Posts Tagged With: Branwen

A Must Read To The Children For Winter Solstice

BRAN THE BLESSED, A FAERY KING MYTH

The Yuletide season provides us with an ideal opportunity to reflect on the ancient Welsh myth of Bran the Blessed, a vivid and compassionate tale that embodies the Wiccan values of giving, light, and rebirth. Bran’s story is one of personal sacrifice, conciliation, and a king’s love for his people and land. If he does not meet his obligations to the Goddess, Earth Mother, and the land itself turns against him. Bran’s myth is about how to become a good king.

Bran’s sister, Branwen, is Goddess of the Land, and as such, she is Bran’s reason for being. As Faery King and Guardian of the Cauldron of Rebirth, Bran is committed to his role as champion of Her cause. The Cauldron of Rebirth, originally from Ireland, has the power to bring dead warriors back to life and is a special symbol of the law and power of the land.

In the story, Branwen marries Matholwch, the King of Ireland, in order to form a bond between Britain and Ireland. Branwen’s brother however, is upset by the marriage and kills all of Matholwch’s horses. Bran replaces the horses, but Matholwch is not satisfied. In order to heal the breach, Bran must also give Matholwch the Cauldron of Rebirth. Despite so generous a gift, Matholwch is still not appeased. He mistreats Bran’s sister so badly, Bran must march into Ireland to save her. To prevent his arrival, Matholwch burns the bridge leading across the Shannon River. But Bran shapeshifts into a giant and acts as his own bridge, carrying his men on his enormous shoulders through the sea. Thus we find in Bran’s story the important line, which serves as a lesson to future leaders, “He who would be chief, let him make himself a bridge.”

Without the Cauldron of Rebirth, Bran’s forces are defeated and Bran is wounded. He orders his own beheading and while his men transport his head to be buried in the White Tower of London, Bran teaches everything he has learned from the Goddess’ Cauldron of Rebirth, passing on his wisdom to all future generations. This image of Bran’s head is one of many examples found in Celtic mythology and witchcraft of the skull as a symbol of power and wisdom. The skull is not something to be feared. Modern witches wear skull jewelry, symbolizing the house of the brain.

Yule is a good time of year to think about what we learn of Bran’s myth. This is a magickal moment of the ever-turning wheel: like Bran’s story, it is full of heart and passion, lightness and gravity, hope and realism. This is a time when we reflect on the unconquerable human spirit that the story of Branwen and Bran represents. (Laurie Cabot, Celebrate the Earth)

Cabot goes on to say she believes Yule, more than any other moment on the Wheel of the Year, is indicative of the unity of the Wiccan tradition. At Yule, we desire to cherish the best of all we have, and to seek out and acknowledge what is of great value in others.Yule is an awakening and a thankfulness for our knowledge of and our connection to the Wheel of the Year.

 

Earth Witchery

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BRAN AND THE SACRED KINGS OF THE ALDER MOON

BRAN AND THE SACRED KINGS OF THE ALDER MOON

by Imré K. Rainey 

Sacred Kings are just one part of the mystery of the Alder moon, but a very important one, and one that is easily misunderstood. What exactly is a Sacred King? Who is Bran? How are the Sacred Kings and Bran connected? Through an analysis of the following legend of Bran, and a comparison of this story with the Christian legend of the Grail, we will begin to see the connections.

The Story of Bran the Blessed, King of Britain 

Bran, king of Britain, son of Llyr, was standing at Harlech looking out to sea from the cliffs. “There is that in Ireland that I must have, for without it the land will fail,” exclaimed the king. He chose an entourage of his men to sail unto Ireland with him. They would leave Bran’s son Caradwc and seven wise men to watch over Britain, and offer Matholwch, the Irish king, Britain’s friendship.
Upon arrival, Bran and his men were greeted and escorted to Matholwch’s house. Matholwch accepted Bran and his men as friends, and invited them to a feast in honor of their new alliance.
When the feast had been proceeding for a time, Bran asked Matholwch, “Tell me, O King, whence had you that cauldron which is in the centre of the hall, but from which no one is seen to eat?” “Well that you may ask,” answered Matholwch, who proceeded to tell of a strange couple that he encountered one morning while hunting by the Lake of the Cauldron. When asked their purpose in his land, they responded that they were searching for a place to stay, as the woman, who was very ugly and carrying the very cauldron in question on her back, was great with child and would soon give birth.
Now Matholwch, being an honorable king, would not have it said that any went unhoused in his land, so at his home they were to stay. After a year, his court demanded that they be sent away because of their disturbing appearance and conduct, and so the King had a house of iron built within which they would reside. However, the plan was not only to move them out of the castle, but also to rid Ireland of the terrible family.
And so, once the frightening brood was in the house, Matholwch’s men heated its iron walls. The court stood back and watched as the walls grew hotter and hotter. And when the walls were at their hottest, glowing white as death, the family dashed against the walls, broke them, and escaped. When the house had cooled and the King’s men searched the remains, they found the cauldron that Bran saw before him. Its properties were described as that of resurrection.
“And who is this wretched woman of whom you speak?” asked Bran. “Cerridwen!” exclaimed Matholwch.
The feasting continued until finally all of Matholwch’s men, including himself, passed out. Bran rose to his feet and collected his men. He threw the cauldron onto his back and they sailed back to Britain.
The time was not long until Bran could see the King of Ireland approaching Britain on the sea. Quickly, Bran sent his men to meet Matholwch. In return for renewed friendship, Bran offered his sister, Branwen, to the Irish king. Matholwch accepted and Bran arranged a feast to honor the joining of the King of Ireland and his sister. However, Bran’s brother grew angry at the arrangement and mutilated the Irish horses. Deeply insulted, the Irish sovereign departed without taking leave. Upon hearing of this, Bran sent the King new horses and many treasures, in return for peace.
Years passed and Branwen bore a child to the Irish king, yet the Irish people could not forgive the insult that had been directed towards their King long ago. They demanded that Matholwch reject Branwen. In order to keep his people happy, the King did so. In hopes of maintaining her child’s safety, Branwen attempted to accept her husband’s rejection. After much heartache and humiliation, Branwen finally broke down and sent one of Rhiannon’s (British Goddess of the Underworld) birds with a message to Bran. Enraged, Bran sailed to Ireland with his ships. Matholwch realized what had happened and fled across the river Linon, breaking the bridge away behind him. Upon Bran’s arrival, Branwen left the Irish court and joined her brother.
Bran laid himself across the river and his men ran over him towards the Irish. Seeing Bran’s great display of strength and size, Matholwch quickly offered to give Branwen’s son the throne in return for his own safety. Branwen urged Bran to accept and a great feast followed in the Irish castle.
Matholwch met Bran at the feast and handed his throne over to Bran, who, in turn, crowned Branwen’s son. The new king went to his family seeking blessings, but was thrown into the fire by Bran’s jealous brother. Great fighting broke out and the cauldron was destroyed. Bran received a wound in his thigh, which would soon take his life, from a poisoned spear. The Brits fled with Branwen, who soon died of grief; the mortally wounded Bran; and the remains of the cauldron.
When at a safe distance, Bran gave instructions to his men. On their route to their destination they were to stop twice and feast as gods with food and ale. During these times they would forget all their troubles and woes while listening to Rhiannon’s birds, who had the power of enchantment. These feasts were to last many years. Finally, upon completion of their travels, they were to cut off their King’s head and bury it in the White Hills of London, their final destination.

 

This version of the myth was extrapolated from The Song of Taliesin.1

 

The story of Bran the King of Britain originates in The Mabinogion. The story is told by different authors, and so has different translations and slightly different variations. For example, the cauldron appears both as Cerridwen’s and also Branwen’s (this will be looked into later). Its property is resurrection, yet some versions say that the resurrected could not speak of what they had experienced in death, while other versions say that the resurrected could not speak at all. The context of the story also changes slightly; however, for our purpose, John Matthews’ version will suffice.2
The story of Bran is centered around a cauldron which originally belonged to Cerridwen or, in other versions, to Branwen. Cerridwen, as defined by Barbara Walker,3is the Triple Goddess, or the three aspects of the Goddess — maid, mother, and crone — in one (she is especially recognized as the crone aspect). In this view, Cerridwen can be associated with Morrigan, the “threefold goddess of the Celts of Gaul and Britain.” Further, “the second aspect of her trinity [was] Babd.” Babd, according to Walker, is the Welsh Branwen, the other keeper of the cauldron. Once it becomes clear that Cerridwen and Branwen are simply different aspects of the same entity, the dual ownership of the cauldron is understood (keep this in mind).The Holy Grail

 

In Christian legend, one comes across the story of the Holy Grail. According to Chrestien de Troyes4 the legend of the Holy Grail originates with Jesus and the Last Supper. The grail is the chalice in which the mystery of Jesus’ blood during the Holy Eucharist took place, and/or the container in which Jesus’ blood was collected when he was removed from the cross. Either way, the chalice, or grail, held within it the blood of the Christ through which one could be healed or receive eternal life.
Once empowered, the grail was to be protected so that it would not land in evil hands. Arthurian legend, originally made popular by de Troyes, tells of the battles that took place over the possession of the holy relic. While protecting the grail, the Fisher King (the guardian of the Grail) was mortally wounded — castrated — by a spear, but managed to keep the grail from falling into evil hands. He was then given eternal life by God and set to stand by the Holy Grail as its guardian until the chosen knight appears, who will ask the question that will give the Fisher king back his virility, thus returning the land to fruitfulness.
The legend of the Holy Grail asserts that the Grail is of Christian origin; however, the previous discussion of Bran and the Cauldron of Inspiration makes it clear that not only is the Holy Grail not originally Christian, but that it is an alteration of the Celtic legend. The Holy Grail is most definitely Cerridwen’s cauldron (or Branwen’s). Both the Grail and the Cauldron possess the power to restore life. The Fisher King is Bran. In Perceval, or The Story of the Grail, de Troyes5 tells of the great feast and generosity shown Perceval by the Fisher King who housed him for a night. In the story of Bran, we learned of the great feasts and generosity of Bran, the King of Britain (Britain is also known as the Isle of the Mighty, which is complementary to the Grail Castle where the Fisher King’s mighty knights dwell). The Fisher King was mortally wounded by a spear, while protecting the Holy Grail, as was Bran mortally wounded by a poisoned spear, while protecting the remainder of the cauldron.
When Perceval first saw the Holy Grail during his stay in the Grail Castle, it was being carried by a beautiful young woman; however, later, he was again in the company of the woman and she was old and wretched to his eyes. The association between the young, beautiful bearer of the grail who later appeared as an old, wretched hag and the multiple identities of Cerridwen and Branwen as young maidens and frightening crones is uncanny and cannot be ignored. Also, Robert Graves6illustrates the belief that Mary, Jesus’ mother, was the first owner of the Holy Grail. Mary was a maiden who, as a virgin, gave birth to the Christian son of God. She later witnessed the killing of her son. She can easily be identified with the Triple Goddess who, as the Maiden, or virgin, is pregnant with the god, becomes the Mother at his birth, and, after witnessing his death with the turning of the wheel of the year, evolves into the Crone. It is, therefore, obvious that the Holy Grail legend is derived from the story of Bran and his quest for the Cauldron of Inspiration.Sacred Kings

 

The Celtic society greatly depended on farming and the fruitfulness of yearly harvests. In relation, the Celtic king was much more than a mundane tyrant. In Celtic legend, the kingship of the land was dependent upon the queen, who was considered the earthly incarnation of the Goddess, and personified the land. The king, as well as being the ruler, actually personified the people. Upon the king’s marriage to the queen, he was in effect marrying the Goddess, and wedding the people to the land. It was, therefore, believed that whatever fruit he sowed as king (fair rulership, strong children, etc.), was reflected by the fertility and well-being of the land and people. Caitlin Matthews7 describes this concept with the example of King Conaire mac Mess Buachalla:
Good is his reign. Since he assumed the kingship, no cloud has veiled the sun for the space of a day from the middle of spring to the middle of autumn. And no dew-drop has falled from grass till midday, and wind would not touch a cow’s tail until noon …In his reign, each man deems the other’s voice melodious as the strings of harps, because of the excellence of the law and the peace and the good-will prevailing throughout…


In contrast:
…the land under Conn, who has married Becuma, an Otherworldly woman outcast from the Blessed Islands: “Conn and Becuma were a year together…and there was neither corn nor milk in Ireland…”


The king, again, accepted responsibility for his actions at the beginning of his rule. If the land and people suffered because of him, then he would have to make amends, and sometimes the only acceptable offering was his life. (Notice the elements of the legends of Beltane and associated celebrations, when the Celtic people celebrated the fertility of the land. In legend, if not necessarily in historical fact, the people offered the Goddess of the land the May King as a sacrifice to ensure fruitful harvests. The king was also symbolized in the character of the Fool, who voluntarily chose to be the king for a day and then be sacrificed in the Wicker Man, because the king had failed his people. The May Queen, who sentences him, is the character who represented the Goddess.) Finally, to complete the sacrifice of the sacred king, his head must be taken.
Bran was a sacred king, as will be illustrated by the fol-lowing elements. His land prospered and his people adored him because of his kindness, yet when his people were killed in great numbers and he, himself, was fatally wounded during the last battle with Matholwch, he could no longer successfully serve. His remaining countrymen had to be protected, so he offered himself as a sacrifice and ordered that his head be cut off and buried in the White Hills in London as protection for his people.

The Hazel Nut

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Appropriate Deities for Imbolc

Appropriate Deities for Imbolc include all Virgin/Maiden Goddesses, all Fire/Flame Gods and Goddesses, and Gods and Goddesses represented as Children. Some Imbolc Deities to mention by name include Brigid, Aradia, Anu, Arianrhod, Athena, Branwen, Inanna, Selene, Gaia, Februa, Februus, Pax, Cupid, Eros, and Diancecht.
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Today We Honor Branwen

Branwen

by Karen Davis
 
Branwen (“white raven”) a daughter of Llyr and Penarddun, and sister of Bran, and Manawydan, and half-sister of Nisien and Efnisien. Matholwch of Ireland sued for her hand, and gave horses to Bran. Efnisien mutilated the horses, nearly precipitating warfare, but Matholwch was appeased by the gift of a cauldron that could resurrect the dead. Branwen wed him, and went to Ireland, where she bore him a son, Gwern. But the Irish began to complain about their foreign queen, and she was banished to the kitchen, where she was a slave and boxed on the ears by the butcher daily. This lasted three years, during which Branwen trained a starling to speak and sent it to Wales, where it told Bran of her plight, and he sailed to rescue her.Matholwch was terrified at the sight of a forest approaching Ireland across the sea: no one could make it out, until he called for Branwen, who explained it as Bran’s navy, and Bran himself wading through the water. He sued for peace, they built a house big enough for Bran, and Matholwch agreed to settle the kingdom on Gwern.
 
 
Some Irish lords objected, and hid themselves in flour bags to attack the Welsh. But Efnisien, scenting Irish treachery, cast them into the fire, and then cast Gwern himself in (avoiding the geas against shedding kinsmen’s blood thereby). A war broke out, and the Irish replenished themselves through the cauldron. Efnisien, repenting, sacrificed himself by feigning death and being thrown into the cauldron, which he then broke, dying in the process. Only seven Welshmen survived, and Bran was fatally wounded. His head, which remained alive and talking, was returned to Wales and buried, and soon afterwards Branwen sailed to Aber Alaw and died. She is one of the three “matriarchs of Britain”, along with (probably) Rhiannon and Arianrhod.

 Encyclopedia Mythica

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Deity of the Day for August 9th is Bran

Bran (Irish)

Son of Llyr and Renarddun. Brother of the mighty Manawydan ap Llyr (Ireland, Manannan mac Lir) and Branwen. Represented by the raven in Celtic lore. Bran is credited with prophetic powers and, like a raven, holds the gift of being far sighted. He is also said to watch over the bard and ovate offering guidance when needed. His severed head is said to reside under the Tower of London protecting the kingdom from invasion, and for that reason the ravens at the tower have their wings clipped to stop them from leaving. Arthur once dug up the head claiming that he was the sole guardian of the realm only to find the saxons began their raids, hence the Pendragon promptly replaced Bran’s head to it’s rightful resting place before restoring order to the land. A giant; “raven”; “the blessed”. God of prophecy, the arts, leaders, war, the Sun, music, writing.

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Branwen

by Karen Davis

Branwen (“white raven”) a daughter of Llyr and Penarddun, and sister of Bran, and Manawydan, and half-sister of Nisien and Efnisien. Matholwch of Ireland sued for her hand, and gave horses to Bran. Efnisien mutilated the horses, nearly precipitating warfare, but Matholwch was appeased by the gift of a cauldron that could resurrect the dead. Branwen wed him, and went to Ireland, where she bore him a son, Gwern. But the Irish began to complain about their foreign queen, and she was banished to the kitchen, where she was a slave and boxed on the ears by the butcher daily. This lasted three years, during which Branwen trained a starling to speak and sent it to Wales, where it told Bran of her plight, and he sailed to rescue her.

Matholwch was terrified at the sight of a forest approaching Ireland across the sea: no one could make it out, until he called for Branwen, who explained it as Bran’s navy, and Bran himself wading through the water. He sued for peace, they built a house big enough for Bran, and Matholwch agreed to settle the kingdom on Gwern. Some Irish lords objected, and hid themselves in flour bags to attack the Welsh. But Efnisien, scenting Irish treachery, cast them into the fire, and then cast Gwern himself in (avoiding the geas against shedding kinsmen’s blood thereby). A war broke out, and the Irish replenished themselves through the cauldron. Efnisien, repenting, sacrificed himself by feigning death and being thrown into the cauldron, which he then broke, dying in the process. Only seven Welshmen survived, and Bran was fatally wounded. His head, which remained alive and talking, was returned to Wales and buried, and soon afterwards Branwen sailed to Aber Alaw and died. She is one of the three “matriarchs of Britain”, along with (probably) Rhiannon and Arianrhod.

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How to Choose A Good Magickal Name


Author: Bronwen Forbes

There’s a standard joke in the Pagan community that, at a gathering, if the loudspeaker were to announce, “Will Raven, Morgan, and Rhiannon please come to registration?” half the attendees would show up, and that the Ravens at least would be split pretty evenly between males and females.

Like most good jokes, it has a lot of truth in it.

So rule number one of how *not* to choose a good magickal name is: pick one that’s already been used to death.

Rule number two of how not to choose a good magickal name: pick one that’s unpronounceable. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times people with magickal names like Aistiranpaistinfionncoinini have gotten really annoyed with me because I can’t pronounce their name. If you must*have a name longer than ten letters, do your friends, fellow coveners and community a favor and allow us to use a nickname. “Aistir” would work for my example. It means, “star” in Irish Gaelic.

Now that you know what not to do when picking a magickal name for yourself, what doyou do?

First, decide whether or not you really need one, or if your legal first name will work just fine. Back in the 1980s (when I first realized I was Pagan) , most of us had a special name we used in the community. Even though we were on the cusp of the 21st century, we still felt the need to hide our legal identity in order to protect our jobs and our children.

If you have a career, a potential career (if you’re still in school) , children that might be in danger because of where you live or who you’re divorcing, or a work situation that could be jeopardized if people outside the community knew you were Pagan, you might want a magickal name for public community use.

Also, many groups and traditions only use their magickal names when they’re in ritual – it’s another way to move them into ritual space, just like putting on robes and lighting the candles do. For these folks, the privilege of knowing and using their ritual name indicates that you are “family” to them. The rest of the Pagan community calls them Lynn or Bob, i.e. their legal names.

If you still decide you want a magickal name, it’s best to pick one that a) tells the Pagan world something about you, b) is a reflection of your path, or c) invokes something into you that you feel you lack. A really good magickal name will fill all three criteria.

Let me explain. When I joined my first coven, I was required (as were all members) to choose a name from Tolkien’s made-up Elvish language. I was a theater major at the time, and was intrigued by the comedy-tragedy masks that not only summed up the human condition, but also in the balance implied by the smiling face and the sorrowful face. After some reflection, I chose Nienor Lailaith, which, loosely translated, means “sorrow joy.”

I was called “Nienor” in the community for roughly my first year. It definitely told the Pagan world that theater was sacred to me, which was something I wanted everyone to know. The coven I was in used a lot of symbolism from Tolkien’s works, and when I met people and used my Elvish name, there was no question in their minds what coven I was in and what path I was on.

Finally, I was twenty-two years old. “Balance” was not in my vocabulary – but I knew it needed to be. I remember thinking that maybe a nice, balanced name like “sorrow joy” would help me learn how to better juggle my schoolwork, home life, and coven responsibilities. As magickal names go, Nienor Lailaith was a pretty good one.

So in case you’ve accidentally or deliberately misplaced your copy of The Silmarillion, how do you pick a good magickal name?

Here’s what I did when it was time to retire Nienor and find something else. I took a piece of paper and a pen and started writing down every word or name that I liked from my favorite books — fiction and non-fiction — my favorite movies, mythology – Greek, Roman, Celtic, Slavic, Norse, plus plant and tree identification books, baby name books (they’re not known for historical accuracy, but they do have some names you might not otherwise think of) , animals I particularly liked, zodiac correspondences, birds, history… every source I could think of until I had a list of about thirty names.

I then started to cross off the ones I liked the least until I had two left. One, not surprisingly, was Bronwen. I liked the sound. I liked the spelling – there are several ways to spell “Bronwen, ” more if you want it to look exotic. I played around with what little I know about numerology and discovered that Bronwen spelled with an “o” and an “e” (as opposed to, say, “Branwyn” or “Bronwinn”) was a one, a number that balanced my birth number very nicely. So, Bronwen it was.

(On a side note, I legally changed my first and middle names in 1994. “Bronwen” is now my middle name. You don’t have to go as far as legally changing your name. In fact, considering all the expense and annoyance of changing all one’s legal documents, including driver’s license, social security card, medical insurances cards, etc. I strongly recommend you have at least one major compelling reason to do so. It’s really a pain to do!)

Whatever you do, don’t use one of those Pagan name generators on the Internet. They’re a joke. They’re meant to be funny. They are not for real! You’d think everyone would know that, but I’ve run into about one too many “Lavender Mermaid of the Sand” who got her “special” name from one of those sites and took it seriously. In fact, I just now played with the Pagan name generator and got Ariadne Bard Dragonfly.

Hmm. I think I’ll stick with Bronwen, thanks. But if Ariadne Bard Dragonfly works for you, feel free to take it!

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How to Choose A Good Magickal Name

How to Choose A Good Magickal Name

Author: Bronwen Forbes

There’s a standard joke in the Pagan community that, at a gathering, if the loudspeaker were to announce, “Will Raven, Morgan, and Rhiannon please come to registration?” half the attendees would show up, and that the Ravens at least would be split pretty evenly between males and females.

Like most good jokes, it has a lot of truth in it.

So rule number one of how *not* to choose a good magickal name is: pick one that’s already been used to death.

Rule number two of how not to choose a good magickal name: pick one that’s unpronounceable. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times people with magickal names like Aistiranpaistinfionncoinini have gotten really annoyed with me because I can’t pronounce their name. If you must*have a name longer than ten letters, do your friends, fellow coveners and community a favor and allow us to use a nickname. “Aistir” would work for my example. It means, “star” in Irish Gaelic.

Now that you know what not to do when picking a magickal name for yourself, what doyou do?

First, decide whether or not you really need one, or if your legal first name will work just fine. Back in the 1980s (when I first realized I was Pagan) , most of us had a special name we used in the community. Even though we were on the cusp of the 21st century, we still felt the need to hide our legal identity in order to protect our jobs and our children.

If you have a career, a potential career (if you’re still in school) , children that might be in danger because of where you live or who you’re divorcing, or a work situation that could be jeopardized if people outside the community knew you were Pagan, you might want a magickal name for public community use.

Also, many groups and traditions only use their magickal names when they’re in ritual – it’s another way to move them into ritual space, just like putting on robes and lighting the candles do. For these folks, the privilege of knowing and using their ritual name indicates that you are “family” to them. The rest of the Pagan community calls them Lynn or Bob, i.e. their legal names.

If you still decide you want a magickal name, it’s best to pick one that a) tells the Pagan world something about you, b) is a reflection of your path, or c) invokes something into you that you feel you lack. A really good magickal name will fill all three criteria.

Let me explain. When I joined my first coven, I was required (as were all members) to choose a name from Tolkien’s made-up Elvish language. I was a theater major at the time, and was intrigued by the comedy-tragedy masks that not only summed up the human condition, but also in the balance implied by the smiling face and the sorrowful face. After some reflection, I chose Nienor Lailaith, which, loosely translated, means “sorrow joy.”

I was called “Nienor” in the community for roughly my first year. It definitely told the Pagan world that theater was sacred to me, which was something I wanted everyone to know. The coven I was in used a lot of symbolism from Tolkien’s works, and when I met people and used my Elvish name, there was no question in their minds what coven I was in and what path I was on.

Finally, I was twenty-two years old. “Balance” was not in my vocabulary – but I knew it needed to be. I remember thinking that maybe a nice, balanced name like “sorrow joy” would help me learn how to better juggle my schoolwork, home life, and coven responsibilities. As magickal names go, Nienor Lailaith was a pretty good one.

So in case you’ve accidentally or deliberately misplaced your copy of The Silmarillion, how do you pick a good magickal name?

Here’s what I did when it was time to retire Nienor and find something else. I took a piece of paper and a pen and started writing down every word or name that I liked from my favorite books — fiction and non-fiction — my favorite movies, mythology – Greek, Roman, Celtic, Slavic, Norse, plus plant and tree identification books, baby name books (they’re not known for historical accuracy, but they do have some names you might not otherwise think of) , animals I particularly liked, zodiac correspondences, birds, history… every source I could think of until I had a list of about thirty names.

I then started to cross off the ones I liked the least until I had two left. One, not surprisingly, was Bronwen. I liked the sound. I liked the spelling – there are several ways to spell “Bronwen, ” more if you want it to look exotic. I played around with what little I know about numerology and discovered that Bronwen spelled with an “o” and an “e” (as opposed to, say, “Branwyn” or “Bronwinn”) was a one, a number that balanced my birth number very nicely. So, Bronwen it was.

(On a side note, I legally changed my first and middle names in 1994. “Bronwen” is now my middle name. You don’t have to go as far as legally changing your name. In fact, considering all the expense and annoyance of changing all one’s legal documents, including driver’s license, social security card, medical insurances cards, etc. I strongly recommend you have at least one major compelling reason to do so. It’s really a pain to do!)

Whatever you do, don’t use one of those Pagan name generators on the Internet. They’re a joke. They’re meant to be funny. They are not for real! You’d think everyone would know that, but I’ve run into about one too many “Lavender Mermaid of the Sand” who got her “special” name from one of those sites and took it seriously. In fact, I just now played with the Pagan name generator and got Ariadne Bard Dragonfly.

Hmm. I think I’ll stick with Bronwen, thanks. But if Ariadne Bard Dragonfly works for you, feel free to take it!

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