The Introduction from The Merlinian Legend
The Blessed Bairn of Beltane
In days of old, when all things past had not since turned to dust nor had stories been turned into legend nor legend into whispered lore, there was a wee bairn son born to a noblewoman named Lady Adhan. She was both refined and knowledgeable and unfortunately for the babe’s sake, not yet married.
Being a proud Lady, she would ne’er reveal the parentage of her fatherless son, although she loved and protected him and arranged for his tutoring in the ways of the magickal woods, much as her mother before her had given her similar lessons. The Sight had been given to her, and now, assuredly, to her baby as well. It has long been said that “A magician comes forth as such from his mother’s womb,” yet, it was a secret best kept to oneself…for now. The locals whispered that the new bastard was one of questionable parentage, mayhap, even sired by the Horned God, himself. The baby’s conception happened thusly:
Lady Adhan, was daughter of Meurig ap Rhain, he who was King of the smaller kingdom of Dyved in Wales. She had fallen in love with a young man, who was also Prince Aurelius Ambrosius. It was he, who was in line to rule High Britain, son of Emperor Constantine.
Yet tragedy had struck his lineage years earlier, when both King Constantine, and his first born son, Constans, had been assassinated. Constantine had a contingency plan in motion, should such things happen, what with the war against Vortigern waging nigh onto years long, and he had taken precautionary steps to vouchsafe his heirs apparent. Constantine had arranged for both his remaining sons, Ambrosius and his younger sibling, Uther, to be ushered away to safety. For years the boys were held in seclusion in the south of Wales. Constantine had ruled with a thoughtful hand and possessed a strong will. He had been a good leader in the days of darkness and the beginnings of the burgeoning new church of the crucified one called Jesus. This new religion was gaining ground and its leaders and its buildings spread inexorably across the land.
Yet, Constantine’s reign after his death was besieged with avarice, which soon devolved into active malice. The young heirs to the throne had been hidden for their protection. The Regent ruled until it was to be deemed safe for Ambrosius to return as the first born son to be called forth to rule. He would take his destined seat upon the throne as the rightful heir and King.
How’ere, the Regent was caught in a treasonous plot and the Prince was called back a bit before his twenty-first birthday to make his warranted return. He was now come to take part in one of the new high Holy Day gatherings of the Apostolic Church and was to receive his blessing as Prince of All Britain. His coronation would be set later in the year when all was ready, including troops to support the event and nobility from other countries to come as honored guests.
This day of ceremony, how’ere, was at a time when many Lords and Ladies were also to receive blessings from the church leaders at this new holy day called Easter. All would be in attendance to greet the grown Prince. It was a grand occasion, indeed. There, in the vast hall, in the romantic glow of the stained glass flickering with torchlight, Aurelius Ambrosius glanced about and his eyes had met hers. Lady Adhan. She was a beauty. Her eyes sparkled and a warm smile danced shyly upon her lips. A strong feeling of destiny washed quickly over them both. It was one of those fleeting moments of truth. Her blue eyes shone true with heart’s desire and his dark eyes smoldered with passion. Over the next few feasting days, through hidden missives (carried by their devoted yet silent servants), information of their total willingness to meet and a location had been arranged quickly between them. A tryst was set in motion.
Whilst they had met under the auspices of the au courant Church, they quickly realized that both were quiet followers of the Old Ways in their hearts. If they had to be ecumenical for society’s sake, so be it… they would walk the path.
It was when she signed her first missive, “Blessed Be” and he sent a return of the same that they knew there was more to their story. They met one spring day in a pre-arranged meeting, on a bench in a quiet courtyard. They spoke of their conjoined spirituality as Druid clans of old have passed on their wise words to generations hence. It was if they had known each other for lifetimes.
E’en so, they determined they would also continue to worship in their traditional ways as best they could. These were unstable times. Best to be all inclusive and honor what feeds your spirit, and also that what keeps you alive by the fickle laws of men. For Druids believe that “All the Gods are but one God” and that “Spiritual power comes from living in a Sacred manner.”
They also both knew that their love would not be an official priority sanctioned as her dowry from her father, a lesser ruler, who did not approve of Ambrosius as her suitor. He did not approve for no one was good enough for her in his eyes. She was a daughter of a King, aye, but without her father’s approval, she would not be given permission, nor the dowry to afford him. Whilst she would’ve been Queen for all of High Britain, politics would arrange alliance with another country for him, and not have him marry merely for love. Marrying for love, it was felt, was a passing fancy and a trend that would not last. Alliance, how’ere, could save a nation.
Being young and confined to the rules of courtly love, they both were restrained by duty and station, yet burned with an inconsolable desire. They both wished their wishes and felt hard pressed to put it into action and soon. Whilst they could’ve gone the route of courtship and begun the mating dance and made compromises to make it so…this would take a lot of luck, politics, coinage, not to mention approval from so many more than their own hearts. How’ere, their love and lust burned too great to wait patiently for such things. They could not wait. They would not wait. It would take a year’s length of dreary proprieties to be approved and granted.
For they knew what the Druid path knows, is that “When all choices are taken away, a perfect path remains.” Destiny pushed the cart and lust churned the wheels. The only halting restraints upon this particular cart were the nods to propriety and family duty.
Ambrosius knew of a small secluded cave in the hills, a former solitary Druid’s haunt which would surely serve well for a discreet meeting on the eve of upcoming Beltane. If ever there was a ritual that presented itself as a sanctioned time of tryst, this was it! It would be necessary for some quiet love time away from the court and all their damnable prying eyes…and ears.
This May Day’s sanctioned opportunity for blanket indiscretion, would prove to be an apt rendezvous indeed. Granted, the whole world went Bedlamite at this time and so, it seemed, could they as well!
The new apostolic priests all turned a blind eye the other way, aye, for on this traditional day of madness and frolic the Old Ways still reigned supreme, and they knew it. At least for now.
One bishop said, “If it keeps the serfs happy and unawares of their financial yoke to the Pope and to his Holy Church, then by all means, do let them forget politics and let them enjoy their rutting frenzy.” Another younger cleric looked out the window, sighed and said to himself, “Would that I could run amuck for one day…” He glanced wistfully outside whilst he was bid to close the latticed shutter away from the day’s sunlight and nature’s beauty.
On this particular evening before May Day, the entire village was abuzz like bees in honey, all in anticipation of the ancient custom. Dry brush faggots and tinder were being stacked and laid in bonfire pits, being hastily made ready for the fire rituals. Starry-eyed virgins, as well as oft-bedded women, donned garlands and made love charms of flowers and special herbs. Many a tuzzy-muzzy bouquet for the evening was made with herbs and flowers sure to persuade the Gods to bring a lover to their bed. It was a time of procreation for all nature. It was tradition that the stag-horned Green Man would rule for one night as the “Lord of the Woods” and the May Queen would meet and romp together in effigy as well as in the likely participants of the land. It was expected that many gentles would revel to all hours of this night and no one would be held accountable for what happened in the woods that night- would stay in the woods- as it were. It was a yearly sanctioned night of madness!
In kitchen cottage lore it is said that Parsley was “to remove bitterness and encourage easy digestion of new emotions.” Sage was “for a lover that was healthy, strong and wise.” Rosemary was “for love, fidelity and remembrance.” And lastly, Thyme was “for the deep healing of any former sadness so as not to ruin nor taint a fresh new love.” Some of the garlands contained: Dandelion for happiness and faithfulness, pink Hyacinths for playtime, and Lilies for the irresistibility of a Maiden’s charms. Lavender was liberally woven into garments for a most magical and complete enchantment.
The women brushed their hair and entwined flowers midst their lovely braids, and made their amulets. These were heady potions which voiced their wish for their all-consuming need of love be fulfilled. Many a maiden and adventurous maven cooked and wove kitchen spells and made their brews to beguile and lay low virtuous, handsome men! Aye, he who would then succumb to the wiles of lust and (mayhap) the bond of matrimony. Women all dreamed of being crowned May Queen!
A favorite recipe to help their chances was handed down from mother to daughter; from aunt to niece was Love Potion Tea. It was best made on a Freya’s Day, made still more potent when made and quaffed on a waxing moon. It was believed to make someone fall in love with those who ingested its delicious contents.
LOVE POTION TEA
1 pinch of rosemary
2 teaspoons tea leaves
3 pinches thyme
3 pinches nutmeg
3 fresh mint leaves
6 fresh rose petals
6 lemon leaves
3 cups blessed water
Whilst drinking the tea, the lass would say thusly: “By the light of this moonlight, I brew this tea to make me Irresistible to the man whom I desire. Goddess of Love, hear my plea, let him desire ME, so mote it be, so mote it be, so mote it be!”
It was during this time, after meeting and dreaming of handsome Aurelius Ambrosius, that the noble Lady Adhan was no different than any scullery maid. She, too, did envision her own dreams of romance and designed her own magickal brews and garlands! She hid her secret concoctions from all and was set to meet Ambrosius as they had planned.
The young men of the shire (aye, and, verily, those whose passions needed desperate release) also prepared for the evening by cutting down greenery to bring the new summer indoors. They would fashion a May Pole for dancing by cutting down a small tree and decorating it with ribbons at the top for the entwining dance in the evening. Being a good dancer and a good singer and possibly getting “accidently” twisted in the ribbons was always a boon to secure a beautiful young bride…or at least a lovely sensual companion for the evening.
As dusk overtook the day, in a grove tangled with grapevines, revelers gathered. The Beltane fires were lit here and there around the country side. Men appeared like the Green Man himself, decorated with leaves and looking as though they had just rolled in a field of ivy. Some of the men sported horns and furs and danced freely, letting go of their work day and turning their thoughts to the winsome sport of wooing maidens. The smell of wood smoke, roasted meat and the sound of singing filled the spring air. Meade flowed freely this moonlit night.
Drummers and singers encircled the growing fires and burly men yelled and jumped the flames. Women floated through the woods in gossamer gowns of thin linen, with flower garlands in their hair. They embodied the ethereal siren beauty of the May Queen herself. They flirted with, and then scampered away from, men and boys, tantalizingly so. This would be the dance of the evening! Flirtation, enchantment and sensuality were the evening’s delight! No longer were they the haufrau, the farmer’s daughter; no longer did the men think of themselves as the serf, the beggar nor the rich man. They just WERE. Alive and free! They were as wild and rampant as any other animal in the woods!
Couples would join hand in hand, then run off to rut in the wild wood, to slake their thirst, to throw off bonds of convention. This was the night of Joy and Abandon! It was luxurious, natural and uninhibited savagery. This was the one night when no questions were asked and, thankfully, no promises given. This was a night when those who had yearnings for another, could try out their urges with a feverish passion! This is the night that would result in a new growth for the community with the mid-winter births of many new bairn on Imbolc! A winter’s laying in for many mothers was the best time, when all was quiet and the wee bairn could be nursed and kept warm. The earthen cycle was good for winter births as well as summertime frolic, and this was the beginning of the wheel. The cycle was as ancient as the Old Ways themselves and worked with the seasons and the four directions. It was right and good to do so.
The simple jingle of a horse’s bridle and low whinny gave away the couple on this evening of Fate. The gibbous moon on Beltane was chosen for their perfect union. A day of beginnings and of sensuality. It would have to be thus, as they had both agreed. Her family would not purchase a Kingly dowry…neither could he, by law, marry beneath him to a lesser-stationed lady. But, aye…where there be a will…there be a way.
Ambrosius met Adhan at the appointed time. He easily dismounted his horse and walked over to her mount. To celebrate this evening’s tradition he wore the horns of a goat. She smiled broadly when she saw him, and said, “M’lord o’ the Wild Wood, I am blessed and honored by your presence.”
He held the reins of her steed and whispered soothing sounds to the horse until it accepted his friendship. He then looked up to her with eyes full of promise, and she carefully slid down into his arms. Her body was warm and her hair and garland had the scent of peonies, lemon balm and sage. Ambrosius pulled Adhan to his heart and enveloped her with his cloak.
“As I am honored by your presence, my Queen, thou art my love, my dearest One,” he murmured and nuzzled into her hair and pulled her close. God and Goddess met within their intense gaze of love and lust.
Strong and sincere, he circled his hands around her waist, to her, his body felt delicious and new to her under the bower. She had dressed early this day for travel and had slipped out before dawn’s watchful eye beheld the village. This would be a day of no questions for any missing person, but she did not want to answer to any querant that came.
Lady Adhan raised her face up to him and met his warm lips and felt his breath upon her cheek. He smelled of the ride, leather mixed with horse sweat, and freshly scythed sweet grass. His scent was familiar, as though she knew him of old. So new, and yet, a scent of mystery and hunger hung in the air liken unto a deep craving.
Ambrosius was a young man of striking qualities. His visage had been seared into her heart since first she saw him in the Great Hall on that day not so long ago. He was a tall, new man of twenty, dressed in leather jerkin and britches for riding. His dark, curly hair flowed far beyond his collar and his ebony beard was soft and fresh. He was in earnest when he whispered his desire for her, huskily into her ear. Her auburn hair fell around her waist and brushed his fingertips. A need of great longing flowed between them. They did not have much time.
A capable rider, he had arrived a day early having made his itinerary with a clever excuse of a week’s retreat and solace with a Holy One to consider his royal future. He had come back into knowledge of his station only recently, having been kept in the dark for safety’s sake all the years of his youth. Yet it was seen to, that he and his younger brother, Uther, had been offered all opportunities of learning that they needed to resume their royal stations when’ere fate called the tune.
Knowing full well what now his new life would be like, he was granted leave, one last carefree jaunt, knowing full well the time of year it was. It was made for just such frivolous pursuits, which would be rare in the near future for him, as the crown was surely coming to his placement. The new Prefect had conceded to let him go but only with his agreement to his precise return for the coronation and its important agenda. Ambrosius would need to follow what’ere desire he seemed so secretive about, and sow his wild hair ‘ere he took the scepter in hand and crown upon his inexperienced brow. Whether it be wenches or blokes, gambling or drinking, it would be folly not to allow it and keep it pent up in a stallion such as this. His advisors were amused, smiled approvingly so, and let the future King go on his last impetuous quest.
This obscure cave was a boyhood treasure to Ambrosius and always had held good memories of adventure and freedom. This is why he chose it for her now…for them now. He was determined to have her as his bride, and he would try to convince her father of it. Dowry be damned, he wanted her… for his own.
He had laid the interior of the cave with victuals, swept it out with cedar branches and started a small fire. The old Druid who lived here long ago made it habitable once upon a time, and the spiritual man had even vented it for a winter hearth. The priest long ago was lain within the stones upon the hill. His well at the entrance remained as a testimony and a nod to Brigid. On this adventure, now, a separate pack horse had accompanied the Prince with a pallet of the best bedding, He had arranged for a fine, soft bed for their secluded courting, and it was meant as their bridal bed.
There was no one there who would disturb them. Lady Adhan’s servant had been instructed to pack a hamper of necessities of food, candles and blankets and a note was sent to let her father know that she was “treating a sickness in the hills as part of her Godly work.” All had been arranged with care and with detail. Aye, it was Beltane, but best to have an alibi under the circumstances, and an alibi that would match her station. A true Lady couldn’t be too careful.
All was in readiness. She had agreed to this union and would give up her precious maidenhead, only if they first be hand-fasted and mated in the Old Ways. It protected her Spirit and was at least something that they could both share in their hearts, forever. They would be wed, if not in legal binding terms of the Church and the Law, they would be One under the Moon and the Stars. He was a King’s son yet she could not have him, neither could she deny him. So it was then that they met on this magickal day and soulful hearts took kindred hands by candlelight of the nearly full moon.
The couple lit a candle which had been rubbed with rose oil and they called the Powers of the Four Winds to preside o’er their ceremony of love. They wrapped a ribbon for kindness, devoted love and faithfulness about their hands, all the while they promised these things to each other. An Earthen bond given in love and truth is as sacred as a Heavenly Bond given in any kirk. All elements Earth, Fire, Water, Wind, and Spirit- were called to witness it. A promise truthfully given is sacred promise bound. The Mother Goddess answered their nuptial kiss with the song of an owl who hooted three times for Power, Wisdom and Great Change. A log tumbled into the fire whilst they enjoyed their first kiss of passion.
Thus began the wedding night and laying in of Lady Adhan to Prince Ambrosius which commenced hastily and without further ado. They only had this one night together, and well, time was a-wasting. Their lovemaking was tender at first, and Ambrosius was gentle with her, taking her maidenhead with kindness and tenderness…and then as she rallied to this new wisdom of carnal delight, their lovemaking turned raucous, energetic and passionate, and the Goddess was indeed pleased! The night was delicious, tantalizing, filled with kisses of honey, and punctuated with a couple’s new-found fleshly delight! It was passion of a wild stallion and mare in heat being fulfilled. It was far beyond anything they had ever dreamed. It was surprisingly Soul-deep.
The night did not end until well-nigh onto the lark’s song in the morning. Ambrosius promised that after the coronation, he would send for her to start the process, somehow, someway, for their nuptials in the church to read the Banns. They reluctantly pulled themselves from their tangled sheets and their entwined embrace, and made their heart-felt promises to remember that they were once and forever One. This time spent together would stand until the day came when he would take her legally as his Queen for the whole nation to view.
They resignedly and dutifully returned to their stations. He returned to be crowned High King of Britain and she went back to her father’s house in Southern Wales. Two separate houses, with two separate destinies. But both with this night’s lusty secret kept hidden for’ere in their hearts. A moon afterwards, how’ere, developed a definite change of plan.
Their former secret was to be revealed when Lady Adhan discovered that she was with child. She vowed that she would ne’er go in disgrace to her only true love. She was sure that all at Court would mock her as a harlot and deride him as a rake. She quaked at the fearful (yet ungrounded) thought that e’en he may deny her and force ridicule on her family’s house. She could not trust court to raise her beautiful bairn without being knocked about as a bastard to the King. Even though they should’ve waited and made him a legal son, she could not, in all political sense do it now by coming to the newly crowned High King, with her dignity rent asunder, heart in hand, full swell pregnant with his child, like some common doxy. T’would be a fall from grace that she would NOT bear to either of their houses. Alas, she vowed to her Old Gods to keep her secret and then, for all pretense purposes, she laid herself away from society and court and got herself to a nunnery posthaste. If she could not be Ambrose’s Queen in the Old Ways, she would now need protection of the Church that was growing in power. And she knew in her heart, as her true natural Druid faith said, “The power which can destroy a thing, can also be used to preserve it as well.” She hoped this new Jesus would be kind, for he too, was once a much sought after and hidden bastard child at birth as well. In the deepest part of her pagan self she believed that “All the Gods are but one God…thusly the One God is All the Gods.” She knew that God is Love, and those who live in Love, live in God. Aye, she believed that by any name ye shall know the Universe and its secrets. T’was all good in the grand scheme.
So she feigned piety to the Apostolic Church as a virgin novice in order to enter into the nunnery. T’was their rule, not hers, yea, for when in Rome, ye do as the Romans do. Yet months later, the cries of a newborn son, on one cold and early February morn, revealed the veiled knowledge to all who heard it. This private tryst and resulting boy child were known only to a few nuns, a silent Druid and an apostolic Priest who were all told the truth, along with her confession, in order to keep the boy safe and remove him as a target of treasonous assassination. To ensure his safety and that he would have Eternal Life and that the Church could not deny him, according to the new ways, she had him baptized at birth as Merlinus Ambrosius, giving him his father’s name. He was born on Candlemas Day. His birth was noted in the book of births kept by the religion of the Christ. The date was February 2nd. For in sooth, the new bairn was a naturalis. As such it meant that he was the offspring of a couple who could have married and indeed might possibly do so in the future. This type of birth was treated fairly indulgently, by the Church, for the babe was the product of young love which got carried away. Only a handful of sturdy souls knew of the baptized child’s true lineage. They, too, promised to keep Lady Adhan’s secret safe for all of their own sakes, until such time as circumstances may change. There were too many inconstant branches, and no one could truly be sure of the vain pride of Uther, Ambrosius’s brother. It was he, who may want to have the baby killed, like some grand Herod gesture, so that Uther could ascend more directly. As long as there was no heir to the throne from Ambrosius’s line, she felt the baby was safe. Lady Adhan prayed that Uther was kept smug biding his time, unaware of the boy’s existence while making his own plans for ascension.
For propriety’s sake, Lady Adhan stayed safely away from court life both before and after the birth. She took on the ways of the new Church by beginning her new life as a nun. She had immediately taken a vow of celibacy and sealed her Fate as a novice to serve her new Lord, to preclude her father, King Meurig ap Rhain, making some hasty arranged marriage for her to another to cover her impropriety. Yet she so loved Ambrosius that she could not bear to think of ever being with another. So much in love was she that she vowed her love would stay pure for him always in her heart. Thus she remained constant, pure and true to her vows to the Powers, honoring both Gods and her own vow of faithful love to Ambrosius.
There were worse ways to spend a life if you were a lady of some wealth and standing. She would be cared for, in a goodly apartment, left alone to her own ways, music, art, poetry, and now adding in her church work of healing the sick. She would be a good Christian for her landlord’s sake. For her Druid heart, she would be able to work in the gardens, help make the food and wine to keep the Old Ways in this way. She would be safe from suspicion from everyone if she was careful. She was an amazing strategic planner, if not a barren one.
Aye, but deep in her heart of hearts, neither would Lady Adhan have this beauteous child of nature be raised to be a suffering, pious, young priest, devoid of laughter and denying him of his childhood, burying him in guilt and denying him of the pleasures of love and the beauty of this world. Instead, she sent him to her mother’s Clan, to be raised in the family of the Druid faith, and he would be taught by Taliesin of Anglesey Isle. This Druid priest had learned at the traditional school for males steeped in the Old Ways of nature. It was the male school companion to the female halls of Avalon. He would be safe there with her family and taught specifically by Taliesin, who would be his able mentor and entrusted by Lady Adhan to be his only guardian. The child would grow to learn all he could and to be a help to all of mankind and the Earth Mother as well. For in the Druid faith, this February 2nd day was also the Sabbat of Imbolc and the Feast of the Goddess Brigid. Lady Adhan would, by the Gods, honor both faiths and try, as most women oft do,to make everyone happy best she could.
For his part, after his coronation King Ambrosius (whom his new subjects oft referred to as “King Ambrose”) never married another. His heart had been broken when it was announced at court that Lady Adhan had officially converted and had gone into her life as a celibate woman and went into a nunnery. He knew nothing of the impending birth, nor of the recent arrival of his only son. All was kept from him for now, for the bairn’s sake. So he too threw himself into the task of his own daily life, which was governance and leadership. His heart stayed true to Lady Adhan and he always remained hopeful that another love would present herself to him as his ultimate bride. Whilst there were ladies who would avail themselves of his personage and his bed, no one ever drew upon his heartstrings nor fulfilled his wish for a mate, as she had.
Lady Adhan’s mother lion’s protective plan to keep safe her only bairn was complete. He would be raised away from court and away from his noble heritage. This would also keep him away from assassination, away from gluttony and falseness and away from lies and guile. He would also be raised away from rigid society, the Pope’s rules, gunnysack clothing, retribution of his Soul, and fear of his impending damnation. Instead she had given him a great gift. He would be raised wholly in nature, as a Shamanic Druid, reveling in the seasons, birdsong, wild grapes, honest intuition and magick, and he would learn to trust and harness his own special Powers. He would be raised to honor many Gods, remaining joyful for the day and reverent of the night. He would keep the Old Ways, honoring the Earth, as Lady Adhan had promised herself, and the Horned God and May Queen Goddess on the night the babe was conceived.
So ‘tis true what they said of this man: he was the son of a King and a nun! He was also a Love Child of the May Queen and The Horned God.
Aye, for what’s in a name? He, who in Welsh country parts, would be called “The wild man, Myrrdin Wylit.” In Lady Adhan’s secret heart, he was her “Blessed Bairn of Beltane” whom she sent away to live safely elsewhere. He was also Prince Merlinus Ambrosius, named after his father, King Aurelius Ambrosius.
But knowing none of this, most of the townsfolk just called the little tyke Merlin, for short.