Exploring Occitania & the Mysteries of the Templars, Cathars and Magdalene

Cathars, Templars and Mary–oh my!

Summer Solstice June 20, 2024

After spending a couple of weeks in the Occitane region of southern France last year with my good friend Meredith Sands Keator, singing for two of her Somatic Stretch retreats here, I knew I wanted to return again as soon as I could. Partly I was drawn by the sheer geographic beauty of the area. But mostly I felt moved to continue exploring the more mystical elements that have long been a distinguishing feature of this region. For centuries this area, roughly between the Pyrenees Mountains to the south and Carcassonne to the north, was a stronghold of the Cathar people and their remarkable way of life. It also holds much of the rich if often obscured history of the Knights Templar, as well as legends involving Mary Magdalene, who many here believe made it to France after Jesus’ crucifixion and lived the remainder of her days here. We’ll return to that theme in a moment.

The Knights Templar—officially formed in around 1119 AD as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon—were the famous “warrior monks” who in the 12th to 14th centuries AD played an often outsized role in various religious and political events of the day, not only in Europe but extending into the Holy Land of Jerusalem, as they were ostensibly formed in order to keep safe the roads that led to Jerusalem. The Templar roots, founding and history are shrouded in mystery, however; they are often considered members or representatives of an even more secret society of well-connected and ambitious private interests—the monastic muscle, if you will, of extremely powerful people operating purposefully behind the scenes of commonly known history. The Knights Templar appeared fairly suddenly, and came mysteriously into considerable fortune and power over a shockingly short period of time. They came to control the Temple Mount in Jerusalem—the former site of King Solomon’s Temple—and apparently the Templars spent much of their time there excavating in the grounds underneath the Temple. Many speculated that they were holders of phenomenal material wealth—potentially including such items as they were rumored to have found in their excavations, like the original Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, and other power objects. Beyond physical treasure, however, they were thought to possess a more secret mystical inheritance, including deeper secrets pertaining to the hidden meaning behind the Holy Grail, and its role in the Christ story…

Which brings us back to Mary Magdalene. It’s not so radical anymore to recognize that the Magdalene history has been twisted beyond recognition by the Church in its longtime fear of strong women—even the Catholic Church itself recently admitted as much. While it’s always difficult to separate fact from legend after thousands of years, there’s no question that many people in Southern France today hew to the idea that Mary Magdalene did indeed come by boat to the southern coast of France after the crucifixion, and lived out her days in that area. Remnants of the old Cathar and Templar mystery schools may still remain active, if hidden from plain sight, and a number of books–some semi-sensational and some of the guide of fiction but maybe hiding some truths there in plain sight (see Dan Brown’s books; Holy Blood Holy Grail; Kathleen McGowan‘s Magdalene Line series; and others)–have been written purporting to reveal various elements of the views and hidden histories of these secret societies. A small cottage industry flourishes today—attracting tens of thousands of visitors annually—exploring the curious mysteries of historical personages like Father Berenger Sauniere, who is alleged to have discovered (or otherwise come into possession of) some secret wealth and historical documents and treasures related to these ancient mysteries, that brought him unexpected resources and prominence. 

Cutting straight to the biggest headline: some believe that the actual Holy Grail refers not, as commonly supposed, to the jewel-encrusted goblet that Jesus filled with vin rouge at the Last Supper, but to the womb of Mary Magdalene—and that Mary was actually a very advanced spiritual adept and saint herself and was Jesus’ partner, wife, and mother of his children. Thus, the Holy Grail really refers to the holy bloodline that grew from the familial union of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Mic drop.

Between the Cathars, the Knights Templar, Berenger Sauniere, and the Magdalene mysteries, this region of Occitania, sometimes also known as Languedoc, is replete not only with natural beauty and sacred springs, but enduring mysteries that continue to draw pilgrims, historians, and the curious from around the globe. I can say with enthusiasm that I plan to return to this area to continue my own explorations in the seasons to come. 

Last week with my trusted local guide we had profound conversations and prayed deeply together as we visited ancient standing stones mere steps away from panoramic vistas of the Pyrenees, old Templar ruins lost in the woods on the edge of stunning cliffs, and an almost 1000-year old stone temple a gorgeous hike into the hills outside the “golden triangle” and what has been called for two thousand years the Vicus Electensis or Valley of the Chosen Ones. Places I would simply never find myself in a thousand years of self-led exploring. It was deep.

With my guide’s good and learned companionship, I am planning to offer a small guided group exploration of this region in 2025. With the grace and support of some of the amazing local people I met these past two years, we will be guided in the local ways, culture and history, and introduced more deeply into the profound mysteries and teachings held by the people and land here, still vibrant centuries after these epic events took place. And we’ll eat and drink well, too! Because, pfft, South of France.

Feel inspired to join me? Drop a note to info@iamadambauer.com to place your name on the waiting list—space will be very limited!

Oh, and here’s something I learned this past week: Languedoc means the language of Occitania (Langue d’Oc), and in that language “oc” means “yes”—so actually Languedoc means “the language of yes.” Cool! 




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