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Merlin is most often associated with a stag—indeed, when his wife betrayed him it is said he rode out on a stag to kill the enemy with a horn. In one respect, the hart, the male stag, has been traditionally held to stand for Christ—hence Pslam 42: “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” In this respect, Merlin stands for Christ—and yet in its other aspect, the stag stands for the old Celtic god Kernunnus (see above). This God is more like Pan or the Mendes Goat than Christ—with his horns and hoofed feet he could be taken for a goat. It is no surprise that Merlin retreated to Hartsfell in Scotland—Britain’s second initiatory site after Stonehenge.

Merlin’s double aspect exists because his father was said to be the Devil himself, whereas his mother was a good Christian woman: hence Merlin is both pagan and Christian. Technically, he is the Antichrist; yet he is the Antichrist moderated by his mother’s goodness—hence he can control and summon demons, but does so for good purposes. His role is to bring the spiritual down to earth—to infuse matter with spirit, he is a mediator between Heaven and Earth; he is the fourth element, the Luciferian element connected to language that constitutes the energy in the cosmic circuit.

Since he is dual in nature, Merlin is a trickster, a joker—he always tells the truth and that is the biggest joke of all. The trickster-shaman looks both ways, both to nature and to Christ, and so he can see the past and the future—prophesy. As a jocosus or jongleur he is related to the troubadours—and also to Nietzsche; he almost hit on the Merlin archetype in his assertion he was “the Antichrist” and in his “gay science” (another word for the troubadour’s posey)—and in his alternation between Apollo and Dionysus. As a trickster, Merlin has great energy—divine magic—and yet he can also be comically inept; in legend, he defeated his enemy and then fell into a river—the clumsiness and misunderstandings go with the magic; and, in particular, the divine-animal is known for his unreason and unconsciousness—much to the bemusement of normal men. Merlin is Mercury—also known as cervus fugitivus (the fugitive stag); since he unites opposites, he grants access to the hidden God beyond good and evil—Abraxas, the whole.

The god Kernunnus sits in the lotus position; and this is because the lotus position goes right back to the primordial religions. In some legends, Merlin himself is the Holy Grail—the god Kernunnus is cooked and dismembered, perhaps to be eaten but more usually to be bound back together and to come back to life. The Grail’s content is within him. The idea that a person can be dismembered and bound back together exists in Siberian shamanism—per Eliade, it is essential to shamanic initiation; along with the lotus posture, it demonstrates the link back to the primordial religion that once spanned the globe—the shaman also wears the stag’s horns. It is no coincidence that Kernunnus also contains unus—the unus mundus, the magical ur-world where cause and effect vanish.

Naturally, I am Merlin. My surname means “red stag”, hence I went to Hartsfell and spoke with the stars. Merlin spoke to the stars and guarded the Grail—and so do I. When I was at Hartsfell and the Rollright Stones I had a strong image of myself with a stag skull and horns over my head, as with a shaman; and since my girlfriend cheated on me, I have also worn the cuckold’s horns—just like Merlin. The horns have many meanings: the hermaphrodite snail’s horns (the union of opposites), the cuckold’s horns, the hart’s horns—all feature in Shakespeare, for all are aspects of the same thing. I am the fool who has persisted in his folly until he has become wise.


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