Friday, 27 June 2008

The Bosdet Code

Something lighter for the weekend! Like its progenitor, the Da Vinci code, not everything in this short story of mine is strictly accurate! Indeed, like Dan Brown, there are errors in plenty, although I found it quite difficult to make as many as Dan Brown makes, probably because I like to research before writing. I think the best mistake is probably not in the Da Vinci Code (despite the wonderful howlers in that) but his computer one Digital Fortress, where he describes the Nazi Enigma machine as weighing in at 12 tons! As one commentator put it - "Must be dark matter in that typewriter sized wooden box. " He also has no idea what a Caesar cipher is.

Anyway, here is the Jersey take on the Da Vinci code....

The Bosdet Code

St Brelade's Church nestles sleepily in the corner of St Brelade's Bay in the Channel Island of Jersey. The saint, Bran Wallader, after whom it is named, is lost in the mists of time, if indeed he ever existed; he might even have been a Christianised version of the ancient Celtic god of wheat, O'tbran, whose sacred meal took place at the start of day.

It was in this place that I began, on a tranquil summer's day, to pursue my interest in stained glass windows, completely unaware of the terrible dangers that lay in store, and the vengeance of those sinister acolytes of the Jersey Round Table. I was following up the eccentric and often fanciful history given by Daniel Le Brun, on oddities found in Jersey Church windows. I myself kept a journal, from which this narrative is crafted.

I wandered into the Church, looking with interest at the windows, finely crafted by the great glassmaker, Percival Bosdet, and listening to the noonday peal of bells.

"Excuse me, Sir"

I turned around, and there was an old man, with a sun-browned weathered face.


"My name is James Stoker, and I noticed you looking at those windows, sir. They are very fine, but I wondered if you might be interested in one not listed in the usual guide books".

I was intrigued at the thought of a hitherto unrecorded Bosdet window. What a wonderful find! The old man led me to the face towards the altar rail of the Lady Chapel.

"Now Sir, we turn one hundred and eighty degrees, to face up the church aisle and - follow me – we walk thirteen paces. Now look up to your left, high up, and there it is! The last window he placed before his untimely death"

There it was. A picture from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, of Jesus fashioning sparrows from mud, breathing on them, and then, across the picture, the transformation into living birds. To the left was a pyramid with a single eye in its centre, and below that was a cracked jar, with an earthenware scroll. I could dimly make out letters in an unusual type of Arabic. Over the top was a glass rainbow. And below, was a Grail Chalice with an inscription in Latin.

I took out my camera.

"No photos, Sir", said the old man, and so reluctantly, I thanked him for showing me this strange window, full of mysterious meanings, and left, determined to return and capture that on film, and crack the secret of the Bosdet code.

That night, I crept back to the church, armed with my digital camera. It was still unlocked! I went to the altar in the Lady Chapel, turned, and walked the thirteen steps, and looked up. There was that strange window. Quickly, I took several photos.

Then I heard a noise, an odd tapping noise. I looked around, but could see no one. But all of a sudden, the temperature dropped rapidly, and I began to shiver. Hastily, I left the church. Outside, the winter snow was falling heavily. I thought for a moment of Daniel Le Brun, and his complete disregard for historical continuity, that had nevertheless given me a vital clue, and led me to this place. But what strange conspirators might guard its secrets? I knew from Le Brun that such a revelation is always guarded in some way by a secret society. And what was the secret of the Bosdet code?

As I left the church, I thought I saw a shadow move behind me, and turning glimpsed, just momentarily, the silhouette of a tall monocled figure with a twisted cane. Then the man, if it was a man, retreated into the shadows. I hurried off back towards my car, my ears acutely straining for the sound of pursuit, fearful lest I heard a cane tapping on the cobbled path leading up from church to lyche gate.

The next day, I visited an antiquarian who I knew was interested in the bizarre, the occult and earth mysteries, but who also had an encyclopaedic knowledge of languages. It is always useful at some point in any story to know people like this, and I was fortunate to have Erich Von Trapp as an acquaintance. Von Trapp had been seconded to the German army during the Occupation of the Channel Islands, and, giving up a promising musical career, had buried himself in Island history; his most notable discovery was the remarkable Neolithic passage grave beneath the Parish Church of St Clement; found by tapping the stones lightly with a stick, and noting the different echoes.

He welcomed me in, and I explained the curious nature of the find. I had blown up a picture of the window, and the remarkable and unusual Arabic writing was now clearly visible.

"What do you make of that?" I asked.

"Ah, my dear friend. No wonder you had trouble! I have not seen Arabic like that for many years. Let me tell you a bit about its history. Many people do not know that the Buddha once made a pilgrimage to Mecca, along with his followers. It was after the time of the prophet, peace be upon him, and Buddhist teachings influenced some aspects of Islam, most notably the Sufi mystics. They would meditate, and in a trance like state, have strange and wonderful visions."

"But what has this to do with this Window?"

"These Sufi Masters wrote down in this kind of Arabic, which was, briefly, heavily influenced by borrowings from Chinese ideographs. But all that was lost when the Caliphate came to power, and the Sufi Masters fled to the West, establishing for a time a presence at Glastonbury; there they were a thorn in the side of the Christians, persecuted, they left to settle elsewhere in what was described as "a land across the waters". So much can be pieced together from the ancient texts, such as the Gospel of Judas, and the Arabian folk tales of the Night. The circle was a symbol of unity to them, and their final legacy in Britain was the legend of the round table."

He paused, and sipped his whisky.

"Few people can now read this, but you are fortunate in coming to me. What you have here is a kind of prophetic vision. Roughly, translated, it reads:"

When the crescent is in ascension

And Babel rises over the waters

A walking man leads the common herd

Then will come the final conflict

When the rising waters hold dominion

The jewelled isle does vanish beneath the waves

The fires of wrath will rain across the waters

Rent asunder, gives cloud of poison vapour.

"But what this means?" he shrugged, "Who can tell? It is some kind of secret, a code that may have died with Bosdet himself. But be careful, for the Latin may be a warning"

The latin inscription, which I had also mentioned, read:

"A mari usque ad mare, ad astra, sentio aliquos togatos contra me conspirare."

Von Trapp nodded sagely: "This is also a curious form of Latin. As you know, the Latin of the Middle Ages changed significantly, to Silver Latin, and then to its Bronze period of final decay. Roughly translated, this might mean:"

"From sea to sea, to the stars, the conspiracy will keep safe the secret sense."

"I should take great care," he nodded, "for some very strange and ruthless people will be guarding the secret of the Bosdet code."

I thanked him and left. On my way back to the hotel, I mused on the Arabic verses, but could make no headway. So I picked up a copy of the Jersey Evening Post, to take my mind of them. The headlines were full of the usual topical news and controversies. The building of Jersey's first mosque. High rise buildings now spreading across St Helier, problems faced at the waterfront with rising sea levels. The threat from a spillage of radioactive waste at the nearby reprocessing plant at La Hague.

But I just skimmed the paper, for I found I could not concentrate on anything except the Bosdet Code. And who were the mysterious guardians? Could the Sufi Masters have settled in Jersey? Might they be connected in some way with the secretive but outwardly respectable Jersey Round Table? Was the circle a clue? Or was the whole thing a figment of my deranged imagination? One thing was sure. If I kept a careless record of my adventures, I might one day have a best seller on my hands. After all, it had been done before!

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