This post is going to be about a symbol used in Modern Druidry called “Awen”.
Notes on Pronunciation: it can either be said as “ah-when”, “ou-when”, or “ah-oo-en”. I have seen it pronounced all three ways.
What is Awen?
Awen is a Welsh term that defies an exact translation, but has come to be known as and understood as “the flowing spirit of inspiration”, which can be accessed by the poet (or Bard). In another definition, it means spirit, inspiration, and illumination. It is the inner light that gives the mind the ability to reach beyond itself. It is said that the Awen is what gives writers the ability to turn verse into poetry and shows glimpses of the future for prophets and diviners.
What does it Symbolize?
First and foremost, the Awen can symbolize many things, as is about to be shown. Like many things in Druidry, the number Three is prevalent even in this symbol, as seen with the circles, the lines, and the three small dots.
Iolo Morganwg reintroduced this symbol from Ancient Druidry back when he published the Barddas in the late 1800s. In his interpretation, it represents the first energy, the God-name, which called the world into existence: columns of light and sound that would allow the view to connect with primal energy of life.
Modern adaptations and interpretations vary upon person. One common one is that it is an aerial view of three stones with shadows emanating from them, tracking the equinoxes and solstices and the source of all life and our lives, the Sun.
Several other things it could mean include light/dusk/dark, father/mother/child, love/truth/justice, and one of the most common Annwn/Arbred/Gwyvydd.
In the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, the three dots, or points of light, represent the triple aspect of Deity, and at another level, the points represent when the sun rises on the equinoxes and solstices. This is also known as the Triad of the Sunrises, and is often found as three stones marking these points just outside many old stone circles.
The three outer circles, still with the OBOD, stand for the circles of Creation: Annwn, Abred and Gwynvid.
This symbol is used in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. Found in later gwersi (lessons), the richness of this symbol becomes apparent with mythology, the story of Ceridwen and Taliesin, psychology in the triune nature of the self, and philosophy in the triune nature of the Deity.
The Druidry Handbook by John Michael Greer goes into further explanation with each individual “line”, and talks about how they are named. However, he also has the symbol upward, downward, and together, which can form different things. That can be explained at another time.
In short, the Awen is a symbol of creation, of inspiration, of spirit. Things that all help the inner Bard, Poet, and/or storyteller flourish.
Sources include the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids Gwersi and website, The Druidry Handbook by John Michael Greer, and The Path of Druidry by Penny Billington.