Thomas the Rhymer
Thomas Learmonth (c. 1220 –1298) better known as Thomas the Rhymer was a 13th-century Scottish laird, poet and prophet from Earlston (then called "Erceldoune"). He is also the probable source of the legend of Tam Lin.
Popular esteem of Thomas lived on for centuries after his death, and especially in Scotland. It became common for many so called prophecies – descriptions after the event and reworks of earlier prophecies - to be attributed to Thomas, as such we do not know for certain which prophecies are his and which not and which are true and which are not. Some of his prophecies are however well documented.
Thomas was born in Erceldoune (also spelled Ercildoune – presently Earlston), Berwickshire, sometime in the 13th century. Little is known for certain of his life but two charters from 1260–80 and 1294 mention him, the latter referring to "Thomas de Ercildounson son and heir of Thome Rymour de Ercildoun".
The Ballad of Thomas the Rhymer is a legend that purports to describe his life. Several different variants of the ballad of Thomas the Rhymer exist, most having the same basic theme. They tell how Thomas either kissed, had sex, or slept with the Queen of Elfland and rode with her or was otherwise transported to Fairyland.
One version relates that she changed into a hag immediately after sleeping with him, as some sort of a punishment to him, but returned to her originally beautiful state when they neared her castle, where her husband lived.
Thomas stayed at a party in the castle until she told him to return with her, coming back into the mortal realm only to realize that seven years had passed. He asked for a token to remember the queen by; she offered him the choice of becoming a harper or a prophet and he chose the latter option.
Now all this smacks of a very intense out of body experience in which he meets a spirit helper, as such he was clearly capable of some quite interesting experiences – how he achieved them is a mystery. It is worth adding that it is not at all unusual for people to lose all track of time in certain experiences - near death being another and the aptly described 'out of time' experience.
The 14th century romance "Thomas of Erceldoune", with accompanying prophecies, clearly relates to the ballad, though the exact nature of the relationship is unclear. The romance survives complete or in fragments in five manuscripts, the earliest of which is the Lincoln codex compiled by Robert Thornton. The romance confirms the content of the ballad.
After a number of years of relating prophecy, Thomas bade farewell to his homeland and presumably returned to Fairyland, whence he has not yet returned.
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