This is the Occitan spirit:
On a recent sunny Sunday, about a dozen young men, women and children sat around a wooden table belonging to Cédric Herrou, a 37-year-old farmer, laughing about who would cook that night. It could have been any family-like gathering in the pastoral setting high in the French Alps, just above the border with Italy. But it was not.
A local hero to some, a scofflaw to others, Mr. Herrou, who was arrested in August, had helped his guests — all migrants from Africa — to cross the border into France illegally.
people like Mr. Herrou, who has become the de facto leader of a low-key network of citizen smugglers, are countering police efforts in a quasi-clandestine resistance, angered by what they see as the French government’s inhumane response to the crisis.
“Either I close my eyes, or I don’t,” he said. “These are people with no papers at all. That means they have no protection. I don’t see how we can be inert.”
He takes the migrants to his property, where he has set up two small campers at the back so they can sleep and hide among the silvery olive trees of the Roya Valley. They wander his property with a rare sense of security.
Mr. Herrou estimates that he has helped more than 200 migrants this way. His accomplices in the loose network he informally leads have helped dozens more, sometimes picking up migrants as they straggle up the steep mountain railroad tracks from Italy to France, flattening themselves against the walls of the dark tunnels as the trains pass.
In Breil-sur-Roya, an old French-Italian village of ocher houses in the valley by a quiet lake, Mr. Herrou is something of a celebrity. At the Friday night local council meeting, townspeople clapped him on the back, greeting him warmly. That afternoon he had shared a beer with the town’s Socialist mayor in the main square.
“Yes, of course, we know,” the mayor, André Ipert, said in an interview. “Yes, of course, he is outside the law. This happens in France.”
That very day, three Sudanese migrants had straggled into Breil’s tiny town hall. The mayor did not turn them over to the police.
Others agreed with the assessment, and have done the same.
“We think we are doing what we should do, as citizens,” said Françoise Cotta, a well-known Paris lawyer who lives part time in Breil. She is part of the smugglers’ network. “Down there I am a citizen, and what I do is illegal,” she said. “And I help them.”
In the past I have stated that France is predisposed towards Islamophobia and general xenophobia due to its Carolingian literature. Occitania’s positive attitudes, in contrast, are explicable by not only the fact that Occitania followed Arthurian rather than Carolingian literature, but additionally by the fact that it had a few outright anti-Carolingian legends of its own (which portray Charlemagne as the villain). This had also been a theme of NSDAP literary research:
“The battle these children and their horse Begard waged against Charlemagne impressed me greatly, but I was especially touched by the fate of the horse itself. The noble animal would not sink even under the heaviest load. As long as his master kept on looking at it, the beast could always hold itself above water. But then Reinhold was forced to turn his tear-filled eyes away, and Begard sank. I cried when I thus first discovered how fidelity is rewarded in this world.” – Alfred Rosenberg
What I want to share this time are the Carcassone legends:
In this period, the best known legend of Carcassonne came into existence. The story of Madame Carcas, the wife of the Saraceen Balaak.
“When Charlemagne stood before the gates of Carcassonne with his troops, the castle army existed of only one person, Madame Carcas. She gave the illusion that many men were still on the walls. When Charlemagne wanted to starve the castle, and Dame Carcas heard of his plans, she threw a pig over the wall, filled with sweet corn. This made Charlemagne believe that there was still enough food left, so he packed up and left. On the site of his retrieve, she triumphantly blew her horn (Carcas sonne).”
Another story tells of the presence of sun temples or sun churches, which would have been responsible for the name Carcassonne (Karke Sonne). However, it is more likely that its name is based on the name of the Roman fortress, Carcasso. The connection with the sun temples and a possible Egyptian influence in its Celtic history is now a discussion between scholars.
I believe that people like Herrou and his associates subconsciously see a shadow of Charlemagne in France’s cruelty towards refugees:
and intuitively feel that Occitania is meant to stand against this, hence their willingness to ignore French laws in order to follow their conscience. And, just like Lady Carcas, despite tiny numbers they are making a difference. We need more people like this. If you are out there, please contact us!
(* Note that terror attacks on refugee accomodation have by now become too frequent for us to keep up with, let alone post all the links about, anymore. Our recent lack of blog coverage on far-right terrorism across the EU reflects not absence of incidents, but the overwhelming quantity of them.)