The Cathars – persecuted for truth?

The Cathars – persecuted for truth?

In Metaphysics, Philosophy and Traditional Wisdom by Jacqui Bushell4 Comments

In medieval times, the Cathars, a spiritual faith in southern France that practised hands-on healing, pacifism and the equality of women, were severely persecuted for their beliefs. Their principles, many now believe, were part of an underground river of teachings, the ‘Way of love’.


Imagine this…

Montsegur 1244

The winter sky hangs low and grey. The wind is freezing, biting through your thin clothes. You ignore your hunger and try to comfort the others, your community, here on the heights of this mountain in southern France. You’re been held here in siege, a few hundred souls, over an interminable nine months.

The valley below your fortress refuge is overflowing with 10,000 soldiers and churchmen. They call you all heretics and sentence you to burn. The children and the others who do not choose to make the same shocking stand as you do, escaped over the past few weeks, making their way down the steep cliff sides. You, who know this land so well, could also have made the same choice.

Even last night, a final three left, taking with them your daughter and sacred texts. Nothing remains now except your final preparation and to help the others. You offer the Consolamentum, a healing transmission of light to all those who request it, then you and the remaining 224 Cathars begin singing as the soldiers break down the door. All of you sing, an act of faith and love, as you are pushed down the steep path. You sing as you walk into the barricade. As the fire is lit, you continue to sing. You sing in love. Always.

Who were the Cathars?

stone castleThe ruined walls of the great stone fortress of Montsegur in southern France, loom above me as I lay on the soft grass surrounded by wildflowers and spring breezes. I gaze down the impossibly steep cliffs into the beautiful valleys of the Languedoc region. How on earth did the Cathars escape down there, I wonder? Curving ridges of mountains like the spine of a great dragon, snake across the land. Rivers shaded by green trees and medieval villages are dotted through the valleys. Cowbells tinkle. Great peace pervades me and I drop deeper into the embrace of this beautiful land.

The stories of the Cathars, or ‘Good people’, have always moved me profoundly. Catharism was a peaceful, egalitarian, spiritual movement that spread through the south of France on a wave of immense popularity through the 12th and 13th centuries. The Roman Church declared them heretics and began a crusade that amounted to genocide. The Montsegur siege in 1244, effectively ended the Cathar resistance. Villages and cities were ravaged, with tens of thousands slaughtered. Those remaining fled south to the caves at Ussat, where they continued to teach and be of healing service. Their initiation cave can still be visited. It is a remarkable place, not only for the energy and acoustics, but for a great dolmen stone altar inside the cave.

The power of Montsegur

Many ley lines, Wouivre (French for snake or dragon lines), cross here at Montsegur as well as at other mountaintop Cathar castles, like Queribus and Peyrepertuse. The area is bounded by five mountains, energetically creating a pentacle, which mirrors the cosmic trajectory of Venus. It forms a powerful chalice of the divine feminine. Local stories, statues and stained glass windows abound, telling of Black Madonnas, Mary Magdalene, of women who teach, heal and bless.

There is a rich river of teachings about recognising and experiencing the love and divinity in every form of life without need for priests; from the Isis priestesses who created a temple at Rennes Les Chateau, the Druids whose island in the Aude river near Alet Les Bains still harbours amazing energies and the Cathars who carried on the same tradition, the ‘Way of Love’.

After such a history of great suffering I feared I would be overwhelmed by grief by what is held in the land, when I finally arrived at the mountain fortress of Montsegur. Instead, something extraordinary happened. As I walked across the wildflower strewn meadows, in the shadow of the hill, to the ‘burning field’, I suddenly felt joy arise within me; an uplifting, immense joy. Pain has not been held in the land here.

Through their song and forgiveness of their captors, the Cathars transformed the suffering. Every group my partner and I have taken to Cathar sites feels the same response, joy and the presence of limitless Grace. Montsegur embodies peace beyond understanding, a tangible experience of beloved. I understand more of the ‘Way of love’ now. A lark sings nearby and soft light shines on an abundance of crimson roses climbing over rocks. Something within me expands and I feel radiant. Joy fills me.


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  1. Fionnuala Smyth

    I too have studied the Cathars over many years and combed their haunts in Southern France and in the Pyrennees. I have been taught, and believe, that the experience at Montségur was so powerful for those watching – particularly the Men at Arms of the Crusaders – that their dispersal of the account of it it led directly to the Reformation of the Church. Took a few hundred years but the seeds were sown. Thanks for the article Jacqui.

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    A really beautiful read
    JB is a luscious writer with deep passion understanding wisdom

  3. Jacqui Bushell

    I’m so glad you enjoyed my article Bev. I too have been exploring the Cathartic stories for many years- it sounds like you have such a strong affinity and understanding of their teaching and loving wisdom. I wish you well with publishing your book. I’m sure you would be able to sell it in many of the bookstores in southern France- especially in Rennes les Chateau where so many English visitors come. Unless you’ve been picked up by a publisher- see where some of the other Cathar books are published eg some on the Antonin Gadal . Otherwise self publishing is pretty easy these days which is what I’ve done in the past.

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    I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I have been researching the Cathars for forty years and have now written a manuscript on what I have discovered about these amazing “Pure Ones” . I am wondering if Jacqui Bushell might have an idea of how I go about publishing this. I strongly believe that I lived as a Cathar in a past life and it seems to me that Jacqui may have as well. We have returned now after 700 years to resume our teachings and spread the word about the Sacred Feminine, Mary Magdalene and The Church of Love. Thank you Bev. Gould

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