A Truly Far-Fetched Idea

This idea is going to sound very far-fetched and I’m not standing by this as a primary theory; I’m merely recording some observations and conjecturing as wildly as I please.  I find that I have a tendency to get a wild conjecture right every now and then, like the theory that I would gravitate toward the same parts of England in multiple lives (I’ve now traced my footsteps across three lifetimes on that beautiful island).

I have noticed that among the powerful, bisexuality is very common.  I think somehow, power and bisexuality are connected, and that the powerful may know this and do not want the majority of people to discover that they are in fact at least incidentally bisexual.

I do know that my half-brother in a previous life, Richard Couer de Lion, had a rather high-profile affair with Philip II of France; in fact it was a spat between them that got him killed in battle in a war that raged on into William’s military career.  I seem to remember that among the troubadours- the highly-educated, talented, and romantic nobility of France- it was extremely common to be bisexual and I have a strong suspicion that I was probably more than incidentally bisexual as William and quite possibly a bottom for certain powerful people.  Service to your lord was, at times, a very lurid business.  Of course, if you were a commoner or a monk then you’d be killed… if they caught you in flagrante delicto, which was hard to do.  Although rarely enforced (most executions for “sodomy” in Europe at the time were trumped-up charges to make rival sects like the Cathars look bad), the penalty- burning at the stake- was enough to drive all same-sex activity outside the noble classes entirely underground, and indeed even within the noble classes the curtain had begun to descend as modernity’s veneer of heteronormative relations began to creep in.

I think that the control of human sexuality, through threat of punishment and through the veil and myth of the “model families” of modern royals and elected officials, is part of what has kept us from developing socially.  As the veneer of heteronormative authority begins to wear thin again, with recent scholarship on organizations such as the Bohemian Club where world leaders often go to resorts where fucking the poolboy is perfectly normal, it makes the Pat Robertsons and Westboro Baptist Churches- whose messages would have won many converts a century ago- now look backward and quaint.  It also makes the moral panics brought on by our politicians seem so much more silly, now that we know how that works.  We’ve gotten really savvy in the last few years, and we’re really starting to come around to the fact that sexual liberation is somehow tied in with total liberation.

But what is the connection, exactly?  Does being free to act sexually among consenting adults somehow improve our concentration?  Does it stimulate the release of some chemical that sharpens the mind and aligns the body?  Or is it something ineffable, an energy harnessed by sacred prostitutes who gave their bodies to the worship of the divine and by transgender sages that guided their communities that we have yet to rediscover?

Perhaps the old Vedic ideas of the power behind the chakras rising from the Kundalini, the phallic serpent at the groin chakra, and the Native American ideas of two-spirits have some merit.  There’s also sexual ambiguity in Buddhism, I think one of the forms of Buddha is an androgyne, as is the form of Baphomet in the Goetian arts.  In some modern Pagan practices transgenderism, homosexuality or bisexuality are recognized as the female “Goddess” nature entering into a male body, either temporarily or permanently; even those traditions that observe polarities understand that opposites must sometimes mix and that there is no such thing as a paradox.  And of course, Hermeticism, upon which much modern Pagan practices are based, is founded on the principle “That which is above, is like that which is below.”  Therefore if all life embraces the diverse union of male, female, and nonbinary genders (read Bruce Bagemihl’s “Biological Exuberance,” he cites examples of all three) without much harm to anything that lives, then it is somehow ordained in the universe that sexual tolerance is divine law, and that idea would completely challenge many organized religions.

I’m probably just talking out my ass here though, and this is probably so full of holes that it won’t hold, but it’s the sort of thinking out loud I thought was too interesting to just leave squirreled away.

Another possible Match for ruins

I may have found another possible match or one of the places I mistakenly remembered as having been at a single site.  The doorway that seemed part-buried may have been the gatehouse at Wigmore Castle in rural Herefordshire.

In the Welsh Marches, where William Longespee took part in a bid by Henry II to suppress Mortimer’s rebellion, lies Herefordshire.  Longespee then became warden of the Welsh Marches.  Many castles, including Wigmore, were seized (though the castle was not ruined until the English Civil War).

That’s the Hereford connection, and it may explain why I remember being at Wigmore Castle as it appeared in what must have been the early 20th century, not much different than today.  It seems when I stick to the same areas more and more places match up.

I was not expecting this and I’m not sure what to think.  I may have been attracted to more than one site from my past life as William while I was John, and I know I’ve been attracted to several sites in this life as well.  

Perhaps John was simply obsessed with Longespee?  But then, how did John manage to die within half an hour’s drive of where he was captured almost exactly 699 years earlier, and how did I manage to visit several of his haunts in eastern England without actually looking for him?

It gets weirder all the time.

By The Way…

When I said I was thinking of buying a motorcycle and going out and living like I’ve never lived before, I was not lying.

I’ve found a very affordable motorcycle and will probably be making plans to purchase one next week.

I need to get out.  Life’s too short and I feel like it’s passing me by.  In a short while, there may be some disaster or political turmoil that kills me and thousands or millions of others so I may as well enjoy the time I’ve got.  I’ve seen how easy it is to get killed before you know what’s happened and I can’t forget that, ever.  I need to get back to the open road and explore the Northwest so I can remember it as it is now, just the way I love it.

I Am Not Alone

I must acknowledge that I am not alone, and part of what has sustained me these past few months is the friendship of others who were also soldiers in previous lives.

I don’t know anyone who has traced such a strange set of vague memories and strong coincidences to point to a specific medieval nobleman, though even my case is tenuous at the moment and in need of more verifiable memories that I could not have known from what I’ve read.

I do know of at least one person who remembers a life in the 14th century but hasn’t identified them yet, and ancient Rome/Greece come up now and then (often enough that I sometimes wonder what’s up with that), but that’s as far back as most of us remember.

I’ve seen documentaries with some cases from the English Civil War, including one guy who seemed to know where military camp sites previously unknown to historians were and had archaeological evidence to prove it, though it’s possible he may have simply stumbled on the site and led them to it out of opportunity; not knowing the guy, I can’t be sure.

Of my fellow Great War reincarnates, I’m one of maybe five or six reincarnated Tommies I know of; A few have even remembered enough to trace their names; I know maybe one or two personally.  Strangely, I have not found any of the Commonwealth troops (not even India, which you’d expect) and nobody from the 27th division, but I’m looking.

I also have not met any reincarnated Americans from the Great War though several of us were American civilians in the lives we had afterward, and I may have been the son of an American WWI veteran in my previous life. I do know of at least one famous case of an American boy remembering a past life as a WWII fighter pilot (though there were always questions about that one because they made a fortune off the book, which is why I don’t promote myself commercially).  I know of at least two or three Americans who were in Vietnam (but I don’t know what they did in the World Wars), and I’m one of several reincarnated soldiers who instead opted for plain civilian lives in the mid-20th century.

By far the most common have been Germans from both world wars, though.  I know maybe three who were there in the Great War (one of them now a close friend) and scores of them who were scattered across the ranks in the Second World War.

One thing I can tell you positively about reincarnated Nazis is that they’re almost never neo-Nazi types; the neos I’ve met in the reincarnation community, quite frankly, are usually so crazy they get banned eventually. In fact most of the reliable cases I’ve met are quite often very thoughtful, open-minded, and very caring people.  Sure, there’s a dark sense of humor there sometimes, but you need a dark sense of humor to deal with something like that.

While I was not a Nazi in my previous life, it seems that as a writer I had done a great deal of research on the Third Reich using firsthand sources in my previous life, and I had a brief interest in World War II history in this life (more so than World War I).

In the end, we all ended up the same way; we died, we lost all our achievements, and we had to start anew and learn from life the hard way.

I sometimes wonder where all these others are.  Why is it just a fairly small number of people who remember these lives at all, let alone reliably enough to trace?  What are we?  Who are we?  Is there something deeper we all have in common?  I spend probably more time than I should puzzling over that, but then, so do they.  We’ve all clearly reached a critical point in our development, and I’m sure it’s something people across the ages have attained when they first started remembering past lives, but this time it’s different; we’re able to contact others and compare notes.

I have a weird feeling that something big is about to happen, but I don’t know what yet and at times, I’m afraid it might be something bad, or some big clash.  The state of the world and some of the things I wrote about in my previous life aren’t helping my optimism, and if the shit’s about to hit the fan, I’m just going to go ahead and say who I was in my previous life publicly because it might be relevant to you all: I may have predicted the world we live in.  I just hope you believe me if that’s the case.

Last Night

Last night I had several flashes.

The first (and worst) was a brief but upsetting flashback to the day of the Battle of Bellewaerde Ridge.  I have so little in the way of clear memories because I blocked it so badly at the time; all I saw this time was a confusing mix of shapes flying at me, loud sounds, all coldly and logically parsed; but now and then a sight or sound would flicker and register as something more than just obstacles or hazards, and the dread- that I had pushed down to some place deep and inaccessible- rose once again.  The whole thing- alternating between detached analysis and cold, mortal terror- gives the entire battle the feeling of profound unreality, like remembering a bad hallucination more than an actual event.

I think I’ve described that terror before.  You know that feeling you get when you feel like you’re about to fall from a very high place, or about to smash your car into a wall at a fatal speed?  Imagine that fear, only extended, stretched over periods of hours, where your only respite is to detach from the reality as completely as possible and see the world like a machine.  But the screams and cries of the wounded, the blood, the gore, and the maze of barbed wire and traps will not let you go of the reality that you are marching into hell and will most likely die painfully and obscenely.

I haven’t had a flashback like that in months.  It makes me nauseated to talk about it.

On the plus side, I did see more detail from another life as well; I saw myself in that memory from 1830 or so, with the woman in the bonnet walking by on a near-deserted street.  I was a man of about 20-30 years old, wearing trousers with a black and white herringbone weave which, upon research, was apparently something available before the advent of the Jacquard loom (which I honestly didn’t know).  My shoes looked almost modern, like black Oxfords but with a solid upper, and were clean and new.  I also noticed spires in the distance but nothing I could readily identify.

I really hope I don’t have another night like that one since I came out of these memories upset and confused, and my mood was off the rest of the evening after that flashback to Ypres.  All day today I’ve been feeling like my life is being wasted and that I should be out living like I’ve never lived before because life is too damned short, but that always seems to come in the wake of these memories.

One day, I might just buy a motorcycle and disappear for a few weeks.  I can’t afford a car at the moment or I’d get one of those instead.  I just want to get out and feel alive because these memories are always nipping at my heels reminding me of how close death actually is.

Reincarnation does nothing for the fear of death; it is still a tremendous price for being alive and represents the loss of everything.  Nor is “The valley of the shadow of death” a specific place or time; it is all of life, and I don’t want to see any more grains of sand slip away before I have to leave my body yet again.  I want to know I’m alive, chase the sun from the top of Mt. Hood to Cannon Beach, ride like the wind, and forget for a little while that death is all around me.

On William’s Longsword

General knowledge among medievalists is that the “longsword” as it is known among modern historians did not exist before the later part of the Middle Ages and was an infantry weapon used against cavalry into the 17th century.  It is usually associated with swords of a two-handed variety, such as the German Zweihander or the Scottish Claymore.

However, William Earl of Salisbury is more commonly referred to as William Longsword (Longespee), and in the few existing effigies he is depicted with a sword that clearly goes down to his ankles when sheathed.  Up to this point I had assumed that my earlier research was correct and that the term “Longsword” did not apply to this earlier age.   What are we to make of this?

It seems, from further research, that the terms we use nowadays for specific types of swords restricted to specific periods was not set until long after the Middle Ages, and that terms such as “Longsword” often referred to weapons of a very different type.  Even the term “Greatsword” which historians most often use can refer to any number of sword styles in use before the end of the 14th century.

This is where the Oakeshott typology comes in.  This is a typology that I was not familiar with until today, actually, but it explains a great deal.  While the Oakeshott typology is not perfect, it gives a rough idea of the descriptions and time periods of specific styles of swords.

From this, and from the funerary effigy, we can deduce that the Earl of Salisbury probably wielded a sword of the Oakeshott XIIa or XIIIa type, a knightly greatsword invented in the crusades.  However, this can only be speculated based on the probable size of the blade, as the hilt is hidden in the effigy, and the tip is obscured by the sheath.  His sword in particular may also have been prodigious for the age, closer in size to a much later blade.

This indicates a fighter not only of tremendous power, but of strategic genius, since swords of such length and heft were not common to that age; the Oakeshott types XIIa and XIIIa are rare weapons, especially in English effigies.

EDIT: After some research, it seems Oakeshott himself identified the sword in the effigy of William’s son William II (Longespee the Younger) as a type XV; however, it is worth remembering that William II lived into the mid-13th century, and the arms race between arms and armor had been moving at a rapid pace since the days of Richard Couer de Lion.  It is entirely possible and indeed probable from what I’ve read that William the Elder wielded a very early version of the type XIIa or XIIIa. I thought I’d mention this to avoid confusion by anyone familiar with Oakeshott’s work.

What About John?

I’ve found several possible past lives that were exceptionally well-documented, and even spoken to people I might have known in past lives, but what I have not found is anything more than a dead end when I try to find out more about John.

All of the info is on pay sites, and I realize I’m at the point now where I have to start shelling out money if I want to find out more about him.

Some questions I have that still need to be answered:

*Was John married?

*Was he a writer?

*Did he smoke cigars as I remember?

*Did he look anything like I do now?

*Are there any living relatives?

*Is there an alternate explanation for why he enlisted in a regiment based in Shrewsbury?

*Is there any genealogical connection between John and William Longespee (or for that matter, between any of these people including myself)?

*Are there any living relatives who have more information?

*How did John actually die (“Killed in action” tells me little and all I have are blurry memories that I struggle to interpret).

*Was his middle name William, after his father, or is John William Harris a different person?

I want to know these things.  I’ve been aching to know these things since I started this journey nearly a year ago.  I want to know who John Harris was, because his is still the most likely past life I’ve discovered and the most accurately remembered so far.

The Earl and the Author have had their moment in the sun, but John is almost completely forgotten.  I don’t want him to fade from history, because even if I find I wasn’t the Earl of Salisbury or a famously freaked-out sci fi writer, I’m fairly sure deep down that I was at least plain, ordinary John from Yeovil, and his life- his identity even- is and will always be closest to my heart.

It’s clear that if he has any living relatives, none of them- nor anyone who knows anything about him or his family or the second battalion of the KSLI- has found this blog and it’s doubtful in this wide world that they ever will.  It’s on me now to keep his name alive.

When I have money again, I’m going all-in to look for the real John Harris before time and memory erase him forever.  I’ll pay what little I can afford on a student budget and I won’t let him die completely.

Was This Me?

Now and then I come across a historic figure and ask “Was this Me?”

Usually the answer is “I really don’t know.”  If I have to ask, it’s usually because I have no memory, and most of the historic figures have been dead ends because the case was just not compelling enough.

But now and then I come across one and it really does make me wonder.

Consider the case of William Henry Fox Talbot, an early English photographer.  While I have no memory of having been him, I do know this much about him:

1. He lived at Lacock Abbey, a former monastery turned manor founded by William Longespee’s widow, Ela.

2. He was high sheriff of Wiltshire, a post held by William Longespee.

3. He died in 1877, the same year John was born (though I don’t know exactly WHEN in 1877 John was born).

4. He was a photographer; I was practically born with a camera in my hand and I have photos I took when I was 2 or 3, and have been taking pictures ever since.

5. He basically invented the “window shot.”

This last fact is very fascinating, because while in England I came to be very fond of the sort of high-contrast window shot created by Fox Talbot.

Here is Fox Talbot’s original window shot, a view through one of Lacock Abbey’s windows.

Here is a shot I took at Peveril Castle in 2004.  It’s worth noting that Peveril Castle had been in royal possession since the time of Henry II, William Longespee’s father, and may have been used by him:

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This was taken at my childhood home in South Carolina, around 2002 or so:

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I innovated a bit on the theme in this one, taken at the abandoned Queen Elizabeth Hospital in southern England, 2005:

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A very different sort of window shot, Rhyolite, NV 2007:

 

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That’s all I could find on my hard drive, though I have lots more “window shots” like these, some in color, including one I took in 2001 in Shakespeare’s birth home and one I took of a stained glass window at Notre Dame de Paris that same year.

So was I trying to recapture an iconic image, traveling the world looking for the window I took that first image through, or was I simply copying a type of image that had become so commonplace in photography that I was repeating a meme?  Unless I find something else to tie me to Fox Talbot besides locations, public offices, and a superficial resemblance in photographic style, I really can’t say.  But it’s always interesting to wonder.

Dirty Castles and Sweaty Knights

Last night I had a vivid memory and realized what it was about the recent restoration of the keep at Dover Castle that struck me as off: The dust and patina were all wrong.

Modern recreations of medieval settings tend to either be dark and stony if they’re going for Hollywood, or colorful and obsessively clean if they’re going for authenticity.

In truth, although the historic recreations get the furnishing and lighting about right, what they don’t get right is the amount of dust, dirt, patina, and trash.  Without that, it just looks too Disneyland.

The level of dust and patina in the throne room gave it the ambience less of a dignified place of state business and more of an old rich man’s den in the house he’d owned since he was a young nouveau riche.  It was lived in, and had the look, feel, and smell of a lived-in place.

The place wasn’t squalid, but it was lived-in, and during a time before vacuum cleaners, even well-bathed people could expect to track in a lot of dirt and dust over the life of a building. But these people were not always well-bathed because a bath was something you did when you had no more business to tend to. These men were sweaty, gassy, muddy, and had probably stepped in shit somewhere along the line and even though they did bathe, and some sweeping was done to keep the level of dirt to a minimum, it really didn’t help much. We certainly weren’t phobic of cleanliness but it was difficult to maintain and carpets and rugs quickly became bald-spotted and dim in color from ground-in dirt.

Even the throne room had a substantial level of dirt thanks to not only everyday use, but a fair number of knights who had ridden through rain and mud to get there. If you were phobic of rain and mud in those days you had no business being a traveler of any sort because the roads were terrible.

Now and then, if there were a severe storm, they might even bring some of the animals that lived in the bailey into the keep, and there would be straw for them to lay on. And of course, there were dogs, usually thin breeds with gray to blue-gray fur, somewhat between a dalmatian and a greyhound in build. Cats were tolerated but not particularly liked, and although they controlled mice you’d see very fat mice about as often as you’d see squirrels in a park.

In the winter, when the hearth was going, the tapestries would hold in heat so well that the already-sweaty, muddy knights would start to reek. I seem to remember that William Marshal’s funk was legendary; he could clear a room.  He was proud of that fact.

The people I remembered living in or visiting Dover Castle in the 12th and 13th centuries acted more like the redneck side of my family than the gentrified one.  I seem to remember William Marshal in particular had an ornery sense of humor and was always eager to get attention, much like an uncle I have in this life.  If my memories are correct, The Marshal prided himself on how well he could aim his farts. He once amused us with a demonstration of how he could put out a candle by holding his nose and making a fish face while farting on it.

While this sounds like shocking behavior, it was a great relief when we simply did what we wanted behind closed doors.  We didn’t worry about putting on airs and somehow, it made having an important job to do much less stressful.  You don’t see that any more; everyone nowadays with an important job to do has to keep up appearances 24/7 and it really takes a toll.

Of course, all that testosterone from maybe a dozen Norman knights in one room could get a little bit dangerous sometimes.  There were fights now and then at our gatherings, but seldom ended with anything more than a bloody nose or a few teeth missing; nobody dished out the Thomas A Becket treatment on the dinner guests.

The thing that strikes me about history in general is how sterile the historic imagination is when it comes to capturing the ambiance of a Norman castle in the 12th century; you can read about a lot of the facts of what the furniture looked like or what went on during important conversations, and even about how dirty it might have gotten, but they can’t tell you how it felt to be there, and I struggle to describe it myself.  Dover Castle was, first and foremost, a fortified lodge for the Kings of England and their guests to crash (especially on the way to or from Normandy), but it was definitely not a royal residence as we would know it today; it was Henry II’s royal flophouse for weary, dirty, sweaty noblemen and that’s exactly how it felt.

Taking a Break

I’m going to take a break from updating here.  I seem to have hit another impasse of self-doubt and I need to sort myself out.

Although I’ve been reassured constantly by a mental health professional that this is not a diagnosable mental illness, I still retain doubts and will be looking into some possible explanations that haven’t been explored before.

The good news is, I think schizophrenia and bipolar mania have been ruled out; those are the two most debilitating illnesses and the ones I would be the most afraid of having.  So far, the only thing I know for sure I have is an anxious phobia of losing my mind exacerbated by my experiences and that’s probably what this is.