A Must Read To The Children For Winter Solstice

BRAN THE BLESSED, A FAERY KING MYTH

The Yuletide season provides us with an ideal opportunity to reflect on the ancient Welsh myth of Bran the Blessed, a vivid and compassionate tale that embodies the Wiccan values of giving, light, and rebirth. Bran’s story is one of personal sacrifice, conciliation, and a king’s love for his people and land. If he does not meet his obligations to the Goddess, Earth Mother, and the land itself turns against him. Bran’s myth is about how to become a good king.

Bran’s sister, Branwen, is Goddess of the Land, and as such, she is Bran’s reason for being. As Faery King and Guardian of the Cauldron of Rebirth, Bran is committed to his role as champion of Her cause. The Cauldron of Rebirth, originally from Ireland, has the power to bring dead warriors back to life and is a special symbol of the law and power of the land.

In the story, Branwen marries Matholwch, the King of Ireland, in order to form a bond between Britain and Ireland. Branwen’s brother however, is upset by the marriage and kills all of Matholwch’s horses. Bran replaces the horses, but Matholwch is not satisfied. In order to heal the breach, Bran must also give Matholwch the Cauldron of Rebirth. Despite so generous a gift, Matholwch is still not appeased. He mistreats Bran’s sister so badly, Bran must march into Ireland to save her. To prevent his arrival, Matholwch burns the bridge leading across the Shannon River. But Bran shapeshifts into a giant and acts as his own bridge, carrying his men on his enormous shoulders through the sea. Thus we find in Bran’s story the important line, which serves as a lesson to future leaders, “He who would be chief, let him make himself a bridge.”

Without the Cauldron of Rebirth, Bran’s forces are defeated and Bran is wounded. He orders his own beheading and while his men transport his head to be buried in the White Tower of London, Bran teaches everything he has learned from the Goddess’ Cauldron of Rebirth, passing on his wisdom to all future generations. This image of Bran’s head is one of many examples found in Celtic mythology and witchcraft of the skull as a symbol of power and wisdom. The skull is not something to be feared. Modern witches wear skull jewelry, symbolizing the house of the brain.

Yule is a good time of year to think about what we learn of Bran’s myth. This is a magickal moment of the ever-turning wheel: like Bran’s story, it is full of heart and passion, lightness and gravity, hope and realism. This is a time when we reflect on the unconquerable human spirit that the story of Branwen and Bran represents. (Laurie Cabot, Celebrate the Earth)

Cabot goes on to say she believes Yule, more than any other moment on the Wheel of the Year, is indicative of the unity of the Wiccan tradition. At Yule, we desire to cherish the best of all we have, and to seek out and acknowledge what is of great value in others.Yule is an awakening and a thankfulness for our knowledge of and our connection to the Wheel of the Year.

 

Earth Witchery

Today We Honor Branwen

Branwen

by Karen Davis
 
Branwen (“white raven”) a daughter of Llyr and Penarddun, and sister of Bran, and Manawydan, and half-sister of Nisien and Efnisien. Matholwch of Ireland sued for her hand, and gave horses to Bran. Efnisien mutilated the horses, nearly precipitating warfare, but Matholwch was appeased by the gift of a cauldron that could resurrect the dead. Branwen wed him, and went to Ireland, where she bore him a son, Gwern. But the Irish began to complain about their foreign queen, and she was banished to the kitchen, where she was a slave and boxed on the ears by the butcher daily. This lasted three years, during which Branwen trained a starling to speak and sent it to Wales, where it told Bran of her plight, and he sailed to rescue her.Matholwch was terrified at the sight of a forest approaching Ireland across the sea: no one could make it out, until he called for Branwen, who explained it as Bran’s navy, and Bran himself wading through the water. He sued for peace, they built a house big enough for Bran, and Matholwch agreed to settle the kingdom on Gwern.
 
 
Some Irish lords objected, and hid themselves in flour bags to attack the Welsh. But Efnisien, scenting Irish treachery, cast them into the fire, and then cast Gwern himself in (avoiding the geas against shedding kinsmen’s blood thereby). A war broke out, and the Irish replenished themselves through the cauldron. Efnisien, repenting, sacrificed himself by feigning death and being thrown into the cauldron, which he then broke, dying in the process. Only seven Welshmen survived, and Bran was fatally wounded. His head, which remained alive and talking, was returned to Wales and buried, and soon afterwards Branwen sailed to Aber Alaw and died. She is one of the three “matriarchs of Britain”, along with (probably) Rhiannon and Arianrhod.

 Encyclopedia Mythica

Deity of the Day for August 9th is Bran

Bran (Irish)

Son of Llyr and Renarddun. Brother of the mighty Manawydan ap Llyr (Ireland, Manannan mac Lir) and Branwen. Represented by the raven in Celtic lore. Bran is credited with prophetic powers and, like a raven, holds the gift of being far sighted. He is also said to watch over the bard and ovate offering guidance when needed. His severed head is said to reside under the Tower of London protecting the kingdom from invasion, and for that reason the ravens at the tower have their wings clipped to stop them from leaving. Arthur once dug up the head claiming that he was the sole guardian of the realm only to find the saxons began their raids, hence the Pendragon promptly replaced Bran’s head to it’s rightful resting place before restoring order to the land. A giant; “raven”; “the blessed”. God of prophecy, the arts, leaders, war, the Sun, music, writing.

Branwen

by Karen Davis

Branwen (“white raven”) a daughter of Llyr and Penarddun, and sister of Bran, and Manawydan, and half-sister of Nisien and Efnisien. Matholwch of Ireland sued for her hand, and gave horses to Bran. Efnisien mutilated the horses, nearly precipitating warfare, but Matholwch was appeased by the gift of a cauldron that could resurrect the dead. Branwen wed him, and went to Ireland, where she bore him a son, Gwern. But the Irish began to complain about their foreign queen, and she was banished to the kitchen, where she was a slave and boxed on the ears by the butcher daily. This lasted three years, during which Branwen trained a starling to speak and sent it to Wales, where it told Bran of her plight, and he sailed to rescue her.

Matholwch was terrified at the sight of a forest approaching Ireland across the sea: no one could make it out, until he called for Branwen, who explained it as Bran’s navy, and Bran himself wading through the water. He sued for peace, they built a house big enough for Bran, and Matholwch agreed to settle the kingdom on Gwern. Some Irish lords objected, and hid themselves in flour bags to attack the Welsh. But Efnisien, scenting Irish treachery, cast them into the fire, and then cast Gwern himself in (avoiding the geas against shedding kinsmen’s blood thereby). A war broke out, and the Irish replenished themselves through the cauldron. Efnisien, repenting, sacrificed himself by feigning death and being thrown into the cauldron, which he then broke, dying in the process. Only seven Welshmen survived, and Bran was fatally wounded. His head, which remained alive and talking, was returned to Wales and buried, and soon afterwards Branwen sailed to Aber Alaw and died. She is one of the three “matriarchs of Britain”, along with (probably) Rhiannon and Arianrhod.

How to Choose A Good Magickal Name


Author: Bronwen Forbes

There’s a standard joke in the Pagan community that, at a gathering, if the loudspeaker were to announce, “Will Raven, Morgan, and Rhiannon please come to registration?” half the attendees would show up, and that the Ravens at least would be split pretty evenly between males and females.

Like most good jokes, it has a lot of truth in it.

So rule number one of how *not* to choose a good magickal name is: pick one that’s already been used to death.

Rule number two of how not to choose a good magickal name: pick one that’s unpronounceable. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times people with magickal names like Aistiranpaistinfionncoinini have gotten really annoyed with me because I can’t pronounce their name. If you must*have a name longer than ten letters, do your friends, fellow coveners and community a favor and allow us to use a nickname. “Aistir” would work for my example. It means, “star” in Irish Gaelic.

Now that you know what not to do when picking a magickal name for yourself, what doyou do?

First, decide whether or not you really need one, or if your legal first name will work just fine. Back in the 1980s (when I first realized I was Pagan) , most of us had a special name we used in the community. Even though we were on the cusp of the 21st century, we still felt the need to hide our legal identity in order to protect our jobs and our children.

If you have a career, a potential career (if you’re still in school) , children that might be in danger because of where you live or who you’re divorcing, or a work situation that could be jeopardized if people outside the community knew you were Pagan, you might want a magickal name for public community use.

Also, many groups and traditions only use their magickal names when they’re in ritual – it’s another way to move them into ritual space, just like putting on robes and lighting the candles do. For these folks, the privilege of knowing and using their ritual name indicates that you are “family” to them. The rest of the Pagan community calls them Lynn or Bob, i.e. their legal names.

If you still decide you want a magickal name, it’s best to pick one that a) tells the Pagan world something about you, b) is a reflection of your path, or c) invokes something into you that you feel you lack. A really good magickal name will fill all three criteria.

Let me explain. When I joined my first coven, I was required (as were all members) to choose a name from Tolkien’s made-up Elvish language. I was a theater major at the time, and was intrigued by the comedy-tragedy masks that not only summed up the human condition, but also in the balance implied by the smiling face and the sorrowful face. After some reflection, I chose Nienor Lailaith, which, loosely translated, means “sorrow joy.”

I was called “Nienor” in the community for roughly my first year. It definitely told the Pagan world that theater was sacred to me, which was something I wanted everyone to know. The coven I was in used a lot of symbolism from Tolkien’s works, and when I met people and used my Elvish name, there was no question in their minds what coven I was in and what path I was on.

Finally, I was twenty-two years old. “Balance” was not in my vocabulary – but I knew it needed to be. I remember thinking that maybe a nice, balanced name like “sorrow joy” would help me learn how to better juggle my schoolwork, home life, and coven responsibilities. As magickal names go, Nienor Lailaith was a pretty good one.

So in case you’ve accidentally or deliberately misplaced your copy of The Silmarillion, how do you pick a good magickal name?

Here’s what I did when it was time to retire Nienor and find something else. I took a piece of paper and a pen and started writing down every word or name that I liked from my favorite books — fiction and non-fiction — my favorite movies, mythology – Greek, Roman, Celtic, Slavic, Norse, plus plant and tree identification books, baby name books (they’re not known for historical accuracy, but they do have some names you might not otherwise think of) , animals I particularly liked, zodiac correspondences, birds, history… every source I could think of until I had a list of about thirty names.

I then started to cross off the ones I liked the least until I had two left. One, not surprisingly, was Bronwen. I liked the sound. I liked the spelling – there are several ways to spell “Bronwen, ” more if you want it to look exotic. I played around with what little I know about numerology and discovered that Bronwen spelled with an “o” and an “e” (as opposed to, say, “Branwyn” or “Bronwinn”) was a one, a number that balanced my birth number very nicely. So, Bronwen it was.

(On a side note, I legally changed my first and middle names in 1994. “Bronwen” is now my middle name. You don’t have to go as far as legally changing your name. In fact, considering all the expense and annoyance of changing all one’s legal documents, including driver’s license, social security card, medical insurances cards, etc. I strongly recommend you have at least one major compelling reason to do so. It’s really a pain to do!)

Whatever you do, don’t use one of those Pagan name generators on the Internet. They’re a joke. They’re meant to be funny. They are not for real! You’d think everyone would know that, but I’ve run into about one too many “Lavender Mermaid of the Sand” who got her “special” name from one of those sites and took it seriously. In fact, I just now played with the Pagan name generator and got Ariadne Bard Dragonfly.

Hmm. I think I’ll stick with Bronwen, thanks. But if Ariadne Bard Dragonfly works for you, feel free to take it!

How to Choose A Good Magickal Name

How to Choose A Good Magickal Name

Author: Bronwen Forbes

There’s a standard joke in the Pagan community that, at a gathering, if the loudspeaker were to announce, “Will Raven, Morgan, and Rhiannon please come to registration?” half the attendees would show up, and that the Ravens at least would be split pretty evenly between males and females.

Like most good jokes, it has a lot of truth in it.

So rule number one of how *not* to choose a good magickal name is: pick one that’s already been used to death.

Rule number two of how not to choose a good magickal name: pick one that’s unpronounceable. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times people with magickal names like Aistiranpaistinfionncoinini have gotten really annoyed with me because I can’t pronounce their name. If you must*have a name longer than ten letters, do your friends, fellow coveners and community a favor and allow us to use a nickname. “Aistir” would work for my example. It means, “star” in Irish Gaelic.

Now that you know what not to do when picking a magickal name for yourself, what doyou do?

First, decide whether or not you really need one, or if your legal first name will work just fine. Back in the 1980s (when I first realized I was Pagan) , most of us had a special name we used in the community. Even though we were on the cusp of the 21st century, we still felt the need to hide our legal identity in order to protect our jobs and our children.

If you have a career, a potential career (if you’re still in school) , children that might be in danger because of where you live or who you’re divorcing, or a work situation that could be jeopardized if people outside the community knew you were Pagan, you might want a magickal name for public community use.

Also, many groups and traditions only use their magickal names when they’re in ritual – it’s another way to move them into ritual space, just like putting on robes and lighting the candles do. For these folks, the privilege of knowing and using their ritual name indicates that you are “family” to them. The rest of the Pagan community calls them Lynn or Bob, i.e. their legal names.

If you still decide you want a magickal name, it’s best to pick one that a) tells the Pagan world something about you, b) is a reflection of your path, or c) invokes something into you that you feel you lack. A really good magickal name will fill all three criteria.

Let me explain. When I joined my first coven, I was required (as were all members) to choose a name from Tolkien’s made-up Elvish language. I was a theater major at the time, and was intrigued by the comedy-tragedy masks that not only summed up the human condition, but also in the balance implied by the smiling face and the sorrowful face. After some reflection, I chose Nienor Lailaith, which, loosely translated, means “sorrow joy.”

I was called “Nienor” in the community for roughly my first year. It definitely told the Pagan world that theater was sacred to me, which was something I wanted everyone to know. The coven I was in used a lot of symbolism from Tolkien’s works, and when I met people and used my Elvish name, there was no question in their minds what coven I was in and what path I was on.

Finally, I was twenty-two years old. “Balance” was not in my vocabulary – but I knew it needed to be. I remember thinking that maybe a nice, balanced name like “sorrow joy” would help me learn how to better juggle my schoolwork, home life, and coven responsibilities. As magickal names go, Nienor Lailaith was a pretty good one.

So in case you’ve accidentally or deliberately misplaced your copy of The Silmarillion, how do you pick a good magickal name?

Here’s what I did when it was time to retire Nienor and find something else. I took a piece of paper and a pen and started writing down every word or name that I liked from my favorite books — fiction and non-fiction — my favorite movies, mythology – Greek, Roman, Celtic, Slavic, Norse, plus plant and tree identification books, baby name books (they’re not known for historical accuracy, but they do have some names you might not otherwise think of) , animals I particularly liked, zodiac correspondences, birds, history… every source I could think of until I had a list of about thirty names.

I then started to cross off the ones I liked the least until I had two left. One, not surprisingly, was Bronwen. I liked the sound. I liked the spelling – there are several ways to spell “Bronwen, ” more if you want it to look exotic. I played around with what little I know about numerology and discovered that Bronwen spelled with an “o” and an “e” (as opposed to, say, “Branwyn” or “Bronwinn”) was a one, a number that balanced my birth number very nicely. So, Bronwen it was.

(On a side note, I legally changed my first and middle names in 1994. “Bronwen” is now my middle name. You don’t have to go as far as legally changing your name. In fact, considering all the expense and annoyance of changing all one’s legal documents, including driver’s license, social security card, medical insurances cards, etc. I strongly recommend you have at least one major compelling reason to do so. It’s really a pain to do!)

Whatever you do, don’t use one of those Pagan name generators on the Internet. They’re a joke. They’re meant to be funny. They are not for real! You’d think everyone would know that, but I’ve run into about one too many “Lavender Mermaid of the Sand” who got her “special” name from one of those sites and took it seriously. In fact, I just now played with the Pagan name generator and got Ariadne Bard Dragonfly.

Hmm. I think I’ll stick with Bronwen, thanks. But if Ariadne Bard Dragonfly works for you, feel free to take it!