“There is plenty of magic in the cathedral of Chartres.” (1)


Amid the flying buttresses was a center of peace and calm.  A woman, long hair flowing, barefooted, danced the labyrinth.  She moved in waves of silken silence, enraptured by the “unheard music” (2) of the cathedral whose invisible sounds were rendered visible by her body as the music flowed through her.

All was silent.  Not even her bare feet made a sound as they moved, effortlessly, on the cold pavement stones.  There was only the dancer at the center.  All else was irrelevant.  I was transfixed.

Who was she?  Although I saw her in a very tangible, very physical sense, she must have been a spirit of some sort because not everyone could see her.  And yet her light, although muted, was at the same time, dazzlingly radiant.  Some of those few who had seen her said that she must be the ghost of ‘Our Lady’, the Blessèd Virgin Mary, whom everyone, naturally, assumed to be the reigning Queen of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres.  This was, after all, reputed to be “the earthly palace of the Queen of Heaven.” (3)  There had been rumors, though, that the cathedral had been secretly dedicated to the Magdalene, so others whispered that maybe she was that other Mary. 

But as I watched the way she heard the notes and, embracing them, floated in the harmonies of the cathedral, I thought her to be a poet of great skill – a bard revered by all.  And why not?  This flawless sanctuary was said to have been built upon the ruins of a sacred forest, the most sacred place in all of Gaul, where the Druids gathered, like birds, thousands at a time. 

The light around her had intensified, and soon she was so enveloped in its brilliance that I was forced to close my eyes.  But I could still see her, dancing.  I thought for a moment that she must be the Sun. 


At the Church of Saint-Sulpice, as at Chartres, the sun-marker is located in the floor of the south transept.  As the famous Guide Bleu informs us about the line that runs through the sacred site of Saint-Sulpice:

        In the paving of the south transept is a bronze table connected by a meridian

        line with a marble obelisk in the north transept; at noon the sun’s rays, passing

        through an aperture in a blind window in the south transept, strike the meridian at

        different points according to the time of year. (4)

The Michelin Guide’s description of this meridiana, (from medius ‘middle’ + dies, ‘day’) as it is known, is somewhat more specific, but there is a bit of confusion as to the actual times of year that the light is recorded on this instrument.  Although the solstice of winter and the equinoxes are marked as particular points of reference, it would appear to be an everyday event.

        In the transept, a copper band oriented from north to south and inlaid in the          

        pavement, crosses from a plaque in the south arm to an obelisk in the north

        arm. During the winter solstice a ray of sunshine, passing through a small

        hole in the upper window in the south transept, strikes marked points on the

        obelisk in the far transept at midday exactly.  At the spring and autumn

        equinox the ray falls on the copper plaque. This 1744 meridian . . . also

        serves daily as a midday timepiece. (5)

This marker of the sun’s course is in fact mentioned under the discussion of the Paris Observatory in the Michelin Guide as one of several “Midday Meridians” which lie directly on, or to either side of, the Zero longitudinal line that runs through Paris from South to North at an actual longitude of 2 degrees 20’ 17” East of Greenwich. (6)  Unlike the edifice of Saint Sulpice, the Observatory, which was begun on the Summer Solstice of June 21, 1667, is oriented precisely “to the cardinal points of the compass.” (7)

So as not to confuse the reader between the line that is set in the floor at Saint Sulpice, which continues up the marble obelisk that serves as the gnomon, and the other line – the true Zero meridian line that runs through the Observatory itself – , the author is careful to note that “Midday bearings are to be found elsewhere in Paris besides on the actual meridian.” (8)  St.-Sulpice, which is shown on his diagram as situated exactly due West of the Zero Line, is a case in point.

Many millions of readers were misinformed and misled about the St.-Sulpice meridian line by Dan Brown, in his bestseller, The Da Vinci Code.  He identified this line as “The Rose Line . . . slicing across the main altar itself,” (9) and claimed that it was a gnomon because “the line bore graduated markings, like a ruler.” (10)  He further states that:

        Long before the establishment of Greenwich as the prime meridian, the zero

        longitude of the entire world had passed directly through Paris, and through the

        Church of Saint-Sulpice. The brass marker in Saint-Sulpice was a memorial to

        the world’s first prime meridian, and . . . the original Rose Line was still visible

        today. (11)

As a prelude to his intriguing, but largely plagiarized “research”, (12) the author goes out of his way to print a statement of “Fact”, which declares, among other things, that: “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are ac-curate.” (13)  In view of the extra effort expended to inform readers of the accuracy of the descriptions that serve as the background of his novel, one would expect that to be the case.  Unfortunately, saying it doesn’t make it so.

Let us just say, for the sake of brevity, that the Rose Line is a figment of someone else’s imagination; that the actual and true Prime Meridian of Paris, the Zero degree longi-tudinal line that once determined the place of beginning for the measurement of all longitudes prior to its “correction” to Greenwich, does not now, nor has it ever, run through the Church of Saint Sulpice; that the line which does run through the church was established for reasons unrelated to the calculations of longitude; that the line in the church does not cut across the holiest place in this, or any other, church – namely the altar –; that the line does, in fact, (as he correctly states) “cleave[d] the communion rail in two,” (14) and as is the case in all churches, the rail is situated some many feet distant from the sacred altar, making it physically impossible for the line to intersect both; and finally, that it is not the line itself which is the gnomon but, rather, the vertical obelisk.

And while you are thinking about all of this, we quote the words of Titus Burckhardt, a true scholar of the sacred who has said, “the altar is for the cathedral what the heart is for the body.” (15) Now imagine the unimaginable gravity of the sacrilege that would have been committed if such a line had been cut across the altar.  C’est impossible!

The actual history of the meridiana of Saint-Sulpice, a brief version of which is emblazoned on the base of the obelisk in Latin and in French, is set forth in great scientific and scholarly detail by J. L. Heilbron in The Sun in the Church: Cathe-

drals as Solar Observatories. (16)  Heilbron suggests that although the curé insisted

that the purpose served by the installation of this solar marker “was entirely liturgical,” that it was merely an instrument to assist in establishing the moveable feasts with more accuracy, the clockmaker whom he hired to construct the meridiana in 1727 was more interested in its usefulness as a time-piece that could accurately mark the hour of noon every day. (17)  The scientific complexity of the astronomical marvel that was eventually completed by others was so far beyond the originally stated intentions that one can only wonder whether there was any churchly purpose at all.  This “astronomical gnomon for the certain study of the Paschal equinox,” (18) as it was advertised, was to become the “penultimate” heliometer of all time. (19)


At Chartres Cathedral, there is a less grand design, one whose intention is to annotate the specific point of the sun on a particular day of the year.  This day is marked by a gleam of sunlight on a metal tenon that rises slightly above the natural level of the floor, actually creating a tripping hazard if one should not see it, and perhaps this is the idea – to draw our attention should we be so blind as to somehow miss it.  This marker further draws attention to itself by its placement within the confines of a single rectangular flagstone that is lighter in color than the surrounding stones, and which is laid upon an angle in the otherwise “squared” design of the floor. 

Louis Charpentier has made much of this extraordinary, seemingly out-of-place stone and tenon in his masterful work on The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, and it is described in some detail by others who have based much of their information on his indispensable book. (20)  In the first lines of the first page of his opening chapter, “A Spot of Sunlight”, Charpentier tells us that:

        There is in Chartres Cathedral, in the western aisle of the south transept, a  

        rectangular flagstone, set aslant to the others, whose whiteness is noticeable

        in the prevailing grey of the paving.  It is conspicuous for a shining, lightly 

        gilded metal tenon.


        Every year, on 21st June, when the sun is bright, as is usual at that time of        

        year, a ray strikes this stone at midday precisely; a ray that comes through a        

        contrived space in the stained-glass window named for Saint Apollinaire,   

        first on the western side of the transept. . . .

        Chance having brought me to Chartres one 21st June, I formed the wish to

        see this curiosity . . . .  In my reckoning, local midday would fall between a  

        quarter and five minutes to 1 p.m. . . .  It was exactly then that the ray  

        illuminated the stone. (21)

In complete step with this description is that which appears in The Atlas of Mysterious Places, where we read that:

        Chartres Cathedral has many small mysteries, not least the purpose of the 

        large rectangular flagstone, set aslant to the other stones in the west aisle of   

        the south transept.  At midday on the summer solstice, a ray of sunshine 

        streams through a clear pane of glass in the stained glass window of St.    

        Apollinaire and illuminates exactly the conspicuous tenon on the flagstone. (22)

In these precise, virtually identical descriptions of the placement of the tenon, the direction of the illumination and the calendrical correspondence, we have an un-questionably clear picture of this phenomenal event.  However, when one reads a description of this scene, purportedly obtained from direct observation, by another highly respected scholar of Chartres, the Celticist Jean Markale, a troublesome question arises with respect to the placement of the tenon and the date on which the sunlight strikes it. 

In his, at first, intriguing presentation of the Cathedral of the Black Madonna: The Druids and the Mysteries of Chartres, Markale flatly states:

        There is an odd detail on the flagstone paving of the Chartres cathedral in        

        the center of the labyrinth that church authorities once attempted to conceal 

        from visitors.  It is a copper nail that is struck at noon every June 24 by a ray

        of sunlight filtered through stained glass. (23)

This nail “in the center of the labyrinth” cannot be, and is not, the same marker that Charpentier and others have described, and which lies for all the world to behold “in the western aisle of the south transept,” which most certainly is not within the confines of the labyrinth.  Markale, focusing on some other nail, seems to have missed the true light in the cathedral.  He is laboring under the distinct impression that everyone else is talking about the same nail which he describes, for he follows his entirely inaccurate information with a vociferous attack upon unnamed scholars for whom this setting at Chartres “has inspired numerous analyses . . . on behalf of utterly unverifiable esoteric theories.” (24)

Markale continues his aberrant discussion of this other nail, or nails, which are, or were, in fact, at the very center of the labyrinth, and which at one time held down a plaque which was ripped up from this spot during the frenzy of the French Revolution.  But he tells us an entirely other story about their purpose.  He says:

        In fact, the nail is the survivor of three copper buttons placed in the labyrinth        

        by a certain canon Estienne.  This strange ecclesiastic was an ardent fan of   

        mechanical engineering and astronomy, and he had obtained authorization to

        install a “meridian” inside the cathedral.  He was also given permission to

        pierce a hole at the edge of a window to let through a ray of light.  Where it 

        falls on the floor is easy to mark at different times of the year, notably on    

        solstices and equinoxes.  Meridians of this kind, and sometimes more

        complex ones, also exist in other religious monuments like the church of 

        Saint-Sulpice in Paris, just as there are labyrinths in other cathedrals, if only 

        those in Reims and Amiens. (25)

        The explanation of this nail and the ray of light that strikes it on Saint John’s

        Day in summer is therefore perfectly ordinary; there is no need to seek   

        answers in the hazy and mysterious notions of currently popular esoteric 

        traditions. (26)

We caution the reader that the gratuitously dropped, utterly absurd assertion made here that there are only two cathedrals in all of France that contained labyrinths is totally false. (27) We note also that, unlike the heliometer of St. Sulpice, the simple nail at Chartres was never intended to mark the passing of the “solstices and equinoxes,” but only to establish the moment of the Summer Solstice and nothing more. 

And fortunately for us, there is nothing “perfectly ordinary” about any of this at all, except that it’s not the nail we’re looking for.  Unfortunately, this confusion of the precise positioning of “nails” threw this seeker off the track for some time, particularly since I had presumed that such a gnomon would most logically mark the very center of the labyrinth – the light illuminating the womb, and all that.  But it was not so.  And, begging to differ with Jean Markale, who has led us all down the wrong path so many times, there is a most urgent need to seek answers, and an even greater need to be open to their truths or their falsehoods, wherever they might be found. 

Such was the case with Canon Estienne himself, who, like the curé of Saint-Sulpice, seems to have been inspired by motives other than those of ecclesiastical dating.  According to our misinformed Celtic scholar, the Canon’s curiosity extended itself deeply into the religious mysteries of the Druids.  His unflinching search for truth led him to many revelations concerning the pre-Christian roots of the mysterious Cathedral of Chartres.  The findings, which Estienne published in a well-researched text in 1682, have led others, including Markale himself, to some startling conclusions. (28)   With our eyes wide open, we, too, intend to explore these Pagan roots.  But first, we must resolve the discrepancy of the timing of the light on the tenon at Chartres.


To begin with, there is a question, in my mind at least, that arises from the imprecise usage of the terms ‘Summer Solstice’, ‘Midsummer’s Day’, and ‘St. John’s Day’, and

the dates on which they fall.  The authors of The Oxford Companion To the Year: An Exploration of Calendar Customs and Time-reckoning have, with stunning unclarity, confused the situation even further with the smug statement that: “Those who consider the seasons to begin with the cardinal days find it hard to understand how Midsummer’s Day can fall only three days after the solstice.” (29) 

A presumed explanation appears under the day of “24 June”, which, we are told, “is kept as St. John’s Day or Midsummer’s Day,” or more precisely, as “Midsummer Quarter Day”, in all of the United Kingdom, with the exception of Scotland. (30) They inform us, also, that

        The term ‘midsummer’ is first found in the Old English translation of Bede’s

        Ecclesiastical History, where mention is made of the quarter in which the

        sun rises at the solstice; Bede’s solstitialem becomes ‘æ middum sumere’.  It

        was applied to the great Christian celebration of the Baptist’s birth, just as  

        the feast kept six months later became Midwinter or Midwinter’s Mass    

        (rarely Christmas till after the Norman Conquest). (31)

Umberto Eco, the great master of semiotics, offers us a humorous solution to the mystery in a great throw-away line.  In the midst of a wild and rambling tour de force of free-association, one of his characters in Foucault’s Pendulum suggests a rereading of all of the works of Shakespeare . . .  “Saint John’s Eve, a midsummer night’s dream.”  Another quickly responds that “June 23 is not midsummer,” and is quipped by the obvious explanation of the confusion of days: “Poetic license.”  Talking about something else entirely – everything else, actually, – but with this fresh in our minds, he adds, “I wonder why everybody overlooked these clues, these clear indications. 

It’s all so unbearably obvious.” (32)

One thing, at least, is clear – that the celebrations of the Summer Solstice on the 21st day of June, or thereabouts, and Midsummer’s, or St. John’s, Day on the 24th, are virtually identical in every respect to the point of their being indistinguishable. (33)  The extra-ordinary finesse with which the Church managed to bury the day of the Summer Solstice and take over this and all other Pagan quarter and cross-quarter days is truly astonishing.  In actuality, it was no easy trick, as we may gather from E. K. Chambers’s erudite discussion of the “attempt to adopt some of the principal Christian festivals to the solstices and equinoxes of the Roman calendar.” (34) 

The problem arose from the fact that the Pagan festivals of the Romans centered on the very strict astronomical observance of the quarters of the year.  The systematic eradica-tion of these earlier observances was to be accomplished by the not-so-simple overlay-ment of Christian holy days that only approximately coincided with the quarters of the solar year.  Over a period of several hundreds of years, long before the “Venerable” Bede confused us with his misnomer in the 8th Century, the Christian bishops fabricated various methods of miscalculation. 

Some began their confused counting of days with an arbitrarily determined date of March 25th as the date of the cruxifiction, which immediately followed the Vernal Equinox of the 21st, or thereabouts.  In a brilliant display of circular reckoning, they deemed the 25th to be not only the time of the the Passion of Christ, but of the Annunciation of Mary as well. (35)   Having assigned this date to the miraculous impregnation of the virgin goddess, the church fathers determined that the birth of Christ would have had to have occurred exactly nine solar months later on December 25th. (36)

While the ecclesiastics would appear to have been unaware of what was common knowledge in the Roman world: that the period of gestation was counted in lunar, not solar, months – ten lunar months – or 288 days, to be exact, (37) we can be certain that they were not arithmetically-challenged.  There was method in their madness, for they were all-too aware of this disturbing lunar connection in their solar-oriented universe.  Changing the unchangeable biological facts of life and severing the very ancient and essential connection between women and the cycles of the moon is a Promethean accomplishment, indeed.  But their deceptive time-scheme was critical for another reason as well. 

The Winter Solstice is the time of year when the light miraculously returns from its slumber of darkness.  In the Pagan world, the long-awaited rising of the winter sun, which occurred on or about the 21st of December (in our present-day calendar), was always cause for great celebration.  Regardless of whether it was an accurate reflection of the actual astronomical event, the Julian Calendar, which was instituted in 45 B.C.E., decreed that the 25th of December was the official date of the solstice.  This dating was maintained until 1582, when the Gregorian Calendar made precise corrections based on truer alignments, and moved the solstice to the 21st of December where it belonged. (38)

Not coincidentally, the Summer Solstice on the opposite side of the year, along with the wild and boisterous festivities of Midsummer’s Day, was similarly co-opted by the proximate timing of the holy day of John the Baptist on the 24th of June.  The case has been made by E. K. Chambers that the dating of St. John’s Day had already been estab-lished prior to the close of the first century, and that there were other bishops who later “calculated the dates from those for the conception and nativity of John the Baptist.” (39) But, as Chambers notes,

        Astronomy makes it impossible that March 25 can be historically correct,  

        and therefore the whole calculation, . . . [which] probably started from an

        arbitrary identification of a Christian date with the spring equinox, just    

        as . . . it started from a similar identification of another such date with the

        summer solstice [is wrong]. (40)

So, regardless of the starting point, all of their calendrical obfuscations were flawed from the beginning, which is why we are still confused.  Needless to say, they ac-complished their goal.  The overlay was so slick that even the most erudite scholars trip over this time period as though they themselves are so caught up in the “midsummer madness(41) that they, too, have lost track of time. (42) We find that John Matthews, who is one of the premiere scholars on the subject of the solstitial calendar, is himself guilty of such time-out-of-time when he states that the “folk celebrations of the Summer Solstice [were held] on June 21, and [those] of Midsummer Day on June 22.” (43)   

Matthews has described the summer quarter merger as one in which we find “the earlier pagan rites mingling almost seamlessly with those that constellated about the figure of the saint.” (44)  He cites as a typical example of this phenomenon, the present-day celebrations in some English villages where the very openly Pagan festivities of Midsummer are begun “at the gate of the church of St. John the Baptist.” (45)  He tells also, of the adaptation of the pre-Christian veneration of sacred wells and standing stones, whose powers were known to be particularly resonant at the changing quarters and cross-quarters of the year, and thus “the focus of sacred observances” on Mid-summer Day. (46)  One such Pagan stone, an enormous “seven-foot high pillar believed

to possess supernatural powers,” was named “St. John’s Stone.” (47)

That the merging of these days was pandemic, is made crystal-clear by a reading of William Butler Yeats who, in his 1888 collection of the Fairy and Folktales of the Irish Peasantry, tells us very matter-of-factly that “on Midsummer Eve, when the bonfires are lighted on every hill in honour of St. John, the fairies are at their gayest, and sometime steal away beautiful mortals to be their brides.” (48)

Having awakened to these vague imprecisions of the calendar, we turn, once again, to Louis Charpentier’s brilliant tome on Chartres Cathedral for a closer read of his dis-cussions of the illumination of the stone and tenon.  It would appear that he, too, cites two different days – or does he? – on which the sun shines directly on the gnomon.  If you will recall, he is very clear in his dramatic opening when he tells us that

        Every year, on 21st June, when the sun is bright, . . . a ray strikes this stone

        at midday precisely. . . . In my reckoning, local midday would fall between a

        quarter and five minutes to 1 p.m. . . . It was exactly then that the ray illumi-

        nated the stone. (49) 

Additionally, this eyewitness reasonably argues that the execution of the various elements needed to create this phenomenon was carefully orchestrated

        with a view to a specific time: the only moment in the year when a ray of the

        sun can fall on the flagstone is the summer solstice, when the sun reaches   

        the climax of its northern journey. (50)

And yet, some one hundred pages later, blinded, perhaps, by the intensity of the geometric brilliance of the cathedral, Charpentier remarks that

        we find that the South-West angle of the square table is exactly over the 

        white flagstone marked with a metal tenon on which, at the summer solstice 

        the sun falls at noon on the day of Saint John. (51)

The solution to the question of when, exactly, the sun illuminates the flagstone and tenon at the Cathedral at Chartres is to be found at Newgrange where, at the Winter Solstice, the sun makes a dramatic appearance inside the darkened tomb.

        The passage and chamber of Newgrange are illuminated by the winter    

        solstice sunrise.  A shaft of sunlight shines through the roof box over the   

        entrance and penetrates the passage to light up the chamber.  The dramatic

        event lasts for 17 minutes at dawn [each day] from the 19th to the 23rd of   

        December. (52)

We can surmise, then, even without first-hand observation, that the sun in the Cathedral strikes the stone for a similar period of five days at the Summer Solstice, that is to say, from June 20th to the 24th.  Thus, does it shine at noonish on whichever day the Sun enters the Tropic of Cancer on the Solstice, which varies from year to year between the days of the 20th and the 22nd, and on Midsummer’s Day, and on St. John’s Day.

The illumination at the Cathedral at Chartres, although unique in its contrivance, was not an isolated occurrence.  It seems that Charlemagne (742-814 C.E.) had his own very grand ideas about how to reflect the light of the longest day of the year.  Although this stunning bit of drama has been noted as having occurred on Midsummer’s Day, one is never sure whether the more likely timing for such splendor would have been at the moment of the Summer Solstice.  On that day, Charlemagne sat on his throne in the octagonal Palatine Chapel attached to his palace at Aachen waiting for the sun.

        The throne stood in the gallery of the chapel, looking west.  On Midsummer 

        Day, sunlight entering the east window would illuminate the head of the

        emperor. (53)


The anonymous author of the section on Chartres Cathedral in The Atlas of Mysterious Places, whose identity is as mysterious as what s/he has described, tells us that:

        The sacred center of the cathedral lies between the second and third bays of 

        the choir and is the position of the original altar until the latter was moved in

        the 16th century.  Lying some 37m (131 ft) below this point [at the sacred

        center] is the level of water in the well.  Towering the same distance above it

        is the pinnacle of the Gothic vault where the crossed ogives, the pointed  

        arches characteristic of Gothic architecture, are so perfectly proportioned 

        they seem to bear no weight at all. (54)

Of this extraordinary feat of weightlessness, and the balance that it creates in the viewer, we turn, once again, to Umberto Eco who has provided the penultimate word-image of this Gothic accomplishment in his Ayin-Sofic description of the choir of Saint-Martin-des-Champs in Foucault’s Pendulum.  Casaubon speaks:

        “I tried then to shift my gaze. I followed the curve that rose from the

        capitals of the semicircle of columns and ran along the ribs of the

        vault toward the key, mirroring the mystery of the ogive, that supreme

        static hypocrisy which rests on an absence, making the columns believe

        that they are thrusting the great ribs upward and the ribs believe that

        they are holding the columns down, the vault being both all and nothing,

        at once cause and effect. But I realized that to neglect the Pendulum that

        hung from the vault while admiring the vault itself was like becoming

        drunk at the stream instead of drinking at the source.(55)


Not coincidentally, it is on the afternoon of the 23rd of June, the Eve of St. John, (56) which the author refers to two pages later as “the eve of the summer solstice,” (57) that the hero finds himself mesmerized by the great Pendulum suspended from “the Only Fixed Point in the universe, eternally unmoving.” (58) Or as T. S. Eliot would have it, “At the still point of the turning world where “the dance is.” (59) Casaubon’s hypnotic epiphany is what Taoist’s describe as the ‘Way’. (60)  He says, as if in a state of delirium,

        “So it was not so much the earth to which I addressed my gaze but the

        heavens, where the mystery of absolute immobility was celebrated. The

        Pendulum told me that, as everything moved–earth, solar system, nebulae  

        and black holes, all the children of the great cosmic expansion–one single

        point stood still: a pivot, bolt, or hook around which the universe could

        move. And I was now taking part in that supreme experience. I, too,

        moved with the all, but I could see the One, the Rock, the Guarantee, the    

        luminous mist that is not body, that has no shape, weight, quantity, or

        quality, that does not see or hear, that cannot be sensed, that is in no

        place, in no time, and is not soul, intelligence, imagination, opinion,

        number, order, or measure. Neither darkness nor light, neither error

        nor truth.(61)

Lao-Tzu, merely hinting at the intangible nature of the Tao, says in Chapter 14 of his Tao Te Ching:  

        What we look for beyond seeing

        And call the unseen,

        Listen for beyond hearing

        And call the unheard.

        Grasp for beyond reaching

        And call the withheld,

        Merge beyond understanding

        In a oneness

        Which does not merely rise and give light,

        Does not merely set and leave darkness,

        But forever sends forth a succession of living things as mysterious

        As the unbegotten existence to which they return. (62)

Of the magic of Chartres, Charpentier recalls of his first experience of being inside the cathedral that he was immediately comforted by the fact that “everything contained its opposite in itself.” (63)  This, too, is the secret of the Chinese T’ai Chi, more commonly known as ‘Yin-Yang’, a fused state of perfect union in which the masculine element contains one dot of feminine essence, and the feminine, one dot of the masculine ele-ment.  The same balance is at work in this exquisite Cathedral, where the “proportions, orientation, position and symbolism have all been designed to alert the psyche and refresh the spirit.” (64) 

The same could be said of any sacred shrine.  What makes Chartres so unique?  It is the power, which has been described by so many who have experienced it, of “the interior design of the cathedral [which] seems to create a definite uplifting effect on the body,

as if to prepare it for the telluric emanations from below and divine inspiration from above.” (65)

        If the pilgrim experienced the entire sensuousness of the cathedral, it would

        be because the body’s senses had apprehended all the musical and geometri-

        cal proportions, and all the numbers and lines expressed in the building’s in-

        terior. (66)

Contrary to what so many casual observers have assumed, it should, by now, be clear that the Labyrinth does not define the sacred center of Chartres.  Arriving at the center of the Labyrinth is a means of centering oneself in preparation for this greater ecstasy of the cathedral’s all-encompassing mystery.  The labyrinth is merely the beginning of the journey – the ‘Way’, if you will.  And, unlike the experience of “passing through a maze [where] one is not going in any particular direction, and by so doing . . . reaches a destination which cannot be located by reference to the points of the compass,” (67) one cannot get lost and lose one’s way in a labyrinth.  The Labyrinth is not a maze in which one experiences that world of "neither here nor there," (68) but a direct, albeit circuitous, path in and out.  And at Chartres, everything is all about the points of the compass and about achieving perfect balance. (69)

Walking the labyrinth is about finding one’s own center.  And, if we should be so fortunate as to find our way to that place of calm and repose, what we would find there is that “still point of “neither arrest nor movement.” (70)  To attain that place of centeredness in days gone by,

        the pilgrim would progress shoeless up the nave to the labyrinth, a maze 

        13m (42.5 ft.) across and set out in the flagstones of the floor.  Dancing   

        around and around until reaching the centre . . . the pilgrim became more

        and more sensitive to the power accumulated in the vast cathedral chamber. (71)

Of course, such a pilgrimage or “ritual progress” would be more effectual when it coincided with the “times when the telluric current was in strong pulsation” (72) and, as we have seen in this description, when “accomplished unshod . . . so that the feet should be in direct contact with the stone, which was an accumulator for the properties of the current.” (73)

In the world of the sacred, where time is out of time and space not-space, “a ritual progress is not a mere walk; it is a dance . . . [and] a labyrinth, . . . a dance-pattern written on the ground.” (74)  The enormity of the labyrinth of Chartres, stretching almost from pillar to pillar across the whole width of the nave, this “round table,” as Charpentier calls it, so reminiscent of the ancient “Fairy Rings,” made it especially useful as a “ritual dance-floor” at a time when “round dances in the cathedral of Chartres, led by the bishop himself, were customary at Easter.” (75)  To join the dance was to renew one’s connection with the natural world as it was renewing itself, participating in that glorious rebirth of Spring upon which Easter and its attendant mythology is entirely based.  Such joyous cosmic dances had been celebrated throughout the ancient Pagan world long before the coming of Christianity (76) and they were joyfully continued here.   

The exact choreography of these group dances in the Cathedral of Chartres is unclear, but it has been established that in the cathedrals elsewhere in France, the elaborate meander-ing of the labyrinthine “Geranos dance of Delos, which commemorates Theseus’ wan-derings in the Cretan labyrinth, is the historical prototype which influenced the early Christian church dances.” (77)  According to the description of Maria-Gabriele Wosien in her indispensable exegesis on the mysteries of the dance, Sacred Dance: Encounter with the Gods,

          The dancers all held a rope, symbolizing Ariadne’s thread. As the latter was

        first unravelled by Theseus and then again rolled into a ball, the dance-leader

        first led the dancers with it into the centre of the labyrinth and then out again.

        The dancers, having danced into the labyrinth from right to left, the direction

        of involution and death, turn round in the centre and, following their leader

        dance out again now in the opposite direction, that of evolution and birth. (78)

Another scholar thoroughly versed in the dances of ancient Greece, Lillian B. Lawler, has a slightly different perspective on the the geranos, the insightful details of which she unfolds in her scholarly work, The Dance in Ancient Greece.  First, she unravels a most important puzzle concerning the meaning of the name of the dance. 

        In Greek the word geranos means ‘crane’, and scholars have for centuries 

        tried to explain the dance with reference to the bird; but actually there is no

        record in ancient literature of any ‘bird figures’ in the dance at all. Apparently

        the name is not the same as that for ‘crane’, but a homonym, going back to a

        known root ger-, which denotes ‘to wind’, as of rivers and serpents. . . . Like

        so many other old maze dances, it probably originated as an imitation of the

        winding path of a serpent.

        The inscriptions [found on Delos] indicate also that the dancers carried

        rhymoi––a word over the exact meaning of which there has been great 

        controversy. It actually seems to mean ‘ropes’, and it is highly possible that

        in the classical period, at least, the dancers may have carried a long rope-like

        or garland-like object suggestive of a serpent. . . . As performed by Theseus

        and his companions in the legend, the geranos is clearly a winding maze or

        ‘snake dance’, used as a dance of victory. (79)

Either of these brilliant interpretations would explain the mysterious presence at the very center of the labyrinth of Chartres of a brass or copper plaque memorializing this ancient initiation myth.  Unfortunately, it was removed for cannon-fodder in 1792 during the pandemonium of the French Revolution and is lost to history, save for one meagre piece of secondary evidence that has survived.  The labyrinth scholar Jeff Saward, who has looked under all the rocks to gather his extensive knowledge, tells us that although “we know, from a description of the plaque from around 1640 (Chaliline, 1918), that it bore a representation of the combat between Theseus and the Minotaur, we have no plan or diagram of the layout of its design.” (80)

Nor, as we have said, can we say what was danced at Chartres with the bishop leading the way.  We can say with certainty, though, that in the other cathedrals, in addition to the very straightforward descriptions of the original Cretan dance that we have just cited, there are other highly elaborate versions which use this simple dance-type as a mere starting point, mixing a multitude of metaphors by combining the dance of the many-faceted symbolism of the Theseus myth with the ancient, and very separate, dances of the sun’s stations of the year.  The convoluted dance sequences performed with great sophistication by the canons, bishop, and clergy at the Cathedral of Auxerre, are a case in point.  Here, we are told, the priest-dancer not only wove in and out, dancing “in a long chain along the labyrinth pattern,” (81) but each “revolved around his own axis” (82) whilst simultaneously handing off to the other dancers in alternate se-quences, a ball that was “the representation of the apparent path or dance of the sun throughout the year.” (83)

In his commentary about the rapture of these celebrations of the risen sun, the esteemed scholar E. K. Chambers mentions the popular folk-belief that “if you get up early enough on Easter morning you may see the sun dance.” (84)


There is a natural perfection to everything at Chartres, – from its magnificent propor-tions rooted in the harmonics of geometry (‘earth measure’), to the unsurpassable beauty of the coloration of the stained-glass, to the centering that comes of walking the ins and outs of the labyrinth, to the unimaginable complexity behind the ease with which the flying buttresses soar.   


There are so many forces at work in the magic that is felt at Notre Dame de Chartres that it would constitute a fool’s errand of the highest magnitude to attempt to pinpoint a single source for its awesome power.  Paul Devereux, who has spent nearly a lifetime investigating earth mysteries around the world, has concluded that “its measurements, proportions, patterns, images, resonance properties, subterranean waters, siting and astronomy provide a whole library of ancient, secret knowledge.” (85) 

Nevertheless, we can say with a certain degree of assurance that the underlying base

of all of these extraordinary aspects, the thing that allows the energy of Chartres to resonate so powerfully, the root cause of the palpable emanations of spirit arising from this masterpiece of a cathedral, is its grounding.  


        The cathedral vibrates to the slightest sound and, though this may be imper-

        ceptible to our senses, to the slightest pulsation of the telluric current of which

        it is the crowning achievement. (86)

We must, therefore, seek out, amongst a host of other things, “what is below” the surface of the original foundations upon which Chartres was built in order to know the nature of the mysterious energies that lie at the very heart of the cathedral.   

Various authors have mentioned, almost in passing, and with the vaguest of descriptions, and as though it were a fact of the most commonplace sort, the Druidic foundation of Chartres Cathedral.  Others, as for example, the oftentimes unreliable Jean Markale, have waxed eloquent, and at great length, about the earlier Druidic presence on this sacred ground.  And while it is tempting to cite his findings, the seeker of truth would best be served by looking elsewhere. (87)

We learn from the geomancer Nigel Pennick, whose scholarship is impeccable, and whose knowledge of the ley of the landscape, deeply informed, that

        In Caesar’s time, the main centre of Druidism was in the area of the 

        Carnutes after whom Chartres is named. There, Druids met annually at a

        shrine believed to be the site of Chartres Cathedral. This was the omphalos 

        of Gaul, the sacred though not the geographical centre of the country. (88)

Ultimately, all that we know about the originally Pagan site has come down to us from a few extremely reliable main sources: the unimpeachable commentaries of Caesar, who despite his despotic occupation of Gaul, was a great admirer of the Druids and a keen observer of their ways; (89) the detailed historical research of Jean-Baptiste Souchet, the mid-seventeenth century Canon of Notre Dame de Chartres who authored the four-volume Histoire du diocèse et de la ville de Chartres; (90) and following him some two-hundred years later, a three-volume monograph on the cathedral by the Abbot Marcel Joseph Bulteau, later edited to de-Paganize much of his original research. (91)

Of the many valuable things which Caesar observed and recorded about the Druids of Gaul, this is what he had to say – and all that he had to say – (that specific portion being underlined by this author) within the context in which he said it, about the Druids and their land that, so many centuries later, would become the site for the magnificent Cathedral of Chartres:

        The Druids officiate at the worship of the gods, regulate public and private

        sacrifices, and give rulings on all religious questions. . . . and they are held

        in great honour by the people. They act as judges in practically all disputes,  

        whether between tribes or between individuals; when any crime is commit-

        ted, or a murder takes place, or a dispute arises about an inheritance or a

        boundary, it is they who adjudicate the matter and appoint the compensation

        to be paid and received by the parties concerned. . . . On a fixed date in each

        year they hold a session in a consecrated spot in the country of the Carnutes,

        which is supposed to be the centre of Gaul. Those who are involved in dis-

        putes assemble here from all parts, and accept the Druids’ judgements and

        awards. (92)   

As a result of Canon Souchet’s intensive, open-minded, unbiased research, based not only upon Caesar’s testimony, but on what he found in the actual historical record of the Cathedral’s own documents, the canon might be called the première historian of the Cathedral’s beginnings.  In an English translation of a portion of his text, we are informed that

        there was once a sacred forest on the hilltop where Chartres now stands.         

        Centuries earlier it was known as Carnute, where – according to Julius

        Caesar – druids held their ceremonies. . . . An old well behind the cathedral 

        is believed to have been used by druids for purposes of divination. Druids

        studied the bubbling of water when it had been vigorously stirred by an oak  

        rod. (93)

We note that, although it is not at all clear from the canon’s statement, this is the ancient sacred well that was later enclosed within the expanded cathedral, the very same well from which the telluric energies are said to arise in a straight line from the bottom of its waters to the furthest reaches of the cathedral’s equidistant vaulted ceiling where the pointed arches cross.

One of the worlds most informed geosophists, John Michell, has much to say about the knowledge of how to control and make beneficial use of “those invisible currents which move over [and under] the surface of the earth, the fields of gravity and electromagnetic energy” which, he says, goes back to the earliest civilizations of prehistory. (94)  He has shown tangible example after example throughout the countryside to prove that “all over the earth, there are spots associated with strong supernatural or spiritual manifestations, which have been spoken of as centres of terrestrial magnetic current.” (95)  And as if he needed further documentation, he quotes the findings of an older authority on these matters upon whose shoulders he was proud to stand, the author of The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, W. Y. Evans Wentz.

Evans Wentz, who like his friends W. B. Yeats and AE, to whom his extraordinary book is dedicated, was very sensitive to the subtle energies of the earth.  He explains that


        . . . there seem to be certain favoured places on the earth where its magnetic

        and even more subtle forces are most powerful and most easily felt by    

        persons susceptible to such things; and Carnac [in Brittany] appears to be

        one of the greatest of such places in Europe, and for this reason . . . was

        probably selected by its ancient priest-builders as the great centre for reli-

        gious practices, for the celebration of pagan mysteries, for tribal assem-   

        blies, for astronomical observations, and very likely for establishing schools

        in which to educate neophytes for the priesthood. Tara, with its tributary

        Boyne valley, is a similar place in Ireland. (96)

In adding to this list of “favoured places” imbued with powerfully resonating energies, John Michell is quick to note that

        Another place of this sort is Chartres, which Louis Charpentier in his book

        Les Mystères de la cathédrale de Chartres identifies with the former capital

        of the Carnutes, the site of the great Druidic college and centre of inspiration.

        The Cathedral stands on a large prehistoric mound over a buried chamber,

        and this, according to Charpentier is the natural meeting place of several

        powerful streams of telluric current, known as woivres or mercurial serpents. (97)

Charpentier himself is emphatic in his declaration that “it is not the result of chance . . . that the church stands where it does; it is not by chance that its orientation is unusual for a catholic edifice.” (98)  Even with respect to the comparatively simpler matter of the purposeful laying-out and co-ordination of the placement of a tenon in a stone in such

a way that the sun streaming from a tiny hole in a window will strike it at an exact mo-ment in time, he has said,

        a concerted intention was at the bottom of this. Stone-mason and glazier

        obeyed an order. And this order was given with a view to a specific time:

        the only moment in the year when a ray of the sun can fall on the flagstone is

        the summer solstice, when the sun reaches the climax of its northern journey.

        It was given them by an astronomer.

        And in relation to a particular spot. The flagstone lies in a prolongation of the

        south wall of the nave, in the middle of the aisle, yet not exactly at the centre;

        the inclination of the slab was certainly intended. The place was chosen by a

        geometer. (99)

The most curious fact of Chartres’s architectural orientation – that it is not sited in the requisite East-West direction of other Christian churches – is rigorously explored by Gordon Strachan in Chartres: Sacred Geometry, Sacred Space.  His startling discoveries, which represent a great contribution to the furtherance of knowledge about this Cathedral, also have a distinct bearing on the question of the day on which the beam of light was intended to strike the tenon at Chartres.  After reminding his readers of an ancient dolmen which has long been thought to lie deep within the pre-historic mound on which Chartres rests, Strachan tells us something so incredible that it seems impossible that in all these centuries, no one else has noticed it. 

What Strachan reveals is a discovery of epiphanic proportion.  He demonstrates with meticulously calculated groundplan overlays and compass bearings, that the Cathedral

of Our Lady of Chartres is aligned to the Summer Solstice. 

        There is . . . a legend that long before even the Druid grotto, (100) there was a

        dolmen on the site dating back to megalithic times around 2000 BC[E]. No

        evidence whatsoever has been found for this, (101) yet there are certain anoma-

        lies in the Gothic cathedral which are strangely reminiscent of megalithic

        monuments, particularly Stonehenge. First, its orientation is only fractional-

        ly different from Stonehenge, being close to midsummer sunrise. [An illustra-

        tion of their axes shows “the orientation of the cathedral at 47º E of N in relation

        to Stonehenge at 50.25º E of N and midsummer sunrise at 51.58º E of N . . .

        [with] the outer Sarsen ring of stonehenge fit[ing] precisely within the outer

        pillars of the cathedral crossing.”] This is radically different from the normal

        eastern orientation of churches and is probably unique in Christendom. (102)

And that is not all.  This keen observer of architecture reveals a second deviation from established pattern, an anomaly that contributes to the effects of the subtle forces of sound that are said to be felt in the Cathedral.


           Second, [of] its north and south spires . . . [which] symbolize the sun and 

        moon, . . . their two complementary cycles are ingeniously built into the 

        fabric of the design in the form of two slightly different axes, which run the

        length of the building, creating as it were, a vibrato effect on the resonance  

        of the Cathedral. This is similar to the heelstone and causeway post holes at

        Stonehenge, which mark the difference between the longest day in the solar

        and lunar-metonic cycle. At Chartres [these] solar-lunar . . . long and short

        axes of the building are both twisted to a slight but measurable extent which

        relates to the fraction known to the ancient and medieval world as the

        Pythagorean Comma. (103) 

The Pythagorean Comma is, in fact, a very sophisticated mathematical concept having to do with the harmonic variances between perfection and reality in the tuning of instru-ments; in the inaccuracies of astronomical observation from a planet that is not only always in motion but which, additionally, wobbles on its axis; in the inequities of time as it pertains to the calendar; and in other somewhat lesser-known imperfections of the universe. (104) Among these fractional issues is one of great relevance to the musicality of Chartres.  In an endnote briefly outlining and exemplifying the Pythagorean Comma, Strachan explains that “in ancient and medieval cosmology, the lack of synchronicity between the cycles of the sun and moon was likened to the musical disparity between tuning in octaves and tuning in fifths.” (105)  This disparity is exactly what creates the vibrato effect.

In his analysis of the “musical mystery” concealed in plain sight in the perfectly proportioned geometric masterpiece that is Chartres, (106) Charpentier speaks of “the geometry of the plan of elevation of the cathedral” as being “altogether musical”; (107) of the presence of “the ‘divine triangle’ of Plato . . . [which in and of itself] leads to a search for modalities”; (108) of “Fifth and octave . . . [which] leads us to a search for all the intervals of the scale”; (109) and of “the geometric scale of the transverse lengths [which] correspond with the heights of the tone.” (110)  It need hardly be said that everything is “in perfect harmony” (111) with everything else. 

And as is the norm in the planning of sacred architecture, the structure’s geometry, by its very nature, is tuned to certain frequencies, certain keys, certain notes, that resonate within the proportionately hollow spaces of the interior.  When the architectural plans of a sacred structure are shown side by side with the wave patterns of these “musical root harmonies,” (112) as Gyorgy Doczi defines them in The Power of Limits: Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art & Architecture, their mutually reflective geometric pro-portions “reveal how waves of proportional relationships pulsate through the entire body of the building, as if it were a living organism.” (113)

At Chartres, we even know the musical scale within which its harmonies resound!  It is tuned to a “scale [which] is neither major nor minor . . . [but is that] . . . of the earlier Gregorian mode, based on RE.” (114)  We would understand this to be the keynote, the prime note that gives the whole thing its sounding.  This is the exact musical term that Titus Burckhardt uses in his discourse on the naturally occurring “correspondence be-tween geometric proportion and musical intervals” in the building of cathedrals. (115)


           . . . to each mode corresponds a particular scale, composed of two or three

        typical intervals and related to a keynote; and this confers a very specific  

        ‘mood’ or quality on every melody deriving from it. Relying on the basic

        schema of the mode, the medieval musician could multiply his melodic

        patterns without ever ‘losing the thread’, just as the medieval architect, by 

        remaining within the geometric order that he has chosen, could freely develop

        and change the individual elements of a building without any risk of losing

        the unity of the whole. (116)


Of course, the rightness of all of this is dependent upon the original lay of the land, starting at the “place of beginning,” as the language of the surveyor dictates. (117)  The degree of perfection that is found at Our Lady of Chartres begins from the bottom up and so, as would be expected, we find that “the plan itself was in harmony with the place (the Mound and the water-table); with the parallel of Chartres.” (118)  Perhaps the reader will recall that Gordon Strachan placed “the orientation of the cathedral at [precisely] 47º E of N”. (119)  His survey is in close agreement with the figures established by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, which show that Chartres Cathedral lies at a parallel of N48º 26’ 51” E1º 29’ 14”. (120)  

How the perfectly-laid plan was originally conceived is, to some degree, a matter of speculation, but among the more reasoned theories that have been put forth, there is one that claims that “the hidden plan and the numbers of Stonehenge were covertly known to and repeated by the Christian geometers who laid out the mediaeval cathedrals and abbeys.” (121)  At Chartres, they specifically “sited and built their miraculous structure to serve as an instrument for the accumulation and fusion of energy and for its dissemi-nation to the benefit of the locality and of the pilgrims who at certain seasons crowded the cathedral.” (122)

The energy was there from the very beginning at this site upon which Chartres was raised.  That is why a dolmen had been set up at that very place some three thousand years before – to serve as a collector of the raging telluric currents hidden beneath the earth. 

        To reinforce the current’s action, the Megalithic builders had recourse to a  

        remarkable stone instrument, the dolmen. Apart from other qualities stone

        has two that are very striking. First, . . . it is an accumulator; it becomes 

        charged with telluric or cosmic ‘influences’. Second, it is capable of vibra-

        tion. . . . Now the remarkable instrument that is a dolmen, a stone table

        resting on two, three or four supports, . . . [when] submitted to two contrary

        forces, its cohesiveness and its weight, is thus in a state of tension and [its 

        table] is susceptible of vibration like the stretched piano-string. It is at the

        same time an accumulator and an amplifier. Thus, the potency of the telluric

        wave attains its maximum force in the dolmenic chamber, which acts like a

        resonant drum. (123)

So convinced is Louis Charpentier of the awesome power of this ancient dolmen that he attributes the non-Easterly orientation of the cathedral to have been the result of “the direction of the telluric current”; (124) the intention of the singularly unusual alignment having been established so as to allow the worshipper to “face towards it,” to “bathe in the terrestrial current.” (125)  Let us not forget that the orientation of the cathedral to the sunrise of the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice sunrise of June 21st or thereabouts, may have produced extraordinary pulsations on that day.  Perhaps that is what the mystery behind the illumination of the tenon in the stone is all about, a way of illuminating us to the fact that this day is unique, – this day somehow mistakenly called by some “St. John’s Day,” after John the Baptist – that it is the one day in the year when the earth currents are so powerfully present in this uniquely aligned cathedral that a person so attuned could actually bathe in the waves of energy that could potentially wash over their entire being as a wave of the sea. 


If the megalithic dolmen beneath Chartres were never to be unearthed, the sole purpose of such excavation being to prove to those who don’t get all of this that it is in fact there, there is abundant evidence for its existence unseen.  Anyone who has ever stepped foot inside the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres has been touched by its radiant energy – its magic.  This invisible dolmen even has a history.  The fact is, that the whole region was dotted with spectacular gargantuan magic stones, megalithic giants who have left their marks on the landscape, leaving in their wake a vast “circle of place-names that surround Chartres.” (126)  And even in places where the stones themselves have not survived, the local place-names and myths about them have lived on to tell us that they were highly revered. (127)  We rely, once again, on M. Charpentier’s extensive knowledge of these things.  He begins his tour of certain exceptional telluric stones, by informing us that

        . . . a dolmen is not a fertility-stone; its significance is religious. It is placed

        on a spot where the telluric current exercises a spiritual action on man, a spot

        where ‘the spirit breathes’. . . . Among all the sacred places, marked by 

        dolmens or temples, one was held in higher repute than all others. It was 

        situated in the country of the Carnutes . . . (128)

        [And it was] a stone so sacred that a whole people had been commissioned

        with its protection. They were known as ‘Guardians of the Stone’, the    

        Carnutes. And their holy place, where the stone was to be seen, was

        Carnute-Is, now Chartres, in Beauce, l’Is of the Carnutes. (129)

Whether or not there is any justification for linking this dolmen with the Druids is a matter of debate.  Charpentier describes the dolmenic chamber that houses the sacred well at Chartres as being of Druidic origin.  And we have read the forthright testimonies of the priest-historians of Chartres who openly embraced their beloved cathedral’s Druidic beginnings.  But the truth is that we do not know how any of these gargantuan stones of such unimaginably enormous dimension landed on their chosen spots – here, or anywhere else.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, the belief that the British Druids were the builders of Stonehenge has persisted for centuries.  The “reason for claiming an association between the later Druids and megalithic stone monuments is that local tradition everywhere asserts this to be the case.  All over the country [in Britain] stand-ing stones are known as Druid circles.” (130) )  And dolmens were so identified with these masters of “the spiritual secrets of the landscape” (131) that they were commonly referred to as ‘Druid altars’. (132)

These monumental megalithic stones are often referred to as ‘giants’, and when they are grouped, as ‘circles of dancing giants’ – as for example those at Stonehenge, whom some “believed to be petrified ‘dancing giants’ who were caught in a sunbeam.” (133)  Many of the more famous of the stone giants even have names.  Speaking of which, there is a very old story, a Gallic folk-tale of uncertain age about a famous giant whose name was Gargantua.  This ancient oral tale appeared in print, apparently for the first time, in Lyon in 1532 under the title Les Grandes et Inestimables Chroniques du grand et énorme géant Gargantua (‘The Great and Inestimable Chronicles of the Great and Enormous Giant Gargantua’). (134)  Not surprisingly, Gargantua himself is a giant stone of, well, gargantuan proportion.  We know this only from his name, which means ‘Giant Stone Being’. (135) 

Now in the place where the Carnutes lived, as in all of Gaul, the father of this semi-anthropomorphized Gargantua was a most honored god whose name was Belen, who was also known by an assortment of other regional variants such as Belenus, Belenos, Belinos, Beli, Bel.  The general consensus is that he was a sun-deity associated with healing, (136) particularly by means of “health-giving waters,” (137) who became identified with Apollo during the Roman conquest.  The origin of his name(s) is derived from the Celtic root bel-, which means ‘bright’, or ‘shining’.  Thus is this sun-god, whose nu-

merous epithets are references to the sun or to the names of lesser Celtic solar-gods whom he has absorbed, called ‘the shining one’, or ‘the bright one’. (138)  

There was an idea put forward by Robert Graves that offers startling monumental insight into the mythology of Belenus concerning the warring brothers Belinus and Brennius, whom this mythologist-poet reminds us are mentioned in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 1136 History of the Britons, and who “are generally acknowledged to be the gods Bran and Beli.” (139)  This is the very same Beli who is “the Supreme God of Light” (140) in the ancient Welsh mythic poem Câd Goddeu (‘The Battle of the Trees’). (141)  Graves assigns “the older, larger, grander Avebury ring” (142) of giant stones as the seat of power of the Alder-god Bran, which is substantiated by the fact that “all the available evidence points to Stonehenge as Beli’s seat . . . [as] it is laid out as a sun-temple in cultured Apollonian style which contrasts strangely with the archaic roughness of Avebury.” (143)  If Graves is correct in this presumption, and we believe that he is, then Beli’s association with both Stonehenge and Chartres is as remarkable and astonishing a happenstance as is their mutually oriented axes to the Summer Solstice sunrise.

A curious occurrence – which may, in fact, be no more than pure coincidence, except that there is no such thing as coincidence – gave rise to the notion that the first three letters (B-L-N) of the Beth-Luis-Nion Ogham alphabet of the Irish Celts were “so called because B.L.N. are the radical consonants of Belin the Celtic god of the solar year.” (144)  Other things are more certain about the mysterious Ogham alphabet, as for example, the definitively documented fact that its original (145) and most widely used form was the “alphabet of trees,” (146) so called because each of its letters actually stands for a tree or a bush or shrub.  It is most fitting that an arboreal alphabet served as the Druids’s central means of secret communication because the literal meaning of the word Druid is ‘Wise in the Way of Trees’. (147) 

This “primarily magical” alphabet, (148) like all sacred alphabets, concealed a vast repository of esoteric wisdom (149) in which the whole mystery of the world was encapsulated.  We are not so very far from the intention underlying the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres in this respect, nor are we in the least removed from the poetic singing of the trees and the singing of the cathedral as more immediately audible forms of the more distantly remote notion of the ‘music of the spheres’, wherein each planet creates its generally unheard vibrational note in the octave as it whirls in infinite space. (150)   

Is it coincidence, then, that from the very beginning, as far back as anyone can know, the earth mound on which Notre Dame de Chartres stands in all Her majesty, was the site of the most sacred ground in all the land?  This place, in the words of the cathedral’s Abbé M. J. Bulteau, “was the Druids’ sanctuary of sanctuaries and the seat of the sovereign tribunal.  There we are in the midst of the Gauls and the great Némète.  In a word, it was the centre of Druidism.” (151) And at the heart of this “great Némète”, the Celtic word for which is nemeton, meaning ‘sanctuary’, a word that was in use in the oldest form of the Goidelic languages, “in Old Irish, as nemed and fidnemed, ‘sacred grove’,” (152) stood a stone that sang the Song of the Earth.  Is it any wonder then, that upon entering the cathedral the initiate “was bathed in telluric emanations, sonorous, visible, luminous, in which the magical effects of the ritual . . . took on an astonishing amplitude and power . . . in this place that was built for faultless harmony?” (153)

In this magical region there was a goddess who was held in very high esteem.  She was Bélisama, Belen’s mate, whom Charpentier oddly describes in very Indic-sounding language as “his material manifestation,” his earthly avatar:

        Belen was pledged to a consort, wife and sister, who was his material mani-

        festation, his terrestrial and prolific aspect, Bélisama. . . . The Gauls conse-

        crated to this goddess . . . a region named after her, which with the help of

        phonetic changes, passed successively from Bélisame to Bélisa, Belsa, Biausa

        and finally Beauce. (154)


We note that it is Belen who was pledged to her, and not the other way around, which would suggest that she, herself, is a solar deity of some stature.  And, indeed, she is.  Bélisama is a goddess “associated with high summer” who seems to reign over “all types of fire” and light, “including sun- and moon-light.” (155) The very ancient Proto-Celtic roots of her name, ‘Summer Bright’, from belo- ‘bright’ + samo- ‘summer’, (156) leave no doubt as to her function as the Gallic goddess of the Summer Solstice.  Her aura is very present at Chartres, and not only in the cathedral’s alignment to the solstice of “high summer”, but in many other ways, subtle and not so subtle. 

There can be little doubt that the healing functions attributed to Belen must have been “borrowed” directly from his female-half’s mythology.  After all, methods of healing associated with miracle-working restorative waters, such as those waters found in the Druidic well that is now situated inside the Cathedral of Chartres, (157) are, almost without exception, an indisputably goddess-identified attribute.  It is assumed also, that Bélisama’s healing powers were inherited from the serpent-bearing Minerva who was revered for her powers of wisdom and healing. (158)  But as Bélisama is the far older of the two on Gallic soil, the more likely scenario is that this was a late identification that arose during the Roman occupation of Gaul.  Their commonalities would have encour-aged the blurring of any distinction between the two, which is often a ruse of the con-queror to marginalize the earlier indigenous deity.


Another aspect of Bélisama’s mythology that is most relevant to her presence at Chartres is preserved in the anonymous chapbook that we have mentioned, Les Grandes et Inestimables Chroniques du grand et énorme géant Gargantua of 1532, which Charpentier mistakenly refers to as Les Vrayes Chroniques, although they are (‘true chronicles’)!  He means to tell us that The Great and Inestimable Chronicles


        relate that Bélisama, under the name of Carmelle, ‘stone-bearer’, virgin  

        made fruitful by the divine spirit of Belen, brought forth a son who was a 

        ‘Son of the Giant Stone’, of the stone gante. Stone is Gar; the being is Tua

        (Tuata in the plural): the son of the pierre gante is thus Gar-gant-tua. In the

        plural: this would have given Gargantuata, the tribe of giant stones . . . . (159)

Now, as Charpentier relates it, (and we are never quite sure, unless he says, whether he is following this original version, or the highly irreverent so-called “sequel” that appeared two years later under a pseudonym of one François Rabelais with the title of La vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel, or ‘The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel) (160) Bélisama’s son,

        the good giant Gargantua, mounted on Belen’s horse, Beliard (the Bayard of

        legend . . .) travelled the world, like Apollo in his chariot, from east to west, 

        following the rhythm of the seasons, clearing forests, drying up marshes, 

        making fishponds and lakes. . . . And Gargantua, who occupied himself so

        much with the fertility of the earth, was a great mover of giant stones, quoits,

        perrons, menhirs, all without doubt fertility-stones.

        Among these there was one, in the region consecrated to Bélisama . . . , a

        stone so sacred that a whole people had been commissioned with its pro-

        tection. (161)

This magical stone, as we know, is the dolmen of the Carnutes, the ‘Guardians of the Stone’, but here, we are told for the first time that it was Gargantua himself who placed the megalithic dolmen on the land where the glorious cathedral now stands guard over it.

We learn something else in these stories about this gargantuan “mover of giant stones” which is not quite so charming, and that is, that he is a clearer of forests.  And like everything else Gargantua does, he does this in a big way.  As Charpentier guardedly states, “if we may believe Rabelais, it was he who cleared La Beauce; he or at any rate his horse that by swishing its tail razed the oak forests that covered it.” (162)  Let us be clear.  These are the very same sacred forests of the Druids whose leafy branches extended themselves over the whole length and breadth of Beauce, those famed oak woods which constituted the spiritual center of Gaul, which this mare Beliard, in a furious fit of rage over the flying things that plague horses, has demolished in its entirety, right down to the last tree. 

And when she was done, and we qualify our own statement because we, too, are quoting Rabelais:

        all the country was thereby reduced to a plain champaign field. Which

        Gargantua took great pleasure to behold, and said to his company no more  

        but this: “Je trouve beau ce”; . . . whereupon that country hath been ever  

        since that time called Beauce. (163) 

Despite the fact that fairy-tale giants are notorious for their unpredictable bad tempers, as apparently are their mares, there is something that doesn’t feel quite right about the mindless pleasure taken by Gargantua in this act of wanton destruction.  Something has changed.  This is not the giant we know. (164)

You see, the destruction of a sacred grove is no small thing.  It is a reprehensible act of sacrilege of such unimaginable magnitude that it is a commonplace occurrence in many places for people to go to great lengths to avoid such willful harm – even to a single tree.  A fine instance of this is preserved by Robert Graves who quotes a direct descendent of one of the greatest of the high kings of Ireland, one St. Columba (521-597 C.E.).

        In Ireland, when St. Columcille founded his church at Derry (‘Oak-wood’)

        he was ‘so loth to fell certain sacred trees that he turned his oratory to face

        north rather than east’ . . . . And when he was in Scotland he declared that

        ‘though he feared Death and Hell, the sound of an axe in the grove of Derry

        frightened him still more’. (165)

But Graves reminds us, and in mournful poetic language, that with the rising influence and power of the Church, “the age of toleration did not last long; once Irish princes lost the privilege of appointing bishops from their own sept, and iconoclasts were politically strong enough to begin their righteous work, the axes rose and fell on every sacred hill.” (166) 

The ‘people’, though, seem never to have forgotten the inherent holiness of trees.  Some one hundred years ago or so in Ireland, entire roadway projects were diverted to avoid disturbing the fairies and the places which they inhabit, places such as stone heaps, various species of trees, and ‘fairy bushes’ of every sort.  Evans Wentz, in The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, documents numerous examples of such practices.  He quotes “the testimony of an Irish priest” who relates the following story:

        ‘ . . . Near Ballinrobe there is an old fort which is still the preserve of the

        fairies, and the land round it. The soil is very fine, and yet no one would

        dare to till it. Some time ago in laying out a new road the engineers deter-

        mined to run it through the fort, but the people rose almost in rebellion,

        and the course had to be changed. The farmers wouldn’t cut down a tree or

        bush growing on the hill or preserve for anything.’ (167)

In another account, Evans Wentz adds a footnote regarding a village lying in very close proximity to the sacred site of Tara, whose fairies were known to form processions at night, thereby creating paths that passed “round certain bushes which ha[d] not been disturbed for ages.” (168)  About these paths, he says, “an Irish mystic, and seer of great power, with whom I have often discussed the Fairy-Faith in its details, regards ‘fairy paths’ or ‘fairy passes’ as actual magnetic arteries, so to speak, through which circulates the earth’s magnetism.” (169)

There can be no doubt that the old Gargantua, whose primary preoccupation was that of caring for the earth, has had a complete turn-around in attitude.  And this is not a temporary aberration, for we meet this same attitude in him nearly one hundred years later in a scene that appeared in another chapbook published in England of the famous folk-tale of The History of Tom Thumbe.  The great Garagantua, as he is called in this story, has been reduced to a seemingly deposed and lonely giant who declares himself to be “the onely wonder of the world, the terror of the people, and the tamer of man and beast.” (170)

The charming scene describes a braggadocious disputation over “who was the better man, and could doe the most wonders,” (171) and when it appears that Tom Thumbe was, indeed, the better of the two, “Garagantua was madde and would with his foote haue kicked downe the whole wood, and so haue buried Tom Thumbe.” (172)  But this little man the size of his father’s thumb, whose steed is a mouse, has mastered certain of the more impressive Druidic skills and binds the raging giant with the most famous and exactingly difficult of all Celtic enchantments, the fith-fath spell.  He “so inchanted him that he was not able to stur, but so stood still with one leg vp, till Tom Thumbe was at his lodging: Hereat Garagantua was much vexed, but knew not how to helpe himselfe.” (173)

The scathing Druidic humor of this scene is part of the charm of the fith-fath spell, but what a sad, sad commentary it is on the demise of the great Gargantua.  Are we to inter-pret this mythic remnant as some sort of Revenge of the Druids for the destruction of their sacred forest of oaks, where for centuries they had celebrated their rites and passed judgement on all manner of things of great consequence, and upon which, after other churches before it, the magnificent Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres was lifted up with its raftered roof timbers to resemble la forêt – a forest of trees? 

Clearly, these stories represent a time of catastrophic and traumatic change, possibly sometime in the mid-fourth century when the first Bishop of Chartres arrived, (174) long after all the Druids had been thrown out of Gaul or forcibly converted to Christianity.  But there is also something else that we are being told that is concealed within that seemingly mindless, flatly delivered exclamation of Gargantua’s upon seeing the effects of the clearing of the forest: “Je trouve beau ce” (‘I find this beautiful’).  For those who do not understand French and have thus missed the puerile humor of the pun being made on the place-name Beauce, the whole region which is named for Gargantua’s mother, Bélisama, we note that in the French language, the word bel is substituted for the word beau “before nouns singular beginning with a vowel or h mute.” (175)  Beau and bel, therefore, have exactly the same meaning and one or the other is used interchangeably as ruled by the vagaries of these specific circumstances. 

Underlying his seemingly inane pronouncement, is our knowledge that Gargantua is the son of sun gods, and not only that, but that he is the child of a mother who represents the very brightest point of the summer: the Solstice.  These are words spoken by one who “occupied himself . . . much with the fertility of the earth,” with the clearing of forests, and with attending to all of the other petty details of housekeeping that make a landscape habitable in all seasons. (176)  One would have to be blind to not see how truly pleased Gargantua would be to witness this vast clearing of the immense canopied forest and to exult in the sight of the resulting landscape of flattened fields as far as the eye could see, infinite and brilliantly illuminated by his mother’s light.  Of course he found this beautiful!

Although that was long, long ago, and everyone has forgotten about her through all these many centuries, this goddess of the high summer is quietly present on her day of the Summer Solstice in the majestic cathedral that rose on this beautifully illuminated landscape.  On that longest day of the year at about the cardinal hour of noon, or so, when you see her light shinning on a tiny little nail in the floor of the immense cathe-dral, you will know that it is her day. 

And as you face the altar, not only will you be oriented to the direction of her ‘Mid-summer’ sunrise, but you will be facing into the full force of the telluric emanations. (177) And if you open yourself to the joy of it, allowing your whole being to “bathe in the terrestrial current,” (178) you will feel its waves of energy washing over you.  You will be amazed by the intensity of the light.  And if you listen carefully, perhaps you will even hear the “unheard music” (179) of the cathedral.




FRONTISPIECE ILLUSTRATION: The Labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral, ca. 1215-1221.  This dating has been suggested by Craig Wright based on the verified dating of the construction of the nave. See: Jeff Saward at <http://www.labyrinthos.net/chartresfaq.html>.

  1. 1.  Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral. English translation by Sir Ronald Fraser in collaboration with Janette Jackson. (London: Research Into Lost Knowledge Organisation, 1972-75; Originally published and translated into English by Robert Laffont (Paris: 6 place Saint-Sulpice, 1966.), p. 181.

  2. 2.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton” I. 27.

  3. 3.  Malcolm Miller, Chartres Cathedral. Sonia Halliday and Laura Lushington, Photography. Second Edition. (New York: Riverside Book Company, Inc., 1996), p. 9.

  4. 4.  Ian Robertson, Blue Guide: Paris and Versailles. 8th Edition. (London: A&C Black, 1992), “St.-    Sulpice”, p. 95.

  5. 5.  Michelin Paris Atlas No. 11 Tourist Guide. 1st Edition. (Middlesex: Michelin Tyre Public Limited Company, n.d.) “Church of St-Sulpice”, p.193.

  6. 6.  Ibid., “The Observatory”, p.198. The longitude is listed elsewhere as 2 degrees 20’ 14.025” East. See, for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_meridian.

  7. 7.  Ibid.

  8. 8.  Ibid. Italics mine.

  9. 9.  Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code. Special Illustrated Edition. (New York: Doubleday, 2004), Chapter 22, p. 110. This appears on p. 105 of the regular edition © 2003.

  10. 10.  Ibid.

  11. 11.  Ibid. Special Illustrated Edition, p. 113; p. 106 of the regular edition. Italics mine.

  12. 12.  I was citing authors, titles, and in some cases, page numbers, as I read – beginning with the brilliant Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh & Henry Lincoln, published by Dell Publishing Co. in 1982 – and moving through numerous other scholars who had devoted their lives to the various subjects that appeared in Brown’s novel as his own.)

  13. 13.  Ibid. Special Illustrated Edition, unpaginated p. 1; unpaginated p. 1 of the regular edition.

  14. 14.  Ibid. Special Illustrated Edition, p. 110; p. 105 of the regular edition.

  15. 15.  Titus Burckhardt, Chartres and the Birth of the Cathedral. William Stoddart, Trans. Keith Critchlow, Forward. (Ipswich: Golgonooza Press, 1995), p. 114.

  16. 16.  J. L. Heilbron, The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999), pp. 219-226.

  17. 17.  Ibid., p. 220.

  18. 18.  Ibid., p. 222.

  19. 19.  Ibid., p. 219.

  20. 20.  Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., pp. 9-10.

  21. 21.  Ibid., p. 9.

  22. 22.  The Atlas of Mysterious Places: The World’s Unexplained Sacred Sites, Symbolic Landscapes, Ancient Cities and Lost Lands. Jennifer Westwood, Editor. (New York: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1987), p. 22 inset. A rare and beautiful photograph of the flagstone and tenon appears on p. 23.

  23. 23.  Jean Markale, Cathedral of the Black Madonna: The Druids and the Mysteries of Chartres. Trans., Jon Graham. (Rochester, VT.: Inner Traditions, 2004), p. 226. Italics mine.

  24. 24.  Ibid.

  25. 25.  Ibid.

  26. 26.  Ibid.

  27. 27.  Many of the labyrinths originally installed in cathedrals in France were later destroyed by the Church itself, however, they existed “in great profusion [in] the Cathedrals of Northern France.” (<http://www.halexandria.org/dward021.htm>) A partial list compiled by Dan Sewell Ward includes the following: Chartres Cathedral of Notre Dame (Labyrinth still exists); Reims Cathedral of Notre Dame (Labyrinth destroyed in 1778); Bayeux Cathedral of Notre Dame; Amiens Cathedral of Notre Dame (Labyrinth destroyed in 1825, rebuilt in 1895);  Saint Quentin Collegiate Church of Saint Quentin (Begun in 1195, completed in 1495, still exists); Sens Cathedral of Saint Etienne (30 ft. diameter labyrinth destroyed 1768,  similar in design to Auxerre’s labyrinth demolished in 1690); Saint Omer Collegiate Church of Notre Dame at Abbey of St. Bertin (Labyrinth destroyed 1778, the same year as labyrinth of Reims); Poitiers Church of Notre Dame de la Grande. Dan Sewell Ward at <http://www.halexandria.org/dward758.htm> We highly recommend this extremely well researched  site. Plan to spend a lot of time there. Definitely worth the voyage.

  28. 28.  Ibid., pp. 257-266.

  29. 29.  Bonnie Blackburn & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year: An Exploration of Calendar Customs and Time-reckoning. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), “24 June”, p. 263.

  30. 30.  Ibid.

  31. 31.  Ibid.

  32. 32.  Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum. Translated from the Italian by William Weaver. (San Diego: A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book/ Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1989), p. 401.

  33. 33.  See descriptions of the St. John’s Day celebrations in: Bonnie Blackburn & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year: An Exploration of Calendar Customs and Time-reckoning, op. cit., p. 264; See also: John Matthews, The Summer Solstice: Celebrating the Journey of the Sun from May Day to Harvest (Wheaton, Ill.: Quest Books, 2002), pp. 85-99; See also: Tracy Boyd, “Titania, The Queen of Faerie, and The Druid Tom Thumbe” under the heading: “The Thumb in the Pudding” at <www.sacredthreads.net>.

  34. 34.  E. K. Chambers, The Mediaeval Stage. (Mineola: Dover Publications, 1966. Two Volumes as One unabridged republication of the 1903 edition), Vol. I, p. 241.

  35. 35.  Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 241, Note 1.

  36. 36.  Ibid.

  37. 37.  See: Tracy Boyd, “The Keepers of the Flame: Vesta and Her Brides” at <www.sacredthreads.net>.

  38. 38.  For a fascinating astronomical article on the Winter Solstice, see: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_Solstice>.

  39. 39.  E. K. Chambers, The Mediaeval Stage, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 241, Note 1.

  40. 40.  Ibid.

  41. 41.  Shakespeare, Twelfth-Night; or, What You Will, III. iv. 54.

  42. 42.  For a thorough discussion of this phenomena, see Tracy Boyd, “Titania, The Queen of Faerie, and The Druid Tom Thumbe”, under the heading: “The Thumb in the Pudding” at <www.sacredthreads.net>.

  43. 43.  John Matthews, The Summer Solstice: Celebrating the Journey of the Sun from May Day to Harvest. (Wheaton, IL:  Quest Books Theosophical Publishing House, 2002), p 86.

  44. 44.  Ibid., p. 96.

  45. 45.  Ibid., p. 91.

  46. 46.  Ibid., pp. 86-87.

  47. 47.  Ibid., p. 87.

  48. 48.  W. B. Yeats, editor, Fairy and Folktales of the Irish Peasantry, reprinted in A Treasury of Irish Myth, Legend, and Folklore. (NY: Crown Publishers, Inc., Gramercy Books, an imprint of Random House, Inc., 1986), p. 2.

  49. 49.  Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., p. 9. Italics mine.

  50. 50.  Ibid., p. 10. Italics mine.

  51. 51.  Ibid., p. 111. Italics mine.

  52. 52.  <www.knowth.com/newgrange.htm>.

  53. 53.  Colin Wilson, The Atlas of Holy Places & Sacred Sites: An Illustrated Guide     to the Location, History and Significance of the World’s Most Revered Holy Sites. (New York: DK Publishing, Inc., First American Edition, 1996), “Aachen”, p. 61. The Palatine Chapel was later expanded to become Aachen Cathedral, known in French as Aix-la-Chapelle. See Ibid.

  54. 54.  The Atlas of Mysterious Places: The World’s Unexplained Sacred Sites, Symbolic Landscapes, Ancient Cities and Lost Lands, op. cit., p. 22.

  55. 55.  Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum. op. cit., p. 6.

  56. 56.  Ibid., p. 4.

  57. 57.  Ibid., p. 6.

  58. 58.  Ibid., p. 5.

  59. 59.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton” II. 62.

  60. 60.  See: Tracy Boyd, “Wind Over Water: The Breath of Creation” at <www.sacredthreads.net>.

  61. 61.  Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum, op. cit., p. 5.

  62. 62.  The Way of Life According to Laotzu, An American Version by Witter Bynner (New York: The John Day Company, 1944), #14, p. 32.

  63. 63.  Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., p. 11.

  64. 64.  The Atlas of Mysterious Places: The World’s Unexplained Sacred Sites, Symbolic Landscapes, Ancient Cities and Lost Lands, op. cit., p. 22.

  65. 65.  Ibid.

  66. 66.  Ibid.

  67. 67.  Alwyn Rees and Brinley Rees, Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales. (London: Thames and Hudson 1961), p. 346.

  68. 68.  For a description of this nowhere state, see: Ibid., p 345.

  69. 69.  For an in-depth discussion on the benefits of threading the maze, see: Tracy Boyd, “The Daunce of Nine-Men’s-Morris and the Boundaries Between Worlds”, under the headings: “Down To Earth” and “The Realm of Faerie” at <www.sacredthreads.net>.

  70. 70.  T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, "Burnt Norton" II, 63-64.

  71. 71.  The Atlas of Mysterious Places: The World’s Unexplained Sacred Sites, Symbolic Landscapes, Ancient Cities and Lost Lands, op. cit., p. 22.

  72. 72.  Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., p. 172.

  73. 73.  Ibid.

  74. 74.  Ibid., p. 170.

  75. 75.  Ibid., p. 115.

  76. 76.  See: Tracy Boyd, “The Tarot Fool’s Hand” under the heading: “The Fool’s Dance” at www.sacredthreads.net.

  77. 77.  Maria-Gabriele Wosien, Sacred Dance: Encounter with the Gods. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1974), p. 27.

  78. 78.  Ibid.

  79. 79.  Lillian B. Lawler, The Dance in Ancient Greece. (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1965), pp. 47-48, and pp. 44-48 passim.

  80. 80.  <http://www.labyrinthos.net/chartresfaq.html> For a fascinating journey through a multitude of labyrinths, see: Jeff Saward, Labyrinths & Mazes: A Complete Guide to Magical Paths of the World. (New York: Lark Books, a Division of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2003.

  81. 81.  Maria-Gabriele Wosien, Sacred Dance: Encounter with the Gods, op. cit., p. 27.

  82. 82.  Ibid.

  83. 83.  Ibid.  Another very thorough examination of the cathedral dances is to be found in E. Louis Backman, Religious Dances: in the Christian Church and in Popular Medicine. E. Classen, Trans. (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1952), pp. 66-73.

  84. 84.  E. K. Chambers, The Mediaeval Stage, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 129.

  85. 85.  Paul Devereux, Secrets of Ancient and Sacred Places: The World’s Mysterious Heritage. (London: Brockhampton Press, 1998), p. 140.

  86. 86.  Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., p. 180.

  87. 87.  This is especially true in his Cathedral of the Black Madonna: The Druids and the Mysteries of Chartres, op. cit., which is filled with inaccuracies, absurd conjecture, very far-fetched conclusions with no apparent trace of logic, and bristling hostility towards neo-Pagan practice.

  88. 88.  Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick, A History of Pagan Europe. (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1999), p. 85.

  89. 89.  See: Gaius Julius Caesar, De Bello Gallico. Available in English in Caesar, The Conquest of Gaul. S. A. Handford, Trans., 1951, Jane F. Gardner, Revision, 1982 (New York: Penguin Books USA Inc., 1982).  His commentaries concerning the Druids are to be found in Book VI.13-20, pp. 139-143.

  90. 90.  An 1866 edition of this published by the Société archéologique d'Eure-et-Loir, Chartres is available on Google Books at <http://books.google.com/books?id=VMQnAAAAYAAJ&dq=Jean-Baptiste+Souchet,+Chartres&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=hZm0U61cyF&sig=tawY03nFkhLEDDLZOApoBkoLpYc&hl=en&ei=I2IsSpOaB4-MNYTS8NMJ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5#> Of course, it is in French.

  91. 91.  L’abbé Marcel Joseph Bulteau, Monographie de la Cathédrale de Chartre, 3 Vols. 1887-1892. The abbot was not only a priest, but a membre de la Société archéologique d'Eure-et-Loir.

  92. 92.  Gaius Julius Caesar, De Bello Gallico. Available in English in Caesar, The Conquest of Gaul, op. cit., Book VI.13., p. 140.

  93. 93.  Colin Wilson, The Atlas of Holy Places & Sacred Sites: An Illustrated Guide     to the Location, History and Significance of the World’s Most Revered Holy Sites, op. cit., “Chartres”, p. 60.

  94. 94.  John Michell, The New View Over Atlantis. (London: Thames and Hudson, 1995 Reprint of The View Over Atlantis © 1969, 1972, 1983), p. 197.

  95. 95.  Ibid.

  96. 96.  Ibid., quot. W. Y. Evans Wentz, The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries. (London: Henry Frowde, 1911.  We have spoken at length about Evans Wentz and this exceptionally wise book with reference to Newgrange in “Tracy Boyd, “The Mythic Ground of the Longing for Wisdom and Love in William Butler Yeats’s The Song of Wandering Aengus under the heading: “The Gardens of the Sun” at <www.sacredthreads.net)>.

  97. 97.  John Michell, The New View Over Atlantis, op. cit., p. 198.

  98. 98.  Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., p. 13.

  99. 99.  Ibid., p. 10.

  100. 100. This being the commonly used name of the cave that contained the ancient sacred well and a Druidic statue of a virgin.

  101. 101. Only because the ground is so sacred that none has dared disturb it with excavations.

  102. 102. Gordon Strachan, Chartres: Sacred Geometry, Sacred Space. With architectural drawings by Oliver Perceval.  (Edinburgh: Floris Books, 2003), pp. 10-12, with illustration of the axes and quoted caption, on. p. 11. Sad to say, we will be hearing no more from this exceptional man who died in July of 2010. For a brilliant discussion of the proportional relationships of Stonehenge’s stone alignments, see: Gyorgy Doczi, The Power of Limits: Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art & Architecture. (Boston: Shambhala, 1985, pp. 38-40. Just read the whole book!

  103. 103. Gordon Strachan, Chartres: Sacred Geometry, Sacred Space. With architectural drawings by Oliver Perceval, op. cit., p. 12, with an illustration of the “vibrato” formed by the slightly different axes of the spires, and another of the Pythagorean Comma at Stonehenge on p. 12.)

  104. 104. See: Ernest G. McClain, The Myth of Invariance: The Origin of the Gods, Mathematics and Music From the Rg Veda to Plato. Patrick A. Heelan, Editor. (York Beach, ME: Nicolas Hays, Inc., 1984, p. 103; and regarding the “tuning” of the Sun and Moon in the Rg Veda, see Chapter 8, “Music and the Calendar, pp. 95-106.

  105. 105. Gordon Strachan, Chartres: Sacred Geometry, Sacred Space. With architectural drawings by Oliver Perceval, op. cit., Endnote 7, p. 103.

  106. 106. See: Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., Chapter 16, “The Musical Mystery”, pp. 128-136 passim.

  107. 107. Ibid., p. 129.

  108. 108. Ibid.

  109. 109. Ibid., p. 131.

  110. 110. Ibid., Chart on p. 130.

  111. 111. Ibid., p. 133.

  112. 112. Gyorgy Doczi, The Power of Limits: Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art & Architecture, op. cit., p. 115.

  113. 113. Ibid., p. 116. Doczi provides numerous illustrated examples throughout the book.

  114. 114. Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., p. 135, quot. Father Bescond of Saint-Wandrille, who informed Charpentier that he had “found the answer to the harmonic problem,” thus solving the formula for the “musical development of the elevation,” which is given on Ibid., pp. 135-36.  It is unclear to this non-musician which of the eight Gregorian modes he refers to – if any.  We are certain, however, that Father Bescond’s reference to the “earlier” mode which began on the note RE (D), refers to a scale that was in use prior to the introduction of DO (C). (See: <http://www.rosarychurch.net/answers/qa012006.html> under the heading “Notation”.)  Fr. Bescond adds that “The ‘good notes’ of this mode are RE-FA-LA,” (Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., p. 135.) which would be the notes D-F-A.

  115. 115. Titus Burckhardt, Chartres and the Birth of the Cathedral, op. cit., p. 94.

  116. 116. Ibid.

  117. 117. A phrase that begins and ends the description of land on Property Deeds.

  118. 118. Ibid., p. 133.

  119. 119. Gordon Strachan, Chartres: Sacred Geometry, Sacred Space. With architectural drawings by Oliver Perceval, op. cit., p. 11.

  120. 120. <http://whc.unesco.org/pg.cfm?cid=31&id_site=81>.

  121. 121. John Michell, The New View Over Atlantis, op. cit., p. 200, and pp. 127-136 passim.  Louis Charpentier offers many additionally plausible theories throughout his The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, none of these theories being mutually exclusive of one another.

  122. 122. John Michell, The New View Over Atlantis, op. cit, p. 198.

  123. 123. Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., pp. 37-38.

  124. 124. Ibid., pp. 34-35.

  125. 125. Ibid., p. 35.

  126. 126. Ibid., p. 26.

  127. 127. See: Ibid., pp.26-27.

  128. 128. Ibid., p. pp. 21-22 and pp. 22-30 passim.

  129. 129. Ibid., p. 23.

  130. 130. John Michell, The New View Over Atlantis, op. cit., p. 200, and pp. 198-200 passim.

  131. 131. Ibid., p. 199.

  132. 132. Gertrude Jobes, Dictionary of Mythology Folklore and Symbols. (New York: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1962), “Druid altar”, Part 1, p. 472.

  133. 133. <http://www.new-age.co.uk/stonehenge-standing-stones.htm>. This New Age website has a splendid collection of remarkable photographs of contemporary Druid Solstice rites at Stonehenge.

  134. 134. The English title given here is just a translation. Sadly, it is not available in English.

  135. 135. Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., p. 23.

  136. 136. See: Miranda J. Green, Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend. (London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1992), “Apollo Belenus”, pp. 30-31.

  137. 137. James MacKillop, Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), “Belenus, . . .”, p. 34.

  138. 138. See: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belenus>.

  139. 139. Robert Graves, The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1974; 7th Printing of Amended and Enlarged Edition of 1966), p. 56.

  140. 140. Ibid.

  141. 141. See: Ibid., Chapter Two, “The Battle of the Trees”, pp. 27-48.

  142. 142. Ibid., Robert Graves, The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, op. cit., p. 58.

  143. 143. Ibid.

  144. 144. Ibid., p. 201. Perhaps Edward Davies, the widely admired Welsh scholar of Celtic languages and mythologies whose idea this was, (Ibid.; See also: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Davies_(Celtic)>) saw the connection between the alphabet and the seasons of the year, a living calendar whose intricacies the poet Robert Graves devoted an entire book to deciphering a century later. The title was, of course, his famous The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth.

  145. 145. Robert Graves, The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, op. cit., p. 200.

  146. 146. R. A. S. Macalister, The Archaeology of Ireland. (New York: Arno Press: A New York Times Company, Reprint Edition, 1977. First published London, 1928; Second edition, revised and rewritten, 1949; Reissued 1972 by Benjamin Blom, Inc.), p. 333.

  147. 147. For a discussion of the etymology of Druid, see: Tracy Boyd, “Titania, The Queen of Faerie, and the Druid Tom Thumbe” under the heading: “Tom Thumbe’s Irish Beginnings” at <www.sacredthreads.net>.

  148. 148. R. A. S. Macalister, The Archaeology of Ireland, op. cit., p. 337.

  149. 149. See: Nigel Pennick, Magical Alphabets. (York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1993), passim.

  150. 150. The Ogham alphabet is considered in great detail in: Tracy Boyd, “The Tarot Fool’s Hand” under the heading: “The Fool’s Alphabet: A Secret Language of Trees” and elsewhere throughout the article at <www.sacredthreads.net>. For a very informative discussion of the sounds of the planets’ orbits, see: Hans Cousto, The Cosmic Octave: Origin of Harmony. Christopher Baker and Judith Harrison, Translators. (Mendocino, CA.: LifeRhythm, 1988.

  151. 151. Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., p. 25, presumably quoting Volume I of Abbé Marcel Joseph Bulteau’s Monographie de la Cathédrale de Chartre, 3 Vols. 1887-1892.

  152. 152. Anne Ross, The Pagan Celts. (Ruthin, North Wales: John Jones Publishing Ltd., 1998), p. 140.

  153. 153. Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., p. 178.

  154. 154. Ibid., p. 22.

  155. 155. <http://www.celtnet.org.uk/gods_b/belisama.html>.

  156. 156. Ibid.; See also <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Celtic_language> under the heading “Dating” regarding the reconstruction of the Proto-Celtic language which may date as far back as 6100 B.C.E.

  157. 157. See: Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., pp. 181-82 regarding the curative powers of this well.

  158. 158. <http://www.celtnet.org.uk/gods_b/belisama.html>.

  159. 159. Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., p. 23.

  160. 160. Rabelais is said to have been inspired to “provide a sequel” to the fabulously popular chapbook of which he said, “sold more copies in two months ‘than there will be Bibles in nine years’.” Sterling Allen Brown, The Reader’s Companion to World Literature: A Guide to the Immortal Masterpieces of Writing from the Dawn of Civilization to the Present. Second Edition. Hornstein, Percy, Brown, Eds. (New York: Signet Classic/New American Library/Penquin Putnam, Inc., 2002), p. 285.

  161. 161. Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., p. 23.

  162. 162. Ibid.

  163. 163. François Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, Sir Thomas Urquhart and Peter Antony Motteux, Trans. Book 1, Chapter 1.XVI.—”How Gargantua was sent to Paris, and of the huge great mare that he rode on; how she destroyed the oxflies of the Beauce.” pp. 96-97, is a Public Domain publication of the Pennsylvania State University furnished free and without any charge of any kind.

  164. 164. In an Appendix following the Notes for Tracy Boyd, “I Am Baubo, the Acorn Fool” at <www.sacredthreads.net.> is the story of “The Sacrilege of Erysichthon” as told by Ovid in the Metamorphoses, which tells of the senseless mutilation and killing of the most sacred oak in Ceres’s ancient oak grove; a chilling and very graphic account of what can happen to the perpetrators of such violence against sacred trees.

  165. 165. Robert Graves, The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, op. cit., p. 143.

  166. 166. Ibid., pp. 143-44.

  167. 167. Walter Yeeling Evans-Wentz, The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries. (New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, Inc., First Printing, June 1966, First published in this form by Oxford University, 1911), p. 38.

  168. 168. Ibid., p. 33.

  169. 169. Ibid., p. 33, Note 1, and pp. 32-33 passim.  Regarding the sacred land of Tara, we wish to note, even if parenthetically, that there are those in power in Ireland, and certainly everywhere else, who have lost touch, once again, with this spirit of the Earth. Despite the vociferous protests against the sacrilege, a new four-lane highway, the biggest in all of Ireland, was planned by the National Roads Association in such a way that it would cut through the sacred landscape and artifacts surrounding Tara, thereby severing it from virtually all of the related sites surrounding it. (<http://www.archaeological.org/news/advocacy/127>) We are sorry to say that after irreparably destroying “more than forty archaeological sites,” (<http://www.irishcentral.com/story/roots/the_american_in_ireland/highway-through-tara-was-a-waste-101548443.html>.) the motorway was opened in June of 2010.  But strange to say, it seems to be a road considerably less travelled than they had anticipated.  Perhaps the old beliefs are still alive. (On August 31, 2010, a reader named Portia777 posted this hair-raising comment at irishcentral.com: “They knew what they were doing, I assure you and it had nothing to do with traffic either. Now the Bean Sidhe roams the area homeless and the white Mare awaits the prophecy to be fulfilled. They will wish they were never born. Many who were involved in the destruction of the sacred feminine Mare have already died, but then that is the Law of the Universe.” (Ibid.)

  170. 170. Richard Johnson, “The History of Tom Thumb” in Iona and Peter Opie, The Classic Fairy Tales. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974, Reissued 1992), p. 44. The entire tale published by Richard Johnson as The History of Tom Thumbe, the Little, for his small stature surnamed, King Arthur’s Dwarfe: Whose Life and aduentures containe many strange and wonderfull accidents, published for the delight of merry Time-spenders, of which only one copy has survived, is here reproduced on pp. 33-46.

  171. 171. Ibid., p. 45.

  172. 172. Ibid., p. 46.

  173. 173. Ibid.  The whole story of Tom Thumbe is explored in: Tracy Boyd, Titania, the Queen of Faerie, and the Druid Tom Thumbe at <www.sacredthreads.net>.

  174. 174. Malcolm Miller, Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., p. 8.

  175. 175. The New Cassell’s French Dictionary. Revised by Denis Girard. (New York, Funk & Wagnalls, 1962-1971), “beau”, p. 84.

  176. 176. See: Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, op. cit., p. 23.

  177. 177. See: Ibid., pp. 34-35.

  178. 178. Ibid., p. 35.

  179. 179. T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, “Burnt Norton” I. 27.

The Labyrinth of Chartres

Cathedral ca. 1215-1221




by Tracy Boyd

© 2010