Sauniere Society
Newsletter - Extra No.4
1st July 2020

"After one look at this planet any visitor from outer space would say "I want to see the manager"
William Burroughs

Here we go! Here we go! Here we go! - Liberation day in England OR IS IT? With science and economics desperately trying to find a compromise - the World Health Organisation telling us the virus is increasing worldwide and dire warnings from the British Medical Association and other scientific authorities of a second spike with probably the same total inadequate preparation and provision of resources - again Happy Days! Still I must remain optimistic that our two autumn meetings will go ahead - Saturday 6th October - Newington Village Hall and Saturday 7th November - Masonic Lodge, Roslin, Scotland - put them in your diary. I am also considering a socially distanced party in my garden for my birthday in August - Watch this space.

I think everyone who has worked on and contributed to this newsletter particularly the writers who have given me a desperate craving for the Languedoc - it’s beauty and history and of course it’s food and wine.

 Rennes-le-Chateau gossip
From our own correspondent 'Asmodeus'.

It's June and all the shops, the museum, the church and the restaurants are open in Rennes-le-Chateau. David Bailey is performing  his concert and meditations again in the Sal Wisothique in the Chateau.  Open as well is Luke Owen's art gallery, just across from the water tower.. The Le Jardin has its new covered area, looking very nice and indeed, although some long-time visitors may prefer its previous rustic ambience. Never mind, as long as the cuisine is up to its usual high standard. Down the hill the Chateau des Ducs de Joyeuse reopened on June 20th. What with the pandemic and the flood damage Le Chateau suffered last Autumn and January, Asmodeus wishes the staff Meilleurs vœux!

Symposiums dedicated to the mysteries are re-starting again, such as  'The secret of the Aude triangle Code' according to authors such as Leblanc, Verne, Leroux, Balzac, Chateaubriand... the writers and researchers to speak at the symposium are  Patrick Berlier, Jean-Pierre Monteils, Franck Marie, Jean-Pierre Garcia, Michel Lamy. It will be held in Rennes-les-Bains on the 24th and 25th of July.

A long-standing Rennes-le-Chateau tradition which, admittedly, causes occasional embarrassment is that of the hoax. DVDs of a certain documentary film have been known to have been bought purely for disposing of, in order to prevent a number of academic and clerical red faces.  Ever since people started to wonder where the Abbe Sauniere acquired his wealth there have been innumerable theories. With such an abundance of speculation, there were those who have sought to deceive the ordinary seeker after the Rennes-le-Chateau truth. The deception wasn't always done with a financial motive : the parchments 'discovered' by the Abbe Sauniere, were created as a surrealist joke. To be sure, Asmodeus has never seen the alleged parchments, although he's suffered the indignity of being prodded and poked, measured up and down over the years by the more determined treasure seekers.

During the past couple of decades a veritable cottage industry in parchments and scrolls - usually written in dubious Latin or French - has sprung up in the Aude Vallee. Occasionally, when the scribes working on the scrolls run out of ink for their feathered quills, they resort to the humble felt-tipped pen.

Another dubious creation attributed to Sauniere was a model of a landscape which allegedly resembled the hill of Golgotha. When a reverse copy was made of the model it was supposed to resemble a landscape near the village of Perillos with (another) supposed tomb of Jesus. An esteemed English lady student of the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau opined that the model reminded her of nothing more than a cow pat. The model was last heard of being put up for sale on E-Bay.

Also emanating from that part of the Languedoc were rather suspicious 17th century registers which featured mentions of Mount of Olives and Royal Tombs. Asmodeus Is of the opinion that such activities are peculiar to the territory, which, by the way, is also an alleged UFO hotspot.

The Razes has long been regarded with a sense of reverence. Asmodeus believes that this piety is partly due to there being at least two tombs of Jesus in these parts. Also, a tomb of Mary Magdalene was alleged to exist in an undisclosed cavern near Rennes les Baines. It was revealed years later that the tomb was actually located in an English garden.  Some years earlier, the discoverer of this tomb had the incredible good luck to photograph the elusive amphibian creature known as the Loch Ness monster. At least we don't have creatures like that troubling our native trout in the waters of the Aude !

The River of Life...
by Starhawk
On March 8, International Women's Day, 2003, thousands of women marched on the White House in Washington DC, demanding peace and standing up for the values of caring and compassion. The march included a pageant of giant puppets and an attempt to encircle the White House with giant pink ribbon. Below is Starhawk's fable to inspire the pageant.
The River of Life... By Starhawk

Once a people lived along the banks of the river of life...

The river of life is a river of sweet water, that awakens the seeds of spring and nourishes all growing things. The river of life is a storm wind, blowing fresh across the earth. The river of life is the deep molten fire that shakes the continents.

And the people should have had all they needed for happiness and joy, But they were plagued by a terrible monster, the triple-headed monster of Greed, Hate, and War.

Greed sucked up all the colors of life and locked them inside his fortress. Hate severed the threads of love and taught the people to fear each other. War threatened destruction to anyone who opposed the monster's rule.

And the people were separate, and afraid, and poor. The threads of connection were frayed. The fabric of care unraveled. And War took the young and marched them off to slaughter and die in places far away. Greed stole their future...

The river of life ran dry.

The women saw the springs go barren, the new sprouts fail, the trees die, and the hills turn brown...

And they wept and mourned, and didn’t know what to do.

The women, too, were divided, for some had more and some had less.

Old wounds and present injustices kept them apart.

But as War shook his fist, and threatened to unleash weapons to destroy the earth...

The women turned to each other; they said: "We are scraps of a torn fabric, but if we tie them together, we can bind wounds, dry tears, weave a net to carry heavy loads.

"We must amplify love, and throw off dread, Take back our power and spin a thread, A life-line, held in our strong hands, A living web of shining strands.

"And our hands remember how to spin. We spin freedom on the rising wind, We spin threads of life, the cords of fate, We spin love into a river that can overrun hate.

"We spin justice burning like a flaming star; We spin peace into a river that can overcome war. And if you want to know where true power lies, Turn and look into your sisters' eyes”.

"So come mothers and grandmothers, Lovers and daughters. Come spinners and weavers, Tool makers, potters, Dancers and dreamers, Fixers and changers, Singers and screamers. Forget all the dangers. Come ancestors, guardians, Goddesses too, You who teach us, you who speak true, You who plant, and you who reap, You who soar and you who creep, You who cook, and you who drum, You who have been, and you yet to come, You who fight with the sword, You who fight with the pen. Unreasonable women, Unmanageable men. Come harpies and banshees and gorgons and Witches; Come sweet loving hearts and furious bitches!"

"Break the chains that have kept us bound. Weave a web to pull the monster down. In the face of truth, no lie can stand.

Weave the vision, strand by strand.

"We are sweet water, we are the seed, We are the storm wind to blow away greed. We are the new world we bring to birth; The river rising to reclaim the earth."

-- Starhawk Copyright (c) 2003 by Starhawk. All rights reserved. This copyright protects Starhawk's right to publication of her work. Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate this essay (forward it, reprint it, translate it, post it, or reproduce it) for nonprofit uses. Please do not change any part of it without permission. Readers are invited to visit the web site:
Some interesting comments on current events
From Jackie Beecham

During the course of the repercussions from the murder of that poor man in America there was an interview on TV by our own, our very own Sir Geoff Palmer. He was wise, impeccably informed and quite frankly made mincemeat of the interviewer who was out to be provocative. He has received much acclaim for it.

Thought the following quotes that I managed to harvest are worth putting in the news letter.

"All slaveries are evil and should not be compared they should be addressed separately. Comparison-balance is a sad way of avoiding responsibility. "

"My dear Mother used to say some heads are harder than normal"

"Don't take down statues take down racism."

From Wynton Marsalis - World renowned black American jazz and classical trumpeter.
"During my childhood raw racism and pure ignorance were just facts"

From Patrick Cockburn - Journalist
"Seeing Boris Johnson seeking to cope with the pandemic has become more and more like watching Peter Sellers play Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther film". Boris Johnson - like Macbeth when the going gets tough feels "his title/hang loose about his like a giants robe/upon a dwarfish thief"

From Private Eye
The Prime Minister's historic announcement at a press conference live from number 10 but not the rose garden because only the Head of State Dominic Cummings is allowed to use that!

The Red Ones
By Joy Millar

I know many of our members very much enjoy BBC radio 4 for a wide variety of reasons.

I always intend to listen to it but get waylaid by music - at the moment Russian composers Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich and my Prokofiev. However I very much enjoyed Ingenious - five programmes on the gene.  Dr Kat Arney science writer and broadcaster considered the milk shake gene (the gene that makes people dairy intolerant), the gene behind Alzheimer's, the breast cancer gene, the Cyclops gene (relates to eye development) but the one which I was most interested in - the redhead gene.

Her excuse for beginning with this was that she herself was a 'bottle' redhead and so had a special interest in it.  I too am a 'bottle' redhead so was particularly interested in her findings.  Also, I must explain that I have always been surrounded by a sea of redheads. My mother had wonderful technicolour curly red hair (as did our next door neighbour) while I was a plain withdrawn child with painfully straight mousy hair. The first thing I did on leaving school was to get my hair dyed - it has been red ever since until lockdown when I took on a 'badger look' until on 10th July (the Gods willing) I will visit the hairdressers and become a redhead again.  As an adult I have always been surrounded by redheads (or Gingers as my younger son calls them, the name my father always called his adored wife).

Both my sons have red hair as did my father-in-law.  Three grandchildren are redheads and a great grandchild - There is no escape!  That's why I am so interested in the redhead gene. 

So, following the science as our 'great' leaders say I discovered some interesting facts.  It is difficult to obtain accurate data  of the number of people around the world with red hair but most estimates put the figure at about 1 or 2 percent of the global population that is between 70 to 140 million people. 

There is also significant geographical variation with people living in northern Europe far more likely to have red hair than those in Africa or Asia.  The explanation for this is generally thought to involve vitamin D production which is made by humans from sunlight on the skin.  Red heads are usually pale and very efficient at producing vitamin D - an ability that is useful in countries which do not get much sun and less so in tropical climes.  Across England as a whole around 20 per cent of the population are thought to be redheads with the prevalence in Scotland believed to be generally higher - 13 percent - about 650,000 people.  Indeed in North-Eastern Russia 10 percent are redheads all thought to be genetically linked to their redheaded Celtic brethren.  Throughout history redheads have been to the fore.  Many Vikings were pictured with red hair as is Kristopher Hivju who played Tormund Giantsbane in Game of Thrones. 

Numerous members of the Tudor dynasty had red gold hair notably Queen Elizabeth I, her cousin Mary Queen of Scots and her father King Henry VIII.  In the Middle Ages redheads had a reputation as evil and many portraits of Mary Magdalene show her as a redhead (actually they were often the mistresses of the 'celibate' cardinals and hierarchy of the Roman church).  Redheads are reputed to be feisty and sexy and that was certainly true in my mother's case - my boyfriends all seemed to fall in love with her!  We are told that with global warming they will gradually die out. 

I certainly hope not, the world would be a much duller place without them.

Coronaverse II
by John Pepper
       When all else seems to fail, turn off the Box,
       And then to simple verse resort instead.
       Time is not time, which spares our greying locks,
       But only to reward us when we're dead.

       There is no time but present time to live,
       The cure may well be worse than the disease,
       But future time is not ours to give,
       The past is past, and never can unfreeze.

       So what's to do in this corona-time?
       It's far too big to simply go away,
       And leave no trace behind, except this rhyme,
       Whatever else the optimists may say.

          Thus do we live in this uncertain way,
          Merely to survive from day to day.

                                 JVP.  21.04.20
More from Jackie Beecham

As removal of statues is in the news at the moment I thought people might enjoy this. It is from a series of accounts in letter form about the Brussels Expo 58 Exhibition in and was part of a radio programme broadcast each day for the duration of the Exhibition.

"Anarcharsis ", a citizen of the fictional country of Barliponesia is none other than Philippe de Cherisey!  In his role as a radio actor and writer.   Vi loved the letters, purchased a copy of "Anarcharsis a l'Exposition and this is my translation.   3rd June 1958

My dear Mother,

I have the pleasure of announcing that I was married yesterday to Cymodocée, the daughter of the Barliponesian Commissar, whom I have often told you about.   The marriage was celebrated in the pavilion of the Holy See in the strictest intimacy, in front of two thousand tourists who came to shake hands with us, thinking it was a publicity ceremony in favour of catholic marriage.  An understandable misunderstanding explained by the fact that the bride's dress was lent to us by the Belgian textile and haute couture syndicate on condition that my wife made a tour of the Exhibition with a placard on her back giving the name, address and telephone number of the manufacturer. The doorman who preceded us was an authentic Swiss, who came from the Swiss pavilion.  The wine for the toast was given to us by the French wine pavilion and we were given an electric iron by the Commissar General of Electrical Energy, in whose pavilion we are staying. 

Today we are on leave for the honeymoon in Brussels itself.  The hotels are fully booked but we have succeeded in renting a pied-à-terre in La Bourse square, in a newspaper kiosk whose owner has transferred to the Exhibition behind the pavilion of metallurgical industries. 

I think that we will always remember our honeymoon in Brussels, today 3rd June 1958.  It had something of the fairy tale about it.  Imagine that the town was completely deserted.  The Belgians were shut up in the Exhibition where they were better off with absolutely everything. And we wandered about in an abandoned town such as is to be found in fantasy novels.

The museum in the big square is empty; you go about in silence, the sound of your steps having been transferred to the pavilion of acoustics.  On the walls there are big white rectangles outlined on the wall hangings which show the visitor where the pictures used to be, that are now in the retrospective Albertine exhibition and the Palais de Beaux Arts.  However on making a detour down a corridor we came across a very fine portrait in the style of Van de Weyden, It represented a young married couple.  The groom was a tall guy, a bit degenerate but with a very intelligent look in his eye.  The bride was a little languid, her slightly wilting orange blossom was dangling over her pure forehead and behind them was a view of a completely deserted corridor.  We stayed fascinated for a good while without daring to move, in front of this masterpiece of Flemish realism, and we wondered what aberration had caused it to be forgotten there. You can guess the rest and when we started to leave the picture also receded into the depths of a mirror.

When we came out again into the big square, we nearly fell into a deep hole, at the bottom of which there was a policeman. .  We asked the policeman what had happened to the big square that we had crossed an hour before.  He replied that it had been taken to the folklore centre of Belgique Joyeuse at the exhibition.

As Cymodocée was anxious to visit the Mannekin Pis, we asked if he was still on display.  He replied with this cryptic phrase. "Don't worry; they have left the important bit behind." But a squad of gendarmes came to join him to organise the police on duty for the occasion of  European Community Defence day.

Effectively they had left the important bit.  The Mannekin had been transferred to the pavilion of Agriculture-Horticulture-Animal Husbandry, but they were not able to take the Pis which continued to function on its own.  It is a delicious spectacle to see a cascade issuing spontaneously from the middle of the sky like rain without a cloud.

There was no question of visiting Saint Gudule since, you understand, until October it functions as a side chapel for the pavilion of the Holy See.  But we glanced round the Social Providence building that had been left in situ because of its old fashioned architecture which would have clashed with the modernism of other pavilions.  Remember that it is already two years old. "Let this be a lesson to us," said Cymodocée.  "There comes a moment in life when you are too old to be young and too young to be old."

We ended our visit to Brussels there.  Not that we were tired, but the trams are organised in such a way that you are obliged to go to the Exhibition.  If you want to go somewhere other than the Exhibition, there are no means of transport.  Even on foot, you have to swim against the tide of convoys that are going to decant their passengers there, sucked in like a maelstrom. We retired to our newspaper kiosk, the city is ours, and we are very happy.

Love and kisses.  Your son Anarcharis

The Search for Alaise Part 2
Part 1 of this story appeared in the Saunière Society Newsletter in June 2020
Introduction - repeated here from Part 1 to provide continuity for readers:

Between 1994 and 2012, I had managed to find twelve locations, which can be thought of as 'energy pumping stations', i.e. locations where the energy of the Earth flows vertically through different levels, as in a lift shaft. From the arteries deep underground, to the veins on the surface and up into the weather systems of the ethers above. The starting point for each journey was a simple geographic clue. The current plan is for the stories of these journeys to be published in a book entitled 'Dances with Dragons' and the content to be available on a website. Meanwhile, the first book 'Dances with Dragons in Mongolia', was published in 2018 and is available from the author (email, from Amazon in paperback and eBook format (check out and the Saunière Society had 3 copies. What follows is an extract from the story of one journey, which I thought Saunière Society members might find of interest.

I returned to Nans-sous-Sainte-Anne in June 2013, following the same route south from Besançon through the villages of Myon, Alaise and Saraz. The energy lines we'd crisscrossed and experienced during our first visit were still there, but more muted. The road through the village was in the process of being dug up, to install new sewerage and drainage pipes, as mandated by the EU. The peaceful village of 1995 was punctuated with the crashing noise of heavy diggers, the crunching of metal rollers on uneven surfaces and hanging clouds of dust, which clung to everything. But even these disturbances quickly faded as all works inevitably ground to a halt for a long French weekend. This time I spent five peaceful nights in the wonderful Residence de Vaux, which I would recommend to any visitor to the area; and five long, pleasurable days revisiting places from our previous visit and exploring several new sites we'd not had the time to connect with earlier.

As I arrived in the village, my first view of the limestone cliffs around 'La Source du Lison' was enhanced by the presence of a stunning rainbow. From a distance it seemed to flow directly into the sheltered valley where the river exited from its underground hiding place. I was informed by several people that I had brought the sun with me; the weather during previous weeks having been cold and very wet. That first afternoon there was no rush or need to urgently visit either the river source, or other sites nearby. I could take my time and enjoy. A relaxing meal and glass of wine at the local village restaurant was exactly what was needed.

The following morning dawned clear, with bright sunshine and a slight breeze. As I headed towards 'La Source du Lison' I noticed a number of things had changed. The car park was much bigger than I remembered and now there was a permanent building by the start of the footpath, selling the kind of inevitable tourist memorabilia, you can find almost anywhere in the world. The pictures on the postcards were of course local to the Doubs area, as were those featured on the plastic placemats; but the key rings, pencils, pens, cheap jewelry and stuffed animals are available anywhere. The shop owner smiled as I said 'bonjour' and paid my respects to the dog that had come to check me out. Clearly, I passed whatever test had been set, because he was friendly and allowed me to carry on. I could hear the water cascading over the rocks at the river source on my right; and see it through the newly greened trees. But I ignored it for now and headed off towards 'Gros Chêne.' The old oak tree did not dominate the skyline as it had done previously. Many of the surrounding trees had grown considerably in height and it was no longer a vantage point to view the relative positioning of the river source, 'Grotte Sarazine' and 'Creux Billard'.

Rather it was more apparent the old oak stood at a crossing of ancient pathways, with several mountain ash trees standing guard. 1

After leaving the old oak, I made my way back down the footpath and headed towards 'Creux Billard'; one of the places we hadn't had time to visit in 1995. On this occasion it was really calling to me. Up a zigzag, man-made path between two limestone bluffs, over a small ridge and down to a viewing platform. I knew the moment I'd crested the small ridge this place was special. As soon as I saw it, I understood why we hadn't visited 'Creux

1 In ancient times the mountain ash or rowan tree was connected with witchcraft and the name is believed to be derived from the Norse word runa, meaning a charm. In Europe the rowan was often planted outside houses and in churchyards to ward off witches. In this instance the rowan trees were positioned as if to protect the crossroads itself.

On our previous trip. The instantaneous surge of energy through my body confirmed this was the 'energy pumping station' I was searching for.

The name 'Creux Billard' literally means billiard pocket in French and it is just that. A circle of towering limestone cliffs, with a slightly lower ridge in the rocks forming the entrance way. In the middle of the cliff face to the right was a large cave. From the remains found inside, archaeologists believe Neolithic man lived in the caves more than 6,000 years ago; using rope and wooden ladders to climb up and down from the cave entrance, which could easily be protected. To the left was a giant crack running from the tree covered surface at the top, down to the water filled pool at the bottom. Both the cliffs beneath the cave and the giant crack showed signs of water flows, although on this day they were dry; and all around a myriad of rock beings and guardians looked on. For example, towards the top of the giant crack there were two 'serpent heads' in the rock, worn down to these shapes by millennia of water flowing over them. To the right of the cave was another rock being that immediately caught my eye. It seemed to be guarding the cave entrance.

As I have already mentioned, on this first day there was no water running down the rock faces. However, right at the last moment, on the morning I was due to leave for home, I was prompted to return to 'Creux Billard' one more time. It had been raining heavily for 48 hours and the whole area had been transformed. The water thundered out of 'La Source du Lison' creating a heavy, spiraling mist, which enveloped the head of the river. At 'Creux Billard', water cascaded down through the giant crack in the cliffs to the left and out of the cave mouth to the right, turning the previously clear green pool below into a muddy, froth that rose quickly up the sides of the cliffs.

Local geology:

The limestone cliffs around Nans-sous-Sainte-Anne are part of a larger limestone karst 2 system that covers much of south-east France. The water that surges from the cave mouth, is an underground river fed by a huge network of sink holes, submerged chambers and galleries that collect surface water seeping down through fissures from the plateau above.

During periods of normal flow, the main water route is through levels of galleries and chambers leading directly out to the 'Source du Lison' itself. After periods of heavy rain, which can occur many kilometers away, water levels rise rapidly within the underground labyrinth system. Pressure builds and higher levels of galleries and chambers become filled with fast flowing water. These higher-level galleries redirect the overflow into tunnels leading to 'Grotte Sarazine' and 'Creux Billard'. During one episode of torrential downpour in February 1978, water was thundering out of Grotte Sarazine at the rate of 16m³/second and from Source du Lison at 30m³/second.

Regional Geology: 3

215 Ma ago, during the geological period known as the Upper Triassic, most of Europe was covered in warm shallow seas on the northern edge of what scientists have named the Tethys Ocean. In the south eastern area of what is now France, processes in these shallow seas resulted in the deposition of almost four kilometres of sedimentary rocks; mostly limestone (calcium carbonate), sandstone (quartz) and marl. 4 The sandstone deposits were the result of major inputs of fragmental material eroded from newly worn-down mountain belts e.g. the Massif Central. The limestones were the result of two processes. Firstly, the evaporation of waters rich in calcium carbonate deposited as marine limestones on the sea floor. Secondly, the secretion and burial of calcium carbonate shells and skeletons from a variety of fauna and flora living in the clear, warm, shallow seas. Both processes occurred over many millions of years.

During the same geological period, many underground deposits of 'rock salt', such as those found at Salins-les- Bains (an old spa town) and elsewhere in The Jura, were laid down. As water levels in the shallow seas fell, isolated, warm water lagoons formed. The actions of sun and wind caused the water to evaporate further and the lagoons to quickly become saturated in mineral salts, which precipitated and settled on the lagoon floor.

2 A limestone karst landscape has distinctive landforms, often with underground drainage caused by the erosion of carbonate rocks by acidic rainwater. Huge underground networks of sinkholes, galleries and chambers can be formed.

3 This content combines information from several sources, including: Information translated from a notice board at Mont Poupet, on 5 th June 2013; Geology of France website: accessed April 2013; Geology of Salins-les-Bains: http://sentier-des accessed June 2013.

4 Marl is a mudstone that contains high levels of calcium carbonate and often occurs in areas of limestone deposition.

Limestone was deposited first, followed by gypsum and finally, when 90-95% of the water had evaporated, salt.

140-195Ma ago, towards the end of the Triassic period, sea levels rose. The area was submerged once more and further marine limestones and marls were deposited on top of the evaporite layers. In Salins-les-Bains, strata of rock salt are found about 250 metres below the surface. When the layer of rock salt is not too deep, rain water can seep in and cause saltwater springs to appear on the surface. Several saltwater springs occur in the area, the most notable being the wells of Amont, Gré and Muire.

More than 60Ma ago, in the late Cretaceous and early Tertiary periods, the formation and uplift of the Alps occurred in the east; a direct result of continental collision as the Tethys Ocean closed. 5 The uplift of the Alps pushed up the limestone sediments and the area now known as 'The Jura' rose slowly from the sea.

10Ma ago, increasing pressure from the continued uplift of the Alps caused the limestone rocks of the Jura to fold, forming the area now known as Haut Jura. In the west, the limestones fractured and were deposited as plateaus of great steps descending towards a plain.

Subsequent weathering and erosion have led to the present landscape. The rivers of Franche Comté, which include the Lison, the Loue and the Doubs; all originate from underground rivers that have formed in limestone karst cave systems. Over millions of years these rivers have carved through the limestone plateau to give the many spectacular gorges and cliffs seen today.

Bibliography and references:
Caine, M. (1978). The Glastonbury Zodiac: Key to the Mysteries of Britain. Surrey, UK: Mrs. Mary Caine.
Graves, T. (1978). Needles of Stone. London: Turnstone Press Ltd.
Hitching, F. (1978). The World Atlas of Mysteries. London: Pan Books.
Miller, H., & Broadhurst, P. (1989). The Sun and The Serpent. Launceston, Cornwall: Pendragon Press.
Poynder, M. (1992, 1997). Pi in the Sky. Cork, Ireland: Rider (1992), The Collins Press (1997).
Street, C. (1990). Earthstars. London: Hermitage Publishing.
Watkins, A. (1925). The Old Straight Track. London, Great Britain: Methuen & Co. Ltd.
Giving more than 100%

N.B A good knowledge of mathematics and spelling is necessary for understanding the following

A=1 B=2 C=3 D=4 E=5 F=6 G=7 H=8 I=9 J-10 K=11 L=12 M=13 N=14 O=15 P=16 Q=17 R=18 S=19 T=20 U=21 V=22 W=23 X=24 UY=25 Z=26

It follows:

So this is how we achieve 100% in life. But even more impotantly: So now we know what all those highly paid consultants, upper management and motivational speakers really mean when they want us to give more than 100%
Am Fear Liath Mór - The Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui.
By Robert McCutcheon
'Wis that the place whaur the Deil wis dropped doon frae Heaven?' Scottice

Ben MacDhui is the second highest mountain in Scotland. In fact, four of the five highest Scottish peaks are located in the Cairngorm massif. The Cairngorms are divided east and west by the Lairig Ghru (the 'Gloomy Pass'), the great mountain pass that works its way north and south through the Cairngorms, starting from below the forest of Rothiemurchus in the north to the southern end of the Cairngorms in the Forest of Mar. The Pools o' Dee are in the centre of the Lairig, overshadowed by Ben MacDhui. The pools are the source of the River Dee, the water flows down the south end of the Lairig, turns east past Braemar and Balmoral and on into the North Sea at Aberdeen. As for the mountain itself, the boulder-strewn summit ( a residue from the glaciers of the last ice age).rises from the southern part of a huge sub-arctic plateau unique in the British Isles. It is a bitter environment where nothing grows save the hardiest of alpine plants. The Cairngorm peaks can be shrouded by clouds for days, in winter the low sun often does not penetrate the deep glens and corries for weeks. It is the Scottish Highlands at their most elemental.

On a dark winter night in December 1925, Professor J. Norman Collie addressed a meeting of the Cairngorm Club in Aberdeen and he told them a strange tale. Collie had been climbing Ben MacDhui alone He had reached the boulder-clad summit when he was became convinced that he was being stalked.

"I was returning from the cairn on the summit in a mist when I began to think I heard something else than merely the noise of my own footsteps. Every few steps I took I heard a crunch, then another crunch as if someone was walking after me but taking steps three or four times the length of my own. I said to myself 'this is all nonsense'. I listened and heard it again but could see nothing in the mist. As I walked on and the eerie crunch, crunch sounded behind me I was seized with terror and took to my heels, staggering blindly among the boulders for four or five miles nearly down to Rothiemurchus Forest. Whatever you make of it I do not know, but there is something very queer about the top of Ben MacDhui and will not go back there again by myself I know."

Collie was an eminent professor of organic chemistry at the University College, London (UCL)    He had performed important research that led to the taking of the first x-ray for diagnosing medical conditions. He was also a fellow of the Royal Society. It's been suggested that Conan Doyle incorporated some of Collie's characteristics into his creation of Sherlock Holmes. He was also a renowned mountaineer, Collie's audience were stunned to say the least.

This weird tale from an otherwise sensible man of letters gave credence to the myth and a spate of similar experience emerged as others felt emboldened to tell their own tales. In 1970 these experience were later collected by Affleck Gray in an authoritative book on the subject - which not only retold the stories but also put forward both plausible (and, frankly, implausible) explanations. It is from the third edition (1994) of Gray's book that I have drawn most of this article here.

It has to be admitted that there has never been any real 'sightings' as such. Most of those who had the experiences describe the sense of a 'presence' or strange noises. However the persistence of the story indicates it has a resonance even today, and if you venture into the Cairngorms (especially in winter) you become aware of an ancient landscape where myths and legends used to roam freely.

When Professor Collie's account of his Ben MacDhui experience was published in New Zealand, he was contacted by another renowned mountaineer, Dr A.M. Kellas. Kellas like Collie was both a scientist and mountaineer; indeed he died on his way to take part in the first Everest expedition. Kellas wrote to Collie with details of an astonishing encounter made by himself and his brother, Henry Kellas, while ascending Ben MacDhui. The Kellas brothers claimed to have seen a huge figure, at least as tall as the 10-ft-high Cairn and described by them as "a big grey man", walking up from the Lairig Ghru Pass and around the Cairn towards the summit where it passed out of sight. Moreover, while awaiting the entity's reappearance, they were suddenly struck with acute fear, and raced, terrified, down the mountain, convinced that they were being pursued by the creature.

During WW2 Peter Denham was leader of the RAF mountain rescue party, locating and saving pilots who had crashed in the Cairngorms. One day he was at the top of Ben MacDhui when a heavy mist started to fall. He sat and waited for conditions to improve. After some time he started to hear weird crunching noises and instantly felt a presence close by..He got up to look around the summit plateau, but was immediately seized by a feeling of panic and started running down the mountain, dangerously close to the sheer cliffs of the Lurcher's Crag. He said afterward 'I tried to stop myself and found this incredibly hard to do. It was as if someone was pushing me. I managed to deflect my course, but with a great deal of difficulty.' He later reflected on is ordeal: "...tell me that the whine was but the result of relaxed eardrums, and the Presence was only the creation of a mind that was accustomed to take too great an interest in such things. I shall not be convinced. Come, rather, with me at the mysterious dusk time when day and night struggle upon the mountains. Feel the night wind on your faces, and hear it crying amid rocks. See the desert uplands consumed before the racing storms. Though your nerves be of steel, and your mind says it cannot be, you will be acquainted with that fear without name, that intense dread of the unknown that has pursued mankind from the very dawn of time."

Another person who claimed to have had had a terrifying encounter with a ' presence' was the writer and veteran Scottish nationalist Wendy Wood. Her winter-time incident didn't happen on the mountain but at the northern entrance to the Lairig Ghru.  She heard a strange voice, speaking in what sounded like Gaelic, carried upon the winter air. Thinking that the voice may have been a call for help she made a brief search, Wood found no source for the voice, but her encounter was not quite over, for as she made her way back, she could hear footsteps-and they seemed to be following her. At first she thought the sounds to simply be echoes of her own, but being of a presence of mind to count her own footsteps she soon became aware that they did not match the rhythm of her own and, frightened, she promptly fled until she heard a dog barking at the Whitewell Lodge in Rothiemurchus.

Is the Big Grey Man a relatively modern phenomenon? Affleck Gray wrote that he had failed to find any reference to the Big Grey Man in Highland legends prior to the 18th century. One of the scant examples was James Hogg, the 'Ettrick Shepherd', and friend of Sir Walter Scott. Hogg visited Ben MacDhui twice, and while not encountering anything unusual himself, he later wrote that he was acquainted with a man who 'beheld the fahm glide o'er the fell'. And that's about it from the olden times. Gray also noticed that what few rumours there were about the Fear Liath Mór, tended to be from the Rothiemurchus side of the Cairgorms rather from the Mar side. The stalkers and ghillies who worked on the estates had either no experience of the Big Grey Man or were reticent on the subject (some with a twinkle in their eyes!)

Yet another climber who had an unsettling experience was the legendary mountaineer from Dundee, Syd Scroggie, who in 1945 lost the use of both his eyesight and the use of his right leg after standing on an anti-personnel mine in northern Italy, disabilities which didn't stop him from frequenting his beloved Scottish mountains, One night in 1942 Syd had his own encounter  One night in 1942 he was resting at the Shelter Stone boulder on the lower north-eastern slopes of Ben MacDhui and looking out towards Loch Avon, Syd suddenly spied:" ... a tall, stately, human figure, appear out of the blackness on one side of the loch, and clearly silhouetted against the water pace with long, deliberate steps across the combined burns just where they enter the loch."

Despite rushing over to the spot, Syd found no footsteps or any other evidence of the figure's erstwhile presence, but experienced such unease that he swiftly returned to the Shelter Stone.

There were several explanations offered to the Big Grey Man phenomena, one being of the perfectly natural effect known as the Brocken Spectre:  the apparently enormously magnified shadow that an observer casts, when the Sun is low, upon the upper surfaces of clouds that are below the mountain upon which the observer stands.

A rather unique explanation came from eminent Buddhists, Sir Hugh Rankin Bart and his wife. They were walking through the Lairig Ghru in 1960, when they encountered a presence at the Pools o' Dee.The creature was human in form, stood about 6 foot 3 inches in height. He had big limbs and hands,and had long flowing locks of medium dark hair. He was dressed in a long flowing robe and wore sandals. The 'Presence' spoke to the Rankins in what seemed to be Sanskrit and they recognized him as a Bodhisattva, one of the five perfected men who control the destinies of this world.

A different sort of other-worldy connections to Ben Macdhui were made by the Reverend Dr. George King of the Aetherius Society, who claimed that eighteen mountains of the world hold cosmic energies. Dr King 'charged' one of the mountains in the Cairngorm area, Creag an Leth-Choin, three miles north of Ben MacDhui, and painted a 'holy rock' near the summit with the Aetherius Society symbol. Dr King also claimed that there was a dome-shaped auditorium within the bowels of Ben MacDhui, occupied by beings who were working advanced radio tonic devices, undreamt of by 20th century civilisation..

  To oldest time! And, reckless of the storm
  That keeps the raven quiet in her nest,
  Be as a presence or a motion - one
  Among the many there; and while the mists
  Flying, and rainy vapours, call out shapes
  And phantoms from the crags and solid earth.
  William Wordsworth - 'The Excursion'.

There are undoubtedly perfectly rational explanations, as for example to sounds of foot-steps or unexplained footprints:  Dr Adam Watson of the Grouse Research Council in Banchory: 

"While snow build up to a great depth and no one has walked on it, it develops lines of weakness. If a person then walks on the hard snow, it cracks along with the lines of weakness; sometimes the crack shows on the surface, and sometimes it occurs underneath and is then invisible. The cracking makes an unusual noise almost like dead leaves swishing in the wind along the ground.

I think it very likely that this sort of natural occurrence, which at the time one has not experienced before, is just the sort of thing to make suggestible men's imaginations run away with them...."

Maybe the Big Grey Man phenomena could be summed up by W. Kersley Holmes. Holmes was a Scottish hillwalker and poet, who recorded many of his mountain exploits in the 1940s. A fastidiously polite and somewhat whimsical hill-diarist, his memoirs are fascinating reading for the contemporary Highlandphile. In Gray's book he writes:"In one of my letters I suggested that the most mysterious thing to be found amongst mountains was - the human brain, by which I meant that imagination was responsible for anything.Still, I know you will agree that some hills seem to have a personanlity pleasant or otherwise. I remember being on twice on the hill Mayar above Glen Clova, and feeling less than the usual pleasure at attaining a new top; then, on one occasion, on another hill in that neighbourhood, I met two girls who had come over Mayar, and one of them remarked that she wouldn't like to be on Mayar alone..." 

Postscript # 1
I've never climbed any of the Cairngorms, I prefer to admire them from a distance (Aviemore). Years ago I had thought about walking the Lairig Ghru, but clips on youtube of people hiking through it are a recompense for not doing so. Back in 1988, my wife and I went hill-walking near Hart Fell, in Dumfriesshire.  Hart Fell, is described in Wiki as a broad rolling hill, north of the town of Moffat, On its west side is Annandale,  few miles further up Annandale is the Devil's Beef Tub, a dramatic, deep hollow, in centuries gone by was the place where Border Reivers corralled their stolen cattle. It is also one of the sources of the River Annan. On the plateau to the north of the Beef Tub are the sources of both the River Tweed and River Clyde. Back to Hart Fell, we walked a mile eastward into a valley, through which the Auchencat Burn flowed. There was a corrie (gully) near the end of the valley, we went up the corrie. On the side of the corrie was not so much a cave but an eroded outcrop which resembled an earthen igloo. Inside was Hart Fell Spa, a chalybeate spring. Inside there was a tiny pool into which the iron-rich water dripped. A small chain was attached to a wall of the Spa, the cup which had been attached to the chain had long since vanished. We went outside into the pleasant sunshine, and enjoyed our sandwiches. I noticed that at the entrance to the corrie about 30 metres away, a man leaned against a rock with his back to us. He was wearing a brownish greenish jacket. We never thought anything of it. We sat for about twenty minutes - the man had long gone - and made our way back down the corrie into the valley. When we got there I looked to see if I could see the man, who by now would be nearing the entry of the valley. Not a sign of him or any other living person. I scanned the rest of the valley, nothing. He couldn't be behind a tree because there were no trees!  We finally got to the car and drove off to Moffat. This instance of a vanishing man has puzzled me over the years, especially as I had good long eyesight then. There's probably a rational explanation: there nearly always is one!
  Who is the third who walks always beside you?
  When I count, there are only you and I together
  but when I look ahead up the white road
  there is always another one walking beside you
  T.S. Eliot - 'The Waste Land'.
Postscript # 2

I had a reason for visiting Hart Fell Spa. I had read a book called The Quest for Merlin by Nicolai Tolstoy. This book, published in 1985, was a revelation in that I found out, amongst other things, that the native language of southern Scotland in the 'sub-Roman twilight' ( to borrow Michael Wood's phrase)  was ancient Welsh. I was aware of the tenuous connections for King Arthur with Scotland, after all I was born and grew up in a city which had a spectacular hill called Arthur's Seat! I'd also watched the tv documentary made by the fore-mentioned Mr Wood on the Search for King Arthur. In this he speculated that the final Arthurian battle may have been next to the Birdoswald camp at Hadrian's Wall, above the River Irthing.

 It was Tolstoy's opinion that an individual called Merlin (or Myrddin) once lived. There was ample evidence in Upper Tweedsdale: at the village of Drumelzier there is a (restored) Hawthorn tree which has a plaque next to it saying that this marked the grave of the wizard Merlin. Not far away is the bridge of Merlindale. Down the valley, there is the village of Stobo. Its parish kirk is built on a 6th century chapel dedicated to St Kentigern (or, as the Glaswegians would have it, St Mungo) . In the north chapel of the kirk is a small stained glass window showing Kentigern baptising the kneeling Myrddin. Also in the chapel are the remains of the altar stone where the baptism allegedly took place. Tolstoy believed the character of Merlin wasn't so much a wizard as much as a shaman; in fact he's been described as the last of the Druids. According to Tolstoy, the cave at Hart Fell Spa was Merlin's last refuge.

Some interesting quotes you may find amusing

The meek shall inherit the earth but not with mineral rights
John Paul Getty

Saturday although occurring at regular and well foreseen intervals always takes the railway by surprise
W S Gilbert

There was a time when religion ruled the world - it was known as the Dark
Ruth Hurmence Green

Definition of infidel
in New York : one who does not believe in Christian religion
in Constantinople - one who does.

It is easier to fight for ones principles than to live up to them.
Alfred Adler

Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers
T. S. Elliot

Heresy is only another word for freedom of thought
Graham Green

Well I believe that there's somebody out there who watches over us. Unfortunately it's the government
Woody Allen The great nations have always acted like gangsters and the small nations like prostitutes
Stanley Kubrick

Laws are like sausages - it's better not to see them being made
Otto Van Bismarck

Journey to Cathar Country
Morelle Smith

A friend of mine once had a dream of time and in his dream, it was a sphere. I like this idea of spherical time, though it might be easier for us to imagine time in terms of a two-dimensional labyrinth. We circle around, forever retracing our steps, going back on our tracks, returning to places we have been before, except that it is never quite the same space or place we return to. But certainly the image of a circle is one that symbolises wholeness to us. Think of mandalas, used to represent the whole world or universe, before perspective came in, to demonstrate distance in both space and time. The cosmos also used to be represented in terms of a sphere, our round earth one of several planets circling around a sun, encircled by the zodiac, and with an outer circle representing the celestial equator. 

I don't remember when I first heard of the Cathars of the Languedoc, whether it was a friend who mentioned them or whether I read about them, most likely in the works of Rudolf Steiner. But reading Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln certainly gave me more information, anchored them more in my mind, aroused my curiosity. 

I was not particularly interested in the book's main 'explosive' thesis, with its suggestion that Jesus had married Mary Magdalene, a thesis that many have now taken up and written about. But I was not so concerned with biological blood-lines. The mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau and the unexplained wealth of the priest Bérenger Saunière was intriguing, but again, that was not my main interest. It was those people who had vanished, leaving nothing behind but ruined castles, that drew me to the south of France in 1990. Saunière's secret was to do with his wealth but I was more interested in the secrets of poverty - the simplicity of the Cathars' way of life, and their beliefs, and their direct relationship with the divine. I was interested in the secrets of consciousness that their way of life seemed to point to, suggesting that spiritual wealth can be acquired by anyone.

There were two of us, travelling in an old converted ambulance.  You can reach the south of France, taking the TGV from Paris to the south coast, in a few hours, but we were not in a hurry. This was just as well, as the old van's most comfortable speed was 30 mph. And when we were on the Routes Nationale, toiling up hills, our average speed was about half that, and long queues formed behind us. We took our time, exploring Chartres and the Loire valley, then the Auvergne and on into the south. 

It was late July, and hot. It got steadily hotter the further south we travelled. It had been a long time since I'd experienced that kind of heat. And I had never been to this part of France before, never before witnessed field after field of sunflowers. The fibreglass body of the van faithfully collected all the daytime heat, and released it during the night. We left the van doors open but there was no breeze. There were also biting insects that gleefully took up the invitation of the open doors. During the day, baguettes turned brick hard if they weren't eaten right away. Camembert cheese turned liquid.

There is always something of self one meets, when travelling. That is surely at least part of its purpose. To remove oneself from the daily, the accustomed, and enter the unknown. With familiarity of backdrop, routine and habits stripped away you encounter a layer of the self deeper than the habits of everyday. I was captivated by the landscape we were passing through but sometimes some very odd and unwelcome feelings came up. There was also at times, an inner consoling voice which, though soothing, never quite dispelled the sense of disquiet. Sometimes it felt as if I was going to meet something dark and frightening. If a part of us exists beyond the limitations of space and time that we call our life and that we identify with, I wondered if what I was going towards was some past experience as well as a future one. Many claim that this 'Greater Self' exists. Carl Jung and Rudolf Steiner, whose writings I had read avidly, certainly do. I thought of how many of the Cathars had been put to death at the foot of their last stronghold, Monségur. And that's where I wanted to go. It wasn't enough just to read about them. I wanted to experience the place itself. 

I heard the author Stephen O'Shea say the same thing in a talk he gave to the Saunière Society, at Newbattle Abbey House, Scotland. He was referring to his book on the Cathars of the Languedoc, The Perfect Heresy. 

'You have to go to the places you're going to write about', he said, 'it's only by being in the actual places where the events happened that you'll know what the light is really like, how the landscape feels, and the effects it can have.'  

But that was many years later. Travelling through France in 1990, I knew very little about the Cathars, I just knew that I wanted to be there, in the south. 

The Loire valley felt solid, robust, its buildings, landscape and contours contained a kind of familiar authority. But south of the Loire region this began to change. The light was richer and darker, there was a quality of unknown, an unfamiliar wildness lurking on the edges of perception. Along with the beauty of the unfolding landscape drenched in sunlight, there were times when I felt unsettled, uneasy.

As the heat became more intense, we discarded our clothes. First our jeans, which were replaced by shorts. Then the shorts went too, followed by T-shirts, until we were driving in our underwear. And in the small town of Issoire, near the Allier river, I decided to have my hair cut. I've always worn it long but I was seized by a desire to have it cropped as if I could this way let go of the past and all its associations. Leaving the hairdresser's with an almost shaven head, and walking back to the van the late afternoon sunlight struck the back of my neck like a blow. It had never been exposed to sunlight before.  As if in a ritual of preparation, like Inanna descending to the underworld, we were being stripped of our physical possessions. And though we didn't know it then, there was more to come. 

The lure of the Cathars may have something to do with the simplicity of their lives and their beliefs, or so they have come down to us, through history. But most of what we know of them comes from the records of the Inquisition, their responses to questions and accusations in the Inquisition's 'show-trials', written down by Inquisition scribes.  They were persecuted for the simplicity of their way of life and for their beliefs, ('heretical' because not what the church authorities, who were hugely powerful at the time, said they should believe). The Roman Church and the king of France  joined forces to increase power, control and territory, and strip the Cathars of lands and homes, rights and autonomy, and life itself.  The absence at the heart of their history, the spectral and magnificent remains of their castles, so eloquent an absence. As if one day, they had all simply walked off through some doorway, into another world. 

The day we arrived in Albi, it was a little cooler, the sky was overcast, protecting us from the full glare of the sun. I thought the cathedral there was astonishing, with its walls all covered with painted images, its wonderfully cool interior, its rounded dark red walls, all folded together like a palisade, its slits of windows, its fortress facade.

We reached Rennes-le-Chateau on yet another swelteringly hot day at the end of July. The old van chugged slowly up the bends and curves in the mountain road. We donned T-shirts and shorts to go outside and walk around. I was taken aback by the festoons of banners and notices announcing this village as that of Saunière and his 'secret'. I suppose I had expected some kind of sleepy backwater, a typical French village steeped in sunlight and silence, but it seemed to have been turned into a tourist resort. Still, we walked around, visited Saunière's church, with its unusual sculpture near the entrance, and spent time on the edge of the hilltop, gazing out at the magnificent view over the surrounding landscape. 

Morelle Smith

And with thoughts of Sauniere's stomping grounds in our minds we come to the end of the July issue of the newsletter

If you wish to contribute please send comments, prose, jokes, articles or anything else you think the readers might enjoy please send to with a short covering note.

Until next time, stay safe.

Joy and the team