NIGHTBRINGER | The Arthurian Encyclopedia

Nascien d’Orberique

Seraphe of Orberica
Naciamis, Nacien, Naciens, Nacyanus, Nancien, Nanciens, Nascien of Orberica, Nasciens, Nasiens, Nassien, Nassijen, Natianus, Natiien, Necienzo

Seraphe, duke of Orberica, was the brother-in-law of King Evelake of Sarras, who was married to his sister, Sarrasinte of Sarras. Nascien’s wife was Flegentine, their son Celidoine, and among their descendants were the Fisher KingsLancelot and Galahad, and Percivale and Amide.

Seraphe had been estranged from King Evelake, but Joseph of Arimathea reconciled them, and Seraphe joined Evelake in a war against King Tholomer of Babylonia. Joseph converted them and their families to Christianity, giving Seraphe the baptismal name of Nascien and Evelake that of Mordrains. The war was won, thanks to their conversion to Christianity.

Mordrains, Nascien, and their families came to Britain with Joseph and Josephe. Here, forty years after Christ’s Passion, Nascien successfully endured temptation by a fiend in the Port of Perilous Rock. Mordrains, meanwhile, came to the Isle of Turnance, found King Solomon’s Ship, and broke King David’s Sword by drawing it unworthily to slay a giant that was chasing him. Somehow killing the giant without the use of the sacred weapon, Mordrains returned to Solomon’s Ship and was carried to the Port of Perilous Rock, where Nascien, fresh from his testing, miraculously repaired the sword and returned it to its sheath.

They were warned by a voice to leave Solomon’s Ship, and, in so doing, Mordrains recieved a sword wound in the right foot as punishment for drawing the sword. (In the passage Malory XVII, 4, Nascien is credited with drawing King David’s Sword and Mordrains with its mending, but, convinced that the two names have been transposed here, I have recapped the tale accordingly.)

Surviving as a holy hermit until the reign of Arthur (or perhaps returning as an apparition), Nascien filled very approximately the role in the spiritual world of the Grail Adventures that Merlin had formerly played to Arthur and his knights in the secular world: Nascien was their more or less elusive prophet, mentor, guide, and confessor. I believe he is to be identified with Malory’s unnamed hermit who came to the Round Table the Whitsunday before Galahad’s birth and predicted that event within the year, and with the

good old man, and ... ancient, clothed all in white, and there was no knight knew from whence he came

who actually brought Galahad into Arthur’s court.

As Galahad succeeded in drawing Balin’s sword from its floating rock, a damsel riding a white palfrey appeared on the river bank to tell Lancelot he was no longer the greatest knight of the world and to bring Arthur Nascien’s message

that thee shall befall the greatest worship that ever befell king in Britain.

Just before the departure of the Questers, “an old knight … and in religious clothing” came into court to give them Nascien’s warning and instructions for the holy enterprise, among which was the injunction that no knight should be allowed to take along a woman. (Interesting, and also in view of Nascien’s own use of a damsel as one of his messengers.) When Galahad came to the Abbey of the Adventurous Shield, the angelic White Knight, telling the story of the shield, mentioned Nascien’s death and burial in the same abbey.

Nevertheless, while in the Grail Quest Gawaine and Ector, asking for a hermit to explain their dreams, were told:

Here is one in a little mountain, but it is so rough there may no horse go thither, and therefore ye must go upon foot; there shall ye find a poor house, and there is Nascien the hermit, which is the holiest man in this country.

Then [they] rode till that they came to the rough mountain, and there they tied their horses and went on foot to the hermitage. And when they were come up they saw a poor house, and beside the chapel a little courtelage [courtyard], where Nacien the hermit gathered worts, as he which had tasted none other meat of a great while.

He explained their dreams and, finding them unworthy, gave them some harsh counsel, which they rejected. It is not unlikely that Nascien should also be identified with some of the nameless holy men who counseled other knights on this Quest, nor does it seem unlikely that, if he had indeed spent several centuries of miraculously prolonged life in Britain, he might have had more than one hermitage scattered about the island.

According to Vulgate VII, Nascien’s mother was la bele Damoisele de la Blanche Nue (or Nuage) – the lovely maiden of the white cloud. I am not completely sure, however, that this is the same Nascien. Here he appears in the thick of battle, helping sixteen other knights succor Agloval.

See also
Bleeding Lance | The Legend of King Arthur
Galafré | The Legend of King Arthur
Sword with the Strange Hangings | The Legend of King Arthur

Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1215-1230
Vulgate Estoire del Saint Graal | 1220-1235
Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin | 1230-1240
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470