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[W Brân, (raven or carrion crow) the blessed].

Celtic sea-deity, later described as a king of Britain; a leading figure in early Welsh narrative. ‘Bendigeidfran’ or Brân ‘the Blessed’ is a form that may pre-date the introduction of Christianity, but it was preferred by Christian scribes who thought that Brân had helped to bring the faith to Wales; it is none the less the form used in translations of early secular narratives. Bendigeidfran is the son of Llyˇr, brother of Branwen and Manawydan and half-brother of Efnisien. His son was Caradog. Bendigeidfran is sometimes thought to be a giant; he could wade across the strait between Britain and Ireland. He possesses a magical horn of plenty that produces food and drink in abundance for the asking. Much of the action in Branwen, the second branch of the Mabinogi, takes place during his reign, and he plays a leading part in it. At his death from a poisoned spear he requests that his head be severed and placed in the White Hill in London, facing France, so that the country may be protected from invasion. The head, called Urdawl Ben [W., noble head] entertained its guardians at Harlech for 87 years before it was buried. Arthur was thought to have dug it up so that Britain might be defended by the valour of his warriors rather than by a talisman. After that the head presided over the otherworldly island of Gwales. The Welsh Triads describe the severed head as one of Three Fortunate Concealments and also as one of Three Unfortunate Disclosures (because Arthur dug it up). Bendigeidfran may have an antecedent in the British god Belatucadros, and has been compared with the Greek figures Cronus, because he once slept with fifty maidens, and Phoroneus. He may be the inspiration for, or prototype of, the characterization of Bron, the Fisher King, in Arthurian romance.

See Helaine Newstead, Brân the Blessed in Arthurian Romance (New York, 1939, 1968);Rachel Bromwich, Trioedd Ynys Prydain, 2nd edn. (Cardiff, 1978), 284ff., 545.

Subjects: Religion.

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