Sunday, March 7, 2010

Women and Catharism

I was interested to come across an article which comes to the same conclusions that I came to while researching The Night's Dark Shade. It is a myth to claim that Catharism gave women a high status, when inherent in its tenets was a hatred of pregnancy. According to The London Review of Books:
Yet in terms of belief, Catharism, contrary to modern myth, offered women little. Its tenets were profoundly misogynistic (a mixed Cathar gathering mocked a pregnant girl as ‘having a devil in her belly’), and female Perfect, though they existed, were few, and had nothing like equal status with their male counterparts.

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Gareth Russell said...

There was an article in the Questions section of this month's BBC History Magazine about the Cathars, which I thought might interest you (and amuse and/or appall, perhaps in equal measure.) Reading over it I was very much struck by the similarities to the case of Charlotte Moberly and her Spiritualist fascination with Marie-Antoinette...

QUESTION: My mother says that when she lived in Bath in the 1960s, a few women living there were convinced that they were medieval Albigensians reincarnated. Can you tell us any more about this?

The author and journalist EUGENE BYRNE answered: This concerns psychiatrist and author Dr Arthur Guirdham (1905-92), who wrote books on extra-sensory perception and reincarnation. In the 1960s he was a consultant at an NHS clinic in Bath, but in his spare time he was becoming increasingly fascinated by the Cathars - Albigensians - the heretical Gnostic sect which flourished in medieval France.
In his book "The Cathars and Reincarnation" (1970) he described how a patient, 'Mrs Smith', a housewife in her 30s, told him about terrible nightmares she had been suffering since her teens. Guirdham became convinced these dreams were of a past life as a peasant girl in medieval Toulouse. He further believed that he himself had been a Cathar cleric, and that he and Mrs Smith had been acquainted in their previous lives. Mrs Smith, he said, provided some impressive details of this past life, things she could not possibly have known or learned at school, including the words to a song in a medieval French dialect. Guirdham later claimed that he had encountered others who had also memories of lives as Cathars.
While he was a scientist whose methodolgy appears meticulous, sceptics say it's wishful thinking, and that Mrs Smith and others allowed their memories to be 'suggested' by the doctor.

elena maria vidal said...

As you may well guess, Gareth, I stay clear of spiritualism and reincarnation. But I do believe that people can be possessed. It sounds to me something of that nature was going on there. Interesting.

Gareth Russell said...

No, I don't believe in it either. Although I thought the whole thing sounded like nonsense, rather than anything more sinister. I don't know how Dr. Guirdham's methodology could be described as 'meticulous.' It sounds like slapdash, self-indulgent nonsense. Although reassuring to know that a culture's ability to generate communal idiocy apparently doesn't fade with the passing centuries.