Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco

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Ballantine – 1990 (Originally published in Italian in 1988)

Most of the books that I review here are either too shit or too enjoyable to be clever. This one however, while it is rather enjoyable, is a rather astute piece of writing.

The plot is surprisingly simple. I’ll outline it in a way that won’t ruin the story for you: 3 book nerds, for a laugh, decide to patch together a ridiculous conspiracy theory. After a short while, they, and others, start to take their conspiracy too seriously and things get fairly messed up. That’s it. But if that’s the whole story, why is the book 500+ pages long? Well, Eco goes into detail, a LOT of detail, on the conspiracy that his characters are creating.

While the book is filled with interesting facts from what must have been an absolutely enormous amount of research, it’s not so much the conspiracies that are of interest as it is the psychology and biology of conspiracies and arcane ‘knowledge’. To put it another way, this is not a book about conspiracy theories in the same way that the Da Vinci Code is; this is a book about how conspiracy theories work. (Eco, when asked if he had read the Da Vinci Code, claimed that Dan Brown was one of the characters in this book.) While this book will satisfy readers of conspiracy fiction by mixing and matching their favourite secret societies and magicians, it will also force that reader to contemplate how silly most conspiracies really are. The way Eco engages with conspiracies only to end up making fun of them is really tactful. He never denies that they’re fun and interesting, indeed he would have had to have been a severe masochist to have thought that and written this book, but ultimately, he gives very little credence to any of them. Ah Umberto, a man after my own heart!

I really enjoyed this book. The subject matter is precisely the kind of crap that I like reading about, and the characters were great too. It does get a little heavy on the details at times, and I’d recommend having a decent understanding of who the Rosicrucians, Gnostics, and Templars were before you start. If you do decide to read it and feel like you’re getting bogged down in the details of the eclipse that occurred during the 14th birthday party of the blind translator of a coded manuscript detailing the fate of an obscure heretical sect from Southern France, you can probably just skim through those paragraphs without missing out on crucial plot details.

The book opens with the narrator snooping around the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts in Paris. He has an appointment at midnight under the Foucault Pendulum housed therein, and he is trying to find a place to hide where he will not be noticed by the security guards as they are closing up. When I discovered that my University also houses a Foucault Pendulum, I determined to recreate that scene to the best of my ability.

I waited until the 23rd of June, the same day that the book’s narrator goes to see the pendulum in the Conservatoire. Unfortunately, I found it very difficult to sneak effectively, as there were very few people around to be suspicious of me. Regardless of this, I surreptitiously tip-toed into the building, constantly casting glances behind me in the hopes that I was being trailed. When I got to the pendulum, Disaster! Somebody else was standing there looking at it. I contemplated asking if he was there for the same reason as myself, but in the interests of my own personal safety (and dignity), I decided against doing so. I pretended that I wasn’t interested in the pendulum; I walked straight by it, exited the building, and bought a cup of coffee in a nearby cafe. I waited maybe 10 minutes and returned. The coast was clear, so I took the following video and ran for it.

I fear they may have seen me leave the campus. I am in hiding now, but I know that they will find me eventually. All I can do is wait. I might as well sit here and look out the window at the willow tree in the garden outside.

It’s so beautiful.

 

7 Footprints to Satan – A. Merritt

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Orbit/Futura – 1974

About a year ago, I was in a second-hand book-store when I came across a little black book titled 7 Footprints to Satan. It looked fucking deadly, but it was 30 dollars and I thought that was a bit much to spend on a book I hadn’t heard of. I came home and found a copy online for less than a tenner. The seller provided no image, and I presumed the cover would be the same as the one I had seen in the shop. Can you can imagine my absolute joy when the package arrived and I first saw the above cover?

Look at that thing! It’s some kind of snakey, arachnid alien holding some jewels, a bloody heart, and a hot drink. Book covers do not get much better than that! Now a person who has not read it might presume that the entity on the cover is the Satan referred to in the title of the book, but a person who has read it will have absolutely no fucking idea of what that thing is supposed to be. I doubt that the artist who drew the spiderbaby had actually read the book. Unfortunately, the story didn’t quite live up to the cover, but the cover lives up to itself even after having finished the story. Just looking at it now makes me want to read the book again even though I know how little they have to do with each other. Take a moment there to scroll back up and really soak that image in. Fucking deadly.

So, the book starts off with a lad being kidnapped by a bunch of weirdos who manage to convince the police that he’s a mental patient. They take him to a mansion owned by a chap who claims he is Satan, and that’s where the fun begins. Satan runs a weird culty mafia thing, and he forces his followers to gamble with him on his 7 footprints game. Like all good cult leaders, Satan is a massively tall freak with an enormous head who can’t be killed by bullets. He knows everything about everyone, and he has a seemingly infinite amount of power and wealth. It’s never made definitively clear whether or not he’s really the Devil, but every time that you think that he’s actually just a fat Chinese drug dealer who picked a cool name for himself, something weird happens that suggests he at least has some connection with the archfiend. It wouldn’t be accurate to describe this as supernatural horror, but it does feature individuals with superhuman strength,  doppelgängers, and even telepathy.

It also features plenty of casual racism, but this seems to have been a trend in early 20th century horror. I’m sure that there were plenty of racist authors outside of the horror genre in that era, but I think that the ways in which race is presented within the texts written to frighten people is quite telling of the real fears of the readers of the day. (Maybe some day I’ll write a blog post, if not a master’s dissertation, on that topic.) Some of the stuff in here is pretty rough; there’s a passage that reads:
There was a Hebraic delegation of a half-dozen on their way home to the Bronx, a belated stenographer who at once began operations with a lipstick, three rabbit-faced young ‘sheiks’, an Italian woman with four restless children, a dignified old gentleman who viewed their movements with suspicion, a dumb-looking black…
Pretty good right? Within the space of a single sentence he’s managed to be nasty about three different ethnicities. At another stage, he refers to a black guy as an ‘ape-faced monstrosity’, and at the point when Satan admits to having killed his daughters, the protagonist has an Ah-Hah! moment and explains that Satan must be Chinese. Oh! and there’s also a scene featuring the most offensive stereotype of all! In the second chapter, Officer Mooney appears. He’s a New York cop with a ridiculous Irish accent that is made visible in the text; “Sure,lad. Ye’re in no danger, I’m tellin ye. Would ye want a taxi, Doctor?’ (Admittedly, that accent is entirely accurate.) The thing is though, that I wouldn’t even call this is a racist book; it would be more accurate to call it a book with some racist parts, and that’s actually worse when you think about it. The racist parts don’t add anything to the story. I’m not saying that it would be excusable if the racism were a motivational force in the plot, but that would at least give an understanding of the author’s purpose. As it stands, it looks like Merritt was just throwing his bigotry in for a laugh. As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t pay for a book that contained that kind of nastiness if I thought the author was going to get any of my money, but my copy is second-hand and the author died 70+ years ago.

I read this in two sittings, and I had a dream about being stuck in Satan’s mansion after reading it. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it. Merritt wrote some other books with equally cool titles, and I doubt that this is the last book of his that will appear on this blog.

 

 

 

 

The Dark Side of Freemasonry – Ed Decker

Huntington House Publishers – 1994

About 20 years ago, a bunch of evangelical christians met up somewhere in the backwards part of the southern US and had a symposium on the evils of Freemasonry. Most of the attendees were former masons, mormons and muslims; the kind of people who jump ship at the drop of a hat. This book collects the speeches that they gave. A lot of it is the kind of thing you’d expect (“Freemasons worship the Devil!” stuff). Other chapters are outright ludicrous (Freemasons are trying to destroy the US education system!), and one of them is a fairly interesting account of famous occultists and their links and opinions on masonry.

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(If anyone can fill me in on the relevance of ‘The Wayfaring Man’ within Masonic ritual, it would be greatly appreciated. I own the above copy of a book with that title by George Estes. It was published in 1922, and it’s very definitely a Masonic text. I don’t want to read it until I have some context.)

I’m not a Freemason, and I don’t feel any great desire to defend Masonry, but most of this book is silly nonsense. Several of the papers claim that most Freemasons aren’t aware of the occult influence on their organisation because they never bother to read the literature. I’m not interested in refuting this claim, but I found it hilarious to see christians criticising others for blindly accepting dogma without having read the literature.  Have you seen that awesome video of christians reading passages from the Bible for the first time and being repulsed?

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Whoever owned this book before me took it pretty seriously. They seemed to have been upset by this image of Baphomet. Also pictured is the bookmark that was hidden inside when I bought the book. I looked it up, and the christian bookstore it came from has shut down. Yipeeee!

Yeah, this book was crap. I only read it because I don’t want to get into anything too interesting while I’m in school. It came with the two books from my last blog post, and I promise it will be the last christian book that I review for a while. I got a great haul of books off craigslist the other day, and I’m hoping to read a few of those over the christmas break. Oh, and before I forget to mention it, I’ve created a facebook page so that people without a wordpress account can stay updated on this blog. The link is here and also in the menu in the top right. Give it a like if you’re so inclined.

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The X-Files Haul
A guy was selling most of his book collection on craigslist, and I nabbed these absolute classics for a measly 8 bucks. I had to take three buses to get out to meet him in front of a drugstore in the middle of nowhere, but it was totally worth the opportunity to pretend I was Mulder meeting up with some shady character to obtain esoteric information.

Mysteries of the Unknown – Time Life (Part One)

2015-08-21 21.17.48I didn’t want to review these until I had read all of them, but that will probably never happen. This is a 33 volume collection of books on the ‘mysteries of the unknown’. Some of the books are very cool, but a lot of them are extremely lame. (I’d say about half of them are about psychics.) They contain a nice mixture of essays and articles, and they’re all full of fancy pictures. It’s a really nice set to have, and I got mine for fairly cheap. I find that they’re quite good if you read them as primers before getting stuck into more difficult/older books on the same topics. I’m going to briefly review three of them today, and I’ll do some more in a few months. 20150821_210412The full collection

Ancient Wisdom and Secret Sects
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I read this one a good while ago. It’s probably the best introductory book on secret societies that I have read. That’s not saying much really, as I have only read three such books. What I am trying to say is that this is a far better introduction to secret societies than Arkon Daraul’s piece of shit. It goes into detail on the assassins, the masons, the Rosicrucians and the Golden Dawn. I thought it was pretty enjoyable.

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This is some bullshitty Golden Dawn picture from the book. The bird at the bottom has serious attitude and the lad at the top is wearing a wiggy.

Speaking of the Golden Dawn, I went to the Yeats exhibition last time I was in Dublin, and I took some pictures of his occulting stuff. Here they are:
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Sorry William, but that Angel is fucking lame.

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Another notebook and some dodgy tarot cards.

Transformations
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This one was pretty good too. It’s mostly about vampires and werewolves. It discusses the potential causes of vampirism and lycanthropy without getting too bullshitty. There was also a nice section on Vlad the Impaler, and it has lots of cool pictures, including this saucy snap of Theda Bara.
20150821_211030What a babe!

Mysterious Creatures
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This one mainly focuses on Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. I like the fact that these books give fairly objective accounts: They don’t try to disprove anything, but they don’t feel bullshitty either. I don’t believe in the Loch Ness monster at all, but I do think that Bigfoot COULD exist.
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This lad also made a brief appearance. He is wrecked.

My lovely wife and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary in Harrison, British Columbia. Harrison is a bigfoot hotspot and home to Sasquatch Park. We didn’t see one while we were there, but it’s a really nice place. I would definitely recommend going if you get the chance.
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20150817_173920The entrance to our suite

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These were in our hotel room. They give some background information and tips on what to do if you encounter a Sasquatch.

 

A History of Secret Societies – Arkon Daraul

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Citadel – 1997

I’m not really interested in secret societies. There’s a few interesting ones, but they’re mostly pretty boring. A few months ago,  I saw this book for sale on craigslist for fairly cheap. I wasn’t really bothered, but I was reading the Illuminatus! Trilogy at the time, and when I saw it mentioned therein and recalled the craigslist ad, I took it as a sign that I should buy it. (Coincidences don’t exist.)

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Why I bought this piece of trash. Note the misspelling of the author’s name.

I decided to read the book because I am currently reading Zanoni by Bulwer Lytton, and as that book is about Rosicrucians, I thought this would complement it well. It’s certainly as fantastic; in fact, there are more references in Lytton’s work than there are here. Arkon Daraul is full of shit.

This book is garbage. It doesn’t seem reliable at all. Daraul’s choices of which secret societies to discuss are completely arbitrary. There is a lengthy chapter on peacock worshippers in modern England, but there’s no chapter on the freemasons. Admittedly, I was relieved that I didn’t have to read the same crap about freemasons that I have already read in 10 other books, but it did seem a little odd that the most famous secret society of all were barely mentioned in this “historical account”. Also, Daraul doesn’t really bother to distinguish between secret societies and cults.

I don’t really have much else to say on this book. It was crap. The cover (Is that Satan?) makes it look way better than it is. There were some interesting parts, but there are lots of other books on the same topic that are much better. I reviewed a shitty little book on this kind of crap before that covered more ground and was way less bullshitty.
Don’t bother reading this one.

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The best part about this book was this prayer leaflet that the previous owner had left in it.

WAS HITLER A SATANIST?

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Well it’s Hitler’s birthday, so here’s a post about occult Nazism. I’m going to review three books:

The Occult Roots of Nazism – Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke
NYU Press – 1992

They Used Dark Forces – Dennis Wheatley
Hutchinson & Co. Ltd (I think) – 1964

Theozoology – Jorg Lanz Von Liebenfelz
Europa House (PDF version) – 2004

The Occult Roots of Nazism
First off, The Occult Roots of Nazism is a pretty serious book. It’s well researched and well written. It’s very academic though, and it’s interesting in a historical way rather than a spooky way. To tell the truth, my main reason for buying this book was because Danzig owns a copy.

It turns out that some of the Nazi party’s beliefs had their roots in odd theosophical mysticism. The Nazi’s notion of Aryan supremacy might have been affected by some weird old men’s nutty ideas about Atlantis. I can accept that the Nazi’s ideas were affected by these nutty ideas, but it’s certainly not fair to blame the Holocaust solely on the  fantasies of a few occultists. In fairness though, the author never suggests any such thing; this really isn’t a bullshitty book. Goodrick-Clarke goes into a huge amount of detail to support his claims, and a lot of this book is very boring. I’d imagine it to have been a very difficult book to write, and I respect the author’s self restraint and ability to stick with the dry facts. The temptation to exaggerate would definitely have gotten the better of me.

The occultism herein is mostly quite boring to be honest. It’s mostly new-agey garbage; runes, theosophy and that kind of nonsense. If you’re hoping for accusations of Satanic pacts, this book will disappoint. The stuff about Von Liebenfelz is quite interesting, but we’ll get to that later on.

Overall I’ll give this book a 6/10. It’s good, but it’s not entirely to my tastes. If you’re a history student writing about this kind of stuff, this would be an extremely useful resource, but if you’re a gobshite, like me, who likes reading stupid books about the devil, then this might not be entirely satisfying.

They Used Dark Forces
I hadn’t yet read They Used Dark Forces when I came up with the idea for this post, but I had read Goodrick-Clarke’s book. I thought it would be a fun to contrast Goodrick-Clarke’s very academic work with a trashy Dennis Wheatley novel. To my disappointment, They Used Dark Forces is actually a very well researched piece of historical fiction, with only a little gratuitous black magic thrown in for fun. But what I found most disappointing was the fact that the ‘They’ in the title doesn’t refer to the Nazis. It’s actually the novel’s protagonist, Gregory Sallust, and his mate Malacou that do be using the dark forces herein.

I love Dennis Wheatley novels, and you can be sure that this isn’t going to be the last of his works reviewed on this blog, but I have to admit, this book wasn’t great. At least one third of it is just a factual account of different events and characters of the second world war. Wheatley was actually involved in the war, and he clearly knows what he’s talking about, but I don’t read his novels for history lessons.

This book portrays Hitler as having an interest in the occult, but the only real satanist in the novel is actually a Jew. Wheatley doesn’t seem particularly anti-Semitic in any of his other works that I have read, and he never suggests that all Jews are Satanists in this book, but it did strike me as a little insensitive to villainize the only Jewish character in a narrative that largely unfolds in a concentration camp. I wasn’t particularly offended by his representation of the Jews; I was just disappointed that he didn’t use this book as an opportunity to make up silly stories about Hitler being a wizard.

Although not overtly anti-Semitic, the book does contain some good old-fashioned homophobia and misogyny. The most evil of all the books characters, Herr Obergruppenführer Grauber, is a fat homosexual who has a kinky bdsm room in his apartment, and there’s a particularly hilarious instance when a character expresses his attraction to a young woman by saying, “If I’d been ten years younger I’d have taken her off you and smacked her bottom myself.” I don’t think that Wheatley’s lack of cultural sensitivity detracts from his work; I find it hilarious. I only mention it as a warning to any nerds who are considering reading this work who might get upset.

So what about the dark forces? Well there’s lots of numerology, astrology and palm-reading in here, but there’s only one truly diabolic act in the whole book. This despicable blasphemy occurs early on too, and I was left waiting for more for the remainder of the book. The single atrocity committed is particularly nasty though, and it really seems out of place in terms of the characters involved and the general tone of the novel. There’s a brief reprisal of diabolism later on when Malacou suggests the performance of another ritual in honor of the Dark Lord. Gregory’s response to this suggestion is utterly priceless; “You filthy Satanist. Get to hell where you belong.” Good man, Gregory. That’ll surely teach him the error of this ways.

In general, this book was disappointing. Wheatley’s novels are fun, but they’re absolute trash. If I’m going to read trash, I need it to be at least 50% satanic. This novel was only 15% satanic, so the highest rating I can give it is 5/10. Read it if you like Wheatley, but don’t use it at a starting point to get into this writing.

To add insult to injury, my copy of the book doesn’t even a cool cover. Dennis Wheatley novels usually have awesome covers, and most other editions of this book have cool satanic swasticas on their covers. I got a lame plain red hardback version.coverswheatley
Spot the dud.

Theozoology, or The Science of the Sodomite Apelings and the Divine Electron
(An introduction to the most ancient and modern philosophy and a  justification of the monarchy and the nobility.)
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Well aside from having the greatest title of any book in the history of the world, this is also one of the funniest books that I have ever read. I usually only review books that I own, but the only copies of this that I have found have been printed versions of the .pdf version that I found online that some jackass is selling online for ridiculous money. I’m happy to stick with an electronic copy anyways, as I don’t want to be giving money to anybody who takes this nonsense seriously enough to translate and publish it.

I first heard of this book in Goodrick-Clarke’s book and had to track it down. Jorg Lanz Von Liebenfelz was cuckoo. In this book, he argues that a race of bizarre, homosexual ape-monsters have been fucking things up for the Aryan God-race since the beginning of time. Pretty much everything bad that has happened has been caused entirely by these malicious monkey-men. You might think that sounds unlikely, but Lanz uses the Bible to provide evidence for his claims, so he was almost definitely right.

I read this about a year ago, and I can’t honestly remember the specific arguments that Lanzy puts forth. I don’t think that matters though, they’re far too silly to discuss. I’m going to just copy a few quotations in here so you get a general idea of how amusing this book can be. Lanz gives an interesting account of the origins of crucifixion:
The “crucifixion” consisted of binding wild and unruly Sodomite monsters to poles in order to be able to copulate with them without danger. (cf. Job XL.24 Thren. V, 13). On the other hand, however, people were bound to such poles in order to have them sodomized by lascivious apelings. This was the torture to which early Christians were put (pastor Hermae III,2) and that was also the torture of Jesus.
So originally, regular l people used to tie the apelings up to bum them, and they’d also tie up criminals to let them get bummed by the apelings. There’s more details on Jesus’ ordeal later on; “Christ was to be outraged by the Sodomite hobgoblins. If he consented to this willingly and if he was overcome by temptation, then his whole mission would have been dashed.” Poor Jesus – nailed to a cross and then expected to resist the temptation of getting bummed by a hobgoblin. That’s rough.

I’m not entirely sure why, but this diagram and its description made me laugh until I was in tears.
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an image from Pompeii shows us three such ugly hobgoblins travelling on a barge.
Von Liebenfelz thought that both this image and the phrase ‘ugly hobgoblins’ were appropriate to use in a ‘scientific study’ that would justify the supremacy of the Aryan race. It looks like it was drawn by a toddler. What the fuck Lanz?

Apparently people took this seriously though. It’s difficult to understand how; this book is illogical, offensive, confused and yet hilarious. It’s too mad to rate. Read it for a laugh; it’s no good for anything else.

The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

Doubleday – 2003
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Perhaps the single most important text in all occult literature?
Definitely. Here’s a little code for you to solve. For proof of this book’s brilliance, check the publication date of this post.

I actually read the Da Vinci Code last year. It wasn’t as bad as I expected; it’s very easy to read, and it got me through 2 quiet days at work. I quite enjoyed the first half of it, but it starts to get fairly repetitive towards the end when everything is turning out to be some kind of stupid code. It’s pretty cool to talk about how much this book sucks, so I won’t bother. I’ll just give it a 3.5/10.

What about the concept behind it though? Is there any truth in here? Well as per usual, there is a little truth in every conspiracy theory. It is April 1st, and you might presume that what you’re about to read is a hoax or a joke, but I assure you that every word that you are about to read is true and verifiable. I will even provide links to my sources. My friends, the information I am about to divulge is shocking; I have cracked the code:

1. The Da Vinci Code is based on a theory that Jesus had a family, and that his bloodline has survived in secrecy under the protection of secret societies.

2. This idea was largely popularized in a book called Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. Dan Brown specifically references this text in his own novel.

3. In Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the authors put forward a hypothesis, that the historical Jesus married Mary Magdalene, had one or more children, and that those children or their descendants emigrated to what is now southern France. Once there, they intermarried with the noble families that would eventually become the Merovingian dynasty.*

4. The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Viking conquerors of the territory and the native Merovingian culture.*

5. In May 1169, Ireland was invaded by the Normans. Many Normans settled in Ireland.

6. I ‘m Irish.

7. My hair, eyes and complexion are darker than most Irish people. I have often been mistaken for a foreigner in my own country.

8. With over 230,000 people holding the surname Martin in France, it is the most common French surname.*

9. My second name is Martin.

Those are actual facts. I’ll let you come to your own conclusion. Of course, the conclusion of anyone with any shred of intelligence would be that I am the direct descendant of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t really surprise me to be honest; I’ve always felt like I was better than everyone else. And I don’t mean better in any one specific way; I mean better in general.

There’s further evidence to suggest that I am descended from the Merovingian Kings:

10. The origins of the frequency  of the name Martin in France can be attributed to Saint Martin of Tours, who was the most popular French saint.*

11. Part of Saint Martin’s cloak is preserved as a relic in the oratory of the Merovingian kings of the Franks at the Marmoutier Abbey near Tours.*

12. Saint Martin was a Christian Saint living in the South of France between the supposed arrival of Christ’s descendants in France and the Norman invasion of Ireland.

So we know that Saint Martin was down with the Merovingians. These Merovingians were very likely amongst the thousands of French people that took his name; it draws less attention than introducing yourself as Mr. Christ. My guess is that they took his name, and came over to Ireland for a bit of refuge. They settled there, and somewhere along the way, they lost track of their secret. Well, I have finally cracked the code, and I am ready to be recognized as the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of God himself.

(*I copied this text from wikipedia. The nature of these claims is so basic and uncontroversial that I find it appropriate to use wikipedia as a source here. The facts are easily verified elsewhere by anyone with any interest.)
Wiki Article for Holy Blood, Holy Grail
Wiki Article for Normans
Wiki Article for Norman Invasion of Ireland
Wiki Article for name Martin
Wiki Article for Saint Martin