The video does not mention the one part that always broke my heart in the story: "When Branwen saw her son burning in the fire, she made as if to leap after him from where she was sitting between her two brothers, but Bran seized her with one hand and his shield with the other....As each man went after his weapons Bran protected Branwen between his shield and his shoulder." I always imagined Branwen's struggle against the arms holding her, crying and desperately attempting to reach her dying son, who was probably the only light in her life. Branwen's son was named Gwern, which means "alder tree."
The Celtic God Bran and the raven are both connected to the concepts of prophecy and fate. As the video mentions, Bran's prophetic head was buried at Tower Hill, where the ravens are cared for even today. In 2003 my husband took me on the trip of my dreams to England, and I saw those majestic birds firsthand. They took my breath away. It bothered me a little to see them caged and know their wings were clipped, but I got the impression they are well-cared-for, even revered, by all. The Tower Ravens are symbols of the timeless magic of myth and belief.
In Love Lies Bleeding, a raven draws Aislin's attention towards the door in the oak, sealing her fate that she is "destined for the forest."
The Cad Goddeu (The Battle of the Trees) is a Welsh medieval poem attributed to the bard Taliesin (who, by the way, is one of the seven warriors who survive the battle and return to Wales with Branwen and Bran's head). In the poem, Gwydion the enchanter animates trees to be his army. Gwydion identifies the god Bran as a raven and gains power by also identifying him with the alder tree, thus revealing his "secret" names:
In the Ogham alphabet, alder is "Fearn," one of the peasant trees and representative of the letter "F." It likes to grow at the forest's edge and especially on riverbanks. Like Bran, who used his body as a bridge for his warriors, it was often used as material for bridges and viewed symbolically as a bridge between land and water as well as this world and the Otherworld. The alder is a tree of prophecy, like Bran's head and the raven that loves the alder's dark, damp groves, because it gives us a way to access the knowledge, tales, and energy of the Otherworld.
Alder was also the preferred wood for making shields for Celtic warriors. When cut, the alder's white inner wood turns red, thus "bleeding" and conferring magical protection upon the warrior who carries the shield. Alder is a warrior's wood, one of protection, defense, and preservation, just as Bran relied heavily on his shield to protect his sister.
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If you liked this post, scroll down to check out On Ogham and Oak, the first installment.