It’s a funny thing about destiny. Sometimes it pops up where you least expect it.
“Did George Washington really ride into Berkeley Springs tonight?” The bank official was amazed at what she’d heard in my just-completed lecture on the Secret Destiny of Berkeley Springs.
“On a rainy night, just like tonight. March 18, 1748. It was 249 years ago,” I assured her. “We should have a celebration next year — it’ll be 250.”
George Washington’s first visit to “ye fam’d warm springs,” as he described them in his journal, loomed large in the spa history of today’s Berkeley Springs. It was also an important event for young George.
He was a 16-year-old surveyor on his first big trip and began a journal that would eventually expand into more than 20 volumes. It was also the beginning of a highly successful career as a land developer fueled by Washington’s passion to find a way west. Using methods that would earn him a special prosecutor’s investigation in today’s political climate, Washington blended financial interests with political activities.
At the time of Washington’s first visit, maps named the springs “Medicinal.” Hundreds of hearty health-seekers were already visiting, drawn by stories they heard from the Indians. Native sweat lodges were being replaced in the narrow valley by settlers’ shelters.
Washington came to “take the waters” repeatedly over the next forty years. In 1776, he was part of an elite group of family and cronies who decided to make the warm springs near the Potomac River the country’s first spa.
They saw the destiny. They spelled it out in the law that formed the town around the springs on December 6, 1776. To encourage the building of “convenient houses for accommodating numbers of infirm persons who frequent the springs yearly for recovery of their health,” Washington’s crowd had the town of Bath established on 50 acres around the warm springs. It was a big day for tourism.
The founders were ambitious when they named the town for Bath, England. That city was at its peak; the ancient Roman baths had recently been uncovered and British royals made it their spa playground.
The unfolding history of our Bath followed global patterns for spas with high points during the ante-bellum and Victorian periods of the 19th century and a revival in the 1980s. Like spas everywhere, Berkeley Springs has an artistic and cultural past. The people who came to take the waters wanted other activities as well. Gambling and generally riotous living were favorite entertainments in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Although political decisions throughout the town’s history repeatedly favored social activities rather than health, the destiny of Berkeley Springs has been bound up from the beginning with the water — and purposeful use of the water for health. America’s original spa, right here in Berkeley Springs. Through the centuries, tourism related to the water drove the economic engine of the area. When it did not, prosperity was doubtful; destiny was being ignored.
When destiny meets the present and proceeds into the future, the patterns continue especially when magic tools are applied. The astrological charts for Bath, established in 1776, and Morgan County, established in 1820, confirm the past and point clearly to the future.
There are indicators of purpose, hospitality and water in a focused area. Subtle health activities are encoded as well as important visitors.
The new force of technology — a direction for Morgan County’s future — is clearly spelled out in the county’s chart.
Berkeley Springs presents a unique problem in determining its role in the pattern of destiny. The problem– there is no such place as Berkeley Springs. No municipality. No corporate structure. No taxes, services, or elected officials. Berkeley Springs is virtual reality — a Post Office address only. The official town around the springs retains its colonial identity and boundaries — it is Bath.
Berkeley Springs is not immune to magical scanning for meaning and future direction. If there’s a name, there’s numerological information and Berkeley Springs lives up to its name. Unique and individual, successful and stylish, always ready for something new — it spells Berkeley Springs.
How does all this destiny spill out into the future? The water becomes ever more important and preserving its purity is the primary task. A spa pedigree increases in value, especially when millennium Berkeley Springs reaches back to the tradition of ancient healing springs for a sense of sacredness and mind-linked healing techniques. Health treatments and products connected with spas and water are developed. Healthy foods fill the menus of local eateries. Obeying the laws of the new economics, Berkeley Springs prospers by packaging knowledge and magic. “They say it’s in the water,” becomes a well-known slogan for the town; and the Berkeley Springs webpage is noted for the wild and wonderful job descriptions posted there. Wanted: dream reader.
Art, culture, a longtime literary tradition, beautiful streets and gardens — these patterns from the past continue into the future. America’s original health spa introduces the new millennium to the truest sense of spa-dom: a balancing of mind and spirit through interaction with water.
Dangerous to the destiny of the springs are modern afflictions that must be overcome in the present. Pointless development, short-term profit, chain businesses and just plain bad taste promise an end to the unique, intimate flavor that is essential to the town’s continued success.
Purposeful, conscious choice marked the beginning of Bath, America’s original health spa, and it can be mobilized again to project the destiny of the spa town now known as Berkeley Springs into the next millennium.
So what’s the secret?
The secret is that Berkeley Springs’ destiny is a unique thread woven through the patterns of the stars and numbers as well as that of time and geology. The secret is that the destiny is not secret. It’s written everywhere.
The real secret is that the magical synchronicity of the lecture date on the anniversary of George Washington’s destined visit was a lucky accident. I didn’t notice it until that evening. And I had nothing to do with the rain.