Ravens have been visiting me in my dreams recently. They are the ravens at the Tower of London (I soon found out!) and they have been asking me to tell the world how they really feel about their life as a living myth.

There is a legend that says the Kingdom will fall when the ravens leave the Tower of London. Apparently this prophecy dates back to the times of Charles II when a royal observatory was established in the White Tower. The Royal Astronomer John Flamstead complained about the ravens. Apparently they were making a complete nuisance of themselves! the King decided that the ravens were to be killed but a soothsayer arrived on the scene and made the following prophecy:

“If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the crown will fall and Britain with it…”

At that point the Royal Observatory was relocated to Greenwich where it remains today. Charles decided there had to be a minimum of six ravens in residence at all times. In reality this has not always worked out: Ravens have died due to bombings during World War II and only one year ago the kingdom was in “danger” because an urban fox crept in and killed two ravens:

It all sounds so romantic, doesn’t it?! Ravens as sacred guardians of the Tower, crown jewels and monarchy – but what is the reality?!

Last week I went on a field trip to find out. There were six ravens at the Tower that day (the very minimum then, generally the yeomen prefer to have ‘a few spares’) and they looked depressed, if well fed. They sat for long periods in the same places, just staring ahead and in no way behaved like their wild counterparts. The truth of the matter is that their wings are clipped so they cannot fly and they cannot escape.

A bit of animal communication with the ravens themselves told me that a bird that cannot fly, is not a bird. They delight in their swooping movements and mating dance. The ravens at the Tower look at other birds flying in and out of the place and do not understand why they need to be trapped.

Bran the Blessed also had a strong connection to ravens. When the mortally wounded Bran was dying in battle he requested that his head (seat of the soul) be cut off and returned to Britain. It is said that ‘the talking head’ is buried at the  Tower of London, facing France.

Do we really believe that the Kingdom will fall if the Ravens leave the Tower? Maybe the Kingdom would gain respect and set an example  if they honoured animal rights?!

Displays at the Tower of London tell some gruesome tales about other ‘Royal Beasts’: once upon a time there was a bear who died from eating too much cake for breakfast. There was also a polar bear (a gift from Norway) on a long leash that was allowed to fish in the Thames. Then there were baboons, elephants, lions. It would seem that the London Zoo had its unholy origin at the Tower of London…

The ravens do not enjoy being a tourist attraction and I felt only sad seeing them.

This blog is to give voice to those Ravens and to invite people to connect with them. If you know how to meditate (I typed MEDIATE – Freudian slip!) or journey, pay them a visit and see if there is anything you can do to free them or improve their condition. At the very least set people straight about the romantic myth that they are somehow choosing to be there…. Mediation is welcome! And let me know how you get on please!!

Below you will find an extract from Wikipedia about Bran the Blessed.

Imelda Almqvist

Role in the Mabinogion (from Wikipedia)

The Irish king Matholwch sails to Harlech to speak with Bran the Blessed high king of the Island of the Mighty and to ask for the hand of his sister Branwen in marriage, thus forging an alliance between the two islands. Bendigeidfran agrees to Matholwch’s request, but the celebrations are cut short when Efnisien, a half-brother to the children of Llŷr, brutally mutilates Matholwch’s horses, angry that his permission was not sought in regards to the marriage. Matholwch is deeply offended until Bran offers him compensation in the form of a magiccauldron that can restore the dead to life. Pleased with the gift, Matholwch and Branwen sail back to Ireland to reign.

Once in Matholwch’s kingdom, Branwen gives birth to a son, Gwern, but Efnysien’s insult continues to rankle among the Irish and, eventually, Branwen is mistreated, banished to the kitchen and beaten every day. She tames a starling and sends it across the Irish Sea with a message to her brother Bendigeidfran, who sails from Wales to Ireland to rescue her with his brother, Manawydan and a huge host of warriors, mustered from the 154 cantrefs of Britain. The Irish offer to make peace and build a house big enough to entertain Bendigeidfrân but hang a hundred bags inside, supposedly containing flour but actually containing armed warriors. Efnisien, suspecting treachery, reconnoitres the hall and kills the warriors by crushing their skulls. Later, at the feast, Efnisien, again feeling insulted, murders Gwern by burning him alive, and, as a result, a vicious battle breaks out. Seeing that the Irish are using the cauldron to revive their dead, he hides among the Irish corpses and is thrown into the cauldron by the unwitting enemy. He destroys the cauldron from within, sacrificing himself in the process.

Only seven men survive the conflict, among them ManawydanTaliesin and Pryderi fab Pwyll, prince of Dyfed, Branwen having herself died of a broken heart. The survivors are told by a mortally wounded Bran to cut off his head and to return it to Britain. For seven years the seven survivors stay in Harlech, where they are entertained by Bran’s head, which continues to speak. They later move on to Gwales (often identified with Grassholm Island off Dyfed) where they live for eighty years without perceiving the passing of time. Eventually, Heilyn fab Gwyn opens the door of the hall facing Cornwall and the sorrow of what had befallen them returns. As instructed they take the now silent head to the Gwynfryn, the “White Hill” (thought to be the location where the Tower of London now stands), where they bury it facing France so as to ward off invasion. The imagery of the talking head is widely considered to derive from the ancient Celtic “cult of the head“; the head was considered the home of the soul.