Medieval Myths

***I would like to apologize for both the delay and the shortness of this post. I am having technical difficulties that render writing almost impossible. I will continue to post as often as possible, but the reality is I need to replace my laptop, and that will happen Spring 2022 at the earliest. I apologize for the inconvenience, and I will continue to write as frequently as possible. We will be diving into the 16th century here soon!***

Today we will dive into some folklore that was circulating during the Renaissance, though most of their origins are much older. Just in time for Halloween!

We have three creatures located in various parts of Europe to discuss!

The origin of Melusine is believed to be in the 14th century, though the myth mirrors Germanic and Swedish lore, but she herself is presumed to be the head of the Lusignan line (which would intermingle with almost every royal house including Luxembourg, Angoulême, and Plantagenet). Jean d’Arras wrote it at the request of Jean, Duke of Berry. Her story begins with the nobleman Elinas, who tragically lost his first wife and was still mourning. He took a hunting trip where he came across a woodland beauty named Pressine. The pair talked through the night and formed a bond. He found new life in her, and she adored the way he had treated his late wife. They wed, but Pressine swears never to attempt to see her at the birth of any of their children (no clue why). 

Well eventually, she gives birth to twin daughters: Palatine, Meloir, and Melusine. Feeling overwhelmed with the joyous news, he rushed to greet them, breaking his promise. In anguish, Pressine whisked the girls to the Isle of Avalon. Despite this, she missed her husband terribly and would spitefully tell the girls they would be living in his realm, where it was not for him breaking his promise. At 15, she told them the whole story, and Melusine became enraged by her father’s betrayal. She convinced her sisters to trap Elinas inside a mountain, thinking this would please her mother. Instead, Pressine was enraged. She cursed the three of them. Palatine was trapped with her father in the mountain. Meloir is sealed inside a castle. Melusine needed to be taught a lesson though. Every Saturday, the lower half of her body would shift into a serpent. If she found a man to love her, they would build a grand life together. If he ever looked upon her on Saturday or told anyone she would be stuck in serpent form, forced to haunt the head of her line each time it changed hands or died. Pressine then banished her daughter from Avalon. 

Melusine settled near Poitiers where she met Raymondin (a nobleman of course), who was distraught after killing his uncle in a hunting accident. Much like her mother before her, she fell in love, married, and forced him to promise to leave her be on Saturdays. He agrees, and they build a beautiful life full of wealth and children–10 to be exact. That is until his family becomes suspicious of her Saturday activities, since she even missed mass for them. The curiosity was too much, and he spied on her. Upon finding her serpent form, he grew angry and told the public of her duplicity. She fled, only returning to visit her children or fulfill the obligations of her curse. 

Honestly, the popularity of this tale in Catholic France still confuses historians, though there are many links to the practice of laying-in. The story of Pressine warns of disturbing a woman before she is ready after childbirth, and the fear that those consequences would be inherited. Our next creature is a leader among mythological entities filling Celtic Ireland. 

Balor was the grandson of Néit, God of War, and husband of the prophet Cethlenn. As a child, he stared into  potion that distorted his sight. In some tales, he only has one eye or is blind, while in others, his eye is venomous and often a third one. As an adult, he was chief of the Fomoire and based his operations out of Tory Island. The Fomoire were a demonic race that terrorized the first settlers of Ireland, as well as a “god-type” race known as Tuatha dé Danann. They often do the bidding of a Tuatha named Bres. At some point in Balor’s life, he discovers a prophecy stating his grandson would kill him, so like any stable minded man during this time period, he locked his only daughter away. No grandson, no problems, right? Maybe if he didn’t have a list of enemies. After entrapping her, he returns to the mainland where he stole a magical cow of abundance named Glas Gaibhnenn. This cow belonged to a man named Mackineely, who decided to assault and impregnate the poor girl. Her story becomes more tragic when Balor learns that she gives birth to three boys, and orders them to be drowned. Unknowingly though, one survived and was taken in by the Tuatha. He is recognized as Lugh. In the end, the prophecy was right. As Balor prepared to use his eye for an attack during the Battle of Mag Tuired, when Lugh stabbed him through it. The power meant for the Tuatha attacked the Fomorie, killing Balor in the process. There are various legends after his death. One that he was placed in a tree that would become the shield for Fionn mac Cumhaill, while another makes him responsible for a lake named Suil Balra. The Fomorie were then driven into the sea, now they prey on sailors and those who get too close. 

Thank you so much, and I hope you enjoyed your Halloween season! Follow us for updates on future posts! I apologize again for the sparsity of my posts, and will increase frequency as soon as possible!!

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