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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Melusina - The Myth of Melusine

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Melusina
The Myth of Melusine
Origin of the Myth
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The Melusina legend became extremely popular during the middle-ages, especially in the northern regions of France. Melusina was a cherished figure among noblemen and members of the royalty; some individuals even claimed to be related to her. In the early 1500s, Jean d'Arras, a French historian, received orders from the Duke of Berry to record all the information he could gather on Melusina. Jean d'Arras spent a number of years researching and collecting material for his major work, Chronique de Melusine. Much of his research was indebted to William de Portenach's previous chronicles on the history of Melusina. Portenach's manuscripts no longer exists; therefore, Chronique de Melusine is the oldest surviving written text on the Melusina myth. In 1478, Arras's other work, Le Liure de Melusine en Fracoys was published posthumously.

Legend

Elinas, King of Albania, to divert his grief for the death of his wife, amused himself with hunting. One day, at the chase, he went to a fountain to quench his thirst. As he approached it he heard the voice of a woman singing, and on coming to it he found there the beautiful fay Pressina.

After some time the fay bestowed her hand upon him, on the condition that he should never visit her at the time of her lying-in. Elinas consented and in a short time after their marriage, Pressina became pregnant and gave birth to three daughters at once: Melusina, Melior, and Plantina. Nathas, the king's song by a former wife, hastened to convey the joyful tidings to his father, who, without reflection, flew to the chamber of the queen, and entered as she was bathing her daughters. Pressina, on seeing him, cried out that he had broken his word, and she must depart. And taking up her three daughters, she disappeared.

She retired to Cephalonia also called the Lost Island, because it was only by chance any, even those who had repeatedly visited it, could find it. Here she reared her children, taking them every morning to a high mountain, whence Albania might be seen, and telling them that but for their father's breach of promise they might have lived happily in the distant land which they beheld.

When they were fifteen years of age, Melusina asked her mother particularly of what their father had been guilty. On being informed of it, she conceived the design of being revenged on him. Engaging her sisters to join in her plans, they set out for Albania. Arrived there, they took the king and all his wealth, and, by a charm, enclosed him in a high mountain, called Brandelois.

On telling their mother what they had done, she, to punish them for the unnatural action, condemned Melusina to become every Saturday a serpent, from the waist downwards, till she should meet a man who would marry her under the condition of never seeing her on a Saturday, and should keep his promise. She had more sever judgements on her two sisters. Melior is said to keep a hawk in a remote castle in Armenia until the Judgment Day. Palatina is enclosed on the Canigou mountain with her father’s treasure until a knight, strong and bold to kill the monstrous guardians come to reconquer “the land of promission”. Only a Lusignan would be capable of such a fit.

Melusina now went roaming through the world in search of the man who was to deliver her. She passed through the Black Forest, and that of Ardennes, and at last she arrived in the forest of Colombiers, in Poitou, where all the fays of the neighborhood came before her, telling her they had been waiting for her to reign in that place.

Emmerick, the Count of Poitou, was a wealthy and generous nobleman with two children, Bertram and Blanifert. One day as Emmerick was coming back from a hunting trip he met another count, the Count de la Foret, who through some misfortune, had lost all of his money. Out of kindness, Emmerick allowed Count de la Foret to live on his land; he also adopted his eldest son, Raymond, as a way to ease Foret's financial burden. Raymond and Emmerick became good friends and went on many hunting trips together. However, on one tragic trip, Emmerick was attacked by a wild boar, and Raymond in an effort to save him, took out his sword and killed the wild boar, yet in the process accidentally killed Emmerick as well. Raymond became extremely distraught by this event. He rode aimlessly for days on his horse, not knowing where he was going, and not knowing how to explain the accident to Emmerick's family.

In the height despair, Raymond was wandering by night in the forest of Colombiers when he arrived at a fountain that rose at the foot of a high rock. This fountain was called by the people the Fountain of Thirst, or the Fountain of the Fays, on account of the many marvelous things which had happened at it.

Sitting by the fountain were three women dressed in white. Raymond had never seen a sight as beautiful as the three women. One of the women, acknowledged Raymond, and introduced herself as "Melusina." She offered Raymond some water and asked him why he looked so sad. Melusina not only comforted Raymond but also gave him advice on how to explain Emmerick's death to Bertram and Blanifert. While listening to Melusina's kind words, Raymond became enchanted by her beauty and wisdom and asked for her hand in marriage. Melusina said she would marry Raymond on one condition: He was not allowed to see her on Saturdays, under any circumstances. She assured him that a breach of his oath would forever deprive him of her whom he so much loved, and be followed by the unhappiness of both for life. Raymond agreed to her terms, and head back home with both good news about the marriage and bad news about Emmerick's death.

Raymond and Melusina married and shortly thereafter. Melusina, with her own hands, built a majestic castle and named it Lusinia. She also built La Rochelle, Cloitre Malliers, Mersent, and other places. They had numerous children, yet every one of them was strangely deformed in some manner. Urian, their first child, had pendulous ears, with one red eye and one green eye; Gedes had a scarlet-colored face; Gyot had one eye above the other; Anthony had only one eye. Geoffrey, one of the younger sons, had boar's tusks instead of teeth; he was known as Geoffrey "Le Grand Dente" ("the Great Tooth"), or Geoffrey "the Horrible" due to his violent disposition.

Raymond and Melusina lived peacefully for a number of years. However, one Saturday night, during dinner, Raymond's father, Count de la Foret, and his brothers teased him about his wife's secretive behavior until he was unable to suppress his curiosity any longer. Raymond went upstairs to her chamber to find her, and there he heard the bath running. He quietly opened the door to the bath just enough to see an unbelievable sight: Melusina, from the waist up, was her beautiful self; yet, from the waist down, her body had been transformed into a giant serpent's tale.

Raymond, although disturbed by the sight, did not mention what he saw for sometime. One day Melusina and Raymond were informed that their sons Geoffrey and Fromont had fought and that Fromont, in order to seek refuge, had escaped to a nearby monastery. However, Geoffrey, in a fit of rage, had burned down the monastery, killing not only his brother, but a hundred monks as well. Raymond was angered by the news and blamed Melusina for Geoffrey's uncontrollable behavior.

When Melusina attempted to comfort him, he pushed her away and said, "Away odious serpent, contaminator of an honorable race!" Immediately after the words were uttered, Raymond regretted what he had said and asked for forgiveness. It was too late. Full of the profoundest grief, Melusina declared to him that she must now depart from him, and, in obedience to a decree of destiny, fleet about the earth in pain and suffering, as a specter, until the day of doom; and that only when one of her race was to die at Lusignan would she become visible.

Her words at parting were these, "But one thing will I say unto thee before I part, that thou, and those who for more than a hundred years shall succeed thee, shall know that whenever I am seen to hover over the fair castle of Lusignan, then will it be certain that in that very year the castle will get a new lord; and though people may not perceive me in the air, yet they will see me by the Fountain of Thirst; and thus shall it be so long as the castle stand in honor and flourishing -- especially on the Friday before the lord of the castle shall die."

According to the malediction, Melusina would fly around Lusinia and other castles where kings and noblemen lived, crying and wailing when something tragic was about to occur to the family. She became an omen of death.
   
Raymond died as a hermit on Monserrat. The Lusignan prosperity ended and the once richest family  became a second-rank country noblety. Geoffroi who could have broke the malediction died before going to Canigou and deliver Paletina. 



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