The Dreamer of the Vine
is a historical novel by Liz Greene, published in 1980, about the life of Nostradamus. Indeed, it is subtitled "A Novel About Nostradamus".
It is relevant to the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau, or perhaps more accurately to the dissemination of the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau, for two reasons. Firstly, because the novel touches upon so many themes - Merovingians, bloodlines, secret societies - and locations - Stenay, Gisors, Rennes-les-Bains, Bezu - that are relevant to various strands of thought about this affair, accurate or otherwise. And also because Liz Greene is - as we discussed briefly on the Forum a while back - the sister of the late Richard Leigh, and was at one stage apparently involved with Michael Baigent, whose photograph of her adorns the back cover of the book. As we all know, Leigh and Baigent were two of the three co-authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
, which was written around the same time as Greene's book, and it would not therefore be unreasonable to presume - although it can only be an assumption, as I can find no useful references to the book, save for a mention in the introduction to the revised edition of HBHG - that there was at least some measure of research collaboration between the authors of the different works.
Subsequent to the book being referred to on the Forum, I acquired a copy, which I have recently read. Although there's likely only a very small number here who have read this book, I thought it was worthy of discussion.
As far as the story is concerned, one could do little better than to repeat the blurb from the cover.
Nostradamus was destined for the Vine from the hour of his birth in 1503, when his grandfather, astrologer and physician to the court of King Rene of Anjou, cast his natal horoscope and saw the awesome potential of his power. When the dream of the lady and the pool first came to him at the age of five he sensed its sanctity and terror, but years passed and the dream recurred many times before his masters unmasked themselves and he became initiate in a mystery which struck at the spiritual and temporal heart of the Rennaissance, and gave the past and the future a new and terrible meaning.
Set amid the splendour and horror of sixteenth century France, this stunning historical novel brilliantly evokes an age in which an illicit society nourished the legacies of Templar and Cathar and found a cunning irony in the legends of the Grail, in which the game of power was ruthlessly played and the stakes were high, and a trusted astrologer at the court of the Valois could be privy to the secret soul of kings.
Nostradamus, astrologer, alchemist, prophet, physician, healer of the plague, tells how he tried to trick the portent of the dream and failed, and learned with much pain to read the fire. As his masters intended he is a mouthpiece, who speaks of the enigmas of the past, the riddles of his own time and foretells our future, in which the Vine still flourishes.
As for Liz Greene, she is an Anglo-American author and astrologer, and according to the little bit about her in the book:
Her characterisations of the true historical persons who appear in The Dreamer of the Vine, including that of Nostradamus, are based upon her own evaluation of their horoscopes, where birth times were available.
A little more on Liz Greene below, from her Wikipedia entry, in which The Dreamer of the Vine
merits a brief mention.
Liz Greene, (born 4th September 1946 in Englewood, New Jersey, USA) is an American-British astrologer and author. She is the sister of the late author Richard Leigh. Her father was born in London, and her mother in the USA.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liz_Greene
Greene has written several astrology books based on Jungian psychology and other forms of depth psychology, contributing to an application of astrology called Psychological astrology. She relocated to the UK, then to Zürich, Switzerland to continue her work. Since 2004 she has again been living in the UK.
In 1985 Greene started co-operating with Alois Treindl, founder of Swiss-based Astrodienst, on development of computer-generated horoscopes, which would present a person with a chart synthesis, simulating Greene's own method of horoscope interpretation during a personal reading. Two years later, in 1987, they presented the Psychological Horoscope Analysis, which was followed by several other interpretations. Greene remains Astrodienst's most popular author.
With Howard Sasportas, Greene co-founded the Centre for Psychological Astrology in London. After Sasportas' death in 1992, astrologer Charles Harvey took over as co-Director, until his death in 2000. Greene continues directing the organisation. In addition, she also directs CPA Press, a publishing company that focuses on specialist astrological works.
Greene has been one of the most persistently popular astrologers of the 20th century. Almost all of her many books remain in print. Greene became quickly famous with the publication, by Weiser, of Saturn: A New Look at an Old Devil, in 1976, in which she applied Jungian psychology to revise the image of Saturn as a planet of misfortune, recasting it in a more Jungian image that has continued to be very popular into the twenty-first century.
Greene wrote a single historical novel in 1980, The Dreamer on the Vine, dealing with the themes of Nostradamus and Jesus bloodline. Nonetheless, her remaining books have been on topics applying principles of psychoanalysis to astrology (Psychological astrology). Many are transcripts of her lectures, and many are co-authored, especially by Howard Sasportas.
In addition to giving frequent lectures and directing a certificate programme in psychological astrology, Greene has continued to produce many books, all of which are now published by her own company, the CPA Press. She has also co-authored, with Juliet Sharman-Burke, a deck of tarot cards, the Mythic Tarot.
Her most influential books include Saturn: A New Look at an Old Devil, and the philosophically-inclined The Astrology of Fate. The Outer Planets & Their Cycles, The Luminaries (with H. Sasportas) and The Dark of the Soul are other examples of her work.
I have no belief, or interest, in astrology, but I was intrigued enough by the connection between Greene's novel and the ideas in HBHG, to want to read it, and having done so, I'm glad that I did.
As a piece of writing it's very accomplished. Liz Greene has the gift of conveying a sense of time and place, and of bringing her characters and the scenarios they inhabit to life. She adopts an elegant and ornate style that seems fitting to the period in which the novel is set, and resists the temptation, to which many writers of historical fiction succumb, of transposing modern 20th century sensibilities onto her characters. Therefore the language she employs, and the minutiae of detail in her vivid descriptive passages, have the ring of authenticity about them.
As far as the accuracy or otherwise of the biographical and wider historical detail is concerned, I am not in a position to judge. From what little I know of the life of Nostradamus, the timeline at least appears to be accurate, as well as the recounting of some of the seer's better known associations. But much of the content of the book is, of course, speculative, if not purely imaginary, based in part, as referenced above, on "information" gleaned from horoscopes. This is very much fiction and not history, but the book nevertheless contains much of interest.
I must admit, I was much more taken with the first half of the novel, with its more intimate detail of Nostradamus the person, than I was with the second half, which is more concerned with the political and dynastic machinations of the day, much of the detail of which passed over my head, and which I found rather confusing. Someone with more knowledge of 16th century French history would doubtless be able to take more from it. I have to confess that when I got to the end I wasn't entirely sure what it had all been about.
But given some of the themes and ideas contained in its pages, there is no question in my mind that this book is relevant to issues periodically under discussion on these boards. Even if many of the novel's ideas have subsequently been discredited, they remain of interest, since they have informed a number of publications, from HBHG to The Da Vinci Code
I would be very interested to hear the thoughts of those who may have read this book. The sort of questions one might consider would include the extent to which it should be read as a companion piece to HBHG, its place in the canon of RLC-related literature, and how effectively its ideas are presented.
Later on, I shall add some further posts, addressing the following themes in the book: Bloodlines, Vines and Viticulture; Plantard and the Prieure de Sion; Black Madonnas; Rennes-les-Bains and Bezu; and Stenay and the Foret de Woevres.