The Chisper Effect 12 : The Ripper Gang

    Continuing the weekly serialization of


Damian Beeson Bullen’s


In which a number of the world’s greatest mysteries are finally solved


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As we approach the end of my first chispological analysis of the most spectacular mysteries of mankind, we are about to enter what are for me our modern times. The difference between this age & those of the past, especially the deeper histories, is society’s ability to relay information to the masses with widespread rapidity. With this possibility comes the very real risk of media manipulation, of creating a factochisp on purpose, the veritable ‘Fake News’ of the Trump administration. Humanity is primarily a gossip-loving species, that is force-fed to a gluttonous, news-hungry people; if enough people read about, or see images of, a factoid then the widely spread belief moulds minds for whomever may benefit. ‘That never happened,‘ someone might say. ‘But I read it about,’ ‘but I saw it with my own eyes,’ will be the curt response.


Such an illusion occurred in the case of the notorious Whitechapel prostitute killer, Jack the Ripper, said to stalk the dimly lit streets of London’s East End in the summer & autumn of 1888. Among eleven unsolved crimes contained in the dossier on the so-called Whitechapel Killer, there are five which form the unholy canon of victims. These poor unfortunate women were all found with their throats cut, with four of them being mutilated in the most abhorrent fashion. They were;

Mary Ann Nichols: 31 August, Buck’s Row
Annie Chapman: 8 September, 29 Hanbury Street
Elizabeth Stride: 30 September, 40 Berner Street
Catherine Eddowes: 30 September, Mitre Square
Mary Jane Kelly: 9 November, Millers Court


What bother’d the police the most about the killer was the phantom-like way this sadistic slaughterer managed to avoid detection during his grisly butchering & subsequent flights to safety. The police were also perturbed by the statements of numerous witnesses who had been closest to the action, so to speak, with the vast majority offering differing descriptions of the murderer. Using chispology, these two enigmas can be reconciled into a single stream of thought; Jack the Ripper was in fact several people, a murder gang, whose members facilitated the slayings. The Ripper Gang is the bloody colour of red, but when we mix in the blue of media manipulation & their creation of the single maniacal murderer, the colour inevitably changes. As we look at this new colour, we can sense red is somewhere in the background, but our minds see only now the new colour, violet.


The question we must ask is who turned the Ripper’s red to violet? Who in their right mind would be behind such a desperate & devious mission? Upon approaching a mystery such as this, one should apply to the problem Aristotle’s philosophies of causality; when all the dust has settled on an event, whomever benefits most from the final outcome probably had something to do with its initiation. In the case of Jack the Ripper, two very significant prosperities induced by the killings can be connected to the famous Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, who was living & working in London in 1888. His name stands out a little ridiculously, almost scandalously, in the same way that Queen Victoria’s deranged eldest son was a popular suspect in the case. Instead, where Prince Albert Edward’s ‘claim’ is based on speculation only, upon investigating Mr Shaw, a certain number of tentacles of truth seem to penetrate the dark historical swamps of the Ripper case with ease.

A young George Bernard Shaw
A young George Bernard Shaw

One of Shaw’s jobs at that time was as a music critic for the Star newspaper, where he wrote under the pseudonym, ‘Corno di Bassetto.’ The Star was also the Victorian tabloid which printed for the first time the name of Jack the Ripper, selling millions of copies in the process. In 1888, newspapers were the perfect public medium upon which to launch the creation of a crazed serial killer in order to focus a global spotlight upon the capital slums. At the time of the killings, the East End of London had crammed almost a million outcasts into its poverty-stricken streets, a community that was either ignored or condemned to eternal destitution by the wealthier classes of the capital. With a flash of his midnight knife, the Ripper would change everything in an instant. The public outcry over the killer was so intense that there soon kicked in the process of urban renewal & poverty relief that George Bernard Shaw had been campaigning for for years. Social reform is the crucial motive behind the Ripper killings, at the height of which Shaw printed the following letter in the Star. As we read the extracts, let us imagine him as the actual architect behind the entire Ripper legend.



SIR,– Will you allow me to make a comment on the success of the Whitechapel murderer in calling attention for a moment to the social question? Less than a year ago the West-end press, headed by the St. James’s Gazette, the Times, and the Saturday Review, were literally clamering for the blood of the people–hounding on Sir Charles Warren to thrash and muzzle the scum who dared to complain that they were starving–heaping insult and reckless calumny on those who interceded for the victims–applauding to the skies the open class bias of those magistrates and judges who zealously did their very worst in the criminal proceedings which followed–behaving, in short as the proprietary class always does behave when the workers throw it into a frenzy of terror by venturing to show their teeth. Quite lost on these journals and their patrons were indignant remonstrances, argument, speeches, and sacrifices, appeals to history, philosophy, biology, economics, and statistics; references to the reports of inspectors, registrar generals, city missionaries, Parliamentary commissions, and newspapers; collections of evidence by the five senses at every turn; and house-to-house investigations into the condition of the unemployed, all unanswered and unanswerable, and all pointing the same way. The Saturday Review was still frankly for hanging the appellants; and the Times denounced them as “pests of society.” This was still the tone of the class Press as lately as the strike of the Bryant and May girls. Now all is changed. Private enterprise has succeeded where Socialism failed. Whilst we conventional Social Democrats were wasting our time on education, agitation, and organisation, some independent genius has taken the matter in hand, and by simply murdering and disembowelling four women, converted the proprietary press to an inept sort of communism. The moral is a pretty one, and the Insurrectionists, the Dynamitards, the Invincibles, and the extreme left of the Anarchist party will not be slow to draw it. “Humanity, political science, economics, and religion,” they will say, “are all rot; the one argument that touches your lady and gentleman is the knife.”

The riots of 1886 brought in £78,000 and a People’s Palace; it remains to be seen how much these murders may prove worth to the East-end in panem et circenses. Indeed, if the habits of duchesses only admitted of their being decoyed into Whitechapel back-yards, a single experiment in slaughterhouse anatomy on an artistocratic victim might fetch in a round half million and save the necessity of sacrificing four women of the people.


In this letter, Shaw essentially describes how social reformers had tried multiple manners of methods to highlight the plight of the impoverishment of London’s East End, to their ignominious collapse of their efforts. Yet, where failed, ‘humanity, political science, economics, and religion,‘ it was the brutal murders of prostitutes which finally managed to open the eyes of a hoary establishment. When reading through the letter, expressions such as ‘private enterprise‘ & ‘independent genius’ seem outstandingly brazen words of self-congratulation. There is also a startlingly curious & cold-blooded sense of self-righteousness about Shaw’s, ‘necessity of sacrificing four women of the people.’

William Morris
William Morris

A similar opinion to this was vaunted by one of Shaw’s companions in social reform, William Morris, who printed in his own newspaper (the Commonweal), ‘in our age of contradictions and absurdities, a fiend-murderer may become a more effective reformer than all the honest propagandists in the world.’ Morris knew the East End well, & was always exploring its dark alleys & experiencing its gin-soaked poverty at first hand. Along with Shaw & their fellow reformers, Morris had grown steadily disenchanted with the normal means of civic protestation. Things became intolerable after November 1887, when on that month’s ‘Bloody Sunday,’ the British government brutally killed a number of protesters in Trafalgar Square. It was becoming clear to Morris & Shaw that an alternative route to reform was required. Their solution was a ‘fiend-murderer,’ whose hunting grounds were the poorest parts of London, in order to shine a focus on that area’s deprivation. That the Ripper’s unfortunate victims came from the prostitute class was an act designed, in fact, to assist these looser ladies in the long run. In 1885, William Morris had declared; ‘the first thing that is necessary, is that all women should be freed from the compulsion of living Sin this degraded way.’ There is also a vague holy grail nugget that has been hinted at by Ripperologists that Morris was arrested at one point during the murders & in relation to them. This may be a factochisp or genuine truth, but I shall pursue it no further at this moment.

The murders began with the non-canonical slaying of Emma Smith, on the 3rd April 1888. Later that year, on August 7th, Martha Tabram was stabbed 39 times in the George Yard Buildings, George Yard, Whitechapel. Also at this time, the Lyceum Theatre was playing ‘Dr Jekyl & Mr Hyde’ whose fiend-murderer was the talk of all of London.’ It is roundabout this point that the Ripper plan, I believe, was put into place. Smith & Tabram may have been ‘Ripper’ victims, or were perhaps an opportunistic catalyst for the plan to begin. Either way, by the night of the killing of the Mary Ann Nichols, on the 31st August 1888, Morris received a visit from a certain Ernest Balfort Bax, another ardent social reformer & erstwhile Star journalist. I believe on this occasion they were discussing the Star’s role in the plot that was just about to unfold, for the next day the newspaper printed a passage which neatly planted in the public’s imagination the arrival a ‘Man Monster’ in London.

HAVE we a murderous maniac loose in East London? It looks as if we had. Nothing so appalling, so devilish, so inhuman – or, rather non-human – as the three Whitechapel crimes has ever happened outside the pages of Poe or De Quincey. The unravelled mystery of “The Whitechapel Murders” would make a page of detective romance as ghastly as “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” The hellish violence and malignity of the crime which we described yesterday resemble in almost every particular the two other deeds of darkness which preceded it. Rational motive there appears to be none. The murderer must be a Man Monster

 What was needed was a group of individuals – a gang – who would carry out the deadly wishes of Shaw & Morris, to seek & slay those unlucky martyr-women to the cause. That several people were involved in the killings was much-opined at the time; The London Echo (1st September 1888) postulated, ‘one of the chief theories of the police with respect to the matter is that a sort of “High Rip” gang exists in the neighbourhood,’ while Percy Clark, a police surgeon in Whitechapel, told the East London Observer in 1910, ‘I think perhaps one man was responsible for three of them. I would not like to say he did the others.’ It has often been noted with some amazement how the Ripper managed to always elude capture, despite a modus operandi of killing in the open streets. On one occasion, a policeman patrolled a section of Whitechapel & found nothing untoward, then just ten minutes later returned to the same place to find a dead woman who had suffered a great deal of crude, organ-removing surgery. In the face of such risks, we may assume that a look-out system had been set in place to facilitate the plan.


Witnesses at three of the murders placed a man & woman gently carousing in the immediate area of the body-finds. The clearest of these sightings is at the murder of Annie Chapman; where one witness describes hearing what sounded like a body dropping against a fence, while five minutes later another witness places a man & a woman cavorting on the street-side of that same fence. While Annie Chapman was being brutalized behind the fence, the couple must have been keeping an eye on the street. That a woman was involved, a veritable JILL THE RIPPER, has been half-proven in recent years by the pro-female DNA profiling of a stamp on a letter sent to Thomas Horrocks Openshaw on the 29th October 1888. Signed ‘Jack the Ripper,’ after the signature there appears a curious creochisp of an American folk song.

O have you seen the devle
With his mikerscope & scalpul
A-lookin at a kidney
With a slide cocked up

Did you ever see de devil wid his iron handled shovel
A-scrapin up de san’ in his ole tin pan
He cuts up mighty funny, he steals all yo’ money
He blinds ou with his san.’ He’s tryin’ to git you, man
American Folk Song


This North American connection to the Ripper Gang leads us to two of its main players; a religious-nut insurance clerk called Henry Wentworth Bellsmith & a quack doctor called Francis Tumblety. The first of these, Henry Wentworth Bellsmith, was born in London in 1849, then moved to Toronto in 1878 with his wife & children. Following a decade of obscurity, by early 1888 we see him separated from his wife & back living in London, where he was employed by the Toronto Trust Company. By the month of April he had taken up lodgings with a certain Mr and Mrs Callaghan of 27 Sun Street, Finsbury Square, on the fringes of London’s East End. As the Autumn killings got underway, Mr Callaghan began to suspect his lodger was actually the Ripper, but before he could properly raise his suspicions with the authorities, Bellsmith vacated his rooms & vanished. A year later, Callaghan finally reported his haunted thoughts to a British psychiatrist working on the Ripper case, Forbes Winslow. The salient points of the statement Callaghan gave Winslow can be summarized thus;

(i) Bellsmith told Callaghan he was visiting London from Toronto on business for a few months or maybe a year.
(ii) Callaghan said of Bellsmith, ‘we all regarded him as a lunatic, obsessed with women of the street, who he said should be drowned.’
(iii) Bellsmith kept loaded revolvers in his room.
(iv) Following the killing of Martha Tabram in early August, Bellsmith came home late & ‘washed his own shirt.’ Callaghan later noticed spots of blood on Bellsmith’s bedsheets.

When Bellsmith moved out of Finsbury Square in mid-August, he told Callaghan was returning to Toronto. Instead, he seems to turn up in another room in Whitechapel, when an un-named landlady would remember a man just like Bellsmith, who had been lodging with her during the murders. The story is best given by an Australian newspaper, the Port Philip Herald (22-11-1890), extracts of which read;

Mr Albert Backert, Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, has written the following letter to the Chronicle:

In connection with the late Whitechapel murders, the most remarkable and sensational statement was made to me this morning at my place. At eleven o’clock this morning a very respectable middle-aged woman called at my house, and wished to see me. She was asked in, and then made the following statement to me, which she declared was all quite true:

About two years ago, she said, she was living in the model dwellings close by here and had a bedroom to let, furnished. A young man called and engaged the room. After living some time with her he stated that he had been to sea, and that at the present time he was receiving £1 a week from his father, and was also receiving an allowance from his brother, who was a doctor, and that he did not work himself. She also noticed that he had plenty of clothes, including hunting breeches, revolvers, guns, and many other articles, which an ordinary working man would not have.
“The People”, a London Conservative paper, has the following remarkable statement 

She describes him as young, of middle height, well-built, with a small, fair moustache and light brown hair, although she had frequently remarked that he had means by which he made his moustache and eyebrows much darker on some occasions than others. His movements during the time the murders were occurring were very mysterious… His brother, who she understood was a doctor, visited him on two occasions and appeared much older than he. She has no doubt the man she suspects is English, but he spoke with a nasal twang, evidently affected, and used the word “Boss” very frequently in conversation. He usually rose at two in the afternoon, and would go out about five o’clock, invariably wearing a tall hat and dressed very respectably, but as he had a large number of suits of clothes, he often dressed differently, or as she puts it: “He was a man who could so alter his appearance that if you met him in the street once you would not know him again.”

 The strange man she describes an accomplished linguist and able to speak French and German fluently as she frequently heard him in conversation with some foreigners who lived on the same floor…. one brother, the doctor who visited him, residing in the neighborhood of Oxford street. He also told her he had travelled for several years in the United States and Canada… There was little doubt, too, that he sent communications to the Press Association and Central News, for she declares that she once saw either envelopes or postcards addressed to them, although she believes that those she saw were subsequently destroyed… before his departure he had sold all his belongings – including many suits of clothes and several revolvers – to a ship’s mate, who, a few days later, called and took them away… On Wednesday evening she was walking in Commercial road, when, to her astonishment, she recognised the man, standing on the kerb in conversation with a well-known tradesman of the district, whose name she declines to divulge, but who, she has ascertained, is a friend of his… She has seen his wife, and had entered into conversation with her. The latter she describes as a rather pretty young woman of about twenty five, but whose face wears a strange look.


This description of the ‘lodger’ being seen in London with his young wife, two years year after the killings, is a composite match to Bellsmith & Caroline Taylor, who were married in 1889, when she was 23 years old. It is onto the landlady’s remembrance of the lodger’s elder brother that we can project the physicality & doctor persona of Francis Tumblety, who was 56 in 1888. Though a prominent suspect at the time, his name was lost in the muddy depths of Ripperology, only to resurface a century later in a letter discovered by an English policeman named Stewart Evans. Written in 1913 by John J. Littlechild, Chief of CID Special Branch at the time of the murders, it stores some vital information.

I never heard of a Dr D. in connection with the Whitechapel murders but amongst the suspects, and to my mind a very likely one, was a Dr. T. (which sounds much like D.) He was an American quack named Tumblety and was at one time a frequent visitor to London and on these occasions constantly brought under the notice of police, there being a large dossier concerning him at Scotland Yard. Although a ‘Sycopathia Sexualis’ subject he was not known as a ‘Sadist’ (which the murderer unquestionably was) but his feelings toward women were remarkable and bitter in the extreme, a fact on record. Tumblety was arrested at the time of the murders in connection with unnatural offences and charged at Marlborough Street, remanded on bail, jumped his bail, and got away to Boulogne. He shortly left Boulogne and was never heard of afterwards. It was believed he committed suicide but certain it is that from this time the ‘Ripper’ murders came to an end.

The ‘unnatural offences’ ascribed to Tumblety were acts of homosexuality against five men, which had been conducted across the entire period of the canonical murders. The first of these incidents took place on the 31st August, the very date of the killing of Mary Ann Nichols. Perhaps he was indulging in his secret passions in order to deflect his mind from the horrors about to unfold. Tumblety was a man with a chequered past, including suspicion of having had a hand in the assassination of President Lincoln. He also had a reputation of being quite a vicious misogynist, as best recorded in the written account of a certain Colonel Dunham, who had once been invited to a dinner by Tumblety.

Someone asked why he had not invited some women to his dinner. His face instantly became as black as a thunder-cloud. He had a pack of cards in his hand, but he laid them down and said, almost savagely, ‘No, Colonel, I don’t know any such cattle, and if I did I would, as your friend, sooner give you a dose of quick poison than take you into such danger.’ He then broke into a homily on the sin and folly of dissipation, fiercely denounced all women and especially fallen women.
He then invited us into his office where he illustrated his lecture so to speak. One side of this room was entirely occupied with cases, outwardly resembling wardrobes. When the doors were opened quite a museum was revealed — tiers of shelves with glass jars and cases, some round and others square, filled with all sorts of anatomical specimens. The ‘doctor’ placed on a table a dozen or more jars containing, as he said, the matrices (uteri) of every class of women. Nearly a half of one of these cases was occupied exclusively with these specimens.

Hall Caine
Hall Caine

Tumblety was perfect for the job, & in the context of the Ripper Gang, where Bellsmith led the actual murders, Tumblety would have been the mastermind. We can link him directly to the private company of George Bernard Shaw through a collection of writers & thespians known as the ‘Beefsteak Club,’ of which Shaw was a frequent member. Tumblety admitted attending club meetings to a publication known as the New York World on the 29th January, 1889; when he boasted of frequenting ‘some of the best London clubs, among others the Carleton Club & the Beefsteak Club.’ One of the Club’s more prominent members was Thomas Hall Caine, whom as a young man in the 1870s had been seduced and manipulated by Tumblety. Caine would go on to become a successful writer, noted for the touches of realism he poured into his works, analysis of which writings shows how he poured the real world into his fictions. His third novel, A Son of Hagar, for example, begins with a suicidal girl & her illegitimate baby being dragged alive from the Thames, which reflects the birth of his own first child before he became married to its mother. Thusly, Caine’s own complicity in the Ripper conspiracy may ve secretly interwoven into a short story of his, ‘The Last Confession,’ which was published in 1893;

Father, do not leave me. Wait! Only a little longer. You cannot absolve me? I am not penitent? How can I be penitent? I do not regret it? How can I regret it? I would do it again? How could I help but do it again? Yes, yes, I know, I know! Who knows it so well as I? It is written in the tables of god’s law: Thou shall do no murder! But was it murder? Was it crime? Blood. Yes, it was the spilling of blood. Blood will have blood, you say, But is there no difference?

My life as a physician in London had been a hard one, but it was not my practice that had wrecked me. How to perform that operation on the throat was the beginning of my trouble, you know what happened. I mastered my problem, & they called the operation by my name. It has brought me fame it has made me rich it has saved a hundred lives, & will save ten thousand more… My work possessed me like a fever. I could neither do it to my content nor leave it undone.

Later in the Confession, Caine encounters a Tumbletyesque ‘American surgeon’ who proclaims how it was, ‘good to take life in a good cause, & if it was good for the nation, it was good for the individual man. The end was all.’ That Caine’s ‘fictional’ surgeon committed murders in secluded alleyways, & that he cut throats the throats of his victims, leaves little to the imagination.


The Ripper Gang would leave its biggest trace on the night of September 30th, when two prostitutes were killed within an hour of each other. This famous ‘Double-Event,’ would be the next bloody step in sensationalizing the Ripper, whose ‘official’ birth had been cast by the Star only a few days previously. Dated to the 25th September, the Central News Agency received the following letter written in red ink;

Dear Boss:- I keep on hearing the police have caught me, but they won’t fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on ______, and I shan’t quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal. How can they catch me now? I love my work, and want to start again. You will soon hear of me with my funny little games. I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle to write with, but it went thick, and I can’t use it. Red ink is fit enough, I hope. Ha! ha! The next job I do I clip the lady’s ear and send to the police officers, just for jolly. Wouldn’t you? Keep this letter back till I do a bit more work, then give it out straight. My knife’s so nice and sharp; I want to get a chance. Good luck-
Yours truly,
Jack T. Ripper
Don’t mind me giving the trade name. Wasn’t good enough to post this before I got all the red ink off my hands. Curse it; no luck yet! They say I am a doctor now. Ha! ha!

In a journalistic flash, the Ripper name had been emphatically placed upon the lips of the news-hungry people of London & beyond. Of the matter, the investigation’s leader, Sir Robert Anderson, declared in his memoirs, ‘I will only add here that the ‘Jack-the-Ripper’ letter which is preserved in the Police Museum at Scotland Yard is the creation of an enterprising London journalist.’ In his own autobiography published a few years later, Sir Melville Macnaghten similarly observed; ‘I have always thought I could discern the stained forefinger of the journalist – indeed, a year later, I had shrewd suspicions as to the actual author!’ These two former police officers never actually got round to naming their suspected journalist, but we can see in the entire ruse the hand of George Bernard Shaw, who lecturing in 1892 revealed that, ‘in 1888 it only cost us twenty-eight postcards written by twenty-eight members to convince the newly-born Star newspaper that London was aflame with Fabian Socialism.


The scene was set for the double-event, a cranking up of the horror, when two separate Ripper murders would occur within an hour or so of each other. The first, of Lizzie Stride, was almost witnessed by an immigrant Hungarian Jew called Israel Schwartz. His English was terrible, but he did manage to give a report to police through a translator in which the presence of two individual gang-members is clearly shown;

12.45 a.m. 30th. Israel Schwartz of 22 Helen Street, Backchurch Lane, stated that at this hour, on turning into Berner Street from Commercial Street and having got as far as the gateway where the murder was committed, he saw a man stop and speak to a woman, who was standing in the gateway. The man tried to pull the woman into the street, but he turned her round and threw her down on the footway and the woman screamed three times, but not loudly. On crossing to the opposite side of the street, he saw a second man standing lighting his pipe. The man who threw the woman down called out, apparently to the man on the opposite side of the road, ‘Lipski’, and then Schwartz walked away, but finding that he was followed by the second man, he ran so far as the railway arch, but the man did not follow so far.

Upon being taken to the mortuary, Schwartz identified the body as that of the woman he had seen. He thus describes the first man, who threw the woman down:- age, about 30; ht, 5 ft 5 in; comp., fair; hair, dark; small brown moustache, full face, broad shouldered; dress, dark jacket and trousers, black cap with peak, and nothing in his hands. Second man: age, 35; ht., 5 ft 11in; comp., fresh; hair, light brown; dress, dark overcoat, old black hard felt hat, wide brim; had a clay pipe in his hand.

Despite the darkness of the night, Schwartz gave police a fairly detailed description of the two Rippers. Analyzing these, we may observe three tallies between Schwart’s Man 2 (given first) & the description which Callaghan made of Bellsmith;

(i) Heights of 5’11 // 5’10
(ii) Healthy complexion // Dark complexion
(iii) Respectable dress // Respectable dress
(iv) Ages of 35 / 39

We may now assume that Bellsmith had at least one accomplice during the murders; the peak-capped, short & stocky thirty year-old we shall call THE SAILOR.  It was observed during the Autumn of Terror that the murders all took place upon weekends that certain ships were berthed in London, supporting the idea. He would also have been the ‘ship’s mate’ mentioned by Bellsmith’s landlady, who stated that before his departure, ‘he had sold all his belongings – including many suits of clothes and several revolvers – to a ship’s mate, who, a few days later, called and took them away.’

A link between Bellsmith & the murder of Lizzie Stride comes from a witness called Matthew Packer, who thought he had sold grapes to the murderer & his victim on the night of the killings. On the 15th November, The Daily News quoted Packer as saying; ‘on Tuesday evening two men came to my house and bought twelve shillings’ worth of rabbits off me. They then asked me if I could give an exact description of the man to whom I sold the grapes, and who was supposed to have committed the Berner-street and Mitre-square murders, as they were convinced they knew him, and where to find him. In reply to some questions by Packer, one of the men said ‘Well, I am sorry to say that I firmly believe it is my own cousin. He is an Englishman by birth but some time ago he went to America, stayed there a few years, and then came back to London about seven or eight months ago. On his return he came to see me, and his first words were “Well, Boss, how are you?” He asked me to have some walks out with him, and I did round Commercial-street and Whitechapel. I found that he had very much altered on his return, for he was thoroughly harem scare-em. We met a lot of Whitechapel women, and when we passed them he used to say to me, “How do you think we used to serve them where I come from? Why, we used to cut their throats and rip them up. I could rip one of them up and get her inside out in no time.”’ The an described here as the Ripper’s cousin is a perfect blueprint for Bellsmith, who spent a decade in America before returning to London in March or April 1888, those 7-8 months before the above news story appeared.


During the Double-Event, the look-out couple can be seen as being present at both killings. At the Stride slaying, a resident of 36 Berner St, Fanny Mortimer, describes; ‘a young man and his sweetheart were standing at the corner of the street, about twenty yards away, before and after the time the woman must have been murdered, but they told me they did not hear a sound {Evening News, 1st October 1888}. An hour later, at the brutal murder of Catherine Eddowes (the worst yet) a man & woman were seen quietly conversing at the entrance of Mitre Square ten minutes before the body was found. The woman was described as standing facing the man with her hand on his chest, but not in any manner suggested she was resisting him. Some reports say that the clothes of this women were only similar to those of Catherine Eddowes, reinforcing the notion that the two women were not the same person. Who this woman was remains a mystery, but the man she was flirting with seems exceedingly familiar. An amalgamation of the witness descriptions of him gives us;

30-35 years old / 5 foot 6 inches tall / Fair complexion / Brown hair / Small, fair mustache (some said descriptions said big) with a medium build / He was wearing a loose-fitting pepper and salt colored jacket / He was wearing a grey cloth cap with a peak of the same color / He wore a reddish handkerchief knotted around his neck / Overall he gives the appearance of being a sailor

Let us now find the tallies between the description of this shadowy look-out figure, & that of THE SAILOR as described by Isaac Schwartz as being involved in the slaying of Elizabeth Stride.

                                                                    Sailor          Man at Eddowes Killing

30 years old // 30-35 years old
5 ft 5 in // 5 foot 6 inches tall
Fair complexion // Fair complexion
Dark hair // Brown hair
Small brown moustache // Small fair mustache
Respectable dress: dark jacket and trousers // Pepper and salt colored jacket
Black felt cap with peak // A grey cloth cap with a peak of the same color

The tallies between the two can be seen as simple creochisps based upon the true physical appearance of the SAILOR. We may, with some certainty, place him in Whitechapel a few minutes before the murder of Eddowes. The ‘Star’ newspaper of October 1 reports; ‘from two different sources we have the story that a man, when passing through Church Lane at about half past one, saw a man sitting on a doorstep and wiping his hands. As everyone is on the look-out for the murderer the man looked at the stranger with a certain amount of suspicion, whereupon he tried to conceal his face. He is described as a man who wore a short jacket and sailor’s hat.’ It may seem incongruous that the Star newspaper would give away such a vital clue, but in the heat of the moment with so many journalists submitting Ripper stories almost by the hour, it would have been impossible to check them all to a proper satisfaction, & that is even if the editors were actually parley to the ruse of Morris & Shaw.

With the passing of the Double-Event, this series of increasingly ghastly killings had crossed the police border from the Metropolitan department into the City of London district. Now two police forces were entrenched in the investigation, amplifying the clamour to either catch the killer or reform the slums in which he worked. The rich conversaziones of West London could not ignore the East End any more. The ante had been upped… Polly & Anne had ‘only’ been savagely disemboweled & lacerated; but to those wounds were added Catherine Eddowes facial mutilations. The fever & the fervour created by this devastatingly effective media sensation were boiling into open protestation. On the 26th October, The Times printed a letter to the editor from Mary J. Kinnaird, beginning; ‘I have begun to raise a fund, to which I invite contributions from your readers, with a view of powerfully bringing the teachings of Christianity to bear on that dark corner in Whitechapel which has been disgraced by such hideous crimes. If the Gospel sufficed to change the cannibal inhabitants of the Fiji Island into a nation of Christian worshipers, it is sufficient and alone sufficient, to turn the darkest spots in London into gardens of the Lord.’

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The next day, the East London Observer printed a petition made to Queen Victoria from the women of East London, who felt, ‘horror at the dreadful sins that have been lately committed in our midst, and grief because of the shame that that has fallen on our neighborhood. By the facts which have come out at the inquests, we have learnt much of the lives of those of our sisters who have lost a firm hold on goodness, and who are living sad and degraded lives. While each woman of us will do all she can to make men feel with horror the sins of impurity which cause such wicked lives to be led, we would also beg that your Majesty will call on your servants in authority and bid them put the law which already exists in motion, to close bad houses within whose walls such wickedness is done, and men and women ruined in body and soul. – We are, Madam, your loyal and humble servants.” And here follow the 400 or 500 signatures.

The petition was presented in due form, and Her Majesty has replied in the following gracious terms to the request of Her earnest and loyal, if humble subjects:-

“MADAM, – I am directed by the Secretary of State, to inform you that he has had the honour to lay before the Queen the petition of women inhabitants of Whitechapel, praying that steps may be taken with a view to suppress the moral disorders in that neighborhood, and that Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to receive the same. I am to add that the Secretary of State looks with hope to the influence for good that the petitioners can exercise, each in her own neighborhood, and he is in communication the Commissioners of Police, with a view to taking such action as may be desirable in order to assist the efforts of the petitioners, and to mitigate the evil of which they complain. 

The work of raising public consciousness so the community would finally take pity on the East End degradations was turning out to be a resounding success. Plans were already underway for a slum clearance to begin the following year, while the city of London would plunge pell-mell into wide-spread improvement schemes, a period of municipal eminence still reverberating through the capital to this day. On observing those terrifically terrible slums evaporating into modernity, our deadly masterminds of social reform would have watched on with a sense of vulgar pride. Innocent women had been sacrificed, yes, but the greater good was very much winning.


There was to be one more murder; less a sacrifice to social reform, but more a mopping-up operation to ensure the Ripper Gang preserved its anonymity. The background to the slaying of the last canonical victim, Mary Jane Kelly, begins with the climax of Francis Tumblety’s love of lewd activities & his arrest for, ‘Gross Indecency,’ on the 7th November. Just over a week later he was bailed for £300, about £25,000 pounds in today’s money, which was paid for by person or persons unknown. Two days after his arrest, on the 9th, the most sadistic slaying of Mary Jane Kelly had taken place in her own private rooms on Dorset Street. It could well be the case that while Tumblety was being investigated for the Ripper murders, his fellow gang members orchestrated a new murder in order to exonerate him of the Ripper crimes.

The MJK murder was a different thing altogether, for we see the shifting of the killer’s M.O. from the open streets to a secluded room. Also notable is MJK’s fire-grate, which showed signs that female clothes had been burnt. These were probably the blood-soaked attire of the Gang’s female member, who donned MJK’s clothes in order to move through the London streets without any visible bloodstains. MJK died about 4AM, but as morning broke on London a certain Maurice Lewis swore he had seen her playing ‘pitch and toss’ in McCarthy’s Court at 8AM. The man he places with her with seems an exact match to THE SAILOR, a 5’5”, stoutly-built 30-year-old. It appears that this same man was also spotted hanging around MJK’s room before she was murdered, for at 2AM that night a witness described a short, stout man wearing a black ‘wideawake hat.’ This head attire match’d the ‘soft, felt hat,’ of another witness description, that of George, Hutchinson, who depicted the same man as, ‘looking up the court as if waiting for someone to come out.’ The date is also significant, one expects, for William Morris was able to discuss the latest Ripper murder during speeches he was giving for the first anniversary of the Bloody Sunday demonstration, on the 13th November.

Among the massive mess of mysteries that is the Ripper mythomeme, there is one clue that appears to have been missed by everyone. We begin with Catherine Eddowes, who on the night before her murder was speaking to the superintendent of the Mile End Casual Ward. In casual conversation she said that after a month or so of picking hops with her boyfriend in Kent, that she had returned to London & was ready to collect the reward on offer for information leading to the capture of the Ripper.
I think I know him,’ she told the superintendent.
‘Mind he doesn’t murder you too,’ he replied, jovially.
Oh, no fear of that.’

The easy familiarity with the Ripper which we detect in Eddowes statement leads us without much resistance to the possibility that her boyfriend, John Kelly, was involved in the Ripper Gang. Evidence for such initializes on the night of her murder, when Eddowes had been arrested for drunkenness. Surprisingly, she gave her name as Mary Ann Kelly, while the previous day she had used the name ‘Jane Kelly’ when pawning her boyfriend’s boots. Why do this? What was her connection to Mary Ann Nichols & Mary Jane Kelly? The answer begins with Catherine’s boyfriend, who just happens to have shared his name with MJK’s father! We learn of him through information given to the press by MJK’s boyfriend, Joseph Barnett, in which he stated that after being born in Ireland, MJK & her family moved to Wales, where her father John Kelly was, ‘a gaffer or a foreman in an ironworks in Caernarvonshire.’ This John Kelly turns up at the age of 36 in the 1871 census as living at 85 Mumforth Street in Flint, North Wales, close to his work-place in Caernarvonshire. The same census shows ‘Mary Jane’ as a seven year old – alongside her brothers Patrick & John – which seals the deal, for she was 24 at the time of her murder

The journey of John Kelly, father of MJK, to John Kelly, boyfriend of Catherine Eddowes begins by analyzing the 1871 & the 1881 Denbighsire census. In these we can see how the Kelly family was split up, for the 1881 census sees MJK & her brother Patrick appearing in a new Kelly family, headed by the Irish-born Hubert Kelly, a probable relation of John. In that same census we also see MJK in a family consisting of a sister (Elizabeth) & six brothers (including Patrick), an identical match to the sister & the ‘six or seven brothers’ that Joseph Barnett attributed to MJK. The seventh brother would be young John, who is absent from the Denbighshire census.

A sound reason for this turn of events is that John Kelly had lost his job, out of which hardship he was forced to break-up of the family home. After losing his job in Wales, John Kelly did what many working folk did in that era & headed to the capital of the Empire. This then connects to Catherine Eddowe’s John Kelly, who turns up in London in 1876 & works as a fruit-seller for the 12 years up until the murders. If John Kelly had something to do with the Ripper Gang, then his daughter, MJK, may have been involved, & what she knew would be silenced forever by JILL THE RIPPER & the SAILOR in the mopping up operation conducted by the Ripper Gang. That MJK was killed in her own rooms can be put down to the fact that the Gang had reduced in numbers, for on the 4th November, a certain George Wentworth Bellsmith had caught a steamship (the Fulda) to America from the English port of Southampton. This may or may not have been Henry Bellsmith, but as with everything in this mystery, but it is such tantalizing vagaries which is the hallmark of the Ripper mystery.



What we can state more confidently is that another member of the Ripper Gang was fleeing to the United States, with Tumblety jumping his rather expensive bail & taking a passage to New York. His arrival in America invoked a massive amount of interest & press coverage, & the Americans really did feel that the Ripper was one of their own who had fled to the motherland for sanctuary.

Francis Tumblety, or Twomblety, who was arrested in London for supposed complicity in the Whitechapel crimes and held under bail for other offenses, arrived in this city Sunday, and is now stopping in East Tenth street. Two of Inspector Byrnes’ men are watching him and so is an English detective who is making himself the laughing stock of the whole neighborhood.
The New York Sun, December 4th 1888

The flames of suspicion burnt only for a short while, & nothing ever came of the British interest in Tumblety, even after they had requested samples of his handwriting from San Francisco. They could sense that something was up somewhere, but the Ripper Gang had cast a cloud of enough confusion, that Tumblety’s true complicity in the murders was completely masked, allowing him to continue the rest of his life unmlested by the earlier furore

We have already seen how Bellsmith spent only a little time in the United States, before returning to the East End of London with his new young wife. In that same period, the Eastern Post & City Chronicle (21-09-1889) reports how Dr Forbes Winslow, acting on the information of Callaghan, was; ‘certain that this man is the Whitechapel murderer… “I know for a fact,” said the doctor, “that this man is suffering from a violent form of religious mania, which attacks him and passes off at intervals. I am certain that there is another man in it besides the one I am after, but my reasons for that I cannot state. The police will have nothing to do with the capture. I am making arrangements to station six men round the spot where I know my man is, and he will be trapped.”’


This same religious mania would resurface in the writings of Bellsmith a decade later, when he penned a curious apocalyptical & cryptical book known as Henry Cadevere, in which we may read; ‘murder, adultery, selfishness, hypocrisy, everything we call evil or sinful are equally meritorious with the most spotless purity of soul and body … sin becomes a misnomer and crime another name for virtue.’ For Bellsmith, the Ripper murders had been a pseudo-religious mission to highlight the poverty in the East End slums; in his book he writes; ‘Oh, Liberty! What crimes are done in thy name! The work of Socialists?” mused Cadavere, bitterly. “This is the work of brotherhood and humanity?” Bellsmith’s ‘work’ was the murder of the underclass, & he even finds space in his book to praise the ‘prophetic vision of William Morris.’ As for Tumblety, upon his death in 1901 he guiltily left $1000 to the Baltimore home for Fallen Women. Also in his possession were two cheap imitation rings, exactly the same as those said to have gone missing from Annie Chapman’s fingers.

As for John Kelly, the last trace of him is on the 29th November 1888, when he was admitted to Whitechapel Workhouse infirmary suffering from laryngitis. From this moment on he disappears from the history, & is never seen or heard of again. Perhaps not, for when Bellsmith’s landlady stated that she saw him; ‘standing on the kerb in conversation with a well known tradesman of the district, whose name she declines to divulge, but who, she has ascertained, is a friend of his,’ this ‘tradesman’ may have been Mr Kelly, who we know had been employed by a fruit salesman called Lander ever since his arrival in London in 1876. Or then again, it might not, but that is the beauty of the Ripper case, a catacombe of chispers which infuriates & dazzles all at once.


Next Wednesday, 24/01/18

The serialization begins of  my new book, CHISPOLOGY

Chapter 1 : Exodus


chisp cover


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



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

The Chisper Effect 11 : The Dark Lady

    Continuing the weekly serialization of


Damian Beeson Bullen’s


In which a number of the world’s greatest mysteries are finally solved


(Register with Completely Novel to…)



Chapter XI

In the last chapter we saw how the young Shakespeare was a companion for the slightly older nobleman, William Stanley, on a tour of the Continent in the middle of the 1580s. We last saw them in Venice, where I am convinced that somewhere within the vaults of the Venetian Archives lies some hitherto undiscovered reference to Shakespeare. He would have been included in a list of passengers made by the ship, or perhaps a list of arrivals/departures organized by the Venetian authorities. It is after scribbling his name down in such a log-book that he sailed out across the sultry seas of the Adriatic. Before him, a glassy liquid pane was sprinkled with white sails which puffed like clouds across the drifting blue waters. By Shakespeare’s side was Stanley, perhaps hand-in-hand in a gay kinda way, who together turned to face Venice as it slowly dwindled & merged into a thin, green line.

APRIL 1586
Shakespeare crosses the Adriatic


That Shakespeare took to the whale-roads is reflected by an extremely accurate knowledge of both the sea & its sailing terms. Most scholars presume he got this from books, but seeing as Sir Henry Mainwaring released the first nautical dictionary only in 1644, this avenue may be precluded. Of Shakespeare’s sealore, AF Falconer declares that he, ‘must have learned it first hand for there was no other way,’ adding that the bard possessed, ‘an understanding of naval ceremony, naval strategy & the duties & characteristic ways of officers & men.’ One passage in particular contains a highly obscure sailing term;

Believe me, sir, she is the goodliest woman
That ever lay by man: which when the people
Had the full view of, such a noise arose
As the shrouds make at sea in a stiff tempest

‘It is a puzzle,’ writes WB Whall, ‘how Shakespeare, unless he had been a sailor, could have known enough of sea life to write such a magnificently apt simile as this. It could not have occurred to anyone who had not been at sea. The shrouds are the heavy ropes of the rigging which supports the masts of a ship on neither side so that they can carry sail.’ Another naval accuracy comes in Hamlet’s, ‘methought I lay worse than the mutinies in the bilboes,’ with the latter word being sea-slang for leg-shackles. One also gets the feeling that Shakespeare experienced a ship-wreck for himself. His plays are littered with them, as in;

After our ship did split,
When you and those poor number saved with you
Hung on our driving boat, I saw your brother,
Most provident in peril, bind himself,
Courage and hope both teaching him the practise,
To a strong mast that lived upon the sea;
Twelfth Night 1:2

Across the Adriatic lies the thousand-islanded lands of Croatia, or Illyria in more antique times. This locality is mentioned ten times by Shakespeare who set his Twelfth Night there, most likely after he had experienced the port of Ragusa, today’s Dubrovnik. That the term for that city’s ships – Argosies (after Ragosies) – was used by Shakespeare in the Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Henry VI, Part III and The Taming of the Shrew, may be based upon this visit. As one reads our Bard’s references to Illyria’s coasts, sailors, pirates, tall population & robust wines, one senses the snatch of time Shakespeare had with the country as he sailed south through the Adriatic.


MAY 1586
Stanley & Shakespeare reach Egypt

Leaving ‘Illyria,’ our party sailed on to Egypt, & the sweaty flesh-pots of its capital, Cairo. While in this city they would have sought out the principle headquarters of the Levant Company, from which office emanated the tendrils of pre-imperial trade into the ports & courts of the eastern Mediterranean. Powerful cities such as Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, Jerusalem, Damascus & Aleppo had all become secure stopping stations for the Levant Company, as was Constantinople, where Company man William Harborne had become the de facto English ambassador to the Ottomans. Within two decades the East Indies Company would be formed, the majority of its nucleus members being Levant Company men, & one could say that British India has its true roots in these Elizabethan mercantile expeditions to the east.

The connection between Stanley & the Levant Company begins with Barry Coward, author of a book on the history of the Stanley family, who states, ‘from 1584 to 1593 Earl Henry borrowed as he had never done before… the loans raised by Earl Henry & his son, Ferdinando, were all raised by bonds pledging a cash surety, made with important London merchant financiers, like John lacy, Richard Martin, Peter Vanlore, Michael Cornleius, William Cuslowe, Nicholas Mosley, & Sir Rowland Hayward.’ A key link here is Richard Martin, a two-time mayor of London & one of the founding members of the Levant Company in 1581. Earl Stanley’s financial embroilment with such a fellow could well have led to him sending his son to check in the family’s investments in the new markets.

nile-crocodile-16th-century-artwork-middle-temple-libraryStanley’s journey to Egypt is given more details by Thomas Aspen, who records; ‘afterwards he proceeded to Egypt, and with the assistance of a native guide, went to reconnoitre the River Nile. Whilst on their journey, a large male tiger suddenly appeared from behind a thicket, and with a hideous howl came rushing towards them. Sir William had two pistols, and discharged one as the tiger was making a spring at them. Unfortunately he missed his aim, and it was only by dexterously stepping aside that he eluded the grasp of the ferocious brute. Before the animal had time to take another spring, Sir William drew a second pistol, discharged the contents into the tiger’s breast, and as it reeled drew his sword and killed it.’ That our party visited the River Nile allows us to look deeper into one of Donne’s sonnets.

See, sir, how, as the sun’s hot masculine flame
Begets strange creatures on Nile’s dirty slime,
In me your fatherly yet lusty rhyme
For these songs are their fruits—have wrought the same.
But though th’ engend’ring force from which they came
Be strong enough, and Nature doth admit
Seven to be born at once; I send as yet
But six; they say the seventh hath still some maim.
I choose your judgment, which the same degree
Doth with her sister, your invention, hold,
As fire these drossy rhymes to purify,
Or as elixir, to change them to gold.
You are that alchemist, which always had
Wit, whose one spark could make good things of bad.

This sonnet’s opening lines really do invoke a definite sense of witnessing the Nile at first hand. The decisive evidence comes with the sonnet being placed among a sequence dedicated by Donne to a certain ‘E of D,’ implying William Stanley, the 6th Earl of Derby. Meanwhile, Shakespeare’s own time in Egypt is reflected by two unusual eye-witness accounts found in two of his earliest plays;

Thou art more puzzled than the Egyptians in their fog
Twelfth Night

An Egyptian that had nine hours lien dead who was by good appliance recovered

MAY 1586
Shakespeare writes sonnets to Stanley

Just as Donne was writing deliciously sensuous sonnets to & for Stanley so, it seems, was Shakespeare; with Egypt as likely a place as any to craft his lines. What happens on the Grand Tour stays on the Grand Tour, & here was our bard in Egypt, where the demands of a young family had been replaced by yearnings to see pyramids & sail the love-barges of Cleopatra. He was also traveling with a prominent member of his country’s royal family, & as we have discerned from the secret back story behind Venus & Adonis, Stanley actually fancied him. Sleeping your way to the top has always been a way to get ahead, & in Shakespeare’s case he did not seem to mind if it was with a member of the opposite sex. Indeed, on his return to England, Shakespeare never sired another child, implying perhaps he became fully LGBT on the Grand Tour.

It is Shakespeare’s love for Stanley that provides an important keystone in the dissemination of the many mysteries behind Shakespeare’s famous sonnet sequence. The form chosen for these poetical lovegasms is a short, 14-line photo-poem capable of storing some of the most refined & musical expressions of human thought. That Shakespeare was writing sonnets at such an early stage in his career was opined by his greatest biographer, & most ardent analytics, Sydney Lee, who said; ‘in both their excellences & their defects Shakespeare’s sonnets betray their kinship to his early dramatic work.’ Lee made comparisons of the sonnet’s bipolar passages, their, ‘highest poetic temper,’ & their, ‘unimpressive displays of verbal jugglery,’ comparing them with similar instances in the early plays.

Gay men in Egypt- it actually illegal in the country these days
Gay men in Egypt-  manlove is actually illegal in the country these days

Shakespeare’s sequence seems to be a collection of several individual sonnet-clusters, with each set of creative pulses being eternally crystalized & unified by generally gorgeous iambic pentameter. The exact order in which these mini-sequences were written is beyond the remit of this book, but a general impression is most definitely given by them of Shakespeare’s homosexual love for a young aristocratic man – but who? That the fellow is a member of the upper echelons of the aristocracy is suggested by sonnet 125, which begins, ‘were it ought to me I bore the canopy.’ The ceremonial material in question is that carried over the head of the incumbent monarch by England’s leading noblemen, in procession to Westminster Abbey & the coronation.

Over the past two centuries, the Bard’s corpse has been argued over & dissected so much, that hardly anything remains of the man: his flesh & bones have been shredded, flung & scattered across the ever-expanding wastelands of Shakespearean criticism. The one bonus of all these efforts is that the Elizabethan Age has been scrutinized to a near infinite degree by scholars hoping to turn up some precious new nugget of biographical detail concerning the Bard. There have been successes & among this vast sea of uncertainty one may find the following island of logical thinking;

A few years down the road, & increasingly mindful of Haines’ caution to Buck Milligan that Shakespeare’s sonnets are, ‘the happy hunting ground of all minds that have lost their balance,’ I nonetheless came to conclude from the evidence I accumulated that not only was Barnfield’s Ganymede the sixth Earl of Derby, William Stanley, but also that Barnfield published poems from 1594 (including over twenty homoerotic love sonnets) were in dialogue with some of Shakespeare’s own homoerotic sonnets to his Fair Youth... we hardly have reason to be very surprised if, after all, Shakespeare’s beloved & revered male addressee might turn out to be William Stanley

This passage was written by Leo Daugherty who, after surviving such a process of intense academic endeavour with his wits intact, stated in his brilliant book, ‘William Shakespeare, Richard Barnfield & the Sixth Earl of Derby’ that he had made, ‘conclusions of some enormity.’ The crux of his excited proclamation was that the identity of the Handsome Youth was a certain Elizabethan nobleman called William Stanley. That this was the same man who we have just placed in a holiday romance fashion with Shakespeare soared into my own theorizing like a bolt of divine lightning. It makes sense,especially when the ‘Dark Lady’ of the sonnet series was noted by Shakespeare for the blackness of her skin, a woman most likely to be encountered abroad.


JUNE 1586
Shakespeare joins the Levant Company fleet

We have now placed Shakespeare firmly among the buccaneering world of corsairs that constituted the Elizabethan navy, where men like Drake, Hawkins & Raleigh were the x-factor style idols of the day. Our young bard is about to board one of the Levant Company ships, with all five vessels having just made successful trading operations in Turkey, Egypt & Syria. Three of the ships had met up in the Egyptian port of Alexandria: The Toby, the Susan & the Edward Bonaventure; & by the June of 1586 they had combined with the remaining two Company ships off the Greek island of Zante. One of these was Company flagship, the Merchant Royal, under ‘acting Admiral’ Edward Wilkinson. The second vessel was the William and John, both of which ships had been dealing in Tripoli.

All five ships would have combined together for security reasons – the journey through the Straits of Gibraltar, a stone’s throw from hostile Spain, would be too treacherous for one or two vessels traveling on their own. It was a prudent move, for a very real danger was imminent; two separate squadrons of Spanish & Maltese galleys had left the Straits of Gibraltar & were hunting down the English like hungry, prowling wolves. Shakespeare must have been invigorated to the infinite degree at the prospect of very real military action.


JULY 1586
The Battle of Pantelleria

Deep in the middle of a sultry summer, Shakespeare found himself sailing west through the Mediterranean as a passenger of the Levant Company fleet. After safely bypassing Malta, they were suddenly intercepted by a squadron of eleven Spanish and Maltese galleys under Don Pedro de Leyva. The engagement took place off the island of Pantelleria on the 13th July, a five-hour running battle which saw the massive devastation of Spanish ships like some prophetic glimmer of the Armada. A Venetian ambassador to Rome, Giovanni Gritti, recorded;

Between Sicily & the island of Pantalara the galleys of Naples & of Sicily fell in with nine English galleys returning form Constantinople, full of merchandise, & although they attacked the English ships they failed to take them. The galleys have returned to Naples for reinforcement & will sail again to search for the English. They have sent news of these English to Genoa, so that they may be on the look out for them in the waters of Corsica & Sardinia

After five hours of fighting it was all over & the Spanish galleys had been battered into submission. On the English side only two sailors had died, & handful more of men being wounded. The tough English sailors had simply outmaneuvered, & more importantly, outgunned the Spanish in battle. Remembrances of Shakespeare witnessing such a brutal sea-battle lies scatter’d throughout this plays. AF Falconer writes how he, ‘distinguishes between various types of ordnance & gun, understands how they work & are managed, & is familiar with gunnery terms & words of command.’ We can see for ourselves in examples, such as

The nimble gunner
With linstock now the devilish cannon touches
Henry V

Like an overcharged gun, recoil
And turn the force of them upon thyself
2 Henry VI

What’s this? a sleeve? ’tis like a demi-cannon
What, up and down, carved like an apple-tart?
Taming of the Shrew

JULY 1586
Shakespeare visits Linosa


While stopping for provisions & water round about the time of the Battle of Pantelleria, Shakespeare took a stroll along the island of Linosa – anciently ‘Aethusa.’ In a great moment of creative fusion, the island became embedded in his mnemonic vaults, ready for the right moment to become the setting of one of his poems or plays. This eventually occurred when Shakespeare was writing the Tempest, which was the last to be performed publically in his lifetime. Linosa is an extremely pretty island, its three lofty cones being the spiky remnants of ancient volcanoes. In Shakespeare’s time Linosa was deserted, like the other islands of the Pelagian archipelago in which it lies. Of a possible Tempestesque shipwreck on the island, GD Gussone wrote; ‘before 1828 some travelers going to Linosa found three human skeletons on those mountains which, in his opinion, where the remains of men who were perhaps thrown by a storm on to the island and that miserably perished for lack of food.’


Linosa’s position between Sicily & Tunisia fits neatly with the geography of the Tempest, in which Alonso, King of Naples, washes up on a deserted island on his way to see the King of Tunis. The island also plays host to the witch Sycorax, banished there from Tunisia’s neighbor, Algiers. The true Syrocrax is mentioned in John Ogilby’s ‘Accurate Description of Africa,’ in which she advises, soothsayer fashion, the commander of Algiers not to surrender the city to Emperor Charles V in 1541. The citizens did as they were bidden, & the fleet of Charles V was destroyed in a ‘terrible Tempest.’ Unfortunately for Syrocrax, ‘to palliate the shame and the reproaches that are thrown upon them for making use of a witch,’ she was exiled in a pregnant state on Linosa, & was perhaps one of the skeletons found on the island. According to the Tempest, she was dead by the events of the play, but her son Caliban was still alive. His character was probably based on a real meeting with Shakespeare, whose bones were laid to rest by his mother’s on the mountains.

Shakespeare in Algiers

After the battle of Pantelleria, the Company fleet headed for Algiers in order to restock supplies & make any necessary battle-repairs. These movements fit neatly into the itinerary of William Stanley, who according to the Garland visited ‘the King of Morocco and his nobles all / Then went to the King of Barbary.’ A connection between Stanley & North Africa comes through the Barbary Company, formed in 1585. The Queen herself had invested in the project, alongside Stanley’s father. The Levant Company connection is tentative, but the presence of William Stanley at this particular emporium provides a stronger suggestion that he may have been working for his father: details on contracts needed to be fine-tuned, perhaps, or accounts checked.

Despite suffering little in losses & damage, the battle of Pantelleria would have shredded the nerves, & it is at this point that Stanley would have ordered his young charge, John Donne, to make his way back to England in the relative the safety of the armed Company merchantmen. With the help of a thick sea-mist, this little fleet avoided the waiting Spanish at Gibraltar, & would soon be happily unloading their wares at the London docks. John Donne would eventually return to the service of the Earl of Derby, where on the 13th May 1587, the Derby Household Books included a ‘Mr John Downes’ alongside the same six waiters who appeared on the 1585 retinue list with a certain ‘Mr John Donnes.’


Shakespeare visits John Dee

According to the Garland, Stanley made a great geographical leap from Algeria to Russia, in order to spend some time with John Dee. This esoteric fellow was an extremely famous Elizabethan alchemist & academic from Manchester, & thus would have been a neighbor to the Stanleys in his youth. Memories of their relationship survives in Dee’s recording keeping, while Derby was instrumental in getting Dee appointed a director of Christ’s College, Manchester. The Garland’s account of the meeting is a factochisp for Dee’s actual residence at Trebona in Bohemia (in the modern-day Czech Republic), during which time he was making contact with the court of the Russian Tsar, but from hundreds of miles away. This is a perfect example of the Chisper Effect in action, of how the truth will distort into an alternate reality in which the main quintessence is still present. The quickest route for Shakespeare & Stanley to get from Algeria to Bohemia would have been by sailing up the Adriatic to Trieste. From there it would have taken an extra week of tough overland, Brokeback Mountain riding for Stanley & Shakespeare to reach Bohemia, during which time he may have etched the opening to sonnet 33;

Full many a glorious morning have I seen,
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye

There is also this passage from Anthony & Cleopatra which seems to invoke the Alpine crossing;

Sometimes we see a cloud that’s dragonish,
A vapor sometime like a bear or lion,
A towered citadel, a pendant rock,
A forkèd mountain, or blue promontory
With trees upon ’t that nod unto the world


On reaching Dee, the arch-magus would have filled them in on recent developments, of how at first he had been a valued guest of the court of Rudolf II, an intellectual hotbed centered on Prague. PJ French states, ‘Dee’s world view was thoroughly of the Renaissance, though it was one which is unfamiliar today, one of a line of philosopher-magicians that stemmed from Ficino & Pico della Mirandola & included, among others, Trithemius, Abbot of Sondheim, Henry Cornelius Agrippa Paracelsus. etc…. Like Dee, these philosophers lived in a world that was half magical, half scientific.’ Unfortunately, Dee fell on the wrong side of Rudolf, & after being banished from Prague was given shelter at in the household of Vilém of Rožmberk, in the town of Trebona. Shakespeare’s own brief stay in the region can be traced via three separate plays;

(i) Measure for Measure is set in Vienna.
(ii) The Winter’s Tale is set in ‘Bohemia’ in which Trebona is situated.
(iii) ‘The old hermit of Prague,’ is mentioned in Twelfth Night.


Also in Prague at that time was a copy of Titian’s Venus & Adonis – or perhaps even the original – commissioned by the Holy Roman Emporer, Charles V (d.1558), as discerned through a letter written by F. Mueller, the correspondent in Italy for the court of Bavaria. Now held in the Galleria Nazionale of Palazzo Barberini in Rome, what marks it out from all the other V&As painted by Titian (there were many copies made, usually completed by his students) was the hat which was worn by Adonis. In Shakespeare’s poem we actually have various mentions of such a hat, as in, ‘with one fair hand she heaveth up his hat,’ & ‘therefore would he put his bonnet on.’ It is possible that Stanley & Shakespeare were living the swancy-fancy life of art connoisseurs at this point & making an effort to study the work of evidently their favorite painter. Indeed, on their Italian itinerary they may have seen copies of the painting at the Palazzo Mariscotti in Rome, or in the possession of the Barbarigo-Guistiniani family in Padua

Shakespeare sketches the Tempest

At this point in the Stanleyan Grand Tour the first outlines of the plot & structure of a play called the Tempest appeared in Shakespeare’s notebooks. It was first performed in public in 1611, yet a proto-version could have been one of the earliest creations of his blossoming mind, especially when the Tempest is the first play one comes to when entering the First Folio. A clue might be found in five consecutive lines of the Garland, where we observe quite succinctly the setting of the Tempest (Barbary is North Africa) & its principle subject Prospero, a dead-ringer for John Dee.

Within the Court of Barbary,
When two full years Sir William had been,
Into Russia he needs must go,
To visit the Emperor and his Queen,
One Doctor Dee he met with there

Where Prospero had his Ariel, Dee declared he possessed a benevolent angel called, ‘Uriel, the angel of light.’ One imagines Shakespeare actually hearing Dee discussing Uriel during our party’s stay in Trebona. Such an early date for the proto-Tempest is unwittingly hinted at by Sydney Lee’s; ‘the influence of Ovid, especially the Metamorphoses, was apparent throughout his earliest literary work, both poetic & dramatic, & is discernible in the ‘Tempest.’’ This play reflects the early experiences Shakespeare enjoy’d with Commedia dell’Arte; which sometimes featured a magician, his daughter & supernatural attendants. CDA also contained archetypical clowns known as Arlecchino and Brighella, on which the Tempest’s Stephano and Trinculo are clearly based, while its lecherous Neapolitan hunchback has a perfect correspondence in the Tempest’s Caliban. the Tempest is also one of only two of his plays that utilise the Classical Unities – a dramaturgical tradition of setting a play in a single place & time, with the other being the very early Comedy of Errors. Coincidence or not, CoE is set in the eastern Mediterranean, the same part of the world where Stanley & Shakespeare went next…

Shakespeare tours the Levant

As the year 1587 dawned, Shakespeare & Stanley were just beginning to celebrate two exciting & adventure-packed years together on the road. They were also celebrating leaving wintry Bohemia for the sun swathed south, where the Garland tells us;

But one three years Sir William would stay,
Within the Emperor’s court so freely,
And then Sir William he would go,
To Bethlehem right speedily,

Likewise to fair Jerusalem,
Where our blessed Saviour Christ did die
He asked them if it was so,
They answered and told him aye.

This is the Tree, the Jews then said,
Whereon the Carpenter’s son did die;
That was my Saviour, Sir William said,
For sure he died for the sins of me.

After their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, our lads set off north towards Turkey, calling at Tripoli in the Lebanon for supplies, perhaps even a little Levant Company networking. Our party would have next sailed west, docking for a while at the ports of Cyprus. This visit later inspired Shakespeare to bescene a portion of his tragedy, Othello, on the island. The official setting is given in the text as only a ‘sea-port’ of Cyprus, & a ‘hall in the castle,’ with local tradition stating Shakespeare was describing the heavily fortified medieval citadel at Famagusta. It is while staying at this fortress that Shakespeare may have heard the local story of Francesca de Sessa, a dark-skinned Venetian officer serving in Cyprus known as ‘Il Moro.’ Here, place & person were planted in Shakespeare’s vernal imagination, waiting for them to catch the creative fire & begin to shoot upwards into existence. When it did, the play would be given further gloss by raiding Cinthio’s Gli Hecatommithi (1565), which Shakespeare had read in Italian. This pattern of development continues throughout most of Shakespeare’s continental plays: when metapoetic travelogues are liberally sprinkled with the plots of foreign authors.


MARCH 1587
Shakespeare in Ephesus

From Cyprus our party pass’d on to Turkey, & one play in particular contains memories of their visit. In the Comedy of Errors, a Sicilian merchant called Egeon is imprisoned in the ancient city of Ephesus. The city played an integral part in the early days of Christianity, being one of the seven churches addressed by the Book of Revelations. Fifteen centuries later, the Christian church was usurped by the Islamic Ottomans, when this once well-populated & sophisticated city became locked in a terminal decline. Its river, the Caystros, was steadily silting up into malarial swamps, leaving the once bustling harbours of Ephesus far inland. Population levels were plummeting; a century before Shakespeare’s visit, the city was said to contain 2,000 souls, but numbers had halved by the time our Bard reached the city. By 1824 both town & citadel were abandoned completely except for the wild animals wandering its time-haunted streets.

It is time now to focus our investigation on a situation central to the plot of the Comedy of Errors is an imprisonment of Egeon. Appearing only in the first & final acts, framing the traditional story, & the threat of death hangs over him throughout the play. In light of the Stanleyan Grand Tour, it seems easy to notice the tallies between Egeon & Stanley, who was also imprisoned in Turkey. Thomas Aspen writes; ‘after paying a visit to Palestine, he journeyed to Turkey, and had a narrow escape of becoming a victim to the bigotry of the followers of Mahommed. In a discussion with one of the Paschas he defended Christianity and the Bible, and denounced the religion propounded in the Koran as false and deceptive. He was arrested for “blasphemy against the religion of Mahommed,” and after being kept a long time in a filthy and dismal prison, a date was fixed for his execution, but a lady interceded on his behalf, and three days before the appointed time he was liberated.‘ That ‘dismal prison’ was not situated in Ephesus, however, but in Constantinople; a city towards which our suntann’d party traveled next.

April 1587
Shakespeare sees Mitylene

‘Shakespere’s own muse his Pericles first bore,’ said the great poet of Restoration England, John Dryden. As the young Shakespeare was sailing along the shores of western Turkey, he was already jotting ideas down for the play, ‘Pericles.’ At one point he was reclining lazily in a boat, anchored in the harbour of Mitylene, a moment which transchispered itself into the play, where one of the stage directions reads;

On board Pericles’ ship, off Mytilene. A pavilion on deck, with a curtain beofe it; PERICLES within, reclining on a couch, unkepty clad in sackcloth. A barge lies beside the Trian vessel

The uneven writing of Pericles suggests its first two acts were co-written. As early as 1709, Nicholas Rowe was suggesting, ‘there is good Reason to believe that the greatest part of that Play was not written by him; tho’ it is own’d, some part of it certainly was, particularly the last Act.‘ The second author’s identity is unknown, but Pericles does contain a number idiomatic Lancashire expressions such as would be native to Stanley, like ‘keep thee warm.’ What is slowly emerging is the idea of Stanley & Shakespeare collaborating & composing the prototypes of a number of the canon’s early plays.


MAY 1587
Shakespeare visits Constantinople

Our Grand Tourists have now reached the furthest limits of their travels, finding themselves at the heart of the Ottoman Empire. Only two years before their arrival, an Elizabethan traveler called Henry Austel had recorded his own visit to the ‘most statelie City of Constantinople, which for the situation & proude seat thereof, for the beautiful & commodious havens, & for the great & sumptuous buildings of the Temples, which they call Moschea, is to be preferred before all Cities of Europe.’ It had only been a decade or two since the Ottoman Empire had reached its high-water mark, but defeats at Malta & Lepanto ensured the Turks would never dominate the world. Instead they would have to trade their way to success, & in the wake of the Italian financial crash of the 1570s it was the English merchants who dealt directly with the Grand Turke. As he walked around its capital, Shakespeare would have marveled at the minarets & markets, & as he wander’d under sultry Turkish suns & star-studded Oriental moons, may have penned the following sonnet to Stanley.

Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said
Thy edge should blunter be than appetite,
Which but to-day by feeding is allay’d,
To-morrow sharpen’d in his former might:
So, love, be thou; although to-day thou fill
Thy hungry eyes even till they wink with fullness,
To-morrow see again, and do not kill
The spirit of love with a perpetual dullness.
Let this sad interim like the ocean be
Which parts the shore, where two contracted new
Come daily to the banks, that, when they see
Return of love, more blest may be the view;
Else call it winter, which being full of care
Makes summer’s welcome thrice more wish’d, more rare.

The key allusion is to the Greek myth of Hero & Leander, the two passionate lovers were separated by the Hellespont, today’s Dardandanelles, near which Constantinople lies. Leander would swim each night across the straits to make passionate love to his beloved Hero, as in the sonnet’s, ‘where two contracted new / Come daily to the banks, that, when they see / Return of love, more blest may be the view.’ Yet more support for a Shakespearean visit to the area can be found in Othello, where a person’s relentless nature is compared to the strong one-way currents found at the Hellespont.

Like to the Pontick Sea,
Whose icy current and compulsive course
Ne’er feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on
To the Propontic and the Hellespont

Joseph Mallord William Turner 'The Parting of Hero and Leander', exhibited 1837 Joseph Mallord William Turner ‘The Parting of Hero and Leander’, exhibited 1837

Stanley Incarcerated

We have already learnt of Stanley’s incarceration in Turkey on trussed up charges of Blasphemy. The Garland tells us;

Sir William was taken prisoner,
And for his religion condemn’d to die.

Before I’ll forsake my living Lord,
My blessed Saviour and sweet Lamb;
Sweet Jesus Christ that died for me,
I’ll die the worst Death that e’er did man.

Farewel Father, and farewel Mother,
And farewel all Friends at Latham-Hall,
Little do they know I am a Prisoner,
Or how I’m subject unto thrall.

More details are given in the Brief Account, in which this we are told that a certain ‘bashaw’ (pasha) who attempted to entangle Stanley in religious controversy. The Lancashire lad was shrewd at first, until the Pasha cunningly declared Christianity to be a fable; ‘your prophet is an imposter, your profession hypocrisy.‘ Stanley countered with a spirited defence, on which he was swiftly arrested by ‘a band of janissaries’ & cast in a prison, three yards square. Stanley’s imprisonment would last for 5 weeks, without bread or water, & suffering the constant torments of an insolent jailor, while all the time the Pasha was using his ‘utmost influence’ to bring Stanley ‘to the gibbet.’ These events seem to have taken place in September 1587, as discerned thro’ the mention of a lunar eclipse in sonnet 107;

Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assured,
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.

On the 16th September, 1587, the Moon was shadowed in a deep partial eclipse, lasting 3 hours and 7 minutes, when 76% was shrouded in darkness. Thus, it was after this event, when ‘the mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,’ that Shakespeare’s love for Stanley became ‘forfeit to a confined doom,‘ ie imprisoned in a Turkish prison awaiting death. Fortunately for the lads & their love, a heroine was just about to ride to their rescue, whose entrance into the story may just even settle the greatest Shakespearean mystery of them all… the identity of the mysterious ‘Dark Lady’ of the sonnets. Was she in fact a Turkish noblewoman?

A Lady walking under the prison wall,
Hearing Sir William so sore lament,
Unto the Great Turk she did go,
To beg his life was her intent

A Boon, a Boon, thou Emperor,
For thou’rt a Lord of great command;
Grant me the life of an Englishman,
Therefore against me do not stand,

For I will make him a husband of mine,
Whereby Mahomet he may adore;
He’ll carry me into his own country,
And safely thither conduct me o’er.

The Lady’s to the Prison gone,
Where that Sir William he did lie;
Be of good chear, thou Englishman,
I think this day I’ve set thee free;

If thou wilt yield to marry me,
And take me for to be thy bride;
To take me into thy own country,
And safely thither to be my Guide.

I cannot marry, Sir William said,
To ne’er a Lady in this country;
For if ever on English ground I tread,
I have a wife, and children three.

This Excuse serv’d Sir William well,
So the Lady was sorry for what he did say,
And gave him five hundred pounds in gold,
To carry him into his own country;

But one half year Sir William would stay,
After from prison he was set free;

According to the Brief Account, while in Constantinople, Stanley had endeared himself to the family of an influential Turk, whose wife & daughter had become greatly concerned about his incarceration. The daughter – who is clearly mentioned in the Garland – managed to get an interview with the Sultan, & eventually secured Stanley’s freedom. As she turned up at the prison, the Brief Account tells us, it was with ‘the most rapturous emotions’ that Stanley ‘beheld his female deliverer.‘ She found him in a most sorry state indeed; his body was decimated, his eyes were sunken, his cheeks were pallid & his mind was maddened by thoughts of imminent execution. Instead, at the eleventh hour he was saved from the gibbet by the ‘romantic gallantry’ of a ‘worthy family.’

The Dark Lady

It is clear there was a Turkish woman very much in love with Stanley at the same time as was Shakespeare. This back-story reflects itself with neatness onto the dramatic sub-structure of the sonnets, in which a Dark Lady courts both Shakespeare & the Handsome Youth, who we have already associated quite clinically with Stanley. Metric reminiscences of this ménage a trois are found in sonnets 127–152, where Shakespeare & Stanley are shown to be in love with the same dark-skinned woman, who appears to have had some kind of amorous relations with both men. Sonnets 127 & 130 are fine reflections of Shakespeare’s internal torment at falling for an exotic beauty;

In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were, it bore not beauty’s name;
But now is black beauty’s successive heir,
And beauty slandered with a bastard shame:
For since each hand hath put on Nature’s power,
Fairing the foul with Art’s false borrowed face,
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,
But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
Therefore my mistress’ eyes are raven black,
Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem
At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
Sland’ring creation with a false esteem:
Yet so they mourn becoming of their woe,
That every tongue says beauty should look so.

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.


A little of the Dark Lady’s personality can be discerned by a deeper reading of the sonnets. She is painted as a most promiscuous creature, who ‘robb’d others’ beds revenues of their rents,’ & ‘in act her bed-vow broke.’ The latter could mean she was married, or perhaps the vow was simply made to her various lovers during her affairs. We also see her described, in sonnet 128, as something of a musician;

How oft when thou, my music, music play’st,
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway’st

There is one stand-out sonnet in the Dark Lady series, number 135, which seems to have been written by one William for another. Leo Daugherty states, ‘virtually all editors & other scholars believe to constitute wordplay referring not only to Shakespeare’s own given name but also probably to his addresses as well.’ It reads;

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,
And Will to boot, and Will in overplus;
More than enough am I that vex thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.
Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in my will no fair acceptance shine?
The sea all water, yet receives rain still
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in Will, add to thy Will
One will of mine, to make thy large Will more.
Let no unkind no fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one Will

Sonnet 136 is a similarly gentle play on the fact that the Dark Lady is love in with two different men called William, or Will;

If thy soul check thee that I come so near,
Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy Will,
And will, thy soul knows, is admitted there;
Thus far for love, my love-suit, sweet, fulfil.
Will, will fulfil the treasure of thy love,
Ay, fill it full with wills, and my will one.
In things of great receipt with ease we prove
Among a number one is reckoned none:
Then in the number let me pass untold,
Though in thy store’s account I one must be;
For nothing hold me, so it please thee hold
That nothing me, a something sweet to thee:
Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
And then thou lovest me for my name is ‘Will.’

There are two sonnets in the series which contain elements of Stanley’s Turkish captivity. The metaphor of imprisonment in sonnet 133 hints at the dire straits in which Stanley had found himself;

Prison my heart in thy steel bosom’s ward,
But then my friend’s heart let my poor heart bail;
Whoe’er keeps me, let my heart be his guard;
Thou canst not then use rigour in my jail:
And yet thou wilt; for I, being pent in thee,
Perforce am thine, and all that is in me.

Sonnet 144 contains some excellent & appropriate Christian allegories attached to the ‘two loves’ of Shakespeare, which paint Stanley as an angel & his tempter – the Dark Lady – as an infidel ‘devil’ wanting to ‘corrupt’ the ‘purity’ of Stanley’s sainthood.

Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still;
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman colour’d ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that my angel be turn’d fiend
Suspect I may, but not directly tell;
But being both from me, both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another’s hell:
Yet this shall I ne’er know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out.

The same sonnet also yields a clue as to how Stanley escaped prison, for when we read ‘whether that my angel be turn’d fiend / Suspect I may, but not directly tell,’ we can identify a correlation to the forced conversions of Christians in the eastern Mediterranean. Only by relenting from his proud Christian stance, & embracing Allah, would his life be saved. Stanley was a member of a family of survivors, & clearly did what was needed to secure his freedom. One can only imagine the joy felt by Shakespeare on his release. The darling Turkish family did not realise so much at the time, but by securing Stanley’s freedom they set in place a series of events that would one day lead to the creation of the First Folio.


Shakespeare sails home

The Grafton Portrait - Shakespeare as he looked on his return from the Continent
The Grafton Portrait – Shakespeare as he looked on his return from the Continent

In the noble houses of Elizabethan England, the ‘household book’ would record the toings & froings of visitors to the estate. The vast majority of these have been lost, but at Knowsley, however, one of these little diaries miraculously survived the ravagings of time, written down with meticulous energy by the Stanley steward, William Ffarington. Crucially, the book supplies us with information for the three-year period between 1587 & 1589, providing the precise date for Stanley’s return to Knowsley… December 1587. With the lunar eclipse occurring in September, we are given a three month window for Stanley to be freed from prison & to travel between Constantinople & Lancashire. Intriguingly, in one of Lorenzo Bernardo’s dispatches, we hear of an English Catholic gentleman who was acting quite suspiciously bout Constantinople in that very time period.

November 11th: An English gentleman arrived here on board the ships ‘Salvagna.’ He says he is a Catholic; that he left England at the end of May with the intention of going to Jerusalem, but on his arrival here he changed his mind, & after staying a few days he left for Patras, there to embark on board an English ship for England. This roused great suspicions, & I succeeded in keeping him under observation

Whoever that mysterious Catholic was, if he had been on the trail of Stanley he was too late; for he & Shakespeare were already scudding the sea-lanes home. In the age of Elizabethan sail, Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind had a top speed of 8 knots, about 9.2 mph. With the port of London lying 3627 nautical miles from Constantinople, the voyage would have taken about 19 days of unbroken sailing. Slowing down the ship to the speed of a merchant vessel, perhaps 4 or 5 knots, the same voyage would have taken just over a month. Ample time for Stanley to return to Lancashire by December. It is on this voyage that Shakespeare would have gained his knowledge of the Bay of Portugal (the Bay of Biscay), an unusually deep body of water that would have been unsoundable by the plumbing methods of Shakespeare’s time. Memory of the Bard’s time on the Bay can be found in As You Like It;

ROSALIND: O coz, coz, coz, my pretty little coz, that thou didst know how many fathom deep I am in love! But it cannot be sounded: my affection hath an unknown bottom, like the bay of Portugal

The long hours of tedium that a sea-voyage entails provided a perfect atmosphere in which Shakespeare could compose his poetry. As our two lovers home, sharing than beautiful bunk of theirs, it is possible that Shakespeare found a serene moment to compose yet another sonnet of the series to his ‘Handsome Youth.’ Of these, there is one sonnet in particular that can be accurately dated to the Stanleyan Grand Tour we have been painting.

To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride;
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned
In process of the seasons have I seen;
Three April pérfumes in three hot Junes burned,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah yet doth beauty, like a dial hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceived.
For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred:
Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.

If the twelve seasons mentioned begin with that of winter 1584-85, then it is the three Mediterranean ‘hot Junes’ of ’85, ’86 & ’87 which Shakespeare spent with Stanley which are meant. This means the sonnet was composed at the end of autumn, 1587, just as they were sailing home.

Stanley spends Christmas in Lancashire

In the year of 1587 the plague came to the good folk of Lancashire. This was bad, but the return of our gallant & sun bronzed adventurers cheered up the county no end. Stanley, especially, would have cut a dashing image; 25 years old, fully tanned & full of exciting tales from his travels. He may even have taken his great friend Shakespeare with him to Lancashire. Our young bard was 23, fresh from a Grand Tour, & flush with the creativity that would soon manifest itself as some of the greatest plays the world has ever seen. As our party arrived at Knowsley, Shakespeare’s knapsack would have contained the manuscript copies of his & Stanley’s co-written plays, such as Titus Andronicus, & Pericles. They may even have been performed that Christmas at Knowsley when the Household Books record ‘Sir Thomas hesketh plaiers.’ No evidence exists for these players having performed the early Stanley-Shakespeare plays, but it certainly feels right, & if so, the events surrounding their debut as playwrights were recorded in December 1587;

On fryday my Lord the earle came home from cowrte & the same night came my Lord bishoppe, mr stewarde mr recyver mr foxe, on saturday Sir Thomas hesketh plaiers went awaie

This could well have been the performance that won the newly-emerging dramaturgical Shakespeare his first laurels of appreciation. As the English entered the fateful year of 1588, in the North at least, the name of a brilliant young playwright was being swirled around the dinner-tables of the gentry. The first sailings of the flower-garlanded galleon that was England’s true bard had just been seen at Knowsley, where Stanley’s brother Ferdinando must have been impressed. Taking the bardic baton from his brother, Ferdinando would later that year drag our boy back to London, & into the realisation of his prenominate destiny.  


During my Chispological studies, I have found the common recourse of academics refusing to accept the euhemeristic nature of historical accounts is generally, ‘that would make a good film,’ before closing all dialogue & pretending the facts don’t exist. The thing is, Shakespeare’s tour of Europe would make a damn thrilling blockbuster; there are sea-battles, death-row prisons, duels, magicians & a sordid love triangle – its got everything really. It is no wonder that after travelling Europe in such a fashion that the young Shakespeare, verteux – as the French say – & amorous – as the French do -, would find his mind & spirit filling with so much poesis it would take years to spill onto the page. How it became such stellar poetry was down, of course, to his flowering genius, which surely was nourished & did thrive in the fertile bedsoil of the Stanleyan Grand Tour. We can now also acknowledge that the dramatic continental output of the Shakesperean ouvre is in all essence a grand & brilliant creochisp of the Swan of Avon’s especial flight abroad.


Next Wednesday, 17/01/18

Chapter 12

The Ripper Gang


chisp cover


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



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

The Chisper Effect 10 : Shakespeare’s Grand Tour

    Continuing the weekly serialization of


Damian Beeson Bullen’s


In which a number of the world’s greatest mysteries are finally solved


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Chapter X

The next two chapters of The Chisper Effect concern a rather famous Elizabethan gentleman, an ever-living poet whose inimitable works our senators of history have esteemed shall never die. Most people on the planet have heard of William Shakespeare, with the vast majority of the English-Speaking world having had to sit through at least one of his rather impenetrable plays, while at the same time whimsically gazing through classroom windows to the sunny fields outside. Even so, ‘God comes first,’ declared Heinrich Heine, before adding, ‘but surely Shakespeare comes next,‘ & at some moment in a human’s life there may come a time when they actually get Shakespeare, they finally understand the profound genius of a man who conjured such a sequence of brilliant plays they shall remain in our collected consciousness for eternity.


It is almost universally known that William Shakespeare was born in an obscure little Warwickshire backwater called Stratford-Upon-Avon. One of the greatest pleasures of his story is that the ‘Swan of Avon‘ set out, barely educated, from such a little idyll to end his life’s journey as the greatest genius his native islands had ever, & shall probably forever, produce. More than any other single individual, his natural creativity has improved & modernized the English tongue; while at the same time his uncanny penchant for the dramatic arts invented, fermented & cemented a theatrical tradition still thriving to this day. But it is when searching for the historical Shakespeare that we hit something of a brick wall. During his lifetime, nobody really bothered to ascertain any significant details of Shakespeare’s life. In the Elizabethan era, the art of English ‘biography’ was very much in its infancy, & it is really no great wonder that we know so little about Mr. William Shakespeare, gent.


The first proper attempt to record a biography of Shakespeare was made fifty years after his death, when in the 1660’s John Aubrey included a gossipy sketch in his, ‘Short Lives.’ Another half-century would pass before anybody else tried to flesh out Aubrey’s work, when the poet-laureate-to-be, Nicholas Rowe, took upon himself the task of modernizing Shakespeare into the English of his day. Combining Rowe & Aubrey gives us the bare bones of the historical Shakespeare, which in essence are just a scrappy handful of unlikely anecdotes & second-hand memories, into which we can stitch a few dozen ‘official’ details such as his marriage to Anne Hathaway; the christening records of their three children; legal affidavits; & his famous will. In the official spheres, six of his signatures have been raked up from the ashes of historical beaurocracy, the last of which was scratched loosely upon his will. This last document also contains the only known handwriting we possess in his hand. Even then, this consists of only the four letters of ‘by me,’ or even ‘by mr,’ a scanty authentic sample indeed of our greatest writer’s gargantuan wordsmithery.


Shakespeare spent a great deal of his adult life in London, but upon his death in 1616, at the age of 52, his body was returned home to be buried in Stratford. Seven years after this entombment, thirty-six of his plays were printed together for the first time in a rather large tome known as the First Folio. This brilliantly influential book contains a woodcut engraving which has provided us with the definitive image of the Bard; a balding & bearded man, nestling quite unegregiously in his middle-age. For various errant reasons, this printed testament & definitive image of Shakespeare are said not to be enough to prove he existed. By some obtuse glitch there exists today a rather large & angry mob of academics who, with growing defiance, absolutely & positively deny that William Shakespeare ever composed his own plays.

There are two principle themes behind this chronic conclusion of the Anti-Shakespeareans: the first is a complete lack of any manuscripts in Shakespeare’s hand. Yet, none of the great playwrights of the period left behind any actual manuscripts of their plays: in a time without copyright, these precious reams of paper were jealously guarded & then destroyed by the theaters. It was far better for a play to dwell in the memory of an actor or three, than to fall into the hands of a rival company. The second objection to Shakespeare’s existence comes from an intellectually snobbish attitude prevalent throughout the halls of academe, which assumes that literary genius may only be taught & never be acquired through natural means. From this vulgar stance comes the conclusion that an uneducated country yeoman could not have acquired the intellectual capabilities to produce such a fantastic treasury of writings that constitute Shakespeare’s majestic oeuvre. That is despite the fact that in a 1601 play called The Return from Parnassus (Part II) – when Shakespeare was at the height of his abilities – in a staged dialogue with the actors Richard Burbage, William Kempe compares university playwrights with non-university playwrights, & definitively places Shakespeare among the latter:

Few of ye Vniuersitye men penne plaies well, they smell too much of yat writer Ouid, & yat writer Metamorphoses, & talke too much of Proserpina & Iupiter: why heeres our fellowe Shakspeare putts them all downe, aye and Ben Iohnson too: O yat Ben Iohnson is a pestilent fellowe, hee brought vpp Horace giuing ye poetts a pill; but our fellowe shakespeare hath given him a purge yat made him beraye his credditt.

The case against has not been enough to convince the majority of scholars – & the rest of the world at large – that Shakespeare the man was not also Shakespeare the author. Such defenders of his noble name are known as Stratfordians, while pitted against them are the Anti-Shakesperean non-believers, who go by the name of ‘non-Stratfordians.’ Of this most bitter & increasingly fractious academic battleground, the modern scholar Leo Daugherty, postulates, ‘most of the “warfare” emanates from scholars and critics deeply entrenched in ideology far more than in commitment to good evidence.’ 

The ‘ideology’ mentioned by Daugherty manifests itself as an intellectual world shaking collective & disbelieving heads at Shakespeare’s meteoric rise, combining voices in an open declaration that the works of Shakespeare must have been created by some university-educated nobleman & not the Swan of Avon. This has seen the promulgation of a series of candidates onto which has been deflected more than a century of critical scholarship. Like any of our great world mysteries, a crazed wild-fire has broken out among the pages of our normally rational academics, leaving smoldering charcoal embers which bend & distort the truth about Shakespeare to this day. Contenders for the laurel crown include Christopher Marlowe, despite the fact he was stabbed to death in 1593; making it rather difficult for him to have penned a play such as the Scottish-influenced Macbeth, written to celebrate the succession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne in 1603. Macbeth also contains numerous allusions to the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, and we must note that a year before this – in 1604 – died Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. This starbright gentleman is the main focus of most Anti-Shakespearean scholarship, but he simply could not have written plays such as the Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline & Coriolanus. The latter, for example contains the fable of Menenius as drawn from the ‘Remaines’ of William Camden, which were published in 1605. We can also see De Vere was placed, in 1598, among the great writers of the age alongside Shakespeare, by their contemporary Francis Meres.

The best for Comedy amongst vs bee Edward, Earle of Oxforde, Doctor Gager of Oxforde, Master Rowley, once a rare scholler of learned Pembrooke Hall in Cambridge, Maister Edwardes, one of Her Maiesties Chappell, eloquent and wittie Iohn Lilly, Lodge, Gascoyne, Greene, Shakespeare, Thomas Nash, Thomas Heywood, Anthony Mundye, our best plotter, Chapman, Porter, Wilson, Hathway, and Henry Chettle.

Despite this glaringly obvious separation of Edward De Vere & Shakespeare, by an eye-witness so to speak, the Oxfordians – as this largest pack of Anti-Shakespeareans are more commonly known – have been fiercely advancing the Earl of Oxford’s candidacy for decades. En route, wherever they meet with sound evidence which shows De Vere could never have been William Shakespeare, like tigers cornered in a cave they will thrash out with increasingly bewildering conspiracy theories to negate the challenge to their theories. Somewhere into this mix of baseless conjecture is sometimes tossed a love child of Queen Elizabeth, & I am sure in one strand of the Oxfordian theories Shakespeare was said to have been his own father.

The vita of William Shakespeare is more famous for what it does not contain than what it does. One of the enduring Shakespearean conundrums revolves around the seven-year period between 1585 & 1592, the so-called ‘Lost Years,’ a wilderness of remembrance in which our budding bard might as well have been living on the moon! All we know is that at the beginning of 1585, when his twindownload (2)s were baptized in Stratford, Shakespeare seems nothing but a simple family man. Seven years later, however, he is setting London alight with the first resonant tromp-blasts of his miraculously brilliant plays. The occasion was a rather popular performance of ‘Henry VI’ at the Rose Theatre, dated to the 3rd of March, 1592. Takings for the performance were £3 6sh 8d, outdoing Christopher Marlowe’s Jew of Malta, played in the Rose only the previous week, by almost a full pound. Shakespeare was now the starry darling of the London literary scene, but what journey had he made from rural Stratford for him to have ever become so? Of this curious puzzle, Bill Bryson writes, ‘there is not a more tempting void in literary history, nor more eager hands to fill it.

On first encountering this contentious arena, my instinct was to say I believed what it said on the tin, that Shakespeare had written his own plays. Having looked at a great deal of the available evidence, I am rather inclined to agree with my first instinct, for with a wee waft here & there, when those paper trails of history that have been blown about by the blustery gales of many centuries settle in just the right order, all of a sudden they form a series of cogent patterns to illuminate a path through the murky mists of Shakespeare’s history. Some of the key patterns center upon a certain Lancastrian nobleman called William Stanley, who became the Sixth Earl of Derby in 1594. His feudal demesne was not in Derbyshire, however, but Lancashire, whose ‘capital’ was the palatial stately home at Knowsley, on the outskirts of Liverpool.


In Shakespeare’s day the Derbys were the second family of England, direct descendants of the first Tudor king, Henry VII, through Mary, one of the two sisters of Henry VIII. The elder sister, Margaret, had married into the Stewart line of Scottish kings, whose great-grandchild would eventually inherit the English crown as King James I. Before that momentous occasion of national unification, the Stanleys were the ideological focus of many a plot throughout Elizabeth’s childless reign. But being shrewd operatives & canny northern lads, this noble family never once challenged the hegemony of the Tudors, remaining content enough to lord it over their private kingdom in the North. Instead of plotting for the throne, the Stanleys were content to patronise the dramatic arts, running private troupes of player to perform up & down & all across the land. They even had a private playhouse built at Knowsley, which would have attracted Shakespeare like a moth to a dramaturgical flame. That our bard had been in the vicinity can be observed in the creochisping, money-obsess’d character of Shylock in the Merchant of Venice. He is based, I believe, upon Thomas Sherlock, a coin-counting churchwarden in the Lancashire parish of Prestcott, bordering the Stanley’s estate at Knowsley. The Churchwardens Accounts of Prescott read;

1581: imprimis, receyved bye me, the sed Thomas Sherlock at the handes of the olde churche wardens, ouer theire accountes the last year as appereth bye this booke

1584: item, paid to Thomas Sherlocke for the repairinge of the olde slate upon the sowth syde of the church

In his younger years William Stanley undertook an epic tour of Europe just at the commencement of the Shakespearean ‘Lost Years.’ According to the ‘History of the House of Stanley,’ by John Seacome, the good folk of Lancashire were addicted to his, ‘whole travels, martial exploits, and bravery abroad, which this county (especially) gives us many large accounts, as well in story, as song, and frequently made themselves merry therewith.’ The thing is, if we were to place Shakespeare in the company of Stanley on his continental tour, it is singularly remarkable how much of the Shakespearean oeuvre begins to fit snugly into the minute nooks & crannies of the Stanleyan Grand Tour. Actualizing Shakespeare in the entourage of Stanley begins within the rustic pipings of an obscure ballad called ‘The Garland of William Stanley.’ Anonymously penned, it was printed in the 18th century, a ‘garland,’ or collection, of stanzas telling the story of Stanley’s Continental wanderlust. The poetry of the Garland is not the finest, falling far below the standard of even the most ordinary of broadside ballads; but what it lacks in beauty of language is more than made up for by geographical & historical content. The story it tells is more a montage of three separate journeys; Stanley’s first in 1582-1584 with his tutor Richard Lloyd, the second between 1585-87 with Shakespeare, & a third in the early 1590s, just before he became the Sixth Earl.


The Garland explains how Stanley conducted a twenty-one year tour of the Continent (a clear exaggeration) via France, Spain, Italy, Rome & the mountainous Alpine parts of southern Germany known as ‘High Germany.’ Stanley then went to North Africa, visiting Egypt, Algeria & Morocco, before sweeping back north to meet the famous Elizabethan magus, John Dee, at the court of the Russian Emperor. Another grand sweep would see Stanley returning to the Mediterranean once again, in order to tour the Near East. After conducting the obligatory pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he found himself imprisoned in Constantinople for blasphemy against Mohammed. After his release, at the behest of an infatuated Turkish woman, Stanley moved up to the frozen north, where he became stranded upon the island of Greenland. Fortuitously rescued by a whale-ship, he would eventually be dropp’d off in Holland, from where he boarded a boat for England & his homecoming at Lathom Hall in Lancashire. I think it hardly a coincidence that in every place Stanley visited in the Garland – Greenland aside – we can site one or more of Shakespeare’s continental scenes, with the only exception being the Elsinore of Hamlet.


Shakespeare’s own continental ‘ticket’ would been paid for by the wealthy Stanley. These ‘Grand Tours’ were partaken only by the very rich, in particular young aristocrats wanting to complete their education by visiting foreign ‘academes’ & basking in the natural beauties of the Continent; whether it be the delights of scenic scenes, or the bosom of some pretty damsel. That Shakespeare accompanied Stanley should appease the Anti-Shakespeareans, for foreign travel alongside a man of noble birth would have furnish’d Shakespeare’s brain with all the courtly mores, continental languages & classical scholarship our poet would ever need to create his masterpieces. Looking into the Italian plays in particular, one cannot help but notice Shakespeare’s attention to topographical & cultural details. By placing Stanley & Shakespeare together readily explains how the Bard would have gained such an impressive love for Italy. His journey up to, throughout, & beyond that golden land I shall now present in a neat, chronological & hopefully unclutter’d fashion. As we journey alongside William Shakespeare & William Stanley, in the absence of any external evidence their Grand Tour, it is in the internal evidence of his writings, as ascertained thro’ the Chisper Effect, that we are able to trace the route of the most important adventure in the history of the English language.

Shakespeare joins the retinue of the Earl of Derby

In the chilly late January of 1585, Shakespeare’s twins, Hamnet & Judith arrived in the world. They were baptized in Stratford on the 2nd February, 1585, but Shakespeare was not present – & probably missed the birth. All we can do is pin him to April 1584, when he conceived the twins with his wife, Anne. By the time they were born, Shakespeare had found himself a very minor station in the grand retinue of William Stanley’s father, the 4th Earl of Derby, who was readying himself for a trip to Paris. His mission was to present the French King with the Order of the Garter on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, one of only 26 – no more, no less – noble investees of the a tradition founded by Edward III in 1348, & religiously maintain’d by Elizabeth.

There are several manuscripts extant which contain a list of the leading members of the Earl’s retinue, together with numbers for their anonymous, un-named staff. Among the names we may observe;

Sir Richard Shireburn, treasurer – 3
Sir Randulp Brereton of Malpas – 6
Thomas Arderne, steward – 2
William Fox, comptroller -1
Stanley of Chelsea – 2

We may notice here the presence of Thomas Arderne, the cousin of Shakespeare’s mother, Mary, while William Stanley appears as Stanley of Chelsea. On & off, throughout his entire life, Stanley did indeed live in the fashionable parts of West London.

Shakespeare in Paris

As Shakespeare crossed the English Channel, he would have gazed wide-eyed with wonder at the Earl’s fleet as it flew across the choppy green waters to France. After making footfall upon foreign shores, we can follow his first steps abroad via a contemporary record of the Garter procession through France;

7th February : The Earl of Derby… is coming to bring the Garter to this king. He has disembarked at Bolounge with a great following of English nobles, & is to be lodged, & apparently splendidly entertained, by the king
Bernardino de Mendoza

21st February : The Earl of Derby arrived at Saint Denis. He was sent by the Queen of England to bear the garter to the most Christian king. Lord Derby stayed two days at St Denis, & on the third day he took the roads with all his company, which consists of two other lords, fifty gentleman, & others to the number of two hundred
Giovanni Dolfin


Once in Paris, the Fourth Earl (see image left) & his party took up residence at the Louvre, bedazzling the French nobility with the extravagance & magnificence of his embassy. On the 28th February, the Order of the Garter would be finally handed over with much ceremony to Henri III, of which occasion Elias Ashmole wrote, ‘on the day of Installation, there hath from ancient time been accustomably prepared, a very sumptuous & noble Feast.’ The young Shakespeare must have been blown away by the experience, his ears swelling with the florid language & sickly pomp of such grandiose, courtly affairs. It must have been a moment of creative epiphany, for during his career all but one of his plays (Merry Wives of Windsor) would be set in an aristocratic environment. Our young poet would also have wondered at the sheer extravagance of the Earl of Derby, but the truth of the matter is that such spectacular showboating was actually bleeding the Earl dry, who was pretty much doing the whole thing on bills of credit. By Paris he had spent-up, of which circumstance Sir Edward Stafford wrote to Walsingham, ‘at their coming to town they had not a hundred crowns left, & no other provision.’

MARCH 1585
Stanley & Shakespeare embark on their continental tour

In our noble sanguinities, being the second son of an aristocratic family generally means you are left to your own devices, to enjoy a life of luxury without the pressure to carry on the family name & lands. In Elizabethan England, many of these privileged young libertines traveled extensively across Europe, & Stanley was no different. The Queen had encouraged such tours, when in her own words, ‘young men of promising hopes’ such as the Earl of Essex & Phillip Sydney did travel through, ‘foreign countries for the more complete polishing of their Parts & Studies.’ Stanley was no different, he had already toured the Continent once, in 1582-83 & was going back for more. With him went the 21 year-old Shakespeare. Perhaps the elder Stanleys had recognized the young poet’s talents & suggested that this promising youngster should accompany Stanley on his educational trip to the continent.

To actually be out of gloomy England & heading for sunnier climes & all the pristine culture of Europa would have felt as wonderful to Shakespeare as it does to any modern Briton holidaying abroad. Such a moment of liberating freedom would later be remembered by Shakespeare;

Believe me, sir, had I such venture forth,
The better part of my affections would
Be with my hopes abroad. I should be still
Plucking the grass to know where sits the wind,
Peering in maps for ports and piers and roads.
The Merchant of Venice

The Grand Tour was flooding into the young Shakespeare’s life when, as The Garland of William Stanley describes, the optimum reason for such a continental sojurn was the study of various languages;

Then first Sir William travell’d to France,
To learn the French tongue and to dance;
He tarried there not past three years,
But he learnt their language and all their affairs.

And then Sir William would travel to Spain,
There for to learn the Spanish tongue;

Placing Shakespeare with Stanley at this time helps us to understand how our dramatist in years to come was able to read a number of source-texts in their original form. Most of these were translated into English long after Shakespeare had utilised them for the plots of his plays, such as the Hecatommithi of Cinthio (the inspiration of Measure for Measure), translated into English as late as 1753.

MARCH 1585
Shakespeare visits the Ardennes

Nicholas Rowe once stated it was certain that Shakespeare, ‘understood French, as may be observ’d from many Words and Sentences scatter’d up and down his Plays in that Language; and especially from one Scene in Henry the Fifth written wholly in it.’ In that scene, where Katherine says, in pretty good French, ‘Alice, tu as été en Angleterre, et tu parles bien le langage,’ Alice replies, ‘un peu.’ It is Shakespeare’s knowledge of that language which would have made life much easier for our party as they traversed the primeval forest of the Ardennes between Paris & Antwerp. This very region turns up in Shakespeare’s As You Like it, where the ‘Forest of Arden’ is set in an un-named duchy of France. The play contains a wrestling match at a tournament, mirroring Thomas Aspen’s description of William Stanley’s travels in which our Grand Tourist, ‘took laurels in many of the chief tournaments.’ From both Aspen & the Garland we see Stanley immersing himself in the social swirls of Continental courts. A memory of this happenstance was recorded by Shakespeare himself;

Twere good, I think, your lordship sent him thither:
There shall he practise tilts and tournaments,
Hear sweet discourse, converse with noblemen.
And be in eye of every exercise
Worthy his youth and nobleness of birth.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Returning to As You Like It, this pastoral describes a certain Rosalind dressing up as a boy-child called ‘Ganymede,’ a figure that Shakespeare drew from classical mythology. Legend states how the baby Ganymede had been abducted by Jupiter in the guise of an eagle. This very motif was chosen by the Stanleys to decorate their family’s noble crest, & placing the emblem in As You Like It seems a clear nod by Shakespeare to his patrons.


APRIL 1585
Shakespeare witnesses the Siege of Antwerp

Among the gentlemen waiters who traveled to France in the Earl’s retinue, we may observe a 13-year-old John Donne, who was destined to enter the leading ranks of the English poetic pantheon. Modern scholar Dennis Flynn shows how Donne’s uncle, Jasper Heywood, was a leading Jesuit missionary, & in the anti-Catholic atmosphere of that age, ‘he & his sister, Donne’s mother, seemingly conspired to get him out of harm’s way by arranging this trip to the continent as a member of the ambassador’s retinue,’ adding, ‘since Donne did not return to England with the Earl in March 1585, the most plausible explanation for his turning up later in Derby’s household is that at some point he joined the Earl’s son William Stanley on the continent.’ There may be more to the Jesuit connection, for Edmund Campion, their chief English activator, was given safe houses in Lancashire, whose nobility were very far from accepting the Protestant reformation as instigated by Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII. Other pro-Catholic clues include Shakespeare’s teacher at school, Simon Hunt, leaving Stratford for the English College at Douay in order to be trained a Jesuit, while Shakespeare’s father had signed & hidden a Catholic testament in his house rafters in Stratford.


We may presume that our gallant young Englishmen swaggering about the continent had at least some kind of sympathy to Catholicism, & that Jasper Heywood’s nephew, the young John Donne was welcome in their company. According to Flynn, Donne was present at the 1585 siege of Antwerp as conducted by the Duke of Parma. Flynn insists that Donne reflected upon his time at the siege in a set of ‘Latin Epigrams’ which were composed, ‘during a period datable by their contents to April or May 1585.’ Flynn cites additional evidence in a poem by Donne’s, entitled ‘To Sleep, stealling upon him as he stood upon the Guard in the corner of a running Trench, at the siege of Duke’s-Wood,’ which includes the lines;

Our very standing still here business finde;
Duty imploys our bodies, cares our minde.
Duty which may the next hour double strike;
Whilst each man here stands grasping of a pike;
Waitings stoln onsets with our weary spears,
Examining even whispers with our ears.

Perhaps Stanley was observing the siege in order to gain an education in military affairs. Despite tensions between England & Spain, Stanley’s Catholicism & noble breeding would have ensured a friendly reception from the Duke of Parma.

JUNE 1585
Shakespeare visits Nerac

In the summer of 1585, Shakespeare accompanied Stanley – & Donne – into the kingdom of Navarre, which stretched across both sides of the Pyrenees like a blanket drying on a wall. On arrival they received an excellent welcome, for Stanley’s father had befriended Henri of Navarre in their youth. Shakespeare’s own time in the kingdom would heavily influence his composition of Love’s Labours Lost. Set in Navarre itself, Abel Lefranc describes that play’s, ‘easy familiarity with the atmosphere reigning at the court of Navarre… the Park of Navarre… is easily identifiable with the park of Nerac.’ The town of Nerac lies in south-west France, near Toulouse, in which place Henri of Navarre had installed a humanist academy whose academic atmosphere permeates the poetry of Love’s Labours Lost. In this charming play we encounter the austere intellectual endeavors of four young men completely rattled by the arrival of the Princess of France, when all pretensions of mental asceticism soon descend into glib rounds of love-gifts, sonnets & masques. The very start of Love’s Labours Lost shows the state of mind of four young men whose ebullient language bubbles with the deepest passion for scholarship. It is a charming read;

ACT I SCENE I. The king of Navarre’s park;

Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live register’d upon our brazen tombs
And then grace us in the disgrace of death;
When, spite of cormorant devouring Time,
The endeavor of this present breath may buy
That honour which shall bate his scythe’s keen edge
And make us heirs of all eternity.
Therefore, brave conquerors,–for so you are,
That war against your own affections
And the huge army of the world’s desires,–
Our late edict shall strongly stand in force:
Navarre shall be the wonder of the world;
Our court shall be a little Academe,
Still and contemplative in living art.
You three, Biron, Dumain, and Longaville,
Have sworn for three years’ term to live with me
My fellow-scholars, and to keep those statutes
That are recorded in this schedule here


The three years that Stanley spent on the continent (1585-1587) are a direct match for the three-year course of study planned by the play’s principle character, Ferdinand; alongside Biron, Dumain, and Longaville, two of whom are perhaps metapoetic reflections of Shakespeare & Donne. Indeed, when Biron says, ‘study is like the heaven’s glorious sun,’ we can sense the importance Shakespeare attached to his time in Nerac.

AUGUST 15858
Shakespeare visits Spain

After leaving Nerac, Shakespeare would have ascended the myriad-mountain’d Pyrenees; those gorgeous rocky giants abutting the beautiful, sierra-swept lands of Spain.

And then Sir William would travel to Spain,
There for to learn the Spanish tongue ;
He tarried there not past half a year,
But he thought he’d been in Spain too long

That Shakespeare was with Stanley has been half-noticed by Sir Henry Thomas. Of the ‘Tawny Spain’ phrase found in Love’s Labour’s Lost, he declares it, ‘so apt a description of the landscape, at least in some parts of Spain & at certain seasons of the year, that it suggest personal observation. I such it really was, the trip to Spain might be a youthful escapade.’ Shakespeare seems to have understood the rudiments of the Spanish tongue, with Sir Henry stating; ‘it is common ground that Shakespeare had some knowledge of Spain and the Spaniards that a few Spanish words were among his stock-in-trade… Shakespeare’s allusions to Spain are very numerous, he uses Spanish phrases and gives an English garb to others.’ Learning Spanish enabled Shakespeare to study its literature, such as the 1585 edition of La Galatea by Cervantes, containing the Proteus-Julia-Sylvia love triangle, which would later inspire The Two Gentlemen of Verona.


There are also tantalizing remembrances of Donne’s own visit to Spain. Upon a portrait of the young poet, painted in 1591, we may see the phrase; ‘Antes muerto que mudado,’ whose translation as ‘sooner dead than changed’ could well contain a secret nod to his Roman Catholicism. Donne may have picked up the phrase at first hand while in Spain, & while there stocked up on books for his personal library. In his middle-age, in 1623, Donne wrote a letter to the Duke of Buckingham confessing, ‘in my poore library I can turn my eye toward no shelf, in any profession from the mistress of my youth, Poetry, to the wife of mine age, Divinity, but that I meet with more authors of the {Spanish} nation than of any others.’

Shakespeare begins Venus & Adonis

Like any good tourist, Shakespeare availed himself of the opportunities to wander foreign caches of culture. While visiting the Court of King Phillip II in Madrid, he would observe two paintings by the great Italian renaissance painter, Titian. Their names were The Rape of Lucrece and Venus & Adonis, & the substance of each one would be utilised by Shakespeare for two long poems printed in the early 1590s. It seems our poet was inspired to begin the composition of at least ‘Venus & Adonis’ almost immediately, for on its publication in 1593, on the title page Shakespeare calls the poem ‘the first heir of my invention.’ A key factor in placing Shakespeare directly in front of & staring at Titian’s painting can be observed in the poet’s rejection of Ovid’s version of events, & his following of Titian instead. Like Shakespeare’s depiction, the painting has Adonis backing away from the advances of Venus, shirking Ovid’s portrayal of the young god happily embracing his bonnie suitor. ‘Fie, lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone, Well-painted idol,‘ says Venus, who around the neck of Adonis, ‘her yoking arms she throws: She sinketh down, still hanging by his neck.‘ This is just as is pictorially described by Titian, as is Shakespeare having Adonis ‘urging release… from the twining arms.’  Shakespeare also appears to be mirroring the painting when he writes, ‘O, what a war of looks was then between them!’ 

More evidence that Shakespeare saw the painting & wanted to recreate the story it told in words comes within the poem itself. Erwin Panofsky, in his, ‘Problems in Titian, Mostly Iconographical,‘ writes, ‘Shakespeare’s words, down to such details as the nocturnal setting and “love upon her backe deeply distrest,” sound like a poetic paraphrase of Titian’s composition,’ & gives stanza 136 as a good example;

With this he breaketh from the sweet embrace
Of those faire armes which bound him to her brest,
And homeward through the dark lawnd runs apace;
Leaves love upon her backe, deeply distrest.
Looke, how a bright star shooteth from the skye,
So glides he in the night from Venus’s eye.


The poem is very much moulded by homoerotica, suggesting Shakespeare had been seduced by Stanley on their Grand Tour. On analysis of the poem, we may observe how Venus – who would be based on Stanley – is rather more humanized than one would expect of a member of the immortal pantheon. The poem could in actuality be a versified memorial to Stanley & his sexual overtures towards the younger, twenty-two year old, Adonis-like Shakespeare. Evidence for such a sequence of events may be obtained through understanding the Elizabathan tendency to name one another via ingenious allusions.

(i) In the poem, Venus says to Adonis; ‘Art thou obdurate, flinty, hard as steel? Nay, more than flint, for stone at rain relenteth: Art thou a woman’s son, and canst not feel what ’tis to love? How want of love tormenteth?’
(ii) In 1597, a young Cambridge graduate named Joseph Hall published two books of satires in which he marks out for especial criticism a certain ‘Labeo,’ telling him to ‘write better’ three times, & at one point to even refrain from writing completely.
(iii) In 1598, John Marston wrote, ‘so Labeo did complain his love was stone, Obdurate, flinty, so relentless none.’ This hints that Labeo was the same person as Shakespeare’s Venus – ie William Stanley. At this very period, John Marston was heavily involved with Stanley in reviving the St Paul’s Boys troupe, & would have acquired an intimate insight into the secret Stanley-Shakespeare affections.
(iv) In 1599, we gain rock solid evidence concerning Stanley’s mediocre, playwrighting pretensions. In a letter which George Fenner sent to Humphrey Galdelli, Stanley was said to be, ‘busy penning plays for the common players.’ These were most probably The Maid’s Metamorphosis and The Wisdom of Doctor Dodypoll, two ‘anonymous’ productions performed in 1599 by the St Paul’s Boys. Both of these are inferior productions of the Elizabethan tradition, & may be among the pieces criticized by Joseph Hall when he attacked the writings of ‘Labeo.’



Stanley duels with a Spaniard

With the Armada only three years away, to be an Englishman in Spain in 1585 must have been a very tense experience. Relations between the two countries were steadily souring, a background against which our party found themselves into quite a scrape. Thomas Aspen describes how Stanley; ‘was challenged by a Spanish nobleman to single combat. In the first encounter the Spaniard succeeded in wounding Sir William on his right arm, and causing him to fall to the ground, but he was soon upon his feet again. In the second round the Spaniard aimed three deadly blows at the wounded Englishman, but they were all skillfully averted, and Sir William gave his adversary a thrust on the right breast, inflicting a severe wound, and causing him to reel to the ground. Blood flowed freely, and the friends of the Spanish nobleman counselled his withdrawal from the contest, but he was too enraged to heed their advice, and in the third encounter rushed at Sir William with the force of desperation, but the blows were successfully parried, and the representative of the house of Stanley once more secured the crown of victory by inflicting a second wound on the breast of the Spaniard, and thus effectually disabling him.‘ This would not be the last time a bunch of (probably drunk) English tourists got themselves into a spot of bother in Spain, but having survived the fracas it was definitely time to hop-it out of a country growing more & more hostile by the hour.

Shakespeare passes through Aragon

More gloss to the Stanleyan grand tour is given via John Seacome’s ‘History of the House of Stanley,’ to which edition of 1801 was attached an anonymous appendix entitled ‘A Brief Account of the Travels of the Celebrated Sir William Stanley.’ This pamphlet contains new material, & tells us that following his duel in Spain, Stanley predicted ‘the vengeance of the whole court would fall upon him‘ & so purchased the habit of a friar in order to flee in disguise. While they made their way through Aragon with ‘considerable hardships,’ I believe Shakespeare took down a series of notes which would find a home in the extremely popular 17th century play, Mucedorus. The earliest known edition is dated to the year 1598; but the words, ‘newly set foorth,’ on the title page indicate there was an earlier performance. The plot has a certain Prince of Valencia disguising himself as a shepherd so he can sneak into Aragon in order to view its famously beautiful Princess, a sequence of events which heavily echo Stanley’s own travels in the district. That Shakespeare had actually had a hand in the writing of the play came to light in the 17th century, when three scripts were found in the royal library of Charles II, bound together & labelled ‘Shakespeare. Vol. I’. These were Fair Em, The Merry Devil of Edmonton & a 1610 quarto printing of Mucedorus.

Shakespeare crosses the French Riviera

After the sojurn in Spain, the Garland tells us, ‘to Italy then Sir William would go, To Rome.’ It is apparent that our intrepid poetical gentlemen took the land route, for on leaving the gorgeous sierras of Spain they must have passed through Roussillon, which makes an appearance in All’s Well That Ends Well. This region stands at the start of the French Riviera, while further along the coast we reach the sprawling sea-port of Marseille, another of All’s Well’s localities. This same play is also set in the city of Florence, Italy, & one expects Alls Well to be some kind of metapoetic tribute to Shakespeare’s journey in 1585, one that swept him along the French Riviera & into northern Italy.

Shakespeare in Italy

It is time to proceed with joy unto the Italian peninsular, the greatest of all the Shakespearean hauntlands. It is in this famous ‘Paradise of Exiles,’ that Shakespeare would set more than a quarter of his plays, such as the seminal classic, Romeo & Juliet. Italy & Shakespeare are like pasta & wine – they go together so darned well. A great deal of their connections were unearthed by an amiable Californian, Richard Paul Roe, who sadly departed this world in 2010. The last twenty-five years of his life were spent wandering about Italy with a well-thumbed copy of Shakespeare in his hands, hunting down clues as to whether the Bard had visited the country. To say his efforts were a success are a clear understatement, the Indian Jones of Shakespearean studies, he dug out & polished many prime artefacts, concluding;

The ‘imaginary’ settings for the ten Italian plays of Shakespeare have presented both specific, and strikingly accurate, details about that country, as a result of dedicated sojourns within it by the playwright. The author’s journeys took him from its Alpine slopes to the toe of its peninsula, across the length and breadth of its great island of Sicily, and included sailing trips on both the adjoining Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Seas. For the last four hundred years, nearly all of the playwright’s descriptions of Italy’s places and treasures have either gone unrecognized as being true, or have been dismissed as mistaken.

Italy burned an indelible mark into Shakespeare’s creative consciousness, & throughout his works we find over a hundred scenes set in that country, alongside 800 general other references. A great study of these was made by another Bard-in-Italy aficionado, Ernesto Grillo, a 20th century teacher & lecturer of Italian studies at Glasgow University, & absolute Shakespeare nut. After a lifetime of lectures, one of his students assembled Grillo’s copious notes into a book entitled Shakespeare and Italy. Published in 1949, it quotes Grillo in conclusion:

Italy with its public and private life, its laws and customs, its ceremonial and other characteristics, pulsates in every line of our dramatist, while the atmosphere of many scenes is Italian in the truest sense of the word. We cannot but wonder how Shakespeare obtained such accurate information, and we have no hesitation in affirming that on at least one occasion he must have visited Italy

This ‘one occasion,’ was in the company of Stanley. ‘Open my heart and you will see / Graved inside of it, ‘Italy!’’ sang Robert Browning, & it makes perfect sense that our budding Bard would have visited the land of Virgil, Dante, Petrach & Tasso, for it is the Italian influence that raises English poetry to its highest pitch.

The Levant Company launch five ships from London

To promote the trade of Elizabethan England, the Company of Merchants of the Levant was formed in order to take advantage of the declining international trade of both the Portuguese & the Venetian empires. The Company established ‘factories’ in the Syrian city of Aleppo (its headquarters), Constantinople, Alexandria and Smyrna. They also commissioned a small fleet of five ships to trade in the Near East, but at the very moment they were ready to embark, in November 1585, Phillip II of Spain declared war on England. This forced the Company to heavily arm the ships; the 300 ton galleon Merchant Royal, the William and John, the Toby, the Susan and the 300 ton armed merchant galleon Edward Bonaventure. They sailed later in the month, & we shall see in a short while how important this little fleet is to the unwritten history of William Shakespeare.

Piazza Ognissanti
Piazza Ognissanti

Shakespeare in Florence

Like any poet of substance, Shakespeare’s soul would have been fired up for his first visit to Florence; the home of Dante and a true diamond among the many jeweled delights of Tuscany. Florence is a veritable beauty to behold, especially when observed from its heights, when the weighty Duomo rises out of a sea of orange rooves like some volcanic, Polynesian island. Shakespeare would set several scenes of Alls Well that Ends Well in the city, while an accurate knowledge of Florence & the Florentines is heavily evident in other plays. In Alls Well (3-5) we hear, ‘if they do approach the City, We shall lose all the sight,’ a statement elucidated by Roe’s, ‘the ‘City’ in question is an area to north of the Arno, where stood the walled Roman colony of Florentia.’ Roe also pinpointed the description of a religious hostelry situated ‘at the Saint Francis here beside the port.’ On investigation, Roe discovered that the ‘Saint Francis’ in question was, ‘the ancient name of Piazza Ognissanti, where the Chiesa di Ognissanti (Church of All Saints), belonged to the Franciscans since 1561.’ To this we may add the findings of Ernesto Grillo who describes how Shakespeare knew, ‘the Florentines were notable merchants and mathematicians, making frequent use in their commerce of letters of credit and counting their money by ducats; and he was also aware that they were constantly in conflict with the Sienese. And here the poet uses a phrase which is pure Italian–The Florentines and the Sienese are by the ear (si pigliano per gli orecchi).’

While in Florence, Shakespeare would have connected on a spiritual & artistic level with the great Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, perhaps even visiting his natal house which still stands to this day. It would have been a grand changing of the Parnassian baton, for Dante’s contribution to world literature is the brilliant Divine Comedy, a most beautiful epic poem through which the poet explored Hell, Purgatory & Heaven, embroidered by some of the most sublimely beautiful language. So gorgeous were his words, in fact, that when the fragmented Italian principalities were searching for a national language; out of the many dialects on offer it was Dante’s Tuscan that won the day. In the same fashion, Shakespeare’s influence over the English language has been equally meritorious, for there is something about a song sung on the highest slopes of Parnassus that reverberates along the tongues of a poet’s fellow countrymen for forever & a day.


Shakespeare visits Rome

In 1586, the Eternal City was a shadow of the epic metropolis of the Ceasars, but would have still held the same charm & fascination as it does to the tourist of today. ‘Of the ground contained within the walls,’ remarked Shakespeare’s contemporary, William Thomas, ‘scarcely the third part is now inhabited, and that not where the beauty of Rome hath been but for the most part on the plain to the waterside and in the Vatican, because that since the Bishops began to reign every man hath coveted to build as near the court as might be. Nevertheless, those streets and buildings that are there at this time are so fair that I think no city doth excel it.’ For Stanley, a visit to the Italian capital was one he would have truly relish’d, whose Vatican City would have been a most soulful draw for our pro-papal party. In England, in 1585, it was a treasonous offence to be or even harbor a Catholic priest; while a £20 fine was given to anybody who failed to attend a protestant service. As our party wandered the streets of Rome, they would have been overjoyed to step into any church they liked, to worship their version of Jesus in the open.

Shakespeare begins Titus Andronicus

Stanley & Shakespeare would have delighted in seeing the ruins of the ancient city, which according to the Brief Account reflected Stanley’s, ‘credit on his taste.’ It was on these walks that Shakespeare’s creative connection to Rome was forged, as seen in his four Roman Plays; Julius Ceasar, Anthony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus & Titus Andronicus. While wandering the remains of the Forum & the Colosseum, already 15 centuries old, Shakespeare’s innate enthusiasm would have been fired into tackling themes of grand antiquity. Of these, it is the play Titus Andronicus that he began in earnest, perhaps even on the spot, a brutally violent revenge play in the style of the Roman dramatist Seneca. Most poets have several pieces going on at any one time, & when in the early 20th century, the epic Shakespearean scholar Walter Raleigh says, ‘his early play of Titus Andronicus, which is like the poems,‘ we obtain a feeling that Shakespeare was writing a proto-Titus at the same time as penning Venus & Adonis. Philip C Koln has observed a ‘close kinship’ between the two, where ‘both Titus & Venus contain rape (or attempted rape), Ovidian in origin, transformations, heavily embellished poetry to express the deepest physical & psychic wounds, the curse of doomed love, & the powerlessness of gods & goddesses to protect.’

It had not been so long since Shakespeare had stood in the Alcazar gazing deeply at the brushwork of Titian’s Rape of Lucrece. As he combobulated his new play, Lucrece’s enforced ravishment became the inspiration for a similar rape. Indeed in Titus, as the sexually molested and mutilated Lavinia reveals the identity of her rapists, her uncle Marcus invokes the story of Lucrece in order to invoke an oath of vengeance;

And swear with me—as, with the woeful fere
And father of that chaste dishonoured dame,
Lord Junius Brutus swore for Lucrece’ rape
That we will prosecute by good advice
Mortal revenge upon these traitorous Goths,
And see their blood, or die with this reproach

On an allegorical level, in her excellent book, Shadowplay, Clare Asquith notes how the rape of Lavinia seems to represent English Catholocism in the early 1580s. This would have been an appropriate choice of metaphor, reinforced by Lavinia’s lopped off hands, reflecting the Catholic inability to worship freely in Elizabethan England. In the wake of the Tudor Reformation, Asquith reminds us, ‘the faces, arms & attributes of thousands of images of the Madonna & the saints were still being mutilated in exactly this way all over England; some of them, faces slashed & hands removed, still remain in parish churches.’ Such hidden, pro-Catholic layers would have resonated powerfully with a sympathetic 16th century audience. ‘A related similarity between Tamora & Elizabeth is inescapable,’ writes Asquith, & it is through Titus’s hidden Catholic layer that she finds an allusion to events of the year directly preceding that in which Shakespeare began writing the play, ‘In 1585,’ states Asquith, ‘Richard Shelley… was imprisoned for presenting a petition for toleration, dying later in jail without trial. The demented Titus accosts a simple countryman & asks him to deliver a letter that… also contains a weapon… a knife – a hint at the barbed attacks contained in the appeals. The message is twice called a ‘supplicatio.’ For running this errand, the poor clown, who delivers the letter with a cheerful invocation to God & the martyr St Stephen, is hanged on the spot.’

That Titus was Shakespeare’s first dramatic production seems cryptically embedded in the play itself. The plot has no historical basis, but the name of its chief character seems based upon Livius Andronicus, a Roman poet & dramatist of the third century BC, also known as Titus. The Roman writer Livy describes how Livius Andronicus had been an inspired dramaturgical innovator, who ‘was the first, some years later, to abandon saturae and compose a play with a plot. Like everyone else in those days, he acted his own pieces; and the story goes that when his voice, owing to the frequent demands made upon it, had lost its freshness, he asked and obtained the indulgence to let a boy stand before the flautist to sing the monody, while he acted it himself, with a vivacity of gesture that gained considerably from his not having to use his voice. From that time on actors began to use singers to accompany their gesticulation, reserving only the dialogue parts for their own delivery.’ It would have been apt for a forward-thinking playwright to name his first play after a similar-minded dramatist of the past, & a nod to the Roman may be seen in the cutting off of Lavinia’s tongue, mirroring the mute dramaturgy as utilised & made famous by Livius Andronicus.

Most scholarship agrees that Titus Andronicus was only co-authored by Shakespeare; there are clear discrepancies in style & vocabulary rippling all throughout the text. The earliest commentary on the play’s origins, made by Edward Ravenscroft in 1687, describes Titus as, ‘the most incorrect and indigested piece in all his Works; It seems rather a heap of Rubbish then a Structure.’ This creative jumbling forwards Stanley as a candidate for co-authorship, that Titus was the product of a collaboration between our erstwhile, literary-minded travelers. Stanley, of course, was a good old Lancashire lad, who would have spoken in that broad, Elysium-dripping accent of the North, & his presence during the penning of Titus which would account for its numerous dialectical idoms, such as; blowse, brabble, brat, caterwauling, chaps, codding, egall, faire-fast, gald, leere, luls, ruffle, slonke, tawnt, trull & welkin. That Stanley was involved in the creation of Titus would also help to explain why his family’s private troupe of players were the first to perform the play. When it was printed in 1594 – the year Stanley became the Earl of Derby – the title page of the first quarto edition reads; ‘as it was Plaide by the Right Honourable the Earle of Darbie, Earle of Pembrooke, and Earle of Suffox their Seruants.’

Shakespeare in Padua

Shakespeare’s knowledge of the fair city of Padua, perched upon those perfect plains of north Italy, transcends anything he could have acquired through bookish lore. In the Taming of the Shrew, where Biondello says, ‘my master hath appointed me to go to Saint Luke’s, to bid the priest be ready to come against you come with your appendix,’ Paul Roe tracked down the actual church, declaring it to be the Saint Luke’s Church of via Venti Settembre 22. Only a stone’s throw away, Roe was delighted to pass through the arched Porta Barbarigo & straight into Act I, Scene I of the Shrew; with its waterway, landing place and wide open space with clustering buildings. That Shakespeare stayed in the city just feels right; Padua was home to one of the greatest universities of the Renaissance, & a trip to such an academic environment fits in with Stanley’s intellectual itinerary. At the time of their visit, the majority of Europe’s greatest medical doctors & teachers were based in Padua, & a period of erudition in the city by the young Shakespeare helps account for the high level of medical knowledge in his plays. An example comes in Love’s Labour’s Lost, when Holferness states;

This is a gift that I have, simple, simple; a foolish, extravagant spirit, full of forms, figures, shapes, objects, ideas, apprehensions, motions, revolutions: these are begot in the ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of pia mater, and delivered upon the mellowing of occasion

This passage shows a remarkable insight into the obscure biological material known as the ‘pia mater,’ a Latin term for the inner lining or membrane of the brain and spinal cord, along with its neurological connections to the brain’s activities. The key to the conundrum comes with an English physician known as William Harvey (1578-1657), the first man to describe to the English the processes of the circulation of the blood about the body. His book, De Motu Cordis, was published in 1628, yet Shakespeare was hinting at this very process decades before, where in Julius Ceasar we read, ‘you are my true and honourable wife, as dear to me as are those ruddy drops that visit my sad heart.’ How on earth could Shakespeare & Harvey both have obtained this select & secret knowledge? The answer can only be at Padua, whose university Harvey entered in 1592. While there he developed a relationship with Hieronymus Fabricius of Acquapendente, who had held the chair of Medicine and Anatomy at the time of Stanley’s visit. Back in the 1570s, Fabricius had discovered that veins possessed valves which kept the blood flowing in the direction of the heart, & one expects that is was in his private lectures that men like Shakespeare would have first heard of the pia mater & the circulation of the blood.

Shakespeare in Lombardy


Being now at the beating heart of the Veneto Plain we find ourselves within striking distance of several more of Shakespeare’s Italian plays. Of these productions, his most famous is Romeo & Juliet, which sees the Montagues & Capulets playing out their tragic feud in Verona & Mantua, while The Two Gentlemen of Verona, is set in, well, Verona. These two cities, along with Milan, are sited in what Shakespeare accurately describes as ‘fruitful Lombardy, the pleasant garden of great Italy.’ That Shakespeare spent time in Mantua is hinted at in The Winter’s Tale, where he describes Queen Hermione’s statue as; ‘a piece many years in doing and now newly perform’d by that rare Italian master, Julio Romano, who, had he himself eternity and could put breath into his work, would beguile Nature of her custom.‘ Julio Romano was actually famous for being a painter, not a sculptor, but in Vasari’s Lives of Seventy of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, we are given two (now-lost) Latin epitaphs on Romano which confirm his status as both sculptor & a painter! Such obscure & minute details like these only serve to reinforce Shakespeare’s personal observations of his time in Italy.

We have previously seen through Shakespeare’s creation of Venus & Adonis how the great art of Europe inspired our impressionable young poet. Likewise, we may also assume that he saw a famous painting by Correggio while visiting Milan. From 1585, the Jupiter and Io was exhibited in the palace of the sculptor, Leoni, of which viewing experience Shakespeare writes, ‘we’ll show thee Io as she was a maid / And how she was beguiled and surpris’d / As lively painted as the deed was done.’ While in Milan, Shakespeare certainly discovered the city’s Well of St Gregory, for he understood that it was a burial pit for plague victims, rather than a water-storage unit. To these Milanese connections we can add another observation, this time made by Grillo, who writes; ‘despite being 100 miles from the coast, the city of Bergamo, near Milan, produced sails. In the Taming of the Shrew, Vincentio says to Tranio,Thy father! O villain! He is a sailmaker in Bergamo.’

The legacy of Romeo & Juliet has had, in Verona, a most profound effect. Every day sees a new set of star-crossed lovers arrive in the city to take a bubble-bath in its lake of wistful romanticism. Close to the imagined site of Juliet’s Balcony, explosions of graffiti & notes cover the walls on a daily basis, leading to the irate & rather staid Veronese authorities instigating 500 euro fines to anyone who stick notes up with chewing gum! Another Shakespeare-induced visitor to Verona, Paul Roe, was not looking for love, however, but was drawn there by the a singular passage in Romeo & Juliet, which contained a very distinctive topographical clue;

Madam, an hour before the worshipped sun
Peered forth the golden window of the East,
roes-verona-sycamoresA troubled mind drove me to walk abroad,
Where, underneath the grove of sycamore
That westward rooteth from the city’s side,
So early walking did I see your son

To this day, there stands a grove of Sycamores outside the western walls of the city, which were joyously observed by Roe; ‘in the first act, in the very first scene, of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the trees are described; and no one has ever thought that the English genius who wrote the play could have been telling the truth: that there were such trees, growing exactly where he said in Verona.‘ Roe also points out that Verona’s Chiesa di San Pietro Incarnario is mentioned by Juliet’s, ‘now, by Saint Peter’s church, and Peter too. He shall not make me there a joyful bride.’ Shakespeare also understood the etymology of a minor place very much off the normal radar, ten miles from Verona on the banks of the Tartaro River. Called Villafranca, its name translates as ‘Freetown,’ & in Romeo & Juliet we hear, ‘you Capulet, shall go along with me; And Montague, come you this afternoon, To know our father pleasure in this case, To old Freetown our common judgment place.’ As details like these are absent from both the 1562 Arthur Brooke poem, The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet, & the Italian originals by da Porta and Bandello, once again we must place Shakespeare in person at the scene-setting of one of his plays.

Before we leave Lombardy, let us put to bed an Anti-Shakespearean factochisp of his time there, as told by Sydney Lee; ‘the fact that he represents Valentine in the ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ as travelling from Verona to Milan by sea, & Prospero in the ‘Tempest’ as embarking on a ship at the gates of Milan, renders it impossible that he could have gathered his knowledge of Northern Italy from personal observation.’ To counter this assumption Roe rummaged ferret-like through the Verona State Archives & finally found a map dated to 1713 which show how the Adige, Tartaro, and Po rivers were once connected by a system of canals. These would have allowed the water-borne journey along the fossi as undertaken by Valentine in the Two Gentlemen. As for the aquatic ‘gates of Milan,’ the fact that a sea-going ‘bark’ such as was described in the Tempest as leaving Milan finds confirmation through the pen of Michel de Montaigne, who in 1581 wrote; ‘we crossed the river Naviglio, which was narrow, but still deep enough to carry great barks to Milan.’ Shakespeare’s select knowledge of those unexpectedly navigable north Italian river ways bolsters our touring Bard yet further.


Shakespeare experiences Commeddia Dell Arte

The history of Elizabethan theater is a curious hybrid, an amalgam of continental trends & the medieval folk traditions of the English provinces. By the Elizabethan age, her playwrights had developed an uninhibited secular drama, inspired by a burgeoning humanist world-view & fueled by a constant stream of renaissance minds forged in grammar-schools & varnished in the land’s universities. It is in Shakespeare’s visit to Italy, then, that these forces were truly emblazoned upon a single individual spirit. To the Elizabethan mind, Italy was poetry, & Italian theatre the most innovative on the planet. In 1586, from the fertile fields of the Veneto Plain, directly to the east of Lombardy, a new kind of improvised comical theatre called Commeddia Dell Arte began to spring up. Most of Shakespeare’s early plays – The Comedy of Errors, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night & Much Ado About Nothing – were inspired by the tradition. Of Love’s Labours Lost, where Geoffrey Bullough writes, ‘there may have been an earlier play, continental in origin & affected by the commedia dell’arte tradition,‘ he is referring to the use of CDA’s archetypical characters; foolish old men, mischievous servants, brash military officers & miserly merchants such as the braggart (Armado) & ostentatious pedant (Holofernes). Another early play, Twelfth Night, utilises many of CDA’s ‘lazzi,’ a stock comic element, as when the ‘Pantalone’ is tricked by other characters into doing those daft things they have convinced him will impress the woman he admires.

MARCH 1586
Shakespeare in Venice

Of all the cities in adorable Italy, Shakespeare seems to know the most about the floating pleasure-palace that is Venice. When, in the Merchant of Venice, he writes, ‘what news on the Rialto?’ he was well aware of the rumor-laden tittle-tattle that flock still to that famously beautiful bridge. In the MOV in particular, Grillo finds, ‘an inimitable Italian atmosphere… the topography is so precise & accurate that it must convince even the most superficial reader that the poet visited the country, acutely observant of all its characteristics as he traveled through its mountains & valleys. One instance is the gift of a dish of pigeons which Gobbo takes to his son’s master. Gobbo is a purely Venetian name, which must certainly have been suggested to Shakespeare by the statue of the kneeling hunchback of the Rialto, which forms the base of the pillar upon which in ancient days were affixed the decrees of the Republic.’


The inimitable Paul Roe found the very house where MOV’s Shylock lived: a ‘penthouse’ on the Campo del Ghetto Nuovo, where Jewish Banks once leant the Christians money. That it was, & still is, supported by three columns, just as Shakespeare describes, is yet another incredible accuracy from our poet in Italy. The MOV gives the following directions to the house; ‘turn upon your right hand at the next turning, but at the next turning of all, on your left; marry, at the very next turning, turn of no hand; but turn down indirectly to the Jew’s house,’ which is an uncanny way of describing the mazy lanes of Venice. ‘Other Shakespearean Venetian references,’ says John Hudson, ‘are to the characteristic gondolas & chopins – a kind of platform shoe – as well as to the Venetian calendar & judicial procedures.’

Titian Sacred Profane - Copy (15)

While in Venice, Shakespeare would have pictorially seen the next stage in the development of his Venus & Adonis. The above painting is by Titian, his amazing ‘Sacred & Profane Love,’ in which the coat of arms of a leading Venetian politician – Niccolo Aurelio – can be seen. In the sculptural relief below the two women – one of whom is Venus – there is a man on the ground that invokes the image of a chastised Adonis. The rampant horse & the woman being checked by the hair in the relief seem to represent the halting of the passions, with the horse being the Platonic symbol of libido. This pictorial motif then turns up in the poem as;

But, lo, from forth a copse that neighbours by,
A breeding jennet, lusty, young and proud,
Adonis’ trampling courser doth espy,
And forth she rushes, snorts and neighs aloud:
The strong-neck’d steed, being tied unto a tree,
Breaketh his rein, and to her straight goes he.
Imperiously he leaps, he neighs, he bounds,
And now his woven girths he breaks asunder.

The Venice that is portrayed in Othello shows a personal appreciation by the bard. Grillo summoned up concisely much of the true Venetian atmosphere that he could see in the play, being, ‘the darkness of morning, the narrow and mysterious “calli,” Brabantio’s house with its heavy iron-barred doors, the Sagittary, the official residence of the commanders of the galleys, the hired gondolier witness of gallant intrigues… the galleys sent on a multitude of errands, the armaments, the attendants with torches, the special night guards, the council chamber, the senators, the Doge —the beloved Signor Magnifico— the discussions about the war… the history of Othello with all the sacrifices made in defence of the republic, the appearance of the divine Desdemona, fair & beautiful as a Titian portrait – all give the impression of a vivid portrayal of scenes enacted in the very heart of the Queen of the Adriatic.’ This wonderful passage brings us to the end of our search for Shakespeare’s secret Italy. He surely visited the country, for where else would he have picked up such a native phrase such as, ‘sano come un pesce / sound as a fish,’ an expression Grillo states was, even in his time, ‘still in common use in certain parts of Italy.’


Like all art, poetry grows naturally out of accumulated materielle, to which is added an individual poet’s personality & technique. Their creations should be seen as the fragrant flowers of a bush, the roots of which are buried deep under the earth. By following these roots to their sources of nourishment, we can slowly create a picture of the poet’s unseen life, the one that lives beneath the surface of the page. If Shakespeare had accompanied Stanley, the sheer wealth of scenery & culture that Europe contains should have found an eventual memorial among his plays. When the English poet Lord Byron visited the Continent in the early 19th century, his composition of a long poem called Childe Harolde’s Pilgrimage is more or less a record of his travels. In the same fashion, it is through the Chisper Effect that we can see how the plays of Shakespeare are a metacreative journal of his travels with Stanley. Doctor AW Titherly concurs with such a notion by stating,

Shakespeare’s geography, being ubiquitous in its range, is evidentially inconclusive, except in so far as its abiding realism manifestly betrays extensive travel experience as distinct from mere book-learning.’ 


Next Wednesday, 10/01/18

Chapter 11

The Dark Lady


chisp cover


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



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

The Chisper Effect 9 : The Mandylion

Continuing the weekly serialization of


Damian Beeson Bullen’s


In which a number of the world’s greatest mysteries are finally solved


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Chapter IX

I would like to declare that the ultimate object of veneration upon which the legends of the Holy Grail are based is not, in fact, the cup used at the Last Supper, but rather a ‘Turin Shroud’ like piece of material which sported the so-called image of Jesus Christ. Our first port of call is an obscure 6th century manuscript from Georgia, which reads; ‘but I climbed Holy Golgotha, where the Lord’s cross stood, and collected in the headband and a large sheet the precious blood that had flowed from his holy side.’ Here we have the blood of Christ being stored for posterity in a piece of linen, & in our modern days scholarship has begun to promulgate the idea that into the fabric of the burial shroud of Jesus was imprinted a bloody image of his crucified corpse. Certain members of this niche academy have then connected the bloody shroud to an ancient image of Jesus known as the Mandylion; while a handful more have pointed out that all of this could be the basis into which is rooted the legend of the Holy Grail. Richard Hayman, for example, in his Holy Grail and Holy Thorn: Glastonbury in the English Imagination (2003) writes of the 12th century creator of one of the earliest grail stories we possess, Robert de Boron, that he had perhaps, ‘heard of the Holy Mandylion & substituted it for a cup in the Grail story.’  Seven years prior to this, in his 1996 paper, Joseph of Arimathea, the Holy Grail and the Turin Shroud, Dan Scavone postulates how the Mandylion was also both the Turin Shroud AND the Holy Grail. After investigating the matter myself, I have ascertained that these scholars were beating about the right bush, but had never dove headlong into the thorns, where the Grail has been waiting all along. The truth to the matter is tangled up in layers of both proper history & later medieval romancing, thus the best thing to do is to present the information in chronological order, beginning quite surprisingly with the death of the apostle Thomas, who for some reason was known as the ‘Didymus,’ or twin, of Jesus.

downloadOur quest begins in India & its most southerly state, sun-kissed Tamil Nadu. From mornings of gorgeousness to those soul-searing sunsets, Tamil Nadu is a wonderful place in which to freely wander; body, mind and soul. Alright, there are still beggars all over the shop and women cleaning the streets, but everybody else seems to be getting on harmoniously in some kind of casteless happiness. During my investigations into the Jesus Jigsaw, I had visited Tamil Nadu on the trail of possible southern avatars of Ashvaghosha. From my studies in the north I swooped down to Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, arriving on a train known as the Thirukural Express. This rather elongated name is actually the most sacred text of the Tamils – the Kural of Thiruvalluvar. Hardly anything is known about its author, but the experience of reading or hearing those brief nuggets of wisdom which form the Kural really do invoke a Christian mantra. One of the first western scholars to describe the poetical wisdom contained in the Kural was RT Temple, who declared it to be, ‘one of the grandest productions of man’s brain, much of which bears so strange a resemblance in thought to the Sermon on the Mount. It has accordingly been argued ere this, with much show of probability that the teachings of the gospel influenced the nameless weaver of Mayilapur.

Thiruvalluvar’s legendary home in the Chennai suburb of Mylapore was renamed St Thome by the Portuguese, with Father Henry Hosten recording, ‘the first Portuguese historians say … that St. Thomas built his ‘house,’ meaning his church, on the site where a Jogi had his temple.’  A connection between Thomas & Thiruvalluvar cannot be ruled at out, but we shall leave identifying the link for another day. For now, let us focus on the long standing tradition that states Saint Thomas was martyred at Mylapore in 68 AD. The 7th century patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius, describes how Thomas preached; ‘the gospel of the Lord to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Carmanians, Hyrcanians, Bactrians, and the Magi. He fell asleep in the city of Calamina of India.’ Calamina philochisps into Cholamandalam, the ‘Realm of the Cholas,’ an Indian dynasty who ruled over the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu. That Thomas died at Chennai, the chief city of Cholamandalam, is commemorated locally to this day, with the tradition that Thomas was martyred in the suburb of Mylapore . Having aroused the hostility of the locals, the saint is said to have been chased to the site of the modern-day St Thomas’ Mount, & was there brutally slain. A text, thought to be by Hippolytus, describes the killing, with Thomas being, ‘thrust through in the four members of his body with a pine speare at Calemene, the city of India, & was buried there.’


The apocryphal Acts of Thomas describe that after his murder at Mylapore, the body of Thomas was wrapped in, ‘beautiful robes and much and fair linen’ before being ‘buried in a royal tomb.’ Two centuries after the burial, the remains of Thomas were removed from India, to be relocated in the Christian west at the ancient Syrian city of Edessa. An anonymous text known as ‘The Passio’ describes the circumstances behind the removal of the bones;

The Syrians begged of the Roman emperor Alexander, then on his victorious return from the Persian war against Ardashir, and petitioned that instructions should be sent to the princes of India to hand over the remains of the deceased Apostle to the citizens. So it was done; and the body of the Apostle was transferred from India to the city of Edessa

We have here reached a significant moment of chispological diversion, for the remains of Thomas were stored in a royal citadel known as the ‘Britio Edessenorum.’ This gives us our first credible link to the Grail legend, for a thousand years later the transchispering recollections of the Thomas relics being stored in the Britio Edessenorum transmogrified into a legend that Joseph of Arimathea had taken the holy cup of Christ to Britain. Support for this particular chisper comes from a mention by the Venerable Bede of the so-called King Lucius of Britain, who never actually existed, but was in fact  Agbar Lucius IX of Edessa, who dwelt in the Britio Edessenorum. This has not stopped thousands of people searching for the Grail through Joseph of Arimethea’s supposed connection to Glastonbury; but as I have stated earlier in this book, when a factochisp is based on a philochisp it becomes extremely difficult to ascertain the truth, & with such a huge passage of time as that which has enveloped the grail legend, we should not wonder why it has never been found.


In the centuries following the removal of  the Thomas relics to Edessa, a piece of material called the Mandylion showed up in the city. Also known as the Icon of Edessa, it was said to bear the face of Jesus, whose twin, we must remember, was Thomas. The key premise here is that alongside the bones brought from India in the casket, there was also brought the burial shroud of St Thomas, upon which an imprint of his body had been left behind by the blood pouring out of his four lethal wounds. Seeping into the fabric of the cloth, a shadowy vision of Thomas would remain which would one day become mistaken for that of Jesus himself. That the Icon arrived in Edessa alongside the remains of Thomas can be observed through just a single philochisp. Firstly, let us analyze a 4th century hymn by Saint Ephraem of Syri, a curious piece pitched from the perspective of the Devil;

The merchant brought the bones: nay, rather! They brought him. Lo, the mutual gain! ‘But the casket of Thomas is slaying me, for a hidden power there residing, tortures me.

The merchant who brought the remains of Thomas to Edessa is given a name in an early Syrian ecclesiastical calendar, when for the third of July it records; ‘St. Thomas who was pierced with a lance in ‘India’. His body is at Edessa having been brought there by the merchant Khabin. The 4th century church historian Jerome gives this merchant a slightly different name in an alternative setting; ‘Judas Thomas the Apostle, when Our Lord sold him to the merchant Hâbbân that he might go down and convert India.’ Habban now transchispers easily into a certain Hannan, who was said to have painted a picture of Jesus for the King of Edessa. The tale appears in a text known as the Doctrine of Addai;

When Hannan, the keeper of the archives, saw that Jesus spoke thus to him, by virtue of being the king’s painter, he took and painted a likeness of Jesus with choice paints, and brought with him to Abgar the king, his master. And when Abgar the king saw the likeness, he received it with great joy, and placed it with great honor in one of his palatial houses.

To summarize, the remembrance of Khabin/Habban bringing the bloody, image-imprinted shroud of Saint Thomas has here morphed into the story of a man called Hannan painting a picture of Jesus, This is a classical philochisp-fueled factochisp operating in the most outrageous of truth-stretching fashions, & when information is as garbled & regurgitated as in this case, only confused accounts remain. In the middle of this messy swamp, however, lies the true source of the Icon of Edessa, being the blood-stained burial linen of Jesus’ so-called twin. According to an anonymous 7th century Greek text, the Acts of Thaddaeus, we are told how the image of Jesus was imprinted on a ‘tetradiplon,’ which translates as ‘doubled in four,’ suggesting the shroud of Thomas was folded up, with the head image being displayed in some sort of protective case.

The question we must now ask ourselves is however did King Arthur become involved in a quest for the Mandylion? The answer lies in connecting King Pelles, the British possessor of the Grail, with Edessa. As I showed in the last chapter, Pelles is a philochisp of Liberalis, the father of the Grail-seeking Peredur, also known as a Gothic warrior called Pharas the Herulian. This leads us to a rhotacismic philochisp of Liberalis into a 6th century Byzantine Goth called Liberarius. In 525, this one-time chief Magister of Thrace found himself in charge of Edessa, with the Chronicle of Pseudo-Zachariah Rheto describing him as; ‘Liberarius the Goth, a harsh governor, who was nicknamed ‘The Bull-Eater.


The epithet, I believe, comes from Liberarius once possessing the wonderful dining-set that was dug out of the earth in today’s Western Romania, near Nagyszentmiklós, in 1799. The hoard consists 23 pieces of golden plates, cups & bowls amounting to about ten kilos of pure gold, with some of the plates baring images of bull. One plate has a peculiar inscription which also mentions bulls. The inscription’s language is unknown, but an orthographical date can be ascertained through the shape of the omega – whose middle vertical line appears higher than its round sides, a typical feature of 6th century Greek inscriptions. A transliteration of the inscription reads;

 Boila zoapan finished this bowl, which Boutaoul zoapan made suitable for hanging up

We can here make two connections to the Arthurian theory I am slowly building. First, the treasures were found in the very regions in which Justinian settled 4,500 Heruli, near the fortress of Singidunum (modern Belgrade). Secondly, Boutaoul could actually be Sir Bedivere, one of Arthur’s oldest knights, for his name derives from Beado-Wulf. Support of the babel-chain comes in this lovely & obscure corner of Arthuriana given by Big Geoff;

When he had seated all according to rank, Kai arose, with a thousand men to serve from the kitchen, with a robe of yellow ermine about him, — and such wore each one of them; and then arose Bedwyr, Arthyr’s chief butler, with a thousand men adorned with the like garments, to pass the yellow mead in innumerable gold and silver cups.

In the very year that Liberarius was governor of Edessa (525), Evagrius records how the city had been; ‘inundated by the waters of the Skirtus, which runs close by it; so that most of the buildings were swept away, & countless multitudes that were carried down by the stream perished.’ Among the buildings ravaged by the rising waters was the city’s cathedral, in which the Mandylion was normally housed, and it is clear a new home was needed. This furnishes the perfect backstory for the removal of sacred relics from the city, under the mantle of their conservation. All we need to do is to put the Mandylion is the luggage of Liberarius, then sail him to his estate in the north of Britain where he appears as Liberalis & Pelles. A tentative connection can be first made through St Serf. In the last chapter we saw how the Latin ‘Liberalis’ & the Greek ‘Eleuther’ were different names for the same man. This leads us to the vita of Serf, a Scottish saint said to be the son of a certain King Eliud of Canaan, who could well have been Liberarius, governor of Edessa. Another possible presence of Liberarius in the north of Britain is recorded by an obscure reference to a 6th century figure called Librarius, who appears in the vita of Saint Samson of Dol.

Now it came to pass that on a feast-day they went together to church, & there, among the many people to be discussed, they heard a discussion concerning a certain Librarius who lived in a remote land to the north… and it came to pass that at length, at the end of the third day when the fatigue of the journey was over, they reached the place where master Librarius had his dwelling, & there found the aforesaid master sitting with much people discoursing much on particular cases

The end of this passage, with Librarius acting in the capacity of a lawman, mirrors strongly a man of such weight of authority as the Byzantine Liberarius. Presuming he had taken the Mandylion to Britain, I believe our sticky-fingered ex-governer at some point received an order straight from the top; could the Monks of Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai desert please have the Mandylion sent to them in order to copy the image of Jesus for the benefit of Christendom. The 12th-13th century French romances tell us that Peredur & Bors received the grail in Britain from a certain King Pelles & his son, Eliezer, at their court in Corbenic. What has happened here is a case of genflation, that is when an author receives into his hands two different names of the same personage, & places them together as kindred. In this striking instance, Pelles stands for Liberalis & Eliezer stands for Eleuther. Before being taken to Corbenic, the grail was kept at a place called Galaort. That Galla Law (bottom right) was Galafort is suggested by the presence  of a very ancient church dedicated to St Mary at neighbouring Monklowden, which is mentioned as being present at Galafort in the romances. We have already seen how Liberalis/Eleuther was a man of the north, & his realms could well have encompassed the south Edinburgh area,  especially when we hear of a certain ‘Liberton’ just a few miles north of Penicuik.

IMG_20141017_124150Examining the medieval French romances in which the story of the Arthurian quest for the holy cup first appears, we may observe how the principle heroes, Sir Peredur & Sir Bors, took the grail from Britain to a place in the east called Sarras. This place remains unidentified, but the Estoire del Saint Graal gives us a an important clue;

 They left the wood and set out their way, traveling until they arrived at a city called Sarras, between Babylon and Salamander. From this city came the first Saracens

 The Babylon as found in in medieval texts generally refers to the Egyptian capital city of Cairo, but Salamander is as yet an unidentified place. The text does tell us, however, that Sarras was the homeland of the Saracens, which tribe is placed in the Sinai Peninsular of Egypt by the 6th century Byzantine historian, Procopius.

 As one sails into the sea from there, the Egyptian mountains lie on the right, extending toward the south; on the other side a country deserted by men extends northward to an indefinite distance… This coast immediately beyond the boundaries of Palestine is held by Saracens, who have been settled from of old in the Palm Groves. These groves are in the interior, extending over a great tract of land, and there absolutely nothing else grows except palm trees. The Emperor Justinian had received these palm groves as a present from Abochorabus, the ruler of the Saracens there, and he was appointed by the emperor captain over the Saracens in Palestine

The romances tell us that the Grail was taken to a hilltop castle in the middle of a wasteland, a fantastic match for St Catherine’s fortified monastery as it rises over the deserts of Sinai. Saint Catherine’s still stands oasis-like to this day, in the middle of the Sinai desert of Egypt, by the very place where Moses received the Ten Commandments. The monastery was built at some point during the reign of Justinian (527-565), with impenetrable walls & sturdy buildings surrounding the Church of the Transfiguration. The monks of Saint Catherine’s were expert copyists of Christian relics; & we possess by them one of their earliest painted copies of the Mandylion. Known as the Christ Pantocrator, its foundation layer is 6th century, while the image contains iconography pointing directly to the reign of Justinian. The image of Jesus it contains would become the standard from the 6th century onwards; before this time Jesus had appeared different almost every time he had been depicted, but the Pantocrator Christ would unify the vision of Jesus for the Faith. Before the 6th century, the image of Jesus Christ had always been one of a clean-shaven, Apollo-like youth.

A mosaic dating to the 4th century AD, depicting Christ as a typical clean shaven, Greco-Roman youth. Eermans Handbook of History of Christianity (1977)
A mosaic dating to the 4th century AD, depicting Christ as a typical clean shaven, Greco-Roman youth. Eermans Handbook of History of Christianity (1977)

A hint that the Mandylion had once been housed at Sinai is contained in certain 14th century murals painted by the Knights Templar within churches across Cyprus. In the Church of Panagia Phorbiotissa at Asnou, the Mandylion is depicted as suspending over two visions: of Moses receiving the laws & the Burning Bush, both of which events occurred at Sinai. The church also contains images of Christ’s transfiguration, another event thought by biblical scholars to have occurred at Sinai, & to which miracle St Catherine’s Monastery was originally dedicated. In the deliciously informative book ‘Approaching the Holy Mountain,’ edited by Sharon Gerstel, we are told; ‘take the famous tenth century diptych showing the disciple Thaddeus & King Abgar who receives the Mandylion… A row of monastic saints below make makes it probable that the two wings of what may have been a tryptich are regions to be seen within the localism characteristic of Sinai.’ The same book also records how a 6th century abbot of St Catherines, St. John Climacus created a piece of art called ‘The Ladder of Divine Ascent’ in which; ‘the tablets have been transformed into two of the most venerated images of Christ in the Byzantine world, the Mandylion (an imprint of the saviour’s face on cloth) & its arch copy, the keramion, a miraculous reproduction on a tile… what is shown is a transfiguration, the metamorphisis of the stones into the living face of Christ which can also be seen behind & between the Mandylion & Keramion in a ghost-like sketch on blue ground.’


The Pantocrator Christ was the result of the Mandylion’s time in Sinai, & after the monks had finished their work, the icon was returned to Edessa before 544. In that year, according to the 6th century Syrian scholar Evagrius, it was miraculously used to ward off a Persian siege of the city.

In this state of utter perplexity, they bring the divinely wrought image, which the hands of men did not form, but Christ our God sent to Abgarus on his desiring to see Him. Accordingly, having introduced this holy image into the mine, and washed it over with water, they sprinkled some upon the timber; and the divine power forthwith being present to the faith of those who had so done, the result was accomplished which had previously been impossible: for the timber immediately caught the flame, and being in an instant reduced to cinders, communicated with that above, and the fire spread in all directions.

It is clear that the Mandylion contained the imprint of a complete man. In the 7th century, members of the Christian sect known as the Nestorians were living in Edessa, whose archbishop, Gewargis Silwa, described the Mandylion as, ‘an image of his adorable face & his glorified incarnation.’  While Andrew of Crete, in the early 8th century, describes ‘the imprint … of the bodily [somatikou] appearance” of Christ.‘ A similar description of a full-length Mandylion was made in the 8th century when, according to the Codex Vossianus, a canvas imprint of Christ’s complete body was being kept in a church in Edessa. A certain Smera states, ‘King Abgar received a cloth on which one can see not only a face but the whole body.’ Two centuries later, on the 15th of August 15, 944, the Mandylion appeared in Constantinople to a fanfare as keenly celebrated as a triumph of the Ceasars. The archdeacon & referendarius of the majestic Hagia Sophia cathedral, Gregory,  gave an eyewitness account of the Mandylion, describing how the image, ‘was imprinted only by the perspiration of the agony running down the face… embellished by the drops from his own side…. Blood & water there, & here the perspiration & figure.’ It is not difficult to imagine such an imprint as being made not long after the scene of carnage that was Saint Thomas’ murder in Tamil Nadu, when sultrified sweat would have mixed with fresh-wrought blood & left a pictorial remembrance on his burial robes, especially when Archdeacon Gregory continued that the image of Christ, ‘was imprinted only by the perspiration of the agony running down the face of the Prince of life as clots of blood drawn by the finger of god…… & the portrait… has been embellished by the drops from his own side.’

The sacred Mandylion would soon be nestling alongside many other sacred Christian relics in the Byzantine version of London’s Tate gallery – the Theotokos of the Church of Our Lady of Pharos. The Fourth Crusader, Robert de Clarie, recorded an inventory of the chapel’s precious relics, being; ‘within this chapel were found many precious relics; for therein were found two pieces of the True Cross, as thick as a man’s leg and a fathom in length. And there was found the lance wherewith Our Lord had. His side pierced, and the two nails that were driven through the midst of His hands and through the midst of His feet. And there was also found, in a crystal phial, a great part of His blood. And there was found the tunic that he wore, which was stripped from Him when He had been led to the Mount of Calvary. And there, too, was found the blessed crown wherewith He was crowned, which was wrought of sea rushes, sharp as dagger blades. There also was found the raiment of Our Lady, and the head of my Lord Saint John Baptist, and so many other precious relics that I could never describe them to you or tell you the truth concerning them.’ The idol would remain in Constantinople until 1204, when the Byzantine capital was sacked during the 4th Crusade by treasure-hungry Crusaders. In the year following the theft, Theodore Angelos wrote to Pope Innocent III;

The Venetians partitioned the treasures of gold, silver, and ivory while the French did the same with the relics of the saints and the most sacred of all, the linen in which our Lord Jesus Christ was wrapped after his death and before the resurrection. We know that the sacred objects are preserved by their predators in Venice, in France, and in other places, the sacred linen in Athens

Here we have a direct mention of the Mandylion, or sacred linen, being moved at least as far as Greece. The ‘French’ were the Knights Templar, of which number a certain Othon de la Roche was known as the ‘Lord of Athens. It is almost certain the Mandylion was Othon’s possession in Athens in 1204, after which it made its eventual way to the Templar heartlands in the south of France. Its destination can be properly detected by following certain clues found in the earliest writers of the Grail story, all of whom were connected to the Templars. Where Robert de Boron said the secret of of the Grail was taken to the ‘Vales of Avaron,’ we are led, not to Avalon – an errant transchisper – but to the Aveyron department, to the north & west of Montpellier. A second author, Wolfram von Eschenbach, then placed the Grail in France at a certain Montsalvat, adding its guardians were the ‘Templiesen.’ This leads us quite succinctly to the charming village of Montsalvy, in the department of… wait for it…. Aveyron (the red territory below).

url carte-index

Wolfram’s Grail was a bit weird actually, some kind of precreation gemstone which fell out of Lucifer’s crown after God pitched him out of Heaven. What matters most for us, however, is where Wolfram located the Grail – he definitely knew something about something. Some of his source material came through a certain Kyot of Provence, a gentle philochisp from Guiot of Provins, who was a well-known troubadour from the Champagne area of France. That Guiot participated in the fourth crusade puts him bang on the spot to know what happened to the Mandylion after its removal from Constantinople. According to the romances, the Holy Grail was said to have been kept in a castle, & there are indeed the ruins of an early medieval castle towering over Montsalvy to this day, upon the vista-laden Puy de l’Arbre. That this castle goes by the lovely name of Mandalrulfen provides our investigation with an amazing semantic match for the Mandylion. The area also has a connection to the very French Sir Lancelot du Lac, who first appears in the Grail Romances of the late 12th century. It is quite possible he is based upon a top Templar of that time called Alain Martel, from the Lot region of France, which gives us; (A)Lain ce Lot. The town of Martel is only 40 miles from Montsalvy, where – fascinatingly – the Puy de L’Arbre was once known as the Lancelot du Lac-esque, Puy de Lake.

Let us now acknowledge the esoterix behind Mandalrulfen castle once playing host to a secret Templar ceremony in which the Mandylion formed the climax of a series of iconic revelations. Think masonic lodges & grandmasters, hoods on-heads & stuff like that. The word ‘grail’ actually derives from the Latin ‘gradalis,’ which translates as ‘by degrees.’ This phrase describes the gradually unfolding exhibition of divine objects during the Grail ceremony, a ritualistic procession where a series of ‘holies’ were brought before the initiate, concluding with a vision of ‘Jesus’ as found on the Mandylion. One of the earliest Grail romances, the Grand St. Graal, lists many of these holies;

A sacred dish of blood
Nails of the Crucifixion
The Cross
The vinegar sponge
A scourge
A man’s head,
Bloody swords
Christ himself
A bloody lance head
A red man


All of these objects would have been stolen from the Theotokos of the Church of Our Lady of Pharos in Constantinople at the same time as the Mandylion. Among them is a dish, which would soon acquire the factochisp of it being the vessel used by Christ at the last supper, & the subsequent creochisp into it being the Holy Grail. In reality it was only a minor object during the Grail ceremony, of which the Mandylion took the central & climactic stage. In recent years Dr. Barbara Frale, unearth’d a vital piece of evidence in the Vatican archives, unearthing a 1287 description of a Templar ceremony made by a certain Arnaut Sabbatier. Conducted somewhere in the south of France, with only a few witnesses in attendance, Arnaut was shown a long piece of linen cloth sporting a bearded man, then was asked to kiss its feet. This was the last time on record in which the Mandylion was seen in France, for it seems to have vanished during the fall-out of the Papal persecution of the Templars in 1307. Spearheaded by the French king Philip IV, on Friday 13th of that year all the top Templars were arrested, then executed upon the grounds of torture-drawn confessions for mostly made-up misdemeanors. The Pope & the King then claimed vast tracts of Templar lands for themselves, along with all their deposited finances, which of course was a completely unpredictable bonus. The surviving Templars, eager to save their most precious relics, spirited the Mandylion out of France via the seaport of La Rochelle. Legend has it that some of the treasures were taken to Scotland, where in 1314 members of the order were fighting in the Scottish army at the Battle of Bannockburn. They were said to have originally landed on the Isle of May, in the Firth of Forth, which leads naturally to the River Esk & on to the village of Temple. Founded on lands given to the order by David I of Scotland in 1127, Temple was home to the main Templar receptory in Scotland. To this day, a local proverb tells us that at Temple;

Twixt the oak and the elm tree
You will find buried the millions free


At this junction, I would like to kill two academic birds with a single stone; the first of these theories is that the Turin Shroud was once the true burial garb of Christ; while the second is an idea that the Turin Shroud was also the Icon of Edessa. The truth, as I understand, is that the Mandylion contains the imprint of St Thomas, while the Turin Shroud is simply a medieval copy of the Mandylion. Carbon dating of the Turin Shroud was performed by the Vatican in 1988, after which Cardinal Ballestrero announced the linen was woven into existence at some point between 1260 & 1390.


These dates neatly coincide with the Turin Shroud’s first official appearance in the possession of the de Charneys, a noble French family & founders of the church at Lirey, near Troyes, where the ‘Holy Winding Sheet,’ was first put on display. The earliest reactions to the Charney shroud, made by two local bishops, was that it was nothing but a painting, with Bishop Henri de Poitiers adding that he even knew ‘the artist who had painted it.’ His statement was later confirmed in a 1390 memorandum composed by Bishop Pierre d’Arcis, who declared the shroud had been ‘cunningly painted.’

Presupposing that the Mandylion was in Scotland after 1307, let us examine the movements of Sir Geoffrey de Charney, the founder of the church at Lirey. He was Europe’s most admired knight at the time, a wielder of many honors & a possessor of much social power. We can place him quite distinctly in Scotland on two separate occasions, when the Chronicles of Froissart state he was on good terms with many of Scotland’s noblemen;

Mctray Duglas and the erle Morette knewe of their comynge, they wente to the havyn and mette with them, and receyved them swetely, sayeng howe they were right welcome into that countrey. And the barons of Scotlande knewe ryght well Sir Geffray de Charney, for he had been the somer before two monethes in their company: sir Geffray acquaynted them with the admyrall, and the other knyghtes of France

 The simple idea is this. On encountering the Mandylion on his first visit to Scotland, Sir Geoffrey de Charney returns the next year with his best painter to copy the image. The mention of the ‘erle Morette,’ ie the Earl of Moray, is significant for at the time of de Charney’s visit to Scotland, Isabella, the sister of John Randolph the third Earl, had married into the ‘Dunbar’ clan of Lothian & Berwickshire, a family of stalwart Knights Templars with whom we may assume the Mandylion had been sequestered. The presence of the icon in Lothian is suggested by a rare depiction among the cornucopian carvings of Rosslyn Chapel, only a few miles from Temple. There is a sculptured tableau in the chapel, atop a pillar cornice, on which a headless figure holds up a piece of material sporting the very face of Christ. That the Mandylion was kept at Rosslyn would help to explain the mystery behind the chapel’s steps, which are said to have been worn down by pilgrims who had traveled to Rosslyn from northern Spain. It is likely that this circumstance is connected to the Sudarium of Oviedo, said to be the face cloth used in the burial of Christ. A modern writer, Mark Oxley, records; ‘folklore recounts how pilgrims in their thousands traveled there after completing the arduous trek to the shrine of St James of Compostela.’ A pilgrim, after seeing the Sudarium, would have dearly wanted to complete the set, so to speak, by travelling to Scotland & Rosslyn in order to see the other material visually associated with the death & resurrection of Christ.

The Mandylion at Rosslyn
The Mandylion at Rosslyn

The building of Rosslyn Chapel officially commenced in 1446, directed by a local nobleman, Sir William Sinclair. In fact, he had been employing a group of builders & masons since 1441 – perhaps to build a secret underground chamber, or a tunnel to his castle? To this day, perhaps, in a secret compartment of the chapel’s crypt, or possibly wrapped around the body of one of the buried Templars, the Mandylion is still hidden at Rosslyn. Was it the very ‘secret shown to us’ which Marie Guise mentioned in a letter after visiting the chapel in 1546. For the moment, all we may do is speculate, for Historic Scotland controls the site & any excavatory work is strictly forbidden. In the Scotsman newspaper (27th July 2000), local project director, Stuart Beattie, says;

 We are not in the business of being grail hunters at the moment, although I think there are members of the trust and a lot of the public who would like to see invasive investigations. The immediate priority is to focus on conservation work, and then perhaps the trust might turn its attention to more esoteric matters


Next Wednesday, 03/01/18

Chapter 10

Shakespeare’s Grand Tour


chisp cover


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



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

The Chisper Effect 8 : The Holy Grail

Continuing the weekly serialization of


Damian Beeson Bullen’s


In which a number of the world’s greatest mysteries are finally solved


(Register with Completely Novel to…)



Chapter VIII

Finding the Holy Grail is, well, the Holy Grail of historical mysteries. According to later Arthurian tradition, & the chisper widely believed by modernity, the Grail was a wine-filled cup utilised by Jesus at the last supper. The truth, however, is somewhat quite different. Analyzing the complex collection of chispers that surround the Grail has been the most taxing of tasks, but the solution is at hand. We must begin at the end of 2011, when I made what I thought to be rather an important discovery concerning an obscure old stone standing in a sleepy corner of Scotland known as the Yarrow Glen. For over thirteen centuries the stone had been slowly eroding beneath the sod, the ancient secrets it kept fading into obscurity. Two hundred years ago it suddenly surfaced, a five-foot long block of solid greywhacke disturbed from its earthy slumbers by a farmer’s ploughing of the moor. The discovery was made at Whitehope farm, just outside the pretty village of Yarrow, nine miles to the west of Selkirk in the heathy heart of the Scottish Borders. Of the find area, George Eyre-Todd declared; ‘previous to 1808 the neighbourhood of the glebe was a low waste moor, with some twenty large cairns upon it, in which, when opened, were found some heaps of fine yellow dust and the head of an antique spear. About three hundred yards further to the west, when the strath was being broken in by the plough, a large flat stone was laid bare. It contained a Latin inscription, rudely engraved.’

This exciting & curiously inscribed stone was taken for examination at the nearby home of the Duke of Buccleugh, Bowhill House. Eminent antiquarians hurried to examine the stone, including luminaries such as Sir Walter Scott, Dr. John Leyden & Mungo Park. Following its perusal, the stone was returned to its home on the moor, but placed erroneously in an upright position. In its original position it had  led horizontally on the ground, whereby standing it bolt upright we visitors must now bend our necks sideways in order to read the much-weathered inscription. On doing so we find a Latin memorial, scoured out of the rock in large scraggly capital letters.




The accepted translation reads;

This is an everlasting memorial.
In this place lie the most famous princes
Nudi and Dumnogeni
In this tomb lie the two sons of Liberalis.

The stone marks a burial ground for two Christian princes of the fifth to sixth centuries AD – but which two? Their deaths seem to have been attached to a major battle, for a great deal of burial tumuli & memorial stones had been erected at the site. The Statistical Account of Scotland 1845 describes;’ on Dryhope Haugh, there stood a large cairn called Herton’s Hill, in the midst of which, when the stones were removed about thirty years ago, to enclose the surrounding field, some urns were found, besides a coffin found of slabs, & containing ashes. There may still be seen to the westward of Altrie Lake, on rising knolls, five considerable tumuli, probably remains of the ancient Britons.’ At the end of the 19th century, yet more remains were unearthed, with William Angus recording, ‘cart loads of bones are said to have been unearthed to the west of the church & put upon the glebe lands.’ The identities of the men who gave life to those bones are long lost to us now, except, of course, for the two princes of the stone.


In the New Year of 2012 I thought I had it all figured it all out, & telephoned the Southern Reporter, a newspaper based in Selkirk. They enjoyed my ‘discovery’ enough to actually publish the story (Jan 7th 2012). That I was described as a ‘hobby historian’ shows that at this point in my studies – which I began seriously in 2010 –  I had not yet established the core ideas of Chispology.

AN Edinburgh hobby historian is claiming the Yarrow Stone marks the grave of King Arthur, writes Sally Gillespie.

Self-styled literary archaeologist Damian Bullen says academic consensus has the Liberalis Stone as the burial ground of two Christian princes of the fifth to sixth centuries AD. And one of those he believes was King Arthur.

Mr Bullen, 35, said: “When we strip away the mediaeval romancing of our legendary king, we are left with genuine nuggets of historicity. One of them is the stone at Yarrow which I am convinced is his grave marker.”

It has been reported that the famous regent died with Medrawt (said to be his nephew Mordred) during “the strife of Camlann”. Camlann means “crooked glen” which Mr Bullen says is “a perfect match” for the river bends in the Yarrow Valley near the Liberalis Sonte.

Ploughing in the area three hundred years ago revealed a large flat stone inscribed in Latin.

Mr Bullen says: “Academic consensus states that the site was a burial ground for two Christian princes of the fifth to sixth centuries AD – but which two? At first glance it seems that Prince Nudos and Prince Dumnogenus were the sons of King Liberalis, but there is more to these names than meets the eye.”

He looked up “liberalis” and “nudus” in the 1968 Oxford Latin Dictionary from which he believes the former means gentlemanly and argues: “Calling our two princes, ‘sons of Liberalis,’ would be a poetic way of saying that they were very noble princes.”

Nudus, he says, implies loss of all one’s material possessions.

“In the context of a burial chamber, the word nudus is surely used as a deterrent to would-be grave robbers of the future.”

He further claims: “Moving on to the second prince, Dumnogenus, the whole key to the Yarrow Stone and its significance to British history is revealed. The word is actually made up of two components, Dumno and Genus. Genus – descent, birth, origin – with implication of high or noble descent – nationality, race, nation. The genus element means ‘born of,’ as in our modern word ‘genes.’ This makes the two princes ‘born of the Dumno’. This has to be the Dumnonii, a tribe of ancient Britons, whose lands encompassed Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset.

“This knowledge renders the inscription as, ‘Here lie two famous and very noble princes of Dumnonia, buried without possessions’ Of all the princes of antiquity who have heralded from this region, there is one who stands head and shoulders above all the rest – King Arthur! That he died with a family member – Mordred – fits the inscription on the Yarrow Stone completely.”

He says the monks of Glastonbury where Arthur is currently believed to be buried, made the story up to raise money.

“When we look deeper into the initial discovery (of Arthur’s coffin), we learn that the abbey was, at that time, in deep financial trouble. A few years before the discovery, in 1184, the monastic buildings and church of Glastonbury had been burnt to the ground. Money was needed, and with the relics of saints being big business at the time, these wily monks ‘found’ the bones of Saint Patrick. Widespread belief in an Irish burial site soon put paid to that particular claim, and the bones of Saint Dunstan ‘discovered,’ not long after were dismissed as swiftly. By 1189, with Richard the Lionheart pressing the churches for financial assistance to aid his crusade, the monks were getting desperate. How fortuitous it was, then, that the bones of King Arthur were unearthed the next year.

“As seems likely, the monks of Glastonbury had made the whole thing up, meaning the search for Arthur’s grave is back on.”

Other clues to support his theory, he says, are the “crooked” element of Camlann being echoed in a hill overlooking the river called Crook Hill and the moor on which the stone was found having the name Annan Street, which he says is a possible shortened form of Camlannan. He continues: “There is a ‘Dead Lake,’ near Yarrow bridge, which local tradition says was the final resting place of warriors slain in battle. It could well be the lake in which Arthur ordered his knight Bedivere to throw Excalibur into as he lay dying.”

And Mr Bullen says: “There is a real likelihood of a battle having taken place at Yarrow. In the area one finds a host of Cath- names – Cath is Brythonic for battle – such as Cat Craig, Catslackburn, Catslack Knowe and Cat Holes.”

He notes there are battlefield burials in the area and he believes Arthur’s corpse was the well-preserved skeleton found on Whitehope Farm in the mid-19th century but which was gradually lost to curio-seekers.

And from letters dating back to the period, Mr Bullen also thinks King Arthur’s skull may be in the vaults of a local museum.

“It seems Arthur was buried near Selkirk. I’m convinced of this and until we find another site in a crooked glen, where two princes of Devon or Cornwall are buried side by side, and surrounded by the bodies of many warriors, I shall remain so.”

Asked to comment on Mr Bullen’s hypothesis, a spokesperson for Historic Scotland said: “The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) records indicate that ‘the Yarrow Stone was set up to mark the grave of two British Christian chieftains. It dates from the early 6th century and falls into place in the early Christian series more richly represented in Wales and Cornwall.’ As such, we certainly believe it is of national importance.”

A couple of days later I was studying in the National Library of Scotland, when an email dropped into my inbox with an urgent message to contact a certain Niamh Andersson by telephone. It turns out she worked at Deadline News, an Edinburgh based company which feeds stories to the nationals. Thinking ‘why not’ I walked down to the place to give them a few more details about me & my studies, and they also took my photo. The following morning I went to my local newsagents, bought a copy of the Daily Record & found my face staring up at me. The Record is more a national tabloid, and I was quite tickled to see how an off the cuff mark in the Southern Reporter story had creochisp’d into the headline;


From here the story shot round the twittersphere and opened up a great deal of debate onto whether I was right or wrong. Certain Arthurians who have written books about their version of King Arthur reacted swiftly, dismissing my findings as rubbish. Now, I am always readily ready to admit when I am wrong about something, and in this instance I was definitely wrong about the Yarrow stone marking the burial ground of King Arthur. In the last chapter I showed he was buried at Inchyra, which leaves us with the unanswered question of, ‘just who were the two Dumnonian princes buried at Yarrow?’ The answer comes quickly, for where the Jesus College genealogies have a certain Pheredur as a king of Dumnonia (after King Cador), we may observe in the Triads & the Annales Cambrae the same figure – & his brother Gwrgi – in action in the Borders, fighting at the Battle of Arfderydd, near Longtown in Cumbria, in 573. That they later died at the same time – thus realizing the historical background of the Yarrow stone – is given by the Annales Cambrae, when in 580 AD; ‘Gwrgi and Peredur – sons of Elifert – died.’ The circumstance of their deaths is given in the Triads, when among  ‘Three Faithless Warbands’ of Britain, we may observe;

The War-band of Gwrgi & Peredur, who abandoned their lord at Caer Grue, when they had an appointment to fight the next day with Eda Great-knee; & there they were both slain

download (1)

Caer Grue has never been identified, but could well be Din Guarie on the Northumbrian coast, upon which site the magnificent castle of Bamburgh was built. This location is supported by a passage in the Historia Brittonum, which shows how Urien of Rheged, who at that time was the ruling ‘lord’ of Gwrgi & Peredur, was besieging Angle-held Lindisfarne, the Holy Island across the waters from Bamburgh;

Theodoric (Athelric’s brother) fought vigorously against Urien & his sons. During that time, sometimes the enemy, sometimes the Cymry were victorious, & Urien blockaded them for three days & three nights in the island of Lindisfarne.


Reading between the lines, it seems that during the three-day siege of Lindisfarne, Gwrgi & Pheredur ‘abandoned their lord,’ Urien, and took a day’s march to Yarrow in order to fight Edda Great Knee. This man appears in the Historia Brittonum (chapter 63), as Adda, the father of Theodoric & Athelric. The battle’s victor is unrecorded, but numbering the rather large amounts of Dark Age burials in the locality we know that Yarrow was once an epic scene of carnage. Among the casualties, we may now presume, were Gwrgi & Peredur,  whose father’s name appears in MS Harleian 3859h; ‘Gurci ha Peretur mepion eleuther.’ The name Eleutherius translates out of the Greek into ‘liberty,’ which in Latin is our very own ‘Liberalis.’ We may support this name-change elsewhere, for the very same transchisper occurs within two copies of an Irish text known as ‘The Expulsion of the Dessi,’ in which ‘Luthor‘ would be extracted from ‘Eleuther.’

 Nine men of Luthor… from whom are the Luthraige (Laud 610)

Nine men of Liber… from whom are the Luburige (Rawlinson B 502)

In another manuscript, known as the Boneddy y Gwyr Gogledd, or in English as ‘The Descent of the Men of the North, Eleuther becomes Eliffer. The text in question is essentially a series of Dark Age genealogies, originally made in the late 6th century. Two of the pedigrees are of particular interest to our grailquest.

Gwrgi & Peredur are the sons of Eliffer of the Great Retinue son of Arthwys

Gwendoleu & Nudd & Chof the sons of Ceidyaw son of Arthwys, son of Mar son of Keneu son of Coel.

At this point we should acknowledge how Arthwys of the  ‘Boneddy y Gwyr Gogled,’ is the same man as King Arthur. To do so, we must compare the names of three of the Boneddy’s consecutive kings to three consecutive kings given by the Pictish lists;

ARTHwys——-CEIdyaw —– GwenDOLEU

GARTHnach —- CAIltram ————- TALORg

Securing the King-Arthur-is-Arthwys connection shows how the Arthwys-Eleuther-Peredur lineage reinforces the presence of Dumnonian princes in the Yarrow inscription. With the name ‘Nudi’ being given in the same context as ‘Dumnogeni,’ it is likely that the princes are being described as belonging to the ‘Nud.’ Judy Shoaf, the American administrator of the now closed down Arthurnet forum, not long after I offered my solution to the Holy Grail when she publicly ridiculed me by posting, ‘none of Damo’s posts has ever included a single assertion that is useful to the study of Arthurian literature or of history… his  work is moronic, and of interest only for its spectacular ignorance & I have decided not to shame him by sending it to anyone,’ she confirmed my linguistic supposition of the Yarrow inscription in a private message. Notice Judy’s initial instinct was ‘I thought you must be wrong,’ a sentiment shared by most of academia when faced with work from outwith the dusty cloisters of academe.

BTW, I was interested in your idea that Nudus and Dumnogenus are adjectives modifying princes in the Yarrow Stone inscription. I thought you must be wrong, because clearly you don’t know Latin, and this would not work grammatically. BUT I checked the inscription and your suggestion makes sense—the forms have endings in –i which fit the plural “princes” rather than implying names of single individuals in apposition with “princes.” It’s odd that the two words were read as names, but one would expect that a memorial would give the names of the persons involved; perhaps the names were on the other side, which I gather is damaged. However, I guess people who study inscriptions are better qualified than I am to interpret what the words mean in context. The way one figures it out is to look at other memorial stones (or texts) that use these words or a similar structure. Liberalis, on the other hand, looks like a name, in terms of both grammar and sense.

Searching for the source of the ‘Nudi,’ there is  a mention of such a man in that very era, when an ‘Edeyrn, son of Nudd’ is seen fighting at Badon in the Dream of Rhonabbwy. This name transchispers elsewhere into Yder, son of Nut (Wace) & Hiderus filius Nu (Big Geoff).  In the last chapter I showed how Uther Pendragon appears as Uudrost in the Pictish King List. Other versions of the list gives him the name-variant of Hydrossig, in which we can detect both Yder & Hiderus . This allows us to construct a family tree showing Pheredur as descended from a figure called King Nudd, & so was definitely Nudi.

       Nud   =   Nut

           {}           {}

      Hiderus = Yder = Hydrossig = Uudrost


                                           Arthwys =  Garthnach


                                          Eleuther = Liberalis




With Yder/Ederyn being present in the Pictish King List, it seems likely that the name Nudd is a retraction of Neithan, or Nechtan, the name of several Pictish kings. In the far north of Scotland, in Keiss Bay, there is a stone is carved with NEHTETRI, while in Latheron we have an Ogham inscription which reads; DUV NODNNATMAQQNAHHTO, i.e.  Duvnodnat son of Nahhto. In Aboyne  a stone is carved with NEHHTVROBBACCENNEVV MAQQOTALLUORRH, ie Neht <robba> Ceneu, son of Talorc (or Tallorcen, Talorgeu). The connection to Ceneu is intriguing, for this king appears in the Men of the North genealogies, as in;

Gwrgi & Peredur are the sons of Eliffer of the Great Retinue son of Arthwys son of Mar son of Ceneu son of Coel

We also have a fascinating chispological pattern presented by the Nehht-Vrobba combination, which creates two babel-chains that lead to Nectonius & Wrip, as given in the Pictish Chronicle’s;

So Nectonius the Great, Wirp’s son, the king of all the provinces of the Picts, offered to Saint Brigid, to the day of judgement, Abernethy, with its territories … Now the cause of the offering was this. Nectonius, living in a life of exile, when his brother Drest expelled him to Ireland, begged Saint Brigid to beseech God for him. And she prayed for him, and said: “If thou reach thy country, the Lord will have pity on thee. Thou shalt possess in peace the kingdom of the Picts.

Things are seeming so very real here, and it is through ‘Edeyrn, son of Nudd that the topsoil of a long buried layer to the Arthurian mythomeme may be scraped away. In the Rhonabwy poem, Ederyn is seen leading a ‘pure black troop’ of Danish warriors, which points us directly to the Scandinavian Heruli, of whom Tacitus writes, ‘not only are they superior in strength to the other peoples I have just mentioned, but they minister to their savage instincts by trickery and clever timing. They black their shields and dye their bodies, and choose pitch dark nights for their battles.’ The arrival, or rather return, of the Heruli to Scandinavia was recorded by the 6th century Byzantine historian, Procopius, who stated that roundabout the year 500 AD, after, ‘crossing many lands, they arrived at the land of the Dani, and then by crossing the sea they arrived on the island of Thule.’ The exact location of Thule is disputed, from Sweden to Iceland, but it definitely places the Heruli in the furthest fringes of NW Europe in which Scotland plays a prominent geographical part. A first hint that they came to Britain can be seen in the ‘Boneddy y Gwyr Gogledd,’ where Arthwys was succeeded by a certain ‘Mar.’ This gives us a solid semantic match to Maehren, the name of a Herulian kingdom whose denizens were known as ‘Marings’ as attested by buck foundle in Pannonia opposite the mouth of River March.

We can definitely observe a Herulian presence in the Pictish King list, where Galalan Erilich ruled from 507 to 519, between Drest Gurthinmoch & King Arthur’s brother, Drest. The epithet ‘Erilich’ is a match for the Herulian ‘Erilaz/Erilar,’ as found on ten runic inscriptions across Scandinavia, dating between 450 & 550. That Herulians could become Pictish kings suggests some kind of ancient tribal bond, & just as Tacitus recorded that Herulians ‘dye their bodies,’ so too does Herodian describe the Picts; ‘they tattoo their bodies with coloured designs and drawings of all kinds of animals; for this reason they do not wear clothes, which would conceal the decorations on their bodies.’ It is also becoming clear that the concentric circle appearing on a shield-painting of the Herules Seniores as found in a medieval copy of Notitia Dignitatum (below left) – a census of the Roman military dated to the beginning of the 5th century AD – is identical to those carved into numerous Pictish stones, usually in pairs. Indeed, the Pictish stones were for a long time attributed not to the Picts, but were given a Scandinavian origin. The ‘Sculptured Stones of Scotland,’ for instance, printed for the Spalding Club, states, ‘in the greater number of instances where any tradition exists, they are still called ‘Danish Stones.’

circ heru

The Pictish symbol stones began to spring up in Scotland in the 5th & 6th centuries, the very period when the southern Heruli were returning to their northern homelands. The Pictish symbols have never been deciphered, but it is undeniable that another Scandinavian element to appear among the Pictish symbols is the lightning-like Sowilaz, the rune for sun which can be seen running through a pair of Herulian concentrics in the symbol known to scholars as the ‘z-rod & double-disc (above right). This combination of Sowliaz & Herulian also turned up in 1840, when a piece of bone called the Lindholm Amulet was found in Skåne, Sweden, whose runic inscription reads, ‘I am (an) erilaz, I am called Sawilagaz.’ The name Sawilagaz translates as, “the one of the Sun (Sowilo).’ We may also notice the presence of the Sowilaz in the Boneddy y Gwyr Gogledd’s,

Dunawd & Cherwyd & Sawyl High-head (penuchel) are the sons of Pabo the Pillar of Britain son of Arthwys son of Mar son of Keneu son of Coel

The Lindholm Amulet

The Heruli were numbered among the Gothic tribes, & evidence for their presence in 6th century Britain comes during the siege of Rome in 537, the same conflict to which King Arthur was marching before he turned about-face in the Alps in order to deal with Mordred’s treachery back in Britain. The siege would last for over a year, when in 538 the Ostrogoths & the Byzantines, led by Belisarius, would come to an amicable agreement & end the siege completely. It is in an exchange of letters between the leaders at that time that helps us to  scrape off a little more top-soil from the 6th century Herulian strata of British history. Procopius records;

And the barbarians said: “We give up to you Sicily, great as it is and of such wealth, seeing that without it you cannot possess Libya in security.”

And Belisarius replied: “And we on our side permit the Goths to have the whole of Britain, which is much larger than Sicily and was subject to the Romans in early times.

We have already seen in the last chapter how Arthur had visited Jerusalem. That King Arthur fought in the Byzantine forces is corroborated archeologically by the Byzantium-originated Tintagelware, & also this wonderful passage from Culhwch & Olwen, the oldest Arthurian tale, which shows how Arthur fought military campaigns far from the shores of Britain;

Then Glewlwyd went into the Hall. And Arthur said to him, “Hast thou news from the gate?”“Half of my life is past, and half of thine. I was heretofore in Kaer Se and Asse, in Sach and Salach, in Lotor and Fotor; and I have been heretofore in India the Great and India the Lesser; and I was in the battle of Dau Ynyr, when the twelve hostages were brought from Llychlyn. And I have also been in Europe, and in Africa, and in the islands of Corsica, and in Caer Brythwch, and Brythach, and Verthach; and I was present when formerly thou didst slay the family of Clis the son of Merin, and when thou didst slay Mil Du the son of Ducum, and when thou didst conquer Greece in the East.” I have been in Caer Oeth and Annoeth, and in Caer Nevenhyr

The sites of many of these places have been lost to modernity, but there is enough to show that Glewlwyd was campaigning in Byzantium & beyond. India the Great is India itself, while India the Lesser was Ethiopia. There are also mentions of Africa, Sicily (Salach), Greece & the islands of Corsica. All these places were theaters of action for the Byzantines, especially during Justinian’s Reqonquista in the 520s & 530s.  We know about the Byzantines driving Godas out of Sardinia, for example, and also fighting the Hymarites in Arabia (Lesser India) in 530. The crucial section for Arthuriana is when Glewlwyd tells Arthur I was present… when thou didst slay Mil Du the son of Ducum.’ Mil Du, son of Ducum, was a Jewish warlord called Dhu Nawas who was defeated in the Yemen in 527. This gives us an interesting insight into Arthur’s lost years – between Badon in 516 & his accession to the Pictish throne in 529 – when at one point he was fighting for the Byzantine armies in the Arabian peninsular!

Wherever Arthur went he left a trail, but as the name Peter differs according to which language it is uttered in (French = Pierre, Danish = Pedyr), so too was Arthur’s name different in varying regions. Add to this the oral corruptions & scribal mistakes that abounded through the barely literate Dark Ages, then as we shall see Arthur’s name & identity kaliedoscoped into manifold splinters. One variant was Arthwys, which leads to a certain…

….Erythius/Erythrios. According to the Chronicle of John Malalas, he held the title of Patricius in the Byzantine empire, in 527. The very same title was found in connection with Arthur on a seal at Westminster last seen in the 16th century. In his preface to Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, William Caxton writes, ‘in the Abbey of Westminster, at St. Edward’s Shrine, remaineth the print of his seal in red wax closed in beryl, in which is written “Patricius Arthurus, Britannie, Gallie, Germanie, Dacie, Imperator.”‘ The mention of Dacia is most relevant here, being a Byzantine District to the North of Thrace. Erythios is said to have been a patrician alongside a certain Ateneos/Aetherius, who could well be Ederyn/Eleutherius, etc.  According to John Bishop of Nikiu’s Chronicle, the two patrician tried to convince Emperor Justinian to adopt Mazdakism in order to conquer Asia. We also know thar Erythius’ wife was sentenced to death for being a Manichean in 527, a possible motive for Arthur abandoning his Byzantine political life & heading to Scotland. The Chronicle of John of Malalas tells us;

At that time many Manicheans were punished in every city, among those punished was the wife of the senator Erythrios & other women as well.


But what about the Grail? According to the Arthurian romances, composed mainly in French about 1200 AD, we read how the Grail was transported to the Grail castle, somewhere in the Middle East by Sir Peredur & Sir Bors. I believe that the name of Sir Bors is a philochisp of Bouzes, one of the Gothic generals of Vitalian. A first mention of him was made in 528, when he appears as the joint duke of of Phoenice Libanensis (to the east of Mount Lebanon) together with his brother, Coutzes. That Bouzes was Sir Bors is also supported by Mallory’s ‘Morte D’Arthur,’ which states that Bors died fighting the Turks in the Middle-East. This connects with Bouzes’ own disappearance from history, when in 556 he was last recorded as defending Nesus on the River Phasis. Most importantly for our investigation, in 530 A.D. Procopius places Bouzes alongside a certain ‘Pharas the Herulian’ at the Battle of Dara.

The extremity of the left straight trench which joined the cross trench as far as the hill, which rises here, was held by Bouzes with a large force of horsemen and by Pharas the Herulian with three hundred of his nation… In the late afternoon a certain detachment of horsemen… came against the forces of Bouzes and Pharas. And the Romans retired a short distance to the rear… And again Bouzes and Pharas stationed themselves in their own position…Then Pharas came before Belisarius and Hermogenes, and said:”It does not seem to me that I shall do the enemy great harm if I remain here with the Eruli; but if we conseal ourselves at this slope, and then the Persians have begun the fight, if we climb up this hill and suddenly come upon their rear, shooting from behind them, we shall in all propability do them the greatest harm.” Thus he spoke, and, since it pleased Belisarius and his staff, he carried out this plan.

Seeing Bouzes & Pharas the Herulian together suggests that Pharas may have been Peredur, a notion we may support by picking apart the variant names – Pheredur & Parzival – in order to identify the correct phonetics contained in ‘Pharas Eril.

PH: The ‘ph’ of Pheredur

AROS: The ‘arz’ of Parzival

ER: The ‘ur’ of Pheredur

IL: The ‘al’ of Parcival

History supports the connection, for a 14-year sojourn by Peredur in Constantinople, given in the medieval Welsh tale Peredur son of Efrawg, finds a tally in Pharas the Herulian’s membership of the Byzantine armies. Pharas’ epithet means he belonged to the Herulians, who were in the 6th century fighting as foederati in the Byzantine legions. He may even have been related to Galanan Erilich. It is interesting to observe that in the description of Pharas made by Procopius we get someone who sounds very much like one of the pious Knights of Arthur’s Round Table, as in, ‘energetic and thoroughly serious and upright in every way, although he was an Erulian by birth. And for an Erulian not to give himself over to treachery and drunkenness, but to strive after uprightness, is no easy matter and merits abundant praise. But not only was it Pharas who maintained orderly conduct, but also all the Erulians who followed him.’

The Järsberg runestone
The Järsberg runestone

According to the romances, the Grail was actually in Britain at some point, in the hands of a certain British King called Pelles. As we can see from the following babel-chain, the ‘Pelles’ name contains the core etymological elements as that of Liberalis, who we have ascertained was the father of Pheredur.


We may connect Liberalis with the Herulians thro an inscription found on a runestone near Kristinehamn, in Varmland Sweden. Known as the Järsberg Runestone, the text reads; ‘…ubaz am I called. Raven am I called. I, the eril, write the runes.’ 
The runestone is damaged, & it is possible that ‘ubaz’ is actually the
 ending of a different word. Another runestone, from Skärkinds,
Östergötland, & dated to the same era gives us ‘leubaz.’

Returning to the Grail, it was said to have been kept at a place called Galafort, which points to a fortification near the Gala River in the Scottish Borders, in the relative vicinity of Yarrow. We will find out how it got there in the next chapter, but for now let us note how it was removed from Galafort to ‘Corbenic,’ castle. This was evidently somewhere in Northumberland, for the region was once given the name Bernicia by the invading Angles, named after their ancestral King, Benic or Bennoc, as appearing in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

 547 : This year Ida began his reign; from whom first arose the royal kindred of the Northumbrians. Ida was the son of Eoppa, Eoppa of Esa, Esa of Ingwy, Ingwy of Angenwit, Angenwit of Alloc, Alloc of Bennoc, Bennoc of Brand, Brand of Balday, Balday of Woden

In Bamburgh castle with the kids

The capital of Bernicia was Bamburgh castle, a place well worth visiting for its fabulous castle, the wonderful tick-tack exhibitions within its sprawling walls & the lungbursting views of the North Sea. It feels that the Grail Castle actually stood on nearby Holy Island, on whose lands the 7th century Christian settlement of Lindisfarne upsprang. One medieval description of a visit to the castle states, ‘Gawain rode out to sea along a narrow causeway for a long way before reaching the castle.’ This is an exact match for the approach to Holy Island at Lindisfarne, a tidal causeway many tourists have underappreciated when swigging back that sweet & tasty mead made by the red-nosed local monks, thus stranding themselves in a tipsy stupor on the island.

The chief object of this chapter has been to show how the legendary finder of  the legendary Grail was a real person, and thus if the legendary finder of the Grail was real then… well, you get the picture. We have also ascertained he was a British king of Herulian blood, who would appear in the Byzantine annals as fighting in one of the auxiliary foedarati regiments alongside the Byzantine legions. Acknowledging such a pan-Continental existence for Peredur puts into perspective how, according to the romances, he was given the Holy Grail at Corbenic in Britain, after which he would take it to a place called Sarras, situated somewhere in the Byzantine East. This leads us to an extremely fascinating collection of factochisps which have muddled up the origins & the outcome of the Holy Grail no end. It is time for a comprehensive study of the Mandylion…


Next Wednesday, 27/12/17

Chapter 9

The Mandylion


chisp cover


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



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

The Chisper Effect 7 : Dux Pictorum

Continuing the weekly serialization ofchisper_effect

Damian Beeson Bullen’s


In which a number of the world’s greatest mysteries are finally solved


(Register with Completely Novel to…)



Chapter VII

In the last chapter we witnessed the supporting evidence for King Arthur’s historicity in the far south of Britain. Since his birth at Tintagel his fame has fanned out to every corner of the British Isles, swelling among folk memories & clinging hardily to topographical features. Scotland, especially, enjoys a vivid Arthurian tradition; there is a Loch Arthur near Dumfries, there is Ben Arthur above Loch Lomond, there is the great mountain of Arthur’s Seat at Edinburgh, while Stirling enjoys its own Round Table & a curious construction known as Arthur’s Oven. By analyzing the battle-list in the Historia Brittonum we can easily identify at least two consecutive battles fought by Arthur in Scotland. The seventh of the twelve battles was sited in the ‘Coit Celidon,’ i.e. the wood of Caledonia, the Roman name for Scotland. It is into this very wood that the wizard Merlin fled following the battle of Ardderyth in 573, and where, according to John of Fordun, he was murdered by shepherds at Drumelzier. The Caledonian Wood was once an epic affair, spreading mile after mile of foliage between Hadrian’s Wall & the Firth of Forth, & is thus too vague a reference point to locate the actual battlefield with any precision. Contrarily, we can state quite positively that Arthur’s eighth battle was fought in a singular & identifiable place in Scotland.

The eighth battle was at the fortress of Guinnion, in which Arthur carried the image of holy Mary ever virgin on his shoulders; and the pagans were put to flight on that day. And through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and through the power of the blessed Virgin Mary his mother there was great slaughter among them


In a recension of the Historia Brittonum known as Vatican Reg.1964., there is a wonderful piece of handwritten scholia attached to this battle by a tenth-century scribe called Marc the Anchorite;

For Arthur proceeded to Jerusalem, and there made a cross to the size of the Saviour’s cross, and there it was consecrated, and for three successive days he fasted, watched, and prayed, before the Lord’s cross, that the Lord would give him the victory, by this sign, over the heathen; which also took place, and he took with him the image of St. Mary, the fragments of which are still preserved in great veneration at Wedale, in English Wodale, in Latin Vallis-doloris. Wodale is a village in the province of Lodonesia, but now of the jurisdiction of the bishop of St. Andrew’s, of Scotland, six miles on the west of that heretofore noble and eminent monastery of Meilros.


Astonishing stuff! We have been given a pin-point location for an Arthurian battlefield; a literary arrow aiming straight at Stow-in-Wedale in the Scottish Borders between Galashiels and Edinburgh. The fortress of Guinnion should then be Craigend Fort, two thirds of a mile to the north of Stow, whose grassy remnant of today barely does justice to what was once an impressive 900-foot high hill-fort. That a West Country Arthur was fighting this far north – & further, as we shall soon see – can be understood through the processes of the Chisper Effect. We begin by looking at an antique text known as the Pictish King List: only a handful of copies have survived the rigors of time, but they all contain pretty much the same sequence of kings, albeit with subtle variations in name spellings & reign lengths. The Picts were an ancient Scottish tribe who the Romans just could not conquer, building instead Hadrian’s Wall in order to keep them out of the Empire. Of the variant lists of their kings, the reigns given by the 14th century Poppleton Manuscript can be safely cross-referenced with dates found in the Irish Chronicles. Of these, the Annals of Clonmacnoise give us our first solid date, being;449: Drust mc Erb, K. of Pictland, died.’  Taking this as our starting point, let us examine the Poppleton King List, beginning with Talore, the successor of Drust McErb.

Year Crowned                       Reign-length

(449) Talore son of Aniel   (4)
(453) Necton Morbet son of Erip   (24)
(477) Drest Gurthinmoch   (30)
(507) Galalan Erilich   (12)
(519) Two Drests – son of Girom
———————— son of Uudrost

Drusts reign 5 years together / Drest son of Girom rules solo 5 years

(529) Garthnach son of Girom   (7)
(536) Cailtram son of Girom   (1)
(537) Talorg son of Muircholaich   (11)
(548) Drest son of Muniat   (1)
(549) Galam Cennaleph   (1)
(550) Galam Cennaleph and Bridei together   (1)
(551) Bridei son of Mailcon (30)

The final date of 581 (551+30) given as the end of King Bridei’s reign matches an event recorded in that same year by the Annals of Tigernach;

 581AD : The death of Bruide son of Maelchú, king of the Picts

In terms of reign-lengths, the Poppleton List can be certified as authentic, & looking through it with a keen chispological eye focusses our attention on a certain Garthnach, son of Girom. He was the ruler of the Picts between 529 & 536 & his parent’s name, like so many others scattered through the king lists, is non-especial. However, let us now look at Girom’s name as it appears in alternate versions of the Pictish King List, a cross-table in which philochisps are simply running riot;


Gygurn: Bodleian ms Lat misc c.75

Gigurnus: Scalacronica, Corpus Christi College


If we simply drop the Gs, we are left with a fellow called Arthnach son of Ygurn/Igurnus, which even the most skeptical of scholars must recognize as an incredible fit for Arthur son of Igerne. It has been a long, long time since anyone spoke Pictish; the phonetical rules of its language have been forgotten forever, expect in a few places where Pictish place-names still linger to this day, such as ‘aber’ for river-mouth & ‘pitt’ for portion of land. That the Picts placed a guttural ‘g’ before the vowels of their proper names is a distinct possibility, & if this is somehow not the case, then it must only be a massive coincidence that Garthnach son of Gygurn lived in the exact same period as Arthur son of Igerne, giving up his throne only a year before Arthur’s death at Camlann. Instead, I would prefer to praise the inherent abilities of the Chisper Effect, including the process of identifying semantics & etymologies of lost languages, a quality which can only enrich the work of future scholars.


If Garthnach & Arthur were one & the same individual, we are left with the not insignificant problem of transporting a Cornish Arthur onto the Pictish throne. The likeliest & most legal explanation is that Igerne/Gygurn was a Pictish princess, as – according to the venerable 7th century Northumbrian monk, Bede – the nature of Pictish kingship was matrilineal;

 The Picts, accordingly, sailing over into Britain, began to inhabit the northern parts thereof, for the Britons were possessed of the southern. Now the Picts had no wives, and asked them of the Scots; who would not consent to grant them upon any other terms, than that when any difficulty should arise, they should choose a king from the female royal race rather than from the male: which custom, as is well known, has been observed among the Picts to this day.

We know next to nothing about the power politics of 6th century Britain, even less about the Pictish system, but the idea of Igerne being both Duchess in the West Country & a princess of Pictland is not at all far-fetched,  for dynastical alliances between royal houses is a common feature that continues to this day. Britain’s reigning monarch, for example, Queen Elizabeth II, is married to a Greek, while in the age of Victoria, her many children married into most of the noble houses of Europe. We must also recall from the last chapter how a Pictish name, Drystan, appeared on the Fowey Stone only a few miles from Tintagel as the son of King Mark of Cornwall (see image above). Collating & examining the supporting evidence, & beginning with the latest piece chronologically, Arthur’s connection to Pictland seems to be behind the poetical words of Gruffud ap Meredudd ( fl. 1352-1382 ), who wrote of an ‘Arthur of the highlands, hill country of Prydein,’ where Prydein is the Welsh term for Pictavia. We may confirm this this by correlating the ‘Caw of Prydein’ as given in the Old Welsh tale, Culhwych &  Olwen, with the vita of Saint Gildas, which describes King Caw as, ‘the king of Scotia… the noblest of the kings of the north.’


Two centuries prior to Gruffud ap Meredudd, the 12th century French historian, Lambert of Saint-Omer, describes Arthur quite specifically as a Pictish war-leader; ‘Arthur, Dux Pictorum, ruling realms of the interior of Britain, resolute in his strength, a very fierce warrior, seeing that England was being assaulted from all sides, and that property was being stolen away, and many people taken hostage and redeemed, and expelled from their inherited lands, attacks the Saxons in a ferocious onslaught along with the kings of Britain, and rushing upon them, fought valiantly, coming forward as leader in twelve battles.’  Lambert also presents a second Picto-Arthurian tally with, ‘there is in Britain, in the land of the Picts, a palace of the warrior Arthur, built with marvelous art and variety, in which the history of all his exploits and wars is to be seen in sculpture.‘ This palace may have been at Rhynie, deep in the pretty Cairngorms, whose place at the heart of Pictavia is attested by a large number of Pictish Symbol stones found in the vicinity. A definite Arthurian connection to Rhynie comes through Tintagelware, which had fanned out throughout Britain to a series of high-status sites such as South Cadbury & Longbury Bank in the Dyfed parish of Penally. The latter should well have been the capital of Arthur’s Menevian ‘Throne’ as given in the Triads, & I would now like to remind the reader of the northern realm ascribed to Arthur in the same Triad, ‘Penrhionyd in the north,’ whose name easily transchispers into Rhynie.



Just as Cadbury was home to a grand timber feasting hall; & just as at the ‘high-status’ Longbury Bank in Dyfed, Ewan Campbell & Alan Lane suggest ‘there is tenuous evidence for at least one large timber building,’ so have archeologists uncovered the post-holes & plank slots of a timber feasting hall at Rhynie. It was erected in the immediate vicinity of a Pictish symbol monolith known as the ‘Craw Stane,’ one of three fortified Pictish enclosures  found in recent years at Rhynie, a ‘Royal Mile’ full of timber buildings, defense ditches based on the Roman style & wooden palisades… perhaps the bona fide capital of the Dux Pictorum.


The Tap o Noth


In the Welsh language, ‘Pen’ means ‘summit or peak,’ which renders Penrhionyd as meaning ‘Peak of Rhionyd.’ Above Rhynie towers the far-seen Tap o’ Noth, Scotland’s second highest hillfort, complete with impressive triple-ringed defense-works. Cast in such a majestic setting it is well worth a trip to Rhynie, a remarkably compact & pretty village whose residents go about their business quite unaware that they are breathing the same pure & mountain air as Arthur did during his seven-year stint as King of the Picts. There was even found, in 1978, a Pictish stone with an image of a bearded man with a pointy nose, who is wearing a head-dress, sporting a kilt & wielding a double-headed axe. Known as the Rhynie Man, it was taken from Rhynie & placed in the foyer of Aberdeenshire council’s HQ. It is rather a stretch of the imagination to consider it an image of Arthur, but it may be the nearest pictorial image we possess of how the true Arthur would have appeared to his Caledonian contemporaries.

More support for a Pictish Arthur begins with another glance at the King List, where we encounter a certain ‘Drest Gurthinmoch’ as ruling the Picts between 477 & 507. The Gurthinmoch element is the most important here, for when we take another look at Arthur’s northern court as given in the Tribal Thrones Triad…

 Arthur the chief lord in Penrhionyd in the north,
And Cyndeyrn Garthwys the chief bishop,
And Gurthmwl Guledic the chief elder

…we can satisfactorily identify ‘Gurthmwl’ with Gurthinmoc.

It makes perfect sense that when Arthur – the chief lord – became the Pictish King in 529, Gurthmwl/Gurthinmoc would have been described as a ‘chief elder.’ He had been a Pictish King himself, ruling for a good thirty years, & combining this nugget with the cornucopia of solid proofs I have provided leads us to only one conclusion… Arthur was at least half Pictish!


Returning now to the Pictish ordnance of Arthur, three years after the Battle of Badon, in 519, an otherwise un-sourced brother of Arthur, Drest son of Gygurn, became King of the Picts. What is interesting here is that at one point Drest shared his throne with a certain Drest, son of Uudrost, whose name transchispers into…


It seems probable that the two Drests were actually the same man, genflated into the list as individual sons of his mother & father. Either way, the presence of Uther in the King List, & his appearance beside Igerne, pretty much seals the deal that Garthnach was Arthur. Coming to the Pictish throne in 529, he would be king for only seven years, being succeeded in 536 by ‘Cailtram,’ who appears in Arthuriana as Sir Kay. That same year, according to Big Geoff, Arthur had begun a march on Rome, which we may attach to the historical siege of that city by the Ostrogoths that commenced in March 537. According to Big Geoff, after campaigning in France (in 536) Arthur went on to winter in the same country. The following year, with the summer coming on, Big Geoff describes that after departing for Rome in the old Hannibal style, Arthur; ‘had begun to climb the passes of the mountains, when message was brought him that his nephew Mordred, unto whom he had committed the charge of Britain, had tyrannously and traitorously set the crown of the kingdom upon his own head, and had linked him in unhallowed union with Guenevere the Queen in despite of her former marriage.’ The war which followed is quite succinctly described in the Annales Cambrae;

 537 AD The Strife of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell

The location of this ‘deadly battle’ has never been established to satisfaction, but it seems certain it was somewhere in the north parts of Britain, where the Triads place both Picts & Scots at the battle, as in; ‘three Dishonoured Men who were in the Island of Britain: The third and worst was Medrawd… When Medrawd heard that Arthur’s host was dispersed, he turned against Arthur, and the Saxons and the Picts and the Scots united with him to hold this Island against Arthur.’ There is also a passage in the Old Welsh tale, The Dream of Rhonabwy, in which a certain Iddawg places the battle in the Pictavian ‘Prydyn.’

I was one of the missionaries in the Camellian battle between Arthur and Medrawd his nephew… I was named in Iddawg Cordd Britain. And because of this the ranks of the troops were distributed at Machman. But, however, three nights before the end of the Camell battle I drove them out and I came to Lech Las in Prydyn to eat.

Both Machman & Lech Las are unknown to modernity. Of these, Machman, certainly feels like Clackmannan, a town just to the east of Stirling. Named after the pre-Christian ‘Stone of Mannau,’ it would have been the perfect location-beacon upon which Arthur’s armies would have assembled before Camlann. The other site, Lech Las, may well be the etymological root of Glasgow, from the lechlas-to-chlas pilochisp, which we may support by Glasgow being one of the very few Christian sites in 6th century Scotland.  But I digress too far. Returning to the battlefield at Camlann, solid Scottish remembrances of the battle can be found in the 16th Bcentury Scottish history by the very erudite Hector Boece;

In that deadly battle more than twentythousand Scots and Picts, together with King Modredus and a great host of the nobles of both nations. About thirty
 thousand of the Britons and their Bretagne auxiliaries died, including King Arthur and Modredus’ brother Gawanus, whowas so loyal to Arthur that he fought against his brother that day.

This passage contains a lovely piece of information that adds peripheral support to Arthur’s historicity. The mention of ‘Bretagne auxiliaries’ finds a correlation in a ‘legio bretonum’ mentioned in the The Life of Saint Dalmas of Rodez (c.800 A.D.) who were stationed ‘Ultralegeretanis,’ or ‘beyond the Loire.’ Of its date, ‘all one can conclude for sure,‘ opines Australian scholar Howard M. Wiseman, ‘is that the incident took place between 534 or 541.’ During Arthur’s continental adventures in the year before Camlann, he is seen campaigning heavily in Burgundy, & may have been the very leader of the ‘legio bretonum‘ as mentioned in the vita.

Returning to Boece, when adding to the casualty list at Camlann, he tells us, ‘furthermore, there died Caimus, Gwalinus, and
 nearly the entire British nobility.’ We should take particular notice of the demise of a certain Caimus. This man, I believe, was the same fellow as Arthur’s successor to the Pictish throne, CailtramAccording to the King List, Cailtram ruled the Picts for only a year, ending his short stint on the throne on 537, heavily supporting the Cailtram to Caimus babel-chain. Another northern king to die in 537 was Comgall, king of the Scots, as given by the Annals of Tigernach;

 537 - Comgall, Domangart’s son, King of Scotland, fell in the 35th year of his reign

By this use of the word ‘fell’ we must come to the conclusion that Comgall died in battle – in the very same year as our seismic battle at Camlann. The ‘gall’ element of his name also philochisps into Gwalinus; & one cannot help but feel that when Boece places Caimus & Gwalinus side-by-side in death, he is referring to them as the kings of the Picts & the Scots. On the other hand, it is difficult to believe that these two monarchs would have marched their armies all the way to Cornwall, where Camelford is thought by some to be the site of Camlann. This Cornish legend is more of an unsupported factochisp based upon a philochisp, a common error in historical investigations. Looking for the ‘Camellian battle‘ in the north, however, brings us to a possible philochisp found in the Pictish heartlands at Carmyllie, near Dundee – & one that may be supported by a definitive local tradition.


Travelling to the edge of the parish, & ascending the ridge over the gentle Vinney water, one may see the village of Dunnichen in the valley below. It is to the north of that sparklingly pretty townlet, in the gently undulating agricultural landscape of East Mains, that a memory of the battle of Camlann remained long in the folkspeech of the natives, where a transchispering whisper of an Arthurian battle having taken place there refused to fade into nothingness. In the second statistical account of Scotland (1845), the Rev. Mr Headrick records, ‘a confused tradition prevails of a great battle having been fought on the East Mains of Dunnichen, between Lothus, King of the Picts, or his son Modred, and Arthur King of the Britons, in which that hero of romance was slain.’ An Arthurian battle at Dunnichen is hinted at by a clear topographical reference in the locality; of which John Stuart-Glennie declared, ‘a rock on the north side of the hill of Dunbarrow, in Dunnichen parish (in the adjoining county of Forfar), has long borne, in the tradition of the country, the distinguished name of Arthur’s Seat.’  Was this hill the site of Arthur’s camp at the battle of Camlann?

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Archeology has proven that a substantial conflict had been fought in the locality. A Pictish stone was dug up on East Mains, of which instance Headrick observes in 1833’s Statistical Account that, ‘a good many years ago, there was turned up with the plough a large flat stone, on which is cut a rude outline of an armed warrior’s head and shoulders; and not many years ago, the plough also uncovered some graves in another part of the same farm. These graves consisted of flat stones on all sides. They were filled with human bones, and urns of red clay with rude ornaments upon them ; the urns being filled with whitish ashes. By exposure to the air, the bones and urns mouldered to dust.‘ To this information, Andrew Jervise adds (PSAS II, 1854–7), ‘on the lands of Lownie also, (the original property of the Auchterlonies) & in the King’s muir adjoining, a variety of ancient graves have been now and then discovered.’  Also at Dunnichen was found one of the most remarkable symbol-stones in the Pictish pantheon. It had been dug up in 1811 in a field named ‘Chasel’ (Castle) park at East Mains, & moved to the church yard at Aberlemno. One side of this wonderfully carved stone shows a battle in full swing, presumably between the long-haired Picts & what appears to be helmet-wearing Saxons. Camlann was fought on an international scale, a great civil war in which Mordred obtained military assistance from the Saxons, with the Triads telling us; ‘the three disgraceful traitors who enabled the Saxons to take the crown of the Isle of Britain from the Cambrians… The second was Medrod, who with his men united with the Saxons, that he might secure the kingdom to himself, against Arthur; and in consequence of that treachery many of the Lloegrians became as Saxons.’

We also have an account of Guinevere being imprisoned in the locality after the battle. Hector Boece, following, ‘Vairement, Tergotus, and other reliable writers of our national history, because they record things more truthfully, without the tales of itinerant minstrels,’ writes that after the Battle of Camlann, Guinevere was taken to a hill-fort in Perthshire. In May 2014, I decided to investigate the matter for myself, writing it up in the following blogpost;


Queen Guinevere’s Grave

May 16, 2014

 It has been quite a week. Only the other day I made the first inroads into the previously unfathomable mysteries of the Voynich manuscript, then yesterday I began my initial forays into the academic minefield that are the Pictish symbols. These enigmatic images are found on memorial stones & bits of jewelry across northern Britain, & their true meaning has remained a mystery. Speculation has abounded, but with no Pictish literature to speak of, nothing has ever been able to be properly verified. A lovely clutch of them can be found at a place called Meigle, so two days ago I secured the company of my friend Victor Pope (& his plus one free bus pass) & head off into Scotland in search of a Pictish stone. Our journey took us from Edinburgh, over the red-iron leviathan that is Queensferry Bridge, an experience which reminds me of crossing the Goan river estuaries. From there we trundled through Dumfermline & the western reaches of Fife, before arriving in the gorgeous, stately Tayside town of Perth. Changing busses, we now set off east in the direction of Dundee, along the lush stretch of undulating Green that is the Strathmore.


After passing through Coupar Angus, the bus veered north-east for a while & took us to the exquisitely compact & cute townlet of Alyth, over which stands the earthy remains of a majestic Pictish hill-fort. Full of Arthuriana, the 16th century Scottish historian Hector Boece writes that following the disastrous battle of Camlann, in which Arthur met his doom, Guinevere was taken to Alyth;

On the following day, the British camp was ransacked. In it were discovered Arthur’s consort Queen Guanora, and no few men and women of noble blood. Furthermore, ample spoils were collected and shared out among the victors in the traditional way. The Scots were allotted wagons decorated with precious British ornamentation, horses of noble appearance and speed, arms, and the captive nobles, while Queen Guanora, illustrious men and women, and the rest fell to the Picts. These were led to the Pictish district of Horestia, to Dunbar, which was then a very stoutly fortified stronghold (in our days, the name of the place endures, although nothing of the fort save some traces). There they were detained and spent the rest of their lives in wretched servitude.

The bus then trundled on another 3 miles, dropping me & Vic off at Meigle. We had an hour to spend there, the purpose of the visit being to check out the collection of Pictish stones found in the village churchyard & gathered together inside a small, yet atmospheric museum. Luckily, Vic’s plus one bus pass got us in half-price (£2.25 each) & we had a jolly good time checking out the marvelous carvings of a long-dead race. Outside the church there is also the famous ‘Vanora’s Mound,’ said to be the grave of Guinevere herself. The New Statistical Account of Scotland 1845, tells us; ‘Like other places of the same kind, it is the scene of innumerable legends, which agree in representing it as the residence or prison of the infamous Vanora or Guinevar, who appears in the local traditions under the more homely appellation of Queen Wander, and is generally described as a malignant giantess,’ while Boece adds, ‘the most ornate of these is that of Queen Guanora, as we are advised by its inscription. There is a superstition in that district that women who tread on that tomb henceforth remain as barren as was Guanora.’

The connection between the mound & the grave comes from a massive symbol stone at whose center stands a figure in a dress being torn apart by lions – local folklore suggests this is Guinevere being attacked for getting it on with Mordred. Other scholars think it might likely to be the biblical Daniel, who also got torn apart by lions & appears elsewhere in Pictish imagery. Anyway, that is our starting block; two separate traditions placing Guinevere in the vicinity of Meigle. The thing is, the reason I’d hauled ass up into this pretty corner of Scotland was that I had a different idea as to the location of Guinevere’s grave. So me & Vic jumps on a bus three miles down the road to Newtyle, chomping on a bridie as we went, from where we began a six mile hike back to Coupar Angus through fields full of May flowers & buzzing insectry. Across the Strathmore the Grampians began their epic journey north to the Moray Firth, with pockets of snow still skipping the tallest peaks in the distance.


About two miles into the walk, Vic & I came across a tall Pictish stone known as the ‘Keillar Stone.’ It stands on an ancient burial mound, with a clear view across Strathmore to the hillfort at Alyth, & is a really special location indeed. Of the stone, in 1875 William Oliphant described it as an; ‘old and striking monument, making the spot on which it stands historical, though no syllable of the history has come down to us.‘ In 1856, John Stuart-Glennie reported there was a ‘graveyard’ under the stone as in;

The tumulus on which it is placed is formed of earth and stones, and several cists containing bones have been found in it. Ancient sepulchral remains have also been dug up in various parts of the adjoining field.

Of the mysterious Pictish symbols on the stone, the presence of a rimmed mirror & comb combo seems to reflect the eternal female predilection for making themselves beautiful. In the 7th century, Bede records Pope Boniface sending the combo to a Saxon Queen, called Ethelberga. In Bede’s account, he reprints the Pope’s letter to the queen in its entirety, an extract of which reads;

We have, moreover, sent you the blessing of your protector, St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, that is, a silver looking-glass, and a gilt ivory comb, which we entreat your glory will receive with the same kind affection as it is known to be sent by us.

To finish my post I would just like to hypothesise upon a possible factochisp that had taken in the locality. It is true that Guinevere & her fellow nobles were taken in captivity to Alyth, where ‘they were detained and spent the rest of their lives in wretched servitude.’ On their deaths they were buried at the Keillar stone, but over the passage of time, the local tradition that Guinevere was buried in the area, was accidentally shifted to the Vanora Mound at nearby Meigle.



Back in 2017, one final clue to Camlann’s siting at Dunnichen lies in a long-lost church which once stood in the village. Known as St Causnan’s Chapel, the name is a chispological degeneration of Saint Constantine, Arthur’s kinsman, who received the kingship of the Britons on the field of Camlann itself. Big Geoff tells us, ‘even the renowned King Arthur himself was wounded deadly, and was borne thence unto the island of Avalon for the healing of his wounds, where he gave up the crown of Britain unto his kinsman Constantine.’ This crucial passage introduces us to the concept of Avalon, or ‘the Isle of Apples,’ one of the most mysterious & magical places in British mythology. An alternative name, ‘Afallach,’ is given in the Triads.

 Three Dishonoured Men who were in the Island of Britain: There took place the Battle of Camlan between Arthur and Medrawd, and was himself wounded to death. And from that (wound) he died, and was buried in a hall on the Island of Afallach

According to legend, Arthur sailed to Afallach to be treated for his wounds by Morgan Le fey & her nine maidens. The Somerset idyll of crankpots, fine scrumpy & quaint, old streets that is Glastonbury has for a long time staked a claim to its being the Arthurian Avalon, even going so far as to fake Arthur’s grave at the back-end of the 12th century. In 1190, an ancient coffin was ‘discovered,’ by the monks of Glastonbury, in which was found a woman’s bones with the hair still intact. Another coffin was unearthed underneath her, which was found to contain a man’s bones. This being removed, they subsequently found a third coffin upon which a lead cross had been placed, which bore the inscription, ‘Here lies the famous king Arthur, buried in the isle of Avalon.’  On opening the third coffin, they found large & sturdy bones, which the monks transferred with suitable honour and much pomp into a marble tomb in their church. They also declared that the other two coffins contained the bones of Guinevere, & waited for the tourists to pour in.

Looking deeper into the initial discovery, we learn that the Abbey was in deep financial trouble. A few years before the discovery, in 1184, the monastic buildings & church of Glastonbury had been burnt to the ground. Money was needed, & with the relics of saints being big business at the time, these wily monks ‘found’ the bones of Saint Patrick. Widespread belief in an Irish burial site soon put paid to that particular claim, & the bones of Saint Dunstan ‘discovered,’ not long after were dismissed just as swiftly. By 1189, with Richard the Lionheart pressing the churches for financial assistance to aid his crusade, the monks were getting desperate. How fortuitous an occasion it was, then, that the bones of King Arthur were unearthed the next year!

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As seems likely, the Monks of Glastonbury had made the whole thing up, meaning the search for Arthur’s grave is back on. With Camlann being fought at Dunnichen, common sense tells us we are looking for an island with orchards somewhere in the vicinity. There is such a place; for as long as anyone can remember a rich & fertile tract of land in Perthshire called the Carse of Gowrie has flourished with that Fruit of Eve, the apple. The Carse still retains the pleasant moniker of ‘the Garden of Scotland,’ whose once sprawling historic orchards have dwindled to only five wee woods in the modern age; Bogmiln, Inchyra Farm,  Muirhouses, Newbigging & Templehall. In days long gone, a holy Pictish community once prospered in the vicinity of Inchyra Farm, as attested by a tall cross slab discovered at St Madoes, which is now in the Perth Museum. The following account is from the New Stat. Acct. [Statistical Account]. ‘In the churchyard there is a very beautiful specimen of that class of monument called Runic from their imagined Norse or Danish origin. They are somewhat prevalent in this part of Scotland other specimens being found at Abernethy, Mugdrum, Dupplin, Fowlis Wester and DunKeld. There is not anything Known about their history origin or object; and although they were long supposed to have some connection with events took took place during Danish incursions those who have lately comparing them and investigating their their characters begin to think that there is more reason for linking them with the introduction of Christianity into this Country. The St. Madoes Stone is about 7 feet in length and in width about 3′ at bottom and 2½ at top. Its thickness is 8 inches.’ Here again we see how the Pictish Stones were considered to be of Scandinavian – ie Herulian – origin.


Just on the edge of St Madoes we come to Inchyra House, a place of great significance to our investigation on account of two particular Dark Age relics, which placed side-by-side very much invoke the idea that Inchyra was once Avalon. The first is a Pictish grave, discovered by ploughing in 1945, & situated 100 meters south of Inchyra House. The remains were covered by a large decorated flat slab lying flat over a cairn of forty-nine water-rolled stones. This may well be Arthur’s, for the Triads say he was buried in, ‘a hall on the Island of Afallach.’ The skeletal remains, which included the upper part of a skull, an arm bone and shoulder socket, were later respectfully re-buried without a closer examination. The second relique can still be seen an arrow shot from Inchyra House; the once prominent conical tumulus known as the Witch Knowe. Roundabout the year 1830 a gardener called James Powrie, removed several cartloads of stones, urns and numerous calcined bones. That the remians were buried at the ‘Witch Knowe’ provides a solid link to the attepted magical healing of Arthur after Camlann. It seems quite casual to just slip in the fact that Arthur may have been buried in the grounds of Inchyra, but further evidences suggest as much. An antique Welsh poem called Pa Gur has Arthur up to all sorts of obscure deeds in even obscurer places, including;

In the hall of Awarnach
Fighting with a hag
He cleft the head of Paiach

Here we have a clear philochisp for the Hall of Afallach. If this was at Inchyra, then of course the ‘Witch Knowe’ connects with the ‘Hag’ at Awarnach. That Arthur was buried in the area can also be ascertained through the following babel-chain;


According to a poem known as the Stanzas of the Graves, found in the 13th century ‘Black Book of Carmathen, among a comprehensive list of the burial sites of ancient Welsh heroes we read; ‘Anoeth, the grave of Arthur. In the vicinity of Inchyra we can also place Arthur’s ‘nurse,’ Morgan Le fey. Constructing a babel-chain around her name leads us to St Madoes, the village by Inchyra House. In the chain we encounter a variant of Madoes – Madianus – & the name of yet another Dark Age female sorceress, Modron.


In Celtic mythology, Modron was the daughter of Avallach, whose husband was a certain Urien of Rheged with whom she sired a prince called Owain. Likewise, Morgan Le fey was said to be the wife of King Urien of Rheged, with whom she sired a certain Prince Owain. The two are clearly the same woman, with the philochisp occurring during the transference of Modron’s legend to Brittany, where the figure of Morgan Le fey first prospered in folk-tales & literature.


Fifteen centuries ago, the alluvial flood plain that is the Carse of Gowrie was a patchwork of many islands, including Inchyra, whose phonetic ‘inch’ stems from the Gaelic name for ‘small island.’ The land upon which the Witch Knowe was raised does rather feel like it was in the island in the past, about a football pitch’s worth. From this place, & on crossing the Tay estuary, one comes to quaint Abernethy, the capital of the southern Pictland. The town even gets a mention in the Pictish King List, as in, ‘Nectonius the Great, Wirp’s son, the king of all the provinces of the Picts, offered to Saint Brigid to the day of judgement, Abernethy, with its territories.’ The vocal, local folklore of Abernethy relates how back in the 6th century Saint Brigit sent nine maidens to the town from Ireland. Their healing skills would have been among the best in Dark Age Britain, & transporting the mortally wounded Arthur to their bosom after Camlann would have been the best option at the time. In his Vita Merlini, Big Geoff describes the nine sisters of Avalon in a classic creochisp based upon Saint Bridget’s maidens at Abernethy;


There nine sisters rule by a pleasing set of laws those who come to them from our country. She who is first of them is more skilled in the healing art, and excels her sisters in the beauty of her person.  Morgen is her name, and she has learned what useful properties all the herbs contain, so that she can cure sick bodies…. And men say that she has taught mathematics to her sisters, Moronoe, Mazoe, Gliten, Glitonea, Gliton, Tyronoe, Thitis; Thitis best known for her cither.  Thither after the battle of Camlan we took the wounded Arthur, guided by Barinthus to whom the waters and the stars of heaven were well known.  With him steering the ship we arrived there with the prince, and Morgen received is with fitting honour, and in her chamber she placed the king on a golden bed and with her own hand she uncovered his honourable wound and gazed at it for a long time.  At length she said that health could be restored to him if he stayed with her for a long time and made use of her healing art.  Rejoicing, therefore, we entrusted the king to her and returning spread our sails to the favouring winds.

Unfortunately for Arthur, his wounds turned out to be outwith the pale of even the abilities of Morgan Le fey, & so Death came & claimed him. That he was buried in a ‘hall’ in the future grounds of Inchyra House certainly feels right, & I began to investigate the matter further. What I discovered was something quite beautiful which all but confirms, in chispological terms, that Arthur was once buried under that ornate Pictish slab & its 49 water-rolled stones discovered at Inchrya in 1945.


One sleepless night during the writing of this book, as I stared at the ceiling in my bedroom, I was picturing the stone & the Ogham letters inscribed into it. While ruminating on the matter further I came to the conclusion that; if I was right, & Arthur was buried at Inchyra, the Ogham inscription on the stone might mention Arthur, Uther or Igerne in some capacity. A wee google later & the pdf was on my screen of a 1959 paper on the Inchyra Stone by written by Robert Stevenson. To my sleepy joy, the Ogham inscriptions appeared, as transliterated by FT Wainwright. Of their academic accuracy, Stevenson wrote; ‘Professor K.H.Jackson, who examined the stone along with us, is in general agreements.’ The first inscription reads…


…in which one can see Anoeth, as in the babel-chain;


It is the inscription on one of the stone’s edges that gives us the winning ticket;


In the Welsh tradition, Igerne is given the name Eigr, & thus in the Ogham inscription above we can quite positively see the names of Arthur’s legendary parents;

UHTU                     AGE

Uther                       Eigr

That the philochisps of Arthur’s burial site at Anoeth & the names of both of his parents appear on a single stone are just two more of the many ‘coincidences’ that paint Inchyra as the original Avalon. This means simply that King Arthur was – & still is – buried in the grounds. It was not the first time I had found Arthur’s grave, however, for back in my early days as a trainee chispologist I had deciphered another dark-age inscription, & come to the conclusion that Arthur & Mordred had been buried in a romantic glen in the Scottish Borders. It turned out I was wrong, but what I didn’t realise at the time was instead of finding Arthur, I’d actually found the guy who’d found the Holy Grail…


Next Wednesday, 20/12/17

Chapter 8

The Holy Grail


chisp cover


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



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

The Chisper Effect 6 : Dux Bellorum

Continuing the weekly serialization ofchisper_effect

Damian Beeson Bullen’s


In which a number of the world’s greatest mysteries are finally solved


(Register with Completely Novel to…)



Chapter VI

Cupbearer, fill these eager mead-horns, for I have a song to sing. Let us plunge helmet first into the Dark Ages, as the candle of Roman civilization goes out over Europe, & an empire finally falls. The Britons, placid citizens after centuries of the Pax Romana, are suddenly assaulted on three sides; from the west sailed the Irish, from the north marauded the Picts &IMG_20171205_130923870_BURST000_COVER_TOP from across the North Sea the Anglo-Saxons slammed into the eastern coasts. For almost a century the situation was getting a tad desperate, until a great hero would rise up from the ranks & lead the Britons to victory. This man, who turned back the invading tide for the duration of his lifetime, was the world famous figurehead, King Arthur. With him we arrive at the world’s greatest collection of creochsips, factochisps, philochisps, & just about every other musterable kind of chisper there is.

The actual existence of King Arthur is a seemingly never-ending hot potato of academic contention. In the early 12th century, William of Malmesbury writes of the ‘warlike Arthur… of whom the trifling of the Britons talks such nonsense even today; a man clearly worthy not to be dreamed of in fallacious fables, but to be proclaimed in veracious histories, as one who long sustained his tottering country, and gave the shattered minds of his fellow citizens an edge for war.’ It is because of those ‘fallacious fables’ that the historicity of Arthur is so strenuously debated, pickling many an academic head & producing a series of ‘Arthurs’ that jump about through time like Doctor Who in his Tardis. Recent scholarship of the most defeatist fashion places him in the same bracket as UFOs & the continent of Atlantis, with Guy Halsall stating, ‘I wish that Arthur had existed but that I must admit there is no evidence – at any rate none admissible in any serious court of history.’ This is essentially a case of ‘we cannot solve the puzzle therefore the puzzle is unsolvable.’


The thing is there is just too much of an Arthurian tradition for it all to be dismissed as fiction. To find the answers we will have to embark on a Dark Age detective story; it won’t be like Agatha Christie or anything, where a bunch of middle-class grannies & well-educated toffs wander round posh hotels acting all guilty. Instead, we shall undertake our very own Grailquest to find the nuggets of genuine evidence left behind by King Arthur, who was a man, according to William of Malmesbury; ‘worthy to be celebrated, not by ideal fictions, but by authentic history.’ His legend is the primary myth of the British Islands whose name still resonates in every corner of the planet. As time dissolved memories of the historical Arthur, the traces of his famous happenings remained etched in the fabric of time. Clues include mentions in the vitas of seven saints; a crucial passage in the Historia Brittonum made by a ninth century monk, Nennius; while two centuries later, Geoffrey of Monmouth created his fluid Arthurcentric chronicle, the History of the Kings of Britain. Arthur, & many other characters associated with his legend, also turn up numerous times in the archaic poetry of the Welsh. By cross-referencing all this literary information against the archeological record, we are actually quite able to paint quite a detailed picture of Arthur & his times. Exist he must, & we are just about set to prove it.

We begin our investigation with Arthur’s paternal uncle, a certain Ambrosius Aurelanius, said to be the brother of Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon. He is remembered as a king among the kings of Britain, whose name scattered across the country, from the Humber estuary in the north, to Amesbury in the south, which in the ninth century was know as Ambresbyrig, ‘the burh of Ambrosius’. We know a little about his backstory, being a 5th century Roman general who led Brythonic opposition to the first furious waves of Saxon invaders. We learn of this in the writings of a 6th century cleric called Gildas, whose De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain) is the oldest British history to survive the rigors of time. It relates how the Britons, ‘took arms under the conduct of Ambrosius Aurelianus, a modest man, who of all the Roman nation was then alone in the confusion of this troubled period by chance left alive. His parents, who for their merit were adorned with the purple, had been slain in these same broils.’ From this one statement we glean several concrete facts about Arthur’s uncle;

Ambrosius was a Roman: His surname Aurelianus means he belonged to the high-status Aureli gens, an ancient Plebian family. By the 5th century AD, the Aureli had broken into numerous sub-branches, including the Cottae, Oristedes & the Symmachi.

He was one of the last true Romans to remain in Britain: That the Romans stayed behind in positions of power after the departure of the legions is confirmed by a chronicle known as the Bern Codex; ‘in the year 409, Rome was taken by the Goths, and from that time Roman rule came to an end in Britain, except for some, who were born there, and who reigned for a short time.’ The actual length of time meant by the Codex is vague, but we may conclude that the island-born Romans had control over Britain for only a single generation.

His parents were members of the Roman aristocracy: They were probably of senatorial or consular rank on account of them being ‘adorned with the purple,’ i.e. wearing purple-bordered togas.

His parents had been slain in Britain: Gildas describes the plight of the native Britons; ‘the miserable remnant, being taken in the mountains, were murdered in great numbers.’ According to Geoffrey of Monmouth – whom we shall from now on call Big Geoff – the mother of Ambrosius was a daughter of the king of Dyfed (Demetia) in SW Wales; ‘they told them that none knew his father, but that his mother was daughter of the King of Demetia, and that she lived along with the nuns in St. Peter’s Church in that same city.’ This seems to indicate that Ambrosius’ father died before his mother.


The next record of our man comes from the 9th century Historia Brittonum, in which we read; “What is your name?” asked the king (Vortigern); “I am called Ambrose,” returned the boy; and in answer to the king’s question, “What is your origin?” he replied, “A Roman consul was my father.’ From this we can glean certain new facts with which to flesh out Ambrosius;

Ambrosius was born in the 440s: Chronologically, the passage above occurred after the arrival of the Saxons in England, dated by Gallic Chronicle to before 442. This connects with a passage in the medieval English chronicle made by Roger De Hovedon; ‘In the year of grace 464, the Britons sent messengers into Brittany to Aurelius Ambrosius and his brother Uterpendragon, who had been sent there for fear of Vortigern, beseeching them to come over from the Armorican country without delay, to drive out the Saxons and king Vortigern, and take the crown themselves. As they had now arrived at man’s estate, they began to make preparations of men and ships for the expedition.’ If Ambrosius had  just arrived at his ‘man’s estate’ by 464, then we can see him being born at some point in the mid 440s.

The father of Ambrosius was a Roman consul: At this period, the Roman empire elected two consuls every year, one for the western empire based in Rome, & the other for the eastern empire in Constantinople. Looking through the consular list of Rome kept by Cassiodorus, we find three consuls who bore the name Aurelianus in the 5th century. The first is far too early (Aurelianus, consul 400) & likewise the third is far too late (Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus, consul 485), which leaves only one possible candidate for an Aurelian consul. His name was Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, a member of the Symmachi branch of the Aureli gens, & the consul for the Western Empire in 446 AD. Throughout my chispological surveys I have often been surprised at how much historical information has been missed by many centuries of serious scholarship, but this particular nugget seems so obvious its perpetual non-discovery defies belief. When our oldest historians tell us that a certain man was the son of a Roman consul, common sense dictates we flick through a list of Roman consuls just as we moderns flick through a telephone directory!

Although purely conjectural, we can deduce the motivation behind Quintus’s naming of his son, for the author Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius (mostly called Ambrosius) dedicated his work ‘De differentiis vel societatibus graeci latinique verbi’ to Quintus. Was this a literary sign of the endearing friendship that drives men to name their children after their greatest friends? Indeed, it seems Macrobius was close to the entire family, for he also wrote about Quintus’ grandfather – also called Quintus Aurelius Symmachus – in his famous ‘Saturnalia.’ This Quintus had been a loyal supporter of the British-based Roman emperor Magnus Maximus. Apart from lands in Britain, he also had estates in Italy, Sicily & Mauritania (West Africa). He was also a distinguished author, but little of his work has been translated into English. It is possible that through his connections with the British-based Magnus Maximus he may have even held lands in Britain, but this is pure speculation.

In the same year that Quintus was the western consul, the Eastern Empire came for the third time under the jurisdiction of Flavius Aetius. To him was sent, according to Gildas, a desperate letter from the British, reading; ‘to Aetius, now consul for the third time: the groans of the Britons… The barbarians drive us to the sea; the sea throws us back on the barbarians: thus two modes of death await us, we are either slain or drowned.’ Gildas then quite curtly says that the Romans ‘could not assist them.’ At first it seems strange that the western ends of the Empire would make a plea for help to the eastern consul – but knowing now that Quintus died in the Gildasian ‘broils’ which beset the native Britons, we can make sense of the quandary. The refusal of Aetius may have been based along the lines of, ‘if one consul died in Britain fighting the Saxons, why should I, it all sounds rather too dangerous for my liking & I’m gonna have to pass, thanks.’


We must now look at another passage by Nennius, in which Ambrosius appears as a boy in south Wales; ‘the king (Vortigern) sent messengers throughout Britain, in search of a child born without a father. After having inquired in all the provinces, they came to the field of Aelecti, in the district of Glevesing, where a party of boys were playing at ball. And two of them quarrelling, one said to the other, ‘boy without a father, no good will ever happen to you.’ It is here made apparent that Quintus was slain before the birth of his son Ambrosius, which must have taken place after 446 in order for Quintus to be remembered as a consul. We also discover Ambrosius was living in the kingdom of Glevesing, or Glywysing, a coastal sub-kingdom between the modern-day cities of Swansea & Cardiff. This location leads us to a contemporary of Ambrosius – Saint Paul Aurelian. His vita, written by Wrmonoc, tells us;

Saint Paul, surnamed Aurelian, the son of a certain count named Perphirius, who held a position of high rank in the world, came from a province which is in the language of the British race, because a section of it is regarded as an island, is called Penychen

Penychen was one of the cantrefs of Glywysing, placing another nobly-born Aurelian in the very area where the young Ambrosius grew up. With matching home regions & surnames, & the fact that the name ‘Perphirius’ means ‘clad-in-purple,’ it is highly likely that they were related. It is by placing the boy Ambrosius in Glywysing that we may finally begin to unravel the truth behind his legendary status as the uncle of Arthur. I conject at this point that after losing his consular father, Ambrosius was adopted by a certain king called Glyws, the ruler of Glywysing. In a medieval manuscript known as Jesus College 20,  among the sons of ‘Glois,’ let us now observe an obscure figure known as Amroeth of Margam;

 Ewein vab keredic. Pedroc sant. Kynvarch. Edelic. Luip. Clesoeph. Sant. Perun. Saul. Peder. Katwaladyr. Meirchyawn. Margam Amroeth. Gwher. Cornuill. Catwall. Cetweli. Gwrrai. Mur.


Amroeth is a treblechisp away from Ambrosius. We must first shorten the source name to Ambros, secondly we take away a ‘b’ – Amros – & finally we change the ending, giving us Amroeth. This suggests three different modes of transmission have occurred, with the last one happening in the 14th century, when the Jesus College genealogies were assembled in Middle Welsh. As for Margam, on the borders of Penychen, it was one of seven cantrefs into which the kingdom of Gylwysing divided on the death of Glyws. A number of early Christian crosses inscribed with Roman names were found about Margam, dating from 450AD, firmly supporting a Romano-British presence in the same small area in which Ambrosius was brought up.

Looking at the Jesus College genealogy, if the legends are correct, then Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon should be among the names as a brother of Ambrosius… but it is not. There is, however, a certain Peder, to whom we can positively attach the site of Arthur’s birth, Tintagel, a Dark Age sea-fortress guarding  the northern coasts of Cornwall. The  key evidence begins with Big Geoff. The guy is recognized as the godfather of Arthuriana, but unfortunately gets a lot of stick from historians, & I can see why. His work is all over the shop, a patchwork quilt of historical flashbacks knitted together in any old fashion… but every now & again he hits the nail right on the head. In the case of Arthur’s birth, he describes a certain Duke Gorlois of Cornwall & his wife, Igerne, the mother of Arthur. Duke Gorlois was not Arthur’s father, however, the honour going instead to Uther Pendragon, who with the help of the wizard Merlin, tricked Igerne into sleeping with him. The story, as told by Big Geoff, is the nearest thing we have to Arthur’s birth certificate;

Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, was there, with his wife Igerne, that in beauty did surpass all the other dames of the whole of Britain. And when the King espied her amidst the others, he did suddenly wax so fain of her love that, paying no heed unto none of the others, he turned all his attention only upon her… At last, committing the siege into charge of his familiars, he did entrust himself unto the arts and medicaments of Merlin, and was transformed into the semblance of Gorlois… They then went their way toward Tintagel, and at dusk hour arrived at the castle. The porter, weening that the Duke had arrived, swiftly unmade the doors, and the three were admitted. For what other than Gorlois could it be, seeing that in all things it seemed as if Gorlois himself were there? So the King lay that night with Igerne.


To many, the birth of Arthur at Tintagel is nothing but an old wives tale wrapped up in a fanciful piece of mythmaking, garnished with a slice of magical nonsense. The problem is, most of what we know about Arthur is the creation of medieval writers who added all the romantic trimmings; such as Excalibur, lofty-towered Camelot, the Knights of the Round Table & that most mystical wizard of the court, Merlin. No wonder people nowadays find it hard to believe that he was ever a real person, & all these negative vibes about his actual existence is upsetting the tourist board of Cornwall no end, whose Arthurian tradition is a real money-spinner. Tintagel receives thousands of visitors a year, all wanting to see the place where Arthur was born, but their ears are beginning to ring with the voices of a growing number of media-influenced skeptics scoffing, ‘he doesn’t exist, you know’ or, ‘he is actually Scottish, you know.’ For the sake of the Cornish Tourist Board, & for good old honest truth, it is time to put all that errant & nonsensical speculation to bed.

More than eight centuries after Big Geoff penned his history, a lovely piece of epigraphical evidence turned up at Tintagel itself, when a massive grass-fire raged across its promontory in 1983.  Once the fire had scorched its business, the foundations of several dark-age buildings were uncovered on the promontory, one of which yielded in 1998 an extremely interesting piece of broken slate known now as the Artognou Stone. Upon it was found scribbled a sample of sub-roman ‘graffiti’ that shall prove to be the key to unlocking the mysteries of King Arthur. 

Artognou Slate



Peter Coliavi made this Artognou

When I saw the letters A-R-T,’ declared the archeologist who found the slate, ‘I thought, uh-oh.’ One can imagine the excitement that rippled out from Tintagel that summer, the discovery sending historians & linguists scrambling to identify what the word Artognou meant, with the ‘gnou’ element getting everybody all confused. A few possibilities were mentioned, but no-one got anywhere really – the connection to Arthur was deemed unproven & the whole thing slowly forgotten. The thing is, the slate is broken off at just the place where ‘Artognou’ ends, meaning the word could well have contained more letters. It is all a case of thinking outside the box, or in this case outside the dark-age slate. So I started chucking some of our 26 noble glyphs at the inscription & found that by adding a single letter ‘s,’ we gain the word ARTOGNOUS,’ or ‘Artogenous,’ a Latin word meaning ‘of the gens/family of Arto.’ The slate’s inscription should then be rendered as;

Paterni Coliavi made this, of the family of Arto

Moving quietly along this line of investigation, we need to find somebody called Paterni who was related to Arthur. Looking through the historical notices, a solid candidate turns up in the 7th century Life of Saint Turian. This vita was thought lost until 1912, when it was unearthed by Tabbe Duin in the Public Library of Clermont, France, whose archaic nomenclature suggests a very early date of composition, c.700AD. In chapter five of the vita, a virgin named Meldoch speaks to King Graddalon about his seat in heaven being;

A place destined from him in the kingdom of god, close to Constantine, a king beyond the sea, the son of Peterni, of Cornwall

We gain a full account of this Constantine’s religious life & martyrdom in the 16th century Aberdeen Breviary, a great tome of a book which contains short lives of the saints upon their particular saint’s days. The March 11th entry for St Constantine confirms that his father was ‘Paterni Regis Cornubie,’ i.e. Paterni, the king of Cornwall, a perfect match to the Paterni of the Artognou Stone. According to Big Geoff, it was a Constantine who succeeded to the high kingship of Britain after the Battle of Camlann, when; ‘even the renowned King Arthur himself was wounded deadly, and was borne thence unto the island of Avalon for the healing of his wounds, where he gave up the crown of Britain unto his kinsman Constantine.’ If Constantine was Arthur’s ‘kinsman’ then surely his father, the Cornish Paterni, would also have been related to Arthur, which makes Paterni clearly ‘Artogenous!’ The evidence for Arthur’s existence has been there along, but it is only by peering through the kaleidoscopic lens of chispology can it be seen with any true clarity. As for the second name – Coliavi – it can be connected to the Arthurian Birth Certificate through the following babel-chain, where only a hyperthetical ‘Cleve’ has no record in the annals.


We have already seen how Ambrosius was brought up in Glevesing, a name which philochisps into Glywys as given in the Life of Saint Cadog. Written shortly before 1086 by Lifris of Llancarfan, we read; ‘there reigned formerly on the borders of Britain, called Dimetia, a certain regulus, named Glywys, from whom all the country of that district, in all the days of his life, was called Glywysyg.’ The name Glywys is a clear philochisp of Big Geoff’s Gorlois, the husband of Igerne, tho’ in this instance Duke Gorlois is the son of Glywys, i.e. Peder son of Glois. Untangling such threads leads to the conclusion that Arthur was a half, or perhaps step-brother to Constantine, & that Ambrosius Aurelianus – as the adopted brother of Peder son of Glyws – was indeed Arthur’s uncle in a rather roundabout way quite reminiscent of the fractured family units of the 21st century. For example, my own half-sister’s children class as proper cousins my wife’s two daughters from her first marriage.


Another direct connection between Peter & Arthur comes through a lineage of the Kings of Dyfed – i.e. South-West Wales in the Pembrokeshire region – a region which possesses a number of Arthurian references in folklore & topography.



The last king given appears as the Goidelic ‘Votecorigas‘ the ‘Protector’ (the G/C & V are philochisps between Old Welsh & the Latin languages) on a 6th century memorial stone found in Dyfed itself. The name is given in the Ogham script of the Irish, but is also inscribed in tandem on the stone as the Latinized ‘Voteporigis.’ This man would then be Vortipori, one of five British kings admonished by Gildas in the De Excidio. The ‘tyrant‘ of Dyfed, Gildas writes an open letter to him stating, ‘though the end of life is gradually drawing near… to crown all thy sins, dost thou, when thine own wife had been removed and her death had been virtuous, by the violation of a shameless daughter.’

We have seen already how the mother of Arthur’s step uncle, Ambrosius Aurelianus, was a princess of Dyfed. Another Arthurian connection to the region can be found in the vita of Saint Padarn (480-550), whose monastery was at Aberystwyth, we are told; ‘when Padarn was in his church resting after so much labour at sea, a certain tyrant, Arthur by name, was traversing the regions on either side, who one day came to the cell of saint Padarn the bishop.’  That Arthur became a ruler of this lovely corner of the island, known as Menevia in the Dark Ages, is also recorded in a medieval Welsh text known as the Triads of the Island of Britain. This collection of brief triplets contains an enormous amount of historical details, including a great many nods to Arthuriana, which are still being analyzed & harvested for their fruits. One of the most important of these triads depicts Arthur as ruling in three separate areas of the island; at Kelliwic in Cornwall; in Dyfed; & in a later-to-be-ascertained ‘Penrhionyd,’ somewhere in the north of Britain.

Three Tribal Thrones of the Island of Prydain

Arthur the Chief Lord at Menevia, and David the chief bishop, and Maelgwyn Gwyned the chief elder.

Arthur the chief lord at Kelliwic in Cornwall, and Bishop Betwini the chief bishop, and Caradawg Vreichvras the chief elder.

 Arthur the chief lord in Penrhionyd in the north, and Cyndeyrn Garthwys the chief bishop, and Gurthmwl Guledic the chief elderI

It seems the historical King Arthur is slowly, but surely, emerging from the mists. Some of the best evidence dwells deep within the pages of a single book given the rather mundane title of MS Harleian 3859 h. This lovely tome’s arrival into the public domain occurred in 1753, when the Duchess of Portland, Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, sold her family library to the United Kingdom for £10,000. She was one of the Harleys, a family of book-loving antiquarians that had over the years collected more than 7,000 manuscripts, 14,000 charters and 500 rolls. Among this rich seam of literary jewels such is Harleian 3859h, a beautifully illuminated book that when it comes to deciphering the Matter of Britain is something of a Rosetta Stone; for it contains two of the oldest historical documents to mentions King Arthur. One of these, the Annales Cambrae, is stuffed full of brief & fascinating entries which record the most memorable moments in Dark-Age Welsh history, with a few non-Welsh happenings chucked in for good measure. I shall now present the most informative entries given for the 6th century, in which we see the historical King Arthur mentioned in two separate entries. Both of these place him at a battlefield; the first being Mount Badon (516) & the second in which he was slain at the fatal fight at Camlann (537).

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516: The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights on his shoulders and the Britons were the victors.

537: The battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell: and there was plague in Britain and Ireland.

547: The great mortality in which Maelgwn, king of Gwynedd died. Thus they say ‘The long sleep of Maelgwn in the court of Rhos’. Then was the yellow plague.

565: The voyage of Gildas to Ireland.

570: Gildas wisest of Britons died.

573: The battle of Arfderydd between the sons of Eliffer and Gwenddolau son of Ceidio; in which battle Gwenddolau fell; Merlin went mad.

580: Gwrgi and Peredur sons of Elifert died.

The Annales Cambrae terminates its entries towards the end of the tenth century, & we may assume that it was roundabout the year 1000 that the chronicle was originally assembled. Even older than this text, however, is the Historia Brittonum, in whose preface we read;

I, Nennius, a disciple of the holy Elbodugus have taken the trouble to write down some excerpts which the idleness of the people of Briton had caused to be throne aside… I, however, have made a heap of all that I have found, both of the annals of the Romans & of the chronicles of the holy fathers, & from the writings of the Irish & of the English & from the information handed down by the old men of our people.

This tells us that Nennius added nothing of his own research to the HB, which should be considered a 9th Century compendium of earlier writings, whose final notices are dated to the 7th century. As for Arthur, he turns up in only one place towards the end of the text (Chapter 56). This passage is our oldest officially recognised mention of our boy, who appears in a passage known to historians as the ‘Battle-List.’ Here, we encounter an Arthur who is not a king, but a Romanesque ‘Dux Bellorum,’ or battle-leader, who wins twelve military victories against the Saxon invaders of Britain. Once the Romans had abandoned the island, the notion of defence had devolved onto the tribal leaders once more, a fractious state of affairs which allowed the Saxons to gain major footholds in the east of Britain. Four centuries of life under the Roman yoke had had the most pernicious effect on the Brythonic character. Once a hardy & industrious race, the acquisition of Roman wealth had produced its natural effects; employing it in gratification of their appetites & in coarse, sensual pleasures. It is no wonder they were conquered so easily by a relative handful of Saxons, that grandly significant bouleversement of the British islands which would eventually create the nation we know as England, & from this the de facto lingua franca of the globe. Long before then, however,  Arthur would stem the tide during his lifetime. Alas, the names of Arthur’s battle-sites are shrouded in mystery, & it does not help matters when each of the numerous recensions of the Historia offers a slightly different version of the list. In order to simplify matters for the reader, I have synthesized them into a single account;

At that time, the Saxons grew strong by virtue of their large number and increased in power in Britain. Hengist having died, however, his son Octha crossed from the northern part of Britain to the kingdom of Kent and from him are descended the kings of Kent.

Then it was, that the magnanimous Arthur, with all the kings and military force of Britain, fought against the Saxons in those days, but Arthur himself was the Dux Bellorum. And though there were many more noble than himself, yet he was twelve times chosen their commander, and was as often conqueror.

His first battle was at the mouth of the river which is called Glein. His second, third, fourth, and fifth battles were above another river which is called Dubglas and is in the region of Linnuis. The sixth battle was above the river which is called Bassas. The seventh battle was in the forest of Celidon, which the Britons call Cat Coit Celidon. The eighth battle was near the fortress of Guinnion, in which Arthur carried the image of holy Mary ever virgin on his shoulders; and the pagans were put to flight on that day. And through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and through the power of the blessed Virgin Mary his mother there was great slaughter among them. The ninth was at the City of Legion, which is called Cair Lion. The tenth battle was waged on the banks of a river which is called Tribruit. The eleventh battle was fought on the mountain which is called Agnet. The twelfth was a most severe contest, when Arthur penetrated to the hill of Badon in which there fell in one day 960 men from one charge by Arthur; no one but the Lord affording him assistance. In all these engagements the Britons were successful. For no strength can avail against the will of the Almighty.

And while they were being defeated in all the battles, they were seeking assistance from Germany and their numbers were being augmented many times over without interruption. And they brought over kings from Germany that they might reign over them in Britain, right down to the time in which Ida reigned, who was son of Eobba. He was the first king in Bernicia, i.e., in Berneich.

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It was Arthur’s now legendary prowess with a weapon which earned him overall command of the native resistance armies. Victorious on a dozen battlefields, by the 12th century all of the locations were forgotten, with Henry of Huntingdon declaring, ‘in our times the places are unknown.’ For the chispologist, solving the Arthurian battle-list is one of the greatest challenges there is, but what we can glean from the Historia’s information is when Arthur was active. The passage gives us two concrete dates on which to fix the Arthurian period, for the Battle-List has been sandwiched between two events verifiable through an early English history known as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle;

 488: This year Esc succeeded to the kingdom; and was king of the men of Kent twenty-four winters.

Esc was the son of Hengist, the death of whom opens the Twelve Battles chapter in the HB, as in ‘Hengist having died, however, his son Octha crossed from the northern part of Britain to the kingdom of Kent and from him are descended the kings of Kent.’  Common sense tells us that Esc (a variant name for Ochta) would have inherited the throne upon the death of Hengist, anchoring the early book-end of the Arthurian era in 488.

547: Ida began his reign; from whom first arose the royal kindred of the Northumbrians. Ida was the son of Eoppa, Eoppa of Esa.’

We are here presented with a direct match to the Battle-List’s final sentences, as in; ‘they brought over kings from Germany that they might reign over them in Britain, right down to the time in which Ida reigned, who was son of Eobba.’ The succession of Ida forms the later book-end of the Arthurian period, which we can now assume took place between 488 & 547. The Annales Cambrae support these dates; by stating Arthur died at Camlann in 537 we narrow things by ten more years, resulting in a final timespan of 488-537.


This same half a century is almost a perfect match for certain shards of broken pottery, coins & glasswork found chiefly at Arthur’s birthplace. Known as Tintagelware, they are reliques of goods imported to Britain from the Byzantine Empire during the 5th & 6th centuries.  Only last year, archeologists unearthed 150 new pieces & also revealed  a series of metre thick ‘palace walls.’ The chief Brythonic export at that period would have been tin (the Greeks referred to Britain as the Cassiterides or tin-islands), while  in return oil & wine poured into the island, contained in the painted clay jars that would one day become the fractured pieces of Tintagelware. According to archeologist Rachael C Barrowman, there was only, ‘a comparatively brief importation from the Mediterranean lasting from c.AD 475-c.AD 550 at the most.’ Large quantities of Tintagelware has also been discovered at South Cadbury hillfort in Somerset, a site long associated with Arthurian tradition. A 16th century traveler & writer called John Leland recorded; ‘at the very south ende of the chirch of South-Cadbyri standith Camallate, sumtyme a famose toun or castelle, upon a very torre or hill, wunderfully enstrengtheid of nature, to the which be 2. enteringes up by very stepe way: one by north est and another by south west… The people can telle nothing ther but that they have hard say that Arture much restorid to Camalat.’ South Cadbury is an impressive hill fort in Somerset, a worthy Camelot indeed, & also the site of a grand timber feasting hall thrust up by some powerful leader round about the year 500 AD. The name has its origins in a certain Cador, whom the monk Lifris, in his ‘Life of Saint Carantoc,’ has ruling side-by-side with Arthur in the West Country; ‘in those times Cato and Arthur were reigning in that country, dwelling in Dindraithov.’ It is by no great leap of faith to include South Cadbury into a royal system established in the Arthurian period, where palaces & feasting halls were filled with, & placed upon, goods imported from the Mediterranean.


There is one problem that must be overcome. The crux of the case of the Antiarthurians, as I like to call them, is the date given by the Annales Cambrae for the Battle of Badon (516) being plunged into all manners of disrepute by modern scholarship. This rather erroneous supposition begins by misunderstanding a passage in St Gildas, in which is mentioned the ‘siege of Badon Hill’ (obsessio montis Badonicus); ‘from that time on now the citizens, now the enemy, were victorious … right up until the year of the siege of Badon Hill, almost the last, not the least, slaughter of the villains, and this the forty-fourth year begins (as I know) with one month already elapsed, which is also that of my birth.’ This means quite simply that Badon was fought in the year in which Gildas was born, & 44 years before he set his pen to paper. If the the Annales Cambrae are accurate, he would have written the above passage roundabout the year 560. This means that in that period, there should exist a certain king called Maglocune,  another of five British kings admonished by Gildas alongside Vortipor.

And likewise, O thou dragon of the island, who hast deprived many tyrants, as well of their kingdoms as of their lives, and though the last-mentioned in my writing, the first in mischief, exceeding many in power, and also in malice, more liberal than others in giving, more licentious in sinning, strong in arms, but stronger in working thine own soul’s destruction, Maglocune


The aforementioned modern scholarship had searched through the 6th century for a man who sounded like Maglocunus, & opted for the Annales Cambrae’s Maelwgyn, King of Gwynedd, who died in 547. To support their erroneus babel-chain, they completely ignored the evidence of the Annales Cambrae, & declared that Badon must have been at least fought 44 years earlier – i.e. before 503. Instead, let us retain complete trust in our ancient sources, & begin to look for a Maglocunos as described by Gildas, around the year 560. Firstly, let us reinforce the 516 birth-date with what we know about Gildas from other sources. His 9th century vita, written by an anonymous Monk of Rhuys, has Gildas returning from a pilgrimage to Rome & Ravenna before he was thirty. According to the excellent study by W. Julian Edens, Saint Gildas and the Pestilent Dragon (Heroic Age 6 ) 2003); ‘the war-time conditions in the western Mediterranean and in Italy delimit three periods when Gildas’ pilgrimage could be made… the presence of pestilence in Rome during Gildas’ pilgrimage makes the interval 540-541 the more likely window.’ The Rhuys Life also shows Ainmericus, the High King of Ireland between 565 & 569, asking Gildas to restore church order, confirming the Annales Cambrae entries for Gildas;

 565: The voyage of Gildas to Ireland

570: Gildas wisest of Britons died.

The Rhuys life connects Gildas to the existence of a leader called Conomerus. At this point in the vita, Gildas is in Brittany where he; ‘at the request of brother monks who had come to him from Britain, ten years after he had departed from the country, wrote a short epistolary book, in which he reproved five of the kings of that island who had been ensnared by various crimes and sins. Now there lived in these days, in the upper parts of that country, a certain tyrant whose name was Conomerus, a man allured by a perverse credulity and a diabolical crime’ The death of Conomerus soon follows in the vita, which leads us to Count Conomor of Poher,  whom the French historian Gregory of Tours has dying about 560. Chispologically, the two names match, for Conomorus is a simple inversion of Maglocune, both of which translate as ‘Majestic Hound.’ There is also a very significant factual match, for both Conomerus & Maglocune are said to have committed what appears to be an identical crime. According to the ‘Life of St Samson of Dol,’ Conomerus killed his own wife & then murdered a certain King Jonas in order to marry Jonas’ widow – an exact sequence of events attributed to Maglocune by Gildas;

For contempt is thrown upon thy first marriage, though after thy violated vow as a monk it was illicit, yet was to be assumed as the marriage of thine own proper wife; another marriage is sought after, not with anybody’s widow, but with the beloved wife of a living man; and he not a stranger, but thy brother’s son. On this account, that stiff neck, already weighted with many burdens of sins (to wit, a double daring murder, the killing of the husband above named, and the wife that was for a time regarded by thee as thine), is bent down through the extreme excess of thy sacrilegious deed, from lowest crimes to still lower.


As for the Gildasian description of Maglocunos being the ‘dragon of the island, who hast deprived many tyrants, as well of their kingdoms as of their lives,’ Brittany is definitely not an island, & we must assume that the British mainland is intended. Not unsurprisingly, another text places Conomerus across the English Channel at Cornwall, where the Breton monk Wromnoc describes a certain King Mark of Cornwall, otherwise known as ‘Quonomorius,’ who ruled over peoples speaking four different languages. These would be;

Gallo : The Latinized language of Brittany spoken in the sixth century. Big Geoff called Conomerus ‘Chinmarchocus,’ & had him ruling Treguier, near Lannion. In the vicinity stands an Dark Age hill-fort called Ruvarq, which translates into English as ‘Mark’s Hill.’

Brythonic : A Celtic language spoken by the native Britons of Cornwall. According to the vita of Samson of Dol, Conomerus was a usurper in Brittany, an ‘external judge,’ after whose defeat & death a certain Iudalus took over his lands in Dumnonia. This old Brythonic kingdom covered the modern West Country counties of Cornwall, Devon, Wiltshire & Somerset. Also important is a 6th century memorial stone found at Fowey in Cornwall, near Castle Dore, said to be the fortress of King Mark. In a medieval Arthurian text known as the Prose Tristan, Castle Dore is said to be sited on the lands of Lancien, which transchispers into the medieval manor of Lantyan on which the stone was found. On it is inscribed ‘Drustanus son of Conomori,’ a relationship confirmed by the Triads of the Island of Britain, which consider a ‘Drystan son of March’ as one of the ‘Three Peers of Arthur’s Court.’ The name Drustan is actually Pictish, ie the Dark Age tribe which dwelt in Scotland,  which leads us to Mark’s next language.

Pictish : Maglocunus easily philochisps into Mailchon, or Máelchú, the father of the great Pictish King Bridei as given in the chronicles. Mailcon’s powerful status in the north is reflected through his daughter Domlech’s marriage to Aedan, King of Dalriada, whose son became a Pictish king. There are also Pictish symbol stones found at Trusty’s Hill in Dumfries & Galloway, whose origin could be from the same Drustanus of the Fowey stone, for only a few miles away stands a Dark-Age hillfort called The Mote of Mark.

Old Norwegian : The Dream of Rhonabwy tells us that Prince Mark led a group of men from Llychlyn – i.e. Scandinavia – at the Battle of Badon, turning up as; ‘the men of Norway, led by March, son of Meirchyawn.’ Big Geoff also places him among the Nordic lands (& Ireland) with; ‘Malgo, one of the comeliest men in the whole of Britain, the driver-out of many tyrants, redoubted in arms, more bountiful than others and renowned for prowess beyond compare, yet hateful in the sight of God for his secret vices. He obtained the sovereignty of the whole island, and after many exceeding deadly battles did add unto his dominions the six neighbour islands of the Ocean, to wit, Ireland, Iceland, Gothland, the Orkneys, Norway and Denmark.

The conquest of these widely scattered regions confirms the Gildasian descripton of Maglocune as being the ‘dragon of the island,’ who dispossessed ‘tyrants’ of their kingdoms. This combined evidence suggests that Maglocunus was never Maelgwyn Gwynned, but was instead the famous King Mark of Cornwall. Otherwise known as Conomerus, he would have ruled a pan-ocean empire from Norway to Brittany. All this correlates sweetly  with one of the medieval Welsh Triads which state that ‘March ap Meirchiawn’ was one of the ‘three seafarers of the island of Britain.’ With that, the case for Arthur’s existence should be closed, & all it took was to create a hyperchisp – a hypothetical chisper – that turned ‘Artognou’ into ‘Artogenous,’ to set the ball rolling, since which occasion all the evidence has slotted into place as easy as leaves grow on a tree.


Next Wednesday, 13/12/17

Chapter 7

Dux Pictorum


chisp cover


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



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

The Chisper Effect 5 : Asvaghosha

Continuing the weekly serialization ofchisper_effect

Damian Beeson Bullen’s


In which a number of the world’s greatest mysteries are finally solved


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Chapter V

In the previous chapter of The Chisper Effect I began a research trip to India, searching for a different Jesus to the one presented in the Gospels. My journey took me to Hemis monastery in Ladakh, where mysterious ancient texts told the story of Jesus’ studies in India, some of which content correlates to the writings of an ancient Indian poet called Ashu Ghosha. This gives us the vital, factual support to create the following babel chain.


Between Ashu & Issa (pronounced Isha in Sanskrit) we see ‘Asha,’ a name which connects to Jesus thro’ a second century text known as the First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ,’ an alternative to those found in the New Testament. Said to have been written by Caiaphas, one of the Jewish leaders involved in the trial of Jesus, the First Gospel is a fascinating storehouse of apocryphal information about Jesus, including a great deal of his boyhood in Egypt. The text contains a crucial piece of information;

And it came to pass, when the Lord Jesus was born at Bethlehem, a city of Judea in the time of Herod the King; the wise men came from the East to Jerusalem, according to the prophecy of Zoradascht, and brought with them offerings: namely, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and worshipped him, and offered to him their gifts

The name Zoradascht is a wee philochisp of Zoroastra, a mysterious Persian ascetic of the 2nd millennium BC. Among his writings are the Gathas, seventeen sacred devotional hymns in which a certain ‘Asha’ is proclaimed the ‘Genius’ of ‘Truth and Righteousness.‘ In one of the Gathas, Zoroastra proclaims, ‘may Asha attain a body,‘ suggesting this was the very ‘prophecy of Zoradascht’ which led the ‘Wise Men’ to Bethlehem where they found the infant Jesus, the very personification of divinity.


Ashu Ghosha is more commonly known as Asvaghosha, whose philochisp seems influenced by the word ‘Ashavan,‘ which means ‘possessor of Asha.‘ His date can be calculated through ancient Chinese and Tibetan documents (Fu tsou t‘ung chi 2 / Fo tsu li tai tung tsai 1). Anchored on the Buddha’s enlightenment, the ‘Parinirvana,’ of c.530 BC, they state that 600 years passed between the Nirvana and Açvaghosha, giving us a date of c.AD 70. The same six centuries are also used by the Mahâmâyâsûtra, which says; ‘When six hundred years [after Buddha’s death] are expired, ninety different schools of the tîrthakas will arise and proclaiming false doctrines, each will struggle against the other to destroy the law of Buddha. Then a Bhikshu, Açvaghosha by name, will in an excellent manner teach the essence of the Dharma and defeat all the followers of the tîrthakas.’

Little is known about Asvaghosha the man. His life story contains only a smattering of biographical material that has been left to posterity through scattered Tibetan and Chinese traditions. Of these, the most detailed is a biography translated into Chinese by Kumaragiva. We may observe in this text a wandering ascetic able to defeat all comers in theological debate; all, that is, except an elderly Bhikshu named Parsva. Following a competitive debate in front of monarchs, ministers & ascetics, Parsva emerged triumphant & Asvaghosha consented to become his disciple. In this, & every other account of Asvaghosha, his birthplace and parentage differ widely, flung across India from top to tail, a confusing collection which leads one to think that his true origins were actually unknown. The problem has been analyzed in great detail by Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki (1870–1966), the great Japanese scholar of all things Buddhist, who states, ‘as a youth, when thoroughly familiar with every department of knowledge, he went to Odiviça, Gaura, Tîrahuti, Kâmarûpa, and some other places, defeating everywhere his Buddhist opponents by his ingenious logic. All these places are situated in Eastern India, and among the Chinese traditions the Record of the Triratna (Li tai san pao chi) as well as the Accounts of Buddha and the Patriarchs (Fo tsu tung chi) agree with Târanâtha in placing Açvaghosha’s native land in the East; but the Life of Vasubandhu makes Açvaghosha a native of Bhâshita, while in Nâgârjuna’s work, the Mahâyânaçâstravyâkhyâ (Shih mo ho yen lun), he is mentioned as having been born in Western India… The Record of Buddha and the Patriarchs Under Successive Dynasties (Fo tsu li tai t‘ung tsai) agrees with neither of the above statements, for it says (fasciculus 5): “The twelfth patriarch, Açvaghosha Mahâsattva was a native of Vârânasî.” A further contradicting tradition is pointed out by Prof. S. Murakami in one of his articles on the history of Buddhism, quoting the Shittanzô (fas. 1), which makes Açvaghosha a man of South India… A few more details about Asvaghosha can be obtained from oriental sources, but only serve to confuse the real man.’ All this general confusion about Asvaghosha’s origins imply he may have born outwith India, offering  convoluted support for his being the Judea-born Jesus. Indeed, many of the cities mentioned by Suzuki as being the native home of Asvaghosha, such as Varanasi (Benares), are in precisely the same regions of India in which Notovich places Issa during his academic sojurn through India, who was also, ‘defeating everywhere his Buddhist opponents by his ingenious logic.’  

One story, found in the ancient Buddhist text ‘The Transmission of the Dharmapitaka,’ relates how he, ‘went to Pâtaliputra for his propaganda-tour,’ where he ‘composed an excellent tune called Lai cha huo lo, that he might by this means convert the people of the city. Its melody was classical, mournful, and melodious, inducing the audience to ponder on the misery, emptiness, and non-âtman-ness of life. That is to say, the music roused in the mind of the hearer the thought that all aggregates are visionary and subject to transformation.’ Through this tale we can see how Asvaghosha was one of the earliest poet-saints of India, creative spirits described by the twentieth century scholar M Suryanarayana as, ‘the flowering of divinity in man through the medium of music and poetry.‘ The power of the poet-saint to inspire the Indian mind may be perfectly seen in recent centuries, when the wonderful faith of the Sikhs evolved from the hymns of Guru Nanak. As we shall go on to discover, Asvaghosha possessed so much of that ‘flowering of divinity in man’ that he would inspire faiths & religions all across the ancient world.

With the ‘Ghosha’ epithet meaning ‘speech,’ the author of the Budhhacarita & the Vajra Sucha possesses a fully-translated name of ‘Speech of Ashu/Ashva.’ This helps us understand the real meaning of an obscure passage in the Book of Revelations. Written sometime in the late 1st century by an unidentified ‘John,’ we encounter the messiah figure whose ‘name is called The Word of God.’ 

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.   Revelations 19: 11-16

As a poet of the most prodigious output, Asvaghosha made reputable forays into hymns, epic poetry and even drama. Of the ‘two larger Bauddha works of high repute’ mentioned by BH Hodgson, one would be the famous ‘Buddhacarita,’ a long and beautiful poetical biography of the Buddha. We encounter within it a Virgin Birth story extremely similar to the Christian Nativity, & that the Buddha’s mother appears as a certain Queen ‘Maya’ reinforces the connection to Jesus’ mother Mary. The very valid question we may start to ask at this point is, ‘did the author of the Gospels read the Buddhacarita or, of course, vice versa?’ A connection was suggested by the eminent nineteenth century Orientalist, Samuel Beal;

Having translated the Buddhacarita throughout, and also the greater portion of Asvaghosha’s sermons, I am impressed with the conviction that Christian teaching had reached his ears… the doctrine of a universal salvation, and of Buddha’s incarnation by the descent of the Spirit, and by a power of Bodhui, or wisdom, by which we are made sons or disciples – these and other non-Buddhist ideas found in Asvaghosha’s writings, convince me that there was such an intercommunication at this time between East and West as shaped the later school of Buddhism into a pseudo-Christian form; and this accounts very much for some other inexplicable similarities

Christian motifs are also contained in a branch of Buddhism personally founded by Asvaghosha. Called the Mahayana, or ‘Greater Vehicle,’ its outstanding text, ‘Treatise for Awakening Faith’, was composed by Asvaghosha. A Christian link to the treatise was discerned by Samuel Beal, who observed; ‘there is one book, the K‘i-sin-lun, or ‘Treatise for Awakening Faith,’ which has never yet been properly examined, but, so far as is known, is based on doctrines foreign to Buddhism and allied to a perverted form of Christian dogma… The differentiation of enlightenment into two distinct qualities, wisdom and action, or, according to the terminology of later Mahâyânists, wisdom and love, constitutes one of the principal thoughts of the Mahâyâna Buddhism and shows a striking similarity to the Christian conception of God who is considered to be full of infinite love and wisdom.’ Another concise connection between the Mahayana and Christianity can be found in the Gospel of Luke’s Parable of the Prodigal Son, which uncannily matches a story found in a key Mahayanan text known as the Lotus Sutra.

8 - in discussion

The evidence is accumulating for Asvaghosha being an Indian ‘avatar’ of Jesus Christ. The word means incarnation, & just as there are numerous representations of the Hindu god Vishnu, there appears equally to be several Jesus avatars. One of these was a certain Ishvarakrishna, & during my residence in Leh I mooted my embryonic theory to certain scholars at the Central Institute for Buddhist Studies. One particular morning we were sat outside in the sunshine, a small gaggle of pupils observing our conversations, as I explained to the scholars the crux of my thoughts; not only did Jesus Christ survive the Crucifixion, not only did he travel to India, but during his time on the Subcontinent he would also compose seminal texts which would form the fundamental pillars of both Krishnaism and Mahayana Buddhism.  In this spirit I asked the scholars about the possibility of a certain Asvaghosha being the same personage as Ishvarakrishna. The notion was promptly met with laughter of gentle condescension, and I was told rather bluntly that although the two men may have shared the same era, and written in the same style of Sanskrit, Asvaghosha was a poet and Ishvarakrishna a philosopher. I replied with calm erudition, explaining that although Ishvarakrishna was considered to be a philosopher, he wrote his Samkhyakarika in verse, hence making him a poet.  My observation was met with Vedic silence, a profound moment of validation, for my new theory of Jesus-in-India had passed its first critical test.

Ever since Notovich set the ball rolling, the search for Jesus outside of Judea has been gathering momentum, with fresh evidence turning up all the time. A great deal of this research has been conducted by Professor Fida Hassnain.  He was well placed to do all this, being the one-time Director of Archives, Archaeology, Research and Museums for Kashmir; a job which provided him with intimate access to numerous obscure and ancient documents. He writes in his book, ‘A Search for the Historical Jesus;’

 I was ordered, in the 1960s, to proceed to Leh, the capital of the former kingdom of Ladakh, to examine the historical records and maps relevant to the border dispute between China and India. I had visited Ladakh earlier, and had established the first State Archive Repository there. But my new assignment led me to make many more journeys to the region, and during one such visit I came by chance upon a document relating to Jesus Christ. This was the event which aroused my curiosity and led me to embark on a quest for the historical Jesus

In the first of Hassnain’s books to explore the subject, The Fifth Gospel (1988), the professor quietly reflects upon the course of his personal quest, stating, ‘it took me many years to locate and examine oriental sources, in Sanskrit, Tibetan, Arabic, Persian and Urdu dealing, with the lost years of Jesus. The material was rich and, unlike much of the historical material to which the church had access, on the whole, untouched since ancient times. These ancient documents, recording as they did a little-known connection between Christianity and the East, were of immense fascination to me – each new discovery further fueling my passion for the quest.’ Hassnain’s fantastic work in the field has secured him a place as its leading exponent, and since his arrival on the world stage in the seventies, a series of interested parties have travelled to Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, in order to discuss the Indian Jesus. The first was Andrea Faber Kaiser of Spain, and his wife Mercedes (1975), who were soon followed by two German authors, Helmet Goackel (1977) & Helger Kersten (1982). Each visitor was greeted warmly, and given free access to all the documents and information uncovered by the Professor. Hoping very much to be the next, I set off along the Ladakhi plateau on the ten-hour taxi ride to Srinagar, travelling the torturous and serpentine roads that lead to Kashmir’s gorgeous green vales in an airy, yet most solid jeep. As we headed west, I noted nothing much had really changed along the route since the Italian priest, Ippotito Desideri, recorded three centuries ago how, ‘the greater part of the road is along the flanks of the loftiest and most awful mountains and in which ordinarily there is not found sufficient space for one man to pass by another…. only the slightest carelessness with your feet would cause you inevitably to be precipitated down the slope and to be dashed in pieces in the torrent which runs below the two mountain.’

Ladakh Moonland

The journey was a wonderful passage through a landscape of such inspirational majesty it was as if the gods themselves had painted the scene.  Shorn of trees, Ladakh offers a lunar landscape to the erstwhile traveler who dares reach this northernmost part of India. Equally gorgeously on display are the aquamarine waters of the great River Indus, here in its infancy before it flows into Pakistan and down to the Arabian Sea. The proximity of Pakistan was made evident in the Kargil sector – named after a charming little town I passed through in a heartbeat – for here and there were scattered memorials and cemeteries erected by the Indian Army in remembrance to those who fought & died in the three-month War of 1998. As we left the district, the mountains were becoming jagged like porcupines, or gnarled like tree-stumps, or rising into white-haired grey beards like beautiful Himalayan druids ruling over all humanity. Crossing the regional border and dropping into Kashmir, my scenic elation turned to absolute toe-curling terror as I experienced the worst hour of my entire life thus far. Our jeep was descending down a road, or half-a road should I say, zig-zagging a mountain often a meter or so from the precipice, braving such treacherous corners that one false move would see a vehicle and its occupants tumbling hundreds of meters to their inevitable dooms. In the great tradition of Buddhism I felt several lives flash by as our driver overtook on sharp bends, and at one point my nerve broke. The mentalist had just parked up at the edge of the road to let a convoy of trucks pass us and I just had to get out and walk down the road to a safer spot!

After minutes that seemed like hours we eventually dropped to a less dangerous height, and I had reached the famous vale of Kashmir. It was the end of the harvest season, where the paddy fields are shorn of rice and have browned in the summer sun. Two months previously, I was told, all was lushly green, and surely contained the magical quality that makes the Vale of Kashmir so special. On reaching its capital, Srinagar, I encountered an Indian city quite different from those of the plains. Despite its million inhabitants, in Indian terms Srinigar is less busy, much cleaner, and in certain places has quite the European feel. Flat roofs are few and far between, with most houses thrusting up steep sheets of metal to let the rains flow freely to earth. On my first night I bore witness to a great Kashmiri storm, which exploded in violent fury and raged for half an hour or so of torrential rain and booming thunder, after which it disappeared, leaving a cool freshness which blew away the mists that had been all prevailing all afternoon. In the distance I could see the Himalayas again, stepping out of the haze like handsome young soldiers going out on gallant parade.

Photo0504For accommodation during my stay in Srinigar I took a house-boat on the city’s delectably serene Dal Lake. A village on water, one must travel to and from the ‘mainland’ upon the oar-drawn shakaras, a watery oasis of calm far away from the sheer incessancy of India. I spent many a pleasant moment observing the activities of a family dwelling a few meters across the water from my residence. They lived on the lake not for tourism, but for life, their half-carved shakara testament to a world that passed its existence amid such gentle settings.  The lake waters were so still, they acted as the most clearest of mirrors to those colorful boats, doubling the beauty with an all-surrounding sense of the picturesque. Also reflected upside-down in the waters was the pyramid-like peak of the sensational & evocative Zabarwan Mountain, at whose summit sits an ancient temple venerated by three faiths: to the Saivites it is Shankaracharya, to the Muslims it is the Throne of Solomon, and to the Buddhists it is known as the Jyesteshwara temple.

47 - the shrine of yuz asaf

On my very first morning in Srinagar, I decided to take a look at the tomb of Yuz Asaf. His body has long been said to be entombed in a fairly innocuous, square shrine in the Rozabal district of Srinagar. In the Bagh-i-Sulaiman by Mir Saad Shahabadi (1780 AD) we read of the tomb, ‘legends say that there was a prince, most accomplished, pious & great, who received the Kingdom of God. He was so faithful to the Lord. That he was raised to the status of the Prophet. Through His grace he became the guide, to the people of the Valley. Here lies the sepulchre of that prophet, who is known as Yuz Asaph.’ That Jesus came to such a place as mountainous, fertile Kashmir is asserted by the Qu’ran (23:51) which states as fact, ‘we made the son of Mary and his mother a Sign, and gave them shelter on an elevated land of green valleys and springs of running water.’ That Mary once resided in this region can be observed in the small Pakistani town of Murree, a few miles along the mountain passes from Kashmir. Within this charming idyll, an old tomb is aligned in the east-west Christian fashion called Mai Mari da Asthan, or the ‘Final resting place of Mary.’

On surviving the Crucifixion, there is a great deal of documentary evidence which shows Jesus returning to India. An approximate date for his arrival in Kashmir may be identified in a passage by the 15th century Persian scholar, Mulla Nadiri, who describes inscriptions etched into the stonework of the Throne of Solomon.

During this time Hazrat Yuz Asaf having come from the Holy Land to this holy valley proclaimed his prophethood. He devoted himself, day and night, in prayers to God, and having attained the heights of piety and virtue, he declared himself to be a Messenger of God for the people of Kashmir… It was because of this Prophet’s orders that Sulaiman, whom Hindus called Sandeman, completed the repairs of the dome. Year Fifty and four. Further, on one of the stones of the flankwalls encasing the stairs he inscribed: In these times Yuz Asaf proclaimed his prophethood and on the other stone of the stairs he also inscribed that he Yuz Asaf was Yusu, Prophet of Children of Israel

Professor Hassnain correlates the year ‘fifty and four’ to the Christian era’s 78 AD, which fits well with the idea of Jesus returning to India after his ministry in Palestine. Reaching Kashmir, he would die here & be buried at Rozabal. On arriving at the shrine myself, I found it painted green and white; the colours of Islam. Muslims are by far the majority throughout Srinagar, and they have added a great sign at the front of the shrine on which is found a quote from the Qu’ran; ‘that they said (in boast), ‘We killed Jesus Christ the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah,’ but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them. And those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. (4:157-158).’


After a couple of young Australian backpackers pocketed a few small chunks of masonry in 2010, the shrine has been closed to visitors. Taking photographs is strictly forbidden, a matter which seriously irked the locals after I innocuously took a shot. “It is an international dispute,” I was told by a tall, bearded fellow urging me to put my camera away while another fellow tried to snatch it from my hands, ripping my shirt in the process. Apologizing in the most profuse of fashions I managed to diffuse the tinderbox, & a peaceful atmosphere broke out once more at the shrine. Through the incident I realized just how much religious sentiment still divides humanity to this day, and wondered what the true Jesus would think about followers of divinity separated only by the ‘name’ of their god, squabbling over his mortal remains.

We must now make a small examination of a certain king Kansihka, who convened what is known as the 4th Buddhist Council. He was very much a new Asokha, being both peace-loving advocate of Buddhism and powerful conqueror, whose Kushana Empire was spread out across great swathes of land through the modern regions of north India, eastern Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. We can date the council to the Age of Jesus through an account contained in the Blue Annals, which records the attendance of ‘five hundred argats headed by Arya Parsva.’ This man is the very Bhiksu who taught Buddhism to Asvaghosha, & the Parsva-Asvaghosha-Kanishka historical triangle is completed by a recorded interaction between Kanishka and Asvaghosha;

The king of Tukhâra was very powerful. He was called Candana Kanishtha. Being very ambitious and bold, and far superior in courage to all his contemporaries, every country he invaded was sure to be trampled down under his feet. So when he advanced his four armies towards Pâaliputra, the latter was doomed to defeat in spite of some desperate engagements. The king demanded an indemnity of 900,000,000 gold pieces, for which the defeated king offered Açvaghosha, the Buddha-bowl and a compassionate fowl, each being considered worth 300,000,000 gold pieces. The Bodhisattva Açvaghosha had intellectual powers inferior to none; the Buddha-bowl having been carried by the Tathâgata himself is full of merits; the fowl being of compassionate nature, would not drink any water with worms in it,–thus all these having merits enough to keep off all enemies, they are on that account worth 900,000,000 gold pieces. The king of Tukhâra was greatly pleased at receiving them, and immediately withdrawing his army from the land went back to his own kingdom. The Fu fa tsang yin yüan ch‘uan

The chief object of the Fourth Council was to set in stone the tenets of the Mahayana, of which Alice Getty writes; ‘ended in schism between the Buddhists of the south (Ceylon) and those of the north (India)… While the Sri Lankan Buddhist clung on to the canon of the south (Hinayana)…. the Mahayana recognized the existence of a supreme god (Adi-buddha).’ Adda, or ‘father’ in Aramaic, is the name used by Jesus for God throughout the Gospels, while the notion of the Adi-buddha is contained in the earliest texts of the Mahayana, which can be dated to roundabout the time of the Fourth Buddhist Council, when Tarantha tells us, ‘some of the Mahayana scriptures reached the human world.‘ Suzuki adds, ‘while we are still in the dark as to how Mahayana Buddhism developed in India, we know that when it was introduced into China by the missionaries from India and central Asia, it was already regarded as directly coming from the Buddha’s own golden mouth, and that what must have developed during several hundred years after his death was taken in a wholesale manner for a system fully matured in his life-time extending over a period of about half a century after his Enlightenment. As the sutras were translated into Chinese, the first of which appeared in 68 a. d, they profoundly stirred the Chinese and then the Japanese mind awakening their religious consciousness to its very depths.’  One really does get the feeling here that Jesus-Asvaghosha was an active force in the creation of Mahayana Buddhism, was present at the Fourth Buddhist Council, and was the driving force behind the introduction of a supreme god into Buddhism.

I was now fully charged up by the enticing chance of meeting Professor Hassnain. Obtaining his private address from a smart looking fellow in the street, one short rickshaw ride later was in the Parray Pura district of Srinagar, knocking on the gate of a pleasant and large detached house. To my joy, Professor Hassnain came out, and I was amazed to see how sprightly he was on his feet given that he had passed his ninetieth year. We passed an amiable hour in his garden discussing ideas and sharing theories, and I happily told the Professor how much I respected his work. On one occasion during our spot of Socratic dialogue, this 21st century saddhu spoke with much excitement of his suspicions as to Jesus having met Mary Magdelane while they were both students in the ancient Indian kingdom of Magadha, with her name originally being Mary of Magadha. This idea definitely has some merit, for the ‘Life of Issa’ describes how Jesus studied in Radjagriha, the capital of the Magadha kingdom. The conversion of Magadha to Magdalene would be another example of the Chisper Effect in action, and propelled me to show the professor my own ideas as to who the Indian Jesus really was. Asking for a pen and paper, while I sketched out a brief outline of my own contributions to the theory, the Professor’s eyes lit up with youthful excitement. This was a moment of sheer pride, for I had travelled many miles to show him my work, which was built, of course, upon his own fifty years of study, and to receive such encouragement from the master in the field was a perfect reward.

13 - proffessor hassnain

After a lifetime of studying the subject of Jesus in India, Fida Hassnain had published his magnum opus only the previous year, and he presented me with a copy to take away. The book is called ‘Jesus in Kashmir,’ and his aim in publishing it was, ‘to give further impetus to researches on the hidden life of Jesus Christ.‘  One of the most important pieces of evidence contained in the book is a passage known as the ‘Bhavisya Suta.’ It had been discovered written upon birch-bark papyrus in the possession of the Maharajas of Jammu and Kashmir, a translation of which was published under the orders of H.H. Maharaja Sir Partap Singh of Kashmir in 1910. Hassnain describes how he discovered the text; ‘my research assistant, Pandit Dinanath Yachh, showed me the Bhavishya Mahapurana, a rare Sanskrit work compiled by Suta in about 115AD. It was evident that the Bhavishya Mahapurana had been compiled by a votary of Hindusim much before the advent of Islam and its author had no knowledge of Christianity even.’ The Bhavisya Suta reveals a number of tallies between Ishavara-Putaram, the self-styled ‘Son of God’ & the Christian Jesus. Most conspicuously, Ishavara declares himself as ‘born of a Virgin,’ while the term ‘Masiha’ is an obvious deviation of the Greek Messiah. The sighting occurs in a region of the Himalayas known as the ‘Huna Country,’ an ancient kingdom known as Hunadesh straddling the modern-day borders of Nepal, Tibet and India. The events of the passage took place during the reign of King Shalivahana, which Hassnain explained spanned the years 39-50 AD. Chronologically, and crucially, this places Jesus in India after the Crucifixion.

Once upon a time the subduer of the Sakas went towards Himatunga and in the middle of the Huna country the powerful king saw an auspicious man who was living on a mountain. The man’s complexion was golden and his clothes were white.

“The king asked, ‘Who are you sir?’

‘You should know that I am Ishavara Puturam, the Son of God’, he replied blissfully, and am born of a virgin. I am the expounder of the religion of the mlecchas and I strictly adhere to the Absolute Truth.’

Hearing this the king enquired, ‘What are the religious principles according to your opinion?

Hearing this questions of Shalivahana, Isha putra said, ‘O king, I hail from a land far away. When the destruction of the truth occurred, –I, Masiha the prophet, came to this country of degraded people where there are no rules and regulations. Finding that fearful irreligious condition of the barbarians spreading from Mleccha-Desha, I have taken to prophethood.

Please hear, Oh king, which religious principles I have established among the mlecchas. The living entity is subject to good and bad contaminations. The mind should be purified by taking recourse of proper conduct and performance of japa. By chanting the holy names one attains the highest purity. Just as the immovable sun at-tracts, from all directions, the elements of all living beings, the Lord of the Surya Mandala who is fixed and all-attractive, and attracts the hearts of all living creatures. Thus by following rules, speaking truthful words, by mental harmony and by meditation, Oh descendant of Manu, one should worship that immovable Lord’.”

“Having placed the eternally pure and auspicious form of the Supreme Lord in my heart, O protector of the earth planet, I preached these principles through the mlecchas’ own faith and thus my name became ‘isa-masiha’.”

There has been a long running debate as to the identification of the Kashmiris as one of the lost tribes of Israel. From Hebrew topography to the semitic physiognomy, & of course the Throne of Solomon, there are enough Judaic traces to support Yuz Asaf preaching to the Jews of Kashmir, ‘through the mlecchas’ own faith.’

In the Indian annals, there is another man who shares the name Ishavara; an ancient poet known as Ishvarakrishna. He is remembered only for creating a single poem known as the Samkhyakarika, which was, as the text tells us, ‘compendiously set down in the arya metre by the noble-minded and devout Ishvarakrishna, who thoroughly comprehended the established doctrine.’  The dates for Ishvarakrishna are unknown, but he must have lived before the sixth century AD, when a Buddhist scholar named Paramartha translated the Samkhyakarika into Chinese. We possess little else information: a 9th century commentary on the Samkhyakarika, the Jayamangala, describes him as an ‘itinerant monk;’ while a Vedic background is implied by the Samkyakarika’s ‘such is creation from Brahma down to a blade of grass.’ So far so good, for both these slender clues can be confidently connected to Asvaghosha, who we have seen was a student of the Vedas & who describes himself in his own Saundaranda text as a ‘mendicant and teacher,’ an excellent match to the Jayamangala’s ‘itinerant monk.’ We must also observe here that in the Buddhist text Tarantha, the father of Asvaghosha was given as a Brahman called Samghaguhya.



Analyzing the contents of the Samkhyakarika, I have discovered a very tangible link to the Buddhacarita of Asvaghosha through the ancient philosophy known as the Samkhya, which was brought by Ishvarakrishna to its classical perfection. HT Colebrooke writes; ‘it cannot be denied that the Samkhya is the most interesting, if not the greatest, of the six orthodox systems of Hindu speculation and the sixty-nine memorial verses of Ishvara Krishna… though undoubtedly representing a late period in its development, portray more exactly than any other work the true teachings of the school.’ If the Samkhyakarika represents a ‘late period’ in the development of the Samkyha, there must have been an earlier version of the system, a proto-samkhya if you will. This leads us to the twelfth book of the Buddhacarita, in which a primitive version of the Samkhya can be found. When GJ Larson tells us, ‘any attempt to comprehend the development of Samkhya must take Asvaghosa’s treatment seriously,’ we can sense how the poetical ‘Jesus’ first wrote, as Asvaghosha, the Buddhacarita. Composing his Samkhyakarika in later life, by this time his name had transchispered into Ishvarakrishna.

The ‘Krishna’ element extant within the Ishvarakrishna etymology leads us to one of the greatest gods of the Hindu pantheon; that blue-skinned deity and star-turn of the great parabolic poem known as the Bhagavad Gita (Song of God). The Gita has the honour of being the first Sanskrit text to be translated into English, by the very erudite Charles Wilkins in 1784. It has since been translated into hundreds of languages across the world, a most beloved text whose timelessness shall ever reverberate through the aeons. The poem is an episode in the Indian epic poem, the Mahabharata, & is set is the field of Kurukshetra in the moments before the outbreak of an epic battle between the Pandavas and the Kuru, with both armies facing each other across the field. Krishna is in deep philosophical discussion with a young Prince by the name of Arjuna, a situation reminiscent of a scene in the Buddhacarita, where the Buddha philosophizes with a young prince in a rather similar chariot.

When the twentieth century orientalist & professor of Sanskrit EH Johnstone wrote; ‘the account of Buddhacarita is closer to the doctrines of the Moksadharma and the Gita,’ he recognized that chapter two of the Gita contained the same proto-samkhya of the Buddhacarita. By 1918, the highly insightful comparative theologist Holden Edward Sampson managed to penetrate the poem’s symbolism, explaining how the Gita is actually an allegorical exposition of the Samkhya, writing; ‘Arjuna is the soul, Krishna is the eternal and divine ego who drives the chariot/body which carries the soul, while the three qualities that propel the body; sattva (light) rajas (desire) and tamas (indifference) desire, are in the Gita represented as three horses.’

14 - arjunas chariot (1)

The next step on the chispological pathway of instinctual assumption is to presume that Asvaghosha/Ishavara had some part to play in the composition of the Gita. Indeed, ‘a supplementary point to be noticed in Açvaghosha,’ suggests Beal, ‘is the abundance of similar thoughts and passages with those in the Bhagavadgîta.’ Where the Gita contains elements from both Vedic scripture and early Buddhism (fitting neatly with Asvaghosha’s background), it shares similar syntax, grammar and vocabulary with Asvaghosha’s Sanskrit. The same poet is also celebrated for writing a play known as the Sariputrapakirana (Legend of the Disciple Sariputra), which uses allegorical figures to instruct the audience on morality. This is just the model on which the Gita is built, and it is possible that the dialogue-based Bhagavad Gita would have been a didactic play in its original form. The next station we must come to as we ride the thought-train of supposition is that after composing the Gita, Asvaghosha was then given the ‘Krishna’ epithet. Thus, in later years, & under the name of Ishvara Krishna, he would go on to compose the Samkhyakarika.

Krishna is a Sanskrit word, which translates into Greek as Christos. It is no great effort to see the name Isha-Krishna transchispered by the writers of the Gospels into Jesus Christ. The teachings of the Gita’s Krishna are much the same as those of Jesus; as in their spirit of complete renunciation and their mutual focus on love and compassion. Multiple other similarities between the Gita and Christian theology have been noticed by meditative thinkers such as Mahatma Gandhi, who compared the experience of reading the Gita with that of Gospels.

The New Testament produced a different impression, especially the Sermon on the Mount which went straight to my heart. I compared it with the Gita. The verses, “But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak too,’ delighted me beyond measure


In the foreword to Sampson’s ‘The Bhagavad Gita Interpreted,’ a fellow student of Hindusim from the west, R.F. Hall, refers to the Gita’s, ‘exact synchronism with the mystery-religion taught by Jesus Christ.’ There are, of course, many parallels between Krishna’s sayings in the Gita and the sayings of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, including: 

Krishna: I am Beginning, Middle, End, Eternal Time, the Birth and the Death of all. I am the symbol A among the characters. I have created all things out of one portion of myself
Jesus: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.

Krishna: By love and loyalty he comes to know me as I really am, I love you well. Bear me in mind, love me and worship me so you will come to me, I promise you
truly for you are dear to me
Jesus: Anyone who loves me will be loved by my father and I shall love him and show myself to him

Krishna: Whenever, O Arjuna, righteousness declines and unrighteousness prevails, my body assumes human form and lives as a human being.
Jesus: If God were your Father, ye would love me; for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of Myself but He sent me.

‘One of the most important contributions of the Bhagavad Gita to religious thought,’ writes H.E. Sampson, ‘is it’s teaching of the bodily dwelling of the divinity among men.’ Both Krishna and Jesus were deemed to be gods who had taken on a mortal guise, physical manifestations of the deity ‘sent’ to earth in order to save mankind through their respective teachings. This radical new concept in theosophy led to seismic revolutions in both Brahmanism and Judaism, and from the bedrock of these older belief systems two new and exciting religions would subsequently grow, whose followers were known by the extremely similar-sounding Krishnaites and Christians.

Can it only be coincidence that an ancient Vedic Sanskrit text, the Krishna Yajur Ved, which sings, ‘In the beginning was Prajapati, with Him was the Word, And the Word was truly the Supreme Brahman,’ has a complete tally with the opening of the Gospel of John. ‘The Divine poet,’ declared the excellent Indian literary savant, Rama Nair, is one who has experienced the reality of the word or Logos, and who enables others to see the Divine. He is one who reveals his own self-realisation so that others can transcend the limitations of their self. God is viewed as the Beloved showering His Grace of Divine love on his disciples. The Divine poet of the East is an avatara, or God in human form.’ The famous opening of the Gospel of John offers a similar idea, by saying, ‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was with god, and the word was god….and the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.’

There now presides a distinct possibility that a pathway has been hacked through the thickets of distant history, along which may be found a glade of international theological harmony. Jesus Christ should in all reality be seen not only as a preacher in Palestine, but also a poet-saint in India. Fruitfully creochisped into Christian, Buddhist & Hindu traditions, such ebullient richness & untrammeled diversity in the world’s worship must be heartily praised. As uncompromising faith and deep devotion draws beautiful music, elegant dancing and vivid imagery from the souls of all peoples and all nations, it would be a dull congregation indeed if this planet of ours all sang entirely from the same hymn sheet.


Next Wednesday, 06/12/17

Chapter 6

Dux Bellorum


chisp cover


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



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

The Chisper Effect 4 : The Jesus Jigsaw

chisper_effectContinuing the weekly serialization of

Damian Beeson Bullen’s


In which a number of the world’s greatest mysteries are finally solved


(Register with Completely Novel to…)




Chapter IV

The teachings of Jesus Christ are the foundation stones upon which stands one of the most important religions of mankind: Christianity. We encounter its founder in the canonical Gospels of the New Testament, four moving reports of the ‘messiah’s’ ministry in and around the city of Jerusalem. Before this, and indeed after, as some scholars would have it, a great deal of evidence, both new and old, suggests he had at one point taken residence in India.  Following the Indian sub-continent’s introduction to the tenets of European Christianity; by the nineteenth century many native intellectuals began to notice the numerous similarities between the religion preached by the ‘Carpenter’s Son’ from Judea, & the antique faiths of India. One of these scholars, an early 20th century ascetic called Swami Sivananda Saraswati, suggested that Jesus, ‘lived like a Hindu or a Buddhist monk, a life of burning renunciation and dispassion. He assimilated the ideals, precepts and principles of Hinduism. Christianity is modified Hinduism only, which was suitable for those people who lived in the period of Christ. Really speaking, Jesus was a child of the soil of India only. That is the reason why there is so much of similarity between his teachings and the teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism.’

My own interest in an Indian Jesus was piqued in February 2011, while rummaging through the worm-riddled books of the Ragunhandan library in Puri, a wonderful sea-girt city of the eastern state of Orissa. As I sat beneath the creaking fans, the noisy rush of temple-traffic honking and swirling outside, I felt a memory of the great Imperial adventure surge through my spirit. The colonial era of the British had overseen the translation and study of many ancient texts, a whirl of orientalia which has provided a rich literary canvas for historians to explore. It was in Puri, for instance, that I first ruffled through an English-language version of the Bhagavad Gita, and it was in that same city that I heard, for the first time, of how Jesus Christ had spent time in India.


My adventure began with strange wild music – the long quavering notes of huge horns, like those which awake the echoes of the Alps in the harpy-haunted route to Chamounix. These surreal notes of some ethereal song drew me onto the library roof, where I could observe below me in the street a colorful religious procession of the Hindu sort. I also found myself the closest any Westerner ever gets to the guts of the epic Jaggernatha Temple, forbidden as we are to enter its sacred confines. The library roof, however, offers a pleasant, though restricted view of at least a portion of the inner Temple into which the procession was gradually filtering. Also watching the events unravel below was a scruffy-looking, fifty-year-old, American gentleman. As we stood together in the blaze of day high on the library’s rooftop he transfixed me with a rather curious tale as if he was an Ancient Mariner & I some futuristic Wedding Guest.

“Jesus is said to have been there, y’know,” said the American.

“He did…” I replied with nonchalant indifference. It seemed a rather far-fetched notion. Orissa is a long, long way from Jerusalem.

Yeah man, there’s this book I read a few years back by this Russian guy called… ehm… Notovich – that’s right…  it’s called the lost Gospel according to Jesus Christ or something…”

The American went on, explaining that it made a great deal of sense for Jesus to have spent time in India. When he walked on water, for instance, he was merely using the mystical powers of a yogic master. He then described other elements of Indian asceticism that appear in the Gospels, such as reincarnation, as when Jesus declares John the Baptist to have once been the prophet Elijah. Becoming slowly intrigued by the idea, a few days later I found the American’s words whistling around my mind while wandering a provincial library in Bubanaswar, the capital of Orissa. I soon unearthed a copy of Notovich’s book, sitting quietly on a shelf next to another book titled ‘Jesus in India,’ by a Muslim writer called Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Taking my seat amidst a silent sea of white shirts, I plunged into both texts, emerging sometime later with the quite solid conviction that Jesus must have spent time in India. The two books in conjunction provided too many coincidences to think otherwise, and being a student of historical mysteries, I decided to take up the challenge of solving that rather peculiar question – did Jesus live in India?

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There is perhaps no more difficult a puzzle to solve as the Jesus Jigsaw. Nevertheless I began to research the matter within the salubrious cloisters of Scotland’s National Library in Edinburgh. This vast repository of books, from all eras and upon all subjects, has been of vital assistance throughout my studies, and after a couple of years I had collated enough  material and eked out enough fresh insights to write a book – this book – which touched on the the subject. It is one thing to study a mystery using libraries and the google mega-brain, but a far different thing altogether to venture into the exotic regions where that mystery initially occurred. With this in mind I took it upon myself to travel to India once more, to immerse myself in all the chaos, wonderment and ever-living vitality of that happening, maddening land. Finding the truth about Jesus seemed like looking for a fleck of gold dust in a haystack, but I was well up for the challenge.

As I left Edinburgh one late September evening in 2013, a thick fog had enveloped the city. At every turn the brightness of summer was fading into mellow fruitfulness, the mad rush of the city’s festival season echoing gently on the breeze, its show-posters crumbling to nothingness in the Autumnal rains. To Edinburgh’s residents, a dour seven months or so of early darkness, biting cold and grey skies lay ahead. The seemingly endless Scottish winter is not one for the faint-hearted, and the notion of spending an alternative season in the sun, hard on the trail of the historical Jesus, had becoming a rather inviting alternative. A few hours into my flight to Delhi, I found myself soaring over the dusty, rocky, mountainous landscape of Turkey. Two thousand years ago, in that desolate world far below my window, travelers would have been slowly plodding eastwards along the ancient highway known as the Silk Road, that grand and ancient facilitator of trade between China and Europe. If Jesus did travel between the Holy Land & India, following the Silk Road would have been a likely course. Evidence for his presence along the route was discovered in Afghanistan by the twentieth century orientalist O. M. Burke, who came across a sect of a thousand souls devoted to the worship of a certain Yuz Asaf, whom they also knew as Issa, son of Maryam. Their traditions speak of how Yuz Asaf escaped the cross, settled in Kashmir, and was the performer of great miracles.


Native topography places Jesus in Afghanistan, where two plains near Ghazni and Jalalabad bear the name of Yuz Asaf.  According to an early 20th century Persian scholar, Syed Ahmad Delhvli, Jesus received the name ‘Yuzu Asaf’ in the following fashion; ‘Hazrat Issa, who cured lepers, came to be known as Asaph. He was known as Yuzu, and as he had cured lepers, he came to be known as Yuzu Asaph, for he not only cured them but gathered them under his merciful protection.’ Another Persian scholar of the same period, Agha Mustafa, also noticed how the sayings & teachings of Hazrat Issa were more or less the same as those given in the Gospels. We can see here that Jesus was given an alternative name, Hazrat Issa. This is a slight deviation on Isa Ibn Maryam, given to Jesus by the Islamic tradition, while the earliest fragments of the Gospel of Matthew call Jesus the similar ‘Is.’  The principle key to unlocking this puzzle is recognizing and accepting that in true chispological fashion, Jesus was known by different names in different lands and by different tongues. ‘In general,’ declared the 4th century Church Father Epiphanius of Salamis, ‘all the other peoples have it according to the language of each of them.’ Each of these versions represents an individual Jesusian avatar, an interconnected nexus of names which create the following Babel-Chain. The first name in the chain is Iesus, which was the earliest Roman and Greek spelling of Jesus. It was only about a thousand years ago, at the turn of the first millennium, that the ‘J’ sound began to take precedent.


Not all of these names are attached to the story of Jesus, but by analyzing them in more detail we shall see how they possess curious and numerous connections to both Jesus and each other. Each name contributes biographical details to the vita of a single individual upon whose existence several creochains have grown, like the petals of a holy lotus. Of such chispological wonders of theology, a modern Tamil scholar, K.D. Thirunavukkarasu declares, ‘the fragrance of a lotus is the sum total of the fragrance of the individual petals that compose the lotus… If the petals are plucked away, the lotus ceases to exist. If what has happened or has been achieved in the regional spheres is bypassed, the composite image… gets distorted and disturbed.’ In the same fashion, much of the botany of the true Jesus has been stripped away, leaving us only the ‘distorted and disturbed’ image contained within the Gospels.


On arrival in India, & after a swift tour of Delhi’s many splendors, I flew north, rushing over the snowy crowns of the mighty Himalayan massif to the veritable rooftop of the world – Ladakh. On reaching lovely Leh, Ladakh’s little capital, I took a pleasant room with spectacular views of the mountain-gods. The situation is one of immense charm, surrounded on all sides by a grey, arid desert which bleeds into a jagged chain of mountains encircling the wide basin in which Leh sleepily sits. The town (one could hardly call it a city) has the feel of an oasis, swimming with zen-like calm, far from the chaos of lowland India. This extreme serenity was mellowed even further by a decidedly end-of-season atmosphere – many hotels and restaurants had been closed since mid-September – and only the hardiest of trekkers were in town in order to tour the region. Semi-autonomous Ladakh is more affectionately known as ‘Little Tibet,’ a moniker reflected in the faces and food which permeate the region. A remote and scarcely populated land, there is a wonderful austerity to the place, although modernity is slowly seeping into its ancient fibers. Its capital seemed a suitable place to start my hunt for Jesus, for during my studies I had come across several fellow travelers who had placed the prophet among these obscure & far-flung reaches of the Himalayas. In the twentieth century, where Lady Henrietta Merrick says, ‘in Leh is the legend of Christ who is called Issa… where he was joyously received and where he preached,’ Nicholas Roerich (paraphrasing a Tibetan legend), says Jesus, ‘was joyously accepted by monks and people of the lower class. And Jesus taught in the monasteries and in the bazaars; wherever the simple people gathered—there he taught… Among the Ladakis, Jesus passed many days, teaching them. And they loved him and when the time of his departure came they sorrowed as children.’ F.A. Plattner states the same legend had ‘spread widely through Ladakh, Sinkian and Mongolia,’ adding, ‘the Hindu postmaster of Leh, and several Ladaki Buddhists told us that in Leh not far from the Bazar, there still exists a pond near which stood an old tree. Under this tree, Christ preached to the people, before his departure to Palestine.‘ One would imagine that this tiny slice of Jesus’ life has never been preached in a Christian church – but does that really make it any less valid a biographical anecdote?

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After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in the 1950s, thousands of refugees began to stream over the border into India, including the Dalai Lama himself, who currently resides in exile at Dharam Sala, a few hundred kilometers to the south of Ladakh. The Indian government warmly received the Tibetans, housing some of them 5 miles from Leh in the townlet of Choglamsar. It is there that I found the Central Institute for Buddhist Studies (CIBS), the contents of whose library I wished to engage with. The journey to CIBS was made by sharing one of the many jeeps that work the route, costing a meagre 20 rupees one-way. On reaching the campus, one encounters a series of clean, pristine, modern building blocks all agleam under a bright sun, with a backdrop of mountains quite conducive to academic endeavour. The spacious grounds were dotted with young, book-reading, claret-cloaked monks; pretty schoolgirls gossiping about life and studies; while other pupils serenely carved large statues of the Buddha in the open-air. Despite arriving unannounced, I was received warmly and given the use of their fascinating little library, whose comprehensive specialty books on both Ladakh and Mahayana Buddhism I could only have rummaged through in this obscure corner of the planet.


For almost two millennia, the version of Christ as depicted in the New Testament glimmered like a ghost among the meagre biographical offerings stored in the four Gospels. This entrenched state of affairs finally began to change towards the tail-end of the 19th century, when the standardized Jesus was all-of-a-sudden given a complete transfusion of life-blood through the publication of a single book. This infamous tome had the audacity to place Jesus in India during his so-called missing years – that wide width of time between his sighting in Jerusalem at the age of twelve, and his re-appearance in Judea at thirty. During this period, most Christian scholars have presumed him to have lived and worked as a carpenter in Judea, but a Russian named Nicholas Notovich offered a radically different view to this, firing off a literary cannonball still echoing with great resonance in these our modern days. Notovich had heard a rumour that a text containing information about an Indian Jesus was kept at the Hemis Monastery in Ladakh. On his first visit he was told there was no such manuscript, & left empty-handed. On the return to Leh, however, he was thrown off his horse & broke a leg. Returning to Hemis for recuperation, it was only then that the scrolls were shown to him. Translated & published as ‘The Life of Issa,’ this controversial account describes how Jesus traveled to the sub-continent as a teenager, where he pursued an intense program of study in the sacred scriptures. In the age of Jesus, the Indian world had become more sophisticated than the Roman behemoth even, incredibly advanced in spirituality, sciences & mining; stuffed full of teeming universities & prosperous trade centers, it was the true jewel in the global crown of civilization. For a youth with such an outstanding & expansive mind as Jesus, it was the natural place to harvest his education.

The most significant feature of Notovich’s book is that, for the first time, eastern & western traditions of Jesus are reconciled into one seamless text. The sources, as Notovich tells us, were ancient Tibetan scrolls which were translated to him by the monks at Hemis. According to these, the scrolls had been originally, ‘compiled from diverse copies written in the Thibetan tongue, translated from rolls belonging to the Lassa library and brought from India, Nepal, and Maghada NNotovich150200 years after Christ.’

The claims made by Notovich caused a great deal of consternation throughout the Christian world, with the beautiful and tranquil idyll of Hemis suddenly becoming the nervous eye at the centre of a theological hurricane. The growing furore startled the monks so much that they hid the scrolls, roundabout the time of the Second World War. Just before, in the 1920s, Swami Nirmalananda Giri described how Swami Trigunatitananda, ‘not only saw the manuscript in Himis, he also was shown two paintings of Jesus. One was a depiction of His conversation with the Samaritan Woman at the well. The other was of Jesus meditating in the Himalayan forest surrounded by wild beasts that were tamed by His very presence.’ The last westerner to see the scrolls was a Swiss matron named Elizabeth Caspari, who the chief librarian of Hemis at the time, Lama Nawong Zangpo, was permitted to examine the manuscripts. Although she could not understand their contents, Lama Zangpo declared to her quite succinctly that ‘these books say your Jesus was here.’

Since Caspari’s visit to Hemis, these precious scraps of paper seem to have vanished completely. Such a lack of hard evidence inevitably led to a growing sense of academic indifference to the text, treating it at best as an unprovable curio, and at worst a complete fraud.  Whether they were real or not, the legend of the scrolls had been firmly established, and throughout the twentieth century a series of scholars made the trek to Hemis hoping to see them at first hand. One of these hardy spirits was the young Holger Kersten, author of the widely-read, ‘Jesus Lived in India,’ who describes his experience as follows; ‘with an understanding smile, the wise lama instructed me first to find the Truth for myself, before attempting to convert the whole world… Finally, the old man informed me that the scriptures in question had already been looked for, but nothing could be found.’


Roll on four decades and it seems that somebody at Hemis has found the scrolls. This vital reference is found buried in an Indian newspaper story concerning a Buddhist spiritual leader called Kyabje Thuksey Rinpoche, who just also happened to be the top lama of Hemis monastery. He told the Hindu Times (June, 23rd 2013), ‘we have a hand-written manuscript of Jesus Christ in our secret library but we have not yet got the opportunity to make it public to the world.’  If the top lama of Hemis, a man very much in the know, admits to possessing such controversial scrolls, who are we to claim any different? At a stroke ‘The Life of Issa’ by Notovich gains an element of academic credibility, and several months after the article’s appearance I found myself in a jeep, piercing the lofty desert of Ladakh on the way to Hemis monastery itself. On arrival at that magical place, the scrolls were as elusive as ever, for the lama had gone to Delhi for several weeks on spiritual business. I personally expect that one day in the future the scrolls might be put on display for the world to see, but on wandering amid the sheer beauty of Hemis, I could understand the case for keeping them hidden and preserve the tranquility of the monastery from hordes of camera-wielding pilgrims. Returning to Leh empty-handed, I would have to find Jesus another way, beginning with the relevant section of Notovich’s ‘Life’ which describes Issa’s time in India:

When Issa was thirteen years old, the age at which an Isrealite is expected to marry, the modest house of his parents became a meeting place of the rich & illustrious, who were anxious to have as son-in-law the young Issa, who was already celebrated for the edifying discourses he had made in the name of the All-powerful. Then Issa secretly absented himself from his father’s house: left Jerusalem, & in a train of merchants, journeyed towards the Sindh.

Fame spread the name of the marvelous youth along the northern Sindh, and when he came through the country of the five streams and Radjipoutan, the devotees of the god Djaïne asked him to stay among them.

But he left the deluded worshippers of Djaïne and went to Djagguernat, in the country of Orsis, where repose the mortal remains of Vyassa-Krishna, and where the white priests of Brahma welcomed him joyfully.

They taught him to read and to understand the Vedas, to cure physical ills by means of prayers, to teach and to expound the sacred Scriptures, to drive out evil desires from man and make him again in the likeness of God.

He spent six years in Djagguernat, in Radjagriha, in Benares, and in other holy cities. The common people loved Issa, for he lived in peace with the Vaisyas and the Sudras, to whom he taught the Holy Scriptures.

But the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas told him that they were forbidden by the great Para-Brahma to come near to those who were created from his belly and his feet;

That the Vaisyas might only hear the recital of the Vedas, and this only on the festal days, and That the Sudras were not only forbidden to attend the reading of the Vedas, but even to look on them; for they were condemned to perpetual servitude, as slaves of the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas and even the Vaisyas.

“Death alone can enfranchise them from their servitude,” has said Para-Brahma. “Leave them, therefore, and come to adore with us the gods, whom you will make angry if you disobey them.”

But Issa, disregarding their words, remained with the Sudras, preaching against the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas. 

He declaimed strongly against man’s arrogating to himself the authority to deprive his
fellow-beings of their human and spiritual rights.

“Verily,” he said, “God has made no difference between his children, who are all alike dear to Him.”

The white priests and the warriors, who had learned of Issa’s discourse to the Sudras, resolved upon his death, and sent their servants to find the young teacher and slay him.

But Issa, warned by the Sudras of his danger, left by night Djagguernat, gained the mountain, and settled in the country of the Gautamides, where the great Buddha Sakya-Muni came to the world, among a people who worshipped the only and sublime Brahma.

When the just Issa had acquired the Pali language, he applied himself to the study of the sacred scrolls of the Sutras.

After six years of study, Issa, whom the Buddha had elected to spread his holy word, could perfectly expound the sacred scrolls.

He then left Nepaul and the Himalaya mountains, descended into the valley of Radjipoutan and directed his steps toward the West, everywhere preaching to the people the supreme perfection attainable by man.

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 Notovich’s ‘Djagguernat’ temple is the same as the Jaggernatha temple in Puri, over whose precincts I heard of the ‘Life of Issa’ in the first place. The Jesus it describes is a deeply erudite scholar who embraces the teachings of both Buddhist and Vedic theologies. He was a creative and independent thinker, branching out into his own personalized dogmas and preaching universal acceptance to all who wished to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Just as the Jewish leaders, the Sanhedrim, had reacted badly to Jesus in Judea, Issa’s radical new message was met with indignance by those who held the religious status quo in India. The main point of offence was Issa’s rejection of the caste system, and his pronouncement that, ‘God has made no difference between his children, who are all alike dear to Him,‘ a notion which neatly reflects the Gospels’, ‘Jesus pronounced many ‘woes’ to the scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites… For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.’ (Matthew 23:13). During my researches in the National Library in Edinburgh, I had discovered that the anti-establishment, God-loves-everybody message as preached in the Life of Issa is also promulgated by a Sanskrit text called the Vajra Sucha, composed 2000 years ago by a certain Ashu Ghosha. Before a copy was placed on my desk at the National Library of Scotland, this obscure Sanskrit treatise had been gathering academic dust for well over a century. The text was first translated into English by BH Hodgson, a polymathic civil servant of the British Empire who enjoyed studying the anthropological natures of Indian religions. His enlightened introduction, written in the early nineteenth century, reads:

A few days since my learned old Bauddha friend brought me a little tract in Sanscrit, with such an evident air of pride and pleasure, that I immediately asked him what it contained. “Oh, my friend!” was his reply, “I have long been trying to procure for you this work, in the assurance that you must highly approve the wit and wisdom contained in it; and, after many applications to the owner, I have at length obtained the loan of it for three or four days. But I cannot let you have it, nor even a copy of it, such being the conditions on which I procured you a sight of it.” These words of my old friend stimulated my curiosity, and with a few fair words I engaged the old gentleman to lend me and my pandit his aid in making a translation of it; a task which we accomplished within the limited period of my possession of the original, although my pandit (a Brahman of Benares) soon declined co-operation with us, full of indignation at the author and his work! Notwithstanding, however, the loss of the pandit’s aid, I think I may venture to say that the translation gives a fair representation of the matter of the original, and is not altogether without some traces of its manner.

It consists of a shrewd and argumentative attack, by a Bauddha, upon the Brahmanical doctrine of caste: and what adds to its pungency is, that throughout, the truth of the Brahmanical writings is assumed, and that the author’s proofs of the erroneousness of the doctrine of caste are all drawn from those writings. He possesses himself of the enemy’s battery, and turns their own guns against them The Bauddha Treatise commences in the sober manner of a title page to a book; but immediately after the author has announced himself with due pomp, he rushes “in medias res,” and to the end of his work maintains the animated style of vivâ voce disputation. Who ASHU GHOSHA, the author, was, when he flourished and where, I cannot ascertain. All that is known of him at Nepal is, that he was a Maha pandit, or great sage, and wrote, besides the little Treatise now translated, two larger Bauddha works of high repute.’

We can here observe how Ashu Ghosa’s, ‘shrewd and argumentative attack… upon the Brahmanical doctrine of caste,’ is a direct match to the anti-brahmanical, ‘discourse to the Sudras,’ as given in the Life of Issa. Ashu Ghosha’s statement that, ‘all men are of one caste,’ offers a direct tally to Issa’s declaration of there being ‘no difference’ between God’s children. The same humanity-loving universality preached by Issa & Ashu may also be seen in the New Testament’s depiction of Jesus, who is seen breaking Jewish taboos by dining with prostitutes and physically touching lepers. As far as our investigation goes, this is the key piece of the puzzle that opens up explosive new prospects in the Jesus Jigsaw, for now we have a name, & his name is Ashu Ghosha.


Next Wednesday, 29/11/17

Chapter 5



chisp cover


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



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

The Chisper Effect 3 : The Ithica Frage

chisper_effectContinuing the weekly serialization of

Damian Beeson Bullen’s


In which a number of the world’s greatest mysteries are finally solved


(Register with Completely Novel to…)




Chapter III

There has just passed a grand cycle of human time that begins & ends with two very different fellows named Homer. The first was an elegant & majestic wordsmith, the world’s most famous poet, the herald-in-chief of Western civilization. The more recent avatar was a beer-swilling, doh-carping, tv-watching cartoon character representing all that went wrong in said Western civilization. Despite such a vast difference in effectivity, more people have giggled through a single episode of The Simpsons than have ever read the Iliad in the entire history of mankind. Yet, it is the first Homer, one hopes, who will be remembered a long, long time after that yellow-skinned cartoon character is cast into the dusty tombs of our television graveyards. Homer the poet was the musical mastermind & maestro composer of two of the finest poems ever to grace humanity; the Iliad & the Odyssey. Reading through these poems, one is presented with two differing shades of Homer’s genius. Where the Iliad is a supreme & serious portrayal of human personality under duress, the Odyssey is primarily a superexotic tale of adventure. The two poems also differ in gender; whereas the Iliad is a militaristic theater full of men, the Odyssey is dominated by women: from the enchanting nymph Calypso, through Odysseus’ strong & faithful wife, Penelope, to the goddess Athene, who directs the action like some majestic conductress before a classical symphony orchestra.

Set in a long gone age of heroes, the two epics in tandem sing of the epoch in which was fought the Trojan War, a ten-year siege which began with the famous kidnapping of Helen of Troy. The story goes like this; after indulging in a little extra-marital bliss with Paris, Prince of Troy, that famously good-looking lady fled to Asia Minor with her new lover. Her husband in Sparta, Menaleus, was outraged;  with family honour at stake he & his brother Agamamenon embarked upon a famous pan-Grecian expedition to Troy. Cue a ten-year siege, the Wooden Horse, the toppling of the towers of Ilium – Troy’s local name – & the creation of the back story behind Homer’s wonderful poetry. Then, after the fall of Troy, the Greek heroes had to make their way back home, the adventures of one of whom, Odysseus, forms the chief matter of the Odyssey.


This brings us to the ‘Ithaca Frage,’ a phrase coined in the 19th century by German scholars battling furiously over the whereabouts of the home island of Odysseus. In these our modern days, Ithica is a member of the Ionian archipelago, off the western coast of the Greek mainland, of which island Martin Young says, ‘virtually all of the archaeology that has taken place on the Ionian Islands up to the Second World War was aimed at solving this ‘Ithaca Question.’ In the 19th century, for example, William Dorpfeld invested a great deal of time, money & effort in a fruitless search for Odyssean remains on the island of Leucas. If he would have read his Homer properly he would have known that Leucas was too far east, for when Homer says Ithica was ‘furthest to sea’ this can only mean one island – Cephalonia.

I am Odysseus, Laertes’ son, world-famed for stratagems: my name has reached the heavens. Bright Ithaca is my home: it has a mountain, Leaf-quivering Neriton, far visible. Around are many islands, close to each other, Doulichion and Same and wooded Zacynthos. Ithaca itself lies low, furthest to sea towards dusk; the rest, apart, face dawn and sun.

The tourist to the lovely, yet ultimately erroneously named island of modern Ithica, may embark on a plethora of tours through all the sights of Odyssean scripture. This ‘Ithaca’ was completely depopulated & unnamed only 500 years ago.  In 1504, the island’s Ottoman rulers began to hand out free land for settlers who, at a later date, possibly recognizing the income their future descendants could make from Donkey rides to the palace of Odysseus, gave their new home the name of Ithica. As late as 1572, the island was known as Val de Compere, as found on a map made by Thomas Porcacchi. Looking at the evidence in the 21st century, one can clearly see that a factochisp had taken place, & I determined upon establishing the truth. Thus, in 2011, I visited Cephalonia with a well-thumb’d copy of the Odyssey in my pack. A blog I worked on recorded my journey to the island;


How lovely look the Ionian Islands this morning, shadowy shapes crowning a deep sea-purple, under an endless canopy of cerulean blue sky! I am writing this amidst the fortress of Glarantza, a ruined city built & then abandoned in the medieval period. It lies a kilometer or so outside the townlet of Killini, from where, in a few hours, a red ferry shall speed me across the pure azurity of the Mediterranean Sea toward the mountain island that is Cephallonia. It is all a far cry from the reading rooms of the National Library of Scotland where I picked up my first hints that Cephalonia was the actual Ithica of the Odyssey. My initial suspicions had been confirmed as I sailed by the island from the north, whose mountain is indeed ‘far visible,‘ as Homer says. Disembarking many miles away at the port of Patras, it can still be made out along the western horizon. To the Cephalonians the mountain is called Ainos, but it is the Italian names, Monte Nero & Montagna Nera, which retain the Homeric Neritum. Cephalonia is definitely not ‘low-lying,’ as Homer describes Ithica, but the Roman geographer Strabo clarifies the situation;

Now although Homer’s phraseology presents incongruities of this kind, yet they are not poorly explained; for, in the first place, writers do not interpret chthamale as meaning “low-lying” here, but “lying near the mainland.”

I am now sat on the forward deck of my ferry to Cephalonia. Drawing closer to the mountain-island, a wonderful romantic vision set against a pinkening sky, I have taken out my copy of the Odyssey. It is the same one I had sent to me five years ago as I wintered on the Sicilian island of Marettimo. It was there that I learnt how Samuel Butler had visited Marettimo a century ago, & became positively obsessed with the island being the Odyssean Ithica. My interest piqued, I sent for the Odyssey from my library in Cumbria & joined in the game. Later that winter I even spent Valentine’s night with my girlfriend picnicking in the so-called Calypso’s Cave on the island of Gozo, by Malta. At this point I had wanted to press on to Ithica, but time & expense prevented it. It would take several more years before the inclination to visit the island had returned like a force 10 wind – only this time I have done my research.

I am feeling as if I was Odysseus in the hold of the Phaecian ship, making his final journey home. By my side on deck, & companion for my trip, is Paul Underwood, a talented musician 12 years my younger from Edinburgh. Skimming through my copy of the Odyssey, by now full of personal underlinings & scholia, I have been regaling him with readings of the passages that parallel our own journey to the island {Book 13}. This involves the landing of Odysseus at Phorcys Bay, a place I am determined & excited to find. My friend is equally as excited by the possibility of discovering the Phaecian treasures Odysseus hid in the cave. The idea of finding long-lost gold & jewels brought to our animated minds thoughts of Indiana Jonesian escapades along the Cephalonian coast. There is a scene in the first film of that series, The Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indiana Jones shows his Egyptian friend an amulet which is the key to the discovery of the Ark of the Covenant. The Nazis are meanwhile searching vainly for it among the ruins of Tanis. ‘They are digging in the wrong place,’ yelps Sallah gleefully, before dancing around like a maniac. Similarily, in 2004, a vast, glossy tome of a book was released to rather too much fanfare, Odysseus Unbound, declaring the Paliki peninsular of Cephalonia was the Ithica of Odysseus. My personal studies in Edinburgh have instead located a different part of the island as the likeliest candidate for the palace.


The credibility of the Paliki peninsular theory has been slowly crumbling into the sea in the seven years between its publication & my visit to Cephalonia. Geologically speaking the long, narrow channel that the book said once made Paliki an island occurs nowhere else on the planet below the glacial line. Even one of the writers of the book, professor John Underhill, admitted on the 2nd October 2008, during an illustrated lecture at the Geological Society, that the channel lacks any non-artificial present-day analogue; but argued that in the Homeric period the channel might have been partly excavated by human action. He later opined that “the tectonic dislocation in this area is far more extreme than originally imaginedconsequently, the long yet extremely narrow channel path may not be relevant.” All this rather sounds like cats on a hot tin roof, & gently tapping my back pocket, where the notes I had made in Edinburgh nestled snugly, I await landfall with earnest. As we sail, there is not a cloud ahead to tarnish those ‘clear skies of Ithica.’



Ah, heady times indeed! Returning to my desk in 2017, let us continue our investigations into the Ithica Frage. In the Iliad, we read of how Odysseus led a contingent of 40 ships to Troy.

Odysseus led on the Cephallenians,
Soldiers from Ithaca; well wooded Neritum, Crocylea,
rugged Aegilips, from Zacynthus, Samos,
both those inhabiting the mainland
and those from cities on the facing shore.
Odysseus, as wise as Zeus, led these troops,
who came with him in twelve black ships.

In this passage we see the entire realm of the Cephallanians. Zacynthos is still the name of the island furthest south of the Ionian archipelago, where archeology has unearthed a strong Mycynean presence – including Minoan finds – near the village of Vasiholes & Keri. Crocylea would be Corfu, whose Greek name Kerkyra seems the perfect philochisp, while ‘rugged Aegilips’ seems a perfect match for the modern-day Ithica, where excavations at Ayios Athanasios have unearthed a Mycynean palace. Ithica, I believe, is the region in the north-east of Cephallania, which included the modern-day island of Ithica. The real truth, one expects, lies in the extreme proximity of modern Ithica & Kephalonia, separted by a relatively narrow passage of water – & from several angles they do in fact seem a single mass of land. Finally, Neritum would be the area about Mount Ainos/Nera in the south of Cephalonia, where in recent years a large Mycenaean megaron building & tholos tomb have been found at Tzannata, near the port of Polos. This leads us to a passage in the Odyssey where a certain Menes describe the landing place of his vessel as being, ‘beside the fields away from the city, in the harbour of Rheithron, below wooded Neïon.’ According to the Homeric Ithica website;

The word ῥεῖθρον[i] rheithron (ῥέεθρον), used to describe the physical setting of the port of Homeric Ithaca, is derived from the verb ῥέω (to flow) and its other derivatives: ῥεῖθρα, ῥεῦμα, ποτάμια ῥεῖθρα (river bed), ῥύαξ, etc. So Homer indicates very clearly that the port of Homeric Ithaka was situated in a river bed.

The website states that a Mycynean harbour was found, ‘ in the bed of the River Vohynas at Poros, where, the ancient port of the Pronnaians was on the banks and in the bed of a river – the seasonal River Vohynas, which flows through the scenic Poros gorge and out into the eastern Ionian Sea – just like Ithaka’s ‘harbour of Rheithron’ as described by Homer.’ It was just further up the coast from Polos that I believe Odysseus made his return landfall at a place Homer called ‘Phorcys Cove,’ which I believe I discovered in 2011. The following account of the discovery is again taken from my blog.



The date is November 18th, 2011. I am currently writing this sat on a small cliff overlooking what I believe to be the Cove of Phorcys, as described in Book 13 of the Odyssey. Last night myself & Mr Paul Underwood landed on Cephalonia at the lovely harbor of Poros, camping a little north of the town by the beach. Ere the dawn I was up making preparations for my attempt at Phorcys Cove, reading & rereading the appropriate sections in my steadily fraying copy of the Odyssey.  Come the more-than-fine morning, after a hearty fire-cooked breakfast of eggs, pre-cooked sausages & genuine Heinz baked beans, we set off eagerly along the coast toward Sami. I have very strong reasons to believe that this is the site of the palace & town of the Odyssean Ithica. Its name, I presume, has thrown many off its scent, for Homer mentions a certain Same as being a separate island altogether. But names of such antiquity were prone to move about all over the place like electrons performing their spontaneous quantum leaps.

It was a brilliant morning, the warm sun a far cry from the chilly Scottish Autumn, & we thoroughly enjoyed our walk along the rocky rudiments of a coastal road, passing flocks of bell-ringing goats, bringing to mind Eumaeus who said, in the Odyssey; ‘here in Ithica eleven herds of goats graze up & down the coast’ Were these goats, eyeballing me with intense curiosity, the ancestors of those eleven herds, dwelling as they did on ancient Cephalonia like the twelve tribes did Israel? Continuing our stroll, we were accompanied by gorgeous mountains rising to our left, while luscious waters glimmered to our right. The sky was endless, & out of the sea rose the scattered isles of the Ionian archipelago; the nearest being modern Ithica, whose colours & features grew sharper as we headed north. A couple of hours hiking later we came to an open expanse of sloping ground, at the bottom of which was a gently curving bay. I had identified it by using Google Earth back in Edinburgh, & getting out my Homer, I quickly found the relevant passage;

As soon as that most brilliant star arose, which is sole herald of the light of dawn, then the seafaring ship approached the island. On Ithaca there is a bay of Phorcys, The old man of the sea: in it, two headlands, Projecting, sheared off, crouching from the harbor, Shield it from waves whipped up by blustering winds… They rowed inside: they knew the bay of old. The ship ran up the beach for half its length at speed: such strength was in the rowers’ arms.

As Odysseus approaches the Cove for the first time, we are given three topographical clues;

(i) The bay is named after the sea-god Phorcys
(ii) It is contained by two low, headlands which
jut out into the sea
(iii) There is a beach with enough sand-width to take half a ship


Looking at these clues, I was alerted to a curious pink-white rock formation-headland on the southern side of the bay.  It was an interesting moment, the sea breeze rustling through my notes as I stood at the sea’s edge, for to my wonder the mythology of Phorcys had turned into stone before me, as if petrified by the Medusa herself. I could see some kind of wingless stone dragon, & it was monsters such as these that Phorcys & his wife, Keto, were said to have presided over. As ancient mosaics depict Phorcys as a grey-haired, fish-tailed god, with spiky crab-like skin and crab-claw forelegs, so the rock formation before me possessed the same spiky crab-like skin. Phorcys & Keto had several horrific-looking children, including the monstrous Skylla (the crab) who devoured passing sailors, encountered by Odysseus in Book XII of the Odyssey. Of the others, two in particular seemed to converge on this rock image. The first was Ekhidna, a dragon, & the second were the gorgons, including the famous Medusa. They were said to have created the dangerous rocks & reefs all along the Greek coasts, & perhaps it was their petrifying gaze that turned Ekhidna to stone beside this very sea-bay.

To the north of the cove sat the remnants of what may have been another monstrous rock formation which today is just a line of eroded rocks peeping over the water’s surface. In between lay a small, sandy beach, large enough for half a boat, which would have been even larger with the lower water levels of three millennia ago, as attested by the fish farms of Ponza. Other features include the overhanging rocks mentioned by Homer, which line the cove, dramatic blocks of red earth that have been slowly sea-ravaged through time.

Here is the harbor of Phorcys, the Old Man of the Sea; & there at the head of the haven is the long-leaved olive-tree with the cave near by, the pleasant shady spot that is sacred to the Nymphs whom men call Naiads. Over there you can see its vaulted roof – it will put you in mind of many a solemn sacrifice you have made there to the Nymphs – while the forest-clad slopes behind are those of Mount Neriton.

To my astonishment, this small, beautiful portion of Cephalonian coast ticked every Homeric box; all three of the clues contained in the above passage can be applied to this lovely bay, over which I shall be making camp tonight.

(i) There is an olive tree at the head of the bay
(ii) There is an overarching cave sacred to the nymphs
(iii) Above it are the wooded slopes of Mount Neritum (Ainos)

Today, the whole area is full of olive trees, some of which are so gnarled & twisted they reek of great antiquity. The trees have literally swarmed up the hillsides all around, & it is easy to imagine that they are a great herboreal tribe descended from the single olive tree which once commanded the head of the cove. On venturing down to explore, I came across the very cavern Homer sang about. It truly was an astonishing moment: my research in Edinburgh had led me to this very stretch of Cephalonian coastline, & here was the cave before me!  After three thousand years of erosion, it has have lost some of its frontage, but there is still enough room to imagine religious ceremonies taking place – there is even standing room at the sea-ward side of the cave. The entrance to the sea is open, & affords a wonderful view, but there are also two other entrances: one north & one south, just as Homer says. The stone basins & jars are long gone, but there is a great supporting column of rock that perfectly fits Homer’s description of the Naiads spinning their cloth.

So saying, the goddess entered the shadowy cave and searched out its hiding-places. And Odysseus brought all the treasure thither, the gold and the stubborn bronze and the finely-wrought raiment, which the Phaeacians gave him. These things he carefully laid away

PB180016-1024x768 The cave I am currently exploring contains several places where one could hide treasure – but 3,500 years had removed both the treasure & the stone that guarded them. My friend was disappointed to find this, but it wasn’t surprising really, & our spirits remained undiminished. Tomorrow we hit the road once more, but heading back to Poros rather than in the footsteps of Odysseus, who left this bay in a more rugged fashion. The poem tells us;

Meanwhile Odysseus turned his back on the harbor & followed a rough track leading up into the woods & through the hills

The path taken by Odysseus would have been an ancient trackway which penetrates the rising valley behind me, separated by the two heights pretty much beginning at the cove.  Odysseus took to the long hill paths & set off out for his home city, calling on at Eumaeus’ hut for a wee while, near a certain ‘Raven’s Crag.’ I would love to have searched for the crag on this trip, but will have to return one day in the future to do it instead. What I can do this time is try & find the location of Odysseus’ palace, whose harbor-side location has baffled scholars for millennia. There is a clue in the text that tells us this was at least on the eastern side of the island, for in Book 2, Telemachus leaves Ithica on a breeze blowing from the west, which would have been impossible on the western side of the island.

And now, out of the West, Athene of the flashing eyes called up for them a steady following wind & sent it singing over the wine-dark sea.

 Another ‘eastern’ clue can be found in the following passage;

There is a rocky isle in the midst of the sea, midway between Ithaca and rugged Samos, Asteris, of no great size, but therein is a harbor where ships may lie, with an entrance on either side. There it was that the Achaeans tarried, lying in wait for Telemachus… Day by day watchmen sat upon the windy heights, watch ever following watch, and at set of sun we never spent a night upon the shore, but sailing over the deep in our swift ship we waited for the bright Dawn, lying in wait for Telemachus

 The island of Asteris would be today’s Atokos, an unspoiled paradise surrounded by tranquil turquoise waters. Near Atokos is another island, Arkoudi, which would be the ‘Prote’ of Pliny’s; ‘before Ithaca, lying out in the main sea, are Asteris and Prote.’ A huge mountainous rock, as Asteris/Atokos rises over 300m from sea level, its high craggy cliffs are a perfect fit for the ‘windy heights’ on which the Acheans set a look-out for the return of Telemachus. On the south side of the island there is also a natural harbour called Cliff Bay, ‘with an entrance on either side.’ Somewhere on the island we may one day find the remains of  a town called by Alalcomenae by Apollodorus. Adding together all the evidences, I have suspicions that the harbor of Ithica is actually the modern day village of Sami – but this investigation I shall leave unto the morrow. Until then I shall remain at the Cove, & ruminate upon the time Homer saw it for himself, three thousand years ago.



Back in 2017, narrowing our search to the eastern parts of Cephalonia, let us focus on the two ports which serve sea-farers in our modern times. Poros, to the south, serves Zacynthus in the summer & Killini all year round. The other is Sami, Ithica’s deepest & best harbor, serving Patras on the mainland. Above the Sami harbor still stand the ruins of a classical settlement, one of the four city states of the Cephalonian Tetrapolis which flourished between the fifth & second centuries BC. Its two citadels cap the verdant hills of Palaiokastro & Agioi Fanentes, while the rest of the ruined city sprawls down into the foothills. Classical Sami was conquered by the Romans in 188 BC, & would maintain its prosperity until the 3rd century AD. Following a short period of decline, a monastery grew up at the site in the Byzantine period, the building of which utilized stones from the Hellenic city. This pattern of cannibalizing masonry suggests that the remnants of the palace of Odysseus may lie somewhere underneath Classical Sami.

An Odyssean palace at Sami fits into the general Mycenaean scheme of elevated & defensible positions, but as at the Akropolis in Athens, all traces of the settlement would have been destroyed by later building. It may not have been so durable in the first place: we are told in the Odyssey that Telemachus was astonished to see how grandly situated was the palace of Menaleus in Sparta. Back at Ithica, Telemachus describes a level ground on which Penelope’s suitors spent the daytime in playing sports; an arena mirrored by the wide, flat space one comes to when following the road down from the lofty citadel at Sami. Continuing the descent, about a kilometer further to the south, the charming modern-day village has a sea-front location which is a perfect fit for the harbor-town in the Odyssey. Behind its shoreline, the houses fan out into a large, triangular plain, the cultivable area called the agron Odysseus would have ploughed his fields as the war party of Agamemnon arrives to summon him to Troy.


Apart from the main road from the citadel, which winds down from the hills past the wonderful monastery & its wildening olives, there is also an ancient trackway which spills out of the hill about a kilometer to the west of the harbor. It is there, at a junction of highways, that we come to the site of a watering place as described in the Odyssey;

But when, as they went along the rugged path, they were near the city, and had come to a well-wrought, fair-flowing fountain, wherefrom the townsfolk drew water–this Ithacus had made, and Neritus, and Polyctor, and around was a grove of poplars, that grow by the waters, circling it on all sides, and down the cold water flowed from the rock above, and on the top was built an altar to the nymphs where all passers-by made offerings 

Christina Souyoudzoglou-Haywood seems to describe the same watering place, here called Roupaki Spring: ‘approximately 1 kilometre south of Sami town, on the eastern side of the road & at a short distance from the junction between the Sami-Argostoli & Sami-Poros roads, is a spring called Roupaki. East of the spring Kavvadias excavated some foundations which he thought could have been prehistoric, on account of some large pithos sherds close by. More recently, about 300m west of the spring, on the other side of the road, Marinatos excavated a curved wall which cut across the torrent bed & which he thought may have been a tumulus.’

Significantly, the Homeric fountain is said to have been created by the three legendary founders of Cephalonia: Ithacus, Neritus & Polyctor. To this day, three main highways intersect at the point; one leading to the Mycenaean ruins near Polos; the other into Sami; the last over to the Paliki peninsular, where a Mycenaean settlement once stood. From this we may conclude that there were three main principalities on the island of Cephalonia; the Neritum of Neritus, the Ithica of Odysseus & the Paliki of Polyctor. The latter’s Mycenaean settlement would be the never-been-found ‘Plyktorion’ given in the Homeric Scholia as being situated on Ithica, which further supports a Cephalonian origin of the home island of Odysseus.

With a little more archeology we may finally put the Ithica Frage to bed. Christina Souyoudzoglou-Haywood (I love that name) points out a Mycenaean house not far from the Rousaki Spring, situated on a small hill.

Vounias is a low spreading hill on the western side of the bay of Sami about 1k south of the village of Nea Vlachata (Karavomylos). The eastern side of the hill is a classic example of Karstic topography, as it is riddled with caves & treacherous chasms. But its summit & in particular its southern & western slopes bear rich soil & are planted with age old olive trees. On the summit of the hill, near its southern edge, Marinatos excavated the remains of a Mycenaean house which came to light during the construction of a lime kiln.

This seems an apt description of the farm of Odysseus’ father, Laertes, as given by Homer;

Meanwhile Ulysses and the others passed out of the town and soon reached the fair and well-tilled farm of Laertes, which he had reclaimed with infinite labour. Here was his house, with a lean-to running all round it, where the slaves who worked for him slept and sat and ate

The Odyssey gives us several clues as to the location & make-up of the farm of Laertes;

(i) After his reunion night with Penelope, Odysseus rises at dawn and goes to Laertes’ farm in the wooded part of Ithica.  To this day, the area around Vounias Hill remains wooded.

(ii) To get to Laertes’ farm, Odysseus has to cross the city from the palace. Looking at the plain from the citadel shows that the town of Sami lies slap-bang in the line of sight between the citadel & Vounias hill.

(iii) The rows of vines that grow to this day on Vounias hill are a perfect topographical match for the description in the Odyssey of its sloping vineyards, such as when we read, ‘he found his father alone on the vineyard terrace.’

When looking at the evidence, a Sami location for the Odyssean homeland makes sound sense. In the Odyssey, there is a scene which places Odysseus on a hill overlooking the harbour town; ‘I was now above the city, as I went on my way, where the hill of Hermes is, when I saw a swift ship putting into our harbor.’ The ‘Hill of Hermes’ should then be the soaring slopes to the west of the Citadel. Where Laertes farm has been found, the situation of the classical citadel perfectly opens up the bedroom vista of Telemachus, described as ‘a lofty chamber in the fine courtyard with a clear view every side.’ The name Ithica, I believe, was given to the main power centre of the Cephallonian realm, which spanned modern NE Cephallaonia & Ithica island, & was retrospectively reduced upon the modern island only in the 16th century. There is also one piece of evidence yet to find, which I hope to discover one day, the location of Raven’s Crag and at the Spring of Arethusa, which I believe may be found in the hills somewhere between Phorcys Cove & Sami.

And now for your part – the first man you must approach is the swineherd in charge of your pigs. His loyal heart is on your side as firmly as ever, and he loves your son and your wise queen Penelope. You will find him watching over his swines out at their pastures by the Raven’s Crag and at the Spring of Arethusa, where they find the right fodder to make them fat and healthy pigs, feeding on the acorns they love and drinking water from deep pools.


Next Wednesday, 22/11/17

Chapter 4



chisp cover


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



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