Monthly Archives: February 2018

Chapter 6: Brunanburh

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chisp cover

Continuing the serialization of

Damian Beeson Bullen’s

CHISPOLOGY

In which a few more of the world’s greatest mysteries… are finally solved

Available to buy in book form

Autumn 2018

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burnliadIts time to go home; well, for me & one or two of my readers anyway. I am lucky enough to have been born at the geographical heart of my native islands, the fine, old Lancashire town of Burnley. It is by being from that place of high salubrity that this chapter, & indeed the entirety of this book, commenced one autumn day in 2010, when fresh from the composition of a rather large & technical sonnet sequence called the Ediniad, I found myself reading about the Battle of Brunanburh, fought in 937 AD. The whereabouts of the field is one of the most contentious debates in the entire contextus of British history. On coming to the problem for the first time, I was agate, ‘there’s a River Brun in Burnley, innit!’ Discovering others had proposed the theory that Brunanburh could have been fought at my home town is the catalystic occasion which kicked off my Chispological studies in the first place. In respect to the Brunanburh sections, these have been performed over the entireity of my investigations, & perhaps have been the most thorough. I put my findings in a book called the Burnliad, which you may also buy here. I am also going to provide at the end of this chapter a proper bibliography for the first time in my Chispological studies online, just to show I can do it & to impress my mates in Burnley!

Brunanburh! Brunanburh! Brunanburh! This antique name was once attached to an Anglo-Saxon fortification, in whose locality was fought one of the most important battles in British history (937 AD). A massive showdown, it saw King Athelstan of England face off against a grand alliance of Scots, Vikings & the ‘Northern Welsh’ of Cumbria & Galloway. This confederacy had been galvanized into action by a young Viking prince called Analf Guthfrithson. Normally based in Dublin, Analf had momentarily managed to unite the entire Viking world behind him in an attempt to wrestle back their former control over England which had been lost to Athelstan’s grandfather, Alfred the Great. Despite such powerful forces arrayed against them, the Battle of Brunanburh was a comprehensive victory for the Anglo-Saxons, since which day the borders of Britain’s three nations have been more or less constant. One could fairly admit that the Battle of Brunanburh was the moment when the British Isles as we know them were truly born.

Picture-117

The first mention of Brunanburh in the annals comes within the pages of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, that wonderful storehouse of early English history without which the Dark Ages would have been much, much darker. The entry for 937 is actually one of the most famous pieces of Anglo-Saxon poetry, the first & best of a series composed throughout the 10th century. Most entries in the ASC are written in rather mundane prose, but the rendering of certain events in poetry would naturally amplify their cultural importance. It is only through the Pegasus-flight of the poetic voice that humanity may truly record the incredible passions felt in the most turbulent of times.

In this year King Aethelstan, Lord of warriors,
Ring-giver to men, and his brother also,
Prince Eadmund, won eternal glory
In battle with sword edges
Around Brunanburh. They split the shield-wall,
They hewed battle shields with the remnants of hammers.
The sons of Eadweard,
It was only befitting their noble descent
From their ancestors that they should often
Defend their land in battle against each hostile people,
Horde and home. The enemy perished,
Scots men and seamen,
Fated they fell. The field flowed
With blood of warriors, from sun up
In the morning, when the glorious star
Glided over the earth, God’s bright candle,
Eternal lord, till that noble creation
Sank to its seat. There lay many a warrior
By spears destroyed; Northern men
Shot over shield, likewise Scottish as well,
Weary, war sated.
The West-Saxons pushed onward
All day; in troops they pursued the hostile people.
They hewed the fugitive grievously from behind
With swords sharp from the grinding.
The Mercians did not refuse hard hand-play
To any warrior
Who came with Anlaf over the sea-surge
In the bosom of a ship, those who sought land,
Fated to fight. Five lay dead
On the battle-field, young kings,
Put to sleep by swords, likewise also seven
Of Anlaf’s earls, countless of the army,
Sailors and Scots. There the North-men’s chief was put
To flight, by need constrained
To the prow of a ship with little company:
He pressed the ship afloat, the king went out
On the dusky flood-tide, he saved his life.
Likewise, there also the old campaigner
Through flight came
To his own region in the north–Constantine–
Hoary warrior. He had no reason to exult
The great meeting; he was of his kinsmen bereft,
Friends fell on the battle-field,
Killed at strife: even his son, young in battle, he left
In the place of slaughter, ground to pieces with wounds.
That grizzle-haired warrior had no
Reason to boast of sword-slaughter,
Old deceitful one, no more did Anlaf;
With their remnant of an army they had no reason to
Laugh that they were better in deed of war
In battle-field–collision of banners,
Encounter of spears, encounter of men,
Trading of blows–when they played against
The sons of Eadweard on the battle field.
Departed then the Northmen in nailed ships.
The dejected survivors of the battle,
Sought Dublin over the deep water,
Over Dinges mere
To return to Ireland, ashamed in spirit.
Likewise the brothers, both together,
King and Prince, sought their home,
West-Saxon land, exultant from battle.
They left behind them, to enjoy the corpses,
The dark coated one, the dark horny-beaked raven
And the dusky-coated one,
The eagle white from behind, to partake of carrion,
Greedy war-hawk, and that gray animal
The wolf in the forest.
Never was there more slaughter
On this island, never yet as many
People killed before this
With sword’s edge: never according to those who tell us
From books, old wisemen,
Since from the east Angles & Saxons came up
Over the broad sea. Britain they sought,
Proud war-smiths who overcame the Welsh,
Glorious warriors they took hold of the land.

The citizens of Burnley have thought, for a long time, that the battle of Brunanburh was fought somewhere on the moors above their homesteads. In 1869, a ceremonial vase was given to local hero General Scarlett (he’d married a Burnley girl), the glorious leader of the Charge of the Heavy Brigade in the Crimean War, upon which were painted two shields on either side of a figure of the goddess, Fame. One shield depicted his famous charge, while the other sported an image of the Battle of Brunanburh.

It has taken a few years to collate my own researches into the matter, with my early forays into the battle being undertaken in 2011. That year, I took a walk with my dad toward the space where I initially thought the battle to have been fought, on account of the tumuli scattered across the hills above Swinden reservoir. It was all rather amusing as we walked through Worsthorne on that glorious afternoon toward the beautiful moors over Burnley. A passing car-bound buddy of my dad’s enquired as to our activity.

“We’re looking fer an Anglo-Saxon battlefield,” said my dad, smiling.
“Good luck lads!” giggled my dad’s mate, shaking his head faintly with disbelief, before driving on & leaving us to our investigations. Eventually we came to the rugged Swinden Reservoir area where my dad looked a bit bemused. I watched him look about a bit with his old soldier’s eye.
“It just dunt feel reyt son,” he said, adding that the fields near Worsthorne were a far better prospect. Trusting his paternal instinct I gave the matter more thought & research, & as we shall see what he mused turned out to be at least half right in the end.

Burnley on my first full day of the dig, from Healy Wood Heights
Burnley on my first full day of the dig, from Healey Wood Heights

In the year of 2015, I returned home to that special corner of Lancashire in order to commence my inquiries into the battle. Burnley is set in one of the most handsomest parts of the country, the chief civic section of a long & ribboning Pennine-straddling conurbation. Along with Padiham, Brierfield, Nelson & Colne, Burnley is the ‘capital’ of what I call Pendle City. There are about 130,000 citizens going about their business in my home ‘city;’ connected by their own stretches of motorway, canal & railway. For entertainment they have five theaters, a Premier League football Club, a number of live music venues, several sports centers, loads of golf courses, buzzin’ bars full of bouncin’ partygoers & some fantastic eateries which reflect the influx of Asia into the region.  For the historian, there are ‘between the towns of Burnley and Colne,’ as local historian James Stonehouse tells us, ‘more objects of antiquarian interest scattered about than may be found in any other part of England.’ Some of these, I believe, are connected to the Brunanburh case.

Painting my back yaerd with mi dad & mi nephew
Painting my back yard with mi dad & mi nephew

As a base for my studies I took up residence in my own wee ‘weavers cottage’ at 70 Laithe Street. This traditional terraced house lies in the heart of the Healey Wood district, a Neptune’s trident like sequence of streets possessing commanding views over the area, a multi-purpose corner shop, mellow locals & only a stone’s throw from both the town centre & the meditative moors, it was a perfect place for base camp. Back in Burnley once more, I began to see old friends, walk familiar paths & to study hard in the local history sections of the area’s libraries. My field notes I turned into a blog from which the following extracts are taken in order to support the Burnley siting of Brunanburh.

England

That Athelstan & his men were defending ‘their land in battle’ means the battle of Brunanburh must have been fought in English territory. In the following charter of 934, Athelstan grants the lands of Amounderness to Wulfstan, the Archbishop of York.

 I, Aethalstan, king of the English, elevated by the hand of the almighty, which is Christ, to the throne of the whole kingdom of Britain, assign willingly in fear of god, to almighty god & the blessed apostle Peter, in his church at the city of York, at the time I constituted Wulfstan its archbishop, a certain portion of land of no small size, in the place which the inhabitants call Amounderness

With Amounderness, stretching from the River Ribble to its northern border at Lancaster, this proves that by 937 Burnley could be placed in England; only by a few miles, but definitely in England.

Analf Attacks York

 In 937 a record of the Irish Vikings fighting in the Brunanburh campaign can be found in the medieval documents known collectively as the ‘Irish Chronicles.’

 The Danes of Loghrie, arrived at Dublin. Awley with all the Danes of Dublin and north part of Ireland departed and went over seas Annals of Clonmacnoise

The Danes that departed from Dublin arrived in England Annals of Clonmacnoise

Amhlaeibh Cuaran went to Cair-Abroc; and Blacaire, son of Godfrey, came to Ath-cliath Annals of the Four Masters

 By the help of the Danes of that kingdom, they gave battle to the Saxons on the plaines of othlyn, where there was a great slaughter of Normans and Danes Annals of Clonmacnoise

map-2

The Annals of the Four Masters clearly state that Analf, also known as Awley & Amhlaeibh, ‘went to Cair-Abroc.’ This means that before he fought at Brunanburh, Analf had recaptured York for the Vikings, a city known as Ebraucum to the Romans & Caer Ebrauc to the Britons. Analf would met have the Scandinavian Danes in the choppy waters off Northumberland beforehand, where Florence of Worcester places the main body of the Viking armies entering Britain via the east coast;

Anlaf, the Pagan king of Ireland and many other isles, at the instigation of his father-in-law Constantine, king of the Scots, entered the mouth of the Humber with a powerful fleet

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These pieces of evidence in combination completely undermines the theory that Brunanburh was fought on the Wirral after the Vikings crossed from Ireland, as proposed by a number of modern scholars. Interestingly, or perhaps conveniently, the two Irish annals above were left out of the rather large list of sources replicated in the Brunanburh Casebook, which argues quite fanatically the Wirral case. It’s editor,  Michael Livingstone,  responding to another medieval historian who put the Viking entry at the Humber, shrieked;

If I can call anything a fact after such a long remove of time, I’m willing to stake a claim for this one: John of Worcester is wrong. Plain and simple. And, by extension, any hypothesis for Brunanburh that relies on his “eastern entry” for the invading force is similarly wrong

The thing is, you cant just do that. A modern police detective would laugh at such naivety. The copper would, of course, keep digging & finally discover the supporting evidence in something like the Annals of the Four Masters.

Etymology

It is clear that the original ‘Brunan’ element of Brunanburh would devolve into ‘Bruna,’ as in the ‘Bellum Brune’ of the Annals Cambrae & William of Malmesbury’s ‘Bruneford’. From here we take the simple step of dropping a single vowel to leave us with the snappier ‘ battle of Brun’ of the Brut y Tywysogion (Chronicle of the Princes), as verified by John of Fordun’s ‘Brunford.’ This leaves us looking for a site near the ford of a river called Brune or Brun. There is only one waterway by that name in the whole of Britain, rising on moorland a few miles to the west of Burnley – formerly Brunlea – by the hill known as Black Hameldon. The Brun is the shortest river in the country, making a swift passage from its vernal streams, through the pretty villages of Worsthorne & Hurstwood, then entering Burnley it conjoins with the River Calder. A few miles downstream, the Calder enters the Ribble, which then flows into the Irish Sea at Preston, 30 miles from the Brun’s headwaters.

Another historian to place the battle by a river-ford was Ranulf Higden (c.1280-1364), who gave the variant spelling of Brumford. Coincidence or not, he was writing at the very period in history when Burnley’s name was given as Brumleye in a 1294 market charter. Similarily, a 1258 version of Burnley – Bronley – is echoed in the work of the English historian Peter Langtoft, who in that same period named Brunanburh as Bronneburgh. It is evident that these differing pronunciations of the name ‘Burnley’ contain a metasonic reflection of the lingual evolutions of the early English language. A similar process to the Brunanburh devolution occurred when the ‘Ottanlege’ of 972 became Otelai in the Doomsday Book of 1086. Likewise, Ottanmere, as found in an unprinted Beckley charter of 1005-11, would later deriviate into Otmoor.

 937 – Brunanburh
972 – Ottanlege
1010 – Ottanmere
1066 – Battle of Hastings
1086 – Otelai
1130 – Bruneford
1154 – Brunley
c.1200 – Otley / Otmoor

Before the Battle of Hastings, we can see that the –an element of words was prevelant. That the ‘n’ was dropped by 1130 should be no coincidence, for the Norman invasion of England catalyzed the evolution of Anglo-Saxon speech into a French-inspired Middle English. By 1154, names such as Brune were trimmed even more, dropping the superfluous vowel & creating the snappier Brun.

Castle Hill

The true meaning of the word ‘burh’ is ‘fortified township,’ settlements which were usually found on a low, but defendable hill. Almost all Saxon buildings were made of wood, as was a burh’s palisade – the thelwall. These would have barely left a trace, yet there remains a very real remnant of such a fortification on the outskirts of Burnley. I picked up the first clue to its presence while utilising Burnley Library’s excellent & comprehensive collection of volumes published by the Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society. In their 1952-53 ‘transactions’ there is an excellent account of excavations made at Everage Clough. In a small footnote, I was pointed further back in antiquarian lore to an 18th century writer  – Thomas Dunham Whitaker – whose ‘History of the Original Parish of Whalley’ was also to be found in Burnley Library. Getting stuck in Kojak-style, I obtained the following passage;

The original site of Towneley appears to have been a tall & shapely knoll, southward from the present mansion, still denominated castle hill, & immediately adjoining to the farm called Old House, on the eastern & precipitous side of which are the obscure remains of trenches, which on the three more accessible quarters have been demolished by the plough. Here therefore, in every early times, and far beyond any written memorials, was the Villa de Tunlay, the residence, unquestionably, of one of those independent lords before the conquest who presided over every village & held immediately of the crown. When this elevated situation was abandoned it is impossible to ascertain from any written evidence or tradition; but the present house may in part lay claim to high antiquity.

Towneley Hall
Towneley Hall
Castle Hill lies to the rear of Townley Hall
Castle Hill lies to the rear of Townley Hall
The Western Trench @ Castle Hill...
The Western Trench @ Castle Hill…
Looking north from the summit – the trench is the line of dark vegetation
Looking north from the summit – the trench is the line of dark vegetation

An Anglo-Saxon burh formed the central administrative point of the administrative ‘Tun,’ from which we get the name Tunlay, & thus, Towneley. In the 12th century, Towneley formed part of an ancient township called ‘Tunlay-with Brunshaw,’ the latter meaning ‘Brun’s Wood.’ The clearing, or ‘lea,’ in this wood would eventually become Brunlea, & subsequently Burnley. That Towneley is associated with a Saxonesque fortification & topographical feature containing the ‘Brun ‘element easily leads us to the rather inviting possibility that Brunanburh once stood at Castle Hill. I talked to my dad about the find, & despite living next to Towneley all his life, he had never heard of Castle Hill. It is this obscurity that may have hid Brunanburh’s true site from even the hardiest of pro-Burnley enthusiasts. Here lies Brunanburh’s Hisalrik Hill.

Hazelling the Field

But where was the battlefield? Before the slaughter of Brunanburh, the campaign had taken a more political slant, a show of strength by the Confederation meant to humble Athelstan into submission. A different type of warfare was being played out in which negotiation was paramount; why lose sons & fathers on the bloody plains of battle, when treaties save so many lives. In such an atmosphere, the fight at Brunanburh was at first ruled by Dark Age codes of behaviour, resulting in a civilized stand-off known as ‘Hazelling the Field.’ According to a Scandinavian account of the battle, found in the 13th century Egil’s Saga by Snorri Sturluson, such a quasi-political event happened before the Battle of Brunanburh. While running through the extract, the reader should be aware that the two towns mentioned are the early prototypes of Burnley & Colne, both of which were granted to the monks of Pontefract Abbey in an 1122 charter.

After this they sent messengers to king Olaf, giving out this as their errand, that king Athelstan would fain enhazel him a field and offer battle on Vin-heath by Vin-wood; meanwhile he would have them forbear to harry his land; but of the twain he should rule England who should conquer in the battle. He appointed a week hence for the conflict, and whichever first came on the ground should wait a week for the other. Now this was then the custom, that so soon as a king had enhazelled a field, it was a shameful act to harry before the battle was ended. Accordingly King Olaf halted and harried not, but waited till the appointed day, when he moved his army to Vin-heath.

damo-006 North of the heath stood a town. There in the town king Olaf quartered him, and there he had the greatest part of his force, because there was a wide district around which seemed to him convenient for the bringing in of such provisions as the army needed. But he sent men of his own up to the heath where the battlefield was appointed; these were to take camping-ground, and make all ready before the army came. But when the men came to the place where the field was enhazelled, there were all the hazel-poles set up to mark the ground where the battle should be.

The place ought to be chosen level, and whereon a large host might be set in array. And such was this; for in the place where the battle was to be the heath was level, with a river flowing on one side, on the other a large wood. But where the distance between the wood and the river was least (though this was a good long stretch), there King Athelstan’s men had pitched, and their tents quite filled the space between wood and river. They had so pitched that in every third tent there were no men at all, and in one of every three but few. Yet when King Olaf’s men came to them, they had then numbers swarming before all the tents, and the others could not get to go inside. Athelstan’s men said that their tents were all full, so full that their people had not nearly enough room. But the front line of tents stood so high that it could not be seen over them whether they stood many or few in depth. Olaf’s men imagined a vast host must be there. King Olaf’s men pitched north of the hazel-poles, toward which side the ground sloped a little. From day to day Athelstan’s men said that the king would come, or was come, to the town that lay south of the heath. Meanwhile forces flocked to them both day and night.

Barrowford

Egil Skallagrimsson
Egil Skallagrimsson

Today’s blogpost begins with a look at Egil’s Saga by Snorri Sturlsson, of whose authenticity LM Hollander writes, ‘the saga agrees well with other Icelandic sagas, & may be reckoned as one of the most truthful; but when it is considered that it was kept in men’s memory for a very long time… naturally not every syllable will be true. Neither in this, however, nor in any of the best Icelandic sagas do the writers thereof deliberately assert untruth or mean to exaggerate.’ The saga tosses two new battlefield names into the mix; Vinheath & Vinwood, which are remarkably reminiscent of Symeon of Durham’s statement that the Battle of Brunanburh was fought at ‘Wendune’ & ‘Weodune.’ In Old English, the word ‘dune’ can indeed be translated as ‘heath,’ & with two very different sources concurring on a single name, we may pursue its identification with confidence.

The Vin/Wen element can be positively found near Colne in the phonetics of the wee hamlet of Winewall. In Icelandic, völlur derives from the Proto-Germanic walþuz, meaning forest, which of course could become Vinwood. Just off from Winewall commences a cute rivulet known as the ‘Colne Water, which may have something to do with the Vina as given in Christine Fell’s accurate translation of Egil’s Saga;

Flame-hearted Thorolf, fear’s
Foe, Earl-killer, who so
Dared danger in Odin’s
Dark wars is dead at last.
Here, by Vina’s bank,
My brother lies under earth

After leaving Winewall, Colne Water soon merges with the larger ‘Pendle Water.’ This confluence then flows into the lovely, large village of Barrowford, one of the prettiest & poshest parts of Pendle City. Local tradition holds that Barrowford is named after some ancient burial site – i.e. a barrow – as in John Widdup’s;

The name “Barrowford” suggests that such a barrow formerly existed near the stream crossing, but the site of the barrow remains in dispute, as all evidence of it has been lost by land cultivation. It has been suggested that the mound on the side of the road at Park Hill marks the spot 

 On the drive back from Gisburn the other day, I got my mate Nicky to stop the car so I could take a few photos of the barrow, perched as it is by the old bridge where the ford would have been in antiquity. Barrows are in the main associated with the Bronze Age; but there was a period, the 7th-8th centuries, where they were used by the Anglo-Saxon kings, such as the famous ones down at Sutton Hoo. All evidence is pointing to this barrow at the ford of the river ‘Wine’ being the same place where was fought a battle mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Its name was Winwidfelda, or Winwaed, a name which translates as ‘ford of the Win.’

A.D. 655 This year Penda was slain at Winwidfelda, and thirty royal personages with him, some of whom were kings.

The barrow at Barrowford...
The barrow at Barrowford…

This battle was a civil action, fought between two Anglo-Saxon kings; Penda of Mercia (the Midlands) & Oswiu of Northumbria. Like Brunanburh, its location had been forgotten, but Bede does place the battle in a region called Loidis, a name which resonates in ‘Lothersdale,’ a philochisp of ‘Loidisdale.’ This charming village is situated only a handful of miles to the north of Barrowford, a place to which we can attach a significant topographical clue.  Bede tells us that the battle, ‘was fought close by the River Winwaed, which at the time was swollen by heavy rains and had flooded the surrounding country: as a result, many more were drowned while attempting to escape than perished by the sword. Where Bede describes a heavy flood, this fits in perfectly well with Barrowford, which is prone to serious flooding. Local historian Jesse Blakey records, ‘perhaps one of the biggest floods within living memory took place on the evening of July 6th, 1881. It is believed that a cloud burst on Pendle, and the rushing torrent tore along carrying everything within reach away with it. The river overflowed its banks at the tannery, and formed another river in Gisburn Road… The mill Holme formed one vast sheet of water with that in the river and Gisburn Road. Huge pieces of timber were deposited in the streets, and the Newbridge district was one vast turbulent sheet of water…. In the diary by William Corbridge there is the following entry: Greatest flood ever known. Fearful night. Six hours of thunder and lightning. The flood was at its height about 11 o’clock on Tuesday. Swept all the bridges down from Barley to Barrowford.

lark-stone-location

There are two places near Barrowford that could be the site of Winwidfelda. The idea is that the Celtic ‘Win’ became translated by the Anglo-Saxons as white (which is possible).  Andrew Breeze writes, ‘What does philology tell us about Bede’s Uinued? There is no problem with the first element, which represents Brittonic ‘white’, as in Welsh Gwyn ‘white’.’ Thus Winwidfelda could have been either Whitefield, a couple of miles downstream, or more likey Whitemoor, a couple of miles to the north of Barrowford in the direction of North umbria. In support, at Whitemoor one can find menhir known as the Lark Stone, which may have been a memento of the battle.

Getting out the Tithe Parish map of Brierfcliffe, 1845 (Burnley library)
Getting out the Tithe Parish map of Briercliffe, 1845 (Burnley Library)

Vinheath

It is by digging in the Brunanburh dirt that we have flushed out the names of Vinheath, Wendune & Weodune. When looking through the vasty annals of history, there is actually a place where vin, wen, & weon all appear together. The entity in question is an ancient Teutonic tribal group known as the Wends, who according to Wulfstan heralded from a place called Weonodland’ as in; ‘Weonodland was on his starboard side and to portside, he had Langeland, Lolland, Falster and Scania. These countries all belong to Denmark.’ Other names for the Wends include; Old English: Winedas / Old Norse: Vindr / German: Wenden, Winden / Danish: Vendere. Let us imagine now that at some point in the distant past a group of Wends had settled in the area between Burnley & Colne; but how did they get there, & just who are the Wends? Their traditional homelands were situated in today’s northern Poland, against the shores of the Baltic Sea, in the lands to the west of the River Oder. From here they fanned out all across Europa, settling in places such as the Windic March in Bavaria, to Vindeboder at Roskilde… while some, I believe, came to Burnley. It is quite ironic, really, for my home town is now seeing the return of the Poles in some numbers, its citizenry coming full circle, so to speak.

Picture-143

The arrival of the Wends seems connected to their defeat in Europe by the Romans (277 AD), after which they were given lands in Britain. Zosimus writing of a Roman general called Probus, states, ‘his second battle was with the Franks, whom he completely conquered with the help of his generals. Then he fought the Burgundians & Vends… When the armies engaged each other, some of the barbarians were slain, others were taken prisoner by the Romans, & the rest sued for peace, accepting the condition that they surrender their booty & prisoners, but since, although their request was granted, they did not hand over everything, the emperor angrily punished them by attacking them on their retreat. Many were killed & their leader, Igillus, taken prisoner, & all the captives were sent across to Britain where they proved very useful to the emperor in subsequent revolts.’

The last sentence is key, for it places the Wends in Britain at a place well-sited for handling a rebellion, suggesting a northern location. If this was in Lancashire, we can understand the proper origins of a number of Probus coins found in the county; such as at Worden, on the outskirts of Leyland, whose name also seems a variation of ‘weodune’ Similar coins were also discovered at Burnley itself, where WT Watkin describes 126 copper coins known as ‘radiates’ of the late third century AD. Similar dated coins have also been found at the Roman camp at Castercliffe, a Roman camp on the moors just to the south of Colne. When analyzing its history, we should first notice that in the lists of Northern Roman camps, Calunio was not in existence in the time of Ptolemy (2nd century AD), but exists in the 6th century, when it appears in the Ravenna Cosmography. Combining archeology with recorded history suggests that when the Wends arrived in the Burnley area, their ‘colony’ eventually became Colne.

TD Whitaker, writing in the year 1800, states, ‘it seems probable that the exact spot occupied by this station was in some of the low grounds beneath the present town (of Colne)  and on the banks of the river where all remains of it have been effaced by cultivation. Perhaps the real site is now irretrievable , but there are two lingulae of land betwixt Colne and Barrowford on the north side of Colne Water and formed by the influx of two inconsiderable brooks, which have equal pretensions. The modern town of Colne has certainly none. It is much too elevated and too far from the water… the environs of Colne appear to have been populous in Roman times, as great numbers of their coins have been discovered in the neighbourhood, particularly at Wheatley Lane and near Emmet where a large silver cup filled with them was turned up by the plough in the latter end of the 17th century.’ Speculating further, Roman forts were generally attended on by the local population, who lived next to or near the fort in a settlement described as a vici – the semantics of which can be observed in the name, Wycoller, a village just to east of Colne.

Pendle Hill
Pendle Hill

There are other faint traces of the Wends in the area. An early 4th century Christian level can be discerned from Saint Helen’s Well at Waterside, Colne, & also in Henry Taylor’s, ‘an ancient map, in the possession of Colonel Parker, shows that, in 1747, a Roman cross was standing on the far common, near Alkincoats. More significantly, the Pendle village of Sabden (Sapedene 1296) translates as ‘long, narrow valley of the Sabs.’ The ‘Sab’ phonetic is quite rare in Britain, & of unknown origin, but the Wends called themselves ‘Sorbs,’ suggesting Sabden’s original could have been ‘Sorbden.’  The Wends are also distinguishable by the circular encampments they built, whose continental versions are extremely similar to those found to the east & north of Burnley. Of these there is a certain ‘Ring Stones’ camp, near Swinden Resevoir & the house-cluster of Roggerham. The phonetics of the hamlet can be connected to the Rugians, a Teutonic tribe considered, unsurprisingly, as one of the Wendish peoples.  In the 8th century, Bede stated that they formed part of the composite Anglo-Saxon layer to the English gene-pool;

           The Angles or Saxons, who now inhabit Britain… are still corruptly called ‘Garmans’ by the neighbouring nation of the Britons. Such are the Frisians, the Rugini, the Danes, the Huns, the Old Saxons, and the Boructuari

Sabden
Sabden

We should also look at this mid-19th century piece of writing by James Stonehouse, who gives us; ‘as we pursue our ramble along the road towards Roggerham, we arrive at a farm house on the right hand called “Rotten”; and a short way beyond it find a gate on the same side. Opening this gate we discover a narrow road, having in the centre a pavement of large boulder stones, the footway on one side being skirted by a stone wall which enclose portions of the moor; on the other a thick hedge. An unobservant person even would notice something unusual in the appearance of this bye-road. The mystery of it-if there be such a thing as a mystery-is soon made manifest. The road is found to lead upon the open moor land, and where the enclosure walls end it gradually becomes lost in the moorland and herbage, although its track can be really discovered rising over the hill before us. But before it becomes so hidden in the heather and the thick grass it passes an enclosure of some 200 feet by 160 feet, that the antiquary and the archaeologist would not fail to gaze upon with deep and absorbing interest. The road is Roman. As the Romans left it, there it is. The enclosure is Roman. As the Romans constructed it, there it is; at least what remains of their handywork. The enclosure is the remains of a fort erected by this great nation, when occupying this part of Britain. The fort is known by the people of the vicinity as “Ring Stones Camp.” The walls, at least as much as is left of them, are about a foot high from the interior surface. Outside the Vallum is a foss or ditch. It is deep in some portions, and filled up in others. It seems to be of the true V shape by the inclinator of the sides. The walls appear as strong as when the soldier mason laid stone upon stone and spread the strong concrete that has hardened till it rivals the stone in durability. At one of the sides, there is an opening where stood the Decuman gate. On the side facing it is another opening. This is the Proetorian gate, so called as being near where the Praetor fixed his quarters. In the centre of the enclosure are great inequalities of ground which, if carefully examined, will perhaps exhibit some of the arrangements of the encampment or fort.’ According to TD Whittaker, the earthworks at Ring Stones are highly similar to ones found near Barnoldswick, Skipton, Middop & Gisburn, with the latter even having an identical gateway to that Ringstones. It seems apparent that the same culture could have built all four of these fortifications in order to defend their territory. Their north-eastern limits would have been at the River Dunsop, in the Forest of Bowland, whose ‘sop’ element again invokes the ‘Sorbs.’  The Dunsop also flows into the river Hodder, which reminds us of the River Oder of the Polish Wends. The whole concept of a Wendish realm based on & around Pendle is beginning to taking shape, especially when we see the Rugian phonetic at Pendleside’s Roughlee – which was originally known as Rugelea.

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The Rugii name element also leads us quite neatly to Rheged, a famous Brythonic kingdom with an unclear territorial extent. Roughly stretching between Strathclyde & Manchester, it reached its highest glory in the 6th century, the kingdom was ruled by a certain Urien, a great mover & shaker in the politics of northern Britain in that time. Rheged seems to have been the kingdom carved out by the Wends/Rugi, which renders an excellent explanation for the etymology of Windemere – the lake of the Wends – which sits only a few miles from the River Llwyvenydd in southern Cumbria. Modern academical leanings have suggested that Rheged stretched as far north as Dunragit, in Galloway, & as far south as Rochdale, where the River Roch was recorded in the 13th century as Rached or Rachet. With Rochdale being only a few miles from Roggerham & Roughlee, we gain some sort of sense that the Wends of Burnley were part of a wider tribal area which would evolve into Rheged. But, I am digressing too far; for now, let us be satisfied in finding the root etymology of Vinheath & Wendune, & also be content with the realisation that even that smallest & most innocuous of place-names can become eternal storehouses of so much history.

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I very much believe that the Vinheath is crowned by the hill between Briercliffe & Nelson upon which Nelson Golf Course can be found. Its eastern slopes lead down to the Pendle Water, which would be the river as described in Egil’s Saga. The wood – Vinwood – is a more transient feature, especially following the passage of a thousand years. It is between wood & river, perhaps on flat lands of the Prairie playing fields & Belvedere rugby ground, that the action of Egil’s Saga chiefly takes place. During the battle, we are told that Thorulf made his way with some warriors onto the ‘higher gound’ of the heath, which leads us to certain battlefield relics dug up in the 18th century, as recorded by TD Whitaker;

At some distance to the east of the town is a place of the name of Saxifield, to which is attached an evanescent tradition of some great engagement, & the defeat of some great chieftan, in the turbulent & unrecorded era of the heptarchy … scenes of great slaughter, the most dreadful of all spectacles, make too deep an impression upon the minds of beholders not to be frequently & diligently recited to posterity; & , when associated with names & local circumstances in succeeding times, though generally corrupted, are seldom lost

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When one heads east out of Burnley, the road forks at the now-closed, but once famous Duke Bar; the left road going on towards Brierfield, while the right one heads up to Harle Syke. Taking the latter road, a long terraced climb up through Briercliffe to the hamlet of Haggate, we are soon walking over the anciently named Saxifields. Just after Lower Saxifield House, a ‘Saxifield Street’ leads past ‘Higher Saxifield’ to a level stretch of moorland/fields, flanked on one side by Nelson Golf Course. In the 19th century, it remained evident that a battle had been fought on the hill, when local historian, the exotically dressed, fez-wearing Tattersal Wilkinson wrote;

The frequent discovery of bones… still serves to keep alive the popular story, & passes it down to each succeeding generation. Such remains were lately met with in large quantities when digging the cellar at Lower Saxifield house; & not long ago a large number of small tumuli popularly termed ‘the graves’ were leveled by farmers for purposes of cultivation. Iron arrow-heads are sometimes found in the mosses

It makes sense that these weapons are remnants of the skirmish on the heath as described in Egil’s Saga, in which ‘Thorolf’s division moved on the higher ground beside the wood.’

The level heath...
The level heath…

Worsthorne

The skirmish on the Vinheath was a subsidiary operation to the main battle of Brunanburh. The annals also describe another precursory skirmish, which seems to have taken place at Mereclough, near the delightful village of Worsthorne on the hilly outskirts of Burnley. At Mereclough, an old map has recorded a ‘battlefield’ & a ‘battlestone,’ while a ‘battle place’ was attached to its pasture in the Cliviger valuation of 1822. The stone was still there in 1974, but has since been removed to faciltate farming operations. Of a local ‘remarkable tradition,’  TT Wilkinson recorded that in the 19th century it was, ‘still prevalent in Worsthorne, to the effect – that the Danes constructed these defences – that a great battle was fought on the moor – & that five kings were buried under the mounds.’ I believe the Worsthorne connection comes from an incident at Brunanburh which took place before the main battle. The action revolves around the arrival of an English bishop in the area, whose death announces the start of the battle proper.

When the bishop arrived at the war with his forces, he had no fear of an ambush on the grassy, level plain, & pitched camp on the exact spot from which the king had retreated William Malmesbury – Deeds of Bishops

 This bishop was called Werstan, & it should be that the name of Worsthorne has been derived from him. As the bishop was arriving at the field, Analf was leading his Vikings on a wide, wide march over the moors to the east of Vinheath. The skirmish on the Vinheath was turning out to be an excellent smokescreen for the maneuver which took him to the rear of Warcock hill, to the south of Worsthorne, aiming straight for Castle Hill. The Croyland Chronicle picks up the story; ‘accordingly, during the night, he made an attack upon the English, and slew a certain bishop, who the evening before had joined the army of King Athelstan.’ The sounds of battle woke the King, who was close to Vinheath, & just under two miles from Worsthorne. The Croyland Chronicle tells us; ‘cries of the dying being heard at a considerable distance, that the king, who was encamped more than a mile from the place of attack, was, together with all his army, awoke from slumber while lying in their tents beneath the canopy of heaven; and on learning the particulars, they quickly aroused themselves,’ & it is at this moment that the Battle of Brunanburh truly begins.

St Eltheldreda

I was up at the crack of dawn this morning, & out of the house about 6.50 AM; plodding on a wee walk back in time, through dreichish weather, to one of the earliest strata of British Christianity. It begins in the oldest part of Burnley, the area about St Peter’s church known as the Top o’ th’ Town. Next to the old grammar school there is a fenced off area in which are housed three & a half ancient monuments. We have the base of the old market cross, with the stocks underneath it; we have an old cross said to date from the 7th century; & we have the stonework of the ancient Shorey’s well, which used to supply Burnley with fresh water before the advent of pipes & stuff.  There is also the dedicated empty space where once sat two cannons taken from Sevastapol during the Crimean War, which had been brought to Burnley by General Scarlett. The guns had been taken to Portsmouth to be smelted down during the First World War, but the iron was found to be unusable & the cannons were unceremoniously dumped in the Solent!

Shorey’s Well in its original form
Shorey’s Well in its original form

The holy cross is said to have been erected in Burnley by Paulinus, a seventh century Bishop of York who died in 644. This timeframe also fits in with Saint Etheldreda, from which the devoluted ‘Shorey’ may be extracted. The process runs as follows; from an original of Æthelthryth or Æþelðryþe, by medieval times the name had become ‘Audrey.’ As Saint Audrey, the latter degenerated even further into the ‘Shorey’ of Shorey’s Well. In the search for more evidence, I have discovered that vestiges of both Saint Etheldreda & the Paulinus crosses can be found only a couple of miles from each other, just to the west & north of Pendle’s heathy mass.

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The abbey at Whalley, a ten mile walk around the flanks of Pendle from my house, claims to have been founded at the Augustinian advent (596), making it one of the oldest Christian centers in Britain. My journey there took me along Accrington Road (I’m an Accy roader at heart), along to the canal at Gannow (where I learnt how to swim) & on to Rosegrove. From here I pass’d down into sleepy Lowerhouse along the old railway line – now a greenway – into Padiham. You might not realise it – in fact nobody has actually – but that busy little paragraph contains the names of two members of the 7th century Anglo-Saxon aristocracy. Accrington, known as Akarinton in 1194, would be named after Acca – the mother of King Oswald. This fellow’s name can even be found right next door to Accrington, in the village of Oswaldtwistle.

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Leaving Padiham, I dropped down into the village of Altham, where we can definitely place Saint Etheldreda. In her vita we are told how she married a northerner (Ecgfrith), but would not consummate the marriage & fled the lecherous clutches of that randy king. On her journey south to the family home in East Anglia, she founded a monastery on an ‘island’ which Goscelin of Saint-Bertin says was, ‘surrounded by fen called Alftham.’ This gives us a direct match for Alvetham/Elvetham, the earliest recorded name for Altham, whose territory is indeed fenlike – a flat & marshy swathe of the Calder Valley. On my walk to Whalley I made an attempt at investigating the river at Altham, but was unceremoniously threatened off the land by a farmer-bully on a quad, who was being followed by about fifty sheep – quite a comical scene & the banter was great;

  ‘I’m a historian,’
   ‘I’ll give you history!’
         ‘I’ve got right of way.’
           ‘I’ll give you right of way,’

…& so it continued, in that deep, rustic accent that has lingered for centuries in the shadowy valleys between Burnley & Blackburn.

All this brings us to another of the other names for the Brunanburh; for the Annals of Clonmacnoise state the battle being fought on the ‘Plains of Othlyn.’ The core phonetic of this name is to be found in the person of Saint Etheldreda, whose vita tells us that after leaving Altham she headed for Bradford in Yorkshire, where en route, ‘there came a time when she was walking in the burning heat of the Sun, and exceedingly weary as the result of her unaccustomed exertion, she could scarcely stand. She therefore sought intently a shady, pleasant place, so that they might cool their bosoms, drenched as they were with sweat, and reinvigorate their weary limbs with a new strength. And her prayer was not unavailing: no, its swift effectiveness yielded the desired result, and, as she continued on her way at a slow pace, it was arranged by God’s grace that she happened upon a place nearby, suitable as a stopping place for travelers, a remarkably flat meadow – you would have thought it had been levelled deliberately – sprinkled all about with flowers of various colours. She made for the longed-for place, saw it be agreeable, was delighted that it was possible to stop there, to breathe in with pleasure wonderful, flower-scented draughts of air. The saintly traveler, delighted by the pleasantness of the place, desired to stop there for a little while, refresh herself for a little while, so that, once the strength of her weary limbs was restored, she might complete the remainder of her journey. Then she settled herself down and fell asleep. And there she slept for a while in the place where tiredness had compelled her to sleep.

When, after a little while, she woke up from her sleep & rose to her feet, she found that her travelling-staff, the end of which she had driven into the ground, dry & long-seasoned, was now clothed with green bark, and had sprouted and put forth leaves. Seeing this, she was stupefied with amazement and, along with her companions, she praised god and blessed him for this most extraordinary happening from her innermost heart.

This miracle provides us with the philological root to Othlyn. Most modern scholars, when analyzing the etymology of Othlyn, plump for something like the pool (Gealic=lynn) of Otha. Nobody, I believe, has looked at another possibility; that Othlyn means the ash tree (Celtic=ynn) of Othl. A Celtic name is totally viable for the miracle of Etheldreda, for in the first half of the 7th century the Burnley area would have remained overwhelmingly Brythonic. The heart of Burnley rests in a valley, parts of which are indeed plain-like, the ‘remarkably flat meadow’ of Etheldreda’s vita which stretch from Towneley to the River Brun. By standing on the canal viaduct above the town centre, one reaches the perfect vistapoint to understand just how flat the Burnley plain really is,  the Brunefeld‘ of William of Malmesbury’s The town centre itself would have been the main battlefield fought about an ancient ford of the River Brun as remembered by John of Fordun’s ‘Brunford.’ This explains why the battle site has not been properly identified by the discovery of artefacts, for they would be hiding under the thousands of tons of concrete which make up Burnley Town Centre. This notionsalso connects with the name of the battle as given by Hector Boece – Broningfeld, which translates as the ‘open field/plain’ (feld) of the ‘people’ (ing) of either the Bron, or a person called Bron.

My finished back yard
My finished back yard

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Brune

I am currently investigating something remarkable that has grown out of my recent investigations into the site of Brunanburh. I recently received an email from a keen-minded, but much-maligned New Zealand online historian called Sean Bambrough. On scanning its contents I came across the following sentence;

Could ‘this place called Brune,’ in chapter 10 of Geoffrey of Monmouth be your Burnley?

 Could it indeed? I’d never seen the reference before, thinking the Annales Cambrae use of the word Brune was the only example of that variant name. It was time to get my hands dirty again, & finding the relevant passage in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s ‘History of the Kings of Britain’, I found that the name ‘Brune’ was attached to a 7th century battlefield where was slain a Northumbrian king called Oswald. On discovering that variant editions of Monmouth’s history, such as the Harlech, had the name Burne, I’m like, this really does feel like I’m seeing Brunley/Burnley. Oswald died in about the year 642, slain by King Penda of Mercia at a place also called Maserfelth;

Oswald was killed in a great battle, by the same Pagan nation and Pagan king of the Mercians who had slain his predecessor, Edwin, at a place called in the English tongue, Maserfelth, in the thirty-eighth year of his age, on the fifth day of the month of August. Bede

During my Brunanburh dig, I’d shown how the Burnley area was some kind of border zone prone to Dark Age warfare, such as the battle of Winfeld at Barrowford. Was it possible that Maserfield was also fought in this area? I was aware of the name Marsden from the Nelson area, the town just to the north of Burnley into whose streets the terraces of Pendle City seamlessly blend. I also knew that where ‘den’ means ‘narrow valley,’ felth means ‘open space,’ rendering it possible that there once was a Maserfield, or ‘Marsfield’ connected to Maserden, or ‘Marsden.’

It is now time for a spot of name-juggling, through which we can ascertain how Maserfield was indeed fought in a field next to Marsden. Looking into ‘A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6 (1911)’ we find the following early names for Marsden:

Merkesden (1195)
Merclesden, Merkelstene (1242);
Merclisden (1258)

St Osawkd
St Oswald

These can be easily matched to variant  names given to the battle of Maserfield, such as John of Brompton’s Maxelfeld (15th C), or better still  the Marcelde’s Field found inscribed on an ancient well that had been dedicated to Saint Oswald. The well is situated in SW Lancashire, of whose inscription Mr. Baines says;

Little more than half a mile to the north, on the road to Golborne and Wigan, is an ancient well, which has been known from time immemorial by the name of ‘St. Oswald’s Well.’” This well is still in existence, and a certain veneration at the present time hovers about it in the minds of others than the superstitious peasantry. On the upper portion of the south wall of the church is an inscription in Latin… Mr. Beamont gives the translation of the inscription as follows: This place of yore did Oswald greatly love, Northumbria’s King, but now a saint above, Who in Marcelde’s field did fighting fall, Hear us, oh blest one, when here to thee we call… The inscription does not, as some have assumed, state the church is built in, on, or near Marcelde. It merely asserts that Oswald died at a place so named.

The actual site of Maserfield is to be found at Whitefield in Nelson, a place whose name connects to an account of the battle given by Henry of Huntingdon, who relates; “it is said the plain of Maserfeld was white with the bones of the Saints.” We can also connect the area with the Welsh name for the battle, as in the Canu Heledd’s ‘on the ground of Maes Cogwy, I saw armies, battle affliction,’ & the Historia Brittonum’s, ‘Battle of Cocboy.’ About a mile from Marsden, in the direction of Burnley, one comes to a valley called ‘Cockden,’ whose first semantic element matches superbly both ‘Cog’ & ‘Coc.’ More evidence comes from Oswaldtwistle, a pleasant Lancashire village only a few miles to the east of Nelson, near Accrington. According to Halliwell’s dictionary, the word ‘twistle’ means, ‘that part of a tree where branches divide.’ This invokes he grisly demise of Oswald, who according to Bede had his limbs & head torn from his torso, & placed on stakes – i.e. those ‘branches’ which were brutally divided from his body.

With the name Brune being attached to 7th century Anglo-Saxon doings, the possibility is raised that the area contains the ‘Urbs Broninis’ mentioned in the vita of Saint Wilfrid as his place of imprisonment by a ‘praefectum‘ called Osfrith. The vita places Broninis & its prison in a royal borough, which of course means that Broninis & its Burh becomes Broninisburgh, & then by the 10th century, Brunanburh! We have already seen how Acca & Oswald, two seventh century members of the Angle aristrocracy, are remembered in the area. To these we may add Penda – Pendle Hill – & his two sons, one of whom, Wulfhere, is remembered via the Walverden Water that flows thro Nelson & by the north of Burnley. Penda’s other son, Peada, would have then given his name to Padiham. Indeed, Henry Taylor writes that in Padiham, ‘Baines states that a cross, strongly resembling those found in Whalley churchyard, was discovered here.’ That the area was a royal estate is reflected by the ‘Forest of Pendle’ one of the several royal forests of the area which was, by the Middle Ages, under the control of Clitheroe Castle, or Honour of Clitheroe. These forests – Trawden, Pendle & Rossendale, were described as one entity in the Domesday Book of 1986, & the fact that there is anciently a Wolfenden Booth in the Rossendale section again suggests an origin driven by the 7th century Angle monarchy.

Place-names in the area, such as Trawden & Marsden, are clearly Teutonic. Jane Sterling writes of the English entry into Lancashire; ‘towards the end of the sixth century Angle tribes penetrated into Lancashire, & successive waves of them made extensive settlement in the river valleys and on the coastal plain. The extent of this penetration into Lancashire cab be assessed by the number of Lancashire place names which have their origins in early Angle settlements which have survive din such names as Pilling, Melling, Staining & Billinge. Ingas means tribe or family, & it is usually associated with a chieftan’s name. Melling, for example, means the sons, or the tribe of, Moll or Malla. These ‘ingas’ settlements in Lancashire represented the oldest of the places where the ‘English’ built their villages of thatch’d timber frame huts & surrounded them with a ditch or stockade… The second wave of Angle settlement is represented by places whose names originally ended in ‘ingaham.’ This has in many cases been contracted to ‘ingham’ or simply ‘ham.”

Earl’s Ness

More evidence for the Burnley Brunanburh can be found in Egil’s Saga, where a cowardly flight from the field of Athelstan’s ally, Earl Alfgeir, gives us a vital geographical clue; ‘then he rode to the south country, and of his travel ’tis to be told that he rode a night and a day till he came westwards to Earls-ness. Then the earl got a ship to take him southwards over the sea.’ In 937, the Burnley area was part of Northumbria, but lay only thirty or so miles north of the Mercian border, which stretched between the Mersey & the Humber estuaries. Just beyond that demarcation line lay an Anglo-Saxon people known as the Southumbrians, a record of whom is found in the Chronicle, when in 702 King Kenred ‘assumed the government of the Southumbrians.’ Thus, when Alfgeir crossed the Mersey he would have entered Southumbria, the ‘South Country’ through which he would travel westwards to a certain ‘Earls Ness.’

A full night & days riding (24 hours) through the thick Lancashire forests of a thousand years ago, would have equated to somewhere between 50 & a 100 miles. This means we are looking for a sea-port called Earls Ness to the south of the Mersey & somewhere to the west of Burnley. The only other record of an Earl’s Ness in these parts of Britain is a ‘Jarlsness’ mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga. This epic & romantic tale of Viking adventure describes how a 12th century seafarer called Sveinn sailed from the Isle of Man so he could harry Wales. After this he launched a deadly Viking attack upon the unsuspecting settlement of Jarlsness;

Then Swein and Holdbodi went out on an expedition with five ships. They plundered in Bretland (Wales), landing at a place called Jarlsness and committing great ravages. One morning they went into a certain village, and met with a little resistance. The inhabitants fled from the village, and Swein and his men plundered everything, and burnt six homesteads before dinner

Between the Isle of Man & northern Wales lies the Wirral, a narrow peninsular of land which divides the rivers Dee & Mersey. It should be no surprise to discover that there once was a Viking sea-port called Ness on the south Wirral coast. Today, if we were to drive along the M65, M6 & M56, the journey between Burnley & Ness would be about 80 miles – a healthy fit for the night & day ride of Alfgeir. The coastline has changed over the past thousand years & the sea-ports have been silted into still silence, but the port of Ness once served a small pocket of Viking townships permitted to settle on the Wirral by Queen Aethelflead in the early 900s. Surely this is the Earls’ Ness we are looking for!

Walton-le-Dale

My investigations into the Brunanburh battle are slowly coming to a close, & I am preparing to leave my house in Healey Wood. In my last post I showed how the Confederate army dissolved into a panicky rabble & fled the battlefield.

The West-Saxons pushed onward
All day; in troops they pursued the hostile people.
They hewed the fugitive grievously from behind ASC

There the North-men’s chief was put
To flight, by need constrained
To the prow of a ship with little company:
He pressed the ship afloat, the king went out
On fealene flot, he saved his life ASC

Where the ASC says ‘all the day the West Saxons pressed on the loathed bands,’ we can assume that the battle was fought within a day’s retreat of a seacoast or river estuary. Egil’s Saga provides a little extra gloss, saying the ships were ‘far’ from the field. It would be safe to say that the battlefield would be somewhere between 15 & perhaps as many as 40 miles away from a navigable site in which Viking longships could wait. A location may be divined by analyzing the actual words used in the ASC – ‘feallan’ & ‘flot’ – which according to Boswoth & Toller’s Anglo-Saxon Dictionary translate as:

Feallan: Of shingle

Flot: Water deep enough for sustaining a ship

Shingle @ Walton
Shingle @ Walton

If one was to flee the Burnley battlefield, the first navigable, shingly place for ships to wait would have been at Walton-le-Dale, just south of Preston, at an ancient ford of the River Ribble. I visited the site on my way to Scotland from Burnley the other day, buying a £6 day ticket which allowed me to hop on & off the bus. It was bitterly cold, but dry, & my first stop was for a brief look at Houghton Tower, a little private pilgrimage to one of the chief sites regarding my Shakespearean studies. Next up was the ford at Walton-le-Dale, situated at a lovely bend of the Ribble, just after the confluence of the River Darwen. The ford is long gone, having been superseded by a massive bridge, but I got off the bus anyway, where in the process of taking some photos found myself in the breeding ground of some Ribble Geese. Noticing my presence, like a bunch of angry North End they fans flew at me Luftwaffe-style from the other side of the Ribble: it was only a couple of well-aimed stones & a quick dash up bank that procured me my safety.

Nazi Geese
Nazi Geese
Walton-le-Dale… the Cuerdale Hoard was found on the second bend going east
Walton-le-Dale… the Cuerdale Hoard was found on the second bend going east

Close to the old ford, at Cuerdale, a great hoard of Viking silver was found in the 19th century. Dated to roundabout the time of the Battle of Brunanburh, was the Cuerdale hoard deposited by Analf during his flight from Brunanburh? Placing him at the mouth of the River Ribble means his main fleet would have been on the other side of the country, at the Humber estuary. Did Analf, or one his men, in the mad rush for safety, bury treasure while searching for a boat? Let us for a moment imagine Analf burying the hoard in the fading twilight; but returning to the locality at some point in the future, was unable to find the spot where he had deposited his riches. This would lead to an antique local tradition, which long before the Curedale was ever found, that if one were to stand upon the hill at Walton-le-Dale, looking up river the towards Ribchester, one’s gaze would pass over the greatest treasure in the whole of Christendom.

Dingesmere

After ascertaining that the Ribble was the likely launching point for Analf’s flight from the British mainland, it helped me to understand better a passage in the ASC, whose contents have caused a great deal of academic debate in recent years;

Departed then the Northmen in nailed ships.
The dejected survivors of the battle,
On Dingesmere, sought Dublin over the deep water,
To return to Ireland, ashamed in spirit.

map_irish_sea

 

Paul Cavill confirms that the ‘mere’ element in Dingesmere means ‘sea’ when he writes, ‘in verse, both as a simplex and as the first element of many compounds, it means ‘the sea, the ocean.’ As for the ‘Dinges’ part, a 2004 paper entitled ‘Revisiting Dingesmere’ puts the case forward for it stemming from the Viking ‘Ting’ at Thingwall on the Wirral. Tings were meeting places where citizens could come together, air their grievances & network for trade. Cue near-hysterical claims by the Wirral Set that they had found Dingesmere – connecting it to the marshes of south Wirral. Their only real supporting evidence was found on a map of 1611, which called Bromborough, ‘Brunburh.’ It is a valid suggestion, for the name Dingwall in Scotland is also based on a Viking Ting, yet Bromborough could never have been Brunanburh, it is only a stone’s throw from Earl’s Ness for starters, & since its inception in 2005, the Wirral theory has faded from academic inquiry;

The thing about the ‘Thing,’ is that topographically it just does not fit the idea of a battle being fought on the Wirral.  There are no rivers, tumuli, eminent hills or anything that even suggest a battle Kevin Halloran

 If the 60,000 invaders had been hemmed into the peninsular of Wirral, with a neck only 7 miles across, they would have had no chance against Athelstan… is only 10 minutes’ walk to the Mersey. That is not a ‘long pursuit John Henry Cockburn

Apparently a bunch of Bromborough enthusiasts traveled from there to Thingwall and the journey took them from 11 am until 4:30 pm. Therefore proving that a “day long pursuit” was possible. This was utterly unbelievable as the distance is approximately 5-7 miles and there is no way that the journey could have taken so long. They must have been crawling along and obviously forgot that Anlaf’s forces were running for their lives with the west Saxons in pursuit. Matthew Wall

bromborough

The Wirral is a fairly flat place, not reminiscent at all to Henry Of Huntingdon’s, ‘The hills resounded / There many men born in Denmark lay / Pierced by spears, stabbed under their shields.’  We must also consider the IMP (Inherent Military Probability) of a battle being fought in the Wirral cul-de-sac, coupled with a complete lack of anything in the locality matching evidence as given by the sources, suggests that the Wirral ‘Ting’ was not intended when Egil wrote ‘Dingesmere.’ There was, however, another Ting on the Isle of Man, which still meets today as the Tynvald. Founded in the early 10th century – i.e. the Brunanburh period – its position at the centre of the Irish Sea makes it a far likelier candidate for Dingesmere’s ‘Thing.’ The Isle of Man was an important Viking capital, & sits neatly between the sister kingdoms of Jorvik (York) & Ireland (Dublin). The name ‘Dingesmere’ should then really be attached to the circular portion of the Irish Sea epicentred by the Isle of Man.

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The return of Analf to Dublin brings us to the end of my survey into the battle of Brunanburh. It really does feel like a case of fitting square pegs into square holes, there seems no flaws in the theory anywhere, which was been built up by combining the large number of place-names as provided by the Brunanburh sources. It really was quite startling just how much of the Burnley landscape had been imprinted into the Brunanburh battle. I believe the battle should be considered a fundamental part of the town’s folklore alongside the legends of Pendle Witches & the ongoing saga of Burnley Football Club, poems of which you may buy in my book, The Burnliad

It is during the writing of my Brunanburh essay in particular, I have been often startled by the latent powers of words, when even the smallest & most innocuous of place-names can be an eternal storehouses of so much history. To the residents of Burnley & the rest of Pendle City I say; take a walk in the countryside, note the names of the cloughs & the hills, & let us weave a secret history, drawn from the phonetical landscape. While studying the case, I came across a similar sentiment in SW Partington’s ‘Danes in Lancashire.’

An eloquent modern writer has declared, with a good reason, that even if all other records had perished, “anyone with skill to analyse the language, might re-create for himself the history of the people speaking that language, and might come to appreciate the divers elements out of which that people was composed, in what proportion they were mingled, and in what succession they followed one upon the other.” From a careful analysis of the names of the more prominent features of the land; of its divisions, its towns and villages, and even its streets, as well as the nomenclature of its legal, civil, and political institutions, its implements of agriculture, its weapons of war, and its articles of food and clothing, — all these will yield a vast fund of history.’

Healey Wood
Healey Wood

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arkell, WJ : Place-Names and Topography in the Upper Thames Country (1942)
Bamburgh, Sean: private correspondence (2015)
Bede : Ecclisiastical History of the English People (731 AD)
Bennet, William : Excavations at Everage Clough – Transactions of the Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarians (1952-53)
Campbell, Alistair : Brunanburh (1938)
Cavill, P : The Place-Name Debate, The Battle of Brunanburh, a Casebook (2011)
Clayton, John : Admergill (2009)
Cockburn, John Henry : The Battle of Brunanburh & its period (1931)De Gray Birch, Walter (Cartularium Saxonicum) 1893

Foot, Sarah : Athelstan, the First King of England (2012)
Gelling, Margaret / Cole, Ann : The landscape of placenames (2000)
Graham-Campbell, James : Viking treasure from the North West – The Cuerdale horde in its context (1992)
Halloran, Kevin : The Identity of Etbrunnanwerc, Scottish Historical Review Oct (2010)
Hollander, LM : The Battle on the Vin-Heath and the Battle of the Huns, Journal of English and Germanic Philology 32 (1933)
Marquis, JT : Brunanburh. Transactions of the LCAS v.26, (1909)
Niles, JD – Skaldic Technique in Brunanburh, Scandinavian Studies, Vol. 59, No. 3, Anglo-Scandínavían England (SUMMER 1987)
Partington, SW : Danes in Lancashire (1909)
Rauer, Christine: Beowulf and the Dragon: Parallels and Analogues (2000)
Reginald of Durham : The Life of St Oswald (1165)
Jorgensen, PA : Grendel, Grettir & Two Skaldic Stanzas: Scripta Islandica 24 (1973)
Scudder, Bernard : Egils saga, tr. (1977)
Sterling, Jane : Dark age and Norman Lancashire (1974)
Stonehouse, James : Roman Remains Near Burnley (a letter to The Preston Guardian, August 15th 1863)
Sturluson, Snori : Egil’s Saga, tr. Christine Fell (1975)
Taylor, Henry : The Ancient Crosses & Holy Wells of Lancashire (1906)
Tudsbery, FWT : Brunanburh AD937 (1907)
Wall, Matthew – Private correspondence
Watkin, WT : Roman Lancashire (1883)
Whitelock, Dorothy : English Historical Documents, (1955)
Whittaker, TD : History of the Original Parish of Whalley and Honour of Clitheroe, in the Counties of Lancaster and York, v2 (1801)
Widdup, John : Annals & Stories of Barrowford (1929)
Wilkinson, TT : On the battle of Brunanburh; and the probable locality of the conflict. Historic Society of Lancashire & Cheshire (1856-57)
Wilson, DM – The Viking Age in the Isle of Man (1974)

 

 

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Next Wednesday, 07/03/18

Chapter 7:  The Young Shakespeare

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CHISPOLOGY

Chapter 1: The Exodus
Chapter 2: The Aryan Invasion
Chapter 3: The Mahabharata
Chapter 4: Agastya
Chapter 5: The Picts
Chapter 6: Brunanburh
Chapter 7: The Young Shakespeare
Chapter 8: Shakespeare’s Blossom
Chapter 9: The Badon Babel Tree
Chapter 10: The Saxon Advent

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THE CHISPER EFFECT

chisper_effectChapter 1: Chispology 
Chapter 2: Princess Scota
Chapter 3: The Ithica Frage
Chapter 4: The Jesus Jigsaw
Chapter 5: Asvaghosha
Chapter 6: Dux Bellorum
Chapter 7: Dux Pictorum
Chapter 8: The Holy Grail
Chapter 9: The Mandylion
Chapter 10: Shakespeare’s Grand Tour
Chapter 11: The Dark Lady
Chapter 12: The Ripper Gang

Chispology 5 : The Picts

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Continuing the serialization of

Damian Beeson Bullen’s

CHISPOLOGY

In which a few more of the world’s greatest mysteries… are finally solved

Available to buy in book form

Autumn 2018

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Over the weekend I watched the extremely compulsive story-viewing that is Netflix’s version of the Unabomber case. As I sat enthralled, I began to experience & identify a great collection of cop-confusing chispers, & also the birth of ‘Forensic Linguistics’ which Chispology makes use of. The greatest of the chispers was the way a woman changed her description of the Unabomber over a period of six years. The first version was accurate, but the second description was actually of the original police sketch artist. The show also explained how the expression ‘have you cake & eat it too’ was actually a modern flippage; the Third Earl of Shaftesbury in 1711 writes, ‘as ridiculous as the way of children, who eat their cake, and afterwards cry for it. They shou’d be told, as children, that they can’t eat their cake, and have it.’ What has all this got to do with the Picts? Very little, but just as the Unabomber was caught by the guy who invented & named Forensic Linguistics, & utilised the brand-new concept of ‘idiolect,’ so hope I to solve certain historical mysteries that have proven as elusive as did the identity of the Unabomber.

Chispology traces the changing phases of fact and phrase from origin to reception, a proper study of which may assume into existence knowledge thought lost forever. One must ask why is the information different, where are the points of diversion, and what happened to the separated strands in the meantime. For this week’s mission we shall move back to my preferred territory, the legends of Dark Age Britain. For over seven years now I have continuously unearthed, analyzed & assembled a number of new clues & thought-strands that shine a series of illuminative candles upon the Matter of Britain. These tales sprung from a period in history when a fermenting Britain would slowly crystallize into the three kingdoms of England, Scotland & Wales. The story is a bloody one, soaking the soil a deep crimson from Cornwall to the Orkneys, as these kingdoms were fought for, & died for, on a series of battlefields thought lost forever. Researching the Matter of Britain has been something of a jigsaw puzzle – all the pieces were there, it was just a case of finding them in the depths of unread manuscripts, analyzing their value, & then assembling them to paint a cohesive picture. Many historians have given these pieces colour, from scanty historical hints found in Dark Age hagiographies, to the vague, uncertain chronicles of the Middle Ages; from medieval Icelandic sagas, to the epic efforts of the 19th century mega-scholar, William Skene. At another most erudite time, up in the National Library of Scotland, I was helped by a charming Classics expert, Dr Ulrike Hogg, who helped me to translate a thorny piece of medieval Latin.

The concentric Herulian shield symbol & the lightning sowilaz rune
The concentric Herulian shield symbol & the lightning sowilaz rune

The British Dark ages begins with the arrival on the islands of the Picts, the first truly documented tribe of Britain. Despite the Celts first coming to Britain c.500 BC, just their grass-topped Iron Age forts & a handful of archeological relics are all we really have to construct their past. The Picts, however, despite being a most mysterious entity, at least left some trails in the historical record. Most of these are in the form of monumental stones scattered across ‘Pictavia,’ full of mysterious symbols. I did propose the Herulian & the Sowilaz symbols being present in the Chisper Effect, but these are two among many, & as yet the rest are undecipher’d. A little more information on the Picts can be discovered here & there. Nennius recorded c.830 AD that the Picts, ‘occupied the Orkney Islands; whence they laid waste many regions, and seized those on the left hand side of Britain, where they still remain, keeping possession of a third part of Britain to this day.’ In the 7th century English historian, venerable Bede, gives us more detail of their first coming to the island;

When the Britons, beginning at the south, had got possession of the greatest part of the island, it happened that the nation of the Picts from Scythia, as is reported, putting to sea in a few long ships, were driven about by the blowing of the winds, and arrived in Ireland, beyond all the confines of Britain, and put in on the northern coasts thereof, where, finding the nation of the Scots, they asked, for themselves, also, a settlement in those parts, but could not obtain it… The Scots answered that the island could not contain them both. “But we can,” said they, “Give you wholesome advice, what you may do. We know there is another island, not far from ours, to the eastward, which we often see at a distance, on clear days. If you will go thither, you can settle there, or, if any should oppose you, you shall have our assistance.”

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Several antique histories point to the Pictish homeland originally being Scythia, such as the Pictish Chronicles; ‘the Scythian people are born with white hair due to the continuous snow; and the colour of that same hair gives a name to the people, and hence they are called Albani: from them the Scots and Picts trace their origin. In their eyes, there is a bright, that is coloured, pupil, to such an extent that they can see better at night than by day. Moreover the Albani were neighbours to the Amazons.’ The territories of ancient Scythia correspond roughly to the vast area of south central Russia; from the Ukraine to Kazakhstan & creeping into the steppes of northern Iran. Despite the distance between ancient Scythia & the mountain fastnesses of northern dark age Britain, both cultures are bound by vivid, animal-based art. Some of these symbolic depictions were imprinted in the form of tattoos, a practice given to the Picts by several classical authors, including;

Most of the regions of  {northern} Britain are marshy, since they are flooded continually by the tides of the ocean; the barbarians are accustomed to swimming or wading through these waist-deep marsh pools; since they go about naked, they are unconcerned about muddying their bodies. Strangers to clothing, they wear ornaments of iron at their waists and throats; considering iron a symbol of wealth, they value this metal as other barbarians value gold. They tattoo their bodies with colored designs and drawings of all kinds of animals; for this reason they do not wear clothes, which would conceal the decorations on their bodies. Extremely savage and warlike, they are armed only with a spear and a narrow shield, plus a sword that hangs suspended by a belt from their otherwise naked bodies. They do not use breastplates or helmets, considering them encumbrances in crossing the marshes.  Herodian of Antioch

Barbarians, who from childhood have different pictures of animals skillfully implanted on their bodies, so that as the man grows, so grow the marks painted on him; there is nothing more that they consider as a test of patience than to have their limbs soak up the maximum amount of dye through these permanent scars Solinus

Similar body-tattoos were found on the frozen bodies (including the penis) of both a Scythian chieftan & a twenty-five year old warrior-priestess, discovered in the same region of Siberia. It seems no coincidence that the chieftan still retained a bright red mop of hair, a Pictish trait still retained in 13 percent of Scotland’s population, as compared to only two percent of the world’s population.

The Scythian Chieftan found in 1948
The Scythian Chieftain found in 1948

Common culturalities include the warrior equestrian culture, with T.G.E. Powell noting that Pictish, ‘horse-gear is an elaboration of their predecessors from the east.’  Other links include a sea-goddess image at Meigle in Perthshire which matches Scythian goldwork found in the Ukraine; & a stone figure discovered on Boa, an island in Northern Ireland, is nigh-identical to a Scythian Kurgan Stele from Kyrgyzstan. It should also only take a cursory glance at the Pictish Beast symbol to see it is a match for the Scythian Ibex.

Scythian Ibex
Scythian Ibex
Pictish Beast
Pictish Beast

The Pictish arrival in Britain may be connected to an invasion by the Persian Achaemenid empire of Cyrus the Great of a territory known in antiquity as ‘Albania,’ c.550 B.C. Known to modern historians as Caucasian Albania, its lands correspond to present-day Azerbaijan, on the western shores of the Caspian Sea. After the Persian conquest, King Cyrus began to impose the new religion of Zoroatrianism upon the natives. This combination of foreign rulers & alien faith may have been the driving force behind certain Scythians abandoning their homes & setting off west in search of new territories where their physical & spiritual liberty would not be compromised. Both Walter Bower & Geoffrey of Monmouth place the Picts in Aquitaine/Basque country just before they came to Britain, a region that is linguistically connected to Caucasian Albania by John D Bengston, who states; ‘apart from certain extinct languages, notably Aquitanian, Basque is most closely related to the (North) Caucasic family,’ & gives us several tallies between words;

Basque                                    Dargi
Sasi (thorn)                            Zanzi (prickly)
Be-llar-I (ear)                         Lihi-lahi (ear)
Ondi-iin (misfortune)        Avar-unti (sickness/defect)
Behi (cow)                              Boc’I (cattle)

It is also interesting how the name of the legendary founder of the Caucasian Albanians, said to be Prince Arran by the 10th century Armenian historian Moses Kaghankatvatsi, can be found in the Aran islands off the western coast of Ireland, & the Scottish Isle of Arran, where many Pictish symbols have been found.

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Also surviving the rigors of time enough to illuminate our investigations are several versions of what is known as ‘The Pictish King List,’ which I utilised quite heavily in my Arthurian investigations. In them may be found the origin story of the Picts in Britain. Of these, version D relates that they, ‘came from the land of Thracia; that is, they are the children of Gleoin, son of Ercol. Agathirsi was their name. Six brothers of them came at first, viz, Solen, Ulfa, Nechtan, Drostan, Aengus, Leithenn.’ Further gloss can be found in William Skene who relates how the earliest Picts established themselves first on the Orkney Isles, before moving into the northern portions of the mainland.

The children of Gleoin, son of Ercol, took possession of the islands of Orcc, that is, Historend, son of Historrim, son of Agam, son of Agathirsi, and were dispersed again from the islands of Orcc; that is, Cruthne, son of Cinge, son of Luctai, son of Parthai, son of Historech, went and took possession of the north of the island of Britain, and his seven sons divided the land into seven divisions; and Onbecan, son of Caith, son of Cruthne, too the sovereignty of the seven divisions.

There is one name of great import regarding our investigation – Agathirsi. These, ‘painted Agathyrsians,’ as described by Virgil, were given more detail in the 380s by Ammianus-Marcellinus as the, ‘Agathyrsi, who dye both their bodies and their hair of a blue colour, the lower classes using spots few in number and small – the nobles broad spots, close and thick, and of a deeper hue.’ That the Agathyrsian nobility possessed more tattoos is mirrored by the Picts, whose non-native name was, according to Isidore of Seville, ‘taken from their bodies, because an artisan, with the tiny point of a pin and the juice squeezed from a native plant, tricks them out with scars to serve as identifying marks, and their nobility are distinguished by their tattooed limbs.’ The Agathirsi also appear in the writings of Scotland’s 16th century writer, Hektor Boece’s ‘History & Chronickles of Scotland;’

Nocht lang efter, a banist pepill, namit Pichtis, come furth of Denmark, to serche ane dwelling place; and, efter that thay war inhibit to land baith in France, Britane, and Ireland, thay landit in Albion. Sum authouris sayis, thay come first in Orknay; and, sone  efter, in Cathues, Ros, Murray, Mernis, Angus, Fiffe, and Louthiane: and expellit all the pepill, that inhabit that region afore thair  cuming. Thir pepill war callit Pichtis, outhir for thair semely personis, or ellis for the variant colour of thair clething; or ellis thay war namit Pichtis, fra the Pichtis namit Agathirsanis, thair anciant faderis. In probation heirof, Orknay wes calht the auld realme of  Pichtis. Siclike, thee seeis betwix Cathnes and Orknay war namit Pentland Firth ; and all the landis, quhilkis ar now callit Louthiane, war callit than Pentland.

To summarise the medieval Scots, Boece’s research states that the Picts named their ‘anciant faderis’ as ‘Agathirsanis,’ they were Danish in origin (as opposed to Scythian) & they settled all along Eastern Scotland, from Orkney to as far south as Lothian. It is in Boece’s ‘Agathirsanis’ that we see a name anciently recorded as ‘Agathyrsi,’ by Herodotus. A tribe of mixed Dacian-Scythian origin, Herodotus placed them in the plain of the Maris (Mures), in Romanian Transylvania; ‘from the country of the Agathyrsoi comes down another river, the Maris, which empties itself into the same.’ Herodotus then describes the Agathyrsi as being quite a sexually liberated bunch;

The most luxurious of men and wear gold ornaments for the most part: also they have promiscuous intercourse with their women, in order that they may be brethren to one another and being all nearly related may not feel envy or malice one against another. In their other customs they have come to resemble the Thracians

As we have seen earlier, the Thracian element was presented in the King List, which stated the Picts, ‘came from the land of Thracia… Agathirsi was their name.’ Herodotus also pontificates on a Pontic Greek myth which states that Agathyrsus was the eldest son of Herakles, & brother to a certain Skythes. Which of the possible men called Herakles in antiquity who fathered Agathyrsus is unknown as of yet, and the Chisper Effect could well be in place, but knowing that Herakles was a Hyksos king, we could suppose that his son, Agathirsi, led the Hyksos conquest of Thrace, c.1500 BC. By the time of Herodotus, this section of the Hyksos diaspora had moved north to Transylvania, near which place Herakles is said to have bathed in the spa at Bailey Herculene. The ‘thyrsus’ element of the name is also interesting, for its connects indirectly to Strabo’s ‘Idanthyrsus the Scythian overran Asia as far as Egypt.’ Agathyrsus & Idanthyrsus seem different men, but speak the same language, ie Scythian.

It may be relevant somewhere that Herakles, according to Pausanius, visited, ‘the land of the Hyperboreans, men living beyond the home of the North Wind,’ & that Tacitus has the Goths of Germania declaring, ‘Hercules, too, once visited them,‘ but we are veering too far from the point of this essay, which concerns the establishment of the Picts in northern Britain. A clue comes with Skythes, the brother of Agathirsi. This name transchispers into Sketis, an island in Ptolemy’s 2nd centry AD ‘Geography’ which appears roughly where the Shetland islands, or the Sketland islands, should be. This is properly calculable by analyzing Ptolemy’s clearly erroneous map of Scotland. Apart from the lands above the firths being tilted 90 degreees, what is also noticeable is that there are four island blocks off the north-east corner of Britain; Dumna, Sketis, the Orcades archipelago & Thule.

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2000px-OrkneyShetlandConstituency.svg

If we tip a map of Scotland 90 degrees on its axis to the east, then we can see how the position of the Orkneys & Shetlands correlate to Ptolemy’s Dumna & Sketis. This suggests that Ptolemy – who never really left the Meditterranean – used two separate travellers accounts for this part of the world, which became superimposed upon each other, creating the four island blocks. This means that the four islands are actually two, that Dumna & the Orcades are the Orkney Isles, & that Sketis & Thule are the Shetlands, & that Ptolemy had performed a rather interesting creochisp.

All very well, but an earnest chispologist will always strain to find support for each specific theory. Thus, in the very centre of the Orkney archipelago there is a small, flat islet called Damsay, whose name we might suggest had derived from Dumna. Further down the babel-chain we arrive at Domnu, the Celtic goddess of the Summer Solstice. She is described as the Mother of Water who absorbs and reflects the rays of the sun as it climbs towards it’s annual zenith. A place so far north as the Orkneys would be a perfect place to celebrate the unbroken sunlight of midsummer. This could explain the submerged constructions found at Damsay, which may have been involved in Domnu-worshi, as described by Caroline Wickham-Jones of Aberdeen University. Speaking to the BBC in 2009, she explained;

We have certainly got a lot of stonework. There are some quite interesting things. You can see voids or entrances… There’s this one feature that is like a stone table – you’ve got a large slab about a metre and a half long and it’s sitting up on four pillars or walls so the next thing we need to do is to get plans and more photographs to try and assess and look for patterns. The quality and condition of some of the stonework is remarkable. Nothing like this has ever been found on the seabed around the UK

That Ptolemy’s Thule was Shetland is supported by both Pliny & Strabo, who made note of a comment by the fourth century BC Greek geographer, Pytheas, that Thule was a six-day voyage north of Britain. In the terms of antiquitial voyaging this seems about right. In 54 BC, for example, it took Ceasar eighteen hours to sail from Boulogne to Dover. More evidence is quite decisively summarised by the sixteenth century historian, William Camden;

But if that of the learned Gaspar Peucerus, in his Book De Terræ Dimensione, be true, that Schetland is by the Seamen call’d Thilensell (and I know no reason to except against his testimony) Thule is undoubtedly discover’d, and the Controversie at an end… Schetland is the same with Thule, we may believeit lies between Scotland and Norway; where Saxo Grammaticus places Thule… And Tacitus says, that the Romans spy’d it afar off, as they sail’d by the Orcades in their voyage round Britain. Lastly, it faces the coast of Bergæ in Norway; and so lay Thule, according to Pomponius Mela

Moving to the settlement of the Picts in Scotland, William Camden gives us some information, recording that at, ‘the time of Reuther King of Scots,’ a battle was fought in which the death of a certain, ‘Gethus King of the Picts… constrain’d the Picts (who perceived themselves unable to resist) to fly, some by land and others by sea, to Orkney, where they abode for a time, and made Gothus, brother of the foresaid Gethus, their King. And after a few years, having left some of their number to people and plant the Countrey, they return’d to Louthian; and having expelled the Britons, settled themselves again in their ancient possessions.’ Here we see that the two main bases of the earliest Picts were the Orkneys & Lothian, the latter being only a philochisp away from Leithenn, one of the six Pictish brothers who first came to settle in Britain. To many, Lothian is named after a 6th century king called Loth who dwelt on Traprain Law, East Lothian. But what is more likely is that this King was named after the region, as in King X of ‘Leithenn.’ What is also fascinating is that in Big Geoff’s History of the Kings of Britain, King Loth was recognised as a king of both Lothian & the Orkneys.

Returning to William Camden’s account, he provides a passage in which the mainland across from the Orkneys – Caithness – seems named after either Gethus or Gothus;

Now Orkney, being a cluster of thirty Isles, separated from one another by little arms of the Sea: they are said in a certain old manuscript to be so call’d from Argat, that is (as it is there explain’d) Above the Getes: But I had rather interpret it, Above the Cat; for it lies over-against Cath, a Country of Scotland, which, from the promontory, is now called Catness; the Inhabitants whereof seem to be falsly called, in Ptolemy, Carini instead of Catini

Whatever ‘certain old manuscript‘ Camden was using, it definitely gave the Caithness region an original name of Getes, with the Orkneys being ‘above them.’ That the G & C are interchangeable can be seen in two historical notices of the Pictish kingdom of Cat. In the Pictish Chronicle, the seven kingdoms of the Picts are given as, ‘Fib, Fidach, Floclaid, Fortrenn, Got, Ce, Circinn,’ while the Irish translation of the Historia Brittonum  states their names are Cait, Ce, Cireach cetach cland, Fib, Fidach, Fotla, Foirtreand.’  What is most relevant here, however, is the phonetic similarity between Argat and Agathyrsi.

According to Scottish historiography, the Scottish king Reuther married the daughter of Gethus. His nephew, Cianus, was taken prisoner in the Orkneys during the Roman invasion of Britain, 43 AD. This means that Gethus lived about a generation earlier, around 10 AD. This date is slap-bang in the middle of a two century period of broch building in the Pictish north. Like stars a darkening night sky, these Pictish roundhouses began springing up across Caithness, the Orkneys & the Shetlands, in the very heartlands of Gethus & co. Among them, on the Shetlands, an island called Mousa is home to the greatest all the Scottish brochs, which has been dated to about 100 BC.

brochs_map

Combining literature & archeology, we can see that the earliest Pictish waves hit northern Britain in the century or two before Issa-Jesus. Before the name ‘Picti’ was attributed to this woad-painted peoples by later Roman writers, they were recorded as being ‘Caledonians,’ as in Ptolemy’s list of Scottish tribes;

Next to the Damnoni, but more toward the east near the Epidium promontory are the Epidi and next to these the Cerones; then the Carnonacae, and the Caereni but more toward the east; and in the extreme east dwell the Cornavi; from the Lemannonis bay as far as the Varar estuary are the Caledoni, and above these is the Caledonian forest, from which toward the east are the Decantae, and next to these the Lugi extending to the Cornavi boundary, and above the Lugi are the Smertae

A century on from Ptolemy, Cassius Dio notes that the Caledonians had become the chief tribe in northern Scotland; ‘there are two principal races of the Britons, the Caledonians and the Maeatae, and the names of the others have been merged in these two. The Maeatae live next to the cross-wall which cuts the island in half, and the Caledonians are beyond them.’ Confirmation that the Caledonians were considered to be Picts is first found in the anonymous Panegyric Latine, written c.314, which refers to, ‘the forests and marshes of the Caledonians and other Picts.’ Thus, in his Agricola, when Tacitus describes the, ‘red hair and large limbs of the inhabitants of Caledonia,’ we are given a good match for the red-headed Scythians such as the ‘Gelonusian Scythians,’ who Herodotus depicted as possessing deep blue eyes and bright red hair. There may also be a significant connection between CALE & GELO.

Instead of trying to subdue these half-naked, wild-eyed Caledonian warrior, the Romans erected two great walls across the breadth of Britain to keep them out of the empire. To this day the southern wall, named after Emperor Hadrian, more or less marks the start of Scotland. The northern version – the Antonine Wall – stretches between Edinburgh & Glasgow, & links the the two natural barriers that are the Firths of Forth & Clyde. In between these fortifications lie the Scottish lowlands, while beyond the Antonine Wall stretch the vast & empty Highlands as far as John o’ Groats. Over the ages, both regions developed a separate identity, but still proudly count themselves to be Scottish. It can be assumed that the very essence of modern Scotland was created in the wake of the Roman failure to conquer the Picts. The greatest manifestation of their defiance of Rome came at the Battle of Mons Graupius, 83AD. It was fought several years after the great Roman general Agricola launched his epic attempt to finally subdue the north of Britain. His opponent was Calgacus, who actually appears as the properly dated Gilgidi in the Pictish King Lists, between Brude Urmund & Tharain. In order to challenge the march of Rome, Calgacus unified all the Caledonian tribes into one power bloc, to whose warriors he gave a speech on the eve of battle that would have inspired such mighty leaders as Robert the Bruce & William Wallace. It is recorded in the only literary record of the battle contained in the ‘Agricola,’ with Agricola being the general at Mons Graupius & Tacitus his flattering son-in-law. Calgacus speaks;

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When I consider the motives we have for fighting and the critical position we are in, I have a strong feeling that the united front you are showing today will mean the dawn of liberty for the whole of Britain. You have mustered to a man, and all of you are free. There are no lands behind us, and even on the sea we are menaced by the Roman fleet. The clash of battle – the hero’s glory – has now actually become the safest refuge for a coward. Battles against Rome have been lost and won before; but hope was never abandoned, since we were always here in reserve. We, the choicest flower of Britain’s manhood, were hidden away in her most secret places. Out of sight of subject shores, we kept even our eyes free from the defilement of tyranny. We, the most distant dwellers upon earth, the last of the free, have been shielded till today by our very remoteness and by the obscurity in which it has shrouded our name. Now, the farthest bounds of Britain lie open to our enemies; and what men know nothing about they always assume to be a valuable prize. But there are no more nations beyond us; nothing is there but waves and rocks, and the Romans more deadly still than these – for in them is an arrogance which no submission or good behaviour can escape. Pillagers of the world, they have exhausted the land by their indiscriminate plunder, and now they ransack the sea. A rich enemy excites their cupidity; poor one, their lust for power. East and West alike have failed to satisfy them. They are the only people on earth to whose covetousness both riches and poverty are equally tempting. To robbery, butchery, and rapine, they give the lying name of “government”; they create a desolation and call it peace.

The location of Mons Graupius has never been satisfactorily identified, & has become quite a touchy subject among historians. But mysteries are there to be solved, & it won’t be the first, nor the last. It is through a detailed analysis of the evidence that I believe the battlefield’s location has been accurately ascertained. We begin with the only evidence we have for a Roman presence beyond the Antonine Wall, being the remains of a dozen-strong chain of  ‘marching forts’ the legions erected as they pressed north with Agricola. To avoid the impassable mountainous terrain of the Cairngorms, the forts were built in a long procession stretching from Dundee to Inverness, along the eastern side of Scotland. Agricola was a shrewd & canny general, & his march maintain’d contact between his fleet & his soldiers, siting many of the camps near the sea. Tacitus records; ‘he explored the harbours with a fleet, which, at first employed by him as an integral part of his force, continued to accompany him. The spectacle of war thus pushed on at once by sea and land was imposing; while often infantry, cavalry, and marines, mingled in the same encampment and joyously sharing the same meals.’

One of these camps has been tentatively proposed as the site of Mons Graupius solely on account of its name, Victoria, being the Latin for victory. Using co-ordinates given by Ptolemy, several sites have been suggested for Camp Victoria, the best candidate being Battledykes, near Fortrose. To my mind, this camp was actually the site of a battle that took place the year before Mons Graupius. Tacitus tells us that the Caledonians;

…with their whole force attacked by night the ninth Legion, as being the weakest, and cutting down the sentries, who were asleep or panic-stricken, they broke into the camp. And now the battle was raging within the camp itself, when Agricola, who had learnt from his scouts the enemy’s line of march and had kept close on his track, ordered the most active soldiers of his cavalry and infantry to attack the rear of the assailants, while the entire army were shortly to raise a shout. Soon his standards glittered in the light of daybreak. A double peril thus alarmed the Britons, while the courage of the Romans revived; and feeling sure of safety, they now fought for glory. In their turn they rushed to the attack, and there was a furious conflict within the narrow passages of the gates till the enemy were routed. Both armies did their utmost, the one for the honour of having given aid, the other for that of not having needed support. Had not the flying enemy been sheltered by marshes and forests, this victory would have ended the war

It makes sense that the Picts would have attacked the Romans at Battledykes, for it lies only ten miles from Dundee/Alectum, the very place in which dwelt, according to Hector Boece, the Pictish King during the Graupius campaign. Topographically, a visitor to the site in 1786, a certain Jameson, describes Battledykes as containing two burial tumuli – the detritus of a significant battle – & that the camp back’d onto a marsh, linking to the ‘marshes and forests’ into which fled the defeated Caledonians.

Roman_fortificationsinnorthernScotland2

After securing this power base, Tacitus tells us that the Romans pushed north, a portion by sea & another group led by Agricola, who advanced, ‘with a lightly equipped force, including in its ranks some Britons of remarkable bravery, whose fidelity had been tried through years of peace, as far as the Monte Graupius, which the enemy had already occupied.’ A similar route was taken in 1746 by the Royalist forces under the Duke of Cumberland on their way to fight Bonnie Prince Charlie & his highlanders at the Battle of Culloden. Prior to 83 AD, the Caledonians had rarely faced the Romans in open conflict, preferring instead guerilla warfare or night-attacks on camps. Agricola knew that his legionairres were highly trained soldiers who needed conventional warfare in order to excel. The description of them being lightly equipped indicates a swift march to catch the Caledonians as they were collecting en masse. Evidently successful in the rapid endeavour, Tacitus tells us; ‘30,000 armed men were now to be seen, and still there were pressing in all the youth of the country.’  Eventually, the Caledonian army would swell by another 20,000 warriors, as related by Boece’s, ‘our old annals say that fifty thousand men were in arms.’ The Battle of Mons Graupius was definitely on, but where?

Picts

Situated twenty-five miles east of Inverness, nestling salubriously beside the Moray Firth, & a stone’s throw from one of the best fleet-sized harbours in Scotland, lies the charming town of Forres. The ‘mons’ of Mons Graupius would be Cluny Hill, which towers over Forres to the south. A number of iron-age burial barrows also litter the area, sugegsting some possible conflict in an area in which all the topographical clues found in Tacitus coalesce. Assembling these helps us to paint a mental picture of the battlefield, which would have contained, in the following order;

SEA – CAMP – PLAIN – HILL – WILDERNESS

Sea: A significant textual clue given in the speech of Calgacus says that the Romans were; ‘few in number, dismayed by their ignorance, looking around upon a sky, a sea, and forests which are all unfamiliar to them; hemmed in, as it were, and enmeshed, the Gods have delivered them into our hands.’  We have also seen how Agricola preferred to be close to his supply-ferrying fleet.

Camp: The temporary Roman camp at Balnagieth, Forres – Ptolemy’s Pinnata Castra – shows all the hallmarks of Agricola’s strategic mind, of whom, ‘it was noted by experienced officers that no general had ever shown more judgment in choosing suitable positions.‘ On one side Balnageith is protected by the River Findhorn, standing just a couple of miles upstream from a beautiful sea-harbour. The fort is 234 metres long, at least 70 meters wide & surrounded by a 3 metre wide ditch, while,‘it is possible that the camp was possessed of six-post corner-towers and that the front of the rampart was revetted in timber, which would suggest a more permanent encampment. (Britannia xxii (1991) p.226 & fig.4.) Agricola’s presence this far north is suggested by a number of Roman finds in coins in the area, minted in the name of pre-83AD Roman emperors such as a Vespasian (disc. at Garnout) & a Nero (disc. At Fortrose). In the very streets of Forres, GDB Jones records a November 1797 find of several Roman coins & a Roman medallion, while the same streets yielded a Domitian coin (r.81-96AD) in 1844. There was also a coin dated to the narrow reign of Titus (79-81AD) found at Forres, close to a Pictish monument known as Sueno’s Stone.

Plain: The Battle of Mons Graupius was fought, not on a Mons, or peak, but on a largeish plain which seperated the Roman Camp from the hill on which the Caledonians had gathered. Tacitus tells us, ‘the plain between resounded with the noise and with the rapid movements of chariots and cavalry. Agricola, fearing that from the enemy’s superiority of force he would be simultaneously attacked in front and on the flanks, widened his ranks.’ There is such ground to the west of Forres, through which runs the River Findhorn, by which was erected Balnageith, is a very level plain. From heart of Forres rises today’s Cluny’s Hill, which if I am correct was Mons Graupius.

clunyHill : Where Tacitus describes,the enemy, to make a formidable display, had posted himself on high ground; his van was on the plain, while the rest of his army rose in tiers up the slope of a hill,’ the presence of tiers indicates that the ‘mons’ was quite steep. We may also infer from the text that Mons Graupius was not a smooth, single-peaked feature; possessing instead several peaks; ‘those of the Britons who, having as yet taken no part in the engagement, occupied the hill-tops.’ Cluny Hill is also multi-peaked, which today houses the eco-living lovers that are the Findhorn Foundation, & is also home to an impressive Lord Nelson monument. Two millenia ago, it harboured a massed confederacy of Caledonian tribes, all ready to face the alien invaders. It was a defendable spot, for Although absent from modern maps, a nineteenth century O/S map shows that there was once a ‘British Camp’ on Cluny Hill;

Wilderness : To the south of Forres fans a rough & wild landscape, matching Tactius’ description of the fleeing Caledonians, ‘dispersing and avoiding one another, they sought the shelter of distant and pathless wilds.’ The Forres area also contains a match for, ‘the silence of desolation reigned everywhere: the hills were forsaken, houses were smoking in the distance,’ for circular remains of several fire-destroyed Pictish houses were found in a recent dig at Clarckly Hill in Forres.

Forres was clearly an important place in the Pictish consciousness, for in the vicinity can still be seen parts of the oldest Pictish hill-fort at Burghead. It even has what is known as the Roman Well, a deep bath-like cistern hewn out of the solid rock. Burghead harbour was once described as one of the safest, deepest and complete harbours in the North of Scotland. A commentator in the 1840’s remarked ‘that in spite of the best facilities and a harbour that could be used in any wind, there was still room for more boats than the 43 that were based there‘ (Maclean, 1985). Three times larger than any other Pictish hillfort,when Tacitus tells us that at Mons Graupius, ‘the Britons, indeed, in no way cowed by the result of the late engagement, had made up their minds to be either avenged or enslaved, and convinced at length that a common danger must be averted by union, had, by embassies and treaties, summoned forth the whole strength of all their states,’ we can see how Burghead once stood at the centre of the Caledonian world & the perfect rallying point for the meeting of the tribes. Curiously, there is a large Romanesque bath carved at Burghead whose origin has never been explained.

150px-Suenos_Stone

Close by Burghead stands the wonderful Sueno’s Stone, whose face depicts an ancient battle scene. At 6.5 meters tall, this Pictish monument is the largest & most impressive piece of stonework ever produced by the Picts. While one side has been adorned with an immaculately carved Christian cross, the other depicts the multi-layered story of a great battle. Scholars have scratched their many heads over which battle it was, but surely the most magnificent piece of Pictish artwork must now be associated with the most important military moment of the Caledonians. One can imagine the King of the Picts commissioning the monument – (which according to Timothy Pont’s Mapp of Murray c 1590 had another obelisk standing beside it) to honour his ancestors on the actual site of the battle. The battle is depicted by four main panels, being.

1 – A badly weathered top panel containing several rows of cavalry.
2 – An upper-central panel showing the Caledonians led by a large, central kilted figure. Below him there is an infantry battle taking place.
3 – A lower-central panel showing decapitatied bodies, musicians & a Pictish broch.
4 – The bottom panel showing mounted warriors, archers and foot-soldiers gathered around a tent.

Analyzing the images in detail leads us to many known features of the battle of Mons Graupius as told by Tacitus;

SC01409220Two separate cavalry forces: Agricola… opposed their advance with four squadrons of cavalry held in reserve by him for any sudden emergencies of battle. Meantime the enemy’s cavalry had fled

Archers: The action began with distant fighting. The Britons with equal steadiness and skill used their huge swords and small shields to avoid or to parry the missiles of our soldiers, while they themselves poured on us a dense shower of darts

Corpses and decapitated heads:The open plain presented an awful and hideous spectacle… Everywhere there lay scattered arms, corpses, and mangled limbs

An infantry battle: Agricola encouraged three Batavian and two Tungrian cohorts to bring matters to the decision of close fighting with swords

Soldiers with small shields & large swords: An enemy armed with small bucklers and unwieldy weapons

Other features depicted on the stone reflect the battle. The stone’s ‘broch’ is clearly the hillfort at Burghead, while the kilted war-leader must surely be Calgacus. In addition, the tent represents the Roman camp, while the three musicians blowing trumpets are marvellously remembered in the area at Culbin Sands just to the north of Forres by Findhorn Bay, for it is there that three Roman trumpet brooches were found. Culbin Bay would have been the watery site of Agricola’s anchorage, at whose shore a silver signet ring used to authenticate Roman documents has been found.

The Sueno Stone’s erection seems dated to the ninth century, for its side panels contain vine patterns filled with men similar to that century’s Book of Kells. This leaves us looking at a wealthy patron of the period with the will & wealth to erect a memorial to the greatest battle of the ancestral Picts. Of these, Donald II was considered to be the very first king of a united Scotland – that is a land of both Scots & Picts – & he is said to have actually died in Forres in c.900 AD. That the town was thus used by the royal court is confirm’d by the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, which states; ‘the oldest notices of the place that exist from contemporary documents are in connection with the castle, which stood on a green mound at the W end of the town, now known as the Castle Hill. A northern bard has declared that;

Forres, in the days of yore,
A name ‘mang Scotia’s cities bore,
And there her judges o’er and o’er
Did Scotland’s laws dispense;
And there the monarchs of the land
In former days held high command.
And ancient architects had planned,
By rules of art in order grand,
The royal residence.

A very old source of Scottish history, the Prophecy of Berchan, declares that Forres was ‘abundant’ during Duncan’s time. All we need to do here for everything to make sense is imagine Duncan erecting those two pillars at Forres to celebrate the great battle of Mons Graupius, the duality of which represented his own dual-monarchy. At first we may presume it strange that Duncan would want to celebrate what the Roman’s called a great victory,  with Agricola even being awarded a triumphal entry into Rome. Yet, as Winston Churchill once declared, ‘history is written by the victors,’ & where Tacitus tells us that, ‘About 10,000 of the enemy were slain; on our side there fell 360 men,’ Hector Boece tells a rather different story; ‘our annals record that twelve thousand Romans died in that unhappy conflict, and about twenty thousand Scots, Picts, and auxiliaries.’  What is true, is that in the wake of the battle of Mons Graupius the Romans hardly ever ventured this far north again, & it is easy to see how the Caledonians would have slowly but surely looked upon Mons Graupius as the moment they dismissed tribal rivalries, bonded as a fighting force & fought to a standstill the might of Rome in open conflict. Just as we moderns erect memorials to great battles of the past, to celebrate their ancestral heroism the Picts erected a fabulous memorial of the day the Romans came to town, Sueno’s Stone.

Ptolemy

One final clue that nails the Forres-Graupius connection comes after the battle, when Agricola is said to have, ‘led his army into the territory of the Boresti. He received hostages from them, and then ordered the commander of the fleet to sail round Britain.’The name of this otherwise unrecorded tribe allows us to make the folowing babel chain.

Boresti
Bar est
Var est
Varar est
Varrest
Forres

It must be noted that the legion which fought at Mons Graupius was the Ninth, which was Spanish in origin. The possibility that Tacitus would hear a ‘b’ when a ‘v’ was intended is made evident in later centuries when Spanish dialetical pronunciation of the Latin language changed v’s to b’s. Elsewhere in Roman Latin, vs & bs were interchangeable, such as the Etruscan town of Volsinii evolving into the Roman Bolsena & of course Ptolemy’s Boderia or Bodotria Aestuarium, which he recorded as the name of the Firth of Forth, was the home-waters of the Votadini tribe. We also have Ptolemy’s River Nabaros, whose modern version is the River Naver in Sutherland. Thus the name ‘Boresti’ philochisps into the Varar Aest placed by Ptolemy on the south shore of the Moray Firth, ie in the very vicinity of Forres; ‘from the Lemannonis Sin as far as the Varar Aest are the Caledoni, and above these is the Caledonian forest.’ This particular babel-chain may be supported by the location of the final camp in the Agricolan chain, in the vicinity of Cawdor Castle.

After spurning the Roman enslavement at Forres, the Picts of Scotland managed to hold on to their identity all the way through the Roman reign of Britain. History tells us that at one point, a certain tribal group affiliated with the Picts known as the Attocotti were fighting in the Roman legions as an auxillary group. Their identity has for a long time been puzzled over, but it is through the Chisper Effect that we may properly ascertain their identity. Our quest begins with Ptolemy’s Geography, & the island of Sketis as seen earlier. It is in alternate versions of Ptolemy that the same island is given the variant name, Ocitis, which contains a clear phonetic match to the ‘Cotti’ of the Attacotti, & also the Agathyrsoi.

Ocitis
Att-acotti(s)
Agothis
Agathyrsoi

The name Attacotti turns up in the 4th century, when Ammianus Marcellinus describes as, ‘a warlike race of men’ fighting alongside the Picts & Scots in what is known as the ‘Barbarian Conspiracy’ of the mid 360s.

It will, however, be in place to say, that at that time the Picts, divided into two tribes, called Dicalydones and Verturiones, as well as the Attacotti, a warlike race of men, and the Scots, were ranging widely and causing great devastation; while the Gallic regions, wherever anyone could break in by land or by sea, were harassed by the Franks and their neighbours, the Saxons, with cruel robbery, fire, and the murder of all who were taken prisoners.

Following Count Theodosius’ restoration of Roman order in Britain, the Attacotti were recruited to fight as auxilia palatina in the legions. Evidence for them on the continent comes in the Notitia Digitatum, compiled about 400 AD, which lists four Attacotti auxillary regiments as fighting in the Roman Legions, two of whom, the ‘Honoriani Atecotti seniores’ & the ‘Atecotti iuniores Gallicani,’ were stationed in Gaul. It is members of these units that St Jerome observed getting up to some rather bestial behaviour c.393AD; ‘why should I speak of other nations when I, a youth, in Gaul beheld the Attacotti, a British tribe, eat human flesh, and when they find herds of swine, cattle, and sheep in the woods, they are accustomed to cut off the buttocks of the shepherds, and the paps of the shepherdesses, and to consider them as the only delicacies of food.’

For a long, long time, scholars have speculated on the homelands of the Attacotti, but to no avail. But of course we moderns may utilise chispology, & it is while looking at an Ogham inscription inscribed upon an obscure Pictish stone that I hit paydirt. Etched into what is known as the Lunnasting Stone on the Shetlands, Forsyth in 1996 tells us;

ettecuhetts: ahehhttannn: hccvvevv: nehhtons

Chispologically speaking, Ettecuhetts is a lovely match for Attacotti, especially when we combine two variant spellings in the Notitia; the ‘attecotti’ & ‘attcoetti;

Ette-cuhett(s)
Atte-coett(i)

Two of the inscription’s other names can also be knitted together with supporting historical informaton. ‘Ahehhttannn’  could be Aedan, for  in 580 AD the Annals of Ulster describe; ‘The expedition to Innsi Orc by Aedán son of Gabrán. Cennalath, king of the Picts, dies.’ Looking at the ‘Nehhtons’ name, this could be Nechtan son of Canu, of whom the Annals of Ulster tell us died in 620. Both the Irish tale, the Scela Cano meic Gartnain & the Senchus fer n-Alban show how Gartnait’s son was called Cano, which gives us the following approximate genealogy.

Aedan (b.c520) – King of the Scots
Gartnait (b.545) – King of the Picts
Cano (b.570) – Fate unknown
Nechtain (b.595) – King of the Picts

If the inscription’s ‘hccvvevv’ is actually Canu, as in ‘hC-vowel-e=n-vowel,’ then the inscription may translate something like,  ‘Nechtan son of Canu, son (or gandson) of Aedan, of the Attacotti.’

Elsewhere on the Shetlands, at a place called Cunningsburgh, a stone’s throw from the Agathyrsi capital broch on Mousa, another Pictish stone, although weathered, also seems to mention the Attacotti at the start of the inscription.

+TTEC[O^G][–] | [–]A[V^BL]:DATT[V][B!][–] | [–][A!]VVR[–]

The proximity of this inscription to the likely Agathyrsi capital at Mousa supports a possible philochisp between the ‘acotti’ element of Attacotti & the ‘agathy’ of Agathyrsi. In Latin, ‘et’ means both, which would render Attacotti with a translation of  ‘both acotti.’ Historical support may be found in the writings of the Roman grammarian Maurus Servius Honoratus (c.400), whose commentary on the works of Virgil relates how in the 4th century the Agathyrsi sent across a contingent over the sea to Scotland, where it became identified with the Picts. It is as this second wave of Agarthyrsean immigrants joined with the earlier Agarthyrsi/Acotti, that the comblended union would become the dualistic ‘Attacotti.’ It is our very own Big Geoff who seems to have made the most accurate account of their coming, describing how in the mid 4th century – to further the cause of Valentinianus – a Hunnish king called Wanisu & a Pictish king called Melga landed in Scotland.

_65653487_traprainteasure
the Traprain Treasure

AtecottiComparison

In the first segment of this chapter we saw how the Picts left their Lothian possessions on the death of King Gethus, but later on in time returned to their lands in Lothian. What is remarkable is that in the Lothian regions, at Traprain Law, the capital of the Votadini tribe, a silver horde was found in which the shield pattern of the Honoriani Attacotti Seniores seems to have been replicated on a silver plate. This image is a reconstruction by Alice Blackwell of the National Museum of Scotland, based upon fragments found in the horde.

65686551_largedish

Coinage in the horde determines that it was deposited during the reign of emperor Honorius himself, while to the equasion we must add the presence of King Loth, a 6th century Pictish king, remembered as ruler of both the Lothians & the Orkneys. Historians have often been a tad bemused at this double kingdom, but we can now see that he was in fact the ruler of the ‘Attacotti’ in the 6th century. To this we can also imagine that the etymology of Gododdin – a  version of the Votadini – could also be connected to the ‘Cotti’ of Caithness, etc – where the Pictish chronicle calls them Got.

papil03Looking at the Notitia shield patterns, it is with the ‘Honoiani Atecotti Juniores’ that a real clincher can be found. Their shield carries a curious image of two heads facing each other, with at least one of them seeming to be a bill-beaked bird. An extremely similar image appears on a Pictish stone discovered in 1887 at a pre-Norse Christian site called Papil, West Burra, in the Shetlands. The name Papil comes from papar – a Nordic word for priests – & was removed to the National Museum in Edinburgh, though a replica still stands in the churchyard of St Laurence’s Church, Papil. Kelly A Kilpatrick, in his ‘The iconography of the Papil Stone: sculptural and literary comparisons with a Pictish motif’ (Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 141 (2011), 159–205), writes of the birdmen;

 They have commonly been regarded as a misrepresentation of the Temptation of St Antony, but this theory is debatable and needs to be compared and contrasted within the wider framework of this motif in Irish and Pictish art. Examples of axe-brandishing human and beast-headed figures are, however, found in Pictish sculpture, and are comparable with the imagery on the Papil Stone. Furthermore, the bird-men motif on the Papil Stone has striking parallels with contemporary battlefield demons in early Irish literature… The Papil bird-men have a stronger connection with axe- and weapon-carrying hybrid & monstrous human-like figures in Pictish sculpture. 
A dog-masked man found at Cuningsburgh
There are 10 similar examples in the corpus of Pictish sculpture, three of which, it should be emphasised, have bird-features. They occur as single figures or as single figures associated with an animal or beast, & also as paired figures like the Papil bird-men. They must have had a long currency in Pictish art, for they are found on a variety of monumental media, ranging from simple incised stone boulders to panelled motifs on elaborate cross-slabs and even on a sculpted shrine panel.
 -
Of the BirdManesque artistic tallies mentioned above, the image of a dog-masked man found at Cuningsburgh, Shetland, where there was an inscription to the Attacotti, seems the most important. Also of interest is a stone found at Murthly, Perthsire.  When comparing it with the Juniores shield pattern, we see that to the left is the long-beaked bird & to the right is the stubby-nosed dog or boar.

Whatever is the exact case, that the Attacotti shield-symbol can also be seen in the Pictish iconography of the Shetlands seems absolutely convincing evidence which when placed beside the ettecuhetts inscriptions nail the Attacotti to those windswept, sea-whipped islands. In 2016, on discovering the solution, the Shetland Times printed a rather strange version of my Attacotti theory, which they allowed to be intercepted by the curator of the island’s main museum. ‘Probably not,’ said the local academic Dr Ian Tait without presenting any evidence to the otherwise, the standard response from an academic community who are – in the early 21st century – quite unaware of the possibilities of the Chisper Effect. For them, the Unabomber is still out there.

13007234_1624277921230491_6502203127876165898_n (1)

Where the Picts of Bede & Nennius came from Scythia, according to Hektor Boece, ‘a banist pepill, namit Pichtis, come furth of Denmark.’ In the Chisper Effect I showed how there was a Herulian wave into the Pictish royal line, through whom I would hedge my bets that the symbol stones were introduced across Pictavia. The power-base of the northern Herulians was Scandinavia, which explains why Boece said the Picts came from Denmark, in the same breath as stating they were also part of the Agathyrsi. Here we see a classic example of genduction – ie the reducing of two or more people or peoples into a single entity. In overall conclusion, the Picts came to Britain in three waves; the initial Agathyrsi from Scythia c.200 BC, a second wave from the same area c.300 AD, who became known as the Attacotti; and the Herulian wave c.500. There were other Pictish blocks of course; but each & every one of them would have acknowledged their Scythian origins.

Distribution of Class I and Class II stones, as well as caves holding Pictish symbol graffiti
Distribution of Class I and Class II stones, as well as caves holding Pictish symbol graffiti

To end this post I would like to make an attempt at solving the riddle of the Pictish symbols. I shall offer a logical train of thought. We begin with the description of 19th century antiquarians of the stones being ‘Danish.’ From here we are led to the Herulian influx into the Pictish King List with Galan Erilch, c.500 AD, the very period in which many scholars presume the stones first originated (Class I). Three centuries later, the Pictish stones were emblazon’d with intricate Christian artistry (Class II), thus we may assume they were rudimentary churches. In between let us present the hyperbasis of the earlier symbol stones ALSO being sacred sites of worship. ‘The Germans,‘ wrote Tacitus, of whom we may include under the Nordic influence, or perhaps influenced by, ‘do not consider it consistent with the grandeur of celestial beings to confine the gods within walls, or to liken them to the form of any human countenance.’ The natural conclusion is that the Pictish symbols represent gods of the Scandinavian pantheon.

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Odin’s triple horns seems present in the Pictish symbols; second column from the left, 5th symbol from the bottom…

The symbols generally appear in pairs, which completely correlates to the Norse understanding of dualism in religion, a trait shared by many ancient pagan faiths. This duality differs from the Zoroastrian premise of good versus evil, but is more of the essence order & chaos, sometimes competing sometimes coalescing on the same divine experience. Of the Pictish symbols, the animals all at least have a correspondence with the Norse gods;  In Norse mythology, the ancient Germans sacrificed geese to Odin at the autumnal equinox; Fenrir is the wolf; Gefjon, goddess of ploughing, would be the bull; Hræsvelgr is the eagle;  Níðhöggr & Jörmungandr are prime candidates for the serpent; the Ibex would be Thor’s goat, Heidrun; while Eikthyrnir is the stag. Some of the other symbols are more obscure, perhaps the mirror & comb represents Freya, the wife of Odin. Yet others may connect to the Scythian origins of the Picts & Herulians. There is also a trinity of symbols which have the Nordic sowilaz lightning symbol running through them, which may relate to the three main deities of Norse mythology, Thor, Odin & Loki. It is early days in this particular investigation, but a start, I believe, has been made…

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Next Wednesday, 28/02/18

Chapter 6:  Brunanburh

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CHISPOLOGY

Chapter 1: The Exodus
Chapter 2: The Aryan Invasion
Chapter 3: The Mahabharata
Chapter 4: Agastya
Chapter 5: The Picts
Chapter 6: Brunanburh
Chapter 7: The Young Shakespeare
Chapter 8: Shakespeare’s Blossom
Chapter 9: The Badon Babel Tree
Chapter 10: The Saxon Advent

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THE CHISPER EFFECT

chisper_effectChapter 1: Chispology 
Chapter 2: Princess Scota
Chapter 3: The Ithica Frage
Chapter 4: The Jesus Jigsaw
Chapter 5: Asvaghosha
Chapter 6: Dux Bellorum
Chapter 7: Dux Pictorum
Chapter 8: The Holy Grail
Chapter 9: The Mandylion
Chapter 10: Shakespeare’s Grand Tour
Chapter 11: The Dark Lady
Chapter 12: The Ripper Gang

Chispology 4: Agastya

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Continuing the serialization of

Damian Beeson Bullen’s

CHISPOLOGY

In which a few more of the world’s greatest mysteries… are finally solved

Available to buy in book form

Autumn 2018

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In the last chapter I brushed almost incidentally upon the fact that Jesus was a poet who, while in India, was responsible for (among other things) the Bhagavad Gita. In this, the next chapter of my chispological investigations, I would like to return to my Indian Jesus in order to introduce further avatars of that most remarkable man. We begin with a Persian text known as the Siraj-ul-Maluk (1306), which reads;

 Where is Isa, the Ruhullah, and, the Kalimatullah, who was the leader of the righteous, and the chief of travelers?

 Here we have Isa, the Islamic name for Jesus, clearly described as the ‘Ruhullah’ from ‘Kalimatullah.’ This latter name philochisps into Cholamandalam which means ‘realm of the Cholas,’ an Indian dynasty who ruled over the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu. This is the clear & startling evidence that at some point Jesus – the ‘chief of travelers – lived in southern India. A near identical version of ‘Ruhullah’ can  be found in a Buddhist scripture known as the Vinaya Pitaka, in which a section called the Mahawaga records a future successor to the Buddha who would go by the name of ‘Rahula.’ Furthermore, the mother of this man was a certain ‘Magdaliyana,’ whose name we can easily see transchispering into the Mary Magdelane of the Gospels.

The statue of Thiruvalluvar, off India's southernmost point
The statue of Thiruvalluvar, off India’s southernmost point

There is more, I am a both a student & a translator of the great body of didactic Kural composed by the Tamil saint, Thiruvalluvar, round about the age of Christ. When we drop the ‘Thi’ element from Thuiruvalluvar’s name – which is the Tamil version of the Sanskrit Sri, meaning ‘holy’ or ‘saintly’ – we are left with, ‘Ruvalluvar,’ which is then only a small philochisp away from ‘Ruhullah.’ In the Chisper Effect I showed how Saint Thomas was killed in the very village – Mylapore – that Thiruvalluvar was said to have lived. ‘The first Portuguese historians,’ recorded Father Henry Hosten. ‘say that St. Thomas built his ‘house,’ meaning his church, on the site where a Jogi had his temple.’  This Church was built upon an ancient Hindu site called Kapaleeswara, the ‘eeswara’ element immediately connecting to the ‘Ishavarakrishna’ avatar of our Indian Jesus.

Sensing that Jesus was Thiruvalluvar removes the word ‘coincidence’ from the matter & implies something much more profound. It seems likely that Jesus-Issa had at some point set up some kind of ashram at Mylapore, & that Thomas had journeyed there to study at the feet of his master. Presupposing that Jesus had a hand in the creation of the Kural, it is unclear whether they were his own personal compositions, or the work of some Tamil poet recording his holy wisdom in the same fashion as that which the author of the Matthew Gospel collated the Sermon on the Mount. Tantalisingly, the poetry itself may give us a clue, for the Kural takes, to all extents & purposes, the same form as the Latin epigramme, which had been made extremely popular in the first century AD by poets such as Martial.

That Thomas and Thiruvalluvar are both associated with Mylapore seems no coincidence, especially when we encounter the assemblage of Jesusian sayings known as the Gospel of Thomas. Discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in only in 1945, this obscure Gospel is actually just a collection of 114 brief & wise sayings of Jesus made by a certain ‘Didymus Thomas.’ In the same fashion, the Kural of Thiruvalluvar are presented as brief proverb-like nuggets of wisdom, maintaining a similar air & atmosphere to those of Thomas’ Gospel;

Jesus said, “He who will drink from my mouth will become like me. I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him.” (GoT)

Around pleasant, intelligent speakers
People swiftly gather (TK)
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Jesus said, “Whoever finds the world and becomes rich,
Let him renounce the world.” (GoT)

Prefer destitution’s stark minimalism
Possessions befuddle mind (TK)
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Jesus said, “Fortunate is the man who knows where the brigands will enter, so that he may get up, muster his domain, and arm himself before they invade.” (GoT)

Adherence of wise counsel
Frightens our enemies (TK)

Whoever wrote the Kural must have been (i) an excellent poet, (ii) extremely fluent in Tamil & (iii) aware of the Roman epigrams of poets such as Martial, which were so much in vogue in the First Century AD.  It is by placing Jesus-Issa in southern India that allows us to make the following babel-chain, rooted in the Asvaghosha avatar of Jesus-Issa.

Agastya - looks a lot like Jesus
Agastya – looks a lot like Jesus

Asv-Aghosh-a
Agas-t-ya

Agastya was one of the great poet-saints of south India, fitting into our jesus-Issa blueprint quite effortlessly. Of course, a babel-chain is only valid when supported by evidence, & in this instance we may count on the services of a great deal of source material. We begin with the charming story of Agastya found in a text called, ‘The Jatakamala,’ a selection of 4th century collection of Sanskrit tales made by Aryassra concerning the previous births (jati) of the Buddha. In them we find a passafe which has great correspondance with Mir Muhammad bin Khawand Shah Ibn-i-Muhammad’s Hazrat Issa avatar of Jesus;

While staying in the grove of penance, the Great-minded One, being in the habit of giving, continued also honouring the guests that happened to arrive, with such roots and fruits as he had just gathered, with fresh water and such hearty and kind words of welcome and blessings as are appropriate to ascetics, and himself lived on as much of his forest-produced food as his guests had left, strictly limiting his meals to the sustenance of his body Jataka

Hazrat Issa… wore a woollen scarf on his head, and a woollen cloak on his body. He had a stick in his hand; he used to wander from country to country and from city to city. At nightfall he would stay where he was. He ate jungle vegetables, drank jungle water, and went on his travels on foot. Mir Muhammad

 Other pieces which link Agastya to the Jesus Jigsaw include;

(i) The Ramayana describes Agastya as the, ‘brilliantly glowing sage among those sages,’ and the, ‘sun-like radiant sage Agastya.‘ He is said to have had the ability to make his physical body disappear completely and resurrect as a glow of light inside a subtler vibrational field. This act is highly reminiscent of the Transfiguration of Jesus found in the Gospels, which state; ‘Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.’ (Matthew 17:1-2)

(ii) Like Jesus, Agastya was followed by twelve iconic disciples. Abithana Chintamani names them as, ‘Tiranatumakkini alias Tolkappiya Munivar, Atankottacan, Tiralinkan, Cemputcey, Vaiyapikan, Vayppiyan, Panamparan, Kalarampan, Avinayan, Kakkaipatiniyan, Narattan & Vamanan.’ Here we can see Thomas embedded as ‘tuma’ in Tiranatumakkini/Tolkappiyar; Peter embedded as the Latinized ‘patini’ in Kakkaipatiniyan; Nathaniel in Narattan and James embedded in ‘Cemputcey.’ Nathaniel is often identified with Bartholomew, who has known Indian connections. Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History (5:10) states that after the Ascension, Bartholomew went on a missionary tour to India, where he left behind a copy of the Gospel of Matthew. Other traditions record him as serving as a missionary in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia, and Lycaonia.[10] Popular traditions and legends say that Bartholomew preached the Gospel in India.

(iii) Agastya could render his body in a state of suspended animation at will, a meditative state known as samadhi. Yogic masters slow their breathing and heart rate down to such an extent that they would appear dead to the onlooker. This is surely the most important connection between Agastya and the New testament Jesus, for it tells us the exact way in which the latter avatar survived the Crucifixion. A text known as the Nathanamavali (Nathaniel?), conserved in the Aravalli mountains by a group of ascetics known as Nath Yogis, lend such a notion support by saying, when its says, ‘Isha Natha came to India at the age of fourteen. After this he returned to his own country and began preaching. Soon after, his brutish and materialistic countrymen conspired against him and had him crucified. After crucifixion, or perhaps even before it, Isha Natha entered samadhi by means of yoga.’

Agastya had his traditional stomping grounds in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu; with the Tamil grammatical treatise called the Tolkappiyam, said to have been written by a disciple of Agastya known as Tholkappiyar – who we observed above could have been Thomas! In addition, in Hebrew, the name Bartholomew would be Bar-Tholmai, or Son of Tholmai.

Dated by scholars such as Takanobu Takahashi to the first or second century AD, the Tolkappiyam describes a migration from the north India led by Agastya. The migration began somewhere north of the Vindhya mountains, a range which geographically separates the Indian subcontinent. To this day, all across Tamil Nadi, Agastya remains a highly venerated saint. It is surprising how a northern, Aryan has been taken so much to heart by the Dravidian Tamils, but we must remember we are not dealing with an ordinary man here. The spirit, message and remembrance of Jesus has already crossed multiple international barriers – whether it be through his Judean avatar, or another – and it comes as no surprise to learn that the Tamils have their own version as well.

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Tamil Nadu & its beautiful people are very proud of their place in the world – a wee look on the map of India and you can see that Tamil Nadu is remarkably similar to the Irish landmass, in size, and shape, and of course, spirit. This strong sense of patriotic self-identity was born out of repelling a constant stream of invasions from the north, plus several attempts by the various owners of Delhi to impose Hindi as the national Indian language.  India’s southernmost state is a traveler’s dream, and leaving Chennai with Victor Pope in late 2013, we set out on a rattlesnake of a tour across the vasty land of the Indian Tamils. We eventually came to Chidambaram, a town which spreads out for a mile or so in all directions from its centerpiece – the tremendous Nataraja Temple. It is a great feeling being there in the early morning, when the heat is soft and the colours turn pastel in the rising light. A very religious place, it is overseen by white-robed Brahmins, whose hair is tied back and scrunched into buns. Their ancient ancestors were sent there by King Hiranyavarman, his leprosy being healed in the natural spring-waters of the Ghat. This is a beautiful green, fish filled pond, where the Brahmins and orange-clad babas wash themselves (brushing their teeth in the same water), while etched into marble plates all round the ghat is a beautiful selection of Tamil poetry.

Chidamburam
Chidambaram

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After a night’s stay in Chidambaram, I set off the following morning early, catching an 8AM bus to Veeitheswara (Eswara = Ishvara = Jesus), a cute little townlet famous for Nadi Astrology. The originator of the system was of course, Agastya, and for two thousand years the Nadi priests have maintained his philosophies, the core of which state that the past, present and future lives of all humans were foreseen by Hindu sages in ancient times. The Nadi prophecies were written on palm leaves in Vatteluttu, an ancient Tamil script said to be composed by Agastya through divine revelations. While sitting in a small roadside shack at Veeitheswara, eating rice and fish with my hands from a banana leaf, I was happy I had made such a long journey south. All in all, Agastya fits so snugly into the Jesus Jigsaw, his status as an avatar is pretty much ensured. So, after washing my hands and clutching my new lead with relish, I set off eagerly out into the Tamil hinterland in search of more clues.

Following the trail of Agastya would lead us to a certain corner of the Western Ghats, the great chain of mountainsto the west of the Indian peninsular. In ancient Tamil, Pothgai was known as the Podiyil Hill, of which place the Shilappadikaram refers to Agastya as being ‘the great sage.’ Legend describes how Agastya was sent south by the god Siva to counterbalance the effects of so many gods and rishis residing upon Mount Kailash. While Agasyta was at Pothgai, Siva married Parvati in the Himalayas, and forgetting to invite Agastya, the latter became considerably upset about being overlooked on such an important occasion. To make it up to Agastya, Siva and Parvati travelled to the Pothgai and got married all over again, with Agastya being the only guest.

In ancient Tamil, Pothgai was known as the Podiyil Hill, of which place he Shilappadikaram refers to Agastya as being ‘the great sage.’ Agastya is said to have wandered the area searching for natural ingredients to assist his Siddhar medical treatments, and to this day, one can visit 21st century siddhars who will treat a patient with the same ayervedic methods as those used by Agastya two thousand years ago. One of his medicinal preparations – Boopathi Kuligai – could even bring the dead back to life! Although the text is now lost, his medical book is said to have contained instructions for the creation of medicines for multiple ailments, such as fevers, cancers, abdominal problems, and eye problems. This reminds us of the Gospelic Jesus, who is constantly and consistantly praised for his healing powers; treating paralysis, lameness, fevers catalepsy, haemorrhaging, skin diseases and mental disorder. There is also the ‘marhami-i-isa,’ or ointment of Jesus, described by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as being recorded, ‘in hundreds of old medical books,’ which could have come from the Siddhi system. We can also sense a hint of a correlation between the ‘Agastya Rasanayam’ (an ayurvedic cure for asthma)  and the numerous mentions in the 2nd century Jewish Tosefta of cures and charms inscribed with the name of Jesus.

Jesus using ancient Siddar techniques to cure blindness
Jesus using ancient Siddha techniques to cure blindness

Of the many branches of Siddha medicine; Choondu Varma (mesmerism) and  Kirikai Chikisai (psychiatry) could well have been the medical disciplines on which Jesus drew in order to cure those possessed by demons (Mark 1:23-27). Another Siddha-Jesus connection comes with the curing of ophthalmological disorders, which we may discern from Dr PJ Thottham’s, ‘certain oils believed to have a cooling effect are applied to the head. They keep the nervous system active and healthy. Among other types of medicine are the ones instilled into the eye, such as mais or kattus which are rubbed on a stone, along with the juice of a plant, milk, coconut water or rose water. The resultant paste is applied into the eyes with the help of a stick. Similarily, there are certain medicines in a paste form, which are applied externally on the eyelids of the patient.’ This method, of creating a paste to rub into the eyes of the afflicted, has an intimate resonant tone with the curing, by Jesus, of a blind man,

When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay. And said unto him, ‘Go wash in the pool of Siloam. He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. John 9:7

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Approaching Mount Potolakla

All this leads us to the special moment in the Jesus Jigsaw when we need to introduce what is known as a ‘Boddhisatva,’ one of the holiest entities in Buddhism. These are considered to be divine savior-figures, and are described as enlightened (bodhi) existence-beings (sattva), said to have attained Buddhahood in order to help all sentient beings. His name is Avaloketisvara, the later part of whose name transchispers easily into Ishavara. As for Avaloketisvara’s connection to Pothgai, known as Mount Potalaka to the Chinese, let us examine his mentions in two ancient texts, both of which designate Pothgai as this diety’s place of residence;

The merchant’s son Sudhana… arrived in due order at mount Potalaka, and climbing Mount Potalaka he looked around and searched everywhere for the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. Finally he saw the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara on a plateau on the western side of the mountain in a clearing of large woods abounding in young grass, adorned with springs and waterfalls, and surrounded by various trees. He was sitting cross-legged on a diamond rock surrounded by a multitude of bodhisattvas seated on rocks of various jewels. He was expounding the dharma-explanation called ‘the splendour of the door of great friendliness and great compassion’ belonging to the sphere of taking care of all sentient beings Gandavyuhasutra

To the east of the Malaya mountains is Mount Po-ta-lo-kia. The passes of this mountain are very dangerous; its sides are precipitous, and its valleys rugged. On the top of the mountain is a lake; its waters are clear as a mirror. From a hollow proceeds a great river which encircles the mountain as it flows down twenty times and then enters the southern sea. By the side of the lake is a rock-palace of the Dêvas. Here Avalôkitêsvara in coming and going takes his abode. Those who strongly desire to see this Bôdhisattva do not regard their lives, but, crossing the water, climb the mountain forgetful of its difficulties and dangers; of those who make the attempt there are very few who reach the summit Xuanzang

In the description by Xuanzang, a 7th century explorer from China,  of his epic pilgrimage to the summit of Po-ta-lo-kia, the sentence, ‘of those who make the attempt there are very few who reach the summit,‘ confirms the peak as being Agastya’s Pothgai. In a festival known as the Agastya Mala, it takes a week to visit the mountain and pay homage to the small temple dedicated to Agastya on its summit; a three day ascent, a day of resting, and a three day descent. Wanting to see the place for myself, I journeyed from Pudokotai to the Tamil town of Ambasaamudram. On arriving, Victor & I discovered that to visit the mountain we had to go in from the Kerala side, gaining permission from Trivandrum forestry commission en route. Not to be deterred, we took a hotel for the night, where a kindly local on a walk around town (i) pointed out the mountain in the distance, a cone-shaped edifice erupting out of its less aesthetic shadowy cousins of this portion of the Western Ghats,  & (ii) agreed to help us get as close as possible the following morning!  What followed was a glorious day with driver and guides, wandering about the gorgeous green uplands of the Western Ghats, searching for the residue of Agastya. Travelling with locals helped us cruise through the security checks, and we had a splendid time – including a dip in a powerful waterfall at the Agastya Falls.

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Near the falls we were led to a magnificently evocative rock-carved temple dedicated to Agastya, which lay on a cliff above a small lake, and could have even been the one mentioned by Xuanxang. Another highlight was a boat-trip across a man-made dam, whose surrounding scenery was more beautiful than anything I’ve seen even in Scotland! Unfortunately, this was as close as I was going get to Pothgai – but I did not mind at all; the day had been a splendid one, and we returned to Ambasamudram in fine spirits. That night, while Victor regaled the hoteliers with songs on his acoustic guitar during the nightly power-cut, I began to compile my notes on Avaloketisvara, said to have once roamed this splendid portion of the Western Ghats? He is in fact one of the main figures in what is known as the ‘Mahayana,’ or ‘Greater Vehicle,’ a branch of Buddhism whose origins seem to lie with our very own Asvaghosha. The 7th century Chinese explorer, I Tsing, describes hymns composed by Asvaghosha, which were chanted in the name of Avaloketisvara at the evening service of the monasteries. This suggests that Asvaghosha was the creative brain behind Avalokekitsevara, whose name translates something like, ‘The Higher Lord (Ishvara) who looks down on the world.’

Another of Avaloketisvara’s titles, Mahâsattva, represents him as having reached the tenth & upmost level of the Boddhisattvas. Postponing their own entrance into the Nirvana in order to alleviate the suffering of others, the notion rings remarkably close to the core tenets of the Christian belief. The notable twentieth century Indologist, Arthur Llewellyn Basham, remarked that, ‘the Bodhisattva was thought of as a spirit not only of compassion but also of suffering. In more than one source we read the vow or resolve of the Bodhisattva, which is sometimes expressed in almost Christian terms… The idea of the Suffering Savior might have existed in some form in the Middle East before Christianity, but features like this are not attested in Buddhism until after the beginning of the Christian era. The Suffering Bodhisattva so closely resembles the Christian conception of the God who gives his life as a ransom for many that we cannot dismiss the possibility that the doctrine was borrowed by Buddhism from Christianity.’

Guanyin with child - quite like the Mary-Baby Jesus motif
Guanyin with child – quite like the Mary-Baby Jesus motif

There are other Christian elements in the mythography of Avaloketisvara. Just as Jesus was known as the son of god, so Buddhists say that Avaloketisvara was born from the Amithaba, a father-figure said to rule over a heavenly ‘Pure Land‘ established for the salvation of man. Another aspect of Avaloketisvara is the ‘Guanyin,’ said to be a saviouress, and considered to be the ‘Mother of all Buddhas.’ In Chinese art and sculpture she is represented as holding a child, just as Christians depict Mary, the Madonna, bearing the infant Jesus. More evidence comes through iconic portrayals of Avaloketisvara as sporting small circular wheel-marks on his hands and feet, in the very places that the crucifixion scars would be. Professor Fida Hassnain says, ‘examination of the Buddhist icons show all Boddhisattvas stand or sit on a lotus throne. Some show their hands and palms with round marks. These statues of the Mahayana period, with marks on palms and feet, symbolically depict wounds of crucifixion. This fact is immortal evidence about the identity of Jesus as the teacher of the Mahayana monks.

There is also an interesting passage contained in the text known as the Lutus Sutra, which seems to describe the stigmata acquired by Jesus during his crucifixion, as in, ‘then bodhisattva Avalokitesvara extending his right hand with the splendour of the purest gold, releasing clouds of arrays of perfect networks of immeasurable light, and putting his palm which was like a blossom with tendrils, adorned with marks and tokens, distinctive, taintless, producing immeasurable beams of lights.’ The last key sentence is a perfect description of a hand devastated by the driving of a large nail through its centre. The description is found in the 24th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which also contains a key passage in relation to the Jesus Jigsaw. It reads;

So asked, the Lord replied to the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Akshayamati: There are [some] worlds, young man of good family, [where] the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Avalokitesvara preaches the Dharma to creatures in the form of a Buddha […] To some [beings] he preaches the Dharma in the form of a Pratyekabuddha […] To some [beings] he preaches the Dharma in the shape of a Brahma […] [to those] who are to be converted by Mahesvara, he preaches assuming the form of Mahesvara.

Here we have it openly admitted that the spiritual emanations of Avaloketisvara appear in different forms according to whatever religion perceives it. This connects neatly to the Bhavisya Suta, in which Ishavara Putaram was described as preaching to the Kashmiri Jews ‘through their own faith.’ The passage also mentions the Mahesvara, another name for Siva, whose connection to the Jesus Jigsaw we shall look at another time. There’s far too many avatars flying about at the moment as it is!

Having traversed the entire length of the subcontinent from Ladakh in the Himalayan north, to the sultry shores of Tamil Nadu, our journey through the Jesus has reached its southern limits. A few miles from the tourist-hungry town of Kanyukamari, lapped by the waves of three separate seas, where the Indian government erected a giant statue of Thiruvalluvar to celebrate the new Millennium, the Ramayana itself places Agastya in the viciniti. The poem describes how Agastya sang his self-penned hymn to Rama before the hero went to Sri Lanka to fight his great duel with the demon Ravana. I had the very epic poem with me as I visited the hay-strewn streets of the idyllic village of Agasteeswaram, a few miles inland from Kanyakumari, India’s most southern point. A village legend remembers an occasion when Agastya himself was teaching the local inhabitants the Ramayana, & a temple was erected on the spot. Also said to have heralded from the Kanyakumari region was Thomas-Tolkappiyam, & another sacred poet called Athanakottu Asan said to have 12 disciples, including Tolkappiyam & Agastya. Again, the 12 disciples is a clear match to Christian doctrine.

On my personal visit to the sacred site of Agasteeswaram, I had reached the furthest limits of my research expedition, an epic journey which had taken me from the dusty cloisters of the National Library in Scotland to the extreme south of the Indian subcontinent. Standing in the upper limits of the colossal statue of Thiruvalluvar, I passed a sunset watching the sea-waves roll into land from three different directions. To the east lay the Bay of Bengal, to the south the Indian Ocean, and to the east the Sea of Araby. For myself, at that moment, they represented the presence of Jesus in three different religions – Hinduism, Buddhism & Christianity – which travelling in different directions, would all converge upon a single point in space and time.

Abhayagiri Stupa
Abhayagiri Stupa

Somewhere to the south-east lay the island of Sri Lanka, in which place the Matsya Purana – a history of ancient India – describes Agastya as a native of Sri Lanka. Traces of the Jigsaw can be found here, and it is most probable that Issa went to the island to study at the cutting edge Buddhist Therevedan Abhayagiri monastery. In more recent years, Dr Andrew Skilton, professor of Religion at the University of London, comments, ‘It is clear from sculptural evidence alone that the Mahayana was fairly widespread throughout Sri Lanka…. Relics of an extensive cult of Avalokitesvara can be seen in the present-day figure of Natha.’ There is one Mahayanan text in particular that originated in Sri Lanka that is of great interest. Known as the Lankavatara Sutra, it has the Buddha discoursing with Ravana, the traditional foe of Rama. Suzuki writes of it, ‘the Lanka is a memorandum kept by a Mahayan master, in which he puts down perhaps all the teachings of importance accepted by the Mahayan followers of his day… there is no doubt that the Lanka is closely connected in time as well as in doctrine with The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana generally ascribed to Asvaghosa.’

It was while in Sri Lanka, our Indian Jesus most likely established the Issarasamana ashram as mentioned in Sri Lanka’s first historical chronicle, the Mahawansa, in which we also encounter, in the same period, Yalalakatissa, a deviation of Avaloketisvara, which contains a prominent Issa element.

In our quest for the Indian Jesus our journey must take us once more to the serendipitous vale of Kashmir. In the modern-age, if we were to travel overland to Srinagar from Kannuyakamari, Indian’s most southerly point, it would take about 48 hours by train to Jammu, followed by a twelve-hour car journey through the Himalayan foothills. In the age of Jesus it would have taken a lot longer – a probable sea journey to the mouths of the Indus, followed by a mighty hike across the plains and up through the passes. Whichever way he got there, Jesus definitely made the journey north. The Persian History, the Ikmal-ud-Din by Shaikh Al-Said-us Sadiq, places Yuz Asaf in both Sri Lanka (Sholabeth) and Kashmir. Sadiq describes how Yuz Asaf was visited by an angel, after which he prostrated himself before God and uttered, “I submit myself to Thy command, O God Almighty! Enlighten me of Thy Will. I praise Thee and I am grateful to Thee for having guided me…The angel, therefore, guided him to leave the country…and then leaving Sholabeth he proceeded on his journey… after roaming about in many cities, reached that country which is called Kashmir. He travelled in it far and wide and stayed there and spent his (remaining) life there, until death overtook him, and he left the earthly body and was elevated towards the Light.’

We have already seen in the Chisper Effect how Jesus-Yuz Asaf was buried at Rozabal in Kashmir. That he lived a long twilight in the Himalayas is suggested by the Muslim tradition in which two texts – the Mustadrak and the Asabah – describe Jesus as having lived until he was 120 years old. Both of these texts draw on the words of a seventh century muslim cleric, Ibn Umar, who reported, ‘I have been told that there is no Prophet after other Prophet but he lives a life half then the one who lived earlier. And I have been told that Jesus, the son of Mary lived for a hundred and twenty years.’ (Hadith 37732).  This leads us to an account of the death of Jesus, as described by Sheikh-us-sadiq;

At the approach of death, he sent for his disciple, Babad. He was used to serving him and protecting him during his old age. He was perfect in all matters. Yuzu-asaph made a will, saying: As such, you should safeguard your duties and never deviate from the righteousness, and absorb yourself in prayers. He then gave directions about preparation of sepulchre for him, at the very place where he breathed his last. He then stretched his legs towards the west, and kept his head towards the east. He then turned his face towards the east, and breathed his last.

download (2)That Jesus lived for a hundred and twenty years may be difficult for many in our modern world to accept. Even so, this is just within the limits of modern human longevity (122 is the known record), and we should acknowledge Jesus was a healthy man, living in an era far from the cancer-causing, fatty toxicity of the chemicals which permeate our modern foodstuffs. He also a consummate master of medicine, whose knowledge of long-lost herbal remedies would have added to his personal life-span. It must be noted that the figure of 120 years appears in the Siddha tradition, as an attested life-length of several siddhi masters. They believe that if a man generally takes fifteen breaths a minute (21,600 a day), he could live for a period of at least 120 years.

That the author of the Matthew Gospel was in Tamil Nadu at some point can be seen in Jesus’ final words in that Gospel, as he was nailed to the cross: ‘now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.’ (27-45)

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Rendering these words into Tamil, we obtain;

Eloi - El is used in Tamil for ‘god,’ but specifically a sun-god.

Lama - A Buddhist Saint – the primary lama being the Buddha himself.

Sabac – Becomes Savam in Tamil, which means ‘death.’ Similar ‘v’ to ‘b’ changes took place with Vengalam/Bengal and Viswas/Biswas.Tha - Give

NI – You

The full translation would be then rendered – O God O God O lama Death Give You – which is a perfect fit for the grammar of the Tamil language. It has been noticed by linguists that the Aramaic language of first century Judea contains many words found in Tamil, which could now be explained as having come through Agastya, who appears to have contributed much to the origins of that language. The comprehensive historian of all things Agastyan, KN Sivaraja Pillai, states, ‘Agastya had also to perform his civilizing work by systematizing the Tamil Language and founding the first Academy whence all culture flowed for the benefit of later generations,’ while the very language of Tamil is still known as ‘Agastyam.’ Recent archeological evidence has found traces of the Tamil language dating back to 1000 BC, meaning Agastya would fit into the history of Tamil as its great redresser, & a text such as the Thirukurral its Divine Comedy. Just as poets like Dante laid the roots for modern Italian, and Shakespeare the modern English, the Tamils seem to have accepted Agastya as the founder-father of their language. We must remember that the poetic Jesus was working in the highest realms of the art, where the creation of new words and rules of language would have come as easily as leaves grow on a tree.

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Before we leave Agastya, it just so happens that in the hills about the Siddha HQ near, Ambassamudrum, a plant known as Helleborus Niger grows wild. An image of the same plant also appears in the curious pages of the Voynich manuscript. Discovered in 1912 by Wilfrid Voynich, it has been described as the world’s most mysterious manuscript, mainly for the fact it is written in a language & script no-one has ever been able to crack – even the best codebreakers of WW2 failed to break into it. Carbon dating has given the ms an origin of the early 1400s, & is divided into the following sections;

1 – Drawings of plants, many of which are obscure
2- Astrological illustrations of the sun, moon & zodiac
3 – A biological section
4 – A pharmaceutical section
5 – A selection of recipes

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For me, the Siddhi system of medicine seems an essential a mix of all the contents of the Voynich manuscript: herbalism, astrology, biology & pharmacology! The last of the Siddhars, Theraiyar, was active in the early 1400s, who was considered to be a supreme master of many fields such as astrology, mysticism, alchemy and medicine. He was also fluent in numerous languagesTelugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Thulu and Sanskrit while his work on the classification of diseases, their managements and prognosi were highly respected. All these ingredients – the date, the subjects, the mysterious use of language – suggest he is the brain behind the original Voynich manuscript. An examination of the script shows a number of orthographical similarities to the Tamil, & I believe what Voynich MS is an actual European copy of a Siddha text, which was tinkered with here & there, such as introducing pictorial representations of western architecture.

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The Voynich manuscript
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Tamil script from different eras
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Bernie

The original book arrived in Europe in the hands of a 15th century Italian alchemist named Bernard of Treviso. His meeting with Therayair in Alleppey, Kerala – transchispered here into Apulea –  was recorded by Bernard in a text known as The Allegory of the Fountain;

When I passed through Apulea, a city in India, I heard that a man resided there who was so very learned in every branch of Science, that he had not his equal in this world. He instituted as a Prize of disputation for all skilled in Art, a book… Therefore, desirous of honour, I did not doubt that my mind would assist me thereto and dispose me to the prescribed disputations, a very learned man adding spurs to my undertaking this province, and it also coming into my mind that the daring and bold were carried to sublime things, while the timid were thrown down and lived in perpetual dejection, I passed manfully into the field of contest and happily obtained the palm of disputation before the audience, and the book of premium was so honourably delivered to me by the faculty of Philosophy

I shall perhaps make a more thorough investigation of the Voynich manuscript, probably wandering the Tamil Ghats matching up flowers that grow there to the floral images found in the Voynich. Probably in my late 60s just before I embark on my decade long study of the Mahabharata. Until then, I would simply like to enjoy this moment, for the search for Agastya has been an incredibly satisfying investigation; after which a Tamil Jesus helps us to clear up a great deal of the historical smoke. But, we have spent far too long in the ancient east, its time to travel  back to my native island & answer that particularly native & often mind-raking question, just exactly who were the Picts?

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Next Wednesday, 21/02/18

Chapter 5 : The Picts

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CHISPOLOGY

Chapter 1: The Exodus
Chapter 2: The Aryan Invasion
Chapter 3: The Mahabharata
Chapter 4: Agastya
Chapter 5: The Picts
Chapter 6: Brunanburh
Chapter 7: The Young Shakespeare
Chapter 8: Shakespeare’s Blossom
Chapter 9: The Badon Babel Tree
Chapter 10: The Saxon Advent

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THE CHISPER EFFECT

chisper_effectChapter 1: Chispology 
Chapter 2: Princess Scota
Chapter 3: The Ithica Frage
Chapter 4: The Jesus Jigsaw
Chapter 5: Asvaghosha
Chapter 6: Dux Bellorum
Chapter 7: Dux Pictorum
Chapter 8: The Holy Grail
Chapter 9: The Mandylion
Chapter 10: Shakespeare’s Grand Tour
Chapter 11: The Dark Lady
Chapter 12: The Ripper Gang

Chispology 3 : The Mahabharata

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Continuing the serialization of

Damian Beeson Bullen’s

CHISPOLOGY

In which a few more of the world’s greatest mysteries… are finally solved

Available to buy in book form

Autumn 2018

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At some point in high antiquity, the epic poetry of Homer reached India. With Alexander the Great slept with a copy under his pillow every night, we know of at least one occasion – during Alexander’s invasion – that Homer’s poetry was in India. By the first century AD, the Greek historian Dio Chrystotum wrote;

 It is said that Homer’s poetry is sung even in India, where they have translated it into their own speech and tongue. The result is that, while the people of India have no chance to behold many of the stars in our part of the world — for example, it is said that the Bears are not visible in their country — still they are not unacquainted with the sufferings of Priam, the laments and wailings of Andromachê and Hecuba, and the valour of both Achilles and Hector: so remarkable has been the spell of one man’s poetry!

It may be no coincidence that the two major epics of Hindu India, the Mahabharata & the Ramayana, seem substantively reflective of the militaristic Iliad & the journey-adventures of the Odyssey. As a westerner, I feel the Iliad more in my blood, but as a witness of the east, I am beginning to understand more & more the influences involved in comparative cultures. Therefore, it is time to analyze in more detail the greatest Indian epic poem, the Mahabharata.

During my research trip to India in 2013, hard upon the trail of an oriental Jesus, & musing that Issa-Jesus could have visited the battlefield of Kurukshetra in order to write the Bhagavad Gita, I thought a visit to the very locale might assist my studies. Cue orange-clad holy men, chunky old bicycles, clouds of dust, a faint smell of spice, air like a white hot blanket and nobody speaking English anywhere. After an hour of utter confusion, I eventually made my way within a jeweler’s shop, owned by a friendly English-speaking chap called Parikshit, who happened to share his name with Arjuna’s grandson. On enquiring about the battlefield’s location, he laughed and said I was standing in the middle of it, and that it spread around us in all directions for forty square miles. Moments later, Parikshit very kindly arranged a rickshaw for me, and I began to tour the ‘battlefield’ with its many monuments, memorials and temples dedicated to quasi-historical moments found in the Mahabharata.

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Taking notes @ Kurukshetra

Composed by a certain Vyasa, & approaching 100,000 slokas, or couplets, the MB is the world’s longest epic, concerning a great civil war of the Bharatas and the establishment of the Dhurmarajya, or universal sovereignty in that house. It still flourishes in the subcontinent to this day, an ever living, ever present inspiration to society, whose iconography & quotations are spread prolifically across the entire Hindu sphere. The poem is considered to be, ‘Vyasochchishtam Jagath sarvam,’ meaning ‘the whole world is the spit of Vyasa.’ This implies that the MB touches all topics & conditions of humanity, an encyclopaedia of early Indian culture & history whose allogerical teachings have been the guiding light of Hindus for millennia. Just how many millennia is the question I would like to investigate today.

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Attempting to make any sense of the origins of the MB  is rather like getting caught up in a n extremely sticky spider’s web. It doesn’t take long to get a headache when analyzing the MB, & solving this particular problem is one for the supercomputers of the future – or about a decade in my seventies wandering India like a mad saddhu. But an attempt shall here be made – well at least a start. I first came across the ‘problem,’ in a little book I picked up in the south Indian mini-state of Pondicherry. I discovered ‘On the Mahabharata’ in the depths of a bookshop in Auroville, an international ashram established by the gosh-golly amazing Indian poet Sri Aurobindo. My blog at the time details my stay at the ashram. In it I use the word ‘litology’ in place of Chispology, which would be coined at some point over that winter.

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Since Chennai, Victor & I have trundled down the coast of Tamil Nadu, whose seas are not to be swam in, only admired from the safety of the shore. First port of call was Mamallapuram, a touristy place in which to eat fish & dawdle awhile, which we did for a couple of nights. The highlight for me was making use of a posh hotel’s swimming pool (£3 for two hours), followed by a poolside lunch for another £3 quid. Inbetween dips I worked on my version of the Thirukural & felt solace once again in my choice of vocation, where another man’s vacation becomes my personal office!

After a couple of nights we jumped on a bus south. The distance between Chennai & Kannayakamari, India’s southernmost point, is1000 kilometres, which is more or less the length of Britain. Thus, by reaching the Pondicherry area we have gone about as far, in comparative terms, as Aberdeen. Our actual residence has been taken up about ten miles from Pondy, in the spacious international ashram of Auroville. My first visit was back in 2002, an occasion on which I encountered a majestic & divine epic poem called Savitri, by the Oxford-educated ascetic Sri Aurobindo (born 1872).

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It was the main work of his life, & is read out at the ashram once a week to devotees, an occasion which Victor & I were lucky enough to arrive for just in time. Auroville is also the world’s repositary of Aurobindo’s works, stored in a modern library on site, in which I have found a number of interesting paragraphs that have assisted me in my studies. It was while studying his words, I came across this remarkable description of poetry, which lovers of the art must enjoy.

All poetry is an inspiration, a thing breathed into the thinking organ from above; it is recorded in the mind, but is born in the higher principle of direct knowledge or ideal vision which surpasses mind. it is in reality a revelation. The prophetic or revealing power sees the substance; the inspiration perceives the right expression. Neither is manufactured; nor is poetry really a poiesis or composition, nor even a creation, but rather the revelation of something that eternally exists. the ancients knew this truth & used the same word for poet & prophet, creator & seer, sophos, vates, kavi.

Across the several square miles of land that Auroville takes up, there are various places to stay, & we got quite a good ‘un called Reve (pronounced rave), where Vics got a great hut on stilts & Im in a cheaper hit on the roof of the kitchen. The place is full of young, mainly French, ashram-heads, & is a picture of perfect tranquility. To get about the place, a moped/scoooter is essential, & a steal at only a quid a day – with petrol being 70p a litre.

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Vic’s even had a few goes on it, declaring it to be like riding a pushbike with a motor (well-observed that man). I love bikes me, for they provide moments like this morning when I razzed down to the boulangerie for chocolate croissants, listening & singing to Betty Boo – the chorusus especially startling folk on the roadside. Also filling the roads are loads of cute birds on bikes, from all over the world, which is always good for a poet’s soul.

The word boulangerie is of course French, for Pondicherry is the old French morsel of empire that carried on during the British Raj in much the same way the Portuguese held on to Goa. Cue boulevards & avenues & white-washed villas that are positively Marseilleian at the seafront, but then get swallowed by India street by street as one drifts inland. Ten blocks in all traces of the French have dissappeared. It was in Pondy that Victor & I conducted a little travel arranging – Vic bought a flight from Goa to Delhi for the 17th December, & we both got a ticket from Calicut to Goa for the 27th November, This gives us ten days – starting Sunday – to razz round Tamil Nadu & Kerala – about a thousand miles of travel – during which I’ll be still hunting for Jesus. It should be quite Indiana Jonesey, which is why I got into Litology in the first place, & I reckon there’s gonna be plenty to write about in the coming fortnight…

Auroville

15/11/2013

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 I left Auroville with Aurobindo’s book firmly ensconced in my backpack. Since then, I have picked at the contents occasionally, & finally feel ready to add my own tuppeneth to the long-running investigations. Of these, Sri Aurobindo has left many interesting pre-independence, anti-western, but undoubtedly correct remarks, including;

Only a serious scrutiny of the Mahabharat made with a deep sense of critical responsibility and according to the methods of patient scientific inference, can justify on in advancing any considerable theory on this wonderful poetic structure.

It is not from European scholars that we must expect a solution of the Mahabharata problem. They have no qualifications for the task except a power of indefatigable research and collocation; and in dealing with the Mahabharata even this power seems to have deserted them. It is from Hindu scholarship renovated and instructed by contact with European that the attempt must come. Indian scholars have shown a power of detachment and disinterestedness and a willingness to give up cherished notions under pressure of evidence which are not common in Europe. They are not, as a rule, prone to the Teutonic sin of forming a theory in accordance with their prejudices and then finding facts or manufacturing inferences to support it. When, therefore, they form a theory on their own account, it has usually some clear justification and sometimes an overwhelming array of facts and solid arguments behind it

All that we know of the Mahabharata at present is that it is the work of several hands and of different periods — this is literally the limit of the reliable knowledge European scholarship has so far been able to extract from it. 

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A century ago the above berated ‘European scholarship’ did not have the resource of chispology to call on, so let us see what we can do, shall we? First things first, let us look at records of the MB’s authorship. In the poem’s massive prolegomena, we learn that because the Mahabharata was written in so difficult a style, Vyasa himself could remember only 8,800 of the Slokas, Suka an equal amount and Sanjaya perhaps as much, perhaps something less. Another passage in the prolegomena then states quite plainly that Vyasa first wrote the Mahabharata in 24,000 Slokas, adding that he afterwards enlarged it to 100,000. The quadrupling of the poem is actually a factochisp, for it is clear from a study of the MB that following the composition of the core poem concerning the War Parvas, a redaction was created by a lesser poet, to which was later added a great deal of new material by much inferior poets. In this passage, Sri Aurobindo ascribes the second poet as being like Valmiki in style – ie similar to the composer of India’s other great epic, the Ramayana;

In the Mahabharata we are struck at first by the presence of two glaringly distinct and incompatible styles. There is a mass of writing in which the verse and language is unusually bare, simple and great, full of firm and knotted thinking and a high and heroic personality, the imagination strong and pure, never florid or richly coloured, the ideas austere, original and noble. There is another body of work sometimes massed together but far oftener interspersed in the other, which has exactly opposite qualities, it is Ramayanistic, rushing in movement, full and even overabundant in diction, flowing but not strict in thought, the imagination bold and vast, but often garish and highly-coloured, the ideas ingenious and poetical, sometimes of astonishing subtlety, but at others common and trailing, the personality much more relaxed, much less heroic, noble and severe. When we look closer we find that the Ramayanistic part may possibly be separated into two parts, one of which has less inspiration and is more deeply imbued with the letter of the Ramayana, but less with its spirit

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As for the setting of the poem, a number of Indian scholars have proscribed a 4th millennium BC date for the Mahabharata War. It is highly likely that some of the content of the poem does herald from this time, for the poem glorifies the Saraswathi River, which silted over about the year 2000 BC. However, the poem’s composition must post-date 1000 BC, for on my trip to India I identified the following materielle, as recorded in my blog;
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India’s capital is an amazing architectural feast, and before catching my ongoing flight to Ladakh, I spent a few hours touring the city. In Delhi, the rush of life, scent and colour that is in an Indian city is magnified a thousand-fold, accompanied by a grandiose array of tombs, forts and parks. Over the centuries they have been bequeathed to the city by a steady stream of conquerors, all of whom have ruled their Indian empires from this fortress in the north. Of the places visited, it was an hour spent within the idyllic fortified oasis of the Puran Quila that whetted my appetite the most for my mission ahead. The fort was built around a village named Indrapat, a phonetic match to the city of Indrapashtra. The great Indian epic poem, the Mahabharata, tells us this was the capital of the Pandavas, those members of an ancient and noble family who were both the cousins and the enemies of another Indian family known as the Kuru. Brought to conflict, a great and deadly war was fought between these two clans which sucked in all the peoples of ancient India, the story of which constitutes the bulk of the Mahabharata. Through astrological data found in the text, these events have been traditionally dated to c.3100 BC, yet the earliest archaeological strata of occupation at Purana Qila is c.1000 BC, somewhat confusing the issue. Because of this contradiction, Indian scholarship has been divided over the two dates for a century or two, and like any academic debate, both schools remain firmly entrenched in their mindsets. The actual answer lies tangled up in a series of layers, or strata, which were added to the poem’s contents over many centuries – in essence both schools are partially right.

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Arjuna & Krishna at Kurukshetra

As for the other book-end in time, Hopkins in his, ‘The Great Epic of India’ (1902) concluded that the epic is dated after the youngest vedic works, ie post 600 BC, adding there was ‘no evidence of an epic before 400 BC.’ In the Chisper Effect I showed how the 1st century AD Issa-Jesus, or Ishvarakrishna, was the author of the Bhagavad Gita, & when searching for a figure to use as his mouthpiece for the Gita, Issa-Jesus chose Krishna. An objection may well be raised by traditionalists, who state that the Mahabharata, in which the Gita is contained, was written well before the 1st century AD. On the other hand, a growing number of modern scholars concur on the Gita being a late interpolation into the Mahabharata. Where Amit Chaudri calls the Gita a ‘slightly anomalous, somewhat unassimilate episode,’ Sri Aurobindo remarks on the Gita’s insertion, ‘into the mass of the Mahbharata by its author in order to invest its teaching with the authority and popularity of the national epic.’

In the Life of Issa, we learn how Issa-Jesus visited a tomb at the Jaggernatha temple in Orissa, ‘where repose the mortal remains of Vyassa-Krishna, and where the white priests of Brahma welcomed him joyfully.’ I myself have dabbled with the poetic arts, and have visited the tombs and shrines of several poets, such as those of Shelley and Keats in the Protestant cemetery of Rome, and the tomb of Dante in Ravenna. The latter was the author of the great Italian epic, the Divine Comedy, in which poem he actually places the Roman poet Virgil, who had lived over a thousand years before him. In the same fashion it feels as if the poetic Jesus was visiting one of his own poetic idols. One can see from this pilgrimage to Vyasa’s tomb how much of an interest Issa-Jesus had in the Mahabharata – so much so he ended up adding the Gita to it. In this poem, Krishna is in all essence a god incarnate, but  Vyasa’s Krishna is very different, whose divinity is not presupposed at all. Sri Aurobindo reports;

Krishna’s divinity is recognised but more often hinted at than aggressively stated. The tendency is to keep it in the background as a fact to which, while himself crediting it, the writer does not hope for a universal consent, still less is able to speak of it as a general tenet and matter of dogmatic belief; he prefers to show Krishna rather in his human character, acting always by wise, discerning and inspired methods, but still not transgressing the limit of human possibility

Panini

In the millennium between the foundation of Indrapashtra at Purana Qila, & the visit of Issa-Jesus to the tomb of Vyasa, we encounter a certain Panini, whose mentioning of the Mahabharata narrows our time frame down by about three centuries. In his famous Sanskrit grammar the Astadhydyi, Panini gives names connected to the Mahabharata – including Arjuna, Vasudeva, Yudhisthira – & even the name Mahabharata itself. With the classical Indian writers Brihatkatha and Mañjuśrī-mūla-kalpa both placing Panini as a contemporary of the short-lived Nanda empire, he must have lived some of his life between 345 & 321 BC.

In the same era there is a mention of a certain ‘Arya Krishna,’ who could well be our Vyasa Krishna. Within the pages of the ‘Tibetan Blue Annals,’ written in the 15th century by a monk called Gos lo-tsa-ba gZon-nu-dpal, the author introduces and translates what he calls, ‘a stray page from an Indian text on the hierarchy of the Doctrine which is in my possession.’

Arya Krishna in his turn protected the Doctrine, benefited living beings and entrusted the Doctrine to Arya Sudarsana, and passed into Nirvana. Arya Sudarsana in his turn fully protected the doctrine, benefited living beings and then passed into Nirvana. About that time in the city of Vaisali monks issued a statement containing the ten improper regulations. In order to expel these monks from the community, seven hundred arhats, including Sarvakamin and others, held a council. At that time three hundred years had elapsed since the Parinirvana of the blessed one. King Asoka having died, Sudarsan was reborn in Kashmir.

Arya Krishna was the 5th patriarch entrusted with the ‘dharma,’ ie the teachings of the Buddha. He is known for spreading Buddhism in Ceylon (Ramayana territory) with 500 followers at the request of that island’s king. As for his floruit, If we go backwards in time from the end of this passage, we may ascribe decent dates to those notices made in the Blue Annals.

238 BC: Death of Ashoka = King Asoka having died

c.250 BC: 300 years after the Buddha’s enlightenment = About that time… three hundred years had elapsed since the Parinirvana of the blessed one.

In the earliest part of the passage, we learn  that Sudarsana had succeeded Arya Krishna, whose life-span could easily stretch into the 4th century BC in which those earliest mentions of the Mahabharata appear in Panini. For me, the leading Buddhist of the time, Arya Krishna was also Vyasa Krishna, the composer of the great Hindu epic, for the Chispologist must learn to train their minds away from such linear notions as, ‘because Arya Krishna was a Buddhist, he could not have composed a Hindu poem.‘ In my Chisper Effect I showed how Issa-Jesus wrote the biography of the Buddha AND the Hindu-centric Gita. There are traces here & there in the MB of Buddhist influence, such  as the presence of the notion of Shambhala, alongside seventeen of the Jātaka that are parallel’d in the MB; including the Sammodamānajātaka, Mitacintijātaka (114) MBh 12,135 Pañcatantra, Sasajātaka (316) [MBh 12,141–145 Pañcākhyānaka & the Kuntanijātaka. During my studies, I came across the research of a German expert on the MB who noticed an anomaly.  At certain times in the poem the Pandavas are seen as scheming gamblers, which Adolf Holtzmann in his  Grammatisches aus dem Mahabharata, saw as evidence of an inversion. GJ Held succinctifies Holtzmann’s theory;

Now the Pandavas are spoken of as being Vishnuites & the Kauravas as being Sivaites. We might , therefore, expect that the struggle between the two parties in the Epic would be the recoil of a collision between an older Sivaism & a subsequent rise of Vishnuism, there are, however, no traces of such a collision to be found. But there was certainly a time when a close connection existed between Sivaism & Buddhism, & it is none less certainly known that there was once a collision between Buddhism & Brahamanism, which knowledge induced Holtzmann to assume that the Sivaism of the Kauravas must have implied a certain partiality for the teachings of Buddha. Finally Holtzmann arrives at the following historical reconstruction.
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Right back in the most ancient times there was a guild of court-singers who extolled in their professional poetry the mighty deeds of their monarchs. Then came a talented poet who made of the original Epic composed in honour of the renowned race of the Kauravas a poem in praise of a great Buddhist ruler… But now the new teaching, coming into conflict with the growing pretensions of the Brahmins, begins to decline, & their priests concert the now popular poem to their own use, but reverse the original purpose of the work as a whole. Now it is no longer the Kauravas who are lauded but their very adverseries,  the Pandavas, to whom a decided predilection for Brahamanical doctrine is ascribed. The Epic is subjected to further revision. Buddhism is eliminated altogether.
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The great drawback,‘ continues Held, ‘is that these alterations can only be inferred from the poem itself. External evidence is entirely lacking.’ However, if we cite Arya Krishna as that external evidence we gain our credible linkage between the MB & a Buddhist-influenced origin. Just as the Homeric poems are like the pre-Schliemann site of Troy itself, ie many strata waiting to be dug out & identified, so the Mahabharata will one day be given levels such as MBIIa & MB VIIb, & so on, with the deepest being the Buddhist original. At this point in my life I am too touched by the domestic goddess to consider roaming the subcontinent in search of the clues which solve the MB problem. So dense is the forest of slokas, that even if I tried I rather think my mind would get caught in the sticky webbing like a fly. Sri Aurobindo writes;
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It is only by a patient scrutiny and weighing of the whole poem, disinterestedly, candidly and without preconceived notions, a consideration Canto by Canto, paragraph by paragraph, couplet by couplet that we can arrive at anything solid or permanent. But this implies a vast and heartbreaking labour

Yonaguni_2[1]

I shall present you with one whimper of a possibility of a strata. The year 1424 BC or thereabouts for the MB war is quite popular among scholars, such as S B Roy who used astronomical calculations to obtain that date, while Krishna’s ‘Dwarka City’ seems to have been submerged under the sea in the same period, an event recorded in the MB itself. Arjuna says;

The sea, which has been beating against the shores, suddenly broke the boundary that was imposed on it by nature. It rushed into the city, coursing through the beautiful city streets, & covered up everything in the city. I saw the beautiful buildings becoming submerged one by one. In a matter of a few moments, it was all over. The sea had now become as placid as a lake. There was no trace of the city, Dwaraka was just a name; just a memory

Under-water archaeological exploration at the site revealed a prosperous port town which had been in existence for about 60-70 year, before being submerged under the sea in the year c.1450 BC. This really does feel like Aryan Invasion time. In the core of the Mahabharata, Krishna is more a diplomatic mortal than the physical expression of immortal divinity. He is seen as the mover & shaker political statesman behind the armies of Yudhishthira as they conquered India. That an original Krishna figure could have been attached to the Aryan Invasions of India by the Hyksos leads us to the chispology of modern Krishna-scholar, Edwin Francis Bryant;

According to Arrian, Diodorus, & Strabo, Megasthenes described an Indian tribe called Sourasenoi, who especially worshiped Herakles in their land, & this land had two cities Methora & Kleisobora, & a navigable river, the Jobares. As was common in the ancient period, the Greeks sometimes described foreign gods in terms of their own divinities, & there is little doubt that the Sourasenoi refers to the Shurasenas, a branch of the Yadu dynasty to which Krishna belonged; Herakles to Krishna, or Hari-Krishna, Mehtora to Mathura, where Krishna was born; Kleisobora to Krishnapura, meaning ‘the city of Krishna,’ & the Jobares to the Yamuna, the famous river in the Krishna story.

The Shurasenas are named after Shurasena, the first Yadava king of Mathura. If this was Seuserenre, then Krishna would have been his grandson, & thus Egypto-Hyksos. To this day in Puri, the very city where Vyasa-Krishna was lain to rest, the Ratha Yatra festival is almost identical to the Egyptian Opet festival. In the latter, Amun, Mut & Khonsus are placed on sacred barques & floated along the Avenue of the Sphinxes between the temples of Karnak & Luxor. In Puri images of Krishna, Balaram & Subhadra are carried upon chariots through the streets. We may also observe how both triads of idols were then/are still sprinkled with sacred water, decorated with jewelery & flowers & accompanied by musicians on their highly ritualised journey. We should also examine the cosmology of Balaram, for where this Hindu god is represented as an incarnation of the primeval serpent of the abyss, the Egyptian deity Khonsu is shown as the Great Snake who fertilizes the world.

Russia-Ratha-Yatra

In Sanskrit, Krishna literally means ‘the dark-blue one.’ In the latter term we can see a pathway into Egyptian theology, whose god Amun was clad in the same blue skin as Krishna, & just like Krishna was depicted in funerary art as having two ostrich feathers in his head-dress. Both gods are also depicted as having a ‘sacred river’ emerging from their feet, while the ancient ‘Coffin Texts’ of Egypt associate Amun with the falcon-headed Horus, just as Krishna is linked with the eagle-headed Garuda. In Egyptian, Amun is written as Ymn, which has been reconstructed by Egyptologists to ‘Yamanu,’ which transchispers into the sacred river ‘Yamuna’ in India, where grew up the boy Krishna. What appears to have happened is that after Vyasa used Krishna for the MB, he became personally associated with Krishna, with his creation slowly acquiring the status of Godhead.

Returning to Panini, I would like us for one moment to assume that his knowledge of the Mahabharata was contemporary. Leaning further in that direction, let us now assume that with his work in Sanskrit being under the patronage of a Nanda king, this same king also patronised the Mahabharata. It this from hyperfact that we can make quite solid philological associations between members of the Nanda dynasty & characters mentioned in the Mahabharata. The first Nanda monarch was Ugrasena – also known as Mahapadma Nanda – who had eight sons. Of these, it was Dhana who succeeded to the throne, a little time before he was conquered by Chandragupta. Of his brothers, both Panduka & Pandugati seem philochisps of the Pandavas, one of the two main warring families in the MB. As for Dhana, he clearly appears in the MB as Duryodhana, but it is in Diodorus Siculus that we find a rather interesting avatar. This passage is also interesting for history as it sees the moment when Alexander the Great decided attacking the Nanda Empire would not be worth it after all.

While all this was going on, Hephaestion returned with his army from his mission, having conquered a big piece of India. Alexander commended him for his successes, then invaded the kingdom of Phegeus where the inhabitants cheerfully accepted the appearance of the Macedonians. Phegeus himself met the king with many gifts and Alexander confirmed him in his rule. Alexander and the army were feasted bountifully for two days, and then advanced to the Hyphasis River, the width of which was seven furlongs, the depth six fathoms, and the current violent. This was difficult to cross.

He questioned Phegeus about the country beyond the Indus River, and learned that there was a desert to traverse for twelve days, and then the river called Ganges, which was thirty-two furlongs in width and the deepest of all the Indian rivers. Beyond this in turn dwelt the peoples of the Tabraesians and the Gandaridae, whose king was Xandrames. He had twenty thousand cavalry, two hundred thousand infantry, two thousand chariots, and four thousand elephants equipped for war. Alexander doubted this information and sent for Porus, and asked him what was the truth of these reports. Porus assured the king that all the rest of the account was quite correct, but that the king of the Gandaridae was an utterly common and undistinguished character, and was supposed to be the son of a barber. His father had been handsome and was greatly loved by the queen; when she had murdered her husband, the kingdom fell to him.

Alexander saw that the campaign against the Gandaridae would not be easy, but he was not discouraged. He had confidence in the fighting qualities of his Macedonians, as well as in the oracles which he had received, and expected that he would be victorious. He remembered that the Pythia had called him “unconquerable,” and Ammon had given him the rule of the whole world.

Xandrames
Janramesa
Janamejaya

According to the MB itself, after Vyasa had recited the poem, then his pupil Vaisampayana recited ‘the entire thought’ of Vyasa at the Snake Sacrifice of King Janamejaya, whose name transchispers into Xandrames, ie our Dhana. The NEXT time the MB was recited, it was a generation later by a certain Ugrasravas, whose name recalls the Nanda emperor,  Ugrasena, whose name also appears in a Vedic Sanskrit text known as the Shatapatha Brahmana. Reaching its final version in 300 BCE, this text says Ugrasena was the son of Parikshit, & thus the grandson of Arjuna, alongside three brothers – Janamejaya, Bhimasena & Śrutasena. Thus we have a royal Ugrasena related to a royal Janamejaya, just as a royal Ugrasena is related to a royal Xandrames. It now seems quite likely that the court of the Nanda Kings is the local in which the MB began to take the form recognizable by the world at large. Finally, the MB tells us that Ugrasravas dictated the MB to a certain rishi called Saunaka. Its always nice to finish with a little food for thought, so beginning with Janamejaya’s brother, Srutasena, we can create the following babel-chain.

Srutasena
Sudar-sana
Sana
Saunaka

It is recognizing the cross-pollination of the Nanda kings with the leading arhats of the Palitapura Buddhists in the 4th century BC that brings us to the following possibility. In the legends of Krishna, he is said to be the grandson of a certain Ugrasena. This Ugrasena had a son called Kamsa who is said to have killed the princely sons of Devakai, except of course Krishna, who survived the royal cull. Thus, when the Greek writer Quintus Curtius Rufius gives the name Agrammes to Dhana, we can recognize the Kamsa-Gramsa-Agrammes babel-chain. Curtius also mentions that Dhana’s father, Ugrasena, ‘usurped the supreme authority, and, having put the young princes to death...’ an incident which seems to have later creochisped into the Krishna legend. Convoluted, yes; accurate; seemingly;  & chispology, of course!

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Next Wednesday, 14/02/18

Chapter 4 : Agastya

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chisp cover

CHISPOLOGY

Chapter 1: The Exodus
Chapter 2: The Aryan Invasion
Chapter 3: The Mahabharata
Chapter 4: Agastya
Chapter 5: The Picts
Chapter 6: Brunanburh
Chapter 7: The Young Shakespeare
Chapter 8: Shakespeare’s Blossom
Chapter 9: The Badon Babel Tree
Chapter 10: The Saxon Advent

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THE CHISPER EFFECT

chisper_effectChapter 1: Chispology 
Chapter 2: Princess Scota
Chapter 3: The Ithica Frage
Chapter 4: The Jesus Jigsaw
Chapter 5: Asvaghosha
Chapter 6: Dux Bellorum
Chapter 7: Dux Pictorum
Chapter 8: The Holy Grail
Chapter 9: The Mandylion
Chapter 10: Shakespeare’s Grand Tour
Chapter 11: The Dark Lady
Chapter 12: The Ripper Gang