Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"Gaze Into The Eyes of The Dragon!" The Master Manipulator of Magick For Your Old School Campaigns

"I have walked my way since the beginning of time. Sometimes I give, sometimes I take, it is mine to know which and when!"
Merlin Excalibur 1981

Is there a lynch pin that holds Arthurian literature & legends together? Well that spoke around which all of the events happen is Merlin. Up till now I've resisted taking about him. But I think its safe to assume that we can do a bit of a spin about the wizard,mystic,druid, illusionist, etc. For me there is only one Merlin and its Nicol Williamson as Merlin in the film “Excalibur” by director John Boorman from Nineteen Eighty One.

The modern invention of the wizard's depiction of largely the result of pop culture's transition into classic literature. But Merlin something much older & much more dangerous then he appears.
"The standard depiction of the character first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, written c. 1136, and is based on an amalgamation of previous historical and legendary figures. Geoffrey combined existing stories of Myrddin Wyllt (Merlinus Caledonensis), a North Brythonic prophet and madman with no connection to King Arthur, with tales of the Romano-British war leader Ambrosius Aurelianus to form the composite figure he called Merlin Ambrosius (Welsh: Myrddin Emrys). He is allegedly buried in the Broceliande forest, near Paimpont in Brittany. Geoffrey's rendering of the character was immediately popular, especially in Wales.[1] Later writers expanded the account to produce a fuller image of the wizard. Merlin's traditional biography casts him as a cambion: born of a mortal woman, sired by an incubus, the non-human from whom he inherits his supernatural powers and abilities.[2] Merlin matures to an ascendant sagehood and engineers the birth of Arthur through magic and intrigue.[3] Later authors have Merlin serve as the king's advisor and mentor to the knights until he is bewitched and imprisoned by the Lady of the Lake" All of Merlian or Merlin (Welsh: Myrddin) centers around the Welish region & there's a very good reason for this.
"Geoffrey's account of Merlin Ambrosius' early life in the Historia Regum Britanniae is based on the story of Ambrosius in the Historia Brittonum. He adds his own embellishments to the tale, which he sets in Carmarthen, Wales (Welsh: Caerfyrddin). While Nennius' Ambrosius eventually reveals himself to be the son of a Roman consul, Geoffrey's Merlin is begotten on a king's daughter by an incubus demon. (The name of Merlin's mother is not usually stated, but is given as Adhan in the oldest version of the Prose Brut.[10]) The story of Vortigern's tower is essentially the same; the underground dragons, one white and one red, represent the Saxons and the British, and their final battle is a portent of things to come.
At this point Geoffrey inserts a long section of Merlin's prophecies, taken from his earlier Prophetiae Merlini. He tells only two further tales of the character. In the first, Merlin creates Stonehenge as a burial place for Aurelius Ambrosius. In the second, Merlin's magic enables the British king Uther Pendragon to enter into Tintagel in disguise and father his son Arthur with his enemy's wife, Igraine. These episodes appear in many later adaptations of Geoffrey's account. As Lewis Thorpe notes, Merlin disappears from the narrative after this; he does not tutor and advise Arthur as in later versions"

The later portraits by  Robert de Boron   of the wizard give him his demonic heritage & his abilities as a shape shifter of incredible aspect as well as the all important attachment to The Holy Grail.
"Several decades later, the poet Robert de Boron retold this material in his poem Merlin. Only a few lines of the poem have survived, but a prose retelling became popular and was later incorporated into two other romances. In Robert's account, as in Geoffrey's Historia, Merlin is begotten by a demon on a virgin as an intended Antichrist. This plot is thwarted when the expectant mother informs her confessor Blase (or Blaise) of her predicament; they immediately baptize the boy at birth, thus freeing him from the power of Satan and his intended destiny. The demonic legacy invests Merlin with a preternatural knowledge of the past and present, which is supplemented by God, who gives the boy a prophetic knowledge of the future.
Robert de Boron lays great emphasis on Merlin's power to shapeshift, on his joking personality, and on his connection to the Holy Grail. Robert was inspired by Wace's Roman de Brut, an Anglo-Norman adaptation of Geoffrey's Historia. Robert's poem was rewritten in prose in the 13th century as the Estoire de Merlin, also called the Vulgate or Prose Merlin. It was originally attached to a cycle of prose versions of Robert's poems, which tells the story of the Holy Grail: brought from the Middle East to Britain by followers of Joseph of Arimathea, the Grail is eventually recovered by Arthur's knight Percival.
The Prose Merlin contains many instances of Merlin's shapeshifting. He appears as a woodcutter with an axe about his neck, big shoes, a torn coat, bristly hair, and a large beard. He is later found in the forest of Northumberland by a follower of Uther's disguised as an ugly man and tending a great herd of beasts. He then appears first as a handsome man and then as a beautiful boy. Years later, he approaches Arthur disguised as a peasant wearing leather boots, a wool coat, a hood, and a belt of knotted sheepskin. He is described as tall, black and bristly, and as seeming cruel and fierce. Finally, he appears as an old man with a long beard, short and hunchbacked, in an old torn woolen coat, who carries a club and drives a multitude of beasts before him."

This portrait of Merlin reveals several very interesting details about the Welsh family of Myrddin. The inclusion of a strain of the demonic, the deep connections to the Holy Grail, and the shape shifting nature of the character. Once again I believe that we're seeing several characters rolled into one folk lore creation as to almost but not quire Arthurian gospel.
One of the most interesting details about the enchanter is his connection between God,The Holy Grail & his relationship of his magick to time. The swan is often seen as a symbol in Arthurian lore & artwork, its also highly connected with time. Merlin is the architect of the events of Uther Pendragon & Camelot's foundation as well  its equation in Europe's post Roman England. Because of the inclusion of Chaos in the form of Fairyland's meddling in the history of the country.
Merlin's family is strongly connected with the ancient Pagan semi demonic gods of the lands of England. In John Boorman's Excalibur its the Red Dragon that we see the clearest if subtle use of a patron god to the workings of a wizard. The sword of power cutting into the land & wounding not only Lancelot & Guinevere but also Merlin.

The Enchanter Merlin, by Howard Pyle
from The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (1903)

"I once stood exposed to the Dragon's Breath so that a man could lie one night with a woman. It took me nine moons to recover. And all for this lunacy called, "love", this mad distemper that strikes down both beggar and king. Never again. Never."
Merlin's perceptions of time and prophecy are as much a curse as its a blessings because of his connections to the power block factions of  Elves of England who were once the gods. These beings of chaos are his downfall forever or are they?!
"In the Lancelot-Grail and later accounts, Merlin's eventual downfall came from his lusting after Niviane (or Nymue, Nimue, Niniane, Nyneue, Viviane or Vivien in some versions of the legend). She is portrayed as Merlin's apprentice; his other female student (and an actual lover[12]) is often Arthur's half-sister, Morgan le Fay.
In the Suite du Merlin,[13] for example, Niviane, who was the daughter of the king of Northumberland, is about to depart from Arthur's court, but, with some encouragement from Merlin, Arthur asks her to stay in his castle with the queen. During her stay, Merlin falls in love with her and desires her. Niviane, frightened that Merlin might take advantage of her with his spells, swears that she will never love him unless he swears to teach her all of his magic. Merlin consents, unaware that throughout the course of her lessons, Niviane will use Merlin's own powers against him, forcing him to do her bidding. When Niviane finally goes back to her country, Merlin escorts her. However, along the way, Merlin receives a vision that Arthur is in need of assistance against the schemes of Morgan. Niviane and Merlin rush back to Arthur's castle, but have to stop for the night in a stone chamber, once inhabited by two lovers. Merlin relates that when the lovers died, they were placed in a magic tomb within a room in the chamber. That night, while Merlin is asleep, Niviane, still disgusted with Merlin's desire for her, as well as his demonic heritage, casts a spell over him and places him in the magic tomb so that he can never escape, thus causing his death.[13]
Merlin's demise or imprisonment is recounted differently in other versions of the narrative; the enchanted prison is variously described as a cave (in the Lancelot-Grail), a large rock (in Le Morte d'Arthur), an invisible tower, or a tree. In one version, Niviane confines him in the forest of Brocéliande with walls of air, visible as mist to others but as a beautiful tower to him"

As I've said in the past that with Arthurian lore the role of & interference by party's of adventurers might free Merlin or one of the family's wizard's from one of their eternal prisons. Given the occult & alchemy laced background of the warlord patrons & power movers of the Thirty Years its not hard to see one of them playing a long game to locate the tomb prison of Merlin.

The Beguiling of Merlin by E Burne Jones MDCCCLXXIV
For old school games there are a number of not so obvious sources including original Dungeons & Dragons Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes By Robert Kuntz  & James Ward because it contains a good overview of the Cetic & Roman Greco gods which make good wizardly patrons for the family . The second sources of information and NPC portraits is Deities & Demigods for the original first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game. Here both the Celtic & Arthurian gods & mythos are presented along with a full array of stats. Merlin is presented as druid, wizard, & illusionist to complement the other nights. This is a Merlin used to the fray of Camelot and backing up Arthur various wars.

This Merlin is a wizard in the vein of Clark Ashton Smith's all powerful sorcerer Maal Dweb  who tries to stem his boredom by playing with lesser beings. The dangers of chaos come from the likes of the god like Elves of Fairyland & the wizards who use the sorceries of chaos to dip into the whirling maelstrom of time. Merlin's perceptions of time have been & continue to be warped by his association with the Holy Grail an instrument beyond & outside of time & space. In some incarnations Merlin's perceptions of time run backwards closely mirroring the time distortions of Fairyland itself.

How are the powers of the Elves affecting the world of The Thirty Years War? Through their witches covens & cults of chaos. Both Dark Albion & Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos goes deeply into exactly how they operate & have  been for centuries in the Lion & Dragon Retroclone system.

Because Merlin is a demonic hybrid his nature is closely associated with the Celtic Otherworld & the chaotic energies of Fairyland. He is a wizard whose family has walked with the gods of old & may do so again. He is almost but not quite a demigod in a way whose powers and familial influence should never be underestimated.

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