Stories of Serendipity: Writing Historical Fiction Series Featuring author Glen Craney
Welcome to week four of our series, where each Sunday until the end of October 2013 I’ll share a writer’s experiences of serendipity and synchronicity while writing, researching and publishing historical fiction, and their pondering about possible reasons behind such phenomena.
It is my delight to introduce author Glen Craney and his beautiful and enchanting story that sparked his novel The Fire and the Light…
“One night I awoke from a vivid dream of a robed priestess who walked amid the ruins of a mountain castle. The word “crusade” was chanted in my ear while the letters ‘Mallorca’ flashed below the scene. Around this spectral woman’s feet sprouted dozens of crosses that shifted between possessing two and three horizontal beams. They seemed to mark the location of forgotten graves. I was struck by their resemblance to the logo used by the American Lung Association in its modern crusade against tuberculosis.
The priestess, bathed in a lucent radiance, beckoned me toward her with outstretched arms and pleaded, “Peace, child, let the Light.”
Heeding Yeats’s admonition that in dreams begin responsibilities, I hurried to the library the next morning. The medieval papacy, I discovered, had claimed possession of the triple cross for reasons that remain shrouded in mystery. According to the esoteric classic Meditations on the Tarot, one who wields this cross is empowered to regulate spiritual respiration between the angelic and earthly realms.
The double cross—also known as the Cross of Lorraine—was carried by the Knights Templar on their first journey to the Holy Land. Only decades later did those crusading monks replace it with their splayed cross pattée. Hermeticists would adopt the double cross as a symbol to denote their primal law: As above, so below. During World War II, the French Resistance embraced it as a rallying insignia in its struggle against the Nazi occupation. Today, the cross can be seen painted on walls in southwestern France as a call for the return of independence to the region once known as Occitania.
Several weeks into my research, I met Dr. Norma Lorre Goodrich, the late scholar of myth and ancient religions from Claremont College. In her book The Holy Grail, she identified the triple cross as a medieval watermark called the Catharist Cross, which in fact had nothing to do with the crucifixion, but was known since ancient times as the “Cross of Light,” depicting the rays of the spiritual sun.
I wondered if the Vatican had confiscated this cross after exterminating the medieval Cathars, a sect of pacifist healers. The alternating number of traverse beams on the crosses in my dream suggested a connection between these doomed heretics and the recurring struggle for freedom in France. Although raised a Roman Catholic, I had never been told of the war of genocide sanctioned by the Church during the Albigensian Crusade. Yet as my investigation into these mystics deepened, I could not shake the conviction that the mysterious woman who appeared to me that night brought a warning for our own time, plagued as it is by religious intolerance and terror.
Months later, I was climbing the heights of Montsegur in the Ariege region of France. That desolate mount and its haunting castle ruins looked strikingly similar to the landscape in my vision. This would prove to be only the first of many déjà vu experiences that I would have in Cathar country. I also learned that Montsegur was once part of the lands held by a woman named Esclarmonde de Foix, a countess and sister of the Count of Foix, one of the nobles who fought Simon de Montfort during the Albigensian Crusade. Esclarmonde became a revered leader of the Cathars, participated in public disputations against the Church legates, and grew so influential that she was publicly condemned in Rome as a heretic.
And the name Esclarmonde means “Light of the World.”
During the writing of the novel, I also learned that the House of Aragon held land in southern France, including Perpignan, the capital of the short-lived Kingdom of Mallorca, which came to include the county of Foix. The Mallorcan fortress still stands a half-day’s drive from Montsegur. The Balearic island of Mallorca, now part of Spain, was a haven for Cathar and Templar refugees. A few decades after the capitulation of Montsegur, a female descendant of the extended Perella family of Foix married James, the King of Aragon and Mallorca. After the Church’s crusaders killed his father at Muret, James was entrusted into the care of the Knights Templar in Aragon. His new queen came from Foix—and her name was also Esclarmonde.
When I consulted Dr. Goodrich’s work again, I discovered that the professor had posited that Esclarmonde de Foix and her family of women who went by that same first name were the Grail priestesses hinted at by the troubadours and French medieval chroniclers in their chansons.
My novel was the result of a years-long quest to unveil the identity and message of this Priestess of Light who chose me to tell her story. As for explaining why, well, I’m frankly at a loss. But many of the Cathar sites and castles had a familiar feeling to me when I visited them for research. The Cathars believed in reincarnation, so who knows? So many people have reported remembering past lives during this period that a British television broadcaster aired a documentary about the phenomenon a few years ago.”
For more about Glen’s works: http://glencraney.com/
See you here next Sunday September 29th for author Alana White’s magical and mysterious tale — interesting and intriguing — Not to be missed!
Posted by Stephanie Renee dos Santos