Part national treasure, part relic, Howard Marks is the ideal choice to present this epic tale of intrigue, which centres around an ancient artefact steeped in myth and mystery. Marks appears to be fascinated by this story of a precious cargo smuggled from country to country, and turns out to be something of an authority on the subject.
He explains how the Lance of Destiny – the weapon used to pierce the side of Christ on the cross – was closely guarded by those who kept the faith, protected by members of societies such as the Templars and Masons, which are both branches of an even older sect, the Brotherhood of the Snake.
Astonishingly, after a long journey from Jerusalem to Italy, then France , the lance, or “spear”, as it is sometimes known, ended up on the Island of Jersey, where the Nazis tried, and failed, to find its hiding place. At some point in his chequered career, with the aid of his persuasive charm and well-stocked wallet, Marks managed to acquire a map claiming to show the location of the lance.
Following the map, the trail leads to a field where the Jersey Live festival is being held, and the great British public come in on the act. Revellers party on, heedless of the priceless treasure which lies beneath their feet, having little interest in unearthing anything which can’t be made into a potato salad.
Amid a sea of blank stares and shaken heads, only one man shows a glimmer of recognition when asked about the lance, then scurries away like a scared mouse, fearing the wrath of the Brotherhood of the Snake (whose symbol is a serpent coiled around a staff.)
After an unfortunate misunderstanding, probably caused by intoxication, a group of women speculate that the lance is located under the dance tent. The rumour spreads like wildfire, and young Lotharios can soon be heard honing their chat-up lines: “Fancy a dance, or a quick glance at my lance?”
Interviewer Tim Bonner then turns treasure hunter, and is put through his paces as he follows the directions on the map. As he nears the final destination, suddenly the tables are turned, and we begin to wonder whether the lance is truly within reach, or whether the story is simply a metaphor for the inner journey, the search for self-knowledge.
Without revealing too much about the outcome of the quest, this can be seen as a defining moment, a claustrophobic climax, as Bonner is left alone, in the dark, contemplating the potent symbolism of the Spear and the Serpent.
By Angela Lord