awen the three rays of light celtic symbol meaning and origin

If you are familiar with ancient Celtic symbols, you must have come across the Awen. Let us quickly delve into the history, meaning, and importance of this neo-druid symbol.

Celtic signs and symbols hold exceptional power in the way of life of ancient Celts. The Celts belonged to the Iron Age and lived in small villages led by warrior chiefs. Today, experts refer to the ancient Celts as those who lived in Western Europe and Britain from 500BC and 400AD. As such, Ireland is home to various civilizations, owing to its rich heritage, culture, and history. Celtic symbols like the Awen are a crucial part of Irish heritage. In this modern age, many people who enjoy Irish culture wear it in the form of jewelry, tattoos, or building designs and architecture. Without further ado, let us learn more about the Awen Celtic symbol.

The Awen of the Three Rays of Light

Popularly seen on various designs for artwork, jewelry, and tattoos, the Awen is a neo-druid symbol with multiple meanings. Its design is relatively simple as it contains three rays that lead up to a path that has a high point with three dots from the cauldron of the goddess Ceridwen. The three rays represent a triad and usually come in the colors green, white, and blue.

The triad stands for the three Druid grades; Ovate, Bard, and Druid. The whole symbol is within three circles and has several meanings attached to it. The purpose of each ray of light in the Awen varies from one culture to the next. Similarly, the Awen is the first letter in the English alphabet, from which all the other letters in the alphabet originate from.

The meaning of the Awen

Awen is a Welsh, Breton, and Cornish poetic word meaning inspiration or essence. Often, it is the inspiration for creative people, like poets, artists, or soothsayers. As discussed earlier, the Awen consists of various interpretations, with some cultures viewing it from the circles and others understanding it from the three rays of light perspective.

In the Celtic culture as well as in Druidry, the number three is quite sacred. According to them, everything in the world exists in threefold. For instance, the existence of positive, negative, and neutral, and the philosophy to understand, love, and to maintain the truth, all exist in a threefold sequence.

As such, when interpreting this symbol from the three rays of light perspective, you may have several meanings. In some cultures, the three rays of light symbolize the harmony and balance of opposite forces in the universe. The two outer rays represent female and male energy, with the center ray representing the balance between the two rays.

According to other interpretations, the three rays of light represent the three divisions of the soul (the spirit, mind, and body). Others believe it represents the realms of existence that we live in (sea, sky, and land). Some communities also interpret it as nature, truth, and knowledge, while others take it to mean the upper world, middle, and the underworld. It may also mean love, truth, and wisdom. The interpretation of this symbol depends on the morals and history of the particular community.

Other cultures interpret the Awen by looking at the three circles that surround the symbol. The circles explain the timeless and cyclical nature of the three spheres of creation. Contemporary Druid groups consider the Awen as a symbol that represents divine illumination and inspiration for writers, poets, artists, creatives, and writers. Many people translate it to mean ‘flowing spirit’ as said among the Welsh. Simply put, it means to awaken the spirit and your own energy and stretch it around the energy in our environment.

According to the Welsh and modern-day Druid groups, it means opening one’s self, mind and spirit to deeply see and understand what connects us to the life we live. It is only when we are fully open that we get to receive the divine gifts and the inspiration that flows, whether from nature, a form of diety, or whatever you choose to focus on.

A relationship must exist for Awen to indeed apply. You cannot inspire unless you are genuinely open and vulnerable. Similarly, you cannot be truly open unless there is a substantial relationship/connection to a god, thunder, or nature. The Awen exists in a cyclic nature in that you can only receive your divine gift when you are open and giving to yourself.

The origin of the Awen

The Awen energy dates back to the medieval texts that explain the tale of Taliesin and Ceridwen. According to the history books, the goddess Ceridwen was preparing a special potion for her beloved son, Afagddu. Tended by Gwion Bach, the brew bubbled over, and some drops burnt Gwion as he was stirring the pot. He quickly put his thumb in his mouth to ease the pain, taking the magic that was for the goddess’s son.

When the goddess came to learn of this, she was enraged and chased him, eventually eating him and then rebirthing him again. Upon his birth, he put him on a boat, and after many years he was discovered alive and renamed Taliesin. Due to his famous brow, he became the most popular Bard of Britain. As a result, the Awen was some kind of initiation and transition, like Gwion did through the goddess and her special brew. However, the enlightenment and awareness that comes from the Awen also arise great trials and tribulations.

Similarly, the Awen symbol was an invention by Welsh poet, lolo Morgannwg, in the 18th century. However, according to the tale, many people believe the Awen is older than initially written in history books. More so, the word ‘Awen’ first appeared in ‘Historia Brittonum,’ a 9th-century book, which is thought to be written by Nennius, a Welsh monk.


Due to the adoption of the Awen by Neo-Druids, the symbol is quite famous in these modern times. Numerous artists have gained inspiration from this symbol as it is still highly influential to date. As a result, it is one of the most powerful Celtic symbols in the Irish culture and heritage.  


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