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Merlin The Magician - Celtic Mythology

Merlin was a Celtic Shaman, one whose stories have been chronicled both by Geoffrey of Monmouth and by Thomas Malory in Le Mort de Arthur. While Merlin himself is the personification of magic, the birth of Merlin is also mysterious and enchanted. It is said that his mother was approached by a handsome man who was an incubus. Incubi were male supernatural spirits who could have intercourse with human females. Their offspring were said to have their faculties, but it was also prophesied that they would live difficult lives and also have extraordinary challenges.  

( Merlin By Louis Rhead (1857-1926), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons is shown here in this illustration)

Merlin was a seer and a magician and had visions that could foretell the future. From an early age, he learnt to channel the forces of nature through himself to do his bidding. While his strength of character and his skills of concentration are legendary, what sets him as heroic is his battle with Queen Mab, who was the Queen of Magic, and was battling the arrival of Christianity. She was the mortal enemy of Merlin and tried to bring to nought all his plans since he felt that magic could only be undertaken if the means justified the end.   

An illustration in Lapidario,

a compilation of texts of astronomy by

Alfonso the Wise (1221-1284).

Manuscript copied in England around 1400.

Merlin symbolizes the spirit of The Magician as the magus can achieve his goals through his creative abilities. He represents the ability to create in all of us. He is the archetypal male since he represents the male polarity of action and channels potential into goals to produce results. In simplest terms, he represents the active masculine principle. He is the ultimate achiever and therefore becomes confidence personified. No situation is hopeless for him, no defeat final, no obstacle a dampener, and no challenge too great. Every obstacle is a chance to challenge the intellect.   

Merlin the Celtic Magician, knew how to harness the natural world and create what he desired.

Merlin is the master of the natural world and is a link between the natural and the supernatural, bridging the divine and the human with his potential to create by channelling natural elements. Just as Merlin could create apparitions and furthermore make magic by seeing what lies just beneath the surface of the visible we too contain within ourselves, all the knowledge, and we can manifest whatever we choose to. Merlin had infinite potential and he had tapped into the universal limitless power of the universe.  

The Round Table of Camelot, which was a wedding gift from Guinevere’s father to Arthur after hearing tales from Merlin, was meant to be an embodiment of the harmony that would bring stability to the kingdom of Arthur. The table was emblematic of Arthur's kingdom since it had no visible head and therefore was a symbol of equality and eternity.

The Stonehedge, one of Britain's most revered pagan worship sites owing to it being a meeting place between this world and the next, was said to have been Merlin’s haunt. In fact, it has been conjectured that it was Merlin, who was responsible for the creation of the Stonehedge. The Creation of Stonehedge is said to have been undertaken in 490 B.C. It was created by a successor of King Vortigern, Ambrosius Aurelianus, to honour the British chieftains who were brutally massacred in 475B.C. by the Saxons under the leadership of Hengist. It was through the supernatural help extended by Merlin that the men were able to transport the ones from Ireland and set it up in the position in which we see them today.  

Wiltshire England, Salisbury Plain. Stonehedge is a sacred site to the Druids.

It was Merlin, who conceived the plan for the city of Camelot, and it was Merlin, who magically caused the birth of Arthur, and educated him. The round table of Camelot, which was symbolic of the Knightly virtues of Chivalry, Romanticism, Truth and Honor was also the materialization of the vision dreamt by the Magus. The Magician thus channels creative energy from the environment to give it. The creative spark lies at the core of our being and being cut off from it leads to problems. It is essential for us to realize our connection to nature and know that it is in our very being to create. It is said that God created man in his own image, but perhaps the reverse is more accurate since man cannot conceive of a design better than himself. The esoteric cultures understood this, and thus they have many animal gods in their Pantheon.  

Like the Magician of the tarot, and thus personifying him, Merlin attempts to recreate what he conceives of thereby accessing, the figure of God in himself, which explains the adage, “As above so Below”. We too can create and materialize whatever we focus on or draw our concentration to.   

Dignified: Merlin was a manifestation of the ego and of the self. He was the all-powerful male. Merlin insists that you are more powerful than you give yourself credit for. The Magician asserts that you have the ability to make things happen and to manifest your dreams. You are awakening to realize your own potential.  Merlin was a master of magic as a result of his ability to focus. The Magician appearing in your reading also calls to mind that you need to be persistent and unwaveringly driven to achieve your goals.  

The Magician has it in him to enchant people with his eloquence. Just as Merlin was brilliant with his skill and people gave him their ear so you too will have a taste of his power. Use your communication skills to help you achieve all that you aspire to. There is an exuberance and an abundance of confidence. Alternatively, the magician can also be someone with the magical qualities of Merlin, who will give you advice.   

Reversed or Weakly Aspected: The weaker magician relies on a play of hands showing that which may not exist or be what he portrays it to be, thereby meaning that you may be deceived by someone who is putting up an act for you.  Conversely, it may also signify a lack of self-confidence or may warn you that you are not doing enough to make your dreams a reality. It may also imply that you could have been overconfident and arrogant. Either way, too much or too little confidence is not going to help you get to your goal.  Just as the upright card, calls to mind the crystal clear focus reversed The Magician warns you that things may not be going your way, leaving you quite overpowered. You are not focused and may be squandering your energies. It could also mean an absence of resources or a breakdown of communication.   

Works Cited:

  • Franz, Marie-Luise von and William H. (Translator) Kennedy. Projection and recollection in Jungian psychology: reflections of the soul. Open Court Publishing, 1985.   

  • Malory, Sir Thomas and Elizabeth (Introduction) Bryan. Le Morte de Arthur. Modern Library, July 19, 1994.   

  • Cox, Rev. Sir George W., Bart and M.A. An Introduction to the Science of Comparative Mythology and Folklore. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, & Company. 1 Paternoster Square, n.d.   

  • Lupack, Alan and Barbara Tepa Lupack. King Arthur in America Volume 41 of Arthurian studies. Boydell & Brewer, 2001.   

  • Stone, E. Herbert. Stones of Stonehenge. Kessinger Publishing, Edition reprint 2003.   

  • Ford, David Nash. Brittania America's gateway to the British Isles. A Discussion of the Origins of King Arthur's Round Table, 5 December 2010 <http://>.   

  • MacCulloch, John A. Celtic Mythology. Pennsylvania State University: Academy Chicago, 1996.   

  • Lacy, Norris J. The fortunes of King Arthur Volume 64 of Arthurian studies. DS Brewer, 2005.   

  • Andrew, Elizabeth J. Writing the Sacred Journey: Art and Practice of Spiritual Memoir. Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, 2005.   

  • Carr-Gomm, Philip, Stephanie Carr-Gomm and Will Worthington. Druid Craft Tarot. Connections Book Publishing, 2004.  

Further Reading:

Images Used on The Site. Illustrations from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck, known also as the Rider Tarot and the Waite Tarot, reproduced by permission of U.S. Games Systems, Inc., Stamford, CT 06902. c. 1971 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. The Rider-Waite Tarot deck is a registered trademark of U.S. Games Systems, Inc


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