Branwen, daughter of Llyr

Branwen

Branwen (1915).  C. Williams.

In British mythology Great Branwen, daughter of Llyr and sister of Bran and  Manawyddan, was the embodiment of sovereignty and chief goddess of Avalon. Her name is derived from the Welsh bran meaning ‘raven’ or ‘dark’ and gwen meaning ‘fair’ or ‘beauty’. Hence Branwen, who was famed for her beauty, was the white or sacred raven. She was the goddess of regeneration who kept the cauldron that brought back life, and her epithets include the ‘White Blossomed One’, the Welsh Love Goddess’, and ‘Venus of the Northern Sea’. As the ‘White Crow’ the crow is her animal and the Alder her tree. Branwen the ‘White Raven’ was the sister of Bran the Blessed, became Queen of Ireland while Bran was the King of the Isle of Britain.

Branwen was given in marriage to Mathowch the king of Ireland, which temporarily united Ireland and Britain, by her brother Bendigeidfran. Badly maltreated by her husband and, made to suffer at the hands of her husband’s countrymen, after her half-brother Efinissien who insulted the Irishmen. She calls on her brother who is King of the Isle of Britain for help. Bran makes war on Ireland and is beheaded and killed. Efinissien (or Evnissien) killed the son of Branwen (called Gwern) and Mathowch. Branwen dies of grief and sorrow after returning to Britain.

Branwen has been compared to Rhiannon because she gives bracelets as gifts. Branwen seems to be related to the Arhurian figures Brangwaine, Brangoene, and Bringvain. As a goddess Branwen was very concerned about her realm and its well-being and thus a deity of great depth and complexity.

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