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PostSubject: Templar mythology   Wed 08 Mar 2017, 23:01

I wasn't sure whether to post this here or 'Religion and Superstition', but since strongly involves on how people choose to interpret history and myth I thought I'd try here.

Since childhood I have been fascinated by the Order of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, aka the Knights Templar.  However, what I have found fascinating is the extraordinary real story, about an order of warrior monks who rose to become one of the most powerful institutions in Christendom before coming to a sudden and spectacular downfall in the early 14th century, their story essentially ending with the burning of the last Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, in 1314.  However, they have become obscured by a vast body of mythology, legend and conspiracy theories. 

Last year I did a talk on the Order.  The first half dealt primarily with the origins, organisation and fall of the Order.  The second half was dedicated to debunking some of the main myths:
- The lost Templar treasure.
- The secret artefacts the Order recovered from the Holy Land (including the Turin Shroud and the Holy Grail).
- The Priory of Sion.
- Their esoteric and/or heretical knowledge and practices.
- Their connection to the Freemasons.
- Their connection to the Rosslyn Chapel.
- Their alleged survival today.
- Their connection to aliens (and the Jedi!)

I hoped I'd done a convincing job.  However, immediately afterwards one of the audience came up and confided that he was convinced the Templars still existed (although he was unable to offer any evidence).

Today, friends have been bombarding me with news of the 'rediscovery' of a cave system in Shropshire which - according to the rather excitable reports - are believed to have been used by Templars in hiding during the 14th century 'persecutions' and perhaps beyond.  The cave system is rather splendid, I'll grant you, but I've yet to see anything to link the caves to the Templars - no inscriptions, no pictures of carvings with alleged Templar significance, let alone the word of an archaeologist or historian.

What is about the poor Poor Knights that makes them such magnets for conspiracy and myth-making?  More generally, where does the desire to mythologise history come from?  In some cases it's obvious: for example, a need for a hero, a desire to gloss over some unsavoury aspect of the past, or even simple nostalgia.  But - apart from a time when the Crusaders were widely considered (in the West, at least) a Good Thing, the Templars do not fit easily into any of these categories.  I understand that modern-day Templars are the villains of the Assassin's Creed game franchise, with descendants of the Assassins as the heroes.  (I do, incidentally, think it ironic that in this day and age a successful series of video games and now a movie feature heroes who are members of what was in essence one of the earliest Islamic terrorist groups!)
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Templar mythology   Thu 09 Mar 2017, 08:58

I agree - why would they have been hiding in a cave in England? Unlike in France there was no wholesale persecution of the order, though Edward (who, unlike Philip, wasn't in hock to them so really didn't give a toss either way) eventually succumbed to pressure from the pope & Co and insisted that they disband. For the most part the celibates then became either Hospitallers or Cistercians, and the lay members simply carried on banking.

The Royston cave in Hertfordshire, which sounds like it may also be the "inspiration" behind any similar cave in Shropshire, is the one traditionally associated with the Templars, though that association has absolutely no basis in historically attested fact either.

One artificial cave (ie. cellar) that has some attestable association however is the one under Hertford Castle which on one recorded occasion was used as a prison cell for four Templars from nearby Dinsley. The local baron reckoned the lads had hidden treasure without offering him a cut and got Edward to sign an arrest warrant. They hadn't any treasure and were eventually released.
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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: Templar mythology   Thu 09 Mar 2017, 11:08

I think people like an air of mystery - or perhaps even to think they are "in the know" - hence why there are people who believe in conspiracy theories. I was once instructed to "Wake up and smell the coffee" when I said that I thought the late Princess Diana's death was what it seemed to be - a very unfortunate accident. I don't know a great deal about the Templars - except what I've sometimes come across in historical novels but nowadays I tend to treat historical novels as an occasional "fun" read and don't ascribe historical fidelity to the facts to them. On another thread I rambled on a bit one day about some YouTube videos I'd been watching (I was convalescing and had time on my hands). I'd clicked by mistake on to one of those "Illuminati" videos and you know, the spirit was willing (to do something more sensible) but the flesh it was weak and I kept clicking on these very silly videos - an analogy I've used before is one known too much chocolate at once isn't good for one but the chocolate box is s-o-o-o-o tempting. Anyway, I watched a number of these strange videos and it is surprising what some people assert. Somebody said that Beyonce's daughter's name "Blue Ivy" - meant daughter of Lucifer in Latin. Unless Latin has changed since I was at school d---- of L----- in Latin is something like filia Luciferi (so many years since I did Latin at school and I only just scraped a pass at O level). The YouTube conspiracy theorists obviously hadn't heard about Anglo-Nordman's debunking of the Templars connection to the freemasons because it was repeated!

I wonder if the interest in the Templars has anything to do with the reports of them (very likely it seems such reports being spurious) having allegedly concealed treasure. Maybe (way back when) thinking of finding buried treasure was a fantasy for ordinary (and not wealthy) folk much as winning the pools - or more lately the lottery - subsequently became. Very occasionally people make finds (nothing to do with the Templars I know) such as Sutton Hoo and The Staffordshire Hoard. Not that I've ever been out with a metal detector but I think I've said the only metal I've ever detected in Staffordshire has been things like rusty tin cannisters.

The "local baron" mentioned by Nordmann in his final paragraph above sounds like the stereotypical "robber baron" - though I guess if the Templars in question had no treasure there was nothing he could rob.

Off topic completely, but Anglo-Norman, do people in the Channel Islands speak Norman French anymore? I heard that it had rather died out when the (then) children were evacuated during Word War II but I've never actually been to the Channel Islands (and I don't think watching reruns of "Bergerac" before my TV went bump count).
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Templar mythology   Thu 09 Mar 2017, 11:57

Templar treasure was a powerful meme for many centuries after they were disbanded - no great surprise given their reputation for wealth and the suddenness of their dissolution. In Dublin the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham is built on an old Templar monastery site. It was said that during the demolition of the old ruins when preparing the site a previously unknown underground chamber was discovered, its door sealed. The then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Ormonde, forbade anyone else open it, and then he and a few friends did the deed in private. After they were finished the room was found indeed to be empty, though Ormonde remained tight lipped for the rest of his days about whether he had found stuff or not. Mind you, Ormonde had a reputation for having a giggle at other people's expense, so it's anyone's guess now.

The meme didn't stop with that either - a good treasure story is apparently hard to kill once it gets started. For the next few centuries that the Hospital was in use there were several stories about hidden cellars etc being "discovered" by staff and inmates, and as recently as in the 80s a member of the Board Of Works who was renovating the building informed me over a pint of "strange things going on in the cellars at night" involving ghost knights, rattling chains, moans and groans, and so on, ending with that he reckoned they were Templars still "guarding their treasure".

Mind you, the Royal Hospital was a spooky place at the time anyway - the overgrown and dilapidated central courtyard was where the state stored all the old British Rule statues that had been removed from public locations. I used to work next door to it and had access, so often ate my lunch sitting between several Victorias, William of Oranges and a few anonymous dignitaries with handlebar moustaches and tail coats.

It's been done up now and looks smashing ...

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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: Templar mythology   Thu 09 Mar 2017, 20:16

That's an interesting story, Nordmann and the restored Royal Hospital does look impressive now going by the photo. I took an online shorthand dictation shorthand class tonight - not that I'm improving my speed, just keeping it ticking over - but the lady doing the dictations had taken some pieces from newspapers to give us practice (with shorthand being a declining skill there are not many modern books of dictation pieces). Anyway, one of the pieces she dictated was about the "templar" caves near Shifnal and apparently (I can't remember who or what his/her qualifications were) someone is now saying they probably date from the 18th or 19th century so not quite contemporaneous with the Templars if that's true. Apparently there is a theory the caves could have been used for black magic - urgh that gives me the creeps.

I have visited (mind you it was over 20 years ago) Hawkstone Park in Weston-under-Redcastle in Shropshire where the 1988 TV Narnia series was filmed. Not quite New Zealand but it was beautiful - nothing to do with Templars though as far as I understand it http://www.bbc.co.uk/shropshire/content/articles/2005/12/08/hawkstone_narnia_feature.shtml
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PostSubject: Re: Templar mythology   Fri 10 Mar 2017, 21:51

Often these so-called Templar caves are extremely elaborate, not the sort of thing a group of desperate fugitive monks would be taking refuge in, even if they needed to.  They must have been carved until more peaceable circumstances.  If the Templars were orthodox in their beliefs there was no reason for them to have underground chapels, so such features would suggest heresy - but there's no real proof that they towed anything but the official line.  The matter of their most famous alleged heresy - that they worshipped an idol known as the Baphomet - is a case in point: I find it very telling that none of the Templars forced into a confession seemed able to agree on just what the Baphomet was!

The other reason for their caverns might be if the Order secretly continued after their official dissolution, but again there's no proof - and no point.  Their entire raison d'etre required them to be able to operate openly.  Unless, I suppose, they had a secret purpose instead, but again, where's the evidence?

Hunting for the Templar treasure remains a popular pastime for some.  The so-called Oak Island Money Pit off Nova Scotia is one alleged location.  In reality much of the Templars' wealth was tied up in land, and whatever money existed was, I imagine, handed over to the Hospitallers (as it was supposed to be) or snaffled by the civil authorities.  King Philip IV went to the Temple treasury in Paris and found it bare, according to an eyewitness report - that eyewitness being a chap by the name of King Philip IV.  Not suspicious at all...

LadyinRetirement, there are very few in the Channel Islands who still speak their native tongues fluently, the majority being relatively elderly.  Auregnais (once spoken in Alderney) has entirely died out, as has the form spoken in Herm.  Jèrriais (spoken in Jersey), Guernésiais (spoken in Guernsey) and Sercquiais (spoken in Sark, though strictly speaking a dialect of Jèrriais) are still clinging on. You are right that the Occupation had a severe impact, as many children (as you say) were evacuated to the mainland and thus spent a formative part of their youth having to mostly speak English.  Furthermore, more than ever the Islands have become less isolated from the UK.  It is thought, however, that the large numbers of British troops stationed in the Islands during the late 18th/early 19th centuries had already contributed to a decline.  Private organisations, and more recently the governments, have made efforts to preserve the languages.  People who wish to learn the local language, however, inevitably tend to be taught a standardised version.  There were once numerous 'dialects' of Jèrriais despite the small size of the Island, with some differences quite marked: an example often cited is that in the west the word for spider is pêtre, but in the east it is aithangnie - such differences will die out, though.  The different languages are (with a little work) mutually intelligible, and a Channel Islander speaking their patois would be able to have a conversation with a speaker of 'proper' Norman-French.
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PostSubject: Re: Templar mythology   Sat 11 Mar 2017, 12:40

Thank you for the comprehensive information about the native tongues on the Channel Islands, Anglo-Norman.

Now I've come across an article that says that the "Templar" caves were not unknown but that they were sealed up in 2009 to try and discourage vandalism.  http://www.snopes.com/knights-templar-caves-shropshire/

Just reading through my earlier post, I wonder if by linking to the article about Hawkstone Park I made it sound as if the caves in Hawkstone Park were the "Templar" caves.  Of course, they were not, the only thing they have in common with the allegedly "Templar" caves is that they are in Shropshire.  (My home county shares a boundary with Shropshire though I haven't been over that way for quite some time).


Edited 12.3.17 to insert a missing word.


Last edited by LadyinRetirement on Sun 12 Mar 2017, 13:18; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Templar mythology   Sat 11 Mar 2017, 22:08

Thanks for the link, LadyinRetirement - most enlightening!  I rather suspected it was a folly (in more ways than one, perhaps?).  I realised you didn't mean Hawkstone.  It's a place I've visited myself, as a child - we used to go to Shropshire a lot as - although I consider myself a Jerseyman through and through - my father's family have come from Shrewsbury for generations; my earliest recorded ancestor on that side was a blacksmith in the Abbey Foregate in the 1370s (I wonder if his grandfather knew any subterranean Templars...) and I am an Hereditary Freeman of Shrewsbury.  Sadly the government have taken away my rights - I  can no longer drive my sheep across the Welsh Bridge and graze them in the Quarry, no can I make a quick buck by corruptly administering my tax gathering rights.  On the plus side, at least the Queen can no longer insist I carry my pike in defence of the Crown.

The Royston Cave, which nordmann mentioned earlier, has lots of interesting carvings that - with more than a little imagination - can be interpreted as Templar.  The only link to the Shropshire caves is apparently local legend, which according to the BBC, says the Templars used them in the 17th(!) century - is that really what the legend says, or is the Beeb clouding the issue further by fluffing the date?  And had old is the the legend, anyway?

I think their admittedly secretive nature (for entirely practical reasons), elite status and dramatic fall are all contributing factors to the Templars' popularity with conspiracy theorists and pseudo-historians.  I also suspect that once something has been established within the conspiracy world it becomes a lightening rod for more and more theories.  For example: one genuine claim is that the Jedi Knights were based on the Templars, which is part of the evidence for a massive Masonic conspiracy in Hollywood. Another genuine claim is that the Rosslyn Chapel was a landing platform for spaceships.  It won't take long for me to weave together a narrative proving that the real people who adhere to the Jedi religion are secretly Templars who travelled from a galaxy far, far away landed their ship in Scotland a long time ago, and are preparing the ground for when the Trade Federation travels across time and space to ally themselves with the Capitalist Freemasons to rule the Earth with their army of Battle Droids!  Or something.  Now, if only I can find a symbol in the Royston Cave that looks like the Jedi logo...

But seriously, we're always going to be faced with people who don't want to accept that facts.  If I may quote the conclusion of my own talk:

Quote :

I daresay my analysis could be challenged: Perhaps the evidence has been tampered with.  Perhaps my religious beliefs have prejudiced me.  Perhaps studying history in an academic background has closed my mind to less conventional possibilities.  Perhaps I am even an agent of a secret society descended from the Templars, and am even now trying to steer you away from the shocking truth we have guarded for centuries!  Or maybe – just maybe – the Templars were the remarkable but wholly orthodox Order of Christian warrior-monks they claimed to be, whose wealth came from careful investment and the gifts of the faithful, whose downfall was not brought about by their heretical knowledge but the simple avarice and lust for power of a French king, and whose story ended with the execution of Jacques de Molay, last Grand Master, in 1314.
Terry Pratchett once wrote that no-one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.  In that sense, perhaps, the Templars might indeed be said to live on.  Ultimately, though, in my view the real story of the Order of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon is a truly extraordinary one, and nothing the conspiracy theorists and pseudo-historians have come up with has yet outshone it.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is perhaps the Templars’ greatest legacy.

We can try to demonstrate the folly of such theories where we can, but I think in the end sometimes there's nothing to be done but stand back, shaking our heads an muttering (as we say in Jersey) "Mouôn Doue!  Tchi niolîn!" ("My God!  What rubbish!")
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PostSubject: Re: Templar mythology   Tue 14 Mar 2017, 22:22

Well didn't some folk put their religion as "Jedi" in the most recent UK census? I know it was just a joke. (I hope it was).

Anglo-Norman said "Ultimately, though, in my view the real story of the Order of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon is a truly extraordinary one, and nothing the conspiracy theorists and pseudo-historians have come up with has yet outshone it. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is perhaps the Templars’ greatest legacy." It does seem a shame that people have to put forward spurious theories. I wonder sometimes if the conspiracy theorists are hoaxers - I remember a feature appearing - about a society with the aim of clothing naked animals - on the "Tonight" programme (the one with Cliff Michelmore that was on light-years ago) and it was later revealed to be a hoax, a prank http://hoaxes.org/archive/permalink/the_society_for_indecency_to_naked_animals

I see A-N has referenced the Baphomet. That was mentioned in some of the "Illuminati" videos I saw on YouTube (my excuse is that I was convalescing at the time and I'm sticking to that). Another thing that was referenced (not particularly in connection with the Templars to be fair) was celebrities making a 666 sign with their hands - but I couldn't help thinking that when the Bible was written 666 would have been written VI VI VI (though probably not with the spaces) - I don't think Arab numbers were in use in the "western" world at the time of the writing of the Bible but if I am wrong I'm sure somebody will notify me.
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PostSubject: Re: Templar mythology   Tue 14 Mar 2017, 23:31

Whilst I daresay some of the theories are hoaxes (the Priory of Sion bloodline nonsense began as a hoax which got out of hand, after all), sadly it's too widespread for all the 'conspiracies'to be hoaxes.  Much as we'd like to think better of the human race, many are all to ready ready to swallow it.

The Revelation to John would originally have been written in Greek.  The (or rather a) Greek version renders 666 in the numerals χξς which would (I think) be quite hard to do with your hands, unless there's such a thing as Ancient Greek sign language.  Curiously, my New Revised Standard Version translation renders it in long-hand ("six hundred and sixty-six"); I'm not sure if that's a stylistic choice or if one of the Greek versions writes it out in full.  Just to add to the confusion, though, it does add a footnote saying "Other ancient authorities read six hundred and sixteen", so these sinister celebrities might be signing completely the wrong number anyway.  The poor Second Beast will be terribly muddled by the time the Apocalypse happens.
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PostSubject: Re: Templar mythology   Wed 15 Mar 2017, 08:48

In Roman numerals 666 would usually have been written as DCLXVI ie using one of each letter a bit like writing 123456789 and there is evidence that as such it was sometimes used figuratively just to mean an undefined yet very big number.
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