Merlyn I mean Myrddin no wait, its actually Ambrosius or is it Marcellus…. Merlin– Saddle up, Heretics, because we are wading in DEEP with this one. As my intro gag suggests, this asteroid is confusing as he is prolific. Let’s try and figure him out, shall we?
The Astronomy– 2598 Merlin is a carbonaceous Dorian asteroid from the central regions of the asteroid belt, approximately 16 kilometers in diameter. It was discovered on 7 September 1980, in Flagstaff, Arizona. The asteroid was named after the legendary wizard Merlin in Arthurian legend. Merlin is a member of the Dora family, a well-established central asteroid family of more than 1,200 carbonaceous asteroids. The family’s namesake is 668 Dora. It is alternatively known as the “Zhongolovich family”, named after its presumably largest member 1734 Zhongolovich.
Merlin orbits the Sun in the central main-belt at a distance of 2.2–3.4 AU once every 4 years and 8 months (1,694 days). Its orbit has an eccentricity of 0.22 and an inclination of 8° with respect to the ecliptic. It has an orbital period of 4.64 years, or 1,694 days.
The Myth– Now, despite you thinking that you know Merlin’s story and what he was all about, nailing down any Arthurian figure with any certainty is absolutely impossible. The whole Vulgate cycle is an absolute mess and has been done to death so many times that there are no boundaries in what was real and what is fiction anymore. Still, I’m going to do my damndest.
Merlin (Welsh: Myrddin) is a legendary figure best known as the wizard featured in Arthurian legend and medieval Welsh poetry. The standard depiction of the character first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, written c. 1136, and is based on an amalgamation of previous historical and legendary figures. Geoffrey combined existing stories of Myrddin Wyllt (Merlinus Caledonensis), a North Brythonic prophet and madman with no connection to King Arthur, with tales of the Romano-British war leader Ambrosius Aurelianus to form the composite figure he called Merlin Ambrosius (Welsh: Myrddin Emrys). He is allegedly buried in the Broceliande forest, near Paimpont in Brittany.
Geoffrey’s rendering of the character was immediately popular, especially in Wales. Later writers expanded the account to produce a fuller image of the wizard. Merlin’s traditional biography casts him as a cambion: born of a mortal woman, sired by an incubus, the non-human from whom he inherits his supernatural powers and abilities. Merlin matures to an ascendant sagehood and engineers the birth of Arthur through magic and intrigue. Later authors have Merlin serve as the king’s advisor and mentor to the knights until he is bewitched and imprisoned by the Lady of the Lake.
Geoffrey’s composite Merlin was a bard driven mad after witnessing the horrors of war, who fled civilization to become a wild man of the wood in the 6th century. Geoffrey had this individual in mind when he wrote his earliest surviving work, the Prophetiae Merlini (Prophecies of Merlin), which he claimed were the actual words of the legendary madman. Geoffrey’s Prophetiae do not reveal much about Merlin’s background. He included the prophet in his next work Historia Regum Britanniae, supplementing the characterization by attributing to him stories about Aurelius Ambrosius, taken from Nennius’ Historia Brittonum. According to Nennius, Ambrosius was discovered when the British king Vortigern was trying to erect a tower. The tower always collapsed before completion, and his wise men told him that the only solution was to sprinkle the foundation with the blood of a child born without a father. Ambrosius was rumoured to be such a child but, when brought before the king, he revealed the real reason for the tower’s collapse: below the foundation was a lake containing two dragons who fought a battle representing the struggle between the Saxons and the Britons, which suggested that the tower would never stand under the leadership of Vortigern, but only under that of Ambrosius. (This is why Ambrosius is ‘given’ the kingdom or the ‘tower’: he tells Vortigern to go elsewhere and says ‘I will stay here’. The tower is metaphorically the kingdom, which is the notional ability to beat the Saxons.) Geoffrey retells this story in Historia Regum Britanniæ with some embellishments and gives the fatherless child the name of the prophetic bard Merlin. He keeps this new figure separate from Aurelius Ambrosius and, with regard to his changing of the original Nennian character, he states that Ambrosius was also called ‘Merlin’—that is, ‘Ambrosius Merlinus’. He goes on to add a long section of Merlin’s prophecies, taken from his earlier Prophetiae Merlini. He tells only two further tales of the character. In the first, Merlin creates Stonehenge as a burial place for Aurelius Ambrosius. In the second, Merlin’s magic enables the British king Uther Pendragon to enter into Tintagel in disguise and father his son Arthur with his enemy’s wife, Igraine. These episodes appear in many later adaptations of Geoffrey’s account. As Lewis Thorpe notes, Merlin disappears from the narrative after this; he does not tutor and advise Arthur as in later versions.
Later authors add in many details, embellishing the already heavily embellished composite legend, making it about as close to the original text as the Bible is now. Speaking of, later versions heavily recast Merlin to fit a more Christian audience, and this version is the one we are most familiar with. In the Lancelot-Grail and later accounts, Merlin’s eventual downfall came from his lusting after Niviane (or Nymue, Nimue, Niniane, Nyneue, Viviane or Vivien in some versions of the legend). She is portrayed as Merlin’s apprentice; his other female student (and an actual lover) is often Arthur’s half-sister, Morgan le Fay.
In the Suite du Merlin, for example, Niviane, who was the daughter of the king of Northumberland, is about to depart from Arthur’s court, but, with some encouragement from Merlin, Arthur asks her to stay in his castle with the queen. During her stay, Merlin falls in love with her and desires her. Niviane, frightened that Merlin might take advantage of her with his spells, swears that she will never love him unless he swears to teach her all of his magic. Merlin consents, unaware that throughout the course of her lessons, Niviane will use Merlin’s own powers against him, forcing him to do her bidding. When Niviane finally goes back to her country, Merlin escorts her. However, along the way, Merlin receives a vision that Arthur is in need of assistance against the schemes of Morgan. Niviane and Merlin rush back to Arthur’s castle but have to stop for the night in a stone chamber, once inhabited by two lovers. Merlin relates that when the lovers died, they were placed in a magic tomb within a room in the chamber. That night, while Merlin is asleep, Niviane, still disgusted with Merlin’s desire for her, as well as his demonic heritage, casts a spell over him and places him in the magic tomb so that he can never escape, thus causing his death.
Merlin’s demise or imprisonment is recounted differently in other versions of the narrative; the enchanted prison is variously described as a cave (in the Lancelot-Grail), a large rock (in Le Morte d’Arthur), an invisible tower, or a tree. In one version, Niviane confines him in the forest of Brocéliande with walls of air, visible as mist to others but as a beautiful tower to him. No matter which version you choose, however, Merlin is not present at the fall of Arthur and Camelot, and he dies alone in the knowledge that he has failed his King.
Why He Matters– Oh, come on; It’s freaking MERLIN! Has there ever been a more iconic character relating to magic? Coming from Brittain? *Suddenly remembers that Harry Potter exists* Anyway, when it comes to magic, Merlin is THE MAN. Let’s recount the various stories attributed to him: Vortigern, Uther Pendragon, building goddamn Stonehenge, The Sword in The Stone (or the Lady in the Lake), the building of Camelot and recruiting of the Knights of the Round, The Quest for the Grail, Nimue, Morgan Le Fey/Mordred and the betrayal of Lancelot, Avalon… There is so much to go into, and it paints a picture of a figure that has to be fake because there is no way one man could be so central to such a pivotal point in history (mostly made pivotal by his presence!)
So what can he possibly mean in the natal chart? Well, before you start claiming that he gives you magic powers or whatever, settle down; Merlin, beyond all else, was a man. The stories about him press his humanity and foibles just as much as they do his mystery and achievements. Merlin, from birth, was set apart as different from the masses, unclean in some way but uniquely clever. Never part of the group, but relied upon for his wisdom. In short, he was used but never actually accepted. You always see the figures in Arthurian myth keeping him at arms length, never truly knowing how to trust him. There was an unequal balance of power, with Merlin so far beyond the intelligence of those around him, that a normal life was impossible for him. The very thing that made him special and gave him his place in the world robbed him of anything but his duty. Merlin is a tragic figure in every way, once you start to look deeper than the facade that he wants you to see. I would look to this isolation and ostracisation playing out in the chart before I would ever say anything about it conferring magic to anyone. I would, however, give it an affinity for knowledge of the earth, its seasons and turning- In short, Druid ken (knowledge).
Merlin is also heavily about manipulation. For better or for worse, Merlin is a flimflam man, a con artist. He has to be, it’s a survival tactic. He can’t just go around explaining how things actually work if he understands them; Say for instance you time travel back to around the time of the bubonic plague outbreak, and try to save the people by teaching hygiene and probably trying to do something about leeches or trepanning. Mostly you would get laughed off and ignored, because the culture of that time wasn’t ready to hear what you had to say- but if you framed it as the work of demons and gave it a ritual element, you might see quite a bit more results. Merlin understands this and understands how to get people to do what he wants for everyone’s benefit. He wants progress, but he sees much farther than others and therefore has to manipulate and lie to them, further deepening the divide and making it harder to trust him. His placement in your chart would reflect this as well.
Finally, there is the most interesting part of the Merlin story (at least to me): His defeat. We’re supposed to believe that Merlin, master of all the magic at that time, is tricked into a magical trap that he cannot magic himself out of? No, I don’t buy it for a second. You see, at the very end of the Lancelot-Grail drama, Camelot is barely hanging on; Half of Arthur’s knights have abandoned him, the grail is lost, Morgan le Fey is out wreaking havoc, and Lancelot personally betrays him. Arthur ends up facing his nephew, Mordred, in battle after he usurps Arthur and takes Guinevere for himself. Mordred dies and Arthur is fatally wounded before he is spirited off to Avalon so that he can never die. It’s a tragedy because the society Arthur and Merlin built from scratch and raised up so high collapses, and then the dark ages sweep the western world til Rome rises again. It is my personal belief that Merlin saw this happening, and being goddamn Merlin, saw how it would all end. He knew all the players in this game; they were his family. The final, most devastating tragedy of Merlin is that he is powerless to protect the ones he loves, the only family he’s ever really known, from themselves. I honestly think that it was too much for him to see, so he takes himself off the board, letting Nimue trap him in the cave. It lets history absolve him of his complicity and is his final cop-out. Hell, he probably helped her do it! There is a lot of emotion that runs deep within Merlin, and a lot of conflicting motivations (due mostly to all the hands in the source material!) but he has deep love and respect for all of these people across all the versions, especially for Arthur- and it was just too much. So look to Merlin in your chart as a point of escapism and where you shirk responsibility. Potentially also where you are too trusting and manipulated by the objects of your affection.
To find out where he shows up in your chart, go to astro.com, put in your birth details and in the extended options, all the way at the bottom of the next page, there will be a menu of additional objects. Under that is a blank space where you can enter the number 2598, for Merlin. Once you have it entered, generate the chart! Where does Merlin affect your life? Let us know in the comments below!