Yr Awenau / The Muses

The Greek poet Hesiod (c. 8th century b.c.e) prefaced his Theogony (Stories of the Gods) with an appeal to the Muses “Let us begin our singing”, and tells first of them. There were nine born to Memory: “Nine nights Zeus lay with her …. and she bore nine daughters”. They went then to Olympus “glorying in their beautiful voices and singing divinely”. Hesiod then tells how they inspire divine utterance in those they favour: Such is the Muse’s holy gift “and they told me to sing of the blessed ones who are forever, and first and last always to sing of themselves”. So Hesiod begins the work of writing his Theogony. Addresses to the Muse or muses also begin the Homeric Hymns to each of the gods from the same period, and Homer himself begins both his Iliad and his Odyssey with a similar appeal.

For the early Welsh bards the Muse was Ceridwen with her cauldron the source of Awen. So the nine maidens whose breath kindled the Cauldron of the Head of Annwn, as described in the Taliesinic poem Preiddeu Annwn, embody the sense of nine muses, daughters of a god, their breath inspiring awen in the bards they favour.

So their praises also should be sung.

O Muses / O Awenau

You whose breath kindled the cauldron
of awen in Ceridwen’s keeping,
breathe sweet music into my songs 

for the gods, for the good life
they shape for us, to celebrate
their presence and their power

to move us and make for us
a world of meaning awakening
the kindled flame of the cauldron

burning beneath the brew
of inspired speech in hearts
and minds with devotion that binds

our words in worship, our wish
to bring to all the gods a song
that will please, a gift of praise.

Author: Greg Hill

Brythonic Polytheist

One thought on “Yr Awenau / The Muses”

  1. Interesting… I’d never thought to link the Nine Maidens whose breath kindles the cauldron to the Nine Muses before. I also didn’t know ‘muses’ could be translated ‘awenau’. Viewing the Nine Maidens as ‘awenau’ brings a whole new aspect of Them to me.

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