This is another chapter of the book Discovering the Keystone, Solving the Riddle of The Red Serpent after 40 years by Guillaume Brouillard (Griffel Media, Cape Town, 2009). The seventh stanza of the poem Le serpent rouge is discussed. The focus is on Mary Magdalene, who is especially revered by the Prieuré de Sion. It is argued that for these initiates Isis lived on in Mary Magdalene, Osiris in Jesus and the alleged marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is merely a new version of the marriage between Osiris and Isis. It is recommended that the Background, The Manuscripts (chapter 1) and Pierre Plantard (chapter 2) be read before this chapter. Chapters 3-6 are not published on this blog.
De celle que je désirais libérer, montaient vers moi les effluves du parfum qui imprégnèrent le sépulcre. Jadis les uns l'avaient nommée: ISIS, reine des sources bienfaisantes, VENEZ A MOI VOUS TOUT QUI SOUFFREZ ET QUI ETES ACCABLES ET JE VOUS SOULAGERAI, d'autres: MADELEINE, au célèbre vase plein d'un baume guérisseur. Les initiés savent son nom véritable: NOTRE DAME DES CROSS.
From the one that I wanted to free, rose towards me the emanations of perfume which impregnated the sepulchre. Formerly some called her: ISIS, queen of benevolent springs, COME TO ME ALL OF YOU WHO SUFFER AND WHO ARE OVERWHELMED AND I WILL COMFORT YOU; others: MAGDALENE, with the famous vial full of healing balm. The initiates know her true name: OUR LADY OF THE CROSSES.
This is the middle stanza of the poem. There are six stanzas before and six after this one. The fact that the poet dedicates this entire stanza to the female figure therefore makes perfect sense: In occult tradition, the female figure is the one in whom the anti-poles come together. She is therefore the ultimate embodiment of the balancing of the poles, which is one of the golden keys to solving the mystery.
7.1 The sleeping beauty under different names
The first time the poet refers to the female figure is in the third stanza, where he calls her the ‘sleeping BEAUTY’. He compares his journey to that of the knight who has to fight his way through bush and thorns to reach her. In the sixth stanza, he again refers to this fairytale. He calls her the ‘sleeping one’ in her residence on the hill. In this stanza, he refers to her as ‘the one that I wanted to free’. The fairytale is therefore clearly one of the themes in the poem.
The poet also refers to her in several other stanzas, but under different names. In the third stanza, he states that certain poets saw in her the queen of a vanished kingdom. This female figure not only relates to two queens actually associated with the area, namely one from the north and one from the south, both called Blanche of Castille, but also to the ‘white lady’, which alludes to both the goddess and the ‘fairy of folktales’.
Another form in which she makes her appearance, is that of the ‘BEAUTY of black wood’. While one has to stretch the symbolism of the queen in order to equal that of the goddess, the female figure is much more traceable in the form of this beauty, as this reference clearly alludes to the black virgins in whom the goddess perpetuates. In the white queen and the black virgin one once again finds striking anti-poles.
Hence, the female figure is a virgin, a queen and a goddess. She is, however, above all, the one in whom the anti-poles – white and black – merge.
After referring to her five times in the previous stanzas, the poet now gives her three more names: Isis, the Magdalene and ‘our lady of the crosses’. Of these, the one that clearly stands out due to it being so blatantly ‘pagan’, is Isis. This unveils something of great consequence: The sleeping beauty is also symbolic of this great Egyptian goddess. The three names in this stanza most probably allude to the threefold character of the goddess.
7.2 Isis and the enigma of Rennes-le-Château
In accordance with the poet’s association of the sleeping beauty with Isis, one discovers that this goddess indeed plays a prominent role in the history concerned. As was mentioned earlier, the notes in the document Le serpent rouge state that the subsequent church of St. Germain-des-Prés was built on the spot where a temple of Isis had earlier stood. The daughter church of the former, St. Sulpice, again is associated with the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement, or possibly the Prieuré de Sion, seemingly also called ‘the ship of Isis’.
There are several signs of this goddess’s presence in the Razès area. A white marble statue of her was allegedly unearthed in Rennes-les-Bains and immediately reburied in the yard of the former hotel where it is said to have been found. The author of Au pays de la reine blanche refers to the Mémoire (1709) of a previous parish priest of the town, abbé Delmas, which also mentions the ruins of an enormous pagan temple of about 15 metres high that earlier stood just behind the church, on the other side of the cemetery, wherein this statue in all probability resided. Just like St. Germain-des-Prés in Paris, the church of Rennes-les-Bains therefore also seems to be connected with such a temple.
In the booklet Rennes-le-Château: A visitor’s guide , Tatiana Kletzky-Pradère states that Sigebert’s sons allegedly built the church of this town on top of an earlier temple of Isis following Charlemagne’s ascension to the throne in 771. It is also said that an ancient parchment found in a Jerusalem Bible refers to this temple of Isis: ‘There was erected in a place called Rhedae [Rennes-le-Château] a temple dedicated to Isis, which took, in the reign of Titus, in the year 70 A.D., the name ‘Magdala’.’
|Figure 19. Tympanum of the Rennes-le-Château church|
Most interesting, though, is the depiction on the tympanum of the Rennes-le-Château church, in which Mary Magdalene is the central figure. The creases in her dress closely resemble a serpent rearing its head, as Jean Markale justly remarks in Rennes-le-Château et l’énigme de l’or maudit. Part of the depiction on her pedestal resembles the prow of a ship and her head is adorned by a crown. This depiction is distinctly reminiscent of Manly P. Hall’s description of Isis: ‘Isis holds in her right hand a small sailing ship with the spindle of a spinning wheel for its mast. From the top of the mast projects a water jug, its handle shaped like a serpent swelled with venom. This indicates that Isis steers the bark of life, full of troubles and mysteries, on the stormy ocean of Time. The spindle symbolizes the fact that she spins and cuts the thread of life’ . There are clearly striking resemblances between the depiction on the tympanum of the Rennes-le-Château church and this description of Isis. This clearly connects Isis with Mary Magdalene as well (Figure 19).
What is striking is that all four of the churches concerned, namely the two in Paris and those in the two Rennes (Rennes-le-Château and Rennes-les-Bains), are somehow connected with Isis. Not only do we find stories of Isis temples of old but also indications that the Isis cult had been alive and well in the circles associated with these churches. One cannot help but wonder whether this is not an underground tradition that has continued to exist throughout the centuries and even infiltrated the priesthood!
7.3 Mary Magdalene
After the rise of Christianity, many of the older gods that seemingly disappeared have in actual fact lived on in the form of certain Christian saints. The cults therefore merely continued to exist under new names and in christianised form as cults of certain saints. According to the poet, the worship of Isis too has lived on under the banner of Mary Magdalene. She who had earlier been called Isis, is now called the Magdalene! It is striking how highly Mary Magdalene was regarded in Rennes-le-Château. The church had been named after her and Saunière too had named two buildings, namely the Tower of Magdala and Villa Bethania, with her in mind.
That the above-mentioned claim of the poet is not unfounded is obvious from the depiction of Mary Magdalene on the tympanum of the church, which in all probability had been derived from Isis iconography. It contains symbols that are unmistakably associated with Isis. As Isis steers the heavenly ship, so Mary Magdalene features in a legend pertaining to a ship. In the manuscript Legenda aurea (ca. 1267) (‘The Golden Legend’), Jacobus de Voragine relates her travelling by ship from Palestine to the south of France. According to this story (which dates from after about 1000 A.D.) she went ashore at the modern town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, where she and the Black Sarah of Egypt are still worshipped. This is not far from Marseille, where the Black Madonna is worshipped (and the goddess Artemis/Diana long before). It is therefore likely that this whole tradition involves nothing less than a christianised version of symbols that are in fact much older than Christianity.
According to the poet, however, the most important aspect of Isis which was transferred to Mary Magdalene, is her association with healing springs, something which lived on in the healing balm. While Isis is described as the ‘queen of benevolent springs’, Mary Magdalene is described as the one with ‘the famous vial full of healing balm’. One also finds depictions of Isis (or her priestesses) with a vial in her hand, exactly like the one associated with Mary Magdalene. This can be clearly seen in the statue of Isis (or one of her priestesses) in the Hall of the Dying Galatian in one of the Capitoline Museums in Rome. While Isis is associated with water, Mary Magdalene is, as a result of her association with Mary of Bethany, connected with balm.
7.4 The fountains of Rennes-le-Château
The reason why this aspect of Isis is emphasised in the poem, is unquestionably due to the fact that the area of Rennes-les-Bains is associated with healing springs. The earlier inhabitants worshipped at these springs, and statues of Isis most probably figured somewhere in these rituals. According to Abbé Henri Boudet, the early Christian missionaries had initially placed crosses at these springs and later on statues of the Holy Virgin. As examples he mentions the Black Virgin of Marseille and the Virgin of Caunes. The latter was also called ‘Notre-Dame du Cros’ (‘Our Lady of the Cross’). Such statues of the Virgin associated with springs were generally called ‘Notre Dame des Cross’, exactly as the poet also refers to the goddess in this stanza. ‘Cros’ is not a French word, but according to Boudet, it does indeed mean ‘cross’.
Boudet furthermore relates that the early Christians prayed to these statues for ‘healing or the relief of their physical suffering’ . It is clearly because of this statement that the poet at this point alludes to Matthew 11:28: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ It was at the goddess’s feet, and later at those of the Holy Virgin, where healing was believed to be found. Mary Magdalene had even been in the position to anoint the body of the Messiah, which not only refers to the time when she anointed His feet with His burial in mind (John 12: 7) but also when His body was prepared for the grave.
7.5 The Fountain of the Magdalene
The reason why the poet explicitly links Mary Magdalene to ‘benevolent springs’ is that there is indeed a fountain in the area called Fountain of the Magdalene. This is also the next landmark on the route.
To get to this fountain, one has to walk further south from the Holy-water Stoup, along the tarred road next to the Blanque River. The fountain is close by at the foot of the hill, straight across the river. The water of this fountain is rich in sulphur and shiny as if covered by a layer of oil. The fact that the poet is now nearing this fountain is certainly also his reason for saying: ‘From the one that I wanted to free, rose towards me the emanations of perfume.’ He can smell Mary Magdalene’s perfume, as it were, which represents yet another aspect of the sleeping beauty.
According to Boudet, in ancient times, this fountain had been called Goad, just like the hill behind it. Although he relates this name with ‘to needle, incite, urge on’ , after the English meaning, it strikes one that it quite resembles the French word ‘godet’, which is also a container used for oil – this once again links up with Mary Magdalene’s vial. In the local Occitan language, the word ‘gode’, or ‘gote’, indeed means ‘cup’. There are therefore quite a few reasons why Mary Magdalene is associated with this fountain.
7.6 The Way of the Cross
Back to the church in order to determine which of the Stations of the Cross bears reference to this landmark. The object in the Rennes-le-Château church that is connected with the last known point on the route, is the confessional, which probably pertains to the church of Rennes-les-Bains.
The poet’s allusion to Matthew 11:28 in this stanza may very well serve as a clue. As this text is also to be found written under the enormous fresco of the Sermon on the Mount above the confessional at the back of the church, it could well be that that which one is looking for, is at the back of the church.
One soon discovers that the eight Station of the Cross, which is to the left underneath the fresco, is indeed applicable. In accordance with the emphasis on the female figure in this stanza, there are three women to be seen in this Station. It depicts the daughters of Jerusalem whom Jesus told not to cry for Him, but rather for themselves and their children because of the sorrows that awaited them – referring to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. The mentioned text about comfort and rest to those who suffer therefore applies to them.
Since the end of the Way of the Cross, namely the grave of Christ, is still quite some way off, it is significant that the poet already draws one’s attention to it at this stage. The reason is certainly that the principle figure in this stanza, Mary Magdalene, is so closely connected to the grave. The oil associated with her could also be smelled at the grave, as she had been the one who anointed His body. According to the poet, Jesus’s grave was permeated with the smell of her ointment: ‘… the emanations of perfume … impregnated the sepulchre.’
7.7 For the initiates
Besides all the obvious symbols to help one find the correct landmark on the route, there also seems to be symbolism hidden in the stanza itself. The following words bear testimony to that: ‘the initiates know …’ The implication is that there are certain things only the initiates would understand. According to the poet, particularly ‘Our Lady of the Crosses’ denotes something else.
Although ‘Our Lady’ (‘Notre Dame’) usually refers to Mary, the mother of Jesus, the poet is now clearly alluding to Mary Magdalene, as she is the one associated with the cross (or crosses). This calls to mind the secret belief that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a very close relationship. This is perhaps precisely what the poet is implying – that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. He could also be alluding to her alleged coming to the south of France as, according to some, she had arrived with her and Jesus’s child(ren). She would therefore not only be the one who had anointed Jesus but supposedly also the woman He was married to.
The poet’s allusion to the supposed marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene obviously relates to the alleged claim that the Plantards are descended from them. In several places in the poem, the poet indeed subtly associates his friend with Jesus as if he is a descendant of Him, or a christlike- or godly figure. For instance, the poet states that his friend’s name is a ‘mystery’, which is typically said of God. His friend is also – in the second stanza – standing on the white rock staring to the south past the black rock, exactly as Jesus, dressed in white, is depicted standing in front of Pontius Pilate and staring past the black man in the first Station. The Cap de l’Homme is also regarded as both a sculptured head of Dagobert II, the alleged ancestor of the Plantards, and a depiction of Jesus. It is even possible that the entire route through the area relates to Pierre Plantard’s alleged pseudonym in the time of De Gaulle, literally translated meaning ‘Captain Way’, which could be an allusion to Jesus as the ‘Way’ (John 14:6).
7.8 Isis and Osiris
In view of the fact that the poet so neatly highlights the transition of the old to the new, of the pagan to the Christian, the question arising is whether the association of Mary Magdalene with Jesus is also not just a christianised variation of a much older theme. Given the poet’s mentioning of Isis, the symbolism in this stanza in all probability rather pertains to her and her partner, Osiris, in Egyptian mythology. This would imply that, just as Isis lived on in Mary Magdalene, Osiris did in Jesus. The alleged marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene would therefore merely be a new version of the marriage between Osiris and Isis. Some of the poet’s earlier descriptions, like that of his friend as the pilot of a ship and a pillar on the white rock, refer back to Osiris mythology. According to Plutarch’s Isis and Osiris, Osiris was the ‘pilot’ of the Argo, and in addition, the pillar is one of his most famous symbols.
It may seem far-fetched that the Merovingians of Germanic descent could be connected with Egyptian mythology; the latter is, after all, a tad removed from the original Germanic traditions. However, this connection has much to do with later developments in the occult tradition, in which Isis and Osiris replaced the earlier gods. Isis, for instance, became the exemplar of the mother goddess, who had earlier been worshipped under different names.
It may very well be that the poet’s association of his friend with a godlike figure relates to the Merovingians’ alleged supernatural descent from the so-called Quinotaur. This beast was undoubtedly just a Christian renaming of the pagan god Odin. Since the earliest times, the Merovingians had indeed in a certain sense been regarded as ‘sons of gods’ as the historian Godfrey Kurth puts it.
7.9 Magdala, the wife of Sigebert
The association of the Plantards with Jesus and Mary Magdalene does, however, not only involves Isis and Osiris. It, in all probability, also dates back to an event closer to modern times. It is said that the wife of Sigebert, who had allegedly been brought to Rhedae, was called Magdala. It stands to reason that ‘Magdala’ is the name that ‘Magdalene’ is derived from. The author of Le cercle d’Ulysse even states that the church of Rennes-le-Château had in actual fact been named after this Magdala!
That the christlike figure, Sigebert, was allegedly married to Magdala, could therefore have been the origin of the myth that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. That would imply that neither Jesus nor Mary Magdalene are in any way under discussion and that these Biblical figures had merely been woven into the whole Plantard story for reasons one could only speculate on. The ‘Magdala’ of the Prieuré de Sion and of Plantard tradition is therefore much more commonplace than is generally assumed.
But then again, who would truly doubt that behind the supernal figures of some of the gods, mere ordinary people are to be found?
 Kletzky-Pradère, T. 1990. Guide du visiteur. Quillan. Author translation: Brook, C & Dowe, N. 1997.
 Hall, M. P. 1977. An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy. Los Angeles: Philosophical Research Society, p. XLVII.
 Boudet, H. 1886. La vraie langue celtique et le cromleck de Rennes-les-Bains. Carcassonne. Reissue: 1984. Belisane: Nice, p. 279.
 Ibid, p. 274.