Druidry – What is Awen?

In Druidry, we learn often hear the word, awen, being used, but what exactly is awen?   Loosely translated from Welsh, it means flowing spirit, or flowing inspiration.  Awake to our own energy, and stretching out towards the energy of nature around us, we begin to see just what awen is.  It is an opening of one’s self, of one’s spirit or soul, in order to truly and very deeply see.  When we are open, we can receive that divine gift, inspiration that flows, whether it is from deity, nature, or whatever it is that you choose to focus on.

For awen to exist, there must be relationship.  We cannot be inspired unless we are open, and we cannot be open unless we have established a relationship, whether that is with the thunder, the blackbird or a god.  It is cyclical in nature; we open and give of ourselves and in doing so we receive, and vice versa.  Letting go, releasing into that flow of awen allows it to flow ever more freely, and we find ourselves inspired not only in fits and bursts of enlightenment or inspiration, but all the time, carrying that essence of connection and wonder with us at all times.  There is, of course, a line to be drawn, for we can’t be off our heads in ecstatic relationship with everything all the time.

But just what is awen?  It is an awareness, not just on a physical and mental level but on a soul deep level – an awareness of the entirety of existence, of life itself.  It is seeing the threads that connect us all.  It is the deep well of inspiration that we drink from, to nurture our souls and our world and to give back in joy, in reverence, in wild abandon and in solemn ceremony.

Many are familiar with the Welsh tale/myth of Cerridwen and her cauldron, the three drops of awen falling onto Gwion’s finger and bringing his wisdom in the form of poetic inspiration, shape-shifting and prophecy.  Some liken this story to a Bardic initiation, or the three grades of Bard, Ovate and Druid.  In any case, drinking from the cauldron of the Goddess is to drink deeply of awen.

Many Druid rituals begin or end with singing or chanting the awen. When doing so, the word is stretched to three syllables, sounding like ah-oo-wen.  It is a lovely sound, that opens up the heart and soul. Sung/chanted together, or in rounds, it simply flows, as its namesake determines.  Our hearts literally can open if we let them when chanting or singing the awen.

Yet I am sure that the awen is different for each and every Druid.  The connection, and the resulting expression of that connection, the Druid’s own creativity, can be so vast and diverse.  It is what is so delicious about it – we inhale the awen and exhale our own creativity in song, in dance, in books, in protest marches – the possibilities are endless, as is the awen itself.



12 thoughts on “Druidry – What is Awen?

  1. I only truly began to understand Awen I read Kristoffer Hughes description of it as ‘the voice of the Universe.’ Only then did I understand that it’s the living voice of the burning inspiration that can unite all things when everyday chatter is switched off, when we achieve connection spirit to spirit, and it leaves us with no choice but to express this connection, through or action.

  2. I remember feeling an enormous sense of relief when I first read about awen – it was something I instinctively felt from time to time, not just a vague mood, but a strong connection, but until I read Emma Restall-Orr’s Living Druidry, I didn’t have a word for it. I wonder how many other people feel the same, I’d imagine it was probably a great many.

    • Indeed – Bobcat’s words seem to hit on an intuitive level a part of the soul. I would imagine that it’s not only the word, awen, but also the world Druidry that people don’t realise exist in and for themselves 🙂

  3. Your first paragraph wherein you begin to answer the question “But just what is awen?” reminded me of Frank MacEowan’s book, The Mist-Filled Path: Celtic Wisdom for Exiles, Wanderers, and Seekers — which is the book that led me to Druidry. (I was an exile, wanderer and seeker!) Then Lorna again evoked that recollection with her reference to Kristoffer Hughes’ description of awen as “the voice of the Universe.” MacEowan talks about the “Oran Mor,” or the “Song of the Universe,” which he views as different than the Awen, but still the deep, soul-level connection that binds us together as jewels in Indra’s Net.

    I especially liked your last paragraph. Here is where you poignantly express awen in your own unique way, by explaining how it is different for each and every Druid. This would explain my difficulty in describing it to people who have asked me exactly what it is and how it works, except to give them the standard (or should I say sub-standard), boring response about it being Divine inspiration, which of course does not do it justice in the least.

    Excellent job!

    • Thank you! And I shall keep an eye out for that book! It’s so hard, isn’t it, explaining an aspect of your religion, philosophy, spirituality, whatever that is much more poignantly felt, than described…

  4. Awen for me is a very powerful word that calls up a very powerful………. thing? LOL. In ways I just can’t explain.

    I start each day with this:

    Wind and Fire fill my soul
    Earth and Rain make me whole
    Awen, Awen, Awen,

    Mother Moon be my guide
    Father Sun be my light
    Awen, Awen, Awen

    May wisdon shelter in the storm
    May those I love find no harm
    Awen, Awen, Awen

    I end each day with this:

    As I drift to realms of dreams
    I pray the Gods, Goddesses and guides may teach me
    May each sight be clear and clean
    I pray the light within may reach me
    Awen, Awen, Awen,
    Awen, Awen, Awen,
    Awen, Awen, Awen,

    Since I have begun doing this, things are just……. different. Better different, but my whole view has changed.

  5. So I had to share this with someone, and I figured you would appreciate it. While I don’t try to push religion of spirituality on my kids at all, my 8 year old son has heard me do the above chants and asked if he could do them too. So I explained Awen to him and started doing them. So tonight as after we did the night time one we had this conversation.

    Him:”Daddy, I saw some Awen today”
    Me:” Really? What did it look like?”
    Him: “Oh it was just like white stuff floating around in the air. Awen is floating everywhere Daddy”

    Who am I to argue……

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