Merlin first appears in the history of England prior to the birth of Arthur as mediator among barons and war lords during the sixth century. Like those of Arthur, Launcelotand Guinevere, his story is recorded in the folk tales of nearly every European nation. According to Thomas Malory’s account Le Morte d’Arthur, Merlin stands highly revered as the king’s counselor, at times appearing disguised—once “all befurred in black sheepskins and a great pair of boots”—in order to convey the imminent message, warning, or initiation.
According to Malory, Arthur was born to Uther Pendragon, “king of all England,” and noble Queen Igraine at Merlin’s own bidding with the understanding that the child would be delivered to Merlin as soon as he was born. And so the tiny newborn babe bound in a cloth of gold was brought to the “poor man” at the postern gate of the castle and taken to Sir Ector whose wife nourished him at her own breast. Merlin called a holy man to christen him and named the child Arthur.
Within two years, while King Uther lay mortally ill, his enemies “did a great battle upon his men and slew many of his people.” Merlin bade the king to ride into the battlefield on a stretcher, for “if your person be there ... then shall ye have the victory.” So it was at St. Albans that Uther’s men overcame the “great host of the North.”
The dying king returned to London where Merlin called together all the barons of Uther’s realm in order that the king might name his heir. And Merlin said aloud, “‘Shall your son Arthur be king after your days?’” And Uther answered, “‘I give him God’s blessing and mine’ ... wherewith he yielded up the ghost.”
The land of England stood then “in jeopardy a long while,” for many rose up attempting to capture the crown by force. So Merlin went before the Archbishop of Canterbury and counseled him to call all the lords of the realm to London at Christmas in order that Jesus, born King of Kings, might come to show who should rule England.
By the alchemy of the Christ consciousness, Merlin caused the sword and the stone to appear in the churchyard of Canterbury cathedral with these words: “Whosoever pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king born of all England.” By the trial of the sword—representing the power of the soul that is free from the bondage of attachment to things material symbolized by the stone and anvil—Arthur proved his kingship.
Thus, we see Merlin in the role of the one who anointed the king of the Britons. And this was also his role in his incarnation as the prophet Samuel—the anointer of kings. So too, our Saint Germain, as the sponsor of America today, did anoint our first president, George Washington.
Thereafter, Merlin remained at Arthur’s side as counselor and friend. The young king once would have died by the sword of mighty Pellinore had not Merlin appeared and “cast an enchantment” upon the knight. It was because Arthur’s sword was smitten in two during that fierce joust that Merlin and Arthur rode to the lake where they miraculously beheld rising from the water the arm of the Lady of the Lake holding the magnificent sword Excalibur. Merlin later counseled him, “Look ye keep well the scabbard of Excalibur for ye shall lose no blood while ye have the scabbard upon you”—a prediction well fulfilled in future years.
It was Merlin who went before King Leodegrance to announce the desire of Arthur to wed his daughter Guinevere. He returned triumphantly to Camelot with Lady Guinevere and the Round Table, a gift to Leodegrance from Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon.
Merlin revealed the mystery of the blessed Sangreal (Holy Grail) to king and queen, knights and ladies at Camelot and, early in Arthur’s reign, prophesied the day of the “great battle beside Salisbury and Modred his own son would be against him.”
It is told by Malory that in the end Merlin was “bewitched” and shut under a stone by one to whom he had entrusted his alchemical secrets.