The French can almost never agree on how to pronounce some words. Take Auxerre. This is the Burgundy town where Dr Marcel Petiot (subject of my book Die in Paris) was born and grew up. I’ve heard the name pronounced Auzerre and Auserre; the correct pronunciation, by the way, is the latter. Take the surname […]
The French can almost never agree on how to pronounce some words.
Take Auxerre. This is the Burgundy town where Dr Marcel Petiot (subject of my book Die in Paris) was born and grew up. I’ve heard the name pronounced Auzerre and Auserre; the correct pronunciation, by the way, is the latter.
Take the surname Mesrine, which was that of a famous (infamous rather) robber, shot dead by the police in Paris. There were those who pronounced the name Me’rine, while to others the s was not dropped. He himself cleared up the confusion; in a film based on his life, the character who played him, told a cop, “It’s Me’rine … Me’rine!”
Now take Bugarach, a village of 189 inhabitants. I’ve heard people pronounce the name with a hard k at the end, while others are pronouncing it with a soft sh sound – in other words to rhyme with rush. I’ve decided on the latter, and I reckon that I will be writing about the place regularly between now and December 21, 2012.
For Bugarach, as esoterics believe, will be the only place on our planet Earth that will survive the end of the world – the Apocalypse – which the Mayan calendar has apparently predicted for that December day.
Why should Bugarach be the only place which will survive?
Well, there in lies an interesting story.
Bugarach, 809 kilometers (503 miles) and a good 8-hour drive from Paris, is in the Aude department of France. On the map that means it is situated right down southwest close to the Mediterranean and to the border with Spain. Because of the division of France into departments, regions, counties and what not, and which I won’t confuse you with (and certainly confuse myself) you could also say that the village is in Languedoc or Corbières and it would be not exactly incorrect. No doubt you would have drunk wine from Languedoc or Corbières, and it might not be a bad idea to have a bottle nearby for drinking while reading this, or for drinking afterwards. However, if you are deeply devout you might need something more potent than a glass of wine.
This southwest region of France is one of very many legends and myths and incredible claims.
Skeptics or agnostics or non-believers, and historians too, claim that Mary Magdalene or The Magdalene, or Maria or Mariam, sister of Martha and Lazarus (yes, that Lazarus) was Jesus’ wife. The family, from Magdala on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, had King David as ancestor, and it was therefore a noble one and wealthy and the family lived in a large house if not in a fortified castle. Magdalene, the youngest, was rather flighty, but then she met Jesus, the brilliant rabbi son of another noble family and also descending from King David.
So, as these things happen, Jesus and Magdalene fell in love but before they could get married The Magdalene had gone through a seven-step cleansing ceremony; she’d been a rather wild girl (though not a prostitute as some of the Gospel writers state) and she had to be delivered of her bad ways before she could become the wife of a rabbi, especially one who had formed his own small group of followers.
At their wedding in Cana, Jesus and his mother Mary, the hostess, had rather underestimated the drink situation for the lavish ceremony of several hundred guests and Mary had stepped up to Jesus to ask him to go and get more wine. This Jesus did; he got it from the cellars, some 200 bottles of it.
Keeping to the first Jewish mitzvah (divine commandment) the two were fruitful and multiplied.
The Magdalene, distraught, was present at her husband’s crucifixion (had it been ordered by the Romans or Jews is another story which I am not going to go into), and so she’d been when Jesus had been taken down from the cross after having been knocked out with a strong dose of vinegar, at that time considered a strong analgesic, to give the impression that he had passed away. And oh yes, the crucifixion had not happened on the Hill of Golgotha but in a private garden, the property of the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea, and there the revived or moribund or dead Jesus was carried to Joseph of Arimathea’s family tomb, also in the garden. The Magdalene was there at the tomb and then later witnessed Jesus’ resurrection – or if you are not a Believer, his final burial in the ground.
The story goes on that 14 years later, The Magdalene, by then also known as The Magdala, and the children she and Jesus’ had had, as well as her sister, Martha, and her brother Lazarus, and Joseph of Arimathea, and 72 of Jesus’ followers had then been forced by the Jews to set sail in a boat which had no sails, oars or rudder. The boat having been guided by the All Powerful One it had safely sailed across the Mediterranean to what is today the French port city of Marseilles. It was then in Gaul. Joseph of Arimathea had continued from there overland to England, to Glastonbury to be exact, and had there established a church. The others which included The Magdalene and her children, and Martha and Lazarus, had remained in Gaul and had settled in what is today southwest France.
Mary, Jesus’ mother had remained behind in Palestine, but had soon afterwards set off for India where she had died. According to legend she was buried in Murree, today no longer in India, but in Pakistan, and a tourist resort. There is a tomb there in Murree which is apparently that of Mary or as she is known to Muslims, Hazrat Marium, the Mother of Isa – Jesus. The name Murree is derived from Marium, and the site is known as Mai Mari da Asthan – Resting Place of Mother Mary.
The Magdalene had carried with her from Palestine to Gaul a small chalice – the Holy Grail – which legend has it contained Jesus’ blood, blood which had dripped from his wounds as he hung dying on the cross. The whereabouts of this chalice is not known, indeed the authenticity of the entire story of how the Magdalene had brought it to France is open to debate, but it is a story which has motivated many writers, including Dan Brown, to put pen to paper. But esoterics believe that the Holy Grail is buried or hidden somewhere in southwest France. And not only is the Holy Grail somewhere there in southwest France, but so are the remains of Jesus who had come to Gaul with his wife, children, brother- and sister-in-law.
(At this stage I must just say that what I believe is not relevant; I am only doing some reporting here.)
This southwest region of France is not wealthy. It is beautiful though, beautiful if you love wide blue skies, rolling green hills and stark, dark mountain peaks, because the region lies between the Massif Central mountain ranges in the north and the Pyrenees mountain ranges in the south. It were these mountains which had apparently inspired Jules Verne’s to write his ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ and Spielberg to make the movie, ‘Close Encounters of a Third Kind’.
There are several towns and villages in the region and to esoterics each one is of some importance to them.
For example, Carcassonne (Pop. 49,000), the most northern town of the region, is linked to the Cathars; they took refuge there from Pope Innocent III in the 13th century. It is also linked to the Knights Templars and the Rosicrucians (Rose-Croix), and today the town attracts esoterics from the world over.
There is also the hamlet of Rennes-le-Château (Pop. 92) where, at the end of the 19th century, the poor parish priest, Father Bérenger Saunière, had become a wealthy man, apparently because of some treasure he had found hidden in a stone column of the altar of the local church consecrated to The Magdalene. The treasure he had taken to the Director General of the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, the Abbé Bieil. If you’ve read Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code’ you would have heard of Saunière and Saint-Sulpice church before now.
Carcassonne is 771 kilometers (480 miles) from Paris; Rennes-le-Château is 46 kilometers (29 miles) from Carcassonne, and 13 kilometers (8 miles) from Rennes-le-Château is Bugarach, this village that will be saved on December 21, 2012.
Bugarach village lies at the foot of the Pic de Bugarach, a black mountain rock 1230 meters (4035 feet) high.
The mountain has many caves, nooks and crannies, and according to esoterics it was in one of them that The Magdalene had hidden the small chalice she had brought with her from Palestine – and that it still lies hidden there. For this reason the mountain is apparently sacred and will protect all those who take refuge on it. There are also esoterics who believe that aliens hide in the caves; they land their space ships on the mountain and hide in the caves to silently watch us humans from there before they return to their own planets. Just as they believe that all souls on their way to soul land (the Beyond as mediums say) after the death of the earthly body that had hosted them, set off from the mountain’s peak.
What we do know however is that Nostradamus who lived close by in Provence had made journeys to Bugarach and had claimed that the mountain’s ‘vibrations’ had been ‘positive’ to his work.
What we also know is that during World War 2, German soldiers had turned up in the village and they had gone up to the mountain where they’d been seen to dig.
We also know that the late François Mitterrand who was President of France from 1981-1995 had helicoptered onto the mountain. Some believe he had gone to seek a cure for the cancer he was suffering from; the cancer had killed him nonetheless in 1996.
So, with Bugarach, or rather the mountain, said to have some mystical powers, it has become a place of pilgrimage, especially so these past 5 years, the Internet playing a large role in the world learning about the mountain.
And so the claim had been made that if you wish to survive the Armageddon of December 21, 2012, Bugarach is the place to be.
Bugarach’s Mayor, Jean-Pierre Delord, is not at all happy about this.
“We are less than 200 here, and we do not want 2000 or 3000 people descending on us,” he tells visiting journalists.
The village is indeed already being overrun with visitors; esoterics – mediums, tarot readers, astrologers – the odd nun, priest or preacher, and of course writers seeking ‘local color’ for a next book. (No, don’t look at me!)
The locals are also not so pleased about their village’s fame, or what to them is its ‘notoriety’. They should not be because the visitors are bringing much needed money with them. The village and indeed the area are even experiencing a property boom because many of the visitors decide to settle and they are buying up houses and even land to build homes on. An estate agent has even told me that whatever properties had been on the market, are no longer so.
To get to Bugarach is not easy. If you are traveling from Paris, best is to take a train either to Carcassonne or the nearby town of Perpignan and to drive to the village from there. It is a winding mountain road. If you would like to spend a night in the village, and do so with a roof over your head, know that there are no hotels there and just one guest house, the Maison de la Nature. It is however open only in the summer. The owner, Ms Benard, reports that she has already received many inquiries for accommodation for that fateful day of December 21, 2012. If she’s clever, she will keep her guest house open that winter and put several caravans for letting in her garden too.
The Mayor is meanwhile warning that he will not tolerate thousands turning up on that day to take refuge in the village or on the mountain. “I will call in the army,” he threatens.
Also read the following about Bugarach: hereTweet #MarilynZTomlins