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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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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THE CATHAR TREASURE: CRUSADING FOR GOD, SEARCHING FOR ILLUMINATION OR MINING FOR GOLD?

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 Montsegur 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 Montsegur’s fortress for nine months prior to the 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 my previous post wherein I introduced the subject of 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, not only rejected the idea of procreation, but they also 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. And, while living, many credentes made generous donations of cash, land, houses and even chateaux.  While the Parfaits never broke their vow of poverty according to Oldenburg, they accepted all donations which were then put to the best use in the interests of the church.

 As a Community, the Cathars were known for providing support to the poor and those in need in the cities and surrounding countryside.  They maintained communes which incorporated schools, monasteries and hospitals.  Furthermore they founded working craft guilds, particularly in the art of weaving which not only provided product but also functioned as an educational training ground for the young and ‘novitiates.’ 

While such amassing of property and goods certainly would be considered a ‘treasure,’ and references to ‘The Cathar Treasure’ often imply that it was something of far more importance and legend such as the Holy Grail… which of course has never been found.  Speculative circumstances surrounding the Treasure’s disappearance often tell of it having been hidden some two months prior to the fiery execution. Possessing the secret of the Treasure’s hiding place, three Parfaits and another man, possibly a mountain guide, escaped the flames on the night of March 16 by repelling down the side of Montsegur’s pog.   The men then hid in caves protecting the secret and were never discovered.

 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.

Montsegur-3,400 ft up from parking lot

THE CURRENT REMAINS OF MONTSEGUR

IMG_1453

RENDERING OF MONTSEGUR IN 1244 AT TIME OF THE FIRE

PHOTOGRAPHY©GAYE F. MACK, INC.

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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 MYTH OF THE CATHAR TREASURE

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work 2 Comments

 

History, especially ancient desert and medieval history, abounds with myths and legends such as Hermes and the Philosopher’s Stone, Glastonbury Abbey, the Holy Grail, Merlin, King Arthur and the treasure of the Templars, just to name a few…and then there is the legend of the Cathar Treasure. 

In my previous post wherein I introduced the subject of 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, not only rejected the idea of procreation, but they also 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’?  

According to author and Cathar historian, Zoe Oldenburg, 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. And, while living, many credentes made generous donations of cash, land, houses and even chateaux.  While the Parfaits never broke their vow of poverty according to Oldenburg, they accepted all donations which were then put to the best use in the interests of the church.

 As a Community, the Cathars were known for providing support to the poor and those in need in the cities and surrounding countryside.  They maintained communes which incorporated schools, monasteries and hospitals.  Furthermore they founded working craft guilds, particularly in the art of weaving which not only provided product but also functioned as an educational training ground for the young and ‘novitiates.’ 

While such amassing of property and goods certainly would be considered a ‘treasure,’ references to ‘The Cathar Treasure’ often imply that it was something of far more importance and legend such as the Holy Grail… which of course has never been found.  Speculative circumstances surrounding the Treasure’s disappearance often tell of it having been hidden some two months prior to the fiery execution of  two hundred-plus Parfaits on March, 1244 at Montseguer. Possessing the secret of the Treasure’s hiding place, three Parfaits and another man, possibly a mountain guide, escaped the flames on the night of March 16 by repelling down the side of Montsegur’s pog.   The men then hid in caves protecting the secret and were never discovered.

 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.

cave

 Caves with Secrets

 Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

 

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