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Merlin, Missionary-Mage of the Fair Folk

Merlin is a mage with a long history. Merlin was only one of his names, and a late one at that. He was a sort of missionary-mage, and he felt that other cultures and worlds should learn from us, and that we could learn from them. He came to the earth in fire and hail and lightning, to impress the kings, and he acted as an advisor. He taught them the importance of lineage and tradition, and how to communicate with the Fair Folk. They chose to worship and ask for boons, and sometimes pay visits. But the Christian warriors came with the fear of hell and the hope of heaven, and the knowledge of the lands of youth and beauty was mostly lost.

Merlin's mission turned out unexpectedly. The Fair Folk became bearers of gifts, and then scapegoats for trouble. People ceased to respect us, and then stopped believing in us at all. So gods and empires rise and fall.

But in the early days, our missionary mage wished to share his knowledge. He wished to help those who suffer in the physical world who must live with disease, old age, and in fear of death by teaching them about happier worlds - the worlds of the Fair Folk. Merlin was a teacher and a builder of bridges, and was able to teach about many traditions rather than just one. Since the earliest times, mythology has surrounded him.

He was not incarnate as a human being, but organized his shape-shifter ability to gain a human body for an extended period of time. This is very difficult to do. Even to visualize and materialize a human body for a short period is very difficult to do, and is only undertaken for broad social goals.

Since he appeared without a history, several were made up for him by his detractors.

He was reputed to be a child of the devil and a nun, or a demon and a virgin, or a bishop and a witch - any unlikely malevolent sounding pair was chosen. He grew up away from society, which was why nobody saw him as a child. They said he only came to interfere with politics and religion to justify kings and policies that attacked Christendom and to act as a spokesman for unsophisticated rustics, and even animals. They also said he was a sorcerer, who spoke to the devil, corrupted women, and got paid back in the end, being imprisoned by a woman who had been his student. Based on this story, he was not only weak and evil, he was stupider than his student and subject to lust in his old age towards his student.

Was any of this true? Not very much. He actually came as a teacher, and taught a number of students, and most of them chose to be unknown. He had little to do with kings, though occasionally he defended ones that he thought had some virtue. He did not disguise Uther Pendragon, nor did he take away Arthur, nor did he physically create the Round Table. He did suggest the idea of a group of equal and virtuous knights, who would have knowledge, courage, and courtly ideals. Knowledge fell by the wayside, but they did keep the ideals of courage and courtliness.

While he gave advice to kings when asked, his primary job was educating future mages. He was called mad for his rejection of society and belief in the gods and ancestors, but this was just calumny. He was perfectly sane and reasonable, and this was why people came to ask advice.

He stayed in physical form for several decades, and then returned to our world . His return had nothing to do with students, female or otherwise. The physical body that he occupied was only made to last a certain number of years, and the time ran out.

There were Christians at the time who were scandalized by a male teacher who taught young women without chaperones. They could only imagine a sexual relationship of some sort - it was impossible that a female student would simply be interested in ideas, and that a male professor would support this. When Merlin left, some students carried on his tradition of secret teaching, and some traveled back with him to the land of the Fair Folk.

The characters later associated with Arthurian legend mix historical events with figures out of Merlin's teachings. The women who learned magic (Vivianne, Morgause) were called evil sorceresses. The queens of our world became Sovereignty, and the Lady of the Lake. Merlin's inspiration for the king became soldiers of the cross and the grail.

Merlin Speaks

Merlin appears dressed like a Celt, with white hair and a long curved mustache. He wears a white tunic and brown boots. On his chest is a silver branch, the less violent side of the Red Branch [representing his lineage]. He holds a staff with a carved ram's head, a drinking horn, and a silver torc with lion faces around his neck. He also wears a long sword whose hilt sparkles with gems, surrounding a carved eye.

He says,

I have spoken with your teacher. Open your heart to me. I appreciate that you take your responsibilities seriously. I also do, which is why I have been disappointed at the ambitions of the students I have had. They sought to steal treasures and secrets, and hid their greed from view. I could see it but I thought they would overcome it. I was wrong.

To be a mage, a person must feel deeply for those he protects and have loyalty and family obligation. He or she must seek to understand the mountains and the stars, seek to learn the protection of the weak and conquest of the strong. The mage need not be a chieftain with a war-band, but he or she should have those they love and are willing to protect.

I am not a violent man, but I recognize and accept cultural limitations. Cultures do not easily accept the new and the strange - innovators must be warriors, fighting for their place in the natural order, bringing ideas down into physical reality.

I have tried to turn weak men into warriors, blind men into seers. But few were able to make these changes. They came to me all afire, but the embers burned down and they came to resemble ash. They could not bear the lightning in their veins.

I came of warring people. The Fair Folk are wise and ancient and artistic. That too is true, we are. However, different groups have different values. In some ways, we are more like the Scandinavian folk, with warriors and kings, prophetesses, and a world of warfare that continues into the afterlife. We are ancestors who live with the Gods, and our lives are their lives.

What does it mean to be a warrior, and a mage? For our people, the Siver Branch, war is a dance, our expression of desire and delight, of hope and of fear. It is how we show our courage, overcoming individual fears and anxieties for protection and glorification of the group.

Mages are warriors too, but of a different sort. They are the eyes and ears of the clan in other worlds. They learn the strategies of enemies, and see their motivations before they know them themselves. We are spies of a sort, but we do not kill by evil means. We try to talk others out of warfare, or to distract them. but if they will not be distracted, then we find their weak points and attack.

Our goddess is the Lady Danu. She is a shining star, a fiery beacon to us. She is a goddess from the skies and her rays of light emanate out many of our ancestors, the Danaan. They were travelers in the early days, gypsies and warriors with beautiful silks and brocades, weapons of silver and gold, and brave horses and falcons. They roamed through many worlds, with dance and song and the clash of swords, and they were an inspiration to the later gypsies who were belly dancers and horse-thieves. They rode through the clouds on gray horses with silver hooves carrying banners. From them came our people.

They visited many worlds and in the end decided to create a land of their own, as have so many others. The Danaan created a whole island paradise, Tirnan Og. It is a land of golden sun and silver trees, and jeweled fruit and rushing waters, and giant evergreen trees reaching into the clouds. The birdsongs are clear, the air fresh and cool, and the trees heavy with fruit.

It came to be known as the Island of Eternal Youth, not for its people (who are shape shifters and can be as young or old as they wish), but for the air and water, which always seems untouched and full of joy and energy, giving happiness and vitality to the people. Our ancestors took the best of the places they had visited, and used that imagery as a pattern on which to build their world.

It has long been our home, and a place of refuge or excitement for those who find their way there. We have beautiful forests, lush valleys, and rich lands - these have always been valued. We also have a land of love and dreams, which has drifted into folk-tale and ballad.

I admire my land. This is why I have returned. But I have long been interested in learning from other cultures, and teaching people our ways.

Merlin's Reflections on Modern Culture

I have taken the liberty of seeing your world through your memory. I am quite shocked by what your world has become. For us, what is beautiful is what is spontaneous and alive and intense. The miles of wasteland and ruined desert, cracked cement, skyscrapers and ghost malls, slums and old factories, rusted cars and pollution - this is a world which has lost its sense of beauty, perhaps its identity as a place of meaning and of self expression. There is striving after symbolic wealth, and the arena of creativity becoming the merging of businesses, like the mating of great ugly dinosaurs. The sexuality, which naturally arises as a response to beauty, is shunted instead into power, so beautiful people and environments are nothing more than badges of wealth. The goal is to pile up more wealth and beauty than one can ever appreciate, greedily keeping it from others, so that its appreciation is corrupted.

Beauty in architecture is alien, empty, crystalline, like a machine or a dead thing. Beauty in art is out of fashion. Beauty in fashion follows corrupt social values - childhood sexuality, starvation and poverty that are fetishized, yet recognize a glut of wealth. Soldiers may be fashionable, or criminals, or prostitutes. Degradation is valued for its shock value, in a calloused culture where only pain and disgust are strong enough to feel.

This sort of thing is discouraging in terms of motivating contact. How can I explain to my people that the land they left long ago due to the greed and brutality of its people is worth our time and effort?

Yet there are bright points. The New Age you despair over is seeking a return to beauty and the older values. The interest in Shamanism has mage aspects, and Wicca in some forms tries to recapture a time more like our own. I realize that survival is an important value for much of the world - more important than beauty and wisdom and meaning and tradition. But not all rejection of beauty and tradition is due to the need for survival. Much of it is due to greed and lust for power.

There is no clear group to contact, no mage caste in the modern world with which to share ideas. I do not know where there are commonalities. But I will search for them.

Introduction | History | Manannan Mac Lir | Merlin | Taliesin | Building the Realms of the Fair Folk | Lir and Danu | Lugh and the Morrigan | Anya, Daughter of Manannan | Manannan's Ocean Kingdom | Aengus, The Poet God of Love and Romance | The Ancient Roads to the Fair Folk | Manannan's Horses | The Society of the Fair Folk | The Place of Transformation | Traveling Between the Worlds | Research Methodology | Conclusion


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