Cathars and Cathar Beliefs in the Languedoc
Cathar Terminology + A Cathar Glossary


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CATHAR TERMINOLOGY

A Cathar Glossary

Cathar Terminology

 

A source of confusion is the number of different names used for Catharism and its adherents. This is partly due to the different languages used - Roman Catholics tended to use Latin, people in the Languedoc used Occitan the local language, while modern studies often favour French or English terms.  

Another source of confusion is that some Catholic critics were themselves hugely confused by what the Cathars were and where they had come from. Many names are derived from villages where Catharism flourished, developing into a local centre, not only in the Languedoc, but throughout Europe..

Many catholic authorities imagined that all "heresies" were essentially the same, so Cathars could be lumped together with Waldensians (or Vaudois), Arians, Marcians and dozens of others, included many who might have been no more than disenchanted monks (or, later, friars) criticising their own Roman Catholic Church.

Scholars are not unanimous in identifying the Cathars of the Languedoc and Italy with the Bogomils of the Balkans, nor with other earlier Gnostic Dualists - but realistically there is little doubt that there was a continuous chain of teaching from the earliest Christian times to the thirteenth Century Languedoc. For this reason I have included terms for Bogomils in this section.

Cathars referred to their elect as boni homines - "good men". Women members of the elect were "good women" and together they were "good Christians". French members of the Cathar elect were bons hommes, but Catholic writers often failed to distinguish been members of the elect and ordinary believers, referring to all as "bons hommes".

Various other names were used for Gnostic Dualist sects, that we would call Cathars and they themselves would have called "Good Men". A list of these names is given below:

 

 

 

 

Cathars and variations,
Cathari, Kathari, Catari, Ketzer

 

The name Cathar is widely claimed to derive from the Greek word Katharoi meaning "the pure". Many scholars assert that the name was initially used by Cathar believers of the inner Elect, and that it was later extended to the whole body of believers.

The term was first used (in Germany) by Eckbert, Abbot of the double abbey of Schönau around 1163, apparently based on the bizarre idea that they, like other heretics, performed obscene acts with cats. This was a common and apparently unfounded accusation of Medieval Catholics against anyone that they regarded as heretical.

But everyone who knew the Cathars and their simple asceticism assumed that the word derived from katharos, the Greek for pure. The Cathars, French Cathares, Latin Cathari, rarely called themselves by any of these names.

Medieval Italian Catholic writers like Moneta and Sacchoni use the word, and the German form Ketzer became a general term for any supposed heretic.

What to call those who had undergone the Consolamentum is something of a problem.  "Elect" is a good a term as any other, though Cathars never called themselves by this name either. The main problem is that it is awkward to use when referring to a single member of the Elect.  At the time, members of the Elect were generally known as boni homines (French Bonnes hommes, English Good men).  Of these boni homines is unfamiliar in English. Bonneshommes is a common name in modern works on the subject, but it tends to give the misleading impression that they and their followers were French, or at least French speaking, which of course they were not. Similarly women members of the Elect were bonnes femmes "good women" - or often just men and women together were "good Christians".

The Roman Church regarded them as perfect heretics (ie complete or finished) heretics, from which they are sometimes called Perfecti or Perfects, or in French Parfaits (male) and Parfaites (female).   The terms Perfect, Parfit and Parfait are now widely used. But Perfect suggests, in English, pretensions that they did not have, and Parfit is just an old fashioned version of the same word. So, despite its French origins, the term Parfait is used on this website to denote a member of the Elect.

It is often claimed that the name derives from Hereticus Perfectus, a phrase denoting a "completed Heretic" ie an initiated Cathar. This does not appear to be true. A curious fact (which I have not seen referenced in any previous work) is that the early Christians appear to have referred to the progressing in knowledge of the faith as a processes of perfecting (ie completing). Here for example is one of the most respected Church Fathers, Clement of Alexandria (c.150 - 215). The passage comes from a letter explaining why certain passages from the Mark gospel had been suppressed (to give the version we are familiar with today), but for present purposes the point is his use of the term "perfected". The fact that it occurs in this context along with the word "gnosis" is astonishing.

During Peter’s stay in Rome he wrote an account of the Lord’s doings, not however declaring all of them, nor yet hinting at the secret ones, but selecting those he thought most useful for increasing the faith of those who were being instructed. But when Peter died as a martyr, Mark came over to Alexandria, bringing his own notes and those of Peter, from which he transferred to his former book the things suitable to whatever makes for progress towards gnosis. Thus he composed a more spiritual gospel for the use of those who were being perfected…

 

English translation from Toy, What are Apocryphal Writings, p19. For more on this see Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel ( London, 1974).

 

Clement seems to be confirming that early Church practices were identical to Cathar ones - where Perfected adherents were those who had completed their training in gnosis, the secret knowledge of the Gnostics, which was deliberately kept from the mass of the faithful.

The idea is also present in the gospels. When a rich young man asks what more he must do to achieve eternal life, according to Matthew 19:21, Jesus answers "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me" [my emphasis].

When administrating the Consolamentum, the Parfaits were sometimes known as Soul Collectors by other Cathars.

Ordinary believers were variously known as believers (credentes) and less involved listeners (auditores).

 

Their heresy - as Roman Catholics saw it - was "The Great Heresy".

For those interested in the question of the name Cathar and its connection with the Greek word Katharos (pure), it is an extraordinary fact that in the early third century AD the father of Mani had belonged to a Judaeo-Christian sect known as katharioi [Stoyanov, The Other God, p 102].

Mani, of course, was the founder of Manichaeism, a Dualist system of belief which some think developed into Bogomilism and thence Catharism.

The name Cathari had also been used by Novation sects of Anatolia in the fourth century - see for example Epiphanius, Adversus Haereses, (edited by Oehler, Berlin 1859) p 505. Significantly, perhaps, the Novations, well known Gnostic Dualists, were condemned by the victorious party that we call "orthodox" at the Council of Nicea in 325 (Cannon 8 " Concerning those who have given themselves the name of Novations...."). In other words, it seems that self professed Cathars, with fully developed Gnostic Dualist ideas, were already in existence when the first "Orthodox" Church Council met to start the long process of hammering out its own version of orthodoxy.

 

Tours of Cathar Castles & Cathar Country

 

Devil and the cat worshippers kissing the cat’s backside. Jean Tinctor, Traittié du crisme de vauderie (Sermo contra sectam vaudensium), Bruges ca. 1470-1480 (Paris, BnF, Français 961, fol. 1r). Like Cathars, any group considered heretical were accused by the Catholic Church of worshipping cats. Here Waldensians are shown queuing up to kiss the rear end of a cat.

 

Dominic Guzmán (later Saint Dominic) bravely seeing off a malodorous, black, catlike, demonic apparition of terrific size with savage eyes and formidable claws - which escapes up the bell-rope. This miracle supposedly caused nine women to renounce their Cathar beliefs.
Vincent of Beauvais, Le Miroir Historial (French translation of Jean de Vignay), Paris 1400-1410. Den Haag, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, 72 A 24, fol. 313v

 
 

Alternative Names for Cathars

 

Patarenes and variants of the word: Patareni, Paterini, Patrini, Paterelli, Patalini. The word seems to have originally been used in the early eleventh century for a reforming part in the church of Milan, but was soon transferred to Cathars. It became the standard name in Dalmatia and was used extensively in Italy especially after the thirteenth century. In both places it was used indiscriminately for local Cathars and those from Bosnia.

 

Manichaeans: a reference to an ancient Dualist synthetic religion founded by Mani in the fourth century. Aurelius Augustinus, later St Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430) had been a Manichaean but he left when he realised that he was not going to advance in the hierarchy. He therefore transferred to the branch of the Christian Church that developed into the Roman Catholic Church - bringing some Manichaean ideas with him, but leaving detailed denunciations of others in his writings. When later scholars read his works and compared Manichaean beliefs with contemporary Cathar beliefs they deduced that Cathars were Manichaeans, and adopted the term to describe them. It is more than possible that they were wrong and that Manichaeans and Cathars shares a common Gnostic Dualist Christian ancestor sect.

More on the Manichaeans

 

Tixerands with variations Textores, Tisserands and Tisseyres. The reference of to Weavers and other cloth workers. Cathar Elders often earned their living by weaving, and it is likely that cloth merchants introduced Cathar ideas to western Europe - they travelled back and forth to the east. As Runciman explains it "Many of the missionaries were itinerant cloth merchants, whose trade was the chief trade that linked Eastern and Western Europe. It was their function to carry the woven silks of Byzantium and the East to the eager markets of the West. They were therefore ideally placed to be the channels of an Eastern faith. From them the residents cloth merchants learnt the doctrine and spread it to the actual weavers. Clothiers' shops were well suited to be centres of heresy, for it was perfectly natural for the women of the district to gather and gossip there" (Runciman, The Medieval Manichee, p 169)

 

Albigenses, Albigensians, Albigeois; The name Albigenses, given to them by the Roman Catholic Council of Tours (1163) was common towards the end of the twelfth century. It comes from the name of the town of Albi (Latin Albiga,) where the Roman Church imagined the heresy to be centred - hence the Albigensian Crusade. Roman Catholic works still favour the name Albigenses or Albigensians for what almost everyone else now calls Cathars. During the wars against the people of the Languedoc geographic names were often used to denote both Cathars and people from the area whether Cathars or not - possibly a deliberate blurring of the distinction between Cathars and Catholic victims of the Crusaders. As well as Albilensian, the words Toulousain and Provençal were used in this way.

 

Paulicians: a reference to an early Gnostic theologian regarded by the Roman Church as a heretic.

 

Publicans: and variants Publicani, Populicani: This term was used in France and especially in Champagne in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. It seems to have started life as a a Latinised version of Paulician, which was misunderstood as a reference to the "Publicans" of the New Testament. It is possible that the word Pauliciani had been picked up by western Crusaders passing through Constantinople and then applied to people back home with surprisingly similar beliefs. By some curious turns Publicani seems to have been distorted into Teleonarii and thence Deonarii to which there are a few references.

 

Piphles, and variants Piphiles and Pifli. This is thought to be yet another improbable corruption of the term Popliocani. It was used extensively in Flanders.

 

Bulgars: variations Bulgari, Bougres, Bugares and Buggers: originally denoting their real or supposed Bulgarian origins - but Catholic propaganda successfully caused the name to be associated with sodomy.

 

Bogomils: a reference to follows of Bogomil - a leader of a sect in the Balkans with very similar Manichaean teachings. This term was used extensively by Bulgarian writers and sometimes by Byzantine writers.

 

Phundaites: The name is derived from the Greek word for a scrip, a reference to the document (presumably the John Gospel) that they were reputed to carry. The term is used only in the works of twelfth century Byzantine writers.

 

Kudgers: a late medieval term apparently for Bogomil believers and derived from a the name of the village of to Kotugeri near Vodena (modern Kaisariana in the Pella Prefecture, near Edessa in Greece).

 

Babuni: a name given to Gnostic Dualists in Serbia and Bosnia, up to the fourteenth century.

 

Concorricii: Cathars from Concoresso (In modern Italy).

 

Garatenses: a term applied to a school of Cathar believers founded by Bishop Garatus in Concoresso (In modern Italy). this is the term used in the famous Liber de Duobus Principiis.

 

Runcarii, with variants Rungarii, Roncaroli, Runkeler. The name was applied to a group of German Cathars in the thirteenth century and is thought to have been a geographical name. The variant Roncaroli was used by Frederick II in his law against heresy (Mansi, Concilia, v xxii, p 590)

 
 
 
 
 

Cathars were known as
Tixerands, Textores, Tisserands and Tisseyres

 

Eastern (Uyghur) Manichaeans writing (with panel inscription in Sogdian). 8th or 9th century Manuscript from Gaochang, on the northern rim of the Taklamakan Desert in what is now Xinjiang, China

 

The (vaguely related) "Cathars" in Star Wars have a cat-like appearance, a curious echo of a Catholic etymological error.

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


GUIDED TOURS OF CATHAR CASTLES OF THE LANGUEDOC

You can join small exclusive guided tours of Cathar Castles
led by an English speaking expert on the Cathars
who lives in the Languedoc
(author of www.cathar.info and www.catharcastles.info )

Selected Cathar Castles. Accommodation provided. Transport Provided.

Cathar Origins, History, Theology.
The Crusade, The Inquisition, and Consequences

Click here to visit the Cathar Country Website for more information

 

Names of Cathar Rites & Ceremonies

 

For Cathar Ceremonies and practices click on the following links:

 

Consolamentum or Consolament, from the Occitan word for "Console" or "Comfort", a reference to the Holy Spirit, identified with the "Paraclete" or Consoler. The Catholic Church referred to this as "heretication".

 

Melhoramentum. A greeting by a Cathar Believer acknowledging Holy Spirit dwelling with the Parfait. Contemporary Catholics imagined that the Believer was "adoring" the Parfait.

 

Apareilementum or Aparelhament or Apparellamentum or Servissi (Service). A monthly Cathar rite involving a public and a solemn General Confession, identical to the earliest form of confession known in the Christian Church. It is given in the Occitan Cathar Ritual (Lyon Ritual). It seems to have been restricted to the Elect.

 

Convenenza or Convenientia from the Occitan words for "Coming Together", a sort of preliminary initiation

 

Endura. A form of suicide or voluntary euthanasia. The Occitan word translates as "fasting", literally "enduring".

 

A modern recreation of the Cathar Ceremony of the Consolamentum

 

 

 

 

 

Further Information on Cathars and Cathar Castles

 

 

 

If you want to cite this website in a book or academic paper, you will need the following information:

Author: James McDonald.
Title: Cathars and Cathar Beliefs in the Languedoc
url: http://www.cathar.info
Date last modified: 15 September 2014

 

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 The Cross of Toulouse. Click to see information about it.

 

Click on the following link for recommended Books on the Cathars Next.

Click on the following link for the (imaginary) role of the Cathars in the various mysteries of the Languedoc Next.


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