many winds,
how many rivers flow,
how many rivers there are; . . .

Lines 99 - 102:
How does the wind of the sky
distribute itself?
Why is the mind lively?
Why so fair?