A DIFFERENT STORY. From the beginning.

PART VI: ELYSIUM

43.  ISLES OF THE BLEST

Their work was done. The old lords completed the memorial diagram sculptured on the landscape of Armorica, they turned on the Two Great Lights that lit up the land of Mesopotamia between the Nile and the Euphrates, then they withdrew to the safe distance of their ancestral beach-house in the Isles of the Blest in the southwest Pacific.

They retired to Pohnpei (formerly Ponape) a high volcanic island about 7 degrees north of the equator in Micronesia, in what used to be called the Caroline Islands now formally known as the Federated States of Micronesia. That is east of Guam, northeast of Papua New Guinea, in the middle of nowhere. It was not quite home but it would do. Local folklore says there were only a few ‘foreigners’ who arrived in boats from the west in a curious atmosphere of relief … as if at last they had found a haven or refuge. They had come home.  They were tall ‘giants’ led by two brothers – Olosihpa and Olosohpa – who were magicians with supernatural powers which they used mainly to build a huge megalithic cemetery now called Nan Madol. They built a retirement village and a family mausoleum and settled down in Elysium where they are remembered now in oral history as the Saudeleurs … the ‘Lords’.

The ‘cemetery’ of Nan Madol (also called Metalamin) consists of about 90-100 megalithic structures built, semi-submerged, on a reef platform on the small island of Temwen on the coast of the main island of Pohnpei. The individual rock structures, built of coral rock and prismatic basalt columns, form discrete islets separated by canals. The islets and structures have been labelled as platforms, tombs, palaces and priests’ houses – but without a great deal of evidence. Recent attempted excavation of the surface rubble of ‘platforms’ stopped at about 1 m deep when it struck solid basalt. [1]  The dominant purpose appears to be as tombs and the site is known in local folklore as ‘The Place of the Dead’. The entrance in the main sea wall leading into the complex is called Nan Mwoluhsei, meaning tellingly, ‘the voyage ends here’.

The total complex extends over about 0.5 x 1.5 km and has been estimated to contain around 300,000 cubic metres or up to 750,000 tonnes of stone. Individual polygonal columnar basalt logs are commonly about 5 tonnes and are stacked in a header-stretcher fashion to a height of 6-7 metres. Boulders of 50-60 tonnes are common with some up to 3.5 m diameter estimated to weigh up to 90 tonnes. There are literally tens of thousands of individual stones and basalt ‘logs’.[2]

There is no basalt on the small island of Temwen so the basalt ‘logs’ must have come from quarry/s on the far side of the main island of Pohnpei, at a distance of 5-20 km by sea. According to orthodox geology when molten basalt cools under certain conditions it may solidify naturally into ‘prisms’ of polygonal section columns which then may be readily cut into logs. In the orthodox scenario these logs, commonly over 5 tonnes and up to 50-60 tonnes and more, were transported to Nan Madol on rafts – although local folklore insists they were magically ‘flown’ through the air.

90

Early superficial excavation identified charcoal dated to the 1200s AD, which is now conventionally designated as the period of construction – although more recently pottery shards have been dated to 1-200 BC. Either way, these dates indicate possible dates of occupation rather than original construction. Superficial excavations and collection of artefacts have revealed little more than the expected South Sea island shell trinkets with nothing suggesting any unusual technological ability. The collection of artefacts recovered by various researchers is described as ‘a typical Micronesian toolkit, dominated by shell adzes, fishhooks, scrapers and other tools and only a small number of lithic objects’. [3]

91

But there is a small problem with the orthodox account which presents a noticeable discrepancy between the materially ‘primitive’ state of the indigenous population versus the sophisticated organisational and mechanical capacity to spontaneously build a massive stone construction. Pohnpei is a small, mountainous, mostly uninhabitable island with a modest historical population of disjointed localised clans, estimated by the ‘must have been’ method at a total of maybe 20-30,000. Even then characterised as typically Micronesian of the period; think tribal groups with canoes, thatched hut, grass skirt, bone fish-hook and shell necklaces.  How and why did such a typically naive fragmented society suddenly construct such an incongruous and disproportionate megalithic complex involving transport and erection of tens of thousands of basalt columns weighing several tonnes, often 50-60 tonnes?  How did they even handle such massive objects? There is a logical incompatibility, not to say implausibility.

The local folklore provides answers, although in a sense it was not their own folklore – it was the stories of tall ‘different’ foreigners who arrived by boat long, long ago, in ‘past times’. As was the case in Egypt and in Britain the folklore is now garbled and humanised and localised, but it still contains easily identifiable themes and imagery. Including imagery of the foreigners’ ‘magic’ technology, ‘sacred stones’, taboo [forbidden] sites and versions of stories recognisable in Classical European mythology.  There was written history on inscribed [wooden] tablets but they were burned when Pohnpei was afflicted by a succession of Christian missionaries … French priests in 1837, American Protestants in 1853, then Spanish Capuchins from 1887. Once again, seminal human history was burned in the name of the new God.

The tall foreigners arrived by boat from far away in the west in past times, long ago. They settled first on Sokehs Island in the northwest, which they named for the early Egyptian goddess, Sekhet. Curiously the local translation of the name now means ‘a place for coming and going’ (a port, which it still is); or alternatively, ‘bring no more people’, reflecting an early immigration policy. They established the Saudeleur dynasty, meaning ‘Lords of Deleur’ which remains obscure but may mean simply ‘The Lords of Ours’.

These were the last of the monogene lords, the sons of the sons of Aeneas of Troy, who came displaying two signatures. First, they came bearing the eternal flame of heaven and earth – like their forefather Aeneas who fled carrying the ‘Sacred Fire of the Hearth’. They couldn’t go anywhere without it. Second, when they built megalithic ‘tombs’ or bunkers to safely hold the sacred fire they constructed them unusually out of prismatic, columnar basalt. That is uniquely characteristic. Prismatic basalt columns may occur naturally as volcanic lava cools, although it is observed in only maybe half a dozen places in the world. But such columns are uniquely used for megalithic construction in only one other place in the world – associated with an early pre-Olmec pyramid of La Venta in southern Mexico, in Mesoamerica – built by the original sons of Aeneas long ago when they first fled Troy.

The Saudeleurs – ‘Our Lords’ – built the Nan Madol megalithic complex as a final resting place, perhaps for themselves but also as a safety deposit bunker for the sacred fire. Tellingly, the main entrance from the sea was called Nan Mwoluhsei, meaning, ‘the journey ends here’. They built on the reef of Temwen Island in the southwest because it presented a remote, isolated, flat area with ready access from the sea – whereas the main island was inaccessibly mountainous and covered in heavy jungle. They built enormous megalithic ‘platforms’, partially underwater and originally separated by navigable canals for ease of access. The name ‘Nan Madol’ means rather enigmatically ‘spaces between’, which may simply refer to the canals.

The so-called ‘tombs’ or ‘temples’ were said to be built to honour Nahnisohn Sapw, ‘God of the earth’, later misinterpreted in European translations as ‘God of Agriculture’. It originally referred of course to the ‘heaven and earth’ of the Egyptians. The site was the location for the ‘Great Ceremony’ called ‘worship of the earth’. The Nan Madol ‘tombs’ were rather basic and utilitarian but their ground plan (Fig 92) was essentially the same as many ‘temples’ of ancient Egypt – with an outer wall, inner courtyard, second wall and a third level naos, sanctum sanctorum, holy-of-holies.

92

The main (largest) building was called the ‘Temple of the Fire Breathing Dragon’, in later versions watered down to ‘The Dove’ which ironically in Christian iconography became the symbol of the ‘Holy Spirit’. Certain structures were for ‘confinement’ of the ‘Great Spirit’ of Nahn Sapwe the Thunder God; while another was dedicated specifically for ‘feeding the sacred electric eel’. At first sight that’s weird imagery but it is simply a localised parallel to the Egyptian ‘Cobra’ – the Electric Eel was naive local imagery for ‘the rod’, a magic stick that delivered a fatal ‘electric’ sting.

The Lords were said to have had weapons characterised as ‘spears and stones’, from which the ‘stones’ survived and were recorded by Hambruch in the 1920s as ‘beautifully polished stones the size of ostrich eggs’. Just as the Egyptian ‘god’ of the Pyramid Texts … like a flaming breath came forth from his egg.

Again, in parallel to Egyptian and Hebrew lore, the ‘temples’ were ‘taboo’ (sacrosanct), with access permitted only to ‘priests’; and only during the day, never overnight. At one site – Kedira – the priests or managers were dwarfs, as in Egypt. No women were allowed access – because of the danger of radiation causing barrenness. No [metal] weapons were permitted on site – because they may become localised secondary sources of radiation (just as in Hebrew lore there were no nails in Solomon’s temple and all metal loot from battle had to be purified by fire).

Just as in Egypt where locals retained a terror of the illahat evil spirits in the pyramids, so at Nan Madol there remained a fear of the ghosts at the site, especially at night. Staying overnight remained fiercely taboo. Despite that prohibition, there is a well-documented case where in 1907 German administrator Berg insisted on staying over to excavate a ‘tomb’ from which he recovered various artefacts and ‘large’ bones. He returned next day with a ruddy complexion – like Moses emerging from the mount – and promptly died from an official diagnosis of ‘sunstroke’. Ironically, from ‘solar’ radiation. That episode is directly parallel to Josephus’ account of Herod who dared to open the sacred crypt of David and Solomon in 4 BC, at which two of his guards were slain on the spot by ‘fire’. Herod escaped apparently unharmed but soon after succumbed to ‘distemper’ with typical symptoms of sub-acute radiation poisoning – exulcerated entrails, convulsions, quickness of returns, and stench and putrefaction of his privy member – from which he soon died a horrible death.

Aside from the obvious allusions to radiation technology the Nan Madol site also generated lingering folklore accounts of themes parallel to Greek and Hebrew mythology – from half a world away. The sacred sites of Nan Madol were guarded by mythical dogs called Ounmatakai (‘watchmen of the land’), just as the Greeks’ ‘underworld’ was guarded by Cerberus the multi-headed dog.

In other multiple accounts one of the original brothers, or one of the ‘gods’, impregnated a local barren woman producing a semi-divine (half-caste) hero called Isokelekel ‘The Shining One’, the first of twelve generations who eventually supplanted the Saudeleurs. An account which has obvious parallels to the Hebrew myth of Abraham’s barren wife Sarah who was ‘visited’ by a Lord and originated the generations that became the twelve tribes of Israel who inherited the Promised Land.

The final telling link to Classical mythology was in the name of their settlement at ‘Sokehs’, a variant spelling of the early Egyptian goddess Sekhet who, amongst various attributions, was associated with Sekhet iaru, the Field of Reeds, another name for the Elysian Fields. The eternal paradise, the final resting place for the virtuous and noble; Islands of the Blessed in a bountiful and benign climate surrounded by ocean, in the ‘underworld’ at the very ends of the Earth. So it was that the last of the monogene lords, sons of sons of Aeneas, lived out their days in the tropical paradise of Sokehs. Blessed by the eternal Spring of a benign tropical climate, kissed by the sun but with abundant rain (5000 mm, 190 inches pa), set amongst verdant tropical jungle surrounded by a pacific ocean. Far removed from the madding crowd; Paradise on Earth; in the ‘underworld’ (underside) of the Earth.

But from afar the lords frowned as they observed their legacy in the Middle East. The tribes of men engaged in interminable, internecine warfare, massacring each other with the manifest help of the rod. That was a mistake making the rod so widely available – it should have been more tightly controlled. But it was too late. Isis parted her veil; Pandora opened the lid of her box revealing the secret of death and evil spirits. Even though the arms factory in the Great Pyramid was bricked-up, other sources emerged. The descendants of Moses … sent the rod of thy strength out of Mount Zion, to rule thy enemies … the light appeared and went forth as an all-consuming fire … awesome and terrible out of its holy places. Nations compassed me about, but by the word of the Lord [YHWH] I destroyed them’. [4] The tribes fought each other to near death. Until eventually the rod disappeared and even knowledge of it descended into alchemy and magic. The power vacuum in the Middle East was occupied by the Persians, then the Macedonians, and finally the Romans. In 70 AD they sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and reduced Israel to a mere province of Rome. But amongst the slaves taken back to Rome were the seeds of the new empire of Christianity. Men lost the rod but found religion. The old sun-god Ra became God the Father, his son Osiris became Jesus, and from them emanated the unholy spirit of new religion which infected the western world for the next 2000 years. The tribes fought all over again, this time in the names of their new Gods.

In anguish the lords turned back to the comfort of their Paradise. In the west now a glorious sun dropped from a limpid azure sky; distant gathering clouds promised a regular evening shower; a gentle nor-east breeze rippled a pacific ocean and stirred the verdant foliage of fruit trees. Everything in the garden was good. They lived in what Hesiod called the Fortunate Isles, happy heroes along a shore of deep-swirling ocean, for whom earth bears honey-sweet fruit flourishing thrice a year. [5] Plutarch provided an even more accurate detail, as if from an eyewitness … they lived in the Isles of the Blest, ten thousand furlongs distant, with moderate rains and soft northeast winds and salubrious airs, with little change of seasons and a rich soil which produced plentiful fruit without toil to leisured folk. Here were the Elysian Fields of which Homer sang. [6]

The lords poured  another coconut rum cocktail and argued amongst themselves about where it all went wrong.

[1] Ayres et al, 2015. Archaeology of Nan Madol and Temwen Island, Pohnpei

[2] http://whc.unesco.org/uploads/nominations/1503.pdf

[3] Athens 1980a, Ayres 1983, Ayres et al. 1983, Hambruch 1932 in http://whc.unesco.org/uploads/nominations/1503.pdf

[4] Psalms

[5] Hesiod, Works and Days

[6] Plutarch, Life of Sertorius

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