We were lucky enough to have Levannah Morgan at the Museum on Saturday. She hosted a workshop in the library on the subject of the Mabinogion. As a Welsh speaker with a deep attachment to this literary work she offered us a real insight into the world of the Mabinogion.
The day started with an exploration of the history of the texts and how they came to be collected together by monks in Wales in the Middle Ages and written in Welsh (not Latin as one might expect). We then heard about the different versions which are held in different collections today: the Red, White and Black Book. Mabinogion roughly translates as Branches which can also mean genealogies and it contains great mythic tales and Arthurian romances. The works were made available to the public thanks to the work of Lady Charlotte Guest in the 19th century. There are now many different versions available and the text is a source of inspiration to many artists, poets, musicians, witches, Pagans, Druids (and many, many others!)
Above: Levannah in the library with the group.
In the afternoon, we listened to several of the stories with our eyes closed, “making a picture in our mind” as Levannah said. We heard about Alwen “she of the white track” or the Milky Way and the mad, bad, Cornish boar. The Story of the Oldest Animals: the blackbird, stag, eagle and salmon was particularly remarkable as was a section of the Mabinogion describing black sheep on one side of the river and white sheep on the other and a tree half of which was aflame and the other half of which was in leaf. We heard about Bran and his cauldron and the burial of his head, Rhiannon and “the birds of Rhiannon” and the place names in Wales derived from tales from the Mabinogion. These mysterious stories led to some interesting discussions amongst the group about their meanings, significance and resonance with us today.
Levannah told us about each of the Four Branches of the Mabinogion and summed up the contents of each. The First Branch exploring a hero’s right to be King, the Second Branch which features Brannwen and Bran, the Third Branch with Pryderi and the Fourth Branch (which we later dwelt upon) which includes Arianrhod.
Levannah then spoke to us about her connection with Arianrhod and shared with us her experiences as a child, through to her reading of the White Goddess by Robert Graves and a powerful dream/vision she had about a place in Wales near Anglesey. She has written a booklet on this subject and generously gave a copy of it to each of the course attendees. It was a privilege to hear Levannah’s experiences and insights and the Museum are so grateful to her for giving us her time and expertise.
The next workshop will be on the Qabalah on September 16th. For more details see: http://museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk/event/workshops-on-the-mabinogion-june-10th-and-qabalah-september-16th/