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in Arthurian legendArthurian legend,
the mass of legend, popular in medieval lore, concerning King Arthur of Britain and his knights. Medieval Sources

The battle of Mt. Badon—in which, according to the Annales Cambriae (c.
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, magician, seer, and teacher at the court of King Vortigern and later at the court of King Arthur. He was a bard and culture hero in early Celtic folklore. In Arthurian legend he is famous as a magician and as the counselor of King Arthur. In Tennyson's Idylls of the King Merlin is imprisoned eternally in an old oak tree by the treacherous Vivien (or Nimue), when he reveals the secrets of his knowledge to her.


(mer -lin) Abbrev. for Multi-Element Radio-Linked Interferometer Network (formerly known as MTRLI). A network of radio telescopes in England connected by microwave communication links to a control system at Jodrell Bank. In operation since 1980, it is used at wavelengths ranging from 1 meter to 1 centimeter approximately to build up high-resolution maps of radio sources.

These telescopes in the network are as follows: Jodrell Bank's Lovell Telescope, Mark II telescope, or its 13-meter dish – the choice depends on wavelength, the 13 m being used at shorter wavelengths than the Mark II; the 25-meter dish at Defford, Worcestershire; three identical 25-meter dishes at Pickmere and Darnhall in Cheshire and Knockin in Shropshire; the 32-meter dish at MRAO, Cambridge, which can be used at frequencies of up to 90 GHz. The telescopes give baselines ranging from 11 to 217 km in length. MERLIN frequently observes simultaneously with the VLBA and the EVN to carry out global VLBI.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

He that made with his hond Wynd and water, wode and lond; Geve heom alle good endyng That wolon listne this talkyng, And y schal telle, yow byfore, How Merlyn was geten and bore And of his wisdoms also And othre happes mony mo Sum whyle byfeol Engelonde. (Of Arthour and Merlin, c. 1260)

Did a historical Merlin really exist? Was there ever a mysterious Druid who stood as a hinge between the "old religion" and Christian Britain? Did he walk the sacred forests and counsel the young King Arthur? Did he rebuild Stonehenge as the final resting-place for his father, Ambrosias, bringing the capstone all the way from Ireland to serve as his memorial? Did he arrange both the conception and the coronation of the young king who would be a beacon to all kings? And does he sleep now in his crystal cave, awaiting the restoration of all things?

If not, we would probably have had to invent him. His is just too good a story to miss. Every year, it seems, someone comes out with a new twist, a new interpretation, a new way of understanding. He has been discovered by young boys who want to be knights of the round table, young girls who want to know more about the feminine presence in Avalon, new-age Druids who want to know more about magic, Wiccans who want to understand the natural world, and publishers who want to make more money by dipping again into the tried and true.

Some feel Merlin is completely a figure of British mythology, invented by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his History of the Kings of Britain to serve as a connection between the old Celtic religion of Druidism and King Arthur's acceptance of Christianity. Others feel the Merlin we know is a composite of any number of prophets and wizards who lived in the hills of ancient Britain. Still more believe that any story with such a long and illustrious history must be based in fact. And a few believe in Merlin just because they are unabashed, unrepentant romantics. (Ask any of the millions who flock to see the Lord of the Rings movies, in which Gandalf is a Merlin clone.)

Nikolai Tolstoy has written a book describing his quest to find the historical Merlin. He presents the thesis that Merlin did exist, though not as a contemporary to Arthur. After reading ancient manuscripts and walking the Scottish lowlands, he came to believe that Merlin was a Druid who lived in the north after Britain was left alone following the collapse of the Roman Empire. If this is the case, Merlin represents an old religion going back to prehistoric times when Bronze-Age Britain was dealing with the religious implications of the new Iron Age.

However Merlin is presented, the aspect of the hinge between two religious cultures, two spiritual worldviews, seems always to be present. When the new replaces the old, you need a guide. Merlin was that guide.

Think, for a moment, about the implications of this particular clash of religions. It required the people to completely change everything about the way they viewed the world. Celtic religion was all about connection with nature. Gods and spirits were everywhere. Nature itself was the church. The religious calendar was based on the position of the sun and the phases of the moon. Woodland sprites and fairies of the hill competed for the offerings left on roadside shrines. The environment was the religion. And humans were subject to it.

Then along came Christianity. Now humans were separate from nature. People were expected to subdue the earth, not to try to placate it. Fairies and woodland sprites became devils and demons.

It didn't help the confusion any when the church began to "baptize" Merlin's religion after discovering they couldn't root it out. Merlin's sacred groves were cut down, decorated with holly, and brought right into the house on Christmas Eve. His gods were made into saints. His sacred fire at the winter solstice became the Yule log fire. It took some getting used to. But Merlin, far-seeing prophet that he was, was there to guide the way. He knew the gods were just taking on a new incarnation. He knew the goddess would surface as Mary, the Mother of God. He knew Jesus was just another expression of the god taking on human form.

So he was there to soften the blow, accept the inevitable as the whim of God, and prepare the way for the new age.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

A Latinized form of the Welsh name Myrddin. He was a magical figure who appears in literature ranging from medieval manuscripts to modern novels. References to him may also be found in a wide variety of place names and specific sites throughout Great Britain. He was a wizard frequently linked with King Arthur, although Guiley suggests he may have originated as a version of the Celtic god Mabon, the British Apollo. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth's life of Merlin, the great wizard, together with the bard Taliesin, took the wounded King Arthur to the Fortunate Isles.

One of the best known portrayals of Merlin is found in Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur, first published in 1485. In this story Merlin helps raise the young Arthur and, on Arthur's accession to the throne on the death of Uther Pendragon, becomes the young king's magical advisor. Although more recent portrayals of Merlin show him as an old man, usually bearded, earlier representations depict him as a young, beardless man.

Enlarge picture
An illustration of the great wizard Merlin with Vivien. Reproduced by permission of Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Merlin, asteroid 2,598 (the 2,598th asteroid to be discovered, on September 7, 1980), is approximately 16 kilometers in diameter and has an orbital period of 4.6 years. It is named after Merlin the magician. If prominent in a natal chart, Merlin may signify a person for whom things seem to come together “magically” or, in rare instances, someone who is actually interested in magic. The sign and house position of Merlin in a natal chart indicates how and where this “magic” manifests.


Kowal, Charles T. Asteroids: Their Nature and Utilization. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Ellis Horwood Limited, 1988.
Room, Adrian. Dictionary of Astronomical Names. London: Routledge, 1988.
Schwartz, Jacob. Asteroid Name Encyclopedia. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1995.



(Falco columbarius ), a bird of the family Falconidae of the order Falconiformes. The body measures approximately 30 cm long. The males have a dove gray back and reddish ocher underparts. The females have a brownish back. The merlin is distributed in the forest-tundra and forests of Europe, Asia, and North America and in the steppes of Asia. It is a migratory bird. It nests on the ground and in cliffs, more rarely in trees, using the old nests of crows. There are three-five eggs in a clutch. The principal food is small birds, which the merlin catches in flight. More rarely it feeds on rodents and insects.


Ptitsy Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 1. Edited by G. P. Dement’ev and N. A. Gladkov. Moscow, 1951.


prince of magicians. [Br. Lit.: Le Morte d’Arthur]
See: Magic


a small falcon, Falco columbarius, that has a dark plumage with a black-barred tail: used in falconry