Carrying on with our article series on ancient Celtic symbols, we will be examining the Awen symbol today. Let’s get right into it, here is everything you should know about the Awen, its origin, meaning and symbolism.
The Awen: Meaning and Symbolism Behind “the Tree Rays of Sunshine”
The word ‘awen’ can be translated to mean essence or inspiration in Celtic language, and it is an ancient symbol that has most recently been used by contemporary druid groups; however, it has deeper meanings in Celtic culture.
Traditionally, the symbol has multiple interpretations, with the most common one being “three rays of sunshine”, which have their own set of meanings, and the rays are also reflected in the shape of the symbol.
The symbol is backed by tradition as three is a sacred number in both Druid and Celtic cultures as it is a component of other symbols, including the triskele/triple spiral, and it signifies the three layers of the soul.
Another interpretation suggests the outer rays in the circle represent the unity between men and women while the inner lines denote the balance of energy between the two genders. It is considered the flow of energy and spirit, which is the essence of life.
It also signifies the triad of the realms, including earth, sea/waters, and sky/air, which are the foundation of life as the three elements are crucial for survival and growth.
The symbol also represents another triad that establishes a connection between the mind, body, and soul. These three components are essential for the creation and existence of humans, and the Awen symbol is a reference to the symbiotic relationship between the mind, body, and soul in Neo-Druid beliefs.
There are many triads that show the harmony of conflicting forces in the universe is another key concept represented by the symbol including nature, knowledge, and truth; love, wisdom, and truth; heaven, earth, and the underworld, etc.
Origins of the Awen: A Celtic Symbol
The word Awen has existed for centuries, initially being passed through oral traditions, with the first traditional writing dating back to the 9th century in the Latin book Historia Brittonum, written by Nennius.
The word is associated with the myth of the goddess Ceridwen who creates a potion for her son and delegates her helper Gwion Bach to deliver it. Gwion accidentally consumes the potion, and the goddess consumes him as punishment.
However, the powers of the potion grant Gwion a new life as he is reborn and becomes a highly popular poet. The potion is believed to be Awen due to its ability for rebirth physically and in terms of creativity; however, the benefits only come with struggle and perseverance.
The symbol has also been associated with divine inspiration for creative individuals, including poets, writers, and artists in Celtic and Welsh traditions.
Iolo Morganwg was a Welsh poet and innovative Druid who is credited with the first illustration of the Awen symbol. The poet’s illustration depicts three straight lines at an angle in the shape of rays streaming down with a dot at the top of each line.
The lines are surrounded by a circle or a series of circles. The lines represent sunshine as a reference to enlightenment, while the dots above are extracted from the Celtic lore and are assumed to be the drops of the potion created by the goddess Ceridwen.
The circles represent the continuity of the triad that has been in effect since the beginning of time and creation. There are different versions of the symbol with either one or three circles, but the commonality in the symbolism is that it represents eternity through the continuous loop of the shape.
The modern interpretation involves introspection and achieving enlightenment by understanding our connection to the elements and divinity for inspiration in one’s life.
Religious Interpretation of the Awen Symbol
Another interpretation of Awen is associated with a muse that Celtic people believed was the inspiration for artists and writers in their society by providing guidance through dreams.
In the pagan culture, the artists linked with Awen were known as Awenydd. They displayed behaviours of being in a trance that they accredited to their divine interaction with their muse.
Even after Christian beliefs emerged in the region, Awen was revived by Neo-Druids through providing a symbol to draw inspiration from the word.
The creation of the Awen symbol allowed the creative juices to flow in the minds of the artists so they could draw energy from the spirit as their ancestors had done before them.
This wraps up our piece on the Awen symbol, its meaning and origin. If you liked it, you should check out our articles on the Triquetra, also known as the Celtic trinity knot here and Celtic knot and its variations here. See you in the next post!