awen symbol

The Awen Symbol – History And Meaning

Awen is a neo-Druid symbol with many different meanings, but it is popularly interpreted to mean “three rays of light.” This may be so because the number 3 is a very sacred number, and not just in Druidry but also in the whole Celtic culture. The meaning of these rays of light has different meanings, as will be further discussed later. 

In the Welsh culture, Awen is the poet bards’ inspiration. The Awen personified is the muse of all creatives in general. The inspired one, usually a soothsayer or a poet, is dubbed as an awenydd

In modern usage, Awen symbol is associated with musicians and poets. It is also used as a given name for girls and is often found in jewelry, clothing, and body art.

The Awen Symbol – History And Meaning

awen symbol

If you want to learn more about the Awen symbol, read on to find out the meaning, history, and significance of this Celtic symbol.

Awen History

In 1792, the Welsh poet and antiquarian, Edward Williams, more popularly known by his bardic name Iolo Morganwg (Welsh for “Iolo of Glamorgan”), founded the Gorsedd Cymru, a society of Welsh poets, writers, musicians, and other creative artists. He invented much of the society’s ritual, which was said to be based on the ancient Celtic Druidry. 

One of these inventions is the Awen, which was the symbol of Gorsedd. The symbol that the society represented is three lines, with the middle upright and the outer two slanted toward the top of the center. This sign—the Awen—is explained as symbolic of the sun. 

The first documentation of the word “Awen” on record is in Historia Brittonum, by the 9th-century Welsh monk Nennius (variations: Nemnius; Nemnivus), which was partly inspired by earlier writings of another Welsh monk called Gildas. “Awen” appears in the phrase “Tunc talhaern tat aguen in poemate claret,” which translates to “Talhaern  the father of the muse was then renowned in poetry.” The Old Welsh word aguen (“awen”) is in the Latin text describing 6th-century poets.

“Awen” is also documented in its modern form in Canu Llywarch Hen—or The Songs of Llywarch Hen—from the 9th or 10th century. It is in the passage where Llywarch states, “I know by my awen,” pointing to it as the fount of instinctive knowledge.

The link between awen as an infusion from the Divine and as poetic inspiration is often hinted in the mid-14th century Welsh manuscript, Llyfr Taliesin (“The Book of Taliesin”). An example of this is in the lines that are literally translated as “the three elements of inspiration that came, splendid, out of the cauldron.” It is interpreted to mean “that came from God,” as “cauldron” also symbolizes supreme authority, which is often the meaning of “God.” 

The “three elements” mentioned in Llyfr Taliesin is a reference to Awen, which was at times described as made of three sub-divisions or ogyrwen. This may have led to the suggestion of the Holy Trinity, based on the line “the ogyrwen of triune inspiration.”

In 1694, the Welsh poet Henry Vaughan, in a letter to John Aubrey, wrote of Awen as being considered the vein of poetry by the bards.

“Awen” is in the third stanza of the Welsh national anthem, Hen Wlad fy Nhadau

The Awen symbol occurs in Charlotte Guest’s translation of The Mabinogion, a collection of medieval Welsh tales based on mythology, folklore, and heroic legends. 

Since neo-Druidism adopted it is as their official emblem, the Awen symbol has become quite popular today.

The Awen Symbol

The Awen symbol’s design is fairly simple, with a triple line or three rays pointing up to a path to a high point of three dots. 

There are various interpretations of what this Celtic symbol means. 

One of these is that the main lines on the outside symbolize both man and woman, while the inside line denotes balance. In short, Awen is symbolic of the harmony of opposites in the universe. 

Another interpretation is that the Awen symbol represents three divisions of the soul—or the mind, the body, and the spirit. Some also claim that it symbolizes the three realms we inhabit: land, sea, and sky; or underworld, middle world, and the upper world. This symbol is also interpreted to represent love, wisdom, and truth. 

The outer rings of the Awen symbol are said to signify the three circles of creation, and the cyclical and timeless nature of these trinities as well.

In some forms of neo-Druidism, Awen is symbolized by an illustration of three straight lines or rays spreading apart as they head downward, surrounded by a circle or a series of circles that vary in thickness, often with a point (or a dot) on top of each line. These dots or points are said to represent the Holy Trinity. They are also interpreted to symbolize the points where the sun rises on the equinoxes and solstices, known as the Triad of the Sunrises.

Awen Symbol Meaning

“Awen” originated from the Indo-European root -uel, which means “to blow.” It has the same root as the awel, the Welsh word for “breeze.”

In the Celtic language, the word “awen” means “essence” or “inspiration.” It can also be translated as “muse” in Welsh.

In the Welsh tradition, Awen is the inspiration of the poets. ln its personification, however, Awen is the muse of all creative artists, not just poets. Many modern Druid groups have interpreted its meaning as “flowing spirit,” claiming that “spirit energy inflow is the essence of life.”

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