My novel, Pearl Seekers started out as a story about a young girl groomed by a secret cult. The Travelling Philanthropist is based around a time slip initiated by a secret society. However, I’ve far from exhausted the theme of secret societies and portals to other worlds.
In early summer 2011, we visited family in the south of France. One evening I was chatting with my son-in-law, Andrew. I’d had a hard time, having lost Mum, then Dad, then Uncle John and I was feeling a bit down. Andrew told me I shouldn’t be sad about death. He said it wasn’t anything to be sad about or to fear and assured me he absolutely believed the soul lives again in another life.
We went on to discuss my writing and he was interested to hear about my focus on time travel. He shared with me a book he was reading, The Portal by Patrice Chaplin – a memoir of her initiation when she travelled through the portal, a wormhole or doorway to the past and future. Andrew was interested in the story as the pic of the Canigou is an important site linked to the Renne-le-Chateau mystery. If you drew a line between the legendary twin towers of Mygdal, in Renne-le-Chateau and in Girona, it would pass through the pic of the Canigou. The area is full of fantastic tales, dangerous secrets and hidden messages. In 1885, Berenger Sauniere, village priest of Renne le Chateau, allegedly discovered great treasure. Dan Brown highlighted one of the secrets, the bloodline (or Holy Grail) in his book, The Da Vinchi Code.
Andrew had contacted Patrice Chaplin and they’d shared several email exchanges. According to legend, Salvador Dali was an initiate. A few days into our visit, on the 1st June, we travelled as a family to Figueres, Spain to visit the Dali Museum.
Three weeks later, we were back in the UK when we received the tragic news that Andrew had died. He’d made his way up the Canigou for the summer solstice. On his way back there was a storm. Andrew helped other people get safely down the mountain but then he was struck by lightning and killed.
We went back out to France for Andrew’s funeral. It was all terribly sad. The whole village of Prade turned out. Andrew was well loved by his community.
During the following few days, a number of strange things happened:
Firstly, it emerged that Andrew had gone up to the pic to look for the portal.
Then Patrice contacted my stepdaughter and told her that Andrew had been following her star map to the Canigou peak. Patrice was convinced that Andrew had found and passed through the portal but hadn’t been able to return.
While in Prade, we accompanied my stepdaughter on a visit to a local Abbey. In the small chapel, leaning against the wall, was a painting. I gasped when I saw it. The previous night I’d dreamt that I was on the mountain with my stepdaughter. In my dream she was just a child and I had to pick her up and carry her down to safety.
This is the painting. Weird coincidence, right?
When I got home, I carried out some research. I couldn’t track down the artist but the words are from a poem written by famous Catalan poet, Jacint Verdaguer. The Canigou inspired Verdaguer to write a collection of poems called Canigo. In these verses he describes the snowy mountain as a magnolia flower:
Lo Canigó és una magnòlia immensa
que en un rebrot del Pirineu se bada;
per abelles té fades que la volten,
per papallons los cisnes i les aligues.
Translation: ‘The Canigou is an immense magnolia that blooms in an offshoot of the Pyrenees; its bees are the fairies that surround it, and its butterflies the swans and the eagles.’
In Lloret de Mar, a stone angel statue commemorates Verdaguer who died in 1902. The statue is inscribed with the words from one of Verdaguer’s poems:
MARIA AL CEL GUIA / PER CAMÍ DE FLORS; / ANEMHI, CORREMHI, / CANTANT SOS AMORS. / CINTO VERDAGUER PBRE.
These words are repeated on the painting. They translate:
“Maria in the sky guides by the way of flowers we go and run there singing their loves” Jacint Verdaguer. This is an invitation to go and visit Mary.
The statue can be seen in the top left quarter of the painting and Mary descends the mountain between two towers. Salvador Dali and Jacint Verdaguer were both initiates, members of the secret society and had undertaken the spiritual journey through the portal.
Here is a poem inspired by this story.
They do say, ‘truth is stranger than fiction,’ and my writing will be reflecting that over coming months.