Gaye Mack’s Blog

THE LEGEND OF A CATHAR TREASURE LIVES ON 800 YEARS LATER

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Writer's Work Leave a comment

Even though it’s been nearly 800 years since the massive fire at Montségur when over 200 Cathars were exterminated at the hands of the Catholic Church, legends surrounding the Cathar Treasure remain. Through the years treasure seekers and speculators have included the holy crusaders who put siege to Montségur’s fortress for nine months prior to the 1244 fire, the 1930’s amateur archaeologist, Otto Rahn (speculated to have provided the inspiration for Spielberg’s Indiana Jones), literary Illuminati, esoteric explorers and even historical fiction writers. Many have searched– all have wondered.

In prior posts concerning this medieval religious sect, I noted their propensity for eschewing trappings of the mundane world. This rejection was based on their belief that the physical world and their incarnation in it was not a creation of God but rather a creation of Satan. In adopting this belief, the dedicated Cathars, known as Parfaits (or perfecti), not only rejected the idea of procreation, they did not partake in the consumption of any food which was a result of procreation. As material acquisitions for their own needs were kept to a bare minimum, it begs the question, how did the legend of a Cathar Treasure arise?

Among the various authoritative resources on the Cathars, author Zoe Oldenburg, tells us that by the end of the twelfth century, the Cathar movement of the Languedoc had amassed a considerable fortune. To begin with, the majority of Parfaits were men of substance who turned over their property to the church. In addition, there were also credentes, ‘rank and file’ members, who left legacies of their entire fortunes to the church. While the Parfaits never broke their vow of poverty according to Oldenburg, they accepted all donations which were then used to provide support to the poor and those in need in the cities and surrounding countryside. They also maintained communes which incorporated schools, monasteries and hospitals. 

While such amassing of property and goods certainly would be considered a ‘treasure,’ references to ‘The Cathar Treasure’ often imply it was something of far more importance including the Holy Grail… which of course has never been found. Speculative circumstances surrounding the Treasure’s disappearance vary.  One version tells of three Parfaits and another man, possibly a mountain guide, escaping the flames on the early morning of March 16 by repelling down the side of Montségur’s pog with the Treasure. 

Oldenburg surmises that the Cathar cache consisted of goods for trading as well as gold and silver coins.  This certainly makes sense given the atmosphere of persecution and brutality of the times. However, perhaps even more precious to the Cathars was that for them, the Treasure consisted of their most sacred books and writings which were critical in helping maintain allegiance to their dogma and tradition. This possibility makes even more sense as literature in the early middle ages onward, was considered as precious as gold in many cases. Whatever the truth is, to this day the location and substance of the Cathars’ Treasure remains a mystery. However, legends and myths die hard and certainly this one has much life left in it.

 

 

 

cathar memorial II

SYMBOL OF THE CATHARS-DOVE IN FLIGHT

 

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13TH CENTURY CATHAR WOMEN-A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Uncategorized, Writer's Work Leave a comment

While noble women of the Languedoc austerely committed to the 13th century Cathar faith, they were also influential women of education, wealth and power– attributes abhorrent to the misogynistic patriarchal Catholic Church and its Inquisitors. So how did the Cathar attitude concerning women evolve?

In general, the women of the Midi had far greater moral latitude than their sisters to the north. For a century prior to the explosion of Catharism in the region, respect for women had been fully grounded especially through the literature of the troubadours, mainly because according to Cathar scholar Zoé Oldenbourg, “Provençal women had long known how to compel men’s respect.” This was helped by the fact that in the Languedoc, family legacies were split evenly, regardless of gender. Land translated into power.

Although the recognition of equality between the sexes wasn’t limited to the nobility, women such as Esclarmonde de Foix, Blanch of Laurac and Geralda of Lavaur who had committed themselves as parfaits, opened their homes and wealth in order to educate children in the faith(particularly girls) as well as providing comfort and support in mind, body and spirit to those who were less fortunate. History also tells us that Cathar women functioned as physicians, nurses and were highly skilled in various crafts.

Spiritually, Catharism was a faith that appealed to women because not since Gnostic times had women been given a voice in affairs of the soul’s journey. Even simple believers (credentes) were made to feel included in the larger picture of spiritual matters enjoyed by their more elevated sisters. In other words, ALL women sympathetic to the Cathar faith were regarded as having equal status in matters of faith. They were not an afterthought of the Divine as implied by the attitude of the Roman Church.

One can only imagine the outrage when Brother Stephen of Minia directed Esclarmonde (who, by the way was sister to the Count of Foix), “go tend your distaff, madam; it is no business of yours to discuss matters such as these.” Insulting, yes. Women of the Languedoc and certainly Cathar women, especially those who were better educated than their husbands and possessed lands, were not accustomed to being so dismissed.

We do not know for certain how many of these powerful women met their end in the secular world. Many legends abound regarding Esclarmonde including the fact that she lived to be seventy-eight with a cult-ish following. While we know little more of Blanche of Laurac, the Grand Dame of Catharism, we do know what happened to her daughter, Geralda of Lavaur.

In 1211, a zealous, ruthless and uneducated Simon de Montfort took his crusade to the town of Lavaur where he had Geralda, Lavaur’s Chatelaine, thrown down a well and stoned to death. This was followed by the marching of Lavaur’s four-hundred parfaits to the river where they were burned…thereby creating the largest bonfire of humanity in the Middle Ages…surpassing that of the massacre at Montsegur in 1244 thirty-three years later. After besieging Toulouse for nine months, Simon de Montfort was killed on 25 June 1218. His head was smashed by a stone from a mangonel, operated, it is said, by the women and girls of Toulouse. A fitting example of karma if there ever was one.

 

 

simon de montfort II

 

ART FROM THE CEILING OF TOULOUSE TOWN HALL-DEATH OF THE LION-SIMON DE MONTFORT AS THE CITY REJOICES

Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

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Evolutionary Astrology’s Shamanic 8th house of Transformative Healing and the Heretical Cathars

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Karmic and Self-Discovery Astrology, Uncategorized, Writer's Work Leave a comment

Back in March, I posted a piece entitled, ‘Evolutionary Astrology’s Mystical 12th House and the Heretical Cathars’.  In this earlier piece I discussed why the Cathar beliefs of the 12th century mirrored astrology’s 12th  house, ruled by the sign of  Pisces and the nebulous planet Neptune.  For this post, I’d like to another look at the Cathars through the evolutionary astrological lens, but this time within the framework of the 8th house, represented by the sign of Scorpio.  While Scorpio is one of three signs ruled by two planets (Pluto and Mars), I wish to simply focus on the energy/interpretation of Pluto for this post .

 So, onto the Cathars and their connection to the 8th house.  Interestingly, among the many layered interpretations of astrology’s houses, signs and planets, the 8th house does have a relationship to the 12th.  In the broad sense, both deal with the unconscious world…the 8th deals with the subterranean territory of the  psychological unconscious while the 12th deals with the cosmos where the ego dissolves into the nebulous of the Divine, a point I talked about in the earlier post. 

Taking this a step further…there is a level of the 8th house that represents shamanic or magical energy, while 12th is often referred to as the house of the ‘mystic’.  So what’s the difference?  Through the evolutionary lens the ‘shaman’ or ‘magician’ says, “Ah, I see what’s happening and I shall participate as an agent of change,” while the mystic says, “I see what’s happening and I shall continue to observe.” Often I’ll see a significant connection or influence of both energies in a client’s chart in which case I’m looking at ‘active mysticism’.  And here we find the Cathars as ‘active mystics’, especially those who had taken the ultimate vows as ‘perfecti’ or ‘parfaits’. 

The Cathars were known for their powerful skills as healers, despite their mystical rejection of the material world and relentless persecution as heretics.  It could be said that as such, the Cathars enabled active 8th house shamanic transformation of mind and body for those who were ill and dying, including non-believers. Administered with universal compassion, they clearly embodied the Divine Piscean/Neptunian  mysticism of the 12th house as well.

When the end came at the zealous hands of the Roman church, hell bent on annihilating the Cathars as heretics, these healers carried on with fierce courage –even to the very last moments of their fiery massacre at Montségur, France — March 16, 1244.  Despite Rome’s efforts, the memory of the Cathars remain with us 800 years on and are the subject of ‘book one’ in my historical fiction trilogy which is ‘a work in progress’.   In this single act of their final demise , the Cathars rose like the Phoenix from Rome’s flames–a Scorpionic transformation of Plutonian energy that for them was a direct  connection to the Divine realm of the Piscean/Neptunian 12th house.

 

 heretic I

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MESSENGER OF THE GODS, SPEEDY MERCURY PREPARES TO BACK IT UP

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Balance, Karmic and Self-Discovery Astrology, Writer's Work Leave a comment

It’s that time again when speedy Mercury, ‘messenger of the Gods’, slows, pauses and to our visual eyes, backs up in the heavens–often creating havoc with anything having to do with communication.  Over the last few years, I’ve blogged about this three times per year astrological event, particularly concerning the deeper meaning of Mercury’s motion for each of us.  

However, for this posting I’m pleased to have my Evolutionary Astrology colleague, Tony Howard appear as my guest.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Tony(or his incredibly IMPRESSIVE bio), he’s an Evolutionary Astrologer himself and a guy with his feet in several canoes including the job of keeping all  print, video and website matters running smoothly for Evolutionary Astrologer, Steven Forrest and his Seven Paws Press.  So I leave you now in Tony’s good hands…pay attention!

 

Mercury Retrograde in Gemini May 2015 by Tony Howard

Are you ready for another Mercury retrograde cycle? We almost never are, are we? Since Mercury will retrograde in Gemini this time – its own sign – it’s likely we’ll see more of the stereotypical manifestations of this cycle. To get in the flow, you’ll probably need to slow down in general, but especially in regards to Gemini-ruled topics, like communication, speaking, writing, teaching, and learning.

My approach to a smooth Mercury retrograde period is to soften my will. Frustration only arises if I’m too invested in doing something at my usual lightning pace (I have natal Mercury conjunct Uranus). If I allow myself to slip into ultra-patient mode, I usually find that Mercury retrograde is pleasant. It’s one of the only times I give myself permission to slow down, let things go undone until they get done, and allow life to unfold as it will without pushing too much.

Hey, I should probably adopt a Mercury retrograde attitude all the time! Luckily, Mercury retrograde happens 3 times a year, so we get 3 chances to get it right. (Did I really just say “luckily”?!) If you have planets in early-to-mid Gemini, Sagittarius, Virgo or Pisces, you’re likely to notice this Mercury Rx cycle more than usual. Also pay close attention to planets in those signs near 4° or 13°, the degrees of Mercury’s stations. The shadow period for this cycle begins May 4, with Mercury at 4° Gemini. As Mercury begins to slow down this time, it moves into a square with Neptune on May 8.

This usually quick transit takes on more importance since Mercury will retrograde back and forth over that square point at 9° Gemini. It retrogrades into the second pass of the square on May 28th. After stationing direct, Mercury squares Neptune one more time on June 22. Mercury with Neptune can bring shady communications, so let’s steer it towards more spiritual pursuits. You may want to postpone important conversations around those dates. Instead, use the time to connect with something higher than yourself, outside the linear realm of the easy-to-understand. Take an internet holiday (or just look at the pretty pictures instead of reading!).

Spend more time in silence, dream a little. Being too linear or trying to make sense of things on those Mercury square Neptune days feels like going against the flow. You’ll have plenty of time to get back to rational thinking after Mercury goes direct. The only conjunction of Mercury and Mars in Gemini this year happens during Mercury retrograde. Pay attention to the dates May 25-28, when listening is probably a better choice than speaking and taking action, especially if you find yourself peeved. Give Mars a couple of days to march briskly forward out of the conjunction while Mercury dilly-dallies, and wait until your frustration has integrated somewhat before saying what you need to say.

Just before Mercury goes direct, the collective seems to let out a big sigh of relief via Facebook these days, given that so many have become familiar with the cycle. We might see even more of that this time, when Mercury turns direct June 11 as it buddies up to Venus through the sextile aspect, ending the cycle with some good vibes. If any feathers got ruffled during the Mercury-Mars conjunction, or confusion set in with Mercury square Neptune, the sextile with Venus should provide some opportunity for pleasant re-connection. Venus will be in Leo, so celebrate the end of the cycle by spending time with fun friends who make you feel good. Get dressed up and go out to dinner for some lively conversation, or have some of your favorite peeps over for game night. Mercury is totally in the clear by June 27, when it passes the 13° mark, ending the post-retrograde shadow period.

 

GLASTONBURY FLOOR2

Photography Courtesy of Karen Pfiefer

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DISCOVERY OF 14THC DEVOTIONAL PANEL DEPICTING THE EXECUTION OF THOMAS, EARL OF LANCASTER

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Uncategorized Leave a comment

 

I recently came across the following article,(lightly edited here for readability) posted by the Facebook site, Medieval Histories Magazine. The discovery of this devotional panel depicting the 14th c execution of Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster is an extraordinary find, worth the read and certainly worth the visit if you are, or plan to be in London before the end of September, 2015.

 

In 2009, Archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology(MOLA)  discovered a devotional panel, venerating Thomas, Earl of Lancaster in remarkable condition by the River Thames. The devotional Panel of Thomas of Lancaster found by MOLA on the riverside, is a 14th century lead-alloy devotional panel depicting the capture, trial and execution of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, political rebel turned martyr.  

A fascinating piece of political propaganda and religious art, it’s one of the largest and finest examples of its kind. Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster (c. 1278 – 1322) was a junior member of the Plantagenet family. From his father he inherited the earldoms of Lancaster, Leicester and Ferrers earldom of Derby. By his marriage to Alice de Lacy, countess of Lincoln he became Earl of Lincoln and Salisbury, 11th Baron of Halton and 7th Lord of Bowland and played a significant role in the reign of Edward II, at whose coronation he served. After the disaster at Bannockburn he became ruler of England. However, the Barons rose against him and at 1321 he was defeated at Battle of Boroughbridge, and taken prisoner.

In 1322 he was tried by a tribunal, but was not allowed to speak for himself, nor was anyone allowed to defend him. In the end he was convicted of treason and executed by beheading near Pontefract. Soon after Thomas’s death, miracles were reported at his tomb at Pontefract, and he became venerated as a martyr and saint.

In 1327 the Commons petitioned Edward III to ask for his canonization and popular veneration continued until the reformation. The newly found devotional panel is cast in metal and measures approximately 13 x 9 cm. The panel includes scenes that depict a cautionary tale for ambitious politicians, and reveals that Lancaster was elevated to an almost saintly status after his death. The panel tells the story of Lancaster’s imprisonment and execution and in slightly garbled French, is read clockwise from the top left: ‘here I am taken prisoner’; ‘I am judged’; ‘I am under threat’ and lastly ‘la mort’ (death).

The Virgin Mary and Christ look down from heaven, ready to receive Lancaster’s soul. Although a rare find today, the panel would have been mass produced at the time. A small number of parallels exist but these are fragmentary or in a poorer style. Sophie Jackson, MOLA archaeologist, said: “It’s thanks to the wet ground of the Thames waterfront that this beautiful metal object survived in such remarkable condition. It has an intriguing story and reveals a great deal about the political climate of the day.”

The panel is on display at the Museum of London until 

September 28, 2015.

 

EARL-O~1

 DEVOTIONAL PANEL DEPICTING 14TH C EXECUTION OF THOMAS, EARL OF LANCASTER

 

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