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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DOES THE PISCES FULL MOON REFLECT THE 13THC CATHARS’ VISION ?

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

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you’ll have guessed that I’m back from my adventure to the L’Occitaine region in the French Pyrenees, land of the 13thc heretical sect known as the Cathars. While I’ve posted from time to time about this fascinating community, the opportunity to learn more of their extremely complex history in the midst of incredibly difficult landscape, far outstrips reading about them.  Amazingly they survived for years against Rome’s continuous and brutal assault until their final end by fiery execution at Montsegur in 1244.   When climbing very difficult steep and rocky ground up to a ruin that’s 3,400 ft above a parking lot as is the castle at Montsegur, questions tick over in the mind; how did they manage, how did they get provisions up there, how did they survive the winters? Simple answers to such things are beyond comprehension.

To quickly review:  the Cathar movement which regarded the hierarchy of the Catholic church with all of its trappings, as a greedy, self-serving entity, grew out of the Balkans.  It spread to various regions in Europe starting in the late 12th century but nowhere did it spread like wildfire as it did in the Languedoc of modern-day France, aided and protected by some of the region’s most powerful nobility, particularly Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse.  When on January 1208 Brother Peter of Castelnau, the papal legate was assassinated by one of Raymond’s officers, Pope Innocent III found his excuse to declare holy war upon Raymond’s vast territories which had been a ‘nest of heresy’ for years.  The Papal floodgates were then open that resulted in years of unspeakable brutality against this gentle, peace-loving community.  So what was it in their basic belief system that made the Cathars such enemies of Rome?  

Besides their disdain for the obvious excesses of the Church, the Cathars believed in Dualism.  For them, the physical world and everything in it was a creation of Satan(including the body and procreation) while 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 compassion as healers, providers for the poor, sources of spiritual guidance, herbalists and yes, astrologers, which brings me to the forthcoming Pisces Full Moon on Thursday, September 19th.

 With the Moon in this cosmic  and compassionate sign of the zodiac, represented by its glyph of two conjoined fish swimming in opposite directions, we’re reminded of the transcendence of duality…’we can be of the world but not in it’; each of us is uniquely part of a much bigger picture, indivisible from the vast oceanic Universe.  Is it any wonder that some references on the Cathars note the Perfects or Parfaits (those who had taken vows of devotion) wore belts displaying the Piscean glyph as part of their simple habits?

In Evolutionary Astrology, our goal is always to look and work toward who we were meant to be, not who we think we are compared to others.  As this week’s forthcoming Piscean Full Moon waxes, perhaps its light will remind us of this intention as no doubt it may have done 800 years ago for the Cathars.

 

 the view of cathar country

View from Termes Castle~site of the longest siege during the  Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars

The 1550 ft steep climb up to the castle ruins ends on a hilltop surrounded on three sides by a ravine formed by the river Sou. 

Photography ©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

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THE MEDIEVAL CATHARS-ROME’S RATIONALE FOR ITS BRUTAL INQUISITION

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Worth the Read, Writer's Work 4 Comments

The scene is the medieval castle at Montségur in the Languedoc region of southern France.  Here in the spring of 1244, one of the most diabolical massacres was carried out against the Gnostic religious sect known as the Cathars.  History reports that on March 16th after suffering a nine month siege by the Seneschal of Carcassone and the Archbishop of Narbonne, some 200  Cathar men and women were marched out of the castle stronghold  to the field below where they were systematically burned to death as heretics.  Such a scene is nearly unfathomable and begs the question for those unfamiliar with this event, what precipitated such unspeakable brutality by Rome on this peace-loving community?

The Cathar history is a complex one that begins in the late 1100′s with esoteric threads that have spilled into the 21st century.  This is a story that recounts relentless persecution by the Catholic Church, but also it’s  one that is deep, complex and fascinating  with many facets worthy of exploration, including legends surrounding the Holy Grail and an illusive‘Cathar Treasure.’   While the movement is believed to have originated in the Balkans, it spread to other parts of Europe, appearing  in the Languedoc region at  the beginning of the twelfth century…and there it multiplied like wildfire.  

The Cathar philosophy was fairly simple, but clearly heretical.  It was a religion of duality that believed God did not create the mundane world, Christ was never embodied, therefore did not suffer on the cross and certainly baptism with water would not bring salvation.  Furthermore, Catharism believed in reincarnation and honored women equally!  Their only sacrament was the Consolamentuma ritual of baptism by the holy spirit.  There was very little hierarchy in  Cathar clergy  of men and women who were  known as Perfects or Perfecti.  Once a Prefect was ordained with the Consolamentum, he or she then abstained from meat and sexual intercourse.  They did not have a high regard for the temporal world believing it to be a creation of evil but nevertheless, they were known for their skills in the arts of medicine, botany and astrology.  At the end of the day the underlying foundation of their doctrine was one of simplicity and peace and in this spirit, lay Cathars were required to receive the Consolamentum in order to reach salvationoften as they hovered on the brink of death, .

Considering these basic facts, it’s apparent why the Cathars were such a thorn in the side of Rome with their blatant disregard for Rome’s dictatorial belief that its priests were the only means to commune with God, the Church’s trappings, money and control.  Going back as far as 1208, once Rome realized  the Cathars were gaining sympathy amongst the powerful  Languedoc lords, the initial crusade against them was launched and led by Simon de Montfortit was a crusade carried out with overwhelming violence and lack of mercy.  Following de Montfort’s death in 1218,  Pope Honorious III then embarked on a second crusade led by King Louis VIII.  The rest is history, as it’s said.  With the final assault on Montségur in 1244, the Cathar heresy was snuffed out and Rome’s Inquisition launched to bring the surviving believers to heel.

While I’ve read about the Cathars for years, early this fall I’ll be traveling to Cathar country in the Languedoc to take in more of the history as a backdrop for my next historical fiction book, Flight of Doves.  In the meantime, I plan  from time to time, to blog more on this intriguing aspect of esoteric history!

Suggested Readings

There is a great deal of information and books written about the Cathars, ironically much owing to the meticulous records kept by the Inquisition!  However, here are a few of my favorites:

The Great Heresy-Arthur Guirdham, MD

We Are All One-Arthur Guirdham, MD

The Cathar View-The Mysterious Legacy of Montsegur-David Patrick, Ed.

Massacre at Montsegur: A History of the Albigensian Crusade-Zoe Oldenburg

 

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