In Vita Merlini, Merlin goes quite mad for a while, speaking of Britain in the past and remarking on nature and religion. He makes grand prophecies of what will happen in the future - he is, after all, a prophet. All of this happens while he resides in the woods, in a house with 70 windows and doors.

After he regains his sanity, his sister, Ganieda, and his friends Maeldin and Taliesin decide to turn their backs on the outside and world and live with him in his house in the woods.

The chieftains departed. The three remained, and with them a fourth--Ganieda, the prophet's sister, who had finally taken to their way of life also. She had been leading a retired life since the death of the king. She who till now had been the queen of a large nation under the appointed law, now found nothing pleasanter than living in the woods with her brother. She, too, was from time to time exalted in spirit to sing often of the future of the kingdom. So, one day when she stood in her brother's hall and gazed at the house and at its windows glittering in the sun, she uttered these dark sayings out of a dark heart:

"I see the city of Oxford filled with helmeted men, and holy men and holy bishops bound on the decision of the Council.

. . .

She did not end with this, and her friends listened in amazement. So also did her brother, who after a while went up to her and congratulated her in kindly words, saying, "Sister, is it you the spirit has willed to foretell the future? He has curbed my tongue and closed my book. Then this task is given to you. Be glad of it, and under my authority declare everything faithfully."

Throughout the whole story, Merlin seems to have attributed many things in the world that have helped him to God. Yet his remark at the end - about "the spirit" - seems a bit cryptic.

Who does Merlin attribute his - and his sister's - gift of prophecy to? Is it God, or something else (perhaps the same being who caused his madness, leading him to the woods)?

1 Answer 1


The Holy Spirit seems the most likely answer. Geoffrey of Monmouth would have been familiar with the story of Penetecost, in which the Holy Spirit gives the apostles the ability to speak in different languages.

St. Peter then preached to the various nationalities assembled in Jerusalem, saying:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy (King James Bible, Acts II: 17-8)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.