September 26, 2012

Branwen: The Venus of the Northern Sea

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , at 12:54 am by Babs

Branwen (Manx, Welsh, Pan-Celtic) The “White-Bosomed One” was the Welsh love goddess, sometimes called “the Venus of the northern sea.”  Also referred to as Branwyn and Bronwen.

Branwen is the daughter of Llyr and Penarddun, sister of Bran and Manawydan, and half-sister of Nisien and Efnisien.  Mathowch of Ireland sue for her hand in marriage to create an alliance between Ireland and Wales.  Angry that no one had consulted him concerning the marriage Efnisien mutilated Matholwch’s horses.  Matholwch considered this a grave insult and commanded his men to return to their ships in order to return to Ireland.  Bran tried to make amends for the insult by replacing each of the mutilated horses, and by giving Matholwch a staff of silver as tall as he and a platter of gold the size of his face.  Despite these gifts Matholwch was still angry.

Bran then gifted him with the most prized possession of Wales: a magical cauldron that would restore the dead to life.  This seemed to appease Matholwch and Branwen wed him.  Mathowch returned to Ireland with Branwen.  Within a year she bore him a son, Gwern.  Even this did not bring any warmth into the marriage as resentment about the insult lingered and the Irish began to complain about their foreign queen.

She was soon banished to the kitchen, where she was a slave and boxed on the ears by the butcher daily.  To keep Branwen’s situation from reaching Bran, Matholwch banned all ships from sailing to Wales and imprisoned any incoming Welsh crews.  This lasted three years.  During this time Branwen trained a startling to speak and sent it to Wales, where it told Bran of her plight.  He immediately sailed to rescue her.

In Ireland, Matholwch was told of an unusual apparition – a forest had materialized in the sea!  No one could explain to the terrified Matholwch what the sight meant, so he called for Branwen.  She explained that it was Bran’s navy with Bran himself wading through the water at the forefront.  An alarmed Matholwch came up with a plan to rid himself of Bran.  He built for Bran the first house ever that was big enough to hold him.  From every pillar of the house he hung a sack containing an Irish warrior.  At a signal from Matholwch the warriors would emerge and slaughter Bran and his army during a great banquet.  Bran was very impressed with the house but Efnisien was suspicious of the sacks.  Matholwch told him that they were just sacks of flour but he wanted to inspect them.  Upon close inspection he felt the shape of a man’s head.  Efnisien squeezed the head between his thumb and forefinger until they met in the middle.  He did the same to each of the sacks in the house before finally declaring himself satisfied.  Somewhat disgruntled at Efnisien’s actions, Matholwch had to abandon his plot.

The banquet went on as planned though.  During the banquet, in which Matholwch agrees to abdicate his throne to Gwern, Efnisien asks if he may caress the child.  Permission is granted and Gwern approaches Efnisien from across the banquet hall.  When the child came within arms reach Efnisien grabbed him and threw him into the fire.  Immediately the banquet turned into a bloody brawl of which the Irish soon had the upper hand because they had the magical cauldron that would restore the dead to life.

Efnisien, repenting, sacrificed himself by hiding under a pile of Irish corpses and being thrown along with them into the cauldron.  Since no living thing could be placed into the cauldron it shattered into 4 pieces killing Efnisien at the same time.  After 3 days of bloody fighting Bran’s army was victorious, but at a terrible cost.  His huge army had been reduced to only 7 men – among them were his brother Manawydan and Pwyll’s son Pryderi.  A poisoned arrow in the foot fatally wounded Bran.

On the Irish side only 5 pregnant women remained to repopulate the whole island.  Realizing that the two kingdoms had been destroyed on her account, Branwen sailed to Aber Alaw and died of grief.

Correspondences:

Branwen is the Goddess of Love and Beauty.  She is also considered the Lady of the Lake and is the embodiment of the Land.  She is the goddess of sovereignty and should be included in any ritual that deals with the land or earth.

Call on Branwen when you need help starting a new project, are looking for inspiration, or are faced with a new beginning.

In the Avalonian tradition Branwen corresponds with Spirit Elementals and the 1st chakra (spirit/ awen).

Facts:

Branwen, whose name means “White Raven” in Welsh, is the Welsh goddess of love and beauty.  She is considered the Venus of the Northern Sea and is also worshipped in Manx.  She is one of the five Goddesses of Avalon and is considered one of the three matriarchs of Britain (along with Rhiannon and Cerridwen).  The Full Moon in June is Branwen’s Moon.  She also is honored during the waxing moon of each month.  She is associated with the Goddesses Artemis (Diana), Eriu, Nymph, and Aphrodite (Venus).  She is considered to be a Maiden aspect of the Goddess although she has many Mother attributes.  The magical attributes associated with her include invoking beginnings, new projects, ideas, inspiration, energy, vitality, and freedom.

Bedd Branwen:

In the Tale of Branwen, Bran’s companions and Branwen b ring Bran’s severed head back from Ireland.  They landed at Aber Alaw in Anglesey, where Branwen died of a broken heart.  Legend has it that she was buried nearby at Bedd Branwen (‘Branwen’s Grave’), a tumulus by the River Alaw.  An account of the discovery, in 1813, of an urn, in which, there is every reason to suppose, the ashes of Bronwen the daughter of Llyr, and aunt to the great Caractacus, were deposited.

A farmer, living on the banks of the Alaw, a river in the Isle of Anglesea, having occasion for stones, to make some addition to his farm buildings, and having observed a stone or two peeping through the turf of a circular elevation on a flat not far from the river, was induced to examine it, where, after paring off the turf, he came to a considerable heap of stones, or carnedd, covered with earth, which he removed with some degree of caution, and got to a cyst formed of course flags canted and covered over.  On removing the lid, he found it contained an urn placed with its mouth downwards, full of ashes and half-calcined fragments of bone.  The report of this discovery soon went abroad, and came to the ears of the parson of the parish, and another neighboring clergyman, both fond of, and conversant in, Welsh antiquities, who were immediately reminded of a passage in one of the early Welsh romances, called the Mabinogion: “A square grave was made for Bronwen, the daughter of Llyr, on the banks of the Alaw, and there she was buried.”

After this discovery one can hardly resist the temptation of paying a visit to so memorable a spot.  You may find it, in all local respects, exactly and described by the clergyman above mentioned, and as characterised by the cited passage from the romance.  The tumulus, raised over the venerable deposit, was of considerable circuit, elegantly rounded, but low, about a dozen paces from the river Alaw.  The spot is still called Ynys Bronwen (the Islet of Bronwen) which is a remarkable confirmation of this discovery.

The urn was preserved entire, with an exception of a small bit out of its lip, was ill-baked, very ruse and simple, having no other ornament than little pricked dots, in height from about a foot to fourteen inches. “When I saw the urn, the ashes and half-calcified bones were in it.”

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2 Comments »

  1. Andraste said,

    Could Branwyn be equated with ,or another aspect of the Norse Gddess of Beauty& love Freyja?

    • Babs said,

      Great question! I could easily see a correlation between the two but after gathering my information from several sites, I never once saw a direct connection made by those writing the articles. Even a quick search today didn’t uncover one after about 30 minutes of looking. I am no expert and rely on the papers and articles I have read. From what I have gleened both are primarily maiden aspects, both are often referred to as similar to Venus and given the Norse invasion of Britian at different times in history it would lead me to believe that many of the aspects were “borrowed” between the cultures. But I cannot find supporting evidence to actually confirm the theory by the experts. Similar overlaps between pantheons are highly documented such as the Roman and Greek.


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