Borders Wizard - Michael Scott
of Scotland is an area steeped in folklore and fantastic stories
of fairies and magical goings-on. One such tale is firmly based
around a real historical personage - a remarkable man, whether or
not you believe the more incredible stories about him. He is Michael
Scott - the infamous Borders Wizard.
studies of arcane books Michael is supposed to have tamed demonic
forces to his will. His most famous act of wizardry was the reputed
splitting of the Eildon Hills into the three peaks that we see
today towering above the town of Melrose (pictured above).
He is also credited with the the power of prophesy - a gift which
haunted him throughout his life. His gift led him to foretell
his own death - that he would be killed by a small pebble falling
on his head. To avoid his fate Michael had a steel helmet made
which covered the crown of his head. However, one day as he attended
mass he removed his helmet and, sure enough, a small stone fell
from the church ceiling, striking him on the head. He knew that
his fate had caught up with him, that it was inescapable - he
rapidly descended into a sickness which killed him shortly afterwards.
Scott's reputation is much maligned: perhaps suffering from Medieval
superstition. He was, in fact, one of the most famous monastic
intellectuals of the 13th century, and was even hired to tutor
the Holy Roman Emperor, Fredrick II. So skilled was he at translation
that his services were sought after by the Pope.
In the great
Moorish library of Toledo, Scott translated Aristotle's texts on
natural sciences from Arabic into Latin. He was also skilled in
Hebrew, mathematics and medicine, and brought much of the knowledge
of the East to Christendom.
Quite how Michael became known as a wizard is unknown, but perhaps
it was through his translation of an Arabic book called 'The Secret
of Secrets'. This was a time when people distrusted knowledge from
the east: the Crusades were within people's memories and this type
of knowledge was the knowledge of the infidel. So, Michael, as a
Christian, with knowledge of these matters, may have been treated
with awe by the common people.
According to Sir Walter Scott, writing several hundred years later,
Michael was buried, with his books of magic, near a cross at Melrose
Abbey - the the cross driving away the wizard's demonic followers.
'I buried him on St Michaels night,
When the bell tolld one, and the moon was bright,
And I dug his chamber among the dead,
When the floor of the chancel was stained red,
That his patrons cross may over him wave,
And scare the fiends from the Wizards grave.
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