Gaye Mack’s Blog

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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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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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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WHY WRITERS NEED EDITORS

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Uncategorized Leave a comment

Guilty as charged….it’s been months.  Well exactly, sort of, four months since my last post but I’m trying to mend my delinquent ways!  I won’t even bother with listing excuses here as they aren’t any different than anyone else who writes blog posts and falls off the wagon!  

So, going forward, I wanted to write about the dreaded editor…again.  And, if I continue to survive my own editor as I work on the second book of my historical fantasy trilogy, Flight Through Time, I’ll see you at the end of February, if not before!

EDITORS…the love/hate relationship for every writer.  Woe to the writer, especially a new writer who thinks they don’t need an editor or believes their aunt Edith or best friend Shirley can do the job.  They can’t.  Simple as that.  Why?  

Because as a writer you need someone who isn’t primarily invested in your friendship, but IS primarily invested in you producing the very best piece of work you can, so it won’t go the way of the ever-present, “sorry this isn’t for us” agent or publisher’s rejection email, letter or  ‘slush pile’.  Beyond this, there’s a reason that even publishers have in-house editors.  

In the course of writing for publication over the last 20 years, I’ve always relied on an editor to save me from myself(blogging the exception)! If you find an editor with whom you can work, they are worth their weight in gold and their fees!   This said, Author and editor, C.S. Lakin has a wonderful blog for writers, Live, Write, Thrivewhich I highly recommend.  The following paragraphs have been extracted from a recent guest post of hers by author and editor, Blake Atwood, on this very subject of editors and is ‘well worth the read’.  Pay particular attention to Atwood’s second point…it will serve you well.

 

 … how do you get over that initial fear of sending your book to an editor, especially if you’re a first-time author?

 

First, realize what Steven Pressfield says is true: “The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget that the work is not her.” Your book, even though it may feel like part of your soul, is not you. (This is helpful advice for when that first bad review is published too.) If you can learn early on how to separate yourself from your words, you will better serve your words, your writing career, and your emotional health.

Second, never look for validation from an editor. That’s not an editor’s job. In fact, an editor may never provide encouragement to you, at least not in the “I think this will sell millions” kind of way that your naive friends might offer. You’re not paying a professional editor in order to hear how awesome your book is. You’re paying him to make your book awesome. But to get to that point requires humility and a willingness to be shown where your writing is lacking. It requires knowing that you don’t know everything.

When warranted, some editors will provide encouragement. Such editors know what one of my friends in the publishing business said: “Editors are like good counselors. It may hurt to take the advice, but it’s worth it.” Being edited isn’t easy, but it’s what you have to do if you want your book to have the best possible opportunity of being read and selling.

Lastly, when you get back a manuscript that’s riddled in red from an editor, don’t see that as evidence you should stop writing. View it as a testimony to the fact that you’re a professional writer seeking professional help so you can produce a professional piece of art.

Today, if you have a suspicious view of editors, change your mind-set and begin considering editors the way poet and author Blake Morrison suggests: “Editing might be a bloody trade. But knives aren’t the exclusive property of butchers. Surgeons use them too.”

 

 

 

 Cathars Minerve

 CATHAR MEMORIAL AT MINERVE, FRANCE

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