“Thinking of naming our daughter Ceridwen…
How do you like having it? She was born this morning”
I wrote back. I told her it’s Welsh (like my dad), pronounced Ker-ID-wen, and means light and poetry. In Welsh mythology Ceridwen is an earth-mother figure who, in a rather extraordinary episode involving a cauldron, ingested a village boy and gave birth to one of Wales’ most famous ancient poets, Taliesin. I guess you could call her, as some do, the Mother of Poetry.
I also told her that I’ve spent my entire life pronouncing it and spelling it. I have lots of nick names–Sir Edwin, Criddlecakes and C. C. Rider–but to this day, I never give one out. Most call me Ceridwen, with some awkwardly earnest mispronunciations at first, and soon with confidence and mastery.
In England where I was born, my parents were given massive amounts of grief for calling me Ceridwen—friends, neighbors, the butcher, the baker all thought it was a huge mistake. My mother still gets anxious thinking about it. (The Americans have been more accepting.) But I love my weird name. And I don’t mind spelling it.
Growing up, I was teased from time to time but it wasn’t for my name. At one point some clever third grader figured out that my name spelled backwards is Newdirec– or “Nude Eric”–so that got lots of play. But kids in my class made fun of a girl named Emily, too.
When we knew each other but before we were dating my husband googled me and found a Ceridwen Morris writing movie reviews. He assumed it was me, but it never came up. One night, when I claimed I’d never seen a certain film, he called me out, quoting from my devastating critique. Turned out there were at least two Ceridwen Morris’s in the world. It was a little spooky– we even look a little bit alike– but also comforting. We’ve since become facebook friends.
As for the stranger contemplating adding another Ceridwen to the world, I wished her well.
Just last week I heard from the woman. Her daughter Ceridwen is doing fine. Who knows, maybe the name is the next Ava. If Seraphina can make it to the top ten, there is no telling. Jennifer, after all, is a Welsh name, too, though for decades now Jenny has been from the block.
Painting: Ceridwen by Christopher Williams (1910)