Mary, The Cathars and The Knights Templar
The Lore of Mary Magdalene by Allysha Lavino
After the death of Jesus, the disciples were spread to the four winds. Across the sea in Southern France, a myth arose. Legend says that a boat with no sails and no oars landed on the shores of Provence, though no one is sure where exactly. Some say that three women named Mary, along with Martha, Lazarus, and an Egyptian servant named Sarah are said to have landed at Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer, while others believe they landed at what is now Marseilles. The story goes that each settled in a different area of France, that Mary Magdalene herself started a church and retired to live out her days in a grotto on the high hill of Saint Baume. Why are so many modern seekers fascinated by this tale and by Mary Magdalene herself?
While the truth and origins of these tales are un-provable, Mary Magdalene became one of the most revered saints in France. Churches dedicated to her abound throughout the country and the legend of her arrival in the South is accepted throughout this enigmatic region. It is not illogical that she should have found her way here. Pursued as the apostles were by the Romans at the time, fleeing Jerusalem was a necessity. Here in France, a Jewish princedom recognized by local authorities was thriving. What better location for a renegade than among her own people? She is called the Apostle of Apostles, but what makes Magdalene’s story so interesting for modern Christians and non-Christians alike?
Every version tells us that Mary Magdalene was present throughout the events of the Gospels. She followed Jesus much like all the others, sitting at his knee to hear the teachings and participating in many important events throughout the story. She was front and centre at the passion and the resurrection, but her tears were a woman’s tears, her company was with the women. For this, she was stripped of importance.
Historically, the idea of women’s equality and value could not but be rejected. Biblical evidence even in the canonical gospels shows Mary Magdalene’s unequivocal importance to the story. She was the first witness to the resurrection, earning her the title Apostle to the Apostles, showing trust that she would be steadfast in sharing the news of Jesus, though the others disbelieved her. She is still depicted with the alabaster jar because of her actions in anointing the feet of Jesus, and while modern times may not recognize the significance of this action, “Messiah” simply means Anointed One. If this story were any other myth, viewed objectively, she would, perhaps be the single most important character beside Jesus and the Holy Virgin herself.
There have been many distortions in the story of this mysterious woman. In the Council of Nicea of 325, a conclave of 318 Christian bishops, priests, and acolytes of ancient Rome, major decisions were made about the future of the religion. Here was the vote cast as to which gospels would be included in the New Testament and how certain doctrines should be taught and lived. Differences in the practice and study of the life of Jesus were profound in the daily lives of early believers and straying wider all the time. The early church even included women bishops, but this idea was rejected later by Rome.
MARY MAGDALENE CONTINUED...
Women were stripped of their place within the early church by a patriarchal Roman society. At the council, certain interpretations of the Bible’s stories were decided, including an idea for which there is no evidence in the literature: that Mary Magdalene was the penitent whore, only ever referred to as a “woman”. Though this view of the story has since been recanted by the church, the legacy and confusion remained tied to Magdalene. Having decided that this woman was the same as the personage who followed Jesus throughout his travels and preaching, she was forever cast as a marginal character in the famous tale.
Men have written history. The idea that Mary Magdalene may have been one of the most important disciples in the Biblical story has been threatening to every age – even until today. Modern women of every belief have no one of their own sex from this great literature except the holy and venerable Virgin as role model. What if Mary Magdalene was simply a follower of Jesus? What if, as her discarded gospel tells us, through the empathy and intuition of a woman she was uniquely able to understand the teachings of Jesus in a way that made the other disciples jealous? What if she was, in fact, an example of a strong woman and archetype for the profound relationship between men and women. What if she was truly one of the disciples whom Jesus treated as equal to the others, showing how a woman of faith might be as valuable as a man?
So what does France remember that the rest of us have forgotten? Until the 13th Century, the South of France, called the Midi, was a country of radical progressivism. Jews held positions of power, women treated with unheard of equality. The region flourished independently, brimming with education and new ideas as almost nowhere else. Until the Albigensian Crusade of the 13th Century brought the church in to quash these freedoms, women here were different from anywhere else in the ancient world. France is still a country filled with the softness of the feminine archetype. It is a land of beauty where intelligence and equality flourish. What could we learn from this example in accepting women as equals, as we at long last pretend to do on a worldwide scale?
We can see why Mary Magdalene was rejected by history. It is easy to guess at why early church fathers and even the disciples themselves would have despised her, relegating her to the position of penitent whore. The question becomes: do we have the courage to say that the Council of Nicea may have been wrong? Do we have the intelligence to look again at the words of the Gospels and how Jesus treated this faithful woman? Do we have the strength to set aside our fears and sexism and reclaim one of the strongest role models available for women today? Who was Mary Magdalene really? The story and the cover-ups are as deep as history itself.
Who were the Cathars? by Margaret Starbird
The citizens of the region, among whom the Cathar heresy had an ever stronger hold in the twelfth century, were simple farmers and peasants. They heard the sermons of the itinerant preachers, the Cathari, called the “pure ones,” who came and worked in their fields, shared their bread, and preached to them, urging them to live their lives in the simplicity and humble spirit of Jesus. Known as “credants,” they believed their version of Christianity to be both purer and older than orthodox Christianity, closer to the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles than the orthodox version of the faith. They were often vegetarian and pacifist, practicing a mode of charismatic Christianity similar to that of the early church described in the Book of Acts in the New Testament. The few remaining documents that survived the censorship of the Inquisition verify that the Cathars’ practice of Christianity had roots both ancient and pure, reflecting the vigor of primitive Christianity at its dawn…
…The Cathari preached a lifestyle of simple living and radical faith in God’s continual presence and guidance. One did not have to have ties to Manichaeanism to believe that the devil was “Prince of this world.” Jesus is quoted as having been of that opinion himself (John 12:31)! The Cathars may not have been Manichaean so much as close adherents to the literal texts of the Gospels, of which each Cathar family owned a copy. For these Albigensian heretics, the faith was not a doctrine to be believed but a life to be lived. They called themselves Christians.
Fundamental to the teachings of the “Church of Love,” another name for the alternative church, was a profound devotion to Jesus, the Light Bearer, and to his mother and friends. While the church in Rome taught obedience to rules and strict practice of its laws and prohibitions, the Church of “Amor” (“Roma” spelled backward!) taught that each individual life must be transformed into holiness by the action of the Holy Spirit in mind and heart. The adherents to the alternative church honored Jesus as their prophet, priest, king, and Messiah—a fully human agent and the anointed Son of God. But they understood their own role as earthen vessels of that same Holy Spirit. They were aware of the mythological and mystical content of Christ’s teachings as a path to holiness and transformation, and they were aware of its connections with the entire stream of revelation and religious consciousness of the classical world. They did not consider the exoteric practices of dowsing in a baptismal font or attendance at Sunday Mass sufficient for salvation; their religion was a practice of the presence of God and daily growth in the virtues of charity, humility, and service to others modeled on the life and teachings of Jesus himself.
In the Midi, antagonism toward the Catholic Church was both deep and wide. It was the experience of the people of Provence, and indeed in many other places, that the hierarchy of the institutional church did not live the Gospel message. Clerics often exploited the poor and lived in comparative luxury while their parishioners starved. The Albigensian sects were distinctly anticlerical and antiecclesiastic. The Cathars formed their own church in opposition to what they believed was the false teaching of Rome. They repudiated the ritual of the Mass and the cross because it was the instrument of torture, in no way worthy of veneration. They claimed that their own church had retained the Holy Spirit conferred on the original Apostles at Pentecost and passed on by the laying on of hands, the only ritual that they regarded as authentic. The fundamental and oft-recited prayer of this alternative church was the “Our Father” found in Matthew’s gospel. The Catharist ritual, of which two texts have survived, demonstrates that they possessed ancient documents directly inspired by the primitive Christian community.
The faith of the Cathars did not need a cultic priesthood or a church building containing artifacts and relics. Their faith was practiced in their homes and fields. They disdained the need for churches, relics, and sacramentals. Among the Cathars, men and women were considered equals, women even being allowed to inherit and own property, as we have noted. Women were also allowed to preach, a practice that had begun in the early Christian community but that had long since been discontinued in Roman Catholicism. This practice among the Cathars reflected the esteem in which the women, including Mary Magdalene, had once been held in the infant church. Cathar preachers, both men and women, traveled though the countryside in pairs, just as the early disciples of Jesus had done in Palestine, sharing the fare of the poor, working side by side with them in the fields, and preaching the simple and pure life of the spiritually enlightened. Saint Dominic and later Saint Francis of Assisi were so impressed with the Cathar methods of evangelizing converts that they modelled their mendicant friars along these same lines, taking vows of poverty and chastity.
One extraordinary feature of the Cathars was their insistence that the Bible be translated into their language, the regional langue d’oc dialect, and the people taught to read the Good News of Jesus in their own tongue. To this end, numerous paper mills sprang up all over the region, giving impetus to the resurgence of art, thought, and letters throughout Provence and later the whole of Europe. Cathar children were taught to read, the girls often becoming better educated than their male counterparts. Provence was an enlightened domain. In 1209 the Vatican launched a crusade against the entire region of Provence, including the nobility of the area, many of whom had themselves embraced the Cathar heresy. Allied with the king of France, the armies of the pope ravaged the Midi for a generation, their victory culminating in the massacre of Montségur, a Cathar seminary. There, in 1244, an enclave of besieged heretics was defeated, and more than two hundred who refused to recant were burned at the stake. The backbone of what was known as “Catharism” was broken by the Albigensian Crusade, as this frightful episode is called, and the flowering begun in the twelfth century was nipped in the bud.
Who were the Knights Templar officially – and not so officially? by Joanna Kujawa
According to what we are taught in the history books, the Templars were a group of Crusaders who protected pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land. However, as Freddy Silva in his book The First Templar Nation (with over 70 references to back up his research, which spans over a decade) argues that this is only a smokescreen. He traces the development of the Order to Champagne where 11 (yes 11) Knights, who were already wealthy and had no reason to look for wealth, departed for the Holy Land in search of something. From the moment they arrived in Jerusalem in 1104, instead of occupying themselves with warfare, as other knights promptly did, they began searching for a ‘treasure’ on Temple Mount.
As Silva says, since the Knights were already wealthy, ‘money or accumulation of personal wealth was not a prime motivation’ for them. He contends that they found a secret ‘chamber under Temple Mount’ where they found secret scrolls meant for guiding the advanced initiates of an early Gnostic sect – The Essenes. Silva believes that the scrolls contained ‘spiritual laws’ and possibly the Ark of Covenant.
We may never know for certain what the Knights Templar found on Temple Mount but we know beyond any doubt that they found something, since after a decade or so, they left ‘abruptly’ and went back to Europe to consult with Lambert de Saint-Omer, their friend and scholar, and asked him to decipher some secret documents! After de Saint-Omer’s death, the deciphering work was passed over to the famous kabbalist Rabbi Solomon Ben Isaac (also a friend of the Templars).
Silva, who is a researcher of esoteric mysteries and the ‘art of resurrection’ in ancient temples around the world, argues in his book that the scroll the Templars brought back to Europe to decipher was ‘The book of Formation’ which ‘contained a formula of manifestation … a kind of Holy Grail’.
The story is long and complex, but suffice to say it is difficult to contend Silva, as historically we know that within only a few years the Templars had built an organisation worth over 1 trillion dollars, created a kind of independent corporation-state in Europe, and had introduced the art of building gothic cathedrals all over Europe which, incidentally, were usually dedicated to Our Lady and followed the principles of sacred geometry.
Why dedicated to ‘Our Lady’ or ‘Notre Dame’?
If you have been brought up as a Catholic, it is easy to assume that they meant the Virgin Mary, right? But Silva is a careful researcher and notes that curiously, many important events in the Templars’ adventures and many of the churches they built were commemorated on the Feast of Mary Magdalene on the 22nd of July. Curious, isn’t it?
Not only that, many of these churches (and cathedrals) were built on the ancient sites of goddesses especially Isis. In his book, Silva goes through a thorough investigation of one such church founded by them in Tomar, Portugal called the Church of Santa Maria do Olival. He points out the linguistic similarity of Tomar to Tamar, which in some traditions was the name of the daughter of Mary Magdalene and Jesus (sometimes she is called Sarah). Incidentally, this was also the name of King Solomon’s daughter (Tamar or Thamar).
In Mystery Schools’ traditions tamar also means a ‘palm tree’ and symbolizes the ritual of resurrection. Silva believes that it is in the secret part of the Church of Santa Maria do Olival in Tomar that the Templars conducted their highest initiation rituals, not that different from those of the ancient Egyptian Mystery Schools’ associated with the goddess Isis (known also as Resurrectrix of her husband god Osiris).
So here are the goddess connections to the Templars:
- They discovered something of great significance on Temple Mount and brought it back to Europe to be deciphered.
- They become unbelievably wealthy within a short period of time (among many things they purchased the island of Cyprus as their temporary headquarters).
- They built gothic cathedrals all over Europe dedicated to Our Lady (Notre Dame).
- They commemorated most of their significant events on the Feast of Mary Magdalene/Magdalen (22nd July).
- Many of their cathedrals are built on sites of previous worship to goddesses (including Isis).
What happened next?
We know from mainstream history that the Order was persecuted and the leaders were burned at the stake on Friday the 13th of October 1307. Mainstream sources will also tell us that Philip the Fair, the French king who had previously expelled Jews from France, decided to prosecute the Templars. The arrests were made, the Knights were tortured and their leaders eventually burned at the stake. There were great expectations of finding loads of money and the immense treasure of the Templars. But the king did not get what he so eagerly hoped for – no great treasure was found.
The tortured Templars either said nothing or made up stories to confuse the king. One ‘confessed’ that the mysterious ‘treasure’ was hidden in Gisors in Normandy, but nothing was found there either. Meanwhile over 500 kms away, 18 ships left the Port of La Rochelle with those Templars on board who had managed to escape. Silva’s research points towards Portugal and Northern Scotland as escape routes. Curiously, Silva mentions that Portugal – which was soon founded by the Templars and their associates – could come from the expression Por Tu, O Gral or ‘Through you, Oh Grail’ which is a sign over the image of the Ark of Covenant at Chartres Cathedral (also, as sponsored by the Templars).
How is this different from other Holy Grail stories?
First of all, both Margaret Starbird in The Woman with the Alabaster Jar and Baigent, Leight, Lincoln in their bestseller The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail argue pretty much that the Holy Grail was the womb of Mary Magdalene. Their contention, albeit arrived at from varying sources, was that Mary Magdalene was a wife or a consort of Jesus and that their daughter Sara or Tamar (depending on tradition) was the source of the line of the French Merovingian dynasty. (I am simplifying here to give you the gist of the story.)
Historically, the Merovingians did exist in the early Middle Ages as French kings.
Were they the descendants of Mary’s daughter? Who knows?
Is this possible, though? Well, yes, because the story continues in Southern France where both the legends and the worship of Mary Magdalene has survived and thrives to this day.
In my opinion, it is not the DNA that matters but the possibility that a line of queens, kings, knights, scholars, alchemists, seekers did carry through the centuries and even millennia the secret knowledge not only of resurrection, as Silva, calls it, but of the mystery of the Universe and our ultimate place in It. This interests me. This lineage interests me. And that is why I like Silva’s book – because it explores this possibility.
Mary Magdalene and Rennes-le-Chateau
Calling Her Children Home
I was meditating one morning when it became very clear to me that I needed to visit France. At the time I didn’t fully understand why I was so compelled to go to France. I knew I wanted to honor the coming year in a meaningful way. I was approaching my 56 birthday, was born in ’56 and my mother died when she was 56. Somehow it just seemed like a significant moment in my life and for reasons, yet to be revealed, France was calling to me.
I immediately went to my husband and told him I had a sense that I needed to get to France for about 3 months and I hoped he would go with me. He responded in a way that is indicative of his trust in Divinely inspired insights. He didn’t flinch. He did not say, “How on earth are we going to pay for that?” He simply said, “Okay. We’ll go.”
A few months later, with four home exchanges arranged, a pair of round-trip tickets purchased on credit card points (we had just earned enough points the month we bought the tickets), and some money raised through crowd sourcing by New Dream Foundation (the non-profit behind Sacred Feminine Awakening), we were headed to France.
Heading to Southern France Where Mary Magdalene Lived
Mary Magdalene at Rennes-le-ChateauI was drawn to the southern region of France where Mary Magdalene is known to
have lived and taught. Because of my profound calling to spend time in the same areas Mary Magdalene had lived, one of the board members suggested that I call my pilgrimage In the Footsteps of the Magdalene.
As we traveled through France, my husband and I visited sites where Mary Magdalene is honored, and the locations where she is said to have lived and was laid to rest. We included in our travels several churches that are homes to Black Madonnas, which added an unexpected, profound dimension to my inner journey. Keeping my promise to the Foundation and to the people I love, throughout our sojourn I made videos about the deep insights I was experiencing.
People came from around the world to visit the places Mary Magdalene lived, taught, and was honored by the people of France
I felt like a child being called home, and throughout our visit, my husband and I met many people who felt much the same way. We shared numerous exchanges and visits over meals with people who had visions or dreams, much as I had experienced, calling them to come to Southern France. People have been coming and continue to come from all over the world to spend time or even to live in the Southern region of France. It seems to me that Mary Magdalene has been and continues to be calling her children to her.
Mary Magdalene—Rennes-le-Chateau and Montsegur
While I am not an historian, the history of Rennes-le-Chateau and Montsegur are significant to the region, and have, what appear to be, profound connections to Mary Magdalene. I offer a very brief insight into these two powerful places and their inhabitants, and then share two videos, shot in the region, with my impressions as I entered these sacred grounds.
One of the areas in France that has become very popular since the publication of the book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, is the hillside village of Rennes-le-Chateau. Here in the late 1800’s the village’s impoverished Abbe Berenger Saunier suddenly became the equivalent of a millionaire in today’s dollars.
He rebuilt the parish church, along with an unusual tower overlooking the landscape, dedicating them both to Mary
Magdalene. How he came to possess so much money, no one really knows. Though there are bits of historical records, it is mostly speculation about the sudden wealth at Rennes-le-Chateau, Abbe Berenger’s secret, and his devotion to Mary Magdalene.Also in Southern France, Montesgur is a unique stronghold on a very high hill. During the 1200’s, the rebuilt castle of Montesegur became a center for Cathar activities. Eventually, the castle became a refuge for Cathars when when the Catholic Church declared them as heretics. The castle came under siege as the inquisition attempted to rid Southern France of anyone that was not loyal to the dictates of the church. After a final 9 month siege, the Cathars surrendered and those who refused to renounce their faith were burned.
Cathars were known to be peaceful people, who believed in two gods—one that was good (of light and the heavens) and one that was evil (of materialism and the earth. The Cathars stated that they were of apostolic ancestry and lived as followers in the footsteps of Christ. They believed that souls, even the souls of angels, were trapped here on earth in human bodies. They were Gnostics, believing that divine revelation comes to the “inner elite” who had trained and prepared to receive such revelations.
They lived in a far more egalitarian way than their Catholic counterparts. It has been postulated that members of Jesus and Mary Magdalene’s were married and their descents were Cathars, which would certainly add another dimension to the potential heresy of the Cathars from the perspective of the Catholic church.
What Was Revealed
I did not go to France looking for proof that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a family. Elements of that story had already been revealed to me through visions I will be sharing in a future article. Instead, I sought to understand what it was Mary Magdalene wanted me to learn.
What was revealed to me I share in a video-log beginning with these two videos. The videos include photographs from Rennes-le-Chateau’s church and tower, as well as the Cathar fortress at Montsegur.
Each of these videos gives you an opportunity to go on the journey with me, exploring the same questions that came up for me as I visited sacred sites dedicated to her by those who loved her.
One of the great gifts of historical and sacred sites, lies in what they awaken inside us. If we want to evolve as a species we are wise to ask ourselves, “What would our ancestors have wanted us to understand as a result of the events that took place at this site?”
As we discover the important lessons about our human nature, our weaknesses, and our potential, we can form new responses to challenges similar to those faced by our ancestors. As we evolve into more peaceful and loving beings, we honor the lives of those who have gone before us. We can hope that Mary Magdalene, Abbe Berenger Saunier, and the Cathars might smile if they saw that we now understand what is truly important in our journey as humanity.
France has a rich cultural tradition. It is the birthplace of several artistic and social movements and is home to a diverse musical tradition. If you’ve listened to the opera Carmen, a song by Édith Piaf, or a bagpiper’s band from Brittany, you’ve heard a bit of France’s rich musical repertoire…
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There’s just something about France. It’s the place of love, good wine, even better cheese, history and très chic style. The best way to experience the magic is to hop on a plane and go there. Failing that, we can “escape” to the country through film…
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