She laid a fire below me,
a cauldron made of the stuff of the earth,
then she hung me on a heavy hook.
A ladle with a heron’s head
Before she lit the fire,
she spent hours in her workshop,
gathering toad’s nose,
and turtle ears,
and finally honey mead and mulled red wine
made by the last vintner of the king
before he died.
When she found all of the ingredients
for her most special spell,
she threw them into my empty void,
along with the magic of her words…
meant only for my son,
shall make him larger than life
and smaller than an atom.
Time shall twist and turn before him,
giving him the power to see all things,
hear all things
and know all things.
He shall live a perfect life,
under a perfect sky,
reading the blizzard of stars for the king.
He will be known for all time
by the souls of all men,
who shall sing about him
with the golden tips of their tongues.
He will know a love I may never know,
but he shall be safe,
protected by the Shining Ones.
Then she lit the dry moss and lichen below me;
the flames licked dangerously
at the rowan twigs
and dry oak branches,
until the stew I held so carefully,
began to bubble and boil.
A nervous servant boy
cowered in the corner.
He was quiet with worry,
perhaps she had called him
to throw him into my pot too.
‘Here’ she said,
thrusting a stirring stick made of gold
into his shaking hands.
The carved knotwork on the stick
glimmered in the firelight,
its magic leaping off of its surface into the stew.
‘You must stir this potion
for a year and a day.”
He stirred with cautious hands.
‘You must never taste of the cauldron,
or you shall die.’
Then she left him there alone with me in the firelight.
hour by hour,
week by week,
month by month,
season by season.
Soon it would be a year and a day.
The boy told me of the things he would do
once again left to play in the sunshine
after his chores were complete.
‘I will fish in the brook,
pick huckleberries in the forest,
lay on the dry oak leaves,
and watch them fall
from the clear blue skies of autumn.’
The boy became lost in his dreams
and Cerridwen’s potion sputtered and splashed.
His fingertip was burned by the resin.
When he licked his finger to ease its pain,
I saw the whole world place itself before him.
The spirals of time danced and sung,
all knowledge of the world
was his knowledge
and he almost fainted.
The Shining Ones told him that she knew,
the sorceress who had once held
all the powers of the universe
in her hands.
They said he must leave soon
or he would die.
I saw him once a boy,
and then a white hare,
with long ears and black spots around his eyes.
Then he was gone.
With no one to stir me,
the potion turned to poison,
its venom split me in two
dousing the creation fires below me,
oozing its black magic into the earth.
And I was left alone in the dark…
waiting to tell the tale.
©Melissa C. Reardon