Monday, October 21, 2013

Merlin...Of Wizards and Witches...

In dabbling in the realm of wizards and witches, we can't write a blog dedicated to the same without talking about one of the most famous wizards of all time, King Arthur's Merlin.

 Howard Pyle illustration from the 1903 edition of The Story of King Arthur and His Knights

In honor of this childe, the fates shall bring
All their assisting powers of Knowledge, Arts
Learning and Wisdom, all the hidden parts
Of all-admiring Prophecy to fore-see
The events of times to come. His Art shall stand
A wall of brass to guard the Brittan Land.
The Birth of Merlin, III, iv.
William Rowley (c. 1582-1642)

Everyone knows Merlin, but not everyone knows the anciently recorded details surrounding his birth. According to some of the early chronicles, the great wizard is the product of a mortal woman and the demon who assaulted her as she slept. The story tells us that in an act of revenge against Christ's liberation of Adam and Eve from Hell, a council of demons devised a plot. They would beget a man and endow him with their knowledge and maliciousness. He would know all there is to know and see all there is to see, both past and present. In this way he could rule over and control all mankind.

To execute this plan, they selected a small family consisting of an older couple with three daughters. The story dismisses the youngest daughters with barely a mention, for they were easily seduced and therefore the church punished them accordingly (by execution, if you're curious...). The last surviving daughter, older and far wiser than her siblings took every precaution necessary to avoid the same fate. However, one most unfortunate night, this lovely lady forgot to recite the special prayers given her by her confessor. The demon took advantage and in due course, Merlin was born.

Now throughout her pregnancy, this unfortunate victim who remains nameless, was imprisoned in a stone tower, with two matronly "guards" who would assist her during her birth. Once Merlin was delivered, frighteningly covered in black hair, his quick-witted mother begged her nurses to place the babe in a basket. She then asked them to lower him through the window and into the river in order to baptize the infant. They complied and this act saved the lad from evil influence. 

Merlin reads his prophecies to King Vortigern circa 1250-1270

Fast forward eighteen months...Merlin, who'd already proven himself most gifted, consoled his mother as she wept, for she swiftly approached the day of her execution. In that moment, he said, "You shall not burn because of me." The utterance proved prophetic, for when the child stands before the magistrate, he reveals the circumstances surrounding his conception. He further exposes the heinous sins of the magistrate, which surpass those of his mother. His mother's life is spared, after which she joins a nunnery. 

Merlin was but seven years old when he stood before King Vortigren and boldly demanded to know why he and his mother were brought  before him. It was during this particular event that the young wizard presented the king a list of future prophecies, which proved most accurate...

One of my favorite prophecies from that interview and one mentioned in "Van Locken's Witch?" The tale concerning Vortigren's trouble with unseen forces that destroy his castle walls and foundations every single night, and the subsequent prophecy detailing the victory of the Red Dragon (Wales) over the White Dragon (Saxony)...

Do you have a favorite Merlin story?



  1. Drat! I missed this post. For some reason, I always get email notification of blogger postings a day late.

    Anyway, as soon as I saw your topic, I did a happy dance. I love, LOVE, Merlin!! As you said, how can you talk about wizards and not mention the greatest?

    I think my favorite Merlin tale was a retelling where he was the son of Taliesin. I shudder to think of how Arthur may have ended without him. Even though Camelot did fall, the dream continued.

    Wonderful post, Debbie, as always!

  2. Thanks Mae! As you might guess, I love the Merlin legends too!