|Legend tells us that Merlin first appears in extant records (Armes Prydein, Y Gododdin) from the early 10th century as a mere prophet, but his role gradually evolved into that of magician, prophet and advisor, active in all phases of the administration of King Arthur's kingdom. He was apparently given the name Emrys (or Ambrosius) at his birth in Caer-Fyrddin (Carmarthen). He only later became known as Merlin, a Latinized version of the Welsh word, Myrddin, taken from the place of his birth.
Legend then tells us that after the Roman withdrawal from Britain and the usurpation of the throne from the rightful heirs, Vortigern was in flight from the Saxon breakout and went to Snowdonia, in Wales, in hopes of constructing a mountain fortress at Dinas Emrys where he might be safe. Unfortunately, the building kept collapsing.
Merlin used his great visionary powers and attributed the structural problem to a subterranean pool in which lived a red and a white dragon. The meaning of this, according to Merlin, was that the red dragon represented the Britons, and the white dragon, the Saxons. The dragons fought, with the white dragon having the best of it, at first, but then the red dragon drove the white one back.
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|The meaning was clear. Merlin prophesied that Vortigern would be slain and followed on the throne by Ambrosius Aurelianus and then Uther, until a great leader will rise, Arthur Pendragon. It would then fall to Arthur to push the Saxons back. True to the prophecy, Vortigern was slain and Ambrosius took the throne. Later, Merlin appears to have inherited his grandfather's little kingdom, but abandoned his lands in favor of the more mysterious life for which he has become so well known.
Then at a peace conference, as a result of Saxon trickery 460 British nobles were massacred. Ambrosius consulted Merlin about erecting a suitable memorial to them. Merlin, along with Uther, led an expedition to Ireland to procure the stones of the Chorea Gigantum, the Giant's Ring. Merlin, by the use of his extraordinary powers, brought the stones back to a site, just west of Amesbury, and re-erected them around the mass grave of the British nobles. We now call this place Stonehenge.
After his death, Ambrosius was succeeded by his brother, Uther. Merlin aided Uther during his pursuit of Gorlois and his irresistible wife Ygerna back to their lands in Cornwall. As a result of a deception made possible by Merlin's powers, Uther was transformed into the image of Gorlois. He entered their castle, managed to fool Ygraine into thinking he was her husband. Uther then had his way with her and in the course of things, conceived a child. That child was Arthur. Poor Gorlois, not knowing what was going on, went out to meet Uther in combat, but instead, was slain by Uther's troops.
After Arthur's birth, Merlin became the young boy's tutor, while he grew up with his foster-father, Sir Ector (alias Cynyr Ceinfarfog (the Fair Bearded)). In the defining moment of Arthur's career, Merlin arranged for the sword-in-the-stone contest by which the lad became king.
Later, the magician met the mystic Lady of the Lake at the Fountain of Barenton (in Brittany) and persuaded her to present the King with the magical sword, Excalibur. Legend says Merlin is the creator of the Round Table, and is closely involved in aiding and directing the events of the king and kingdom of Camelot. He is pictured by Geoffrey of Monmouth, at the end of Arthur's life, accompanying the wounded Arthur to the Isle of Avalon for the healing of his wounds.
Others tell how having fallen deeply in love with the Lady of the Lake, he agreed to teach her all his mystical powers. She became so powerful that her magical skills outshone even Merlin's. Determined not to be enslaved by him, she imprisoned the old man in a glass tower, a cave or similarly suitable prison. Thus his absence from the Battle of Camlann was ultimately responsible for Arthur's demise.
What happened to Merlin? In most tales, Merlin is still alive. He may be immortal in his human form, or he may be a spirit who appears to be human. In one story, Merlin was (and still is) trapped by Nimue, or perhaps Viviane, on an island or in some isolated place. In other, he's living in an invisible/glass house on Bardsey Island (Ynys Enelli) with nine companions and the 13 treasures of the Island of Britain. These include the true throne of the British realm, where King Arthur will sit when he returns.
In yet another story, Merlin awaits the return of King Arthur in the glass castle at Glastonbury Tor, in England. Also at Glastonbury, there are two odd springs of water, one of them red and the other white. This links to Merlin's early years, when he saw a red dragon and a white dragon beneath a hill. Both springs emerge at a possible site of Merlin's glass castle, and you can visit the red spring (Chalice Well) or the White Spring, when you are in Glastonbury.
The water at Chalice Well (the red spring) really is a rusty red. The water at the White Spring is milky white. Both merge at Glastonbury Tor, within a few feet of each other. There have been many miraculous healings connected with these springs, particularly the one at Chalice Well. The water is safe to drink, and it is available from the well during daytime hours, or from a spigot at the gate, when the Chalice Well garden is closed.