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.
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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