Summoning Spirit
Copyright WriteOn   2000 all rights reserved
The existence of Merlin/Myrlin has always been debatable. We can be sure that a person of this name and by it's many derivations, appears throughout old texts, as a prophet, bard, prince and or poet.

Research has brough very little of Myrlin's family background. It has been said his mother was Aldan. According to different sources, one of the legendary men to have been Myrlin, had a twin sister Ganieda, or Gwendydd. One story refers to his having a daughter that was called  Inogen.

A particular legend relating his childhood states that Myrlin was the illegitimate son of a monastic Royal Princess of Dyfed. The lady's father, however, King Meurig ap Maredydd ap Rhain, is not found in the traditional pedigrees of this alleged Kingdom and was probably a sub-King of the region bordering on his homeland of Ceredigion.  A popular tale derives Merlin's powers from a father, who was an angel who had visited the Royal nun and left her with child.

Merlin's enemies claimed his father was really an incubus, an evil spirit that has intercourse with sleeping women. The evil child was supposed to provide a counterweight to the good influence of Jesus Christ on earth. Myrlin, fortunately, was baptized early on in his life, an event which is said to have negated the evil in his nature, but left his powers intact.

Gossip  was that the original story was presumably invented to save his mother from the scandal which would have occurred if it had become public knowledge that she had a  liaison with Morfyn Frych, the Freckled, who was but a minor Prince of the House of Coel. Thus, from birth, Meryln had a lot to attone for, simply due to his birth.

Myrlin first appears in extant records - Armes Prydein, Y Gododdin - from the early 10th century as a mere prophet, but his role gradually evolved into that of magician, prophet and advisor, active in all phases of the administration of King Arthur's kingdom. Myrlin is reported to have been a well practised sorceror and necromancer.

He was apparently given the name Emrys, or Ambrosius, at his birth in Caer-Fyrddin, Carmarthen. He only later became known as Myrlin, a Latinized version of the Welsh word, Myrddin, taken from the place of his birth.

Geoffrey of Monmouth, the first to write about Myrlin, is thought to have invented this name, more than most, as he did often.  He did not want his character to be associated with the French word, merde, meaning "excrement".  This Myrlin was believed to be based upon a northern Welsh personage of earlier legend named Myrddin.

Merlin in many different books and texts is attributed at different times to helping no less than three Kings of England: Aurelius, Uther Pendragon, and later Uther's son Arthur. He became a bard to Arthur. Merlin, the Arche-Mage of Britain, is reputed to have been Arthur's adviser, prophet, shaman, magician and guardian.

He appears under different names in many texts over the proceeding centuries. French medieval traditions tell of his esplumoir or moulting-cage where Myrlin was supposed to abide, this term believed to derive from his symbolic name hawk or "man of the sea."

Vivienne, Lady of the Lake, is described as the woman that Myrlin truly loved, but who used him and then trapped him in a thorn bush, some say a Hawthorn tree. She used the magical spells and arcane knowledge  Myrlin had taught her. Other legends say that Myrlin's madness,  and possibly his death was brought about by Vivienne.

There is no prose version of the Myrddin legend in Middle Welsh but a general idea of its contents can be deduced from a number of allusions found in six medieval poems. These, combined with Scottish and Irish versions of the tale, make possible a reconstrucion of the main outline  of Merlyn adventures.

These poems are: "Yr Afallennau,"The Apple-trees, "Yr Oianau,"The Greetings,  "Ymddiddan Myrddin a Thaliesin," The Dialogue of Myrddin and Taliesin, "Cyfoesi Myrddin a Gwenddydd ei Chwaer," The Conversation of Myrddin and his Sister Gwenddydd, "Gwasgargerdd fyrddin yn y Bedd ," The Diffused Song of Myrddin in the Grave," and "Peirian Faban," Commanding Youth.

In these poems Myrddin is portrayed as a Wild Man of the Woods living in Coed Celyddon, the  Caledonian Forest,  where he had fled to after losing his reason. Wandering with madness and madmen,  Yr Afalleneu the northern battle of Arfderydd, fought between rival chieftains c.573 AD

With this lapse into madness Myrddin is said to have acquired the gift of prophecy.

Myrlin's Alleged Prophecies

"Luxury shall overspread the land, and fornication shall not cease to debauch mankind.

Famine shall then return, and the inhabitants shall grieve for the destruction of their cities. In those days the oaks of the forests shall burn, and acorns grow upon lime trees!

The Severn sea shall discharge itself through seven mouths, and the river Usk burn for seven months! Fishes shall die in the heat thereof, and from them serpents will be born."

"The baths of Badon, hot springs of Bath, shall grow cold, and their salubrious waters engender death!

London shall mourn for the death of twenty thousand, and the river Thames shall be turned to blood!

The monks in the cowls shall be forced to marry, and their cry shall be heard upon the mountains of the Alps."

"The seas shall rise up in the twinkling of an eye, and the dust of the ancients shall be restored."

Geoffrey of Monmouth

Geoffrey of Monmouth first mentions Merlin
i.e. Merlinus based on the varient form of Myrddin, Merddin.

In his "Historia Regum Britanniae of c.1138," in which Vortigern, the mid-fifth century British king, finds that the only way for the foundations of his fortress to be made secure is to sprinkle the blood of a fatherless youth onto the stones.

Such a youth is found at Carmarthen named Merlin, whose mother, Geoffrey tells us, was the daughter of the king of Dyfed who, living with the nuns at a local convent. She had been impregnated by an incubus demon.  The child was fatherless. This child was further found to have prophetic powers and Geoffrey makes him utter the Prophetiae Merlinus, a long series of obscure prophecies.

The essentials of this tale were not products of Geoffrey's imagination but rather they had been lifted bodily from the Historia Brittonum," written c.829-30.  Contractions and expansions here abound, including the addition of the Prophetiae Merlinus.  

Here are two major changes that give the story an entirely new direction.  Firstly, in the Historia Brittonum the fatherless youth is named as Ambrosius, not Myrddin/Merlin.  Secondly, in the Historia Brittonum the youth is found in Glywysing,  Glamorgan, not at Carmarthen in Dyfed.

Thus it seems clear that the Merlin of Geoffrey's Historia Regum Britanniae was a result of Geoffrey identifying Ambrosius with Myrddin in his earliest form as the probably prophetic eponymous founder figure of Carmarthen.  (of course Geoffrey didn't simply leave his portrayal of Merlin with this.

He can be seen to have added various other elements, such as Merlin's involvement with the conception of Arthur and with the transportation of the Stonehenge stones, which have no parallel in the pre-Galfridian material, thus transforming how later generations would view this figure.

Geoffrey's interest in Merlin appears to have continued after the completion of his Historia and in his Latin poem of "c.1150, Vita Merlini," he presents a portrait of Merlin totally at variance with that in the Historia.

The Myrlin of this poem is clearly the same person as the Myrddin of the Welsh poems: both are wild men of the woods who have lost their reason in battle and subsequently live in the forest of Calidon or Celyddon; both converse with the famed poet and reputed vaticinator Taliesin; both are associated with animal companions and apple-trees and the characters that figure in the Welsh poems, Gwenddolau, Rhydderch and Gwenddydd, are clearly present in the Vita Merlini.

There are, naturally, many points of divergence but the general influence is clear - it appears that, when writing his Historia c.1138 Geoffrey was only slightly acquainted with the Myrddin legends and this acquaintance merely amounted to knowledge of the belief at Carmarthen in an eponymous prophetic founder-figure named Myrddin /Merddin, but at some time subsequent to the publication of the Historia he encountered the legends of Myrddin the prophetic wild man and thus set about composing a new 'life' of Myrlin which showed indebtedness to both the Welsh poems and the Lailoken tales.

The fact that Geoffrey produced two very different portraits of Merlin seems not to have unduly worried him.  He solved the problem to his satisfaction by presenting Merlin's career as lasting from Vortigern's reign to the late 6th-century. (though this solution appears to have strained even medieval credulity and the view thus developed after Geoffrey that there had been two Merlins, the first that of the Historia and the second that of the Welsh poems and of the" Vita Merlini."

Geoffrey actually named him as Merlinus, and he appears to have combined the Welsh legends of a sixth-century prince named 'Myrddin ab Morfryn' with the writings of 'Nennius' who talks of 'Vortigern's Prophet' named 'Ambrosius'.
Merlin, according to legend, was said to have been responsible for transporting the stones of 'Stonehenge' from Ireland to England. Although in other legends it is Myrlin that tells 'Aurelius, King of Britain' to bring the stones, referred to as the 'Giant's Dance, to England from Ireland for two reasons; firstly, to act as a monument to those that had died during the battles with the Saxons, and secondly because the stones possessed great powers of healing.

It should be pointed out that Stonehenge is believed to have been built 1700-1800BC, later used a ritualistic place of worship by the Druid's who are known to have been around during the legendary time of Merlin and Arthur.
Some scholars believe there were two Myrlins: Myrddin Emrys and Myrddin Wylt. The fact that Myrlin apparently lived from the reign of Vortigern,c.420, to the reign of Riderch Hael (c.580) would certainly support this view. The stretch from Vortigern to Arthur is itself unlikely and early versions of the "Vortigern at Dinas Emrys" story give the fatherless boy as Emrys Wledig, Ambrosius Aurelianus,  who was living in Campus Elleti in Glywysing.

He is believed to have died in AD570. His prison and/or burial place is said to be beneath Merlin's Mound at Marlborough College in Marlborough, Wiltshire, at Drumelzier in Tweeddale, Scotland,, Bryn Myrddin, Myrlin's Hill, near Carmarthen, Wales, Le Tombeau de Merlin, Merlin's Tomb, near Paimpont, Brittany, and Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island, off the Lleyn Peninsula,Wales.