R O A D T R I P ❗️
French Villages, castles, and an amazing memory in Montsegur at La Maison Sous le Château. Manual Citroën is the best. Always secure the smallest car you can and practice accelerations. :)
‘Immerse yourself in the medieval atmosphere of Puilaurens Castle, an impregnable fortress in Cathar Country, at the top of the sheer rock face. The walls and towers have been marked by time and are filled with history and legends. Can you find the “secret” passages leading to the giddy panoramas?’ We did!
Beginning the hike up to the castle ruins…
Annie Glenn in awe and loving Languedoc.
Michael inspired on his first journey out of the United States and ready to return.
The Square Tower dates from the time of the Crusade against the Cathars. The so- called “White Lady” Tower, where Blanche de Bourbon, granddaughter of Philip IV, was reputed to have stayed on her way south to her ill-fated marriage with the cruel Peter of Castile, has a duct through the wall that acts as a speaking tube.
Aged just fourteen in 1353, after three days of marriage, Peter abandoned her in favour of Maria de Padilla, imprisoning poor Blanche in various places in France and Spain, until the age of twenty two, when he had her murdered. Legend has it that when mists surround the castle, Blanche is wandering the walls in her misty veils.
Montségur Castle is a fortress built on the ruins of a previous Roman settlement in the Occitanie region of Southern France. In 1204, Raymond de Péreille, the Lord of Montségur, decided to rebuild the Castle which had been in ruins for 40 years. The refortified Castle immediately became the epicentre of an important Cathar community. Catharism was a Gnostic movement which deviated from the teachings of the Catholic Church and which spread like wildfire in the 12th and 13th centuries. Amongst other tenets, the Cathars believed that Jesus was not the son of God but merely an upright prophet and scholar. They believed that men and women were both essentially equal and that money and physical trappings were not important in life. Even though they lived lives of poverty, it is believed that the Cathars amassed great riches, since many members, who were people of ‘substance’, donated their property on joining and many well-wishers and patrons donated money to help the cause as well. On the other hand, at the time Pope Innocent III, as well as the Kings of England and France, were struggling with financial difficulties caused by investments in the Crusades in the Holy Land. A theory states that this was one of the main reasons why the Cathars, a peaceful Order, were branded as heretics and hounded to their deaths with such cruelty, even prompting the setting up of a special Inquisition for such a purpose. At the time, all their assets and lands were seized and divided between the Pope and the King of France during what became known as the Cathar Crusade or the Albigensian Crusade. Whole cities and villages were destroyed by the Inquisition, which targeted both nobles and peasants alike. Ironically, the supposed ‘treasure’ of the Cathars was never found, or at least, no one has reported its acquisition.
The hike up…
…and reverence for the bon hommes and bonne femmes who were murdered in the pyre because of their beliefs, and the greed and evil of Pope Innocence III.
From the book, The Manuscript. ☉
The Cathars considered themselves to be the true Christians. Part of their learning rested on primitive Christian, Gnostic, Jewish and Islamic ideas, which at all decisive points different from the Roman Church.
The daily bread was for the Cathars the spiritual bread, and both women and men could become priests, perfect, in their community. The Cathar movement had wide support amon the Languedoc population and when this support tended to spread to all of France the Pope, Innocence III, sent a monk, Bernard of Clairveaux, to preach against the heretics. He saw, however, that their services and morals were far more Christian than those of his own corrupt Church. He also admitted that he could find no fault with the parfaits of the Cathars. They only practiced what they preached. This was not to the liking of the Pope and thus he implemented the crusade resulting in the massacre of Montsegur.
‘A common legend which had been retold for generations by the descendants of the Cathars, was told by a shepherd from Montsegur as late as 1929:
“When the walls of Montsegur were still intact, the Cathars, the pure ones, guarded the Holy Grail there. Montsegur was in danger. The armies of Lucifer lay in a circle around the walls. They wanted the Grail, so that they could mount it in the emperor’s tiara, from where it had fallen to the ground when the angels were banned from Heaven. When peril was at its highest a white dove descendde from Heaven and split the mountain in two with its beak. Esclarmonde, the female guardian of the Grail, threw the precious, holy treasure into the mountain. It then closed again. In this way the Grail was saved. When the devils forced their way into the fortress, they were too late. Filled with anger they burned all the pure ones at the foot of the cliffs under the fortress on the camp des cremate, on the field where where the state was built.”
More than 200 hundred Cathars, men, women and children, chose by their own free will to be burned at the stake. According to an oral tradition, they had promised to return after seven hundred years [pp. 39-40].’
In memoriam at Montsegur.
Ani Williams is world-renowned harpist and singer, and has recorded more than two-dozen albums of original sacred music based on ancient spiritual traditions.
The back side of the castle ruins where remnants of the Cathars living quarters and community gathering sites for work and living.
Folks honoring the Cathars at Montsegur with dance and song.
Then in the chill of fall and winds, it was time to head back down, imagining…trying…the 200 + Cathars holding hands and singing their hymns as the fires from the pyre burned below them and their wicked fate to a tortuous death.
R E X M U N D I
Evil forces always swirling about.
And then it was a short drive down narrow lanes to the Village de Montsegur to stay the night at La Maison Sous le Château. Sadness. The museum was closed. Next time. So wanted to visit.
J’adore the village of Montsegur, almost as much as Alet-les-Bains and Limoux.
Cathar crosses everywhere and history whispered in the winds.
Up the stairs to our private room and bath and a warm meal with local vegetables, soup, pain, and vin…
…at the foot of the Pyrenees.
You must stay with Fred and basque in his warmth and hospitality, his cooking (!), as well as his knowledge of the Occitanie region, the Cathars…and Mariam.
I wanted to linger longer in this ancient village in Southern France.
Can’t wait to return. Thanks be to Gaia.
You must read this book!
Car returned and ready for a very hot bath. Fall has landed in Languedoc.
Reading today about the influences of Saint-Catherine of Alexandria, beloved of the Beguines and Joan of Arc’s spiritual voice and influence. She was 22 when she was tortured and murdered because she refused to marry an Egyptian emperor. She was killed in the year 305.
Britannica: She protested the persecution of Christians under the Roman emperor Maxentius—whose wife and several soldiers she converted while imprisoned—and defeated the most eminent scholars summoned by Maxentius to oppose her. During her subsequent torture, she professed that she had consecrated her virginity to Jesus Christ, her spouse, and was sentenced to death. The spiked wheel by which she was to be killed broke when she touched it (whence the term Catherine wheel), and she was then beheaded.
The wheel was a horrific way to die a slow, excruciating death. This is why we often see Catherine depicted with a wheel.
From the book, The Wisdom of the Beguines/The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women’s Movement, by Laura Swan,
The Beguines chose four women who they felt had proclaimed the gospel for their lives: the apostle Mary Magdalene, the martyrs Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and Saint Agnes, and the abbess of Andenne, Begga. You smile with delight (p. 50).
Beguines were a powerful expression of the vita apostolic, being ‘apostolic life’ or ‘the life of an apostle.’ They pooled their resources in order to serve the sick and destitute by building and operating infirmaries and almshouses (p. 17, 19). Many beguines used their sources of income to purchase homes near the chapel or parish church where they gathered together for prayer (p. 15).
Many women became beguines as a result of their newfound literacy (p. 21). Beguinages endured the ravages of war and plague, hostile politics and shifting cultural attitudes […] some managed to survive all the way into the twentieth century (67). Beguines were not nuns (p. 13). Nuns were steady supporters of the beguines (p.15).
Some of the beguines were considered ‘heretics,’ of course. When men didn’t agree with women’s motives or rhetoric, they were ‘heretics.’ One beguines, Marguerite Porete, a larned beguines preacher and writer, was sentenced by the Inquisition to be burned at the stake. She was a learned beguine preacher and writer, and was murdered on June 1, 1310. Her crime? Her work of mystical theology called, ‘The Mirror of Simple Souls,’ which she had composed in Old French and shared with others.
She loves me when I act wisely, and she loves me when I am foolish. Her love is based not on how I’ve acted but on who I am. He knows who I am, for She created me. The Beloved’s love is unconditional.
My errors do not call for God’s punishment, but for His correction. As I atone for my mistakes—willing to make amends with a repentant heart—then His merciful hand will reorder events and allow me new beginnings. Such is the miracle of a merciful, non-judgmental God, the source of all good and the reason for my unending praise.
How awesome is the Beloved, for even when I have fallen from grace – from the truth within me, from the love that is the meaning of my life – She loves me still, allowing me new life, again and again.
My gratitude is deep.
The light, pours in through the cracks.
From the Dalai Lama, a reminder this morning:
All 7 billion human beings have a common experience—we all appreciate love. We all have a seed of love and affection within us and the potential to cultivate greater love and compassion. If we want to create peace in the world it has to start with the heart, with inner peace.
Julian of Norwich called this love ‘a love without beginning.’
I came across an essay in my research today I haven’t seen in a while. It is so beautifully and intellectually written by a fellow explorer who was a part of our sacred mystery tour here in Languedoc in 2019. His name is Andrew Cowie.
My first fleeting glimpse of the near-mythical French village of Rennes-le-Chateau was suitably mysterious. Perched atop a majestic cliff in the foothills of the Pyrenees, she peeked out briefly and tantalisingly from behind a murky veil of mist before swiftly vanishing again, leaving behind only more questions and very little by way of answers. This murky first encounter seemed somehow to encapsulate everything about this magical village and the labyrinthine web of mysteries which entangles it – a place full of wonder and intrigue, its secrets forever elusive, the answers always remaining just slightly out of reach. Rennes-le-Chateau attracts tens of thousands of tourists every year, many of them treasure hunters drawn to the area’s rich history and mythology.
Legends of buried treasure abound here, with the village thought by many to be the location of the riches of the Knights Templar or the Cathars, the resting place of the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant. Some believe it to contain the tombs of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, while others claim it to be the site of a subterranean extra-terrestrial base. The area is a conspiracy theorist’s paradise and it’s easy to see why it has attracted this reputation.
[Le château de Montségur, one of the last refuges for the Cathars, who, in mass, were burnt in giant pyres in the field below in 1244.]
Everything about this place, and the wider region of Languedoc, is jaw-droppingly bizarre, from geological anomalies and precise geometric alignments to extraordinary natural phenomena and a chain of endless peculiar synchronicities which cannot simply be dismissed as chance. Indeed, the further I ventured down the veritable rabbit warren of the Rennes-le-Chateau mystery, the more I realised that the truth is much, much stranger than any fiction my writer’s imagination could ever conjure.
It’s a thoughtful and passionate piece. Andrew is a former journalist; he wrote this about a year after our return, in 2020. He lives in Scotland. It will give you a great foundation for learning more about the mysteries of Languedoc, sacred geometry, and Rennes-les-Chateau. Here’s a link to the full essay.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Ani William’s music since I’ve been back in France. Ani is a world-renowned harpist and singer, and has recorded more than two-dozen albums of original sacred music based on ancient spiritual traditions. She has done seminal work in the study of sound healing and the relationship between musical tones, the human voice and healing.
Here she is singing Aramaic Lord’s Prayer at Rennes-le-Chateau. Extraordinary.
The lyrics, the Aramaic Our Father:
You Who are everywhere
Thy Kingdom come
Your will be done
Here and ow and for evermore.
Fill us with the power of your mercy
And free us from the fetters with which we bind each other.
Lead us out of temptation: free us from ourselves.
And give us the strength to be one with You.
Teach us the true power of forgiveness.
May this holy moment be the ground
From which our future actions grow.
-The Manuscript, p. 440
From Ani’s website: The prayer knows no gender, and celebrates the Light and Sound of Creation, inviting this into our Holy of Holies within. This video was filmed in the chapel of Mary Magdalene. [https://aniwilliams.com]
L A B O R
U.S. states and activists started celebrating the labor force in the late 1800’s. New York was the first state to introduce a bill, yet Oregon was the first state to codify it into their state law. ‘Labor Day honors and recognizes the American labor movement and the works and contributions of laborers to the development and achievements of the United States’ [wikipedia].
“The miracle is not that we do the work, but that we are happy to do it.”
Some captures from earlier Labor Day honors.
Roller skates and sashes. Can’t think of a better way to celebrate. Beats buying a mattress.
And a song from Woody Guthrie, about 1,200 striking coal miners and their families in Ludlow, Colorado on April 20, 1914. It refers to the violent deaths of 20 people, 11 of them children, during an attack by the Colorado National Guard on a tent colony there in Ludlow. The clip features the late historian, author, and activist Howard Zinn.
It’s been a day!
On this day, August 5th, in 1163, four Cathar men and a girl were burned for refusing to ‘repent’ after it was discovered they were living in a barn in Cologne and had not gone to church that Sunday. They were called out for heresy and would not deny their Cathar, or Good Christian, faith. So they were thrown into the fire. The story goes that some of the villagers were holding the girl back, trying to protect her, but she would not leave her Cathar brethren. She tore herself away from them and threw her body onto the pyre.
Burnings, you may be surprised to learn, had been very uncommon up to that point, and in the past had sometimes taken place at the request of noblemen for potlical, rather than religious reasons. After 1163, everything changed.
I’ll update soon! My phone went completely dead and it’s taking forever to charge, so I can’t grab my photos. I’ll be back…
(Did you know the first dinosaur eggs to be found anywhere on the planet were discovered in this region of Southern France? One of the many discoveries today.)
Well, an update to the update. I just lost all of my edits…photos…text…two hours just 💨. Poof. Gone. Trying to recover, no luck. Not sure I have the energy to do this all again.
I think, without trying to re-create all my writing, I’ll post photos and give you an idea of the day’s exploration. My phone wouldn’t re-charge, tried outlets and cleaning portals…nothing. Knew I needed a new chord…travel with two or three! I only brought one. So I set out on a reconnaissance mission for a virtual life-line and with the help of a new acquaintance found the store without a sign or a street name. New chord, a charged iPhone, and now access to photos!
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
—John Steinbeck, East of Eden
I’m finding myself drawn to mess, to darkness, to things that are loved to the point of shabbiness, or just wildly imperfect in their own gorgeous way.
Present is living with your feet firmly grounded in reality, pale and uncertain as it may seem. Present is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in, instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairy tale. Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness.
Wildly imperfect. My new mantra.
The day started at Saint Martin’s for some time with Mary Magdalene.
Then the marche with wildly imperfect sites and sounds and aromas and people. The Friday markets are the best…blocks of vendors and local foods. Although I reject fish and seafood as nourishment, I had to capture a photo of this sweet man’s Paella. He was so proud to share his creation. It looked amazing!
Found some more incense and then it was time to head for the bus with my €1…public transportation here is the best…and journey to Esperaza. There’s a church there I really wanted to see, dedicated to Mary Magdalene.
I was dropped at the stop and started walking. Finally found the city center, or place [pronounced ‘ploss’] in this sweet little village.
And then, the church!
So much history. I tried to open the door. Locked. Shoot. So I walked around the church and starting taking pictures…
When I walked back around I saw a woman who looked like she just left. What the heck. Tried the door. Still locked. But! The door next to it that looked like a storage closet was open! I was in. As my eyes started to adjust, that’s when I saw it. Mary Magdalene’s grotto. What. My Gaia. So so beautiful.
Mary is revered in Languedoc. For good reason. Will share more later. The history of the church in Esperaza is that it was built in the 1200’s, and one of the old pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela passesd this way, through the mountains and on into Spain. The town lies in the very heart of Cathar country and intersects the sacred geometry in the region. I spent awhile inside.
The flooring! A want for my future French home.
Then it was time to find a taxi and head back to the sacred space of Rennes-les-Chateau.
Found a dinosaur museum!
In this sweet tiny village a dinosaur museum. Pourquoi pas? I mean, who knew the first dinosaur eggs on the P L A N E T were found in this region in Southern France? Crazy.
And this region at one time was more hot and humid than now…tropical, actually. Climate only a dinosaur could love. Also learned that the Ginkgo Biloba trees have been evolving for some 290 million years.
When I went back outside to remove my mask and breathe a bit, somebody sent in this pre-historic bug.
‘To the eternal happiness of all species.’
Found a new number for a taxi service and with the help from the attendants at the museum desk, went out to the road and wait.
Had about a 30 minute wait, so grabbed some Perrier and nuts out of my backpack, grateful for the shade of a beautiful village tree. And a sign. A sign that reminded me it’s my day. :)
Perrier, Blanquette de Limoux, and crème brûlée in the Jardin de Marie at Rennes-les-Chateau. For my birthday! Yep. I celebrated a birthday while in France.
Joyeux anniversaire à moi!
Look closely and you’ll spot another ancient chateau. My heck. They’re everywhere here! The vibrations from Gaia pulsating with history and mystery.
I was able to join a special meditation located in the ancient Visigoth structures, from about 500 CE.
We had live music accompaniment, too. Beautiful. And transcendent. Talk about vibrations…
Then back to Mary Magdalene’s church.
‘She rests at last beneath the starry skies.’
There it is. Mary’s rose cross. l o v e. 🌸
Then it was back to the book store for more books. The young book shop clerk there is so kind and helpful. His name is Adrian. Wonderful softly-spoken sense of humor. It would be so fun to hang with the workers there, discover their stories and lives. I made a discovery through the books I purchased…more music dedicated to the Magdala. Quite lovely. From Ani Williams. Prolific catalogue of music.
Then it was time to call for a taxi and leave the Chateau.
Back in Limoux I had my new books and found a nice little table at the Grand Cafe there on the square, the Place du la Republique, with one of my favorite servers and had myself a yummy little birthday dinner.
Thanks to Hulu, DePauw University, my dentist in Coronado, a pharmacy on the San Juan Islands, and Delta Airlines for all of the birthday messages. :)
August 5, 1163. Will always remember now the young girl in Cologne. The day she was violenty forced to leave the earth, on the date I was welcomed in. jai