Tomorrow, I’m going to a HEMA school in the southwest of Portland to see if I’m up to learning longsword technique.

The technique they teach is actually Achille Marozzo’s 16th century longsword technique, though Marozzo did preserve a lot of information from earlier eras.

I’m not getting my hopes up about becoming especially good at this since I’m about 8 centuries out of practice and in a very different body, but I’ve been burning with curiosity about HEMA since the early 2000s.  Now I finally get to try it, and I’m very excited.

Incidentally, at least one of my friends into HEMA remembers a medieval past life too.  I guess once a knight is never enough.

Memory Fragment

I remember a book from some time in the Middle Ages, I think it was my own book.

One particular page had the text coming down to a funnel shape, as if blooming out of a large red flower at the bottom of the page.  Up either side of the page were bean poles or tall straight saplings with green leaves over them.  The top of the page had a cloud from which a face representing the winds came.

I wish I could remember what this book was.  Such a stunning book!  If it ever even existed it’s probably long gone by now.

One’s Own Grave

Today, I designed my own gravestone.

I probably won’t need it for a while, but since being rushed to the hospital I’ve been thinking about how fragile our bodies are and how easily they can give out on us with very little warning.

The design I came up with is a bit unconventional for this day and age.  I went with a coffin-shaped slab like the ones I saw marking medieval burials in many English churchyards.  Where the long-stemmed cross would be, I placed an Ankh-like cross based loosely on one found on a Cathar coin from medieval Languedoc.  Along the edge is an inscription in blackletter characters that reads, in the best Latin I could muster:

“(my name), uxor (my fiance’s name), Flos Auctorem, rerum gestarum, custodes fidem gnostici, obiit anno (year). In vita priore erat comitas sarisburensis. Nosce te ipsum.”

“(My name), wife of (my fiance’s name), Flower of Authors, Scholar of History, Keeper of the Gnostic Faith, died in the year (year in Roman numerals).  In a prior life she was the Earl of Salisbury.  Know Thyself.”

The self-given title “Flos Auctorem” is both a reference to my name and to Count William’s epitaph which calls him “Flos Comitum.”

To me, it’s the perfect mix of demi-histrionic boasting worthy of someone with one foot still in the 13th century, a clear statement that I believe in my own spiritual immortality, and a certain grim finality that says “She’s dead.  Deal with it.”

I have a strong disdain for the twee sentimentality of today’s funeral markers.  I guess that’s fine for some people but I really don’t want my family erecting something with crying angels and sappy pseudo-religious poetry, or QR codes that no one will be able to read in 100 years, or a picture of my classic Citroen as if that was all I had to remember me by.  I just want something outlandish in its extreme anachronism, enduring in its design, and dignified in its execution.

Hopefully I won’t need it just yet.  Yes, I’ve contemplated suicide but never seriously enough to try it, and the idea of dying of a heart condition now, at the age of 31, scares me shitless because I’m simply not ready for that.  I already know what happens when you die when you’re not ready and it’s extremely unpleasant.  I don’t want to go through that again.

Remembering A Dream

I remember a dream I had years ago (I was probably between 12 and 15) that at the time I thought very little of but now, in hindsight, it kind of makes sense.

It was during a rebellion of some kind, or a war or something of that nature.  There were three or four knights (or at least they were men at arms with some nice kit), still in their armor, who were being hanged.  I was an observer and felt detached from the scene save for a slight twinge of horror, as if I had no involvement.

I’m pretty sure that since I had this dream, I have come across several accounts of knights and fighting men being hanged in their armor, but by then I had forgotten all about this dream; I had given more importance to dreams that had more of an emotional impact (which surprisingly, this one didn’t beyond the usual feeling of an unpleasant dream).  I desperately wish I had access to my counselor’s files from high school since I must have told him all about these dreams!

For the record, if I try to remember the dream the armor I see is not 13th century armor, so I don’t think this is from Count William’s time.  What I see instead is 14th century armor, with significant plate elements and pointed sabatons.  At the time I would have known no such distinction.

The 14th century is still kind of an area of mystery for me.  I’ve had brief flickers that I initially attributed to Count William’s life but suspect I was dressed in 14th century clothing (the colors of my hose were one red and one black and my tunic was short and close-fitting; that is so unlike the style in Count William’s time in which solid-color hose and baggy tunics were favored).  I initially attributed this to an aesthetic bias toward 14th century fashions, art, and literature but in light of remembering these dreams from high school, I’m not so sure now.

The two events that immediately come to mind in which knights or men-at-arms might have been hanged in their armor are the 100 Years War and the Peasant’s Revolt.  Admittedly I’m a little weak on those beyond the most cursory history book details of the conflict because I’ve been so obsessed with the Angevin Empire for the last couple of years.  I need to shift my attention back to the 14th century.

EDIT: I just looked up “knights hanged in armor” and what comes up as the first thing actually related to medieval history?  The Albigensian Crusade! WEIRD!

Only one problem, the Albigensian Crusade was in the 13th century, so this probably isn’t it.  Also, I was not involved in prosecuting the Albigensian Crusade myself as I was in the service of King John (who was excommunicated and allied with Raymond of Toulouse against France who allied with the Pope).  Being an ally of Raymond of Toulouse might have sent me into Cathar Country while this was going on, but I doubt this is what I saw.


An incredible moment happened between myself, my fiance, and a friend of ours at a little tea shop deep in the suburbs of Portland (in an area that smelled of nutmeg and wildflowers).  My fiance and I each had a round of chess with this friend of ours, and something about the way we played against each other was electrifying.

I had the strangest feeling that we had all played together during the reign of King John, though just who my fiance and our friend might have been, I don’t really know.  We each seemed to know each other’s strategies before even beginning, with my fiance and I playing as if we had played this guy before.  I’ve played chess before in this life (it’s probably been about a decade), but it was never once this exciting or interesting.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, and I haven’t said anything to my fiance, but I do know that as Count William I was fond of games like chess, backgammon, and apparently card games if some sources are to be believed (though there’s little evidence of playing cards before the 14th century so I’d like to know what primary source this came from!).  It was generally a popular pastime in those days so it’s not surprising.

Still, it really feels like something of those long-gone days came back today. I have never had a chess match like this one and I hope it’s the start of many more.

I’m Actually Going…

I’m actually going.

Holy crap, I’m actually going.

That thought’s been playing in my head for the last week or so.  I’m actually going to see places that I knew in my last life.  I’m returning to my roots in the Bay.

Such a strange mix of emotions right now.  How will I feel when I’m on the ground in Point Reyes Station, or Berkeley?  How will I feel when I see the houses I lived in, the record store I used to work in, the high school I went to?

Maybe it’ll prove to me once and for all that I wasn’t him.  I’m kind of hoping that’s the case.  The whole time I’ve suspected I was Phil I’ve been vexed by what exactly that means, if it’s part of some bigger Divine plan that I’ve been returned to this earth or if it was hubris to think I’d be whisked away to some heavenly Palm Tree Garden when I died, and what if anything I should do with myself as a writer.  But if I wasn’t him, then I have none of his baggage and that can only be a good thing because he had way too much of it.

Graduation gives me a good pretext to go… as far as a lot of my friends know that’s my reason for this trip.  I’ve admitted publicly that I’m a fan of Phil’s work but only a few friends know the real story, and that’s how I want to keep it.  I sure as hell won’t say here where I’ll be staying or what my exact itinerary will be, on the off chance someone more unhinged than me might think it was a good idea to confront me.  Even if I meet someone who knew me in that life, I don’t feel like I want to bother them with it.  This is about more than just answering selfish questions.  Even so, there is someone I really would like to apologize to for how I treated them back then, and if I say anything, it will be by way of apology.

I’ve still got a few more weeks for this to really sink in.  The trip will be in late June.  I’ll be driving, which will bring me right through the Humboldt Redwoods and some perfectly majestic stretches of the Pacific coastline.

The place I’m staying will have WiFi, so there will probably be updates.  Also, I got a new camera, so photos are likely and video is a possibility.

Until then, updates here will be sparse as I finish up a grueling term at Portland State.  I’ve had some great success with the research I’m doing on that old medieval manuscript, including discovering things about it that the library didn’t know.  That project is eating a good bit of my spare time though, and probably will until the middle of June.

Until my next update, stay tuned… this story isn’t over.  Not by a long shot.

A Bright Spot

I don’t seem to have fallen as hard into a mood about my latest memories as I have in the past.  It seems that my research has provided some relief after all.

Just today, I made some really impressive discoveries about the provenance of a medieval manuscript in the collections of the Multnomah County library.  I had been trying to pinpoint the workshop that made it but that lead turned cold; however, I’m finding many other pieces of valuable information about the book’s provenance that will no doubt be of interest to the library and to the professor teaching the class.

The whole experience has been rewarding and engrossing for me and I find that the ghosts of 1915 don’t have the same hold on me they once did.  Perhaps medieval scholarship is only ad-hoc relief but it’s relief nonetheless.

Absorbed, But…

I’m thoroughly absorbed in my work for spring term, and I’m really enjoying working with medieval manuscripts.

However, I find that the unexpected sense of head-swimming nostalgia I got the first time I held a medieval book in my hands just doesn’t come to me now.  Even after holding the same Book of Hours again a couple weeks ago, I didn’t feel it any more.

On one of the forums I post on someone mentioned how these triggers hit us when we least expect it, but then they’re gone and we can’t go back and retrieve that feeling at will.  It was a slightly unsettling feeling, but not negative at all.  It wasn’t like the downright-eerie feeling I get when something reminds me of Phil’s life, or the profoundly sad or fearful feelings from John’s life.  It was similar in some indescribable character but the overall impression I got was that none of the lives I lived in medieval times were regrettable.

Maybe it’s just the fact that it was so long ago that I’ve made peace with anything bad that happened back then; I’m inclined to believe that’s so.  While “nasty, brutish and short” is an over-simplification, life in medieval Europe often fit at least one of those descriptors depending on where you were and what you did for a living.  Perhaps, if I can make peace with the countless bad ends I must have come to in those times, then I’ll make peace with the bad end I came to in France in 1915.

What I have been getting out of this, however, is a growing sense that I was a monk in at least one life.  No memories yet, sadly, but the special collections at Portland State and the County Library just down the street from campus are such comfortable places for me, in silence and surrounded by ancient books.  I am now almost completely sure that I spent several lives reading and copying texts like these.

Maybe I’ll stumble onto a trigger that brings it all to light.  Until then, I’m thoroughly absorbed in my work and quite happy that way.

The Grand Pattern

I’ve figured out what the grand pattern across and within all of my lives is.

I have been a profoundly fearful person, and I oscillate continually between total conformity and total rebellion when the pressure of total conformity becomes too much.

In my medieval life, total conformity had rewards but in 1915, total conformity came with an immense cost.

There’s a quote from my previous life that sums up this continuing pattern: “There’s two of me.  There’s the ashen, obsessive endlessly-working Calvinist, and then there’s the other part of me that doesn’t give a fuck.”

And even in my current life, I’ve oscillated back and forth between the ashen, obsessive, endlessly-working Calvinist and the rebel who cares nothing for prudish ideas of conformity and productive living.  At the heart of it all was fear.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of abandonment.  Fear of being left behind in some way or another.  Fear of being taken advantage of by someone stronger or smarter or with more authority.

In three lifetimes, too, I had long periods where I hid behind a gun and while this made sense on the Western Front, it didn’t make sense in Portland, Oregon in 2012.

I think, given the circumstances, gender dysphoria was actually the best thing that could have happened to me because it forced me to confront the truth of my nature on every level.  My personality shattered into a billion pieces and the resulting mess gave me a chance to take inventory of just how much of those old accretions I needed.  I found things in my metaphysical attic going back to medieval times.

But I’d be lying if I said I was done being fearful.  In fact it was the emergence of that old fearful side of me a few weeks ago that prompted this assessment.  When I am unable to do anything about a situation, I panic and I become fearful and direct my aggression outward, or hide my fear and lose myself in conformity only to break under the strain.

This is an opportunity to break a long-standing pattern though, and I believe I can.  I believe we aren’t slaves to our past and that our nature is not fixed or determined.  And when this life is over, I want to be able to smile and say to myself “well done,” not because of anything I produced creatively or any laurels I’ve rested on, but knowing that I’ve just broken one of the great barriers that has kept me from being as loving, peaceful, and wise as I am capable of being.


I remembered having a very ornate backgammon board in medieval times, and didn’t have to look very hard to find examples of such boards:

It’s frustrating when a confirmation comes that easily and it seems less remarkable and rewarding than a confirmation I really have to do some serious research for.  Nonetheless, it was worth recording because none of the sources I’ve read mention a fondness for backgammon (though one source did mention a fondness for cards and frequent gambling debts).

If nothing else, it adds a bit of dimension to Count William.