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Bran

by Brian Edward Rise
Welsh mythological ruler of ancient Britain and model for the keeper of the Grail, the Fisher King. He originally is a Celtic god (see: Bran) and, though he is gigantic, he is practically humanized and called 'the Blessed' but this might be a Christianization of a pagan epithet. Bran is wounded in battle with a poisoned spear after leading an army to Ireland in the 'Mabinogion'.

He orders his surviving men to decapitate him and bring his head back to Wales. They follow his orders and for many years these soldiers are granted magical peace. When the spell is finally broken, to comply with Bran's last wishes, the men travel to London and inter the head on Tower Hill where it acts as a charm against foreign invasions and plagues. Several centuries later, Arthur digs up the head of Bran and says that Britain should not depend upon such talismans. In the Welsh Triads, this is one of the three "Unfortunate Disclosures" or "Wicked Uncoverings".

Bran means Raven and the Irish hero who journeys to the Otherworld over the western ocean, is indubitably some form of the same deity/hero. There are many Grail connections -- Bron may derive from Bran and Bran's wounding with a spear echoes the Grail motif. In addition, Bran has a miracle cauldron that restores life to the dead and after he is struck down, the land becomes barren like the Wasteland in romance literature.

Later Welsh legend makes Bran entirely human with an historical setting. This may be in part due to his Grail connection or because of his name, 'the Blessed'. He becomes the father of the patriotic hero Caratacus, accompanies him to Rome where he is converted by St. Paul himself. He then returns to Britain as a missionary although this has no Arthurian significance.


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