A little over a hundred years ago, a man called Arthur Bulleid lived here in Glastonbury. Arthur’s story has always fascinated me, so let me share it with you.
Arthur was a well educated young man from a wealthy family who had always had a passion for archaeology. He went on a trip to Switzerland, where he was able to visit the remains of prehistoric lake villages, built on timber rafts with causeways to the mainland.
Arthur had a moment. What would you call it – inspiration, intuition, remote viewing, hunch…? Whatever it was, Arthur Bulleid ‘knew’ there would be villages like this close to his native town, so he came home and began searching for them.
I should explain that Glastonbury is a former island (the Isle of Avalon), since it was once all but surrounded by watery marshland which has since been drained to form the Somerset Levels. That is really the only vague similarity to the topography he was seeing in Switzerland, yet, as I’ve said, he knew a similar village would be found here.
He set about excavating the slightly bumpy but otherwise unpromising field shown in these two pictures, which is a mile or two out of the town. The finds soon began to appear – dugout canoes, cooking pots, jewellery, animal bones, knives and spears, weights from weaving looms… in fact every type of artefact to prove that a thriving community lived on the site, along with the remains of the wooden raft bases and the stakes they rested on. Arthur had discovered exactly what he expected to find.
Strange, don’t you think?
Somewhere – I wish I could remember where – I heard a quote from a British archaeologist who had noticed a strange phenomenon. He said that when they began a dig expecting to find Roman remains, that’s what they found. When they expected Viking finds, these duly turned up, as did Saxon, mediaeval, Celtic and so forth. He insisted that this was not because they already knew what was there, but seemed to link in some way to their expectations.
Perhaps you will have heard the strange and wonderful recent story of Philippa Langley, who ‘knew’ that the bones of King Richard III would be found buried beneath a car park in Leicester. Her story can be found here. Once again we have a person with a passion for history and a conviction that somehow she knows the truth.
The first trench put into that car park revealed human bones. Their dating fitted. DNA tests linked these very bones conclusively to Richard’s remaining relatives and a curvature of the spine was noted which would have given rise to Shakespeare’s (somewhat biased – he knew which side his bread was buttered) depiction of Richard as a hunchback. The facial reconstruction made using the skull’s measurements was eerily similar to this portrait.
There’s another Glastonbury story that fits here. Most people dismiss it as a scam invented by the monks of Glastonbury Abbey to generate huge amounts of income, but I’m not so sure… In 1191 a group of monks digging in the grounds discovered an oak casket – ancient even then – containing the bones of two people, along with this little cross bearing an inscription which reads:
Here lies interred in the Isle of Avalon the renowned King Arthur.
Arthur and Guinevere! Obviously this caused massive interest. The English King and Queen attended an elaborate re-interment ceremony and pilgrims flocked to the Abbey, making it one of the richest in the country. Just before Henry VIII’s thugs sacked the Abbey, the tomb, bones and cross mysteriously disappeared. No one, presumably, wanted Arthur’s remains getting into his hands.
I’m sure you can see the thread running through these stories. It all comes down to cause and effect.
It sounds a ridiculous thing to say, I know, but I have an intriguing question to ask. What came first – the desire and determination to make these discoveries or the remains themselves? Were Arthur and Philippa, the thoughtful archaeologist and the mediaeval monks, the creators of this reality or the discoverers? Did they somehow cause the objects of their intention to be found right there, right then, or was it some instinct and knowing beyond time which drew them to the correct sites? Or both at once?
I have a personal reason for musing upon this; one which I may share at some future date…
From ‘What the Bleep?’, to The Secret, to the less hyped-up but nonetheless brilliant and revealing words of The Council and Higgins, we are told that we create what we wish to have in our lives. I believe that the examples above are a kind of chicken-and-egg scenario. Neither came ‘first’. The remains and the creator-discoverers simply came together as a result of a powerful emotional desire sent out by these individuals. I’m not sure that I believe any more in an objective reality.
A few years ago, I was inspired to write a book based on this idea. It was called Life: A Player’s Guide. I’d like to finish this post with a paragraph from the final page of that book, which, I feel, links rather neatly back to Arthur Bulleid – and the rest of us:
Be The Creator. Be all-powerful and create your own life. Getting rid of the doubts and fears and the million and one reasons why you can’t follow your dreams takes patience and determination. But the potential is there. Maybe that’s why your God/self arranged for your character in this particular game to discover this book. Maybe your narrative in this lifetime-game is the story of the hero who ‘comes home’ to find the hidden treasure. You already know how those stories go. Main characters set out on their quest. They travel far and wide, cope with all kinds of trials and tribulations and have all manner of adventures and experiences. Eventually they return home, only to discover that they had what they were seeking in their possession all the time, although they needed all those apparently incidental experiences to enable them to find it. Once they’ve made that discovery, they are able to share the treasure with those around them.