The following is a historical non-fiction. It is written about my blood-lineage in France. The story is fiction but the historical events and the royal-linage are true life events. Raylene Abbott
It was the year of Our Lord 1254. I was 12 years old living with my Grandmother in the village of Biot in the South of France. Biot was a coastal town on the Mediterranean Sea. It was occupied by the Knight Templars. Count Alfonso II of Provence gave his land holdings to the Order years before, and because of this Biot became a key fortress. A lookout point for the Templars to keep watch over all the ships that came in from the Mediterranean Sea. Biot was raised above sea level sitting on a hill giving it a fair view of all who entered its harbor.
The Knight Templars had become the first banking system in Europe guarding pilgrims on their route to Jerusalem. They created a credit system that rich pilgrims would place their money into an account in Europe before they set out on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Then when they arrived to their destination they were able to withdraw their money Order of Templars. This would ensure that pilgrims money would arrive safely, without the nuisance of being robed by the roaming marauders.
The moorish influence on the Order of the Templars inspired new ways to approach building, mathematics, medicine, poetry, spirituality and the arts. Biot had become a hot bed of the new creative thought. Under the Templars mantle Biot grew into a bustling village of the time. Many of the Holy Relics were brought back from Jerusalem by the Templars which put Biot on the map as a major pilgrimage site. Churches were built on the foundation of ancient Roman ruins that had once occupied this fair town. The pilgrimage route brought pilgrims from all over Europe that gave the villagers a good living selling their wares. The land was abundant and the village was protected.
My Grand-mere and I lived at the village edge which gave us easy access to the wild places where we gathered herbs, roots, bark and lichen to make herbal remedies both for medicine and pleasure. Our stone cottage was simple but. clean When one entered through the threshold of our home the smells of wild lavender, fragrant thymes, mountain joy, spicy red pepper corns, delicate mallow leaves dried in baskets filled the cottage with the most heavenly fragrance.
My Grand-mere was a valuable person to the Knights because she had the knowledge to heal wounds, stop infection and set a broken arm,which were caused by scuffles the knights seem find themselves in from time to time.
Grand-mere was training me in the way of gathering growing and the preparation of herbs. She was familiar of an older traditions before the Catholic Church’s Inquisition destroyed the wise woman tradition of the wild woods and the ancient Goddess Diana. But the Goddess’s voice still echoed in the wild places and her presence could still be felt in the wooded grooves on new moon nights.
Biot had once been the Moon Goddess’s domain. There once stood Moon Goddess Temple at Cap d’Antibes not far away from our village. When Constantine the Great embraced Christianity under his mother’s influence, Saint Helena, the Roman Empire became Christianized. One of the first things Helena did was traveled to Antibes destroyed the Goddess’s Temple and built the Catholic Church of Notre Dame de Bon Port. The Virgin Diana now disappeared under the mantel of the Virgin Mother of Christ. But the hint of the ancient Goddess still remained for the Mother of God was placed on the crescent moon the symbol of the Goddess Diane.
It was the same way of the flowers of the field. Plants that had been dedicated to the Goddess now received the name of the Virgin or Saints. Magical incantations that were forgotten now were replaced with prayers to the Saints or the Blessed Virgin. And in this way the old traditions could live on and the herbalist could save themselves from the burning stake. The plants did not seem to mind for the medicinal power still remained the same in spite the preference of religion.
And even though my Grand-mere was a simple woman she was looked up to in the village. He life was dedicated to serving people rich and poor alike knew of her healing abilities and rendered payment with a goose, a harvest, a coin, or skein linen. Whatever people had to offered Grand-mere gave her services. The knights who always seem to be in need of her s shared herbal medicine from the Holy Land and remedies they had learned from the dark skin Moors that were well versed in the way of both herbal knowledge and medicine.
Grand-mere had trained my mother before me but my mother passed away in childbirth when I was born. My mother’s given name was Anne Marie being named after St. Anne the Grandmother of Christ and Marie Magdalena. But never the less my Grand-mere’s healing skill could not save her daughter from death’s door. My Grand as I sometimes called her use to tell me that my Mother had really died of a broken heart and not from my birth. When she was given the news of my father’s death in Egypt she never was the same.
A Bittersweet Lineage
My mother was only 13 years old when she meet my father. My Grand-mere and mother had set out on a pilgrimage to Vézelay which was the starting point for pilgrimages to the Holy Land and also pilgrimages to the South of France and Spain.
Grand-mere strongly believed in the power of the Mother of God, Saints and prayer this is where the people of the village felt she drew her healing power, and so it was. Each herbal remedy she made also had a pray and or saint connected to the medicine she prepared. And it was on pilgrimage she could gather unusual herbs that did not grow in her village. But she also grained strength in the solitude of prayer as she walked the pilgrimage route.
But this pilgrimage had a special blessing for it was the day my mother first saw my father, Hugh XI of Lusignon Count of Angoulême. The Count was also on his way to pilgrimage to Vézelay. The Cathedral of Vézelay held the relics of Mary Magdalene and this was the reason my father was on pilgrimage for he felt it was his duty to receive the Blessings of Magdalene and Christ. Their presence was strong in the Cathedral of Vézelay and could be found in the crypt of the church.
There always seem to be hushed rumors of my father’s royal lineage and for good reason.
Whispers of the Merovingian bloodline ran through Count Hugh’s veins. These ancient kings of France were said to have come from the off-spring of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. Magdalene was also called by the titles the Magdala and Magdalini in Italy and the South of France.
My father’s lineage came from King Clovis I, who united France through one common religion when he converted to Christianity. But not without the persuasion of his wife, Saint Clotilde, Princess of Burgundian. She was known to baptized the pagan king’s son behind his back. It took nothing short of of winning the Battle of Tolbiac to convert the king to the Christian faith. The Cloves prayed before going into battle making a vow that if he won he would be baptized into his wife’s religion.
My father was the son of Isabella of Lusignon and his father was Hugh X. Isabella, my grandmother had been promised to the Count Hugh X but the marriage plans were changed. And at of the tender age 14, Isabella became Queen Consort to King John of England , son of Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry and brother of Richard the Lion-hearted. But later when King John had died my mother returned to France and married my father.
If things seem to be complicated enough for the royal-line, Eleanor of Aquitaine also been married twice also. First to King Louie VII. King Louie was the brother of Prince Pierre De Courtenay, Isabelle’s father which made Eleanor Isabella aunt and later she became her mother-in-law. To make matter even worst they all were related as distant cousins.
But there was a reason for all this inter-marriage madness. They were still trying to keep the Merovingian blood-line alive in the royal-linage. The Merovingian Kings claimed they were of the bloodline of Christ and Magdalene. This was out-right heresy for the Catholic Church and eventually the Merovingian Kings had to pay the price for such a statement. The last reigning monarch was killed Dagobert II by his own godson December 23. 679. A new reign of kings the Carolingian Dynasty was put in their place. But the Merovingian princess still were alive! And the Carolingian Kings began marrying into Merovingian lineage through the female descendants. Eleanor of Aquitaine and my grandmother Isabella of Lusignon both had Merovingian blood coursing through their veins.
And because of this my father Count Hugh XI set out on pilgrimage to Vézelay to be before the relics of Mary Magdalene. But my Mother and Grand-mere had a humbler station and different reasons for setting off on pilgrimage Vézelay.
The Crescent and Morning Star
My Grand-mere wanted to gather a fragrant herb known as Immortelle that grew abundantly on the hillside of Sainte Baume. This was once the Cave of Mary Magdalene, where she lived as a hermit fasting and praying. She lived naked only having her long hair to cloth her body from nature’s elements. Legends said that daily Magdalene would be lifted to the sky to hear the a heavenly choir of angels sing.
The dark skin Gypsies would tell stories in the villages of how the Magdalini they liked to call her, arrived in an oarless boat with her companions, Martha, Lazarus, Mary Salome and Mary Jacob on the shores of Gaul escaping the persecution of the Roman Jews. They then wandered through Provence teaching the words of Jesus, laying on of hands and healing through the spoken word.
Grand-mere liked to share her adventures with my mother around the winter fire with me. I never tried of her stories for this was the only way I knew my mother was through my Grand-mere’s eyes. And in this way she was kept alive in our hearts.
My Grand-mere and mother started to make the steep climb up the mountain to Sainte Baume’s. The trail was known as Chemin des Roys, “The Kings Way”. This road was used by the Kings and Queens as their own pilgrimage route. But today Grand-mere and Anne Marie, my mother would use the road because this was where the best herbal bushes of Immortelle grew. If they began their journey before sunrise royal pilgrims most likely would not be using the road at this time.
There spread across the hillside sliver gray bushes were in bloom with small golden flower clusters. It was not a very interesting flower at first look but when you squeezed the
gray needles between your fingers the most pungent smell would wrap around your nose.
Grand-mere would say that some plants are like people they may not seem like the
showiest flowers in the field but when you smell their essence they have more to offer then meets the eye.
The crescent moon and the morning star could still be seen in the sky. Grand-mere chuckled saying “This is the moment the Virgin and the Love Goddess stand side by side” My Mother leaned down to start to pick the fragrant herb but Grand-mere quietly shook her head. “We should not pick any medicine now wait until after we pay our respect to Magdalini so we have her blessings first.”
Along the way a fresh water spring was to the left of the trail but we kept walking up the steep climb. A sky blue pink sunrise touch the trees as we entered a forest. We arrived at the mouth of the cave but Grand-mere paused before they entered. Grand-mere looked at her daughter lovingly, with all the wisdom of the ancient ways in her eyes and she began to speak. “ Daughter very soon you will be a woman and men will seek you out for your beauty and your sex. Today we ask for Magdalini’s blessing for you, to guide you into the gateway of womanhood kindly. The world of men can be brutal on a young girls heart and body. Today we ask that Magdalini to give the blessing of real love in your life. Grand-mere then held her daughters hand. And silently pointed to the outside of the cave. There in the face of cave chiseled by nature’s elements a giant stone phallus was penetrating Venus’s love canal made of solid rock. Grand-mere placed her daughter’s hand on the stone phallus. The Earth began to pulsate under their feet. A power began to flow into their bodies that Anne Marie had never experienced before. Her body began to quiver like a feather in mid-air, from some unseen force. She became weak in her knees but Grand-mere remained stead and she began in a low voice a slow and methodical chant.
“ Par la lumière du Croissant de lune Notre Sainte Vierge Marie se tient sur .
Et par l’ Étoile du Matin de Magdala
Je demande aujourd’hui que Anne Maria être donné la Bénédiction de Magdala
Comme elle pénètre dans la féminité
Pour connaître un homme qui l’aime , qui est gentil , qui l’honore .
Une éternelle de l’amour
“ By the light of the Crescent moon Our Holy Virgin Mary stands upon.
And by the Morning Star of Magdala
I ask today that Anne Maria be given the Blessing of Magdala
As she enters womanhood
To know a man who loves her, who is kind, who honors her.
A love everlasting
A stillness came over them even nature seem to hush for a moment. Anne Maria looked at her mother in awe and Grand-mere smiled and took her hand and lead her into the Cave of Magdalene. There in the back of this dark cave candles were flickering. The offerings of light illuminated the darkness of the cave. They both choose a candle to light and knelt down before a reclining statue of the Magdala. They made the sign of the cross and silently said there own prayers. Then they quietly left and made their way down the hill to gather herbs.
They paused and stopped at the fresh water spring to gather water in their gourd bottles that were hung over their shoulders. They quenched their thirst and refilled their bottles, as they walked out of the forest they came to the open field where the Immortelle grew. Grand-mere pulled out two freshly woven linen sacks to gather the herbs. And she reached into her pack and pulled out two small sickle knifes that she only used for herb gathering and handed a bag and knife to her daughter. Gentle Grand-mere kneeled in front of the herb bush and poured a small amount of water from her water gourd and addressed the spirit of the plant in a hushed voice that only she could hear. She thanked the plant for it medicine and asked permission to cut the flowers offering a small amount of water in exchange. A gentle wind seem to move through the field and only a few herbal bushes moved while others remained at a standstill.
These were the bushes that they would gather from for their medicine. Slowly they made their way from bush to bush cutting the golden flowers from each brush.
The herb was given it’s name Immortelle because the straw like flowers dried and kept their color for a long period of time. But it was the essential oil captured in these delicate flowers that had the miraculous healing power. Immortelle was known to heal scars, clear accumulated blood as a result from hemorrhaging. When mixed with olive oil and melted beeswax it help heal wounds and cuts quickly and scars seem to miraculously disappear. They filled their bags with the cut flowers and Grand-mere gave thanks to the herbs and began to pray over their harvest.
De la Baume de la Madeleine
Et les premiers rayons de soleil du matin,
Je demandai fleur, feuille et la tige soit béni.
Guérir les blessures d’hommes et de réglage
Tous les cœurs endoloris se reposer.
Magdala, Magdala Magdala
From the Balm of the Magdalene
And the first rays of the Morning Sun,
I asked flower, leaf and stem be Blessed.
Healing the wounds of men and setting
All aching hearts to rest.
Magdala Magdala Magdala
They made their way down the hill to continue their pilgrimage to Vézelay.
Note: The herb Immortelle is known today by its latin name Helichrysum italics, named after the Greek Sun God Helios also known as the Rome God Apollo. Immortelle actually grows in the fields of Sainte Baume.
I lived in the south of France not far from Biot and the Grand-mere, Anne Marie and the Granddaughter are non-fictional characters but the rest is historically accurate.