Marking the Centre of the World: The Occitan Cross and the Zodiac of Toulouse (Part 2)
We've seen in Part 1 that Toulouse has historically been represented by the Occitan Cross.
We've also seen that the Occitan Cross is associated with the zodiac, in esoteric lore.
Then, in 1997, a sculpture of the the Occitan Cross, with the zodiac added, was installed in the Place du Capitole, the geographic and symbolic centre of Toulouse.
So after that year, the Occitan Cross with a zodiac marked the centre of Toulouse.
Raymond Moretti's work of art ties all the elements together: Toulouse, the Occitan Cross, the zodiac and the landscape.
But was Moretti justified from a historical perspective in combining these elements?
Was his installation of the zodiac in the centre of Toulouse merely an expression of artistic license or was there more to it?
Was Toulouse associated with a landscape zodiac in the past? Certainly it was. Moretti's zodiac-enhanced Occitan Cross resonates deeply with the ancient esoteric history of the city and its relationship to landscape.
Jean Richer introduced the notion of landscape zodiacs in the ancient world of the Near East to the French speaking world in 1967 with the publication of Géographie Sacrée du Monde Grec (later translated into English as Sacred Geography of the Ancient Greeks), and later volumes where he extended his research to Europe and the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, a planned volume on landscape zodiacs in France never eventuated during his lifetime, so we do not have the results of his discoveries in his home land.
However, we do not have to stray far from the Rennes affair to find a prior description in print of a landscape zodiac associated with Toulouse. It may be found in Gérard de Sède's 1966 book Le Trésor Cathare. This was the predecessor to L'Or du Rennes, or Le Tresor Maudit de Rennes-le-Château, published in 1967, which kick-started the modern phase of the Rennes-le-Château affair.
Le Trésor Cathare does not include any diagrams or maps but deSède refers to landscape zodiacs in the context of his extended treatment of the sacred geography of Toulouse, in passages like the following:
"The keystone of all celestial architecture, the cross of the cardinal points sharing the rose of the zodiac, was also that of the architecture of the temples and cities, built in the image of the sky."
- page 187, from deSède's Le Trésor Cathare, quoted on page 282 of The Map and the Manuscript.
So already it is clear that Moretti's zodiac in the Capitole had historical precedence. But there is an even more detailed and explicit treatment of the Toulouse zodiac in a book by an author named Guy-René Doumayrou, called Géographie Sidèrale, and published in 1975.
Here is a short quotation from the book which displays Doumayrou's insight into the relationship between Toulouse, the Occitan Cross and the zodiac:
"The Cosmic Cross
Everyone knows the heraldic cross which, from the coat of arms of the Counts of Toulouse, became part of the fabric of many Languedoc identity, before once again becoming the emblem of a reawakening nationalism: on a field of gules (red), it is an empty cross, keyed with twelve coins of gold.
The four equal branches of this emblem first evoke the traditional quadripartition of space (the cardinal points), time (the seasons) and substance (the elements), then by their ternary redivision in the "foot of the goose", its animation in cosmic genesis, setting in train the revolution of the sun, the cause of life, in the twelve signs of the zodiac, represented by the twelve small golden coins, or balls, all shown in the glyph."
- Guy-René Doumayrou, Géographie sidérale (Paris, 1975)
Now, if we look at Carte 1 from his book, shown below, we can see that he has placed an Occitan Cross, with a surrounding zodiac, on the map of France, centred on Toulouse. Here is an exact depiction of the same format that Moretti has reproduced in his sculpture!
There is one difference, which only serves to underline the identity of the two versions: Moretti has rotated his zodiac 180° from Duymayrou's version. Both have the east-west axis allocated to the Aries-Libra pair; Doumayrou's version has Aries to the west, whilst Moretti's has Libra in this position.
Now let's look at Carte 2 from Doumayrou's book in which he has extended the zodiac lines across the map. In the text he discusses some intriguing correlations between the signs of the Toulouse zodiac and certain geographical names and features. One of the most striking is the location of the Gulf of Lion. As shown in the Figure, this corresponds to the segment allocated to Leo in the Toulouse zodiac.
Doumayrou makes a very interesting comment in the text accompanying this Figure. He points out that whilst the Gulf of Lion correlates to the sign of Leo, the city of Lyon, further to the north, does not. However, he points out, Lyon happens to be at a bearing of 150° from Paris, and given the usual arrangement of the signs, this would correspond to the sign of Leo on a zodiac centred on Paris. Therefore, suggests Duymayrou, the city of Lyon is so named because of its relationship to the sign of Leo in the zodiac of Paris, whereas the Gulf of Lion derives its name from the corresponding relationship with the zodiac of Toulose.
I thought this was a fascinating observation, so decided to check it using Google Earth. The result is not only correct, but surprisingly accurate. As can be seen below, the bearing from the centre of Paris to the cathedral in Lyon is precisely 150.0 degrees.
If we now superimpose the usual form of the zodiac centred on Paris with Aries to the west marking the vernal equinox, we find that the sign of Leo commences on the 150° bearing.
This "co-incidence" is too magnificent to have arisen by chance. It is, rather, a remnant, a trace, a feint imprint of the original zodiac of Paris. The city of Lyon is so named because it marks, exactly, the commencement of the Leo sign in the Paris zodiac.
(As a sidenote, it is amusing that in the Etymology section of the Wikipedia entry on the Gulf of Lion, they actually comment on the possible relationship between the names of Lyon and the Gulf of Lion, concluding that they are too far apart to have a common origin. Of course, they do not consider that either name derives from the zodiac. Instead they prefer the idea that the sea in the vicinity was dangerous like a lion. Sure, ahuh. Take your pick which origin you prefer.)
For those still with us, these slender but solid clues are sufficient to establish that these ancient zodiacs have left their mark on the names and the landscape of France to this day.
Now if we return to consider Jean Richer's contribution to the study of landscape zodiacs in France, it is clear that there was a rich tradition of landscape zodiacs in France on which he could have drawn for his planned volume. Against this background, the zodiac which, as I suggest in The Map and the Manuscript, Richer identified in the landscape around the village of Rennes-les-Bains, in the Haute Vallée de l'Aude, can now be understood not as an outlier or an anomaly, but an integral part of a known and recorded practice amongst the ancient inhabitants of what is now France.
Here is one of the images from my book, showing the pattern of alignments centred on Rennes-les-Bains. There I show how Jean Richer allocated the signs of the zodiac to this format, and then composed the poem of Le Serpent Rouge, using this as the map on which the action of the poem unfolds.
The Map and the Manuscript: Journeys in the Mysteries of the Two Rennes
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