Saturday 25 June 2016

Gervase and the Moon in June

On 25th June 1178 five monks from Canterbury witnessed a curious astronomical event1:

“In this year, on the Sunday before the Feast of St John the Baptist, after sunset when the moon had first become visible a marvellous phenomenon was witnessed by some five or more men who were sitting there facing the moon. Now there was a bright new moo, and as usual in that phase its horns were tilted toward the east; and suddenly the upper horn split in two. From the midpoint of the division a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals, and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the moon which was below writhed, as it were, in anxiety, and, to put it in the words of those who reported it to me and saw it with their own eyes, the moon throbbed like a wounded snake.”

The account can be found in the chronicles of Gervase of Canterbury, a medieval monk considered a reliable historian.

This extraordinary event was largely forgotten until 800 years later when, in 1976, the geologist Jack Hartung suggested Gervase had recorded a rare eye-witness account of the five monks who had seen an impact on the Moon's surface by a large meteor. The periodic bombardment of the Moon is a fate it has suffered regularly over its 4 billion year long history as attested by the many craters across its surface, but few of these impacts have been actually witnessed.

Hartung argued that evidence of the impact could be seen on the north eastern edge of the moon in a crater named after the 17th century Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno. Hartung suggested the flame the monks saw was incandescent gases, or sunlight reflecting on dust emitted from the crater. He argued that such a crater would be at least 7 miles across, possess bright rays extending for at least 70 miles formed by debris thrown out at impact, and be situated between 30 and 60 degrees North, 75 and 105 degrees East. The crater would be very near the edge of the Moon, or just on the far side. The Giordano Bruno crater happens to lie within these co-ordinates, 13 miles in diameter and notable for its brightness and the rays extending several hundred miles from it.2

The Giordano Bruno crater
Lunar astronomers Callame and Mulholland claim the event would have been sufficiently visible to justify the description of the eye-witness accounts recorded by Gervase. The astronomers also detected evidence of a small vibration in the orbit of the Moon. The Moon rotates in such a way that the face is always pointing at Earth, but with small oscillations, giving it a slight wobble about its polar axis. This slight wobble is not visible to the naked eye but has been detected by astronomers firing a laser beam at reflectors left on the Moon's surface by Apollo astronauts. When the laser is fired the arrival of the returning light beam is timed. Over the years thousands of laser beams have been fired at the Moon providing sufficient data to detect a 15 metre oscillation of the lunar surface about its polar axis over three years. This vibration,  Callame and Mulholland argue, can only be explained as the result of a significant recent impact of such a magnitude to have formed the Giordano Bruno crater. It is estimated that this vibration would die out over a period 20,000 year, or so.3

From studies of impact cratering it is possible to estimate the energy released at impact to have created the crater; the Giordano Bruno would have required around 100,000 megatons. By comparison, on 30th June 1908 a meteor is thought to have burst in mid-air at an altitude of 5 to 10 kilometres over Tunguska, Siberia. The detonation felled around 80 million trees over an area of over 2,000 square kilometres and would have been capable of destroying a large city if impacting on a populous area. Early estimates considered the energy release equivalent to 10–15 megatons, about 1,000 times greater than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.4

In 1975 seismometers left on the Moon by Apollo astronauts detected the impact of a huge swarm of boulders. The bombardment started on June 22, which suggests the Taurids were responsible for the onslaught.

Today many astronomers argue that the Giordano Bruno crater was created more than a million years ago but accept the wobble of the Moon's polar axis is the result of an interstellar impact. However, astronomers have argued that an impact of such magnitude to form the Giordano Bruno crater would have ejected more than 10 million tons of lunar debris, much of which, inevitably, should have rained down into the Earth’s atmosphere causing spectacular meteor storms lasting for many days after the impact. Yet, there are no reports of such an event in 1178.

Current thinking is that the monks probably observed a meteor exploding in the Earth's upper atmosphere travelling head-on toward them along the sight-line of one horn of the crescent Moon. The meteor would have exploded when it entered the upper atmosphere, creating the “hot coals and sparks”, obscuring the crescent with a dark smoke trail. Atmospheric turbulence would account for the “writhing snake” effect.

A head-on meteor in the Earth’s atmosphere would only align with the horn of the Moon over a small area of the Earth’s surface giving a localised perspective which may explain why only the five monks witnessed the impact and apparently no one else. Astronomer Duncan Steele has suggested that the meteor could have originated from the Beta Taurid meteor shower. This is a trail of debris from Comet Encke, which the Earth crosses every June. Clube and Napier, explain that, “the significant feature is not collision with comets themselves, but with their debris”.

Whether the astronomical event that the monks witnessed was the creation of the Giordano Bruno crater or a meteor exploding in the upper atmosphere, like the Tunguska event, it underlines the fact that the planets of the inner solar system are prone to periodic bombardment by space debris from comet trails with catastrophic consequences; such an event seems to have occurred during the Dark Ages.

Something Nasty in the Dark Ages?
A comet appeared in the sky early in 1066, which many interpreted as a premonition of the Norman conquest of England. The comet appears on the Bayeaux Tapestry, an embroidery depicting the Norman invasion and defeat of the English at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. This happened to be comet Halley, the first periodic comet detected, travelling past Earth once every 76 years or so. Observations of Halley's comet suggest the ancient Greeks observed the comet as long ago as 466 BC.

The Bayeaux Tapestry showing Halley's Comet
Geoffrey of Monmouth was probably aware of the comet recorded on the Bayeaux Tapestry and its implied meaning on the outcome on the Battle of Hastings. He writes of a comet in his History of the Kings of Britain (Historia Regum Brittaniae, c.1136), which foreshadows the reign of Uther. On the way to the battle Uther sees a comet in the shape of a fiery dragon, which Merlin interprets as a sign of Aurelius's imminent death and Uther's glorious future:

“At the appearance of this star, a general fear and amazement seized the people; and even Uther, the king's brother, who was then upon his march with his army into Cambria, [Wales] being not a little terrified at it, was very curious to know of the learned men, what it portended. Among others, he ordered Merlin to be called, who also attended in this expedition to give his advice in the management of the war; and who, being now presented before him, was commanded to discover to him the signification of the star. At this he burst out into tears, and with a loud voice cried out;

“O irreparable loss! O distressed people of Britain! Alas! the illustrious prince is departed! The renowned king of the Britons, Aurelius Ambrosius, is dead! Whose death will prove fatal to us all, unless God be our helper. Make haste, therefore, most noble Uther, make haste to engage the enemy: the victory will be yours, and you shall be king of all Britain. For the star, and the fiery dragon under it, signifies yourself, and the ray extending towards the Gallic coast, portends that you shall have a most potent son, to whose power all those kingdoms shall be subject over which the ray reaches. But the other ray signifies a daughter, whose sons and grandsons shall successively enjoy the kingdom of Britain'.” (BOOK VIII, CHAP. XV)

After winning the battle Geoffrey gives Uther the epithet “Pendragon”. Clearly Geoffrey misinterpreted “Pendragon” as meaning “dragon's head” (from the comet) whereas it literally means “Chief-Dragon” as “chief of warriors”. But, significantly, Geoffrey's tale of Arthur is set in the Dark Ages, so although he may have been inspired by the depiction of Halley's Comet on the Bayeaux Tapestry as an omen to the Battle of Hastings, he is clearly referring to a comet event in the days of the Great Arthur.

Astronomers believe there was an increased risk from bombardment in the period between 400 and 700 AD, the classic Dark Age period. Contemporary chroniclers write of a period of climate change, prolonged winters, decreased temperatures and a persistent dust veil. Gildas, writing around c.540 AD, describes a bleak picture of Britain at this time. Historians have long suspected a downturn in the Britons fortunes played to the invading Anglo Saxon's advantage. It was at this time that refortified post-Roman towns such as Wroxeter (Viroconium) were deserted.

The 5th century historian Zachariah of Mitylene writes of “a great and terrible comet appeared in the sky at evening-time for 100 days” around in around 538-9 AD. The medieval historian Roger of Wendover stated that, “in the year of grace 541 AD, there appeared a comet in Gaul, so vast that the whole sky seemed on fire. In the same year, there dropped real blood from the clouds, and a dreadful mortality ensued.

Some versions of the Welsh Annals open with the entry for 447 AD - “Days as dark as night”. A hundred years later in 547 The Welsh Annals record “great death [plague] in which Maelgwn, king of Gwynedd died. Thus they say 'The long sleep of Maelgwn in the court of Rhos'. Then was the yellow plague.” The Irish Annals record “a failure of bread” in 536 and 539 suggesting crop failure owing to climate change. Repeatedly, these events are followed by outbreaks of plague.

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle records that in the year 538 the sun was eclipsed, fourteen days before the calends of March, from before morning until nine and in 540 the sun was eclipsed on the twelfth day before the calends of July; and the stars showed themselves full nigh half an hour over nine.

The celestial disturbance appears to have continued for some time; later the Welsh Annals record “a star of marvellous brightness was seen shining throughout the whole world” in 676 followed by a great plague in Britain in 682, in which Cadwaladr son of Cadwallon dies. Then in 683 there was plague in Ireland. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle again mirrors the Welsh Annals; in 678 a comet-star appeared in August, and shone every morning, during three months, like a sunbeam. It was around this time that hillforts such as Cadbury were abandoned.

All of these Chronicle accounts concur on the appearance of a comet or celestial disturbances during the period around 400 – 700 AD. This dramatic Dark Age event is linked to climate change, drought and famine around the world. This severe downturn in living conditions left humanity more susceptible to outbreaks plague; the “Justinian Plague” arrived in Constantinople in 542 AD, the first recorded emergence of the Black Death in Europe.

It has long been suspected that around this time Britain was devastated by the effects of a cometary impact, an event occurring in 536 AD which produced a dust veil and cooling effect with global consequences.

Volcano or Comet?
The cause of this catastrophic event in the Dark Ages that resulted in crop failures, summer frosts, drought and famine around the world some 1500 years ago has puzzled historians and scientists alike for years.

Author David Keys argues that evidence from historic sources refer to a persistent dry fog across the Mediterranean, that lasted for 12 to 18 months and caused “a spring without mildness and a summer without heat”.Keys believed that a major volcanic event was to blame and suspected Krakatoa as the culprit.5

The same year Mike Baillie argued that comet symbolism underlies the Arthurian Legend. Baillie developed the science of dendrochronology, or tree-ring dating, finding evidence around the world for dramatic effects in trees across the years from 536 to 545 AD. Significantly, Baillie concludes,  a close comet pass coincides precisely with the time the Welsh Annals stated that Arthur perished in the strife of Camlann, 537AD.6

Dallas Abbott, of Columbia University, has recently studied the 536 AD event and the consequent dust veil and combined planetary cooling effect. After taking deep-core samples from Greenland ice that was laid down between 533 and 540 AD, they found evidence of a volcanic eruption in 536 AD but it almost certainly was not of a sufficient magnitude to cause such dramatic climate change.

The Greenland ice cores were also found to contain fossils of tiny tropical marine organisms suggesting this was an extraterrestrial impact in a tropical ocean, throwing them high into the stratosphere, carrying them to the north polar regions. The ice cores also contained large amounts of atmospheric dust from this seven-year period, not all of it originating on Earth but some particles indicative of an extraterrestrial source.

This cometary residue apparent in the ice cores contained deposits of tin, nickel and iron oxide spherules, which Abbott explains, are associated with cometary dust. This alien matter was deposited in Greenland during the Northern Hemisphere spring time, coinciding with the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.

The orbit of comet Halley leaves a trail of debris which the Earth’s crosses every year on two occasions: the Eta Aquariids in early May, and the Orionids in late October. Abbott argues that although the Eta Aquarid dust may be responsible for a cooling period in 533 AD, on its own it cannot explain the global dimming effect of 536-7 AD which cooled global temperatures by as much as 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) for several years; that would require something much more dramatic. Abbott concluded that a piece of the famous Halley's Comet broke away from the main body and impacted on Earth in 536 AD blasting so much dust into the atmosphere that the planet cooled considerably.7

Halley's Comet 1986
Halley's Comet is known to have appeared in Earth's skies in 530 AD and was noted as being astonishingly bright at that time. Irish Annals record “running stars” that were shining for 20 days, and there were many earthquakes. Both China and Byzantium recorded in 530 AD that Halley’s Comet continued to shine for 20 days. The brightness suggests a close pass in which the comet may have broken up as it passed Earth and rounded the sun, ejecting large pieces that fell to Earth and leaving a thicker than normal trail of debris responsible for the dust veil of 536 AD and cooling effect of subsequent years. In 2004 a study estimated that a comet fragment just 2,000 feet (600 metres) wide could have caused the 536 AD event.

Unlike the event recorded by Gervase in 1178, which is doubted as a significant lunar impact by many astronomers today, the 536 AD dust veil and its global consequences is an accepted event; yet few reconstructions of Dark Age History acknowledge the event as a contributory factor in the decline of the Britons.

Halley's Comet's most recent appearance was in 1986. Its next appearance will be in 2061.

Updated 26/06/16
Edited 29/06/16

Copyright © 2016 Edward Watson 

1. The date of the event was originally recorded as 18th June on the Julian calendar which converts to 25th June in the modern Gregorian scheme.
2. Victor Clube and Bill Napier, The Cosmic Winter, Basil Blackwell, 1990. pp.159-162.
3. Ibid.
4. Modern estimates claim that the airburst had an energy range from 3 to 5 megatons.
5. David Keys, Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World, Century, 1999.
6. Mike Baillie, Exodus to Arthur, Batsford, 1999.
7. However, observations taken from Halley’s last appearance in 1986 suggest that the Eta Aquarid meteor shower might not originate from Halley’s Comet, but is possibly disturbed by it.

* * *

Sunday 12 June 2016

Scotland's Merlin Unveiled

Scotland's Merlin
A Medieval Legend and its Dark Age Origins
by Tim Clarkson

In this book, Merlin’s origins are traced back to the story of Lailoken, a mysterious ‘wild man’ who is said to have lived in the Scottish Lowlands in the sixth century AD. The book considers the question of whether Lailoken belongs to myth or reality. It looks at the historical background of his story and discusses key characters such as Saint Kentigern of Glasgow and King Rhydderch of Dumbarton, as well as important events such as the Battle of Arfderydd. Lailoken’s reappearance in medieval Welsh literature as the fabled prophet Myrddin is also examined. [from the back cover]

Merlin the wizard of Arthurian legend has been a source of enduring fascination for centuries, his earliest roots seemingly based in the early Welsh figure of Myrddin. Today it is generally accepted that the Merlin we recognise as the Arthurian wizard was the 12th century creation of Geoffrey of Monmouth. Whereas the Merlin of literature and Arthurian myth is well known as magician, wise man, prophet and the modern inspiration behind popular wizards such as Dumbledore and Gandalf, Merlin the 'historical' figure is less well known and some contend that he may not have existed at all.

Not so claims Tim Clarkson in his new book Scotland's Merlin: A Medieval Legend and its Dark Age Origins (John Donald 2016) in which he argues that the roots of the Merlin legend lie in Dark Age Scotland. Impeccably researched, Clarkson traces Merlin's origins from his first appearance in Geoffrey's Historia Regum Britanniae (‘History of the Kings of Britain’) c.1136 as the boy Ambrose (Emrys) to the later Merlin Sylvestris of Northern tradition.

Geoffrey devised his Merlin from an amalgamation of historical and legendary figures. Ambrosius Aurelianus is mentioned in 6th century De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniæ (On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain) of Gildas. He is one of the few figures that Gildas admires in a Britain that has degenerated since the departure of the Romans. According to Gildas it is Ambrosius, the last of the Romans, who rallies the beleaguered Britons to victory over the Anglo Saxons, culminating in the victory at Badon.

The 9th century miscellany known as the Historia Brittonum (History of the Britons), often attributed to a monk named Nennius, features an Ambrose (Emrys), as the son of a Roman consul, appears confused by Geoffrey with Ambrosius Aurelianus. In this tale Vortigern's twelve wise men advise him to retire to the remote boundaries of his kingdom and there build a fortified city to defend himself. They arrive at a province called Guenet (Gwynedd); and having surveyed the mountains of Heremus (Eryri, Snowdonia) they discovered, on the summit of one of them, a hilltop suited to the construction of a citadel. All of the materials were assembled for the building but it all disappeared in one night so that nothing remained of what had been provided for the construction of Vortigern's citadel. Materials were again procured a second and a third time, and yet again they vanished as before.

Vortigern's advisers told him  “You must find a child born without a father, put him to death, and sprinkle with his blood the ground on which the citadel is to be built, or you will never accomplish your purpose.”

Consequently, messengers were sent throughout Britain, in search of a child born without a father. When they came to the field of Aelecti, in the district of Glevesing, they found the fatherless boy who was led back to Vortigern. Before they put the boy to death, Vortigern allowed him to speak, “hidden under this pavement there is a pool" the boy said, "there are two vases in the pool, in them a folded tent, containing two serpents, one white and the other red.”

They dug and found it to be so. The serpents began to struggle with each other; and the white one, raising himself up, threw down the other into the middle of the tent and sometimes drove him to the edge of it; and this was repeated thrice. At length the red one, apparently the weaker of the two, recovering his strength, expelled the white one from the tent; and the latter, being pursued through the pool by the red one, disappeared.

The boy Ambrose (Emrys) told the meaning of this mystery; “The pool is the emblem of this world, and the tent that of your kingdom: the two serpents are two dragons; the red serpent is your dragon, but the white serpent is the dragon of the people who occupy several provinces and districts of Britain, even almost from sea to sea: at length, however, our people shall rise and drive away; the Saxon race from beyond the sea.

When questioned of his origin the boy replied, “A Roman consul was my father.”

Vortigern's Tower, Dinas Emrys by Alan Lee

The story of Vortigern's Tower from the History of the Britons is essentially the same in Geoffrey's work; the underground dragons, one white and one red, representing the Saxons and the Britons, and their final battle being a portent of things to come. But of course Geoffrey has the boy named as Merlin. Thus, the episode of Vortigern's Tower is seen as the defining point in the birth of the Merlin legend.

The site has been identified as Dinas Emrys, near Beddgelert in Snowdonia, North Wales. The archaeology of this remote hilltop has revealed evidence of Post-Roman activity, imported pottery from the eastern Mediterranean and a subterranean pool, probably a cistern for the water supply. The foundations of a tower were discovered on the summit during excavations in 1910 which were initially thought to have been evidence of Vortigern's Tower but turned out to be the remains of a 12th-century Norman keep. Nevertheless, there was ample evidence for Dark Age occupation.

In his Historia Geoffrey provides only two further tales concerning the wizard. In the first, Merlin creates Stonehenge as a burial place for Aurelius Ambrosius and a memorial to the Britons. In the second, Merlin uses enchantment to enable Uther Pendragon to enter Tintagel in disguise and father his son Arthur with the Duke of Cornwall's wife, Igraine. Merlin then disappears from Geoffrey's story; he does not tutor and advise Arthur as in later versions.

In his book Clarkson includes a short chapter of “Arthuriana” and cites the possibility that both Merlin and Arthur legends originating in the Strathclyde region and Southern Scotland as “good enough reason to discuss Arthur in a book about Merlin” and cannot resist quoting Breeze's recent paper on the location of Arthur's battles. However, Clarkson concedes that Arthur does not appear in connection with any of the tales of the northern wildman known as Lailoken, who some relate to Merlin of the forest (Merlin Sylvestris). Significantly, before Geoffrey's story, Merlin has no connection with King Arthur in the early Welsh poems and is entirely absent from the tales of the Mabinogion.

The earliest reference to Myrddin (= Merlin in Welsh) comes from the Armes Prydein Vawr (Great Prophesy of Britain) attributed to the 6th century bard Taliesin. The reference “Myrddin foretells...” is considered not older than 930 AD and indicates there was a Welsh prophetic tradition concerning the name Myrddin before Geoffrey and may have been influential to his writings two centuries later.

Geoffrey's first work on the wizard was entitled Prophetiae Merlini (Prophecies of Merlin), c.1130, which he claimed were the actual words of the prophet. Yet most see the Prophecies as Geoffrey's own construct. The Prophecies were circulated as a separate publication before being incorporated into his Historia Regum Britanniæ at Book VII.

In the 1140s or early 1150s John of Cornwall produced another work entitled Prophetiae Merlini which is often considered as a direct lift from Geoffrey's work. However, John did not simply make a copy of Geoffrey's Prophecies, as they contain other elements not included in Geoffrey's works which raises the possibility, however slight, for an independent source for a southern prophetic tradition of Merlin. The reference in Armes Prydein Vawr and the sources for John of Cornwall's Merlin Prophecies are certainly worthy of further study in the argument for a northern archetype.

The Merlin story was transmitted to Europe through Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia. As a literary figure developed throughout Arthurian Romance with later authors reliably placing Merlin as the king's advisor until he becomes bewitched and imprisoned by the Lady of the Lake.

Geoffrey later wrote the Vita Merlini (Life of Merlin, c.1150) in which his Merlin figure changes dramatically to include the tradition of the wildman of the woods referring to the wizard's trauma after witnessing a horrendous battle in the Yr Hen Ogledd (The Old North), formerly the territory of northern Britain and southern Scotland. Geoffrey seems to have stumbled across another Merlin/Myrddin. Clearly the Merlin of Vortigern's time (5th century) cannot be the same Merlin who went made after a northern battle over a hundred years later.

In the Vita Merlini Geoffrey writes of a battle fought by Peredur, prince of the North Welsh allied with Rodarch, king of the Cumbrians against Gwenddolau, who ruled a kingdom of southern Scotland. So traumatised by the slaughter on both sides, Merlin wept for three days, refusing food. “Then, when the air was full with these repeated loud complainings, a strange madness came upon him. He crept away and fled to the woods.....lurking like a wild thing” in the forest of Calidon.

This episode is entirely absent from Geoffrey's earlier tales of Merlin found in his Historia and the Prophetiae. What caused this change in his account of Merlin; had Geoffrey uncovered further source material that compelled him to elaborate and complete his account of Merlin? Here, no doubt, Geoffrey was influenced by the Welsh Myrddin poems which refer to Merlin's madness.

There are six medieval Welsh poems containing material relating to Myrddin as a wildman of the northern forest: Yr Afallennau ('The Apple-trees'); Yr Oianau ('The Greetings'); Ymddiddan Myrddin a Thaliesin ('The Dialogue of Myrddin and Taliesin'); Cyfoesi Myrddin a Gwenddydd ei Chwaer ('The Conversation of Myrddin and his Sister Gwenddydd'); Gwasgargerdd fyrddin yn y Bedd ('The Diffused Song of Myrddin in the Grave'); and Peirian Faban ('Commanding Youth').

These poems are found in the 13th century Black Book of Carmarthen and the 14th century Red Book of Hergest. However, scholarly opinion asserts that the poems contain material of a much earlier date than the manuscripts, possibly 11th century and some certainly appear to pre-date the composition of Geoffrey's Vita Merlini. These poems portray a wildman of the woods, usually named as Myrddin, living in the Caledonian Forest where he has fled after the battle of Arfderydd. Here Myrddin has lapsed into madness and acquired the gift of prophecy. In this aspect he is Myrddin Wyllt, Merlin the Wild. [For a discussion on the condition termed as ‘wyllt’ see this post: Voices of the Forest]

The medieval earthwork of Liddel Strength, near Carwinley, a candidate for 'Caer Gwenddoleu'.

This conflict at Arfderydd is recorded in the Annals Cambriae (Welsh Annals), simply as '573 - Bellum Amertid'. A later, 13th century, amendment to this entry adds "Merlin went mad". The site of the battle was identified long ago by W. F. Skene as being at Arthuret, near Longtown in Cumbria. Clarkson discusses the battle in some detail, opting for the earthwork of Liddel Strength near Carwinley.

In the late 12th century Gerald of Wales identified two Merlins: one called Ambrosius who prophesied in the time of king Vortigern; the other was born in Scotland and named Merlin Celidonius, or Sylvestris, from the Celidonian forest were he sheltered and grew mad following the battle of Arfderydd. Gerald adds that this second Merlin character lived at the time of king Arthur. He is identifiable as the wildman of Welsh poetry seemingly based on Northern sources (Myrddin Wyllt).

In Scotland there exists an almost identical tale in which the Wild Man is called 'Lalocen' as he appears in the 12th century Life of St Kentigern (St Mungo of Glasgow). A 15th century Latin text called Vita Merlini Silvestris (Life of Merlin of the Forest), names the prophet as 'Lailoken', a wildman of Strathclyde.

Clarkson investigates the sources for the story of the northern wild man in depth and concludes that the Lailoken legend was transported to Wales and attached to the name Myrddin. He argues, contrary to the literary evidence, that the transmission of the northern wild man prophet to Wales must have occurred before the Welsh Myrddin poems were written down in the Black Book of Carmarthen and Red Book of Hergest and certainly before Geoffrey of Monmouth's Vita Merlini

The crux of 'Scotland's Merlin' is that the 6th century battle of Arfderydd was the single event that sparked the Merlin legend; Clarkson identifies Lailoken as a historical character, the Merlin-archetype, whose own story became over-shadowed by the growth of the Welsh Merlin legend.

Essential reading for anyone interested in the Merlin legend.


Tim Clarkson's previous books include:

The Men of the North: The Britons of Southern Scotland (2010)
Columba (2012)    
The Makers of Scotland: Picts, Romans, Gaels and Vikings (2013)    
Strathclyde and the Anglo-Saxons in the Viking Age (2014)
The Picts: A History (New Edition 2016)

Available from Birlinn

Tim's Blog: Senchus: Notes on Early Medieval Scotland

* * *