March 31st, 2009 by sabrina
Branwen (pronounced BRAN-oo-wen) is the Welsh Goddess of love and beauty. She is the daughter of Llyr, God of the sea, and Penarddun, also a Goddess of beauty, and sister of Bran, the King of Wales. Bran had promised his sister to Matholwch, the King of Ireland, as his wife, but before they could be wed, Bran and Branwen’s half-brother Efnisien, angered that he had not been consulted, went on a rampage and mutilated the horses that Matholwch had brought with him. Bran offered Matholwch various gifts, but there was only one that would appease his anger. Bran was in possession of a magical cauldron that had been given to him by the Goddess Cymidei Cymeinfoll, a cauldron that would bring back to life any warrior who was killed in battle. Bran reluctantly gave Matholwch the cauldron, and he took it and Branwen and returned to Ireland.
The first year of her marriage was happy for Branwen, and she gave birth to a son, Gwern. However, things went downhill from there, and Branwen became more a slave than a queen. She taught a starling to speak and sent it across the sea to Bran. Bran immediately assembled an army and set sail for Ireland, taking Efnisien along. Matholwch tried to settle the disagreement with Bran amicably, but hot-tempered Efnisien broke the peace by casting the young Gwern into a fire. War erupted, and the Irish had the upper hand, because they had the cauldron that would resuscitate their warriors. Efnisien redeemed himself by throwing himself into the cauldron and breaking it, turning the tide for the Welsh. By the end of the war, all of the Irish except for five pregnant women had been killed. Of the Welsh, only Branwen and seven men remained. Bran had been fatally wounded, and he instructed his men to cut off his head, which stayed alive, and take it back to Wales. When Branwen and the men landed at Aber Alaw in Wales, she lamented over the destruction that had taken place because of her marriage, and she died of a broken heart.
Branwen’s grave, Bedd Branwen, can still be seen, marked with a standing stone. Excavations found that had indeed been burials there in the early Bronze Age. Branwen’s name, which means “blessed raven,” is also seen as Brangwaine.
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