Today started out with a drive through the town of Josselin, where they have a really beautiful castle. I took some photos from above the town, where there was a good view, and then from below the castle on a little bridge, where many photos of the structure are taken. Because of the time of day, the sun was behind the towers above me and I had trouble getting a photo from that angle that didn't have any Jesus beams all over it. I'm not sure how it will turn out, but we'll see.
We headed out after that to Merlin's Tomb, a very small megalith structure that is surrounded with a vaguely paved circle of modern stones. The place was crawling with tourists and many people had left offerings and notes of different sorts there. I did get a few photos without a lot of people in them, but all the sites we went to today were quite busy. I suspect a good deal of it was because it's the high season, and because it was a really nice, mostly sunny and fairly warm day today. The "tomb" was on a four kilometer loop trail, but was very near the beginning, so we didn't have to do the whole trail. Close by was a "fountain of youth" which, contrary to what you might think, was a well where infants and young children were bathed for their health, not a place where adults could get eternal youth.
After this, we went to an ancient oak tree, estimated to be about 1,000 or so years old. Of all the places I've encountered in Brittany, this one actually felt the most sacred, was the most quiet, and had a sense of reverence in the people visiting. It was quite different from the other places with a lot of people at them. We took quite a few photos here, but didn't stay very long, because we had a fair bit still to do during the day. I would have loved to stay longer and sit, but I find it difficult to meditate with a bunch of other non-affiliated people around, and my hosts were being very patient with me as it was.
Once we got back to the car, we went out searching for the fountain where Merlin met Viviane. The GPS kept trying to send us down closed private roads, or down roads that no longer exist, so we gave up on it for a bit and went to the Arthurian center instead. This was a kind of cool place in a partly ruined castle. Rather than being a museum, as I suppose I had expected, it was a center filled with Arthurian fantasy art, informational placards, and life-sized dioramas of various incidents in the lives of Arthur, Merlin, and others from the Grail cycle. Although everything was in French, I noted they had material there about Lí Ban and a figure that is apparently similar to her in Breton folklore. They also had a story about a madman who was associated in some way with the ancient oak we had just visited, and had some information about the location of the fountain/well we were searching for. Though the place was a touch cheesy, it was obviously lovingly done, and no expense was spared in collecting art or setting up the tableux.
As we drove, eydimork
was telling me about a local legend that Merlin was not actually buried in the tomb we'd visited, but that he had climbed a tree and ascended from there into heaven, never to return. I thought that was rather interesting in light of both the whole poets ascending the tree motif, and of the association of Suibhne with flight and perching in trees. She said she'd find me some references for some of this, even though most of it was just online and probably local oral tradition in origin. If I can find any kind of documentation at all, it will be useful for my geilt
research, I think.
All of this stuff is said to be in the forest of Broceliande. Very beautiful area. When we stopped for lunch, the restaurant had placemats with tourist maps of local legendary sites and points of interest, which showed us the approximate location of the fountain we were looking for and, armed with that and the name of the village the fountain was near, we were finally able to find it at last.
This was also an approximately 4km loop trail, but the well was pretty much right at the midpoint, so we did do the whole walk. The trail was fairly muddy, and some of it looked rather like a logging road. There were some stacks of felled trees along the side of the trail, marked with numbers, obviously for shipping out later. Still, the area was largely peaceful, even though there were literally tour busses of children who had been hauled out to the site. We managed to get out to the well, get some photos, and move along before it was swamped with noisy kids.
Tonight for dinner, I had the local scallop dish that I was told about (which name escapes me), and it was quite tasty. Certainly worth having! Tonight I'll be off to bed soon -- tomorrow morning I have to catch the train for the airport near Paris, then fly off to Prague. The sib has already started his trip up there and will be spending the night tonight in Germany. Tomorrow I'll see him, tdancinghands
, and her husband. I can't wait!eydimork
and Magnus have been wonderful hosts, even though I have spent a fair bit of the time here in kind of lousy shape. They have been kind and patient and taken me to ludicrous lengths to see piles of rocks and water coming out of the ground. And a parade, which we didn't actually see much of. Magnus gave me a copy of his heavy klezmer cd, which I had him sign. I will have to play it for certain of my friends who will appreciate both the music and the irony. ;)
I'll try to post something before I head out in the morning. Happy happy, y'all!