The one question our sacred ancestors want us to ask
The Year of the Body: Week 22
in which a Cathar woman from the 13th century reaches across time to hand us the one question we most need today
Friends, soul writers, mystics, and lovers of prayer,
How much possibility can one week hold:
- We had an intense lunar eclipse that will reverberate all summer and into the fall
- It's the 22nd week of the year--the master number of 4
- Today is the 590th anniversary of Joan of Arc's death
- And Joan of Arc's pilgrimage starts on Friday.
Whew! What a week.
It’s not an accident that this is the 22nd week of the year of the body. The 22 helps us see what needs to be cleared away so we can build a world we long to live in. A world where all bodies are safe and loved.
22 is the master number of 4—the builder, the architect. This whole decade is a 4.
That means throughout this entire decade, the old patriarchal power structures will continue to crumble to the ground. A bit too slowly for some of us, but, like the 16 Tower card—which interestingly is 4 x 4—they are falling.
In a year of Covid, we watched as some big stones came flying off the ramparts, revealing horrors patriarchy has tried to keep hidden.
It hasn’t been a pretty picture.
- We don’t want to look at George Floyd being murdered by a cop so unperturbed, his sunglasses stay perched on top of his head.
- We don’t want to hear the slurs white supremacists scream at Black baristas.
- We don’t want to look at the building where a “good christian” man gunned down Asian women.
- We still can’t believe the Confederate Flag—the symbol of terror—was paraded through the Capitol.
It’s been a year of raw visuals.
But we had to look. We had to acknowledge that we see what we see.
“See what you see” was the call of the prosecutors that finally sent a murdering cop to prison.
When we see what we see on the outside, something happens to us on the inside.
We begin to notice that this trauma is hidden and festering in our own bodies. And make no mistake it is there. Just being here, just walking around a world drenched with a long history of abuse, we breathe in trauma.
It might be our trauma, perhaps from growing up in an abusive family. It might be our parents’ and their parents’ and on, down a long ancestral trail of people fleeing terror. Or it might be so diffused in the collective, that we can no longer trace it back to a person or a place or a people.
Acknowledging that trauma is real is the beginning. Being willing to notice that trauma lives in us, keeps us small and scared and silent is the next big step in real healing.
But acknowledging trauma is only half the story.
Our culture is full of methods and practices to heal trauma. Like me, you’ve probably tried several. Talk therapy—check. Group therapy—check. Massage, acupuncture, yoga, breath work—check. And, like me, you probably experienced some healing in many of them.
And yet. And yet. You know you’re not there.
Something is missing.
I stumbled upon what’s missing when I met Veronique Flayol in Provence, France.
Veronique is the champion and story-bearer for a magnificent Cathar woman, Dame Guiraude de Lavaur in the fourth week of our pilgrimage.
Although I knew next to nothing about the Cathars, I somehow intuited that a Cathar needed to be one of the 13 women in The Return of the Witches Jeanne d’Arc Listening Pilgrimage.
The Cathars were massacred in the only crusade against Christians—ordered by the top “christian,” the pope (who somehow missed the “thou shalt not kill” memo).
Veronique and I recorded a special bonus video on the Cathars yesterday. (Each of the 13 witches has a bonus video with her champion that will be posted on the rich resource page for the pilgrimage.)
To help me prepare, Veronique suggested I watch a class she taught on the Cathars earlier this year.
Two important things happened watching that class.
First, I got quite an education on who the Cathars were, how they lived, and what they believed that infuriated the pope so much he wiped out the entire religion and burned all but 3 of their 6,000 books.
Would you like to guess what drove the pope to wipe out an entire religion? I don’t think it will surprise you:
- The Cathars tried to live as Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the earliest followers lived—with humility and simplicity.
- They believed that women and men are equal.
- Women preached at the same level as men and administered their one sacrament.
- Women could even be elevated to the status of “perfect woman.”
And Dame Guiraude?
She was a wealthy, highly educated woman who invited the intellectual leaders of the day into her home. She was also a generous woman who welcomed orphans and widows to live in her castles in safety.
Troubadours praised Lady Guiraude for her intelligence and kindness. But all that intelligence and beauty could not protect her from the maws of patriarchal power.
After Veronique finished teaching, a woman in the group said something that landed in my body as truth—deep important transformational truth.
You probably know her: Kathleen McGowan, author of the best-selling series on Mary Magdalene, The Expected One, The Book of Love, and The Poet Prince. Kathleen and Veronique co-lead pilgrimages throughout Provence.
Kathleen said we must remember that Dame Guiraude and the Cathars are not dead.
Kathleen reminded us of the great Cathar teaching: I remain.
The words, “I remain,” spun in the air all around me. Yes, I know this is true! It’s the foundational premise of The Return of the Witches Jeanne d’Arc Listening Pilgrimage.
These 13 women murdered by patriarchy are not dead and gone. They are alive. Alive in their stories, in their land, and in our hearts.
They return to us and they speak. They tell their stories.
Not the stories told by patriarchy that describe them as women of sin and evil, consorting with the devil. Not the stories that label them heretic, savage, witch. Those stories were written by their perpetrators to justify killing them.
As the Nigerian proverb says: Don’t let the lion tell the giraffe’s story.
In our pilgrimage, we invite the “giraffe” to speak for herself. And we begin to hear a very different story than the one told by the victors who murdered them.
Each woman's story has two parts. The two pieces of “What remains.”
First, the trauma.
We stand as sacred witnesses around these women, honoring them and holding them in love. We see their pain and we feel it in our own bodies.
So yes, one part of "What remains” is the trauma. In our pilgrimage, we have several powerful prayer practices to help us find and transmute that trauma.
But the trauma isn’t the whole story. Or even the most important part.
As Kathleen McGowan reminded us, Dame Guiraude and the Cathers always said, “I remain.” What remains?
Their convictions, their strengths, their powers, their goodness, their prayers, their sacrament, their devotion to one another, their devotion to their God.
And—perhaps their strongest medicine for us—their resistance. To their last breath, the Cathars resisted the catholic army.
So what remains of Dame Guiraude and the Cathars? A lot!
What remains of all 13 women in the pilgrimage? Each one has sacred medicine they’ve been longing to give us, the living.
What remains from these 13 women is just the medicine we need to help us gather the strength and courage to become the architects of a world where women, witches, indigenous peoples, and the land herself is safe, and seen, and heard.
And there could not be a more perfect week to step into this pilgrimage.
Because today, May 30 is the anniversary of Joan of Arc's death.
But we are not mourning. Or, we are not only mourning. Yes, we stand in witness to what was done to her by patriarchal power determined to silence a brilliant, powerful woman, a woman who performed miracles and inspired armies.
But then, we ask Joan, "What remains?"
Oh my Goddess, so much remains:
- devotion to her divine voices
- unshakeable confidence in herself and her purpose
- sparkling brilliance (the scribe recording her trial wrote "good answer" in the margins)
- adorable sense of humor
- devotion to prayer
This is the medicine we need.
From the Cathars resistance.
From Joan fearlessness.
And from Queen Jezebel the first of the 13, who will return to tell her true story next Sunday? You may be surprised (given what's been said about her) but she is a woman of great dignity.
How about Mary Magdalene who returns to us on June 12? Think you know her? You may be quite surprised.
What remains of Queen Boudica who led 200,000 Celts against Rome? She and her champion will be with us on June 19, but I can give you a hint now: She is full of fury--holy righteous powerful fury.
These are magnificent women with magnificent life stories to tell and magnificent medicine to bequeath to us.
Register now, so you have time to begin to explore the rich resource page filled with artists and musicians and bonus videos from our pre-patriarchal prayer guides. It's a feast.
Our opening ceremony on Friday is conducted by a woman Dame Guiraude would love: Sabin Bailey, a powerful mystic and ceremonialist who has been declared a Bishop by her community.
The Return of the Witches
Jeanne d’Arc Listening Pilgrimage
to stopping to ask 13 women on our pilgrim path the question they're longing to answer: What remains?