The author of the book Scotland’s Merlin: A Medieval Legend and Its Dark Age Origins, Tim Clarkson, is a PhD in medieval history, and holds an MPhil in archeology. I have had some correspondence with him regarding another of his books, The Men of the North: the Britons of Southern Scotland, and had a discussion with him on his essay on Cassius Dio’s anecdote on the Empress Julia Domna. His blog can be found here: https://senchus.wordpress.com/
Scotland’s Merlin: A Medieval Legend and Its Dark Age Origins (M) reignites the question of Merlin: what is the true identity of this time honored character? Through rigorous research and painstaking attention to detail, Dr. Clarkson reviews the relevant British texts (providing translations) and discusses the past scholarship in his search for an answer. It’s my honest opinion that his even handed approach is commendable, and his studious commitment to inquiry should be upheld as a benchmark for students to strive to match. This book has been an asset in furthering my knowledge of both the Merlin myth as well as Dark Age British history.
(I) Giraldus Cambrensis’ Itinerarium Cambriae– 1191 A.D.
(H) Nennius’ Historia Brittonum– Between the 9th-11th centuries
(V) Geoffrey’s Vita Merlini– 12th century
(K) Jocelyn’s Life of St. Kentigern– 12th century
(G) Vita sancta Gurthierni– 12th century
(L) Lailoken and Kentigern– 15th century
(Q) The Quarrel Between Finn and Oisín– 8th century
In The Hunters of Souls: Part One we investigated Giraldus Cambrensis’ claim that spirits appeared as hunters to the prophet Melerius in an anecdote appearing in the author’s work Itinerarium Cambriae (I). (1) In Greg Hill’s treatment of the subject he notes mythemes present in the tale, including the ‘Celtic wild man type’. (2) This will be the focus of Part Two in our effort to better understand the background of Giraldus’ legend.
“(It was) beheld at Maistiu one battalion of (demons) which was destroying Leinster….. For there was a sword of fire out of the gullet of each of them, and every one of them was as high as the clouds of heaven.”
⁃ A vision witnessed on Samhain, The Annals of Tigernach*
So… as I read more and more excellent posts by fellow bloggers I get more ideas for topics here, and it’s become something of a heaping backlog; I still need to write about the Irish blacksmith goddess, water horses, Edern ap Nudd, portrayals of the cyclops in Celtic literature, and a host of others things besides.* But I discovered this topic recently and now that it has my attention I’d like to focus on it straightaway.
(I) Geraldus Cambrensis’ Itinerarium Cambriae– 1191 A.D.
(C) Codex Sancti Pauli- 9th century A.D.
In a blog article by Greg Hill we find a story supplied by Giraldus Cambrensis in chapter V of his work Itinerarium Cambriae,(I) composed in the year 1191.(1) The tale centers on the character Melerius and the origins of his prophetic powers.(2) It states that Melerius:
“…there is an Irish legend as to a priest who came to disbelieve that men had souls. “Who ever saw a soul?” he would say. “If you can show me one I will believe.” All the king’s sons were on his side, but at last a mysterious child comes on the scene and shows him that if we have life though we cannot see it, we may also have a soul though it is invisible.”
Survivals in Belief Among the Celts, by George Henderson, p. 80-81 (1)
(e) Érec et Énide by Chretien de Troyes, 12th century
(g) Geraint ac Enid by anonymous, 14th century
(y) Roman d’Yder by anonymous Anglo-Norman poet of French extraction, 13th century
(f) Tain bo Fraich, by anonymous, 8th century
Starting where we left off in the previous post, “The Antiquity of ‘The Romance of Geraint and Enid’ Part 1 – The British Evidence,” there is reason to ponder if a pre-Christian “original” Welsh myth followed the “hard task” international tale, or something akin to it, wherein a man assigns hard tasks hoping to slay his helper, eventually to gain respect for him. If such a tale type existed in ancient times in Wales as part of a Celtic body of myths, we may then find it attested in other countries sharing Wales’ Celtic heritage. In this light let’s carefully proceed.