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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EVOLUTIONARY ASTROLOGY’S MYSTICAL 12TH HOUSE AND THE HERETICAL CATHARS

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

The other day while working on a client’s natal chart and then later on my historical fiction book, A Flight of Doves, I realized something that hadn’t occurred to me before. Through the lens of Evolutionary Astrology, there’s a connection between positive interpretations of the twelfth house, Neptune and Pisces and the guiding philosophy of southern France’s 13th century heretical Cathars.  For the moment put this thought on the back burner.

In analyzing a natal chart, the Evolutionary Astrologer is bombarded by an over-kill of interpretative possibilities that’s staggering.   Planetary house placements, the signs they’re in at birth, positive and negative implications, mathematical relationships and importance to the over all picture including the relationship to past karma that’s come to fruition–these are all in the mix and must be considered.

In western astrology, the twelfth house has many interpretations.  Ancient astrologers called it the ‘house of troubles’ but today it has far wider application on the mundane, psychological and spiritual levels. As I have written before, Evolutionary Astrology focuses mainly on the psychological and spiritual arenas.  Every chart is unique and a lot rides on the various relationships.   BUT, among the possibilities(the operative word here being ‘possibilities’) with the 12th house, its ruling planet Neptune and ruling sign of Pisces, things can get very mystical and spiritual!  

Houses in a chart are where the ‘action is’ and for the twelfth, one of its actions can signify ‘endings’.  Taken in psychological and especially spiritual contexts, we’re talking about things that need to go in order for spiritual awakenings or awareness to happen within us as part of our soul’s evolution.

 Next we consider its ruling planet Neptune.  Neptune in it’s highest expression, is all about dissolution of the ego because it’s main job is to foster our connection to the Divine, whatever that means for an individual.  Neptune is often referred to as the archetype of the mystic–and why not?  Those who have a strong Neptune signature in their charts ARE prone to heightened imagination, psychic perceptions and mysticism.  Depending on everything else in the birth chart, this cloak comes in various styles!  

Finally, we come to the sign of Pisces which rules the twelfth house and Neptune.  Compassion, experience of the mystical, self-transcendence and letting go of the world–these all come under the purview of Pisces.  So what does this have to do with the Cathar beliefs?

The Cathars believed in Dualism.  For them, the physical world and everything in it was a creation of Satan, including the body and for the ‘committed’, procreation.  Purity of spirit was gained through a direct connection to God or the Divine.  In their view, a belief system that supported a corrupt  hierarchy and homage to a Pope was the very embodiment of Satan.  Nevertheless, they were known for their universal compassion as healers, providers for the poor, sources of spiritual guidance, herbalists and yes, astrologers.  

When the 220 men, women and children were burned to death for their beliefs by the church at the castle fortress of Montsegur in southern France on March 16, 1244, historical accounts report them singing their way into the flames.  Despite the horrifically gruesome circumstances, for these believers reality was that they were freed of earth’s heaviness and were returning to the light of God.  Twelfth house, Neptune and Pisces–their mystical pathway HOME.   Is it any wonder those who had taken vows wore a silver buckle fashioned in the sign of Pisces?  

 

Pisces-Facebook-Timeline-cover

 130903_3728CATHAR MEMORIAL AT MONTSEGUR

 

 

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