Llangollen in North Wales was Kal’s choice of venue. It seemed a perfect choice for the beginning of the year – we only had a few hours of daylight and Llangollen has many interesting and previously fruitful sites in close proximity. There was no debate. There had been a sudden cold snap which had settled in making the mornings frosty and hardening the ground. This was a mized blessing. For Kal (who never brings a coat) this was going to be a cold climb, but he also has no proper walking shoes so the hard ground would be mean he wouldn’t get too muddy. Ups and downs.
It had been a while since I had visited the spirit of Bran, whom I had discovered was still present at the top of the ancient fortress named after him – Dinas Bran. I was looking forward to it, because it was never a dull visit – something useful or meaningful always came out of my visits to this stunning site.
We have had some strange experiences at the location and we know that the views are spectacular if nothing else. It has traditionally become part of the start of our year. The story of Bran is interesting, and part of the old Welsh mythology being re-told in the Mabinogion tales. He is supposed to be a giant figure whose head remained alive after it was cut off in battle, and it was subsequently buried as a protective ward for the country. There are also links between Bran and Arthur in terms of this protective role.
“According to the Welsh Triads, Brân’s head was buried in London where the White Tower now stands. As long as it remained there, Britain would be safe from invasion. However, King Arthur dug up the head, declaring the country would be protected only by his great strength. There have been attempts in modern times to link the still-current practice of keeping ravens at the Tower of London under the care of Yeomen Warder Ravenmaster with this story of Brân, whose name means Raven.” (source: Wikipedia)
The relevance of the raven will become apparent as my story unfolds.
I made it up the hill first. On arrival I was greeted by a big black bird circling on its own above me near to the entrance I had chosen. I stopped to observe it. It circled like a hawk, and had the wing tips that I always associated with a hawk. I felt that this was a familiar symbol to me now, a welcome sign. Then, as the bird drew closer and closer my certainly began to melt away – the bird was definitely coloured black – I wasn’t just seeing it as a shadow. And how the straight break of the bird began to cast doubts on my initial reading. This was no hawk! Then I realised it was a raven – a huge lone raven. At this point it cawed identifiably and I knew it was a raven for certain. How odd that I had thought it was a hawk and in fact it was a raven? I carried on into the castle’s grounds seeing that Kal was also watching the bird as it flow close to the summit. Kal’s totem bird is a crow, so my first thoughts were that this was more a sign for him. I was wrong. It wasn’t a crow.
Bran’s Winter Home
One of the first things I did was to light some incense. three sticks dowsed as being perfect for a connection to Bran/ I next asked for Bran’s current location. Every time previously he had been located in a small dip on the summit close to the centre of the site. Today, this was not the case! He was in a part of the castle that I had never visited before – the “East Wing”, if you like. There was a stunning view of the Trevor Basin below and I felt this was significant to the quality of the energies I was feeling at that spot. – the view was important to any work done, and that the energies available in sight, such as the river below, the trees, the hills, all of these were important parts of the connection to Bran. The area was exposed and the wind chill was bitter and relentless. Nevertheless I made myself as comfortable as I could and began a communion with the great Bran’s spirit.
I lit some incense despite the howling bitter wind. They soon went out, but for a moment I had created a triangle of incense within which my space had been cleared. After I grounded and centred I felt that there was a drawing out of the end of the year’s excesses – all of the detritus – emotional, spiritual and physical – were being sucked out of me and dissipated in the ground, sent out into the surrounding earth to leech down into the river where they could be swept away by the tumultuous torrent of the river’s waters.
As I sat and communed with Bran I felt his presence arrive, familiar and yet monstrously huge. I asked Bran whether there was anything that he wished to communicate to me. The series of thoughts that came to me were a series of pictures of Bran in various locations that fitted with the story of Bran The Blessed that I knew – sailing across to Ireland, his head in London. I asked what he wished me to do with these locations and the answer was that he wished me to visit them, but to take him along with me. He would accompany me in the form of a crow.
Suddenly I understood the hawk turning into a raven that I had witnessed earlier. The raven was a symbol of Bran, and he was showing me that when I saw The Raven then I would be seeing and feeling his presence. I asked for confirmation, and got a pleasing sensation throughout my body. A certain sense of affirmation. So, why, I questioned, was this association significant for me? I knew the symbolism from the stories, but what did it mean? Such questions rarely get an answer, but this time Bran was very clear in his response, and the sentence formed in my mind that I should carry his energy with me whenever I visited those places associated with him (Ireland and London) so that he could be there with me. I agreed, and left to find shelter in the lee of one of the castle’s walls. The bitter wind had nearly frozen my extremities to numbness.
The Signs of Bran
This was Bran’s request for me this year. To travel with me. I already have plans to visit Ireland, but by an odd coincidence my wife added an impromptu visit to London the very next day! She insisted that for my birthday I should take the day off as we would be going to London for a big surprise. Well, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that half of the surprise had been pre-empted by the ancient Celtic energy form of Bran the Blessed! Now I can add a visit to London to my itinerary, in the Olympic year too. I wonder what will happen if Bran is with me, and where he wants me to visit?
We walked down the hill and instead of taking the usual path I steered Kal to follow the lower path. As we rounded one of the lower slopes we came across a wooden sculpture positioned at the junction of two paths. It was a raven holding a chalice. Just a coincidence, of course. Bran’s association with ravens meant that I would inevitably come across such a symbol eventually, but its significance TODAY of all days was notable.
As I write this I am playing a random playlist of all the songs on my computer. As I type this the song playing is PJ Harvey, from the album with John Parish called “A Woman A Man Walked By” and the track is called “The Crow Knows Where All The Little Children Go“. Just a coincidence, I’m sure. Just a silly little coincidence to start the year off.