The Albigensians were a religious group of the middle ages that was very similar to the Manicheans. They believed that there existed two gods, one evil and one good, who were constantly fighting. They believed the good god was of spirit, and the bad god was of physical matter. Therefore, all physical matter had to be evil. This meant that one’s physical body was evil, and was a prison for the good soul, which was spirit. Since matter was evil, pregnant women were the ultimate evil because they brought more matter into the world. According to the Albigensians, there was no hope for a woman who died while pregnant.
Because matter was evil, the sacraments of the Catholic Church had to be be rejected, because sacraments were physical signs of God’s grace. Another important idea of the Catholic Church, the Incarnation, was rejected by the Albigensians. The Incarnation was the taking on of a human form by Jesus when he was born. Because, according to the Albigensians, matter and subsequently the human body are evil, God could not have taken on a physical form.
The Albigensians were divided into two groups, the Perfect and the Believers. The Perfect were celibate, and abstained from all animal products. The Believers were regular people who were not required to be celibate, and could eat animal products. When a Believer was about to die, he would be initiated into the Perfect through a ceremony called the Consolomentum. It is hard to believe that this extremely strange and highly unnatural religious sect could gain any followers, but it did. This was probably due to the fact that people were attracted to the highly ascetic lives of the Perfect, in contrast with the much more worldly lives of some of the Catholic clergy.