LEGENDS OF THE PAST_A EUROPEAN HERITAGE

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

THE LEGEND OF MELUSINE


Mélusine is a woman usually represented as half-fish or half-serpent.

One day, Elianas, king of Albany (Scotland) went to a spring to quench his thirst. As he approached he heard the voice of a woman singing and as he approached he saw a mysterious girl who was named Pressine. She agreed to marry him on the condition that he should never visit her at the time of her giving birth or bathing her children. When she gave birth to three daughters, Mélusine, Meliot and Palatine, the king, 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. She cursed him and declared that her descendants, with the help of her sister, the Queen of the Lost Island, would avenge her. Then she disappeared, taking her daughters with her to the Lost Island.

The Island of the Lost was so called 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 Albany 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 the children were fifteen years of age, Mélusine took her revenge on him with her sisters. On telling their mother what they had done she flew into a rage because they had taken vengeance without her. Pressine laid curses upon them all, with the worst curse of all reserved for Mélusine. Mélusine was cursed to become a 'serpent from the waist down' every Saturday.

Mélusine left the Lost Island and went to the forest of Colombiers, in Poitou, where she met Raimond de Lusignan at a fountain. Of course, her beauty and her impeccable manners quickly won Raimond's heart. She married him on condition that he never try to find out what she did every Saturday. Promising him that if he breached his oath he would forever be deprived of she who he loved so much. From her great wealth she created for him the castle of Lusignan right next to the Fountain where they had first seen each other.

Ten boys were born of their union but all were afflicted with strange physical defects. But still Raymond's love for his beautiful wife remained unshaken. But, one day Raimond could no longer contain his curiosity. For he had noticed that each of Mélusine's absences coincided with the apparently magical building of a castle, a monastery or a church. So he followed his wife into the cave to which she withdrew every Saturday. There he saw Mélusine in her true form. For the lovely form of Melusina ended below the waist where it became serpentine with scales of grey and sky-blue mixed with white bathing in a green marble tub. But it was not horror that seized him at the sight, it was infinite anguish at the reflection that through his breach of faith he might lose his lovely wife forever. When she realised she had been found out Mélusine wept and stretched out her arms, which turned into wings; finally, she disappeared into the air, uttering these words: 'One thing will I say unto thee; 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; 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."

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