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After a year in France we made our way home to America in a last wide sweep back through Provence, to say goodbye to friends there and to visit a few places we had missed. Our journey now had a destination, recommended to us as a center of some kind of special concentration of energy or a sacred place like the mountain near Pisa that Ezra Pound called Tai Shan:
Montségur
by David Rollow


At this site on top of a rocky outcropping a castle once stood that was the main stronghold of the Cathars, the heretics who were systematically wiped out in the Albigensian Crusade. At the time, I knew nothing about the Cathars. I went to Montsegur because a friend put it on the map for me.

The Albigensian Crusade began in 1209 and lasted officially until 1229. The fall of Montsegur, in 1244, was the end of the Cathars. The rounded rocky hill or “pogue” on which the castle ruins stand is steep-sided and resisted repeated sieges until attackers built a trebuchet on the eastern slope of the mountain. With their catapult the attackers were able to break through the barbican or gate in the outer wall and then to lay siege to the interior of the fortress. After its fall, the crusaders lit a giant bonfire at the base of the pogue and the believers reportedly jumped willingly into the flames.

It was a cruel crusade, the only one ever directed against Christians and the only one to take place in Europe. It was directed by the extremely cold-blooded Arnold Amaury, who, asked at the siege of Beziers how to tell Cathars from ordinary Christians, said “Kill them all; God will sort them out.” 20,000 people died.

What is now the southwest corner of France was once Occitan, and at some point as you head west the current revival of the langue d’oc causes the road signs to change into that form of French, which has something in common with Catalan. The French language has two main strands, the langue d’oc and the langue d’oil. In the langue d’oil, they say “oui,” and in the langue d’oc, “si,” which one encounters today in Provence as an expression of disagreement, “but yes.” The region was once the home of some of the greatest figures of the age of the troubadours. The courts of some barons, such as Roger of Foix and Raymond of Toulouse, were home to both the troubadour cult of adultery and the Cathar faith, favored by the Barons’ wives. The region still has more in common with the Pyrenees and Catalonia than with France and without the Crusade might never have become a part of France. Thus the Crusade can be said to have had two purposes, one to extirpate a heresy on the European continent that was a serious challenge to the authority of the church hierarchy, and the other to defeat a powerful faction of barons who challenged the French monarchy.

The eradication of the Cathars was so complete that very little is known of their beliefs with any certainty, but it would seem that they held a form of Manichean or Gnostic heresy, a dualism. Almost the only thing one can be sure of is that they had some connection to Manicheanism, believing the world to be the creation of a demiurge, not of God. Scholars suggest that this dualism originates in the obvious difference between the God of the Old Testament and the New—but which is the demiurge? This view has a natural tendency to lead in one of two directions, but unfortunately it is impossible to say which fork the Cathars took, unless they took both. One fork is toward the belief that the world of the senses, the creation of the demiurge, is evil; the other toward the belief that sensuality should be liberated from doctrinal restraints. Inquisitors accused the Cathars of obscene practices such as kissing cat’s asses (supposedly a pun on “Cathar”), unrestrained orgies, and incest. The eastern branch, which may survive today in Bosnia as the Bogomils, or “friends of God,” was known to some as the bougres, from which our word “bugger” derives; to some of their opponents their rejection of marriage meant they were homosexuals. If the corporeality of Christ is denied, perhaps the reality of the body in general is denied, as well; if so, what the body does is either the cause of all impurity or a matter of indifference.

Gnosticism is another word for this dualism, and gnosis refers to the knowledge of the initiated compared to the pistis of mere believers. There is solid evidence that the Cathars were divided into two such groups, and those known as the “Perfect” were the recipients of an initiation known as the consolamentum. The Perfect were also known as the Pure. But beyond that, all is pretty much speculation and Inquisition propaganda. The Perfect are sometimes called the priests of Cathar faith, but their seeming rejection of the church hierarchy makes this improbable. They are more likely just initiates into the final mysteries of the faith, which have been forgotten.

What the Latin Church feared and opposed is clear. The Dominican opponents of the Cathars suspected them of challenging the authority of the whole priestly hierarchy, of denying the efficacy of sacraments, and of denying the corporality of Christ. Whatever the truth about the Cathars, they grew up in the tolerant climate of southern France’s nobility, so they were suspected of licentiousness.

Ezra Pound visited the castle site on his 1911 fantasy-drenched walking tour of Provence but didn’t climb the mountain until he returned years later, when he professed to see that the castle was a sun temple. Others have noted the same thing. The ruins on the site today are of a fortress built long after the Cathars were driven out, the third built on the site, and its fortunate alignment with sunrise has nothing to do with any cult of sun worship or with the Cathars. But it is undeniably a place of power.

The site certainly does look unassailable from below. As you start up the path to the castle, you seem to be climbing a sheer rock face. From some angles the pogue looks like other mountains but from its base it looks like one large, shoulderless boulder. Along my way up the path, I saw many little offerings, crosses, and crystals of amber and amethyst left on the climb by New-Age pilgrims. The revival of the Occitan language seems to have been accompanied by a revival of Catharism, although beliefs are now clearly up to the individual imagination. Freedom to make them up is presumably part of the appeal.

It was a hot, brilliantly clear day in May, already summer in this part of the world. The trail zigzags slowly to the summit and there one looks down into the ruins, which in spite of modern origins look medieval. There is a dungeon at the lowest level, and the windows are all archer’s slits in three-foot thick stone walls. The castle has no roof; holes for roofbeams can be seen in the walls. The castle stretches in a pair of long trapezoids, bending slightly at the joint. Looking down on it, you can easily believe that the “segur” part of its name stands for a vault in which the Cathars stored their bullion, but probably the name really indicates that the castle was thought to be a safe place of refuge for Cathar believers. Inside the castle walls at the last siege, 200 Cathar believers held out as
long as they could.

We stayed that night in a campground associated with the site. There was one hippie attendant in the tickethouse, with a long beard that descended over his chest to a substantial belly. What language he spoke we didn’t learn, but he sold us tickets and we found a place to pitch our tent for the night on a sloping piece of ground among tall pines. By the time we set up camp the gatekeeper was gone and we were the only people in the place. The night we spent there was one of the eeriest of my life. I slept little because all night long the trees overhead resounded with the hoots of owls who resented our presence. By the small hours, I was convinced that the hoots were really the cries of the souls of the Cathar dead, who had never been freed from the site of the bonfire where they had died.

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Places of Power
an Introduction

by David S. Warren, Editor

Here is a map showing supposed lines of force, or connection, or power transmission, or something simply mysterious called “Ley Lines”. When they intersect, Ley Lines are said to create places with a special power - typically the habitat of Bigfoot or powerful spirit beings, the landing place of aliens, or serving as portals through which one communicates with other worlds or other states of being. Spiritual centers, sacred places, and locations of political power...
(Go to Story)_______________________


Places of Power
Earth

by Tarka Wilcox PhD

Reply: Have you ever seen a small chunk of pure sodium metal burn, shriek, and tear itself apart when dropped into water? The energy release during the extremely rapid oxidation is impressive. It’s not the same as the earth, but in some ways it’s analogous - earth is burning (slowly), and tearing itself apart constantly - as a result of trying to cool off.
(Go to Story)

________________________

Montségur
by David Rollow

At this site on top of a rocky outcropping a castle once stood
that was the main stronghold of the Cathars, the heretics who were systematically wiped out in the Albigensian Crusade. At the time, I knew nothing about the Cathars. I went to Montsegur because
a friend put it on the map for me... (Go to Story)

_______________________

The Brook
by Franklin Crawford

The most powerful place I've ever known isn't there any more except between my ears.

It was a flat swampy wetland with a brook flowing through it that once fed a shallow lake that Mom said she had skated on in long ago winter times. I imagined Mom skating in a mental newsreel, black and white and shaky; not a memory of my own at all but of something else I never knew but wish I did. (Go to Story)________________


(more "Fish Eye" cartoons by Mark Finn)

______________________

Water Power
by Georgia E. Warren

It seems that humans can’t resist following water. I am sure that it didn’t take primative peoples long to know how much easier to get from one place to another perched on a fallen log and then a hollow log, a canoe and then finally a boat.

If you get tired going down the river, you pull to the side and stop. If there is a waterfall too steep or rapids too rough, you pull to the side and stop. Build a hut and eventually it becomes a community. (Go to Story)
_______________________

"Collector's Luck
in France"
review by
Josiah Booknoodle

It seems that humans can’t resist following water. I am sure that it didn’t take primative peoples long to know how much easier to get from one place to another perched on a fallen log and then a hollow log, a canoe and then finally a boat.

If you get tired going down the river, you pull to the side and stop. If there is a waterfall too steep or rapids too rough, you pull to the side and stop. Build a hut and eventually it becomes a community. (Go to Story)
_____________________

The Stone at the
Old Same-Place
by David S. Warren

The Old Same-Place, as we called it when we lived there in the seventies, was a nineteenth-century farm house next to a small, unmowed cemetery under tall White Pines as old as the stones where Blackcap Raspberries thrived in a couple of patches. Wild Morning Glory vines hooded the tomb stones and climbed the old pines to their first branches twenty or thirty feet above the ground. The old Pines had grown so large that their sprawling roots tilted the vine-hooded tombstones so that they seemed to be running away

One morning I was poking into the cemetery with my dog Kasha to check on some ripening BlackCap berries in which Kasha had no interest, she lay down in patch of Morning Glory vines near a stone I had never noticed before. It was mostly obscured by the vines but the thing was bigger than a bowling ball and glowing red. (Go to Story)


______________________

Entering a
Powerful Place
by Davey Weathercock

Connecticut Hill, about the wildest part of Tompkins County, has some reputation as a portal between worlds, a landing spot for space aliens, and the habitat of Bigfoot. I don’t know about all of that, but I have hunted, prospected, and skied for years on that hill, and I don’t get how people manage to come across Aliens and Bigfeet there, and not even notice the numerous Littlefeet: the small yellowish natives who retreated to the Gorges when the pre-Iroquois Algonquins arrived, and left the gorges for the hills when the Iroquois took over.
(Go to Story)

______________________



A Note from
Gabriel Orgrease

In the 70’s I was known in Tompkins County as someone that had an interest to play with stones and this fellow wanted to find a particular boulder to set on some property in Ellis Hollow at the northeast quadrant at the corner of Turkey Hill Road and Ellis Hollow Road. He explained there was a confluence of ley lines in the area and that it was full of power. He wanted to place a boulder at the intersection to make it even more powerful a meditation space. This was, as I recall, to be called something like The Temple of Light.
(Go to Story)

_____________________


by Franklin Crawford

Before Alcoholic Anonymous, or AA, there were Ancient Astronauts, the first-ever AAs. I met some of them when I was drinking spiked Mother’s Milk in a far away Power Place called The Womb and later, after getting deported, at the Friday night Mensa meeting in Halifax.

They were a fast-talking fun-loving crowd but none too clever given they chose Earth as a crash pad. That was their big mistake and a dead give-away that these so-called Ancient Astronauts were on the interstellar lam and just looking for a new place to party. (Go to Story)

_______________________

 

PRAIRIE LAKE

We would drive the buggy where
apart from the wheel tracks
we’d left last week
there was no trace of anyone
the land was so very flat
in all directions
we must unknowingly have crossed
one horizon after another

we might have been
let down from an angel chariot
for all the time
that distance seemed to take
your summons uplifted me
when the horse had its head
the prairie just rolled back
as steady as knitting

and in that pleasure
the body takes when it is
inured to hunger
and the fierce desires
in the renewed
appearance of tranquility
in each moved moment
we rehearsed our satisfaction

over and over so that
later I would find myself
repeating it even in my sleep
where there could be no expectation
of sharing it with you
how your call abides
that invited me
to look from that grassy shore

across a blind eye of water
with the ducks returning as
soon as our carriage-sounds stop
in a line that flattens as the surface
approaches beneath it
only to spill apart
and splash into several gratitudes
at the last moment

Chris MacCormick
___________________

Wake Me
by Mary Gilliland

In the treeless light of Delos
mullein flowers burn round
and the stone lions
have waited so long
some have lost their smiles,
others their heads.

In Eleusinian bus exhaust
rain beads like wax
drops along a candle
toward the smashed ruins.

In Samaria the temples
are not slabs of stone.
Water cold as fire
channels the gorge.

In the neglect at Dodona
Persephone has burned
to a shade thinner than sorrow
and fled to the caverns
leaving a painted turtle
to stare down the lizards.

'Nice Girl' first appeared in
The Greenfield Review 14, 3/4 (1987)

__________________

Places of Power
Mt. Shasta

SISKIYOU COUNTY JOURNAL

In the fall of 2016 our prose writing workshop (“Traveling, Thinking, Writing”) read books by Eddy Harris, Linda Grant Niemann, and Robert Michael Pyle. Pyle’s book is called Where Bigfoot Walks and one weekend in early November we endeavored to go out walking in one of the places where Bigfoot is reputed to walk, Siskiyou County in northern California. We drove north for five hours—in a rented van—from Berkeley. (Go to Story)
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Places of Power
Mt. Shasta
OR NOTHING
LIKE THAT AT ALL
by Peter Fortunato


I’m originally from Kansas, and that’s why the name has stuck. A guy I met when I first hitchhiked to the Mountain started calling me that, and I liked it, and so on Shasta I became Kansas for keeps. That was my first time up there, 1976. I came down from the Mountain when Rinpoche arrived in the Bay Area, and there I made some new friends and we all stayed in the same house with him in the hills near Orinda. A lovely, friendly little town in those days—I wonder what it’s like now? (Go to Story)
______________________


The Texture of Music
by Peter Wetherbee

As a musician, audio engineer, and listener, I would like to define beauty in sound. What is it that makes something sound good? What is my favorite kind of music? If there could possibly be such a defining measuring stick, how would one quantify the magnitude of a given piece of art or music, the depth of beauty, or the absolute weight of meaning in the artistic gesture or statement?

I would like to call this magical sweet spot the location of power in music. (Go to Story)
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