Duende of Grief: When We Roamed as Cathars. {poetry}


Memories recalled on the eve of my birthday, a few months after the death of my father. Remembering a visit in 1995, I am now as old as he was then…

As we drove on toward the castle, I shared with my father some of the legend of the Château de Puivert, that it had been the home of the Cathar nobility in the 13th century and that the Cathars were a dualistic sect wiped out by the Pope’s inquisition.

The last massacre had taken place in Château de Montségur, just 30 kilometers away. There, on March 16, 1244, the last 200 Cathar Parfaits, the religious leaders of the sect, were burned alive. Many walked into the fire — such was their conviction that they would rather die willingly than renounce their faith.

The Parfaits and thousands before them had been exterminated because they posed a threat to the Catholic Church. They had grown in numbers, had written their own doctrines, had women priestesses, and performed their own masses.  Their following was great — both the nobility and the simple peasants.

The Pope enlisted his bishops to travel to Occitanie to convince the heretics to renounce. He was also able to enlist the help of the army of French crusaders to gain the region of the Cathars, namely the area of Occitanie, which was at the time not a part of France.

So, after the extermination of the Cathars, Occitanie (the region stretching from Bordeaux across the south to Narbonne on the Mediterranean) became France.

The Puivert Castle, in happier days, was the salon for troubadours, dancers and musicians who entertained the Cathar nobility.

I finished this historical background as we pulled into the parking area. For me, history was becoming reality as we headed for the footpath, once walked by the Cathars. We passed the ancient herb garden as we walked up a steep slope to the castle gate while sensing I had walked that path many times before. And my dad?

My Duende of Grief

Four and one half months have passed, Dad
Since you hit the celestial slopes,
Your slalom to the gods.

Distractions have eased the missing.

But at night
When I close my eyes
And try
To sleep
You come to me
In memories.

Tears dampen my nightshade —
Such is love lacing
Remembrance of Things Past.

Yes, we shared our love of Proust.
And yes, you visited my homeland,
La campagne
(Those years when I spoke to cows and they mooed back
When I traipsed the 800-year-old thyme garden
On the slopes of Château de Puivert)
I took you there.

And I led you on my secret path
Though the woods above the square
To the druid field I claimed as my own
And you sat on the throne
Of Druantia
Queen of the forest.

You gazed at the sky
Your face glowing
A timeless moment knowing
The myths are real
And I knew
We had been connected for lifetimes.

That same night
You sat in a circle with my French friends
In the ancient cave house,
My Pyrenean home.

And we broke bread:
Pate, crusty baguette, cheese and wine
And while sitting before the flaming hearth
Where on an ancient grill
Michel roasted le boudin noir
Sputtering crackly crisp
That gift
From my peasant neighbors —
The product of the masterly age-old ritual
Of making sausage —
You stood
And raised your glass to mes amis
Whom I had known for centuries
When we had roamed the hills
As Cathars…

Was I embarrassed or touched
By your toast?
“Thank you for taking care of my little girl.”

This I remembered
As my satin night shade became soaked
With gratitude
That I can see you now
Four and a half months since your last earthly breath
When I am still before sleep.
Somehow I see you dissolved into the Father’s face
Evolved into your new adventure
As I await mine.

This, a duende of my grief
On my birthday 2021
A wisp of thankfulness
For your seed
As it has allowed me to sow my own
Cultivating the images of a lifetime
In this earthly garden
As I remember
We also loved Voltaire.

I stand
And raise my glass to the gods
Thanking them for taking care of
My dad.


Pamela Preston, a student of Carl Jung, Robert Graves, and the dead poets and philosophers, embarked on a literary, mythological quest in 1992 with a typewriter and a one-way ticket for Paris, France. Based in the French countryside for 20 years, Ms. Preston continues living and writing her personal myth in a world that is losing its agrarian culture and its legends. She adheres to the words of C.G. Jung, “… a myth is dead if it no longer lives and grows.” Pamela’s books and mandalas can be found on Marianne Press and Mythic Threads.


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