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In the summer of 1992 I was unexpectedly offered an opportunity to move to the south of France for a year. Three weeks later I was on a plane flying across the Atlantic Ocean accompanied by my husband and our two children.
Our plan was to live simply, learn to speak French and to explore as much of France as we could possibly manage. I wanted to picnic in fields of lavender, tour museums and sun on the beaches of St. Tropez.
We found a great house to rent in a small village outside the city of Toulouse. Then just as we were settling in, a new friend on his way back to the States suggested I visit the ruin of a chateau in the foothills of the Pyrenees. “It’s an important relic of the region’s past,” he said. “I think you’ll find it fascinating.”
Intrigued, at the first opportunity, I headed south. After about an hour’s drive and a challenging hike up a sinuous, rock- strewn path, I arrived at the gate of the medieval skeletal remains of Montsegur. Once inside the roofless stone structure something unimaginable happened. I intended to simply catch my breath and rest for a moment when I instead encountered heretics who’d been burned to death on the mountain in 1244.
Suddenly all my plans had changed. The only thing important to me now were the heretic Cathars of Montsegur. Who were they and what secrets of theirs had been silenced in the flames?
The Inquisition’s clean up efforts had been thorough and the historical record all but useless. Without other options, I set out on a magical journey looking for answers guided only by hunches, dreams and synchronistic encounters. I was directed to the towns, villages and mountaintop chateaux where the heretics had once thrived. I hunted for clues in the region’s secluded abbeys and monasteries, among the ruins of an order of medieval knights, in dark and dank castles where troubadours had once enchanted the royal court. Everywhere I went I heard the same whispers of a great secret, of buried treasure, of an esoteric mystery hidden in cryptic code, visible only to those with eyes to see. In a tiny village square I learned the story of the last Cathar burned at the stake. As the terrifying flames engulfed him he is said to have called out, “When seven hundred years have past the leaves of the faith will once again grow green.” The time was now.
My quest for truth eventually led me to the mysterious medieval blue darkness of Chartres Cathedral, the Gothic temple of the Mother. There beneath the impossible architecture and enormous walls of jeweled glass I made a discovery. Enfolded by the mystical energies of the chapel of the Black Madonna, the ancient symbol for the ability to give birth to one’s own higher self, a veil lifted and the Light of the Cathar’s legacy was visible at last.
In Secret and Shadows is the story of my own journey for truth.