Sunday, May 05, 2013

Melusine flies in!

Beltane seems an appropriate time to be able to announce publication of my latest – and probably last – work on Melusine of Lusignan.

“The Book of Melusine of Lusignan in History, Legend and Romance” is a natural follow up to my previous monograph for R J Stewart  “Melusine of Lusignan and the Cult of the Faery Woman” in 2008 and my translation of André Lebey’s “Romance of the Faery Melusine” (Skylight Press, 2011).  It is a big bumper bundle of material upon Melusine that I now present, mostly translated from the French.

I begin with a short account of the story of Melusine as told by the Abbé Vergnaud, a  parish priest at Lusignan, who wrote for the general enquirer and above all for his parishioners. As well as a succinct account of her legend his interspersed pastoral comments have a certain old world charm if somewhat at odds with modern secular sentiments.

He serves as a good introduction to the complete story as rendered in the first English translation of the romance in about 1500-1520. The rhymed Middle English is I regret not likely to be much more comprehensible to the modern reader than if it had been left in the original French. As a sample: “For of fo fair A swete creature approcheth non ille, but ay al goodnesse, fro you may noght come but good auenture…..” and so on. However, I have used the gloss of the eminent Victorian scholar Walter Skeat to make it all accessible from which you can track through the whole story in full detail – including the remarkable adventures of Melusine’s ten sons.

From there we are in a position to take on the background to the story via “An Essay on Melusine” by the distinguished French scholar, Louis Stouff, probably still the definitive academic work on Melusine despite being written ninety years ago. He covers all aspects of the romance, including the identity of the original author, who commissioned him and why, along with his sources, and the cultural, geographical and historical background to the romance.

Following that I have collected some interesting odds and ends about the Castle, Town and Church at Lusignan, that were all traditionally built by Melusine with considerable faery assistance. The first from a 19th century history of the House of Lusignan and the rest from the local church bookstall and tourist bureau when I last visited Lusignan – including some photographs I took when I was there.

Finally I attach a couple of articles of my own. The first covering my research into the remarkable history of the Lusignan family during the 12th century, when two of them became Kings of Cyprus and Jerusalem. This leads on naturally to a somewhat speculative investigation of other rulers of Jerusalem with traditions of having faeries in the family. This includes the descendants of a countess of Lorraine, who married the faery Knight of the Swan, who later appears as Lohengrin in the Grail stories, amidst the puzzling activities of Philip, Count of Flanders, who provided Chrétien de Troyes with the mysterious manuscript upon which he based his Conte del Graal.

All gives much to ponder on, and as contemporary Avalonian Ian Rees has recently observed: “Melusine is a fascinating and intriguing figure, bridging as she does the human and faery worlds and in an odd way the worlds of Avalon and Jerusalem…As  someone who lives in Glastonbury and who works regularly in Jerusalem I see much potential in what is being offered to us in what can seem like a quaint story of faery ancestry.”

I have done what I can over the past few years to lay the evidence out for the English speaking world. For details of this latest effort go to the website of Skylight Press –