MARGUERITE  

 

 I come into the room charged with the eagerness of my desire, fresh from the out-of-doors and blown from my rapid climb up the circular stone stairway, into the upper room of the round tower of our dark castle in northern Italy. My beautiful mother is there, sitting with her ladies. They are all embroidering with silken threads, and laughing and gossiping. She is slender, with slanted eyes, delicate eyebrows and a laughing mouth. She dresses all in silk and wears her dark hair twisted in two doughnuts over her ears. I long for her caresses, for her attention to my excited presence. All unthinking, I fall to my knees before her and bury my head in her silken lap. She pushes my head from off her knees, sweeping my presence from her silky garment with both hands, "Oh, Marguerite, you are getting me all dirty!" she exclaims. "Can't you see that I'm busy? Go and play with your nurse!"
 
I slump dejectedly back out of the room and walk slowly down the long, long stair, feeling abandoned, unwanted. My nurse is sitting with the old cook at the great oaken table in the dark kitchen at the bottom, peeling potatoes for the evening meal. My great dog sits at her feet, nose to the stone floor. He looks up at me as I slowly drag myself down the steps to the kitchen floor. "Nobody wants to play with me, Nursie," I tell her fretfully. "Oh, now, Marguerite, you know your mother is busy with her ladies just now," she tells me, the beaming regard of her blue eyes, snub nose, wide, rosy cheeks and smiling mouth already beginning to fill the dark, empty place in my belly. "Come on, let's go for a walk!"
 
We go through the stone doorway that leads to the area behind the castle and out to the meadow beyond. My dog walks slowly beside me, slowly wagging his long, heavy tail. "Tell me a story," I beg my nurse. She begins a long story about a unicorn who is so shy that no one can set eyes upon him, nor even be sure of his existence. One day a beautiful young maiden is walking through the meadow, and sees him from afar, moving slowly, cropping the long yellow grass near the forest, falls in love with his beauty and begins calling to him to come to her! She is so pure that he cannot resist her presence. She sits upon the grass awaiting his approach. singing him a song in her sweet voice, and he comes closer and closer, blowing his breath through his nostrils and nodding his great horned head up and down as he comes. She sings him a sweet song, and he comes so close that he can kneel, and finally drops down heavily beside her. She reaches out and pulls his great head into her lap so she can caress it, combing his silvery-white forelock with her long, white fingers, stroking the shimmering fur of his neck, rubbing tenderly around the base of his twisted horn and pointed ears.
 
I am enthralled by her story. We walk slowly through the yellow autumn meadow grass bathed in the glowing sunset light which illuminates also the quivering golden coin-like leaves of the beech trees at the edge of the meadow. My heart is content.
......................

Here is the song sung by the maiden - which will not appear on earth for many centuries!

 
UNICORN
 
I see you moving silently,
Glimmering sheenily,
Flickering whitely,
Through beech trees
Golden in the slanting sunlight
Against the yellow meadow
As you pass.
 
O come to me,
Come!
Dearest creature,
So white,
So splendid,
So...alien;
Come: and I will spread my silken lap for you
To lay your splendid head a-down
And I shall stroke your silky fur
And gentle your wild and yellow eyes.
 
And then, ah, marvel,
You come!
Putting one proud, delicate hoof
Before the other;
Step by cautious step
Across the yellow grass
Which brushes your slender legs,
Tossing your heavy head with its
single, twisted horn,
Blowing your warm breath through dilated nostrils,
You come to me.
 
O unicorn, unicorn,
Your glory wrings my heart
As you lay yourself down beside me
And rest your great head in my lap.
My eyes are filled with your tender Presence,
Its wildness
Stilled
By my touch.
 
But how,
Ah, how
Shall I live my life
Now that I have held you thus,
If only for a moment? ...
Smelt your scent,
Caressed your heaving body,
Gazed into your golden eyes,
Felt the heaviness
Of your hornèd head
Pressing against my thighs?
 
How shall I live
Now that you are gone?

... .......................

It is another day - cold, grey and looming darkly. I am crouched with my dog before the fire in the tall stone fireplace in the darkened Great Hall of my castle home. I am drawing something with a chalk outline on the stone of the hearth by its light. The air behind and above us is cold, but the flames of the burning oak logs in the huge fireplace before us rise many feet into the air and I feel its heat on my face. We are alone, and I am telling him a story about a noble knight who rescues a helpless maiden from the captivity of a monstrous great dragon. Perhaps I am also drawing a picture of the dragon with the chalk.

Behind me, and far off in the darkness, I hear a sound of hammering, as of some large object against the great oaken doors of the castle, and then a clamor of many voices. The distant sounds become louder, with noises now of rending and cracking - and a clash of metal - and now a rising babble of voices which become shouts and screams. I am terrified, and crouch even closer to the fire, wishing I could become invisible. This continues for a long while, and then - nothing. The total silence is almost more frightening than the earlier clamor.
 
Now I hear heavy footsteps descending the stair from above, and coming across the hall in the dark toward me. I cringe, and shrink into myself, willing whoever it is not to see me, hugging my dog, whose deep growl now tells me that the one approaching is an intruder. He rises, tearing my arms loose, and rises to meet the stranger, barking menacingly. I turn, and see a big, heavy-set man with long, dark hair that hangs to his shoulders, dressed in chain mail and leather, with high boots, coming toward me out of the darkness. He carries a dripping sword. I cannot see his face well enough to judge his intent, but I am mortally afraid.
 
He boldly pushes the dog aside and, with one swoop of his great arm snatches me up like a sack of meal and carries me away on his hip, with my dog running by his side, snarling and barking, snatching futilely at his leather garment. He carries me out of the main gate of the castle to where horses are tethered, the others already mounted by other riders, and climbs up onto his own horse, lifting me easily, setting me in front of him with my back against his chest and belly. I make no sound, fearing that I will be thrown down the side of the steep cliff at the edge of the castle grounds or killed summarily with his sword as I imagine my mother and her servants have been. I don't dare even to whimper in my terror.
 
My dog chases us, barking wildly, until we leave the castle grounds and begin the descent of the pogue, then slants off to one side and stands watching us canter away on the narrow pathway that leads downward to the valley below.
 
I am so utterly shocked and terrified at the sudden total catastrophe that has destroyed my entire life as I have lived it up to this moment that I can only pull inside myself, experiencing a brief image of my father, also clothed in chain mail and seated on his horse as he rides away to fulfill his knightly duty somewhere far from home; then I fall into a dazed sleep that obliterates all sight, sound, smell, feelings. Indeed, the journey we are making during the next days, perhaps even weeks, pass like a bad dream for me only barely remembered, until I am, as it were, set down in a green, sunny valley surrounded by high, snow-peaked mountains with the sound of cowbells ringing in my ears.
 
....
....... ....... .....= . My Valley ..... .... v.......My village

I have a feeling of new warmth and welcome, which comes from the presence of the grey-haired man and woman dressed in simple peasant clothing who stand beside our horse looking kindly down at me as I stagger forward, unused to walking easily after the long days and even nights on horseback. The woman reaches out for me and helps steady my unsure balance, then continues to hold me against her skirted legs. Her hand presses my head against her warm midriff. I relax, comforted by her welcoming arms and body.

.......................

I am working in the sunny, stone-floored kitchen-living space in the farmhouse of my foster parents. I am seventeen, now, have learned all the skills of dairying, and am my parents' willing helper. I stand at the oak work table making cottage cheese from the soured milk of my cows, the small herd I milk twice daily, accompany to the upland pastures on the side of the mountain to the east of the valley and bring down again every evening. It is a quiet, satisfying way of life, and I am reluctant to hear of anything that could possibly disrupt its even tenor. The voices of my parents are gentle, but I can sense the alarm beneath their quietude. They are speaking with a tall young man clothed a a long robe of midnight blue - something about news of the approach of soldiers - an invading army of northern soldiers - who are intent on killing all those who follow the good ones - the Boni - the pure ones - the Cathari, as we call them - who have been declared heretical by the Pope in Rome and who has sent this army to destroy them!

 
This young man is one whom I know well - and love dearly! His name is Pier Bonnet, and he often visits my parents, with whom he has a great affinity; and sometimes joins me outside by the small stream bed that runs through the valley. We sit on a great white stone under a tall larch tree that grows by the stream, and he talks to me in thrilling tones about God and about the goodness that fills the hearts of those who love God and His Son Jésu Christ. I am suffused with love and adoration for this invisible Jésu, whom I visualize as my Cathar friend Pier, worshipping them both equally, not really noticing the distinction! Some day I too shall be one of them, I think.
....................................
 
The pogue, with the chateau on top

I am now eighteen. It is a clear, sunny day in May, and I am walking up the twisting, narrow path that winds its way up the pogue to the great stone-walled château at its summit. I am carrying two big bundles wrapped in cloth which contain my family's and my clothing. I am alone, they having already gone up to the top. I am a bit frightened, but also elated, because I know that I am needed by the Great Ones who have taken up residence in the château above. I have been there several times, helping my parents get settled in the tiny hut outside the northern wall of the castle, and have met the Lady, Count Raimond's wife Corba, who has welcomed me as her special charge and teacher! She is there to help support her husband, the count, and to help take care of all the beautiful, gentle throng of priests and priestesses who are the last of the Cathares - and I am to be her helper! She is gentle in demeanor, powerful in scope and will, to me a veritable goddess on earth! She is The Lady; she is Goodness Embodied, and I will do anything for her sake!

 
 The following is a long excerpt from a letter I wrote some five months after my return from a pilgrimage to Europe to a dear friend in England from whom I had originally learned about Montségur and the Cathars. It was he whom I had identified, in my past lives work in California, with the "tall young man" with whom I had been in love during my thirteenth century - Cathar - lifetime, and with whom I have had since the late sixties a very special kind of relationship difficult until now to rationalize - perhaps on both sides: friend, but more than friend, family but not family, mutual spiritual counselor, but more involved than counselor - a relationship most accurately described, I believe, as karmic.
 
The "Roger" referred to is Roger Woolger [q.v.], a marvelously gifted and scholarly past lives therapist whose education and training include degrees in psychology, philosophy and comparative religion at Oxford University and the University of London as well as training as an analyst at the Jungian Institute at Zurich, Switzerland, and further training and experience as a past lives therapist and researcher with a training and research group in California. [Click here to see a review of his book Other Lives, Other Selves.] Eight of us from the community of which I am a founding member had been working with him one evening a week since the previous January, learning to guide each other and ourselves being guided through our own past lives, with Roger himself taking charge of particularly traumatic experiences. It should be borne in mind that the description I give is a mix of my own images and supplementary details drawn from Zoe Oldenbourg's very detailed and well-researched account of the "Albigensian Crusade," Massacre at Montségur.
 
In March, Roger took me through the fire. He began by having me say out loud the words that were uppermost in my feelings. It was, "I've lost him!" I screamed and screamed with the pain of that acknowledgement, and the whole thing came flooding in. I was in our farm kitchen and you were talking with my parents (foster parents). I was making cottage cheese at the other side of the room.
 
You and they were talking seriously about what was happening, and I wasn't listening, being so focused on my infatuation with you! You were so tall! They were influential Cathars in the village, and you had been living there, although that was not where you came from. Or perhaps you were at the château and had come down to make arrangements for the siege at the château. You were not yet a parfait, but you were a Cathar. But you and they had many connections, so you had been coming fairly often. It was summer.
 
The next scene was of climbing the steep path to the château. It was very hot, and the sun was bright. I was barefoot, and carried two bundles wrapped in cloth. Then we were there.
Inside the walls as it looks now
 
I was surprised to see a wooden floor in the open part of the château [Note: This comment refers to the fact that I visited the ruins of the château at Montségur during my pilgrimage in 1984, and took the photographs above]. You were mostly busy with the other men, and we were women and children inside. I don't remember my parents there. They must have lived in one of the huts outside the walls. I only saw you in glimpses from time to time, and you had no time for me´- or I for you. I was busy helping with meals and the care of children - and the sick and wounded, as time went on. I became increasingly aware of the beauty and grace of the women, and in particular, one woman who I think was Raymond de Perella's lady, Corba, who was incredibly kind to me. The noise of the siege was unceasing, and very demoralizing. It was summer when we first went into the chåteau, never to come out until the very end, the 17th of March.
 
On the night of the 14th, we were fasting, and chanted and prayed all night. We went into the little upper room where the slit windows are, and when the sun came through, it struck the disc and lit the whole room with a golden blaze. 
 
cathupperm.gif................ .cathsun.gif.............. .
..... The upper room. . .Light streaming through east-facing window
 
And, [Peter], I saw God! I saw my golden globe, high in the air! It was an ecstatic experience. I received the consolamentum along with a number of others. I was nineteen years of age, nearly twenty.
 
catharcross.gif
Cathar cross
 
I remember that you went over the wall and were let down on ropes sometime during the next day or so, but Oldenbourg's account says you hid until the burning was finished and came down then. I think you went over the wall before then, and hid outside with the disc and whatever else there was, perhaps a chalice and a plate, because there was no place to hide inside the château. There were four of you; some accounts say three, and a guide. You and Mathaus (you were one of three brothers) had gone over the wall with the coin earlier and gotten away, and he had come back. I think you must have too, because my deep grief comes only when you left on this day, not earlier. They say Amiel Aicart, Hugo, Poitevin, and another, perhaps a guide. That could have been you. You would have known the terrain, having gone before, also where to hide the treasure.

They dragged us down the mountain, with our hands tied behind our backs and threw us over the palisade fence, into the pile of brush and wood, which was already smouldering. I found myself there so abruptly, somehow expecting a last minute reprieve until that very moment, that I simply could not believe it was happening. I thought you would come and rescue me. I didn't really understand that it would happen. I was a profound coward, and had put all my hopes and dreams into the future, with the present a way of piling up merit which would somehow bring about that future I wished for, which centered around you and Christ, and I was very unclear in my mind about the difference.

I adored the lady who was so beautiful to me and whose purity filled me with such love and joy, and I wanted as much as anything to die well and purely in her eyes, but it was a romantic ideal of death. She is my "Lady," my "Irishwoman" of the poems. The actuality of that death was too much for my reality sense. I totally lost my sense of communion with the group. I could not let myself know anyone was also dying there except myself. The process of the choking, the burning, the hopelessness of the reality of that process of burning to death did something to my inner spirit. I knew I could not go on living, that was clear, but also, as I got to the end of the hideousness, I found I could not believe that it was all right just to die, to let go of the horror and the pain, because this total denial itself cut me off from completion of any kind. I felt stuck in the total evil of my sin against the Holy Spirit. I could not go to heaven. I could not look on my burnt body to know it was gone. I could not look at the bodies of the others. I froze myself into a space with no form or substance, an eternal darkness in which I could not be with anyone nor could I even be alone, because I could not allow myself to be. I felt condemned by my utter failure either to live or to die to a kind of outer darkness that could stretch forever.

Roger says expiation is one of the strongest impulses there is, and the only thing I had in my mind was the need for expiation, only I didn't even understand that that was what it was! No one could help me. It was too late. The deed had been done. I had gone, with no perceptible space except horror between them from "too soon" to "too late." I had wanted to experience life, and it was too soon to die. Now it was too late for me ever to die properly. One is only allowed one death, and I had blown it! Do you see what I did? I forgot that God had given me his grace! I absolutely wiped the entire experience of conversion and consolation out of my being! I wiped it out so totally, I didn't even perceive that I had done so! That is the sin against the Holy Spirit.

Roger made me come down and look at myself there on the pyre. It was horrible! I was a mass of char, and my face had a kind of grimace on it caused by the exposure of bone. Then he made me look at the bodies of the others. When he saw I could not experience myself out of the body, he had me go quickly to the next life. Again I saw nothing but darkness, but as he said the words "see yourself," I had caught a quick impression of myself manacled hand and foot in a dungeon, lying in utter darkness. Roger says martyrs sometimes become addicted to martyrdom and experience it again and again in life after life. What I never understood was how deep-seated the guilt was which I felt in being this martyr! I knew survivors of massacres feel guilty, but no one has ever said those who die may also feel guilty, depending on the way they die!

 
In fact it was many years before I figured out where my intense survivor guilt came from. I have finally realized that at the time I had so completely left my family of origin behind me when I came to live in the Montégur valley that I failed to remember and take into account the fact that I had indeed been a sole survivor of the occupants of the castle from which I had been kidnapped!
 
 
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