IV: Pathways to the Otherworld

Tales from the Zone, by Richard Stanley. Episode 4.

Image of Uranie
“One cannot hope to penetrate the labyrinth by travelling in a straight line” – Uranie

Keener intellects than mine have been driven to despair, disorder and early sorrow in attempting to chart the Zone’s multidimensional metes and bounds. Simply admitting the place exists or merely entertaining the possibility it might exist runs contrary to common sense and conventional notions of mental hygiene. Thinking about it, even in the most abstract terms is enough to make some folk uneasy as if they are experiencing the symptoms of an incipient migraine. Those of us who have been here long enough to know the Zone’s ways share an unspoken bond as distinct as fellow junkies or jail birds, marked by a knowledge that cannot be unlearned.

Used to be, if you slipped a copy of the soundtrack to ‘DAMIEN: OMEN II’ into your CD player as you pulled out of the rental lot at Carcassonne airport you could, if you cranked the volume, reach the outer edge of the ‘Zone’ by approximately track six (‘Fallen Temple’). Nowadays, the new days, rental cars don’t come with CD players or user friendly tape decks and despite milenials stubbornly insisting you can source any track you need on Spotify, I can never find anything I actually want to hear, let alone a composition that truly fits the bill.  

Some forty clicks south of the airport parking, not far from the Narouze gap that separates the eastern Pyrenees from France’s massif centrale,  lies a remote, all but forgotten region of densely wooded hills and valleys where north, south, east and west meet in mysterious confluence and where the fabric of space-time, the normal rules of cause and effect, indeed the normal physical laws of the universe, seem subtly out of whack. The trees press closer, branches meeting over the narrowing blacktop as you trace the winding course of the Aude towards its headwaters. On the far side of Limoux, a sign on a disused railroad bridge spanning the road, a mosaic depicting the eye of Horus, informs those cognisant to such clues that you have crossed the Zone perimeter and entered the outermost ring of the world’s weirdest geometaphysical onion, a terrestrial labyrinth whose many gateways open on such curious hinges they might as easily deposit you in heaven or hell, paradis or les enfers, depending on your karmic inclination. 

The ‘Zone’ is not large, no more than a hundred and fifty square miles, all told. There is an enduring myth that if you zero the clock before driving the points of the so-called ‘Devil’s Pentagram’, the grand total comes to exactly six hundred and sixty six kilometres but this assumes the region to be far larger than it really is and is based on the false assumption that the devil went metric.  Attempts to map the ‘Zone’ have been ongoing ever since our Cro-Magnon ancestors staggered out of the Pyrenean caves at the end of the last ice age. To date, few have agreed on its actual radiance.  Before the invention of longitude, folk navigated according to something known as the ‘wind flower’ system, essentially a series of hypothetical lines radiating outward from a fixed point, usually a well known city or mountain. Accordingly, Guy-René Doumayrou writing in ‘Géographie Sidérale’ (1975) defined the region as a vast pentagram centred on the magic mountain of Montségur. 

Image of pentagram centred on the magic mountain of Montségur

Personally, I have come to believe the heart of the Zone lies between Montségur in the west and Bugarach in the east, guarded from the outside world by the natural ramparts of Galamus and the gorges of Peyre Lys. This can be readily seen with the naked eye from the ramparts of Montségur where the pattern of electric lights indicates the inroads of the 21st century. Between the two mountains in a great arc encompassing Puivert, Rennes le Chateau and Bézu is a sea of owl haunted darkness whose shadowy hills and glades are effectively western Europe’s last true wilderness area. 

Rustic philosophers have long supposed the region to conceal a terrestrial zodiac ( akin to the notorious ‘Glastonbury Zodiac’) with geofeatures corresponding to star systems just as Montségur supposedly corresponds with Arcturus. Gerard de Sede writing in ‘Le Tresor Maudit de Rennes le Chateau’/ ‘The Cursed Treasure of Rennes Le Chateau’ (1967) describes the venerable master of the castle of Rennes as a man who could find all kinds of animals and mythological peoples in the map and encoded in the names of insignificant villages. Elizabeth van Buren, the wealthy grand daughter of one of America’s least memorable presidents, attempted to codify this vast invisible zodiac in her ground breaking book ‘Refuge of the Apocalypse: Doorway into Other Dimensions’ (1986). Elizabeth believed the Zone’s ultradimensional maze would serve as a sanctuary for a ‘seed group’ of humanity during a coming period of global cataclysm heralded by the so-called ‘Cathar prophecy’ – that after seven centuries the laurel would finally turn green again and the old ways return – a date putatively set for 2021.

Saucer cults flocked to the Zone from the late seventies onwards, setting up 24 hour ‘sky watches’ on its hills, laying out UFO-friendly pictograms in the scrub and formulating elaborate landing protocols in the hope someone might stop by to pick them up. This, however, never happened and by the end of the century the number of reported ‘sightings’ had thinned to a trickle. Elizabeth’s ‘space-time portal’ idea however stuck around 

I had the privilege of meeting Elizabeth not long before her passing and experienced first hand her uncanny ability to discern animals and star systems in practically any abstract pattern. For her, the Zone was the ultimate Rorschach, capable of expressing any form she needed. Elizabeth had recently been found weeping and praying at the bottom of someone’s garden having apparently saved the world by driving a metal spike into the ‘Achilles heel of the Great Bear’, an emotionally cathartic act of earth acupuncture. There were rumours she had suffered a breakdown but rather than bow out quietly, she had come back strong, deciding she was the reincarnation of Joan of Arc and showing up at the Church of Mary Madeleine on Blue Apple Day in full armour, armed with a sword and plush dragon. My late friend Celia Brooke managed to get Elizabeth’s sword away from her and finessed the situation. At least Elizabeth had the breeding and deep pockets to give her fancies flight and somehow stay at large. She bought and restored the ‘Visigoth’ tower at the base of the Rennes plateau, planting a V shaped formation of trees and three hundred and thirty three yellow roses in the shape of a heart as a signal to her space brothers. Most of the flowers died within a couple of weeks despite Celia’s best efforts to water them but the tree formation can still be seen today.

There are those who believe the electro-magnetic fields within the Zone have a deleterious effect on mental and even physical health. Something to do with all that iron in the mountains and all that running water, not to mention the geothermal activity. Others whisper darkly about the unusually high levels of radon exuded by the rocks. Certainly the Zone’s principal cartographers have not been known for their longevity, nor psychological stability.

Image of geometer David Wood

Flamboyant British geometer David Wood surveyed the Zone in the early eighties, publishing his findings in ‘Genisis – the First Book Of Revelations (1985). Wood’s mind wrenching manifesto argues that clues hidden in the natural proportions and ‘sacred geometry’ of the region’s landscape indicate not only extraterrestrial (or ultra-dimensional) intervention, but that mankind itself is the product of alien (essentially Lovecraftian) gods mucking about with recombinant DNA. Wood’s thesis gropes towards expressing a notion believed fairly widely on the ground that the Zone’s topography and physical properties were somehow altered at the dawn of time by advanced beings equipped with some form of magical technology. 

Image of Pentagram and the Meridian

David Wood was independently wealthy and, like Elizabeth, could afford to give full reign to his obsessions. He was a licensed pilot who flew his own light aircraft and an ardent bigamist with two happily cohabiting wives. After charting a vast natural pentagram concealed within the Zone, Wood began to obsessively tease out the geometry in what can only be described as a form of ‘carto-erotic mania’, discovering what he believed to be the sex organs of the gods hidden within the landscape – first the ‘Vagina of Nut’, then the ‘Typhonic Phallus’ and finally the evil ‘Ass of Set’, the whole climaxing in an explicit act of divine ‘topo-bestiality’ that in Wood’s view begat humanity. It’s quite simply one of the strangest books I’ve ever read, unrivalled even by its own direct sequel, ‘Geneset’ (1994), in which Wood argues rather unconvincingly that the world is about to be destroyed by meteorites. Like Elizabeth, he seemed inclined towards the notion that the Zone was a privileged area, offering potential sanctuary from the planetary turmoil to come.

Image. The Vagina of Nut

AS ABOVE: The Vagina of Nut – the psycho-geometry of David Wood – according to Wood’s calculations my current headquarters are positioned within the sanctuary of the ‘Womb of Nut’ – safe and secure from the imaginary ravages of the apocalypse. To the best of my knowledge this is the first time this essential chart, first published in 1985, has been digitised or posted to the internet. Strange as it may seem, these bizarre geomantic calculations really do begin to make a kind of sense once one has fully committed to exploring the labyrinths invisible coils and done the necessary physical and spiritual footwork. I recall gazing from the window of my tower room one morning and realising I was looking straight down the birth canal of the Goddess, viewed from the inside out, quite naturally and what a beautiful, privileged, awe inspiring view it was! 

SO BELOW: The Double Impregnation – the primal act of Creation that begat the ‘Zone’ according to convoluted carto-erotic fantasies of the late British surveyor David Wood

Image. The Double Impregnation

SO BELOW – THE ASS OF SET – possibly the most beautifully, purely deranged moment in David Wood’s calculations comes with the revelation that if you zoom out from the map and look down on the whole range of hills and mountains from above, the region forms the vague outline of a donkey – a beast Wood’s refers to as the ‘evil ass’.  The unfortunate town of Peyrolles is (according to Wood) if not the ‘asshole of the world’, at least the ass’s arse. In subsequent calculations Wood’s attempted to demonstrate that the ass was being anally penetrated at Peyrolles by the ‘Serpente Rouge’ – essentially a cosmo-geographic metaphor for extraterrestrial or utra-dimensional gene splicing allegedly practiced by the ‘Old Ones’ – the inhuman alien gods that supposedly dreamed the world into being and elevated our species from beasthood.  Wood’s process, not to mention his penchant for R-rated, sexually charged esoterica recalls nothing less than an apocalyptic game of ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ – a game in which there are few winners and where humankind is ultimately revealed to be the butt of an indescribable ‘cosmic joke’.


The so-called ‘Rennes pentagram’ documented by Wood would provide the jumping off spot for any number of geomancers and sacred cartographers drawn to the area’s admittedly freaky topography. My own initiator into these mysteries, Uranie, the little sorcerer of the River of Colors, spent his life exploring the Zone’s hypothetical web of geo-telluric currents. He accentuated this was ‘personal research’, work that everyone coming to the Zone should carry out independently if they were to have any chance of finding themselves. 

Uranie was an electrician from Bordeaux who strayed into the Zone at the time of the original Rainbow gatherings and subsequently became deeply enmeshed in its mythology. When I first met him in the summer of 1990, he was selling weed and hand drawn treasure maps at the roadside beneath the plateau. He lived beside Elizabeth Van Buren’s former property at les Labadous and was profoundly influenced by her theories, continuing her research long after her passing. Years of field work and painstaking observation of the seasonal positions of the sun, moon and stars led the former electrician to produce increasingly intimate charts of the terrain, connecting the cosmo-telluric maze’s intricate web of spiritual capacitors as if the entire region were a vast circuit breadboarded by inconceivable, inhuman forces.

Maps of the 'Zone' drafted by the late great Uranie. 1.

As above, so below:  Maps of the ‘Zone’ drafted by the late great Uranie – the little sorcerer of the River of Colours and self-appointed guardian of the Rennes plateau. Without his knowledge and advice my life might have been very different…

Image Maps of the 'Zone' drafted by the late great Uranie. 2.

Perhaps the most essential map of the territories remains the hand drawn chart drafted by Edmond Boudet in 1886 for inclusion in his brother Henri’s book ‘La Vraie Langue Celtique’ or ‘The Cromlechs of Rennes le Bains’. My initiator, Uranie, constantly referred to his battered, densely anotated copy as if it were the veritable ur-text against which he checked his own mystical calculations. Boudet’s inscrutable work claims to be a thesis on Celtic grammar, making the bizarrely fallacious claim that all the place names in the region are essentially derived from English. According to Boudet Pech Cardou, one of the central mountains in the ‘Zone’, is so steep that the ancients could not climb its flanks with their carts so looked at it and asked themselves “Cart how?” Modern historians and archeologists offer the alternative explanation that the mountain is named after the deity Cardea, the Roman ‘Goddess of Hinges’, an altogether more appealing notion. Boudet claimed the name ‘Occitania’ really means the ‘hand that slaps the porpoise’, arguing that the fishermen of the bay of Gascony were the first in Europe to hunt these marine mammals. A porpoise according to Boudet is a ‘sea pig’ or ‘sea hog’ from whence the deranged etymologist extrapolates ‘hog sea hit hand’ as the basis for ‘Occitan’ – a region whose all but vanished language was in truth originally identified by the poet Dante according to its positive particle – Oc. These ‘boudeisms’ do grow on one after a while and help train the mind to recognise the circuitous game play of the ‘phonetic cabbala’ or langue verte. Boudet  tried to have all copies of the book withdrawn and destroyed before his passing but it has subsequently been reprinted and translated into English. 

Many researchers believe Boudet’s book to be encrypted and have wasted long years on valiant efforts to decode it. Uranie rightly insisted any efforts to translate the book were futile given they break the link with the phonetic cabbala and render the text’s true meaning inaccessible. I wish I could have gotten my hands on Uranie’s annotated copy of Boudet’s baffling opus but sadly it was burned by his sister after the little sorcerer’s passing four seasons ago and no record of his copious notes remains.

Boudet’s chart alone displays the position of the two ‘Cughlou’s on either side of the river, one at Hercule’s Head and a second above les Cloutets. It is an indispensable guide to the many rock formations surrounding the Salz valley, natural, manmade or otherwise and displays a number of other geo-features absent from modern ordinance survey maps – notably Cap de l’homme and ‘Pla de las Burgos’ or ‘Pla de Brujos’ – the place of the witches from whence flows the stream know as the ‘breiche’ ( ‘breach’ or ‘crack’ – alternatively from ‘breicho‘ or sorcerer – commonly a male warlock). 

Having chosen to winter at the base of this stream in the stone tower that has become my headquarters, I find myself safe and secure in the very heart of the ‘Zone’, presumably in exactly the place I was always supposed to be at this point in life’s mandala.

Beyond the tower, the Zone awaits…

Image. Rennes Celtique.vectorielle.

A note from the editor.

Thank you for reading the Richard Stanley blog, Tales from the Zone, a journal that will give outsiders some small insight into our day to day lives in the valleys of French Occitania. Please NOTE these entries are meant to be experienced in order. If you only just found this blog, you can begin reading from the start: Halloween. You can also find Richard Stanley on Twitter, and Facebook. However, Tales from the Zone are only published here.

If you want to support this blog, you can do say via PayPal donations.

5 thoughts on “IV: Pathways to the Otherworld”

  1. so very glad to have you with us Richard to collect together all the findings of these somewhat eccentric people , who flew ‘solo’ , without any care of what others would think of their strangeness – the Zone deserves to be honoured and its particularities passed on for all to explore and wonder at . X

  2. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. Act 1, Hamlet.

    I have ordered the Genesis Volume and look forward to reading it.

    When i visited Carcassonne 3 years ago i went into an antique shop and bought a 20 euro picture of a clown framed.

    I brought it all the back to Scotland and i left the painting in my car along with some designer clothes and Carrie by Stephen King which i had just purchased.

    I got a call the next day to say the car had been set on fire by persons unknown.

    The police a few weeks later and told me that the CCTV footage showed that there was “activity” around the area.

    I always feel sad when items like books or paintings are destroyed.

    Someone creates something that is unique and in moments it can be destroyed.

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