From 1209-1229 nobles of northern France were encouraged to wipe out the Catharism abundant in southern France in what is known as the Albigensian Crusade. It all started when a papal legate was murdered while trying to negotiate with Cathar nobles. Lands held by Cathars were offered up as rewards for those nobles willing to take up arms. There were a couple of interesting consequences from this crusade.
- Southern France had a distinct culture and language. In the wake of the crusade, both of these were greatly reduced under stronger influence of the French crown over the area.
- The crusade played a role in the establishment and institutionalization of the Inquisition.
Both of these suggest some very interesting background noise for an Averoigne campaign. First, the language and culture of Averoigne is distinct from the rest of the region. Secondly, Inquisitors tend to be outsiders who have a nationalistic agenda rather than a purely religious one.
Catharism is a dualistic gnostic Christian heresy. Dualism is a belief system that holds that there are two equally powerful deities — one good and one evil. Gnosticism takes on various forms, but there are several characteristics which can be identified as gnostic. In the case of Catharism, they identify the god of the Old Testament as a demiurge — what they term the Rex Mundi — that is in actuality the evil god in their dualistic pantheon. This results in another typical gnostic characteristic — the belief that creation and all matter are fundamentally evil, having been created by the Rex Mundi. As a result, Catharism understands the person of Jesus to be a manifestation of spirit unbound by matter who in no way shape or form became human or died on the Cross.
Of course, these beliefs run counter to Christian orthodoxy which holds that the Trinitarian God is the only God who even has dominion over the devil and his angels; creation was declared very good by God; and Christ definitively became a human being and died on the Cross.
Cathari religious texts included parts of the New Testament (especially the Gospel of John), The Gospel of the Secret Supper (sometimes called John’s Interrogation) and The Book of Two Principles. There is some question as to whether or not the name Cathar was used by the heretical group. More certainly, they referred to themselves as Bons Hommes or Good Men.
Despite this moniker, gnostic theology has some nasty consequences. Since all matter is considered evil, how one treats matter is of little consequence. Thus, extreme asceticism and hedonism are both frequent expressions of gnostic practice. Taking this understanding of material as evil to a logical conclusion, it is possible for gaming purposes to justify torture as a legitimate tool of religious conversion and discipline — to remove dependence upon evil matter.
Therefore, the analogous group for the Cathari (which I am thinking of calling the Oamenbun) would practice extreme asceticism (horse hair shirts being considered mild) who would think nothing of kidnapping and torture as a means of furthering their own agenda. The inner circle of leaders would have secret dens of inequity where all kinds of heinous and hedonistic practices can be found. Most intriguingly, this group would be fervently nationalistic — resisting the influence of non-Averoigne culture and language. This nationalism would earn them wide support among the locals.