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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.
SYMBOL OF THE CATHARS-DOVE IN FLIGHT
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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.
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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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.
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