Mysteries of Southern France
White Ladies and Black Virgins
A forthcoming book by Stephen D. Anderson makes the following points:
1. That there are world-wide myths concerning "white ladies" that appear and behave similarly at similar places and times. This indicates that the phenomena is more than "stories" and caused by an objective event.
2. That these "white ladies" are the product of a combination of an electromagnetic force and the internal projection of the white lady archetype in the brain of the experiencer which is part innate and part conditioned by one's culture.
3. That over time, early man learned the places and times at which white ladies would most often appear and the rituals (mental exercises and conditioning of expectations) which would cause specially trained persons to become more sensitive to their presence. With time, they could attune themselves to the local earth-force which would enable them to use its powerful electromagnetic field to affect the bioelectromagnetic fields of humans and animals at a distance and thus cause healings, blightings and enchantment.
4. That with the rise of patriarchal religions and wide-spread use of iron (capable of disrupting the electromagnetic fields), these white ladies were initially degraded in folklore into fairies, nursery bogies, death messengers, and spirits of air, water and trees, etc.
5. That the worship of the white ladies as goddesses continued in secret and that some of these priestesses were themselves identified with the white ladies.
6. That the Catholic Church, seeking to absorb the power of the white ladies in a subordinate position to their god, began the cult of the Virgin Mary, assimilated pagan spots into Christian ones, and initiated the Inquisition to discover the means of manipulation of the forces to create their own `miracles.'
7. That the end of the Inquisition coincided with the beginning of Marian apparitions world-wide which has served to boost faith in Catholics.
8. That certain occultists, using knowledge passed from the keepers of the white lady tradition, plus renegade priests and their own reasoning, rediscovered the secret of manipulating the forces on their own. They have since waged a war of counter-miracles designed to slowly subvert Catholics into a pure cult of the White Lady. This is typified by the conflict of Lourdes vs. La Salette.
Along the way, I show that Black Virgins are catalysts to producing visions of the White Lady by the phenomenon of the after-image, the treasure of Rennes-le-Château, that the Italian Santa Claus, Befana, is really Herodias, that the White Lady is associated with creativity, poetry and some of the great writers of the world, and much more.
The Cathars are related as part of the preservation of the tradition. For instance, Cathar socias (the female perfecti) were called "les Bonnes Dames" (the good ladies) which was also a euphemistic term used for fairies, especially of the White Lady variety. Also, "Bona Socia" (good neighbor) probably is the origin of Bensozia, a name for the witches' goddess. Montsegur is likely the model for the Venusberg, where fairies held court.
Most major Catholic churches are built on top of pagan places of worship, simply rededicated to a Christian saint. The Virgin Mary got most of the Mother Goddess sites. As to the Inquisition, while I agree with most writers that in the end it was nothing more than persecuting those who could not defend themselves (very few of which really were practicing pagans) and used as an excuse to gather lands and wealth for the church and Inquisitors, I believe that originally it was put together to find actual practitioners of the old pagan religion (witches) and get from them information on which sites were "active" and the means to invoke the apparition. You see, as long as paganism was a `living' religion with the ability to create `miracles', it was a threat to the Church. The Catholic Church had to be able to fight paganism on the same level, in the hearts of the people, because for the most part the Church was an empty shell, reduced to mere ritual without result. They wanted `the magic' for their own use, and no witnesses to say how they got it. Of course, this is the quick-and-dirty version, I go into far more detail in the book. Notice that the first modern apparition was the 1537 appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe to Juan Diego on the hill sacred to the Aztec goddess Tonan. Events that occurred in the New World were likely easier to "hush up" if they went wrong, so was a logical testing-ground.
The Troubadours made the Virgin Mary their special patron, and revered her to such an extent that in many of their poems Mary is quite indistinguishable from the living objects of their 'courtly love'. They had strong links with the Cathars, a chaste and deeply ascetic sect in which women held positions of equality in community life and religious worship. In this respect the main tenets of the Cathari resemble very strongly those of Gnosticism. They worshipped the Lady of Thought, a parallel to the Gnostic Sophia, and identified her with the Virgin Mary. Bernard of Clairvaux was forced to concede that "no sermons are more Christian than theirs, and their morals are pure". What then could have prompted their condemnation and virtual extermination at the hands of the Church? Gordon Rattray-Taylor concludes flatly that the real 'heresy' of both the Cathars and the Troubadours was that very dangerous tendency in the eyes of a patriarchal authority - Matrism.
We need not look far, then, to see why our unorthodox Mary figure should have thrived in the region. As a manifestation of the mother goddess, Her worship was in the very blood of the people. But let us take the matter a step further and cite examples of roughly contemporaneous thought drawn from another, closely related, storehouse of Gnostic imagery and influence: the writings and emblems of the Alchemical tradition. The mystery of Saunière and his discoveries is undeniably fascinating, but in the context of the themes discussed here it assumes its proper place, as one piece in a rich and beautiful mosaic, a part of the Magdalene Mystery, which may yet have further secrets to reveal. I think we should hesitate before interpreting the journey of the three Marys to France literally. Might it not represent, like the journey of Bacchus to India, the dissemination of a cult rendered in dramatic terms? If so we are dealing with a manifestation of the Feminine Principle which the orthodox Church so misguidedly vowed to purge from its worship. And perhaps it was not, as its detractors have always claimed, merely a superstitious survival among the 'ignorant', but a fluid movement that could number among its adherents great artists, academics of the highest standing, and even the occasional dissenting voice within the Church itself. The Goddess survived, characteristically, in many forms. As the Crescent Madonna of 14th-century Crete she sat at the very centre of the Universe, and in a German manuscript of the same period she was the very heart of Paradise itself. She was the Philosophic Mercury of the Alchemists, the Cathars' Lady of Thought, the Eve within the Soul, and Dante's Divine Wisdom. As Philosophia she was revered as the inspiration of poets, philosophers and artists. When the Patriarchs of the Church denied her they were attempting more than subjugation of half the human race, which was reprehensible enough. They sought to suppress an Archetype without which the hearts and souls of Mankind wither and become sick.
Thankfully, they were attempting the impossible.