Summer 2007. We slowly drove through the narrow streets of Rennes-les-Bains in the dead of night. The streetlights were dimmed and everything was shut, the town quiet in sleep and in dreaming. We parked the car and started walking up a path into the woods, across the street from the left Bank of the River Sals. Except for the occasional call of an owl, it was strangely silent as we slipped past darkened houses, journeying further in the countryside. Sitting up to the west, on a winding and almost invisible path, lay the large stone known as Fauteuil du Diable or the Devil’s Armchair. Next to it a small circle-shaped spring known as “Source du Cercle” or “Spring of the Circle”. Under the cover of darkness, the Devil’s Armchair took on a formidable presence, dominating the landscape, kind of like a Druidic nemeton, or sacred place or grove.
Taking out the torch to inspect the Devil’s Armchair further, we noticed the strange ankh like symbol carved onto the back of the chair, which we had been told by a young man in Bugarach, was also called the ‘Throne of Isis’. Curiously, the ‘Throne of Isis’ is also known as ‘Isis Ka’aba’, Isis meaning ‘the throne’, and Ka’aba meaning ‘the cube’. If you have had the tenacity to read through the Lachrymae piece you will understand why this name would have caused us some excitement. Ka’aba may have derived from Kubaba, both words mean “cube”, which is the shape of the throne of the goddess. Kubaba was also the original mountain mother, or “meter oerie”, from which we get the name meteorite. Those curious, bleeding stones, the ones that are said to have fallen from heaven and turned from white to black in the process of their descent. Cybele, another “mountain mother”, was said to be venerated by these stones and it may indeed have been her onetime flourishing cults that brought them to the region.
It was some time after midnight when I sat in the Devil’s Armchair and let myself quietly settle in. I could hear noises softly crashing in the forest undergrowth, noises that seemed to be behind us and to the right of the chair, just down at the bottom of the glade. Something was curious and would get close, but never close enough than to see anything more than a brief glimpse of a strangely glowing greenish light and just the barest sense of presence standing there.
I started to drift off, letting my mind shut off trying to sink into whatever it was that I sense all around me. I know that I was not dreaming or asleep, I could still hear the owls, who would make a haunting racket at various intervals. There was a flash, like a projector being turned on, and then we were sitting on the edge of a lake, perfectly smooth like glass, in the morning of a blazingly red sunrise, but the surface of the panorama was flat in shade and tone, more like a picture, or an infernal freeze frame of a film, entirely lifeless. We were in this realm for maybe a minute and then it filtered out and went back to normal, it was night again. The night turned suddenly chilly for late summer as clouds started to obscure the waning moonlight. I looked down at my watch and was shocked to see that two and a half hours had passed in what felt like maybe twenty minutes.
We left silently as the night grew quieter and colder, whatever had been curious to our presence had wandered away back to the shadowland that it came from. Neither one of us could account for the lost time, and I convinced myself that what I had seen was some kind of hypnogogic dream state that I had slipped into. But we had both seem the oddly glowing lights and heard the crashing sounds and neither of us remembered having fallen asleep. We had no rational explanation other than what the time on the watch said and we let it go at that.
There is not that much history on the Devil’s Armchair and in reality I’m not convinced that the stone that sits there today is all that old. The carved stone seems to resemble the Cathedra called the Throne of Saint Vigor in the Church of Bayeux, which dates back to the 6th Century, or the Giant’s Chair on Mount Sipylus, where a large statue of Cybele is situated. I think that what resides there now may be more modern and a cover to something much older and more pagan, but this is just based on a hunch and no real kind of research other than first-hand observable, yet unexplainable weirdness. The whole forest on that side of the valley is dark and tricky, like that haunted forest in a fairytale. Recently, when we were back in the area (June 2009), a friend whom had never been there before went ghostly white and visibly panicked claiming that something unseen had followed us down the hillside. He didn’t return to some semblance of normal until we had reached the brightly-lit safety of the bridges in Rennes-Les-Bains.