Remembering the FEMININE and giving her a voice

It is ever so important and relevant to raise the attention to the limits ofingrained behavior, social and religious inculcation of the feminine and what sheholds and brings.

How the distortions had devastating effects; looking particularly at the middleages and how this played out in fields of art, science and female spirituality.

To recognize the contribution of women from the past, our foremothers,alongside our forefathers, addressing the silencing and giving these women avoice

Searching for these women, briefly recalling them into our consciousness, toremember them, and to honor their achievements. Following my roots in mainlythe western world came naturally and true to my Italian and Germanic heritage.

The aim of this essay is to account for the denial of the feminine, to shine a lighton the devaluation and the utter importance of the inclusion of these women intothe Academic fields of Art Literature, philosophy, mysticism, science and thetraditional arts.

To highlight the imbalance by looking at the truth, by truth I intend theharmonization of the human mind and heart with what is, not the truth definedby political power, religious conviction, common opinion or tradition.

Also bringing in the divine feminine and the sacred marriage in relation to theissues raised and in relation to these times we find ourselves in.

Looking at a broad and diverse mix of literature in the hope to create a threat inthe complexity of the chosen topic, to raise awareness of how crucial theinclusion of feminine consciousness is and to inspire for change.

WOMEN in the Traditional Arts

We automatically assume that man, overlooking and not taking intoconsideration the contribution of women, created art & architecture and science.

Bringing forward and to highlight how women’s involvement was integral to theprocess in the works of art from the Middle Ages, whether together with ordespite the participation of men.

The assumption that anonymous was a man requires a paradigm shift in the waywe approach medieval art. An important point to consider is the reframing of thequestions of women or men, patron or artist.


1“The terminology used in the middle ages, particularly the verb “to make”. Forartist/patron is a false dichotomy, or, at least, a modern one. Such a division isnot made in the terminology of medieval inscriptions- from painting tometalwork to embroideries to buildings- where the verb most often used is“made”(fecit). This word denotes at times the individual whose hands producedthe work, but it can equally refer to the person whose donations made theundertaking possible.” One of the problems today’s scholars must overcome isthe culturally conditioned assumption that the protagonist must have been male,given that women generally held an inferior position in medieval society. StevenH.Rigby wrote in “English Society in the late Middle ages”: All women wereinferior to men of their own class.

We must situate all the players firmly within their historical contexts and pursuenew ways of research for medieval art history. 2”An approach to texts that takescareful account of the strictures of convention, earlier models, and contemporarycircumstances in order to suggest highly probable female actions and behavior.’

The first women I would like to introduce is

AELIA GALLA PLACIDIA (388-450), Ravenna, Italy.

The mother of the Western Roman Empire, Aelia was the daughter of EmperorValentinian I. She was one of the most influential figures of the time. Aelia wasgranted the title of “Nobilissima Puella” the most noble girl and given thetraditional education of noble women, weaving embroidery, as well as possiblyan education in the classics. She married Gaul Atlauf in 414 after the fall of Rome,they had a son who died in 415 eliminating an opportunity for Romano VisgothicLine. In 421 Placidia was proclaimed an Augusta. She was the only Empress inthe West alongside her second husband Constantius III. She was the patron ofthe mausoleum of Galla in Ravenna. The mausoleum is laid out in a cruciformfloor plan, with the central dome on pendetives and barrel vaults. Theiconographic themes developed in the decorations represent the victory ofeternal life over death. She restored and expanded the Basilica of Saint Pauloutside the walls of Rome.3The Roman emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century ADbuilt a temple to the Goddess Venus, which was destroyed and replaced by theChurch of the Holy Sepulchre. Placidia and her Husband were generouscontributors in the restoration work in Jerusalem.

1 Therese Martin, “Reassessing the roles of women as makers of medieval Art&Architecture”,p.2
2 Stafford Pauline.Valerie L.Garver,”Women and Aristocratic Culture in theCarolingian World,p.12

3Martin A, Armstrong.web article Galla Placidia.

THEODORA BYZANTINE Greek empress c.815-867, spouse to Theophilosmediaeval greek.

Theophilos was an iconoclast despite this fact Theodora held fast to theveneration of Icons, keeping them hidden in her chambers in the Imperial palace.Two of her Icons are kept at the Monastry of Vatopedi on Mount Athos, to thisday; sadly there is no access for women. Theodora also intervened to saveLazarus Zographos (icon painter –monk) from further torture from her husband.

4“After the restoration of the Icons in 843 Lazarus was free again to pursue hispaintings. He painted a large Fresco of St.John at the Phoberos Monastry. Thepainted Icon was known to have the power to perform cures and miracles.”

5Aristocratic women could ensure that their personalities and their own wishesand concerns could be expressed through their patronage.

6ELA of SALISBURY (1187-1261) Wiltshire, England When Ela retired shebecame a professed nun. She founded the nunnery Lacock Abbey.

ROESIA DE VERDUN,13th century Ireland, the founder off the priory of GraceDieu in Leicestershire in 1242 she became a nun. She had her own castle buildand it was said that she wore a body armor to fight in battle.

Illuminated Manuscripts commissioned in the 13th Century indicate that halfhave been made for women and half for male religious houses. A point to hold inconsideration is that expenditure by women tended to be included with theirhusband’s expenditures, and only as a widow would their actions as independentindividuals be recorded. Many noble women contributed to the patronage ofTraditional Art.

My search continues in finding women makers ....

The Tapestry of Creation or Girona Tapestry, 11th century Romanesque panel ofexquisite needlework. The panel was created by the female monastery of SantDaniel de Girona in Spain.

Needlework and weaving was an accepted women craft but what about womenin other Traditional Art/ Crafts of the time?

Women in mediaeval and renaissance Europe were legally assumed to be subjectto their fathers, then to their husbands after marriage. 7“Femme sole the term fora single women within the medieval trades. This was usually the widow of atrades man, who was permitted to continue her husbands business andestablished in the rights and privileges of his trade, guild or company. Exeptionsoccurred mainly in trades linked to traditional women’s occupations such ashaberdashery and needlecraft.”

4 O’Connell,”The Painter of Time”, p.24
5Therese Martin, “Reassessing the roles of women as makers of medieval Art &Architecture”, p.565
6 as 5 p.567
7Antonia Frazer, ”The Weaker Vessel”,pp.108-109


In 1256 in Norwich, England , a woman called GUNNILDA is listed as a mason inthe calendar of close rolls.

SABINA VON STEINBACH Alsace, France the daughter of an architect worked onthe Strasbourg Cathedral in the early 14th century as a female stonemason.

PROPEZIA de ROSSI, a sculptor born in Italy in 1490, she trained with the masterengraver Marcantonio Raimondi. She began her career by carving peach stoneswith figures of saints, the fine detail of these small carvings were much praisedby Vasari( Italian painter). Propezia was also known for her marble busts andsculptural decoration of public buildings.

Women were excluded form the Freemasons and Masonic lodges, making itexclusively for men with some exception: Elizabeth Aldworth, ImrenePottornway, Anna Apollina Mariassy, Madame de Xantrailles, Saleme Anderson.

KATHARINE LIGHTFOOT, London 1383, is recorded as the supplier of 2000painted tiles for the King’s Palace.

8“Medieval women and medieval art have shared an unfortunate fate. Both havebeen deprived by historians of the very real power that they may have exertedover human thoughts and actions in their own era. As a field of inquiry, thehistory of medieval women artists and their art invites us to redefine theseproverbial objects as dynamic forces in the medieval past.”

SAFONISBA ANGUISSOLA 1532, Cremona, Italy, educated in literature, music andart she and her sisters were all artists. In 1559 Safonisba became Isabel de Valvispainting instructor and moved to Madrid. She painted portraits, self-portraitsand also religious paintings.

9ONORATA RODIANA c.1450, Italy, a fresco painter/warrior commissioned topaint in the palace of Gabrino Fondulo, Lord of Cremona. Onorata killed acourtier who attempted to rape her and fled the town. She found refuge with aband of professional soldiers and soon took up arms herself. For 30 years, sheoperated as a mercenary, eventually commanding her own troop. She dieddefending her hometown of Castellone against Venetian invaders.

10JOAN of ARC 1412-1431 France daughter of a peasant family. In her visions,Joan was instructed to support CharlesVII to recover France from Englishdomination. She was captured in1430 declared guilty on a variety of charges byCauchon and burned at the stake on the 30th of May 1431, dying at the age of 19.Some of the charges included witchcraft, heresy and dressing like a man. Theexecution conducted by a pro-English church wart overseen by Englishcommanders at Rouen. Joan was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.

8 Lila Yawn-Bonghi, “Medieval Women Artists and Modern Historians”, P.D.F file9 Dinner Party de Rossi,
10 Mc Millan, James F,”Reclaiming a Matyr, French Catholics and the Cult of Joanof Arc,p.359-370


Women in alchemy and sciences

In 1581, the venetian writer MODERATA FORTE, borrowing the imagery ofmetallurgy, wrote of women’s untapped potential in the liberal arts as “buriedgold”, needing only to be unearthed and given the same attention as thatafforded to men. The canonical Gallileo looms large of what has traditionallybeen known as the Scientific Revolution. Acknowledging the work of women toexpand the parameters of early modern science. Still nowadays the sciences aredominated by men and lacking the female input.

11“In the western tradition there is a recognized hierarchy of beings, with ofcourse, the human being on top- the pinnacle of evolution, the darling ofCreation- and the plants at the bottom. In the native way of knowing humanshave the least experience with how to live and thus the most to learn- we mustlook at our teachers among the other species for guidance.12Skywomen bent andspread the mud with her hands across the shell of the turtle. Skywomen’s storyshared by the original peoples throughout the Great Lakes, is a constant star inthe constellation of teachings called the original instructions.” The motherGoddess, who descended to earth by falling through a hole in the sky. In Iroquoisculture, women have long enjoyed equal status to men. Robin Wall Kimmereroutlines the barrier of language and meaning between science and traditionalknowledge, different ways of knowing, different ways of communicating. Herstyle of research are experiments as a kind of listening and translating theconversation, not a discovery but about listening and translating the knowledgeof other beings.13 Kimmerer says: ”Getting Scientists to consider the validity ofindigenous knowledge is like swimming upstream in cold water. Theconditioning to be skeptical of even the hardest of hard data that bending theirminds toward theories that are verified without graphs or equations is tough.Science has covered the market on truth and there is not much room fordiscussion. The practice of doing real science brings the questioner intounparalleled intimacy with nature.” I will further discuss this intimacy in adifferent context.

It is not Science itself but the scientific world view, the illusion of dominance andcontrol, the separation of knowledge and responsibility.14”Scholars have beganto restore vital aspects of women’s scientific activity to the historical records,particularly in regards to medicine. In renaissance Italy work on nunapothecaries, noble women healers and female practitioners early modernGermany and France.

11Robin Wall Kimmerer, “Braiding Sweetgrass”, p.912 see footnote 11, p.7
13 as 11+12, p.160

14 Meredith K.Ray, “Daughters of Alchemy”,p.2


15CATERINA SFORZA alchemist (1463-1509) Italy, She says : ”Talc is the star ofthe earth and has gleaming scales, it is found on the isle of Cyprus and its colouris similar to Citrine, in a mass it looks green, and dissolved in air it lookscrystalline, and it has the following virtues, not to mention others not noted inthis book, which will be the alchemists desire to discover.” Caterinasexperiments included instructions for treating ailments ranging from fever,intestinal worms to sciatica creating lip colours, lotions and allegedly producingthe transmutatory philosophers stone quintessence, the elixir thought to cure allillness, protect against disease and prolong youth. Caterina’s recorded writingsin “The Experiments” were passed down to her son from the Medici marriage.Only one copy is extant today, a transcription made for Giovanni dale Bande nereby Lucantonio Cuppano. 553 pages bound in leather, the manuscript waspublished in the 19th century by Pier Desiderio Pasolini.

CATHERINE DE MEDICI (1512-1589) Italy was known for her interest incosmetics as well as alchemy.

MARIA DE MEDICI (1575-1642) Italy established her own laboratory in order toconduct experiments.

ISABELLA CORTESE (1561), she was an Italian alchemist and writer her book“The secrets of lady Isabella” first appeared in print in Venice introducingAlchemy to a wider readership. Isabella asked her readers to keep people awayfrom their alchemical workplace and to burn her book once they had learned allof its secrets.16”One treatment calls for a combination of fixed camphor,quicksilver and sulfur to make a universal medicine through a metaphoricaljoining of mind, body and soul.”

The privileged status of knowledge derived not from study, but from those withthe most direct connection to nature itself. There is no doubt that women are ascapable as men that the patriarchal paradigm need to shift to welcome thematriarchal in creation for a balanced outcome.

15 Giovanni Medici,”Esperimeti de la Sig. Caterina Sforza, p.617-618
16 Moran Bruce, ”Distilling Knowledge: Alchemy, Chemistry and the ScientificRevolution”,pp.60-62


Goddesses and Water

Since the beginning of consciousness, both female and male have walked thepath of return, of recognition and reunion with the source of being. Though inthis world of duality we find ourselves in different forms, ultimately within truth,there is no male or female, only being. This imbalance universal truth is reflectedin our world, turmoil and destruction of Earths sources, exploitation, disease anddisconnection from Source. We can create beautiful art, build beautiful templesand gardens, pray, sing, dance but most importantly we shall not forget ourresponsibility to pay close attention to our internal turmoil’s and how theymanifest. Words are like invocations and by repeating the patriarchal vocabularythe feminine will remain veiled.

The image of the Goddess was prominent 20.000-18.000 BC holding the sacredfeminine and masculine consciousness. Some tribes still honor her and give herher rightful place. I feel it is relevant to look at female spirituality in relation tothe traditional arts, as the silencing of the feminine presence and expression iswoven within it. Journeying back in time into the mythology of the Goddess, herremembrance in the sacred sites and megalithic structures echoing her presence.The sacred marriage between heaven and earth.

17”NAMMU, Goddess of the primordial ocean and sea, whose cult endured formillennia, for the greatest and wisest of the late Sumerian Kings Ur-Nammu
( c.2100BC ), takes her name , calling himself her servant. The Sumeriansbelieved that the primeval sea was the source from which all creation emerged.The source of life is female.”

The imagery of the feminine archetype is there, but there is no actual image ofthe Goddess herself. Only fragments remain of what once was a definitecosmology deriving from the Mother Goddess and from the cosmic union ofGoddess and God.

18‘ The great mother she was called- the builder of that which has breath-thecarpenter of mankind-the carpenter of the heart-the coppersmith of the gods-thecoppersmith of the lands- the lady potter”

INANNA her title “Queen of Heaven and Earth” associated with planet Venus, thelion and the eight pointed star. The triune character of the goddess as MOTHER,BRIDE and SISTER. Her cuneiform logogram INSERT IMAGE resembling the Mfor Mary. 19”Virginity has always been an image belonging to the Great Mother asthe lunar Goddess. The virgin Goddess is life itself, and life, like the cycles of themoon, appears out of itself without union with anything external to itself.” Thevirginity of the Goddess had nothing to do with sexual purity in the sense thathas been given to it in our society.Virginity as a metaphysical dimension,carrying within herself her own fertilizing power, life pours into manifestationfrom the “Sea” of her womb. The symbolism of the womb- the cave- the chalice-wells/springs. In indigenous traditions, it was said the spirit of the living waters

17 Anne Baring&Jules Cashford, “The myth of the Goddess’,p.185-18718 Leonard William King, “Legends of Babylonia”,p.111
19 see 17 p.192


of the Mother’s womb dwelt within wells and was magically accessible tomortals- carrying the codes of life.

Places for pilgrimages, healing, blessings, ritual and divination. Wells as dreamtemples pilgrims would sleep nearby the water in order to receive oraculardreams or visions. Women were the guardians of the wells, sadly many ancientwells have been built over and religious places of worship erected. Themythological story of “The Well Maidens” goes as follows...

There was once a time when the waters were honored and the wells were tendedby the beautiful Well Maidens, who were seen as serving a very importantpurpose. They provided weary travellers with all means of sustenance, not justwater and food to nourish the body, but spiritual connection to all that welledfrom within the earth. Water was perceived as a sacred conduit to this mostpotent of life force, and the well Maidens as the mediator of this power via thegolden cup. All the while the wells were honored and tended by the maidens, andall, the land flourished, cherished the maidens themselves.

But one day everything changed. A king came by who sought not to serve hispeople, as a King ought, but to dominate and control. Instead of acceptinghospitality from the Well Maidens he raped and humiliated them, encouraginghis men to follow his wicked example. Then he tried to take their powers forhimself, taking the golden cup. The Well Maidens withdrew, never to come forthfrom any Wells and serve again. The gift of spiritual nourishment, the very bondbetween the earth and mankind was lost. The Land was wasted.

The story feels so relevant in what happened and to hold nature sacred not toabuse but honor and tend to her mirroring of what happened to the divinefeminine. The term for plants in some native languages is” those who take care ofus” and in return we take care of them. Being embedded in nature means beingclose to the divine- the sacred is directly experienced through creation and canbe understood through observation and communication with the spirits ofnature. Leonardo da Vinci states: ”Water is the driving force of nature” in allcultures water carries knowledge and connects all life. When water emergesfrom underground it is right there where it experiences its first exposure to thelight. This is the water that is thought to be the most sacred, having emergedwith all the resonance of the heart of the earth still within its cells. These sacredsprings may be found in very remote places, and the waters behold healingqualities. When water has flowed over roots, minerals soil and rootsunderground, the energies present in each molecule are bursting withelectromagnetic energy and have not been distorted by human contact or toxicresonance. We live in water in our mother’s womb the Hopi call water our firstfoundation of life. Also water is not merely a terrestrial phenomena connectedwith and influenced by forces and energies arriving from the cosmos. Russianscientist Vladimir Vernadsky noted the cosmic influence upon the earth anddefined the biosphere in which we live as the zone in which energy from thecosmos is received and transformed.


The earliest identified author of either sex in world literature is

ENEDUANNA , daughter of Sumerian king Sargon (ca.2000 BC). Her portrait wasfound on a limestone disc and some of her hymns have survived on uneiform-inscribed tablets during excavations in the city Ur. She was a High priestess inthe service of Nana and Inanna.

HILDERGARD OF BINGEN (1098-1179), Germany a Benedictine abbess, in hervisionary illuminations we see that everything is inseparably connected in thecosmic web of the universe. Hildegard foresees a time when the universe willhave to heal itself by way of natural catastrophes, because humanity hasdamaged and polluted the four elements, fire, air, water and the earth.20A healer ,mystic, prophet and composer and her remedies focus on the illness of humanity(body & mind). Her writings seem timeless her words: 21”Management of angeris the greatest challenge for humanity, because anger destroys not only ourbodies but also life itself- Women may be made from man, but no man can bemade without a women.”

Hildegard’s Antiphon for Divine WisdomSophia!
You are the whirling wings,
Circling encompassing

Energy of God

You quicken the world in your clasp

One wing soars in heaven

One wing sweeps the earth

And the third flies all around us

Praise to Sophia

Let all the earth praise her

( Barbara Newman)

22‘Hildegard preached publicly, which did not fit the stereotype of her time,mainly denouncing clerical corruption and calling for reform.’

20 Dr.Wighard Strehlow,”Hildegard of Bingen’s Spiritual Remedies”,p.1121 as ft 20 p.93
22 Rosemary Radford, ”Visionary Women”, pp.28-29


ELIZABETH OF SCHOENAU (1129-1164) Germany, much less known thenHildegard, Elizabeth was also a Benedictine visionary. She wrote her vision onwax tablets creating three books: Visions, Liber Viarum Dei and The revelationon the martyrdom of St.Ursula.

SAINT URSULA 10th century England and Germany , her cult of martyred virgins,evidence found in Cologne in the church named after her in 400 Ad

23MECHTHILD OF MAGDEBURG (c.1200) Germany, she saw “all things in God,and God in all things.” Mechthild entered a local house of Beguines, independentcommunities of laywomen devoted to leading a life of good works, poverty,chastity and spiritual practice.

And God said to the Soul

I desired you before the world began

I desire you now

As you desire me

And where the desires of two come together

There Love is perfected

( Oliver Davies)

In her poetry, as in that of many other women from many different traditions, wefind the encounter between self and self depicted as a relationship of lovers.”

CATHERINE OF SIENA (1347-1380) Italy, daughter of Jacobo Benincasa a clothdyer in Siena. Her prayers were recorded by those who were present when shespoke them. Catherine often entered into an ecstatic trance state before orduring the course of her meditations.

24“ We were enclosed
O eternal Father
Within the garden of your breast
You drew us out of our holy mind
Like a flower
Petaled with our souls three powers
And into each power
You put a whole plant
So that they might bear fruit in your garden ....

23Jane Hirschfield, ”Women in praise of the Sacred”,p.3; p.8524 see ft 23 p.117


The regulation of sanctity and Female Spirituality

From women patrons to artist and craftswomen, to alchemists, saints andmystics, the ones featured, the fortunate ones, whose gifts have been recorded.Through the trajectory of female spirituality in high and later Middle Ages manymothers, sisters and daughters were killed. The regulation of sanctity and theinquisitional procedure, as an instrument for assessing and proving, theauthenticity of women’s spiritual lives. For the purpose of establishing theveracity of both sanctity and heresy, casting doubt on mystical experiences andimplementing dreadful accusations and murders. Obstinate avoidance of regularsacramental confession was corrected by a judicious application of torture,which in turn produced spontaneous confession. Witchcraft accusations werenever more then a political move to undermine and strip people of their power.An estimate of 40.000-60.000 women and girls were put to death for witchcraft.Gerson’s text “De Examinatione Doctrinarum” discredits ascetic women, a broadeffort by the male clergy to establish their authority over religious practices andbeliefs. These treaties are openly misogynistic and the effect of which caused achain reaction, can still be felt in our society today.

The sacred marriage

The flowering of civilization in the 12th Century in France under the gentletutelage of “our Lady” encouraged the pursuit of astronomy, mathematics,medicine, mysticism, art and architecture. These disciplines, which included theancient practice of sacred geometry, were greatly enhanced by contact with thehighly developed civilization of Islam.

In the 12th Century in southern France an awakening from the dark agesoccurred. The cross-fertilization of ideas of the East and West and the rise ofcraftspeople. A growing appreciation of the feminine a refreshing change to themisogyny attitude. The Provence had been the center of a cult of MARYMAGDALENE for centuries, as witness the numerous chapels, fountains, springsand other geographical landmarks in the region that bear her name. Themysticism around ‘Our Lady’ and of the feminine held alight within the KnightTemplars.25 ”The mediaeval school of Chartres, which became a noted center ofenlightenment, the seat of a cult of ‘Maria-Sophia’ goddess of wisdom. Thepresent cathedral built between 1194-1220 over the sacred grotto containing‘Our Lady under the Earth’ to the doctrine of perfect balance and harmony.”Louis Charpentier, a scholar –mystic who studied Chartres in depth, believes thatthe order of the Knights of the Temple were behind the financing of theconstruction.26 “Guilds of stonemasons were formed to implement their designs.These masons are said to have built the tenets of their faith into the Cathedrals, afaith that was expressed through the language of geometry and symbolism.” Thespirit that had inspired the arts and architecture departed after 1250, parallel to

25 Margaret Starbird, “The Women with the Alabastr Jar”, p.7926 see ft 26, p.80


the rising power of the inquisitors, the destruction of the Cathar fortress ofMontsegur.

The attempt thereafter to restore the feminine was severely constrained, andmystics, artists and scientists of the heretical church were forced o pursue theirinterest in secrecy. Many monuments still give witness to the enlightenedmentality of their architects and builders like the Church of San Miniato built in1207 Florence, Italy. 27”The church has a zodiac mosaic in the marble floor and acoded inscription that shows that the church was deliberately orientated towarda rare ‘Stellium’, which was the conjunction of the planets Mercury, Venus andSaturn in the sign of Taurus that occurred at the end of May in 1207. That such
an accuracy of alignment was possible indicates that the secret wisdom of theancients was available.” Sacred geometry reflecting the order of the heavenlybodies is an ancient art and science that was practiced openly in templearchitecture in the west until the inquisition. It seems many theologians andphilosophers of the middle ages were aware of the need to restore the neglectedfeminine principle to the celestial paradigm in order to restore balance to society.

We are in the midst of tremendous turmoil and disconnection, at tipping point ofthe choices we as humanity are making. This is reflected all around us in the artsand collective well-being. The loss of the feminine counterpart of God that causesthe wound that does not heal, the stricken wasteland reflects the woundedness.The restoration can only happen when the right questions are being asked.

Perceiving danger in allowing rumor of Jesus’s marriage and alleged bloodline tocirculate, which was prominently held in the south of France, the Church of
Rome moved quickly and firmly in the 13th Century. Ensuring that “Our Lady”was the mother of Jesus and not his wife, who was venerated by the faithful.While the Virgin Mary adequately represents the maternal aspect of the feminine,the doctrine of her perpetual virginity implicitly denies the aspect of wife.28”Wemight understand ‘virgin’ to mean a soul who cannot be penetrated by themarauding forces of adversarial darkness, which constantly circulate theindividual. The term virgin, does not relate to sexuality it is about choices madefrom the heart, acts of love whatever the prevailing circumstances.” Divine as hismother is, it is clear that someone very real and precious is missing from theChristian story MARY MAGDALENE, the bride not prostitute. Her story so hiddenand denied for centuries only kept alive through secret spiritual movements andthe symbolism of the initiated.

The Hieros Gamos the ritual union or sacred marriage

During sexual conjoinment, the male becomes inundated with the spirit of Godand the female with the spirit of Goddess, the two aspects which dwell within the

27 Fred Gettings,”The secret Zodiac”,
28 Clare Nahmad& Margaret Bailey,”The secret teachings of MaryMagdalene”,p.68


Godhead. Each fecundates the other with the opposite quality so that in spiritthey become one entity. The cosmic principle, of the harmony of male and femaleenergies.

Looking at the restoration of the Bride (or feminine principle), the union of spiritand matter, and the missing piece of an ancient paradigm for wholeness. Theimbalance of our fundamental institutions reflecting a father God at the peak ofan all male trinity has had devastating effects on the western world.

Aquarius, the water carrier, the coming of age whose symbol prophesies thedissolution of the patriarchal establishment by means of the ‘water’ of thefeminine (mare, madre) and the spirit of truth. Looking at heretical art and theirsymbols, as the mediaeval masters employed and carefully put there to convey ameaning. The interpretations vary especially how the Orthodox Church describesand adopted them.

Fra Angelico uses esoteric symbolism, in one of his paintings of the Madonna andChild, Mary is holding two roses, one red one white, the colors of the Sister-Bride(Mary Magdalene). Red representing passion and white purity.

Piero della Francesca painted the Magdalene in a gown of green, the color offertility. Over the green gown she wears a red cloak that is folded back displayingan accentuated white lining. The inquisition strictly forbid the paintings ofMadonna wearing red and that all paintings of the ‘Virgin Mary’ would berendered in blue and white, acknowledging the sister and mother aspect butdenying the third aspect of the bridal or flesh and blood sexual aspect of theeternal feminine. The tri color red- blue- white, its origins older then recordedhistory. The triple Goddess – maiden (sister)-bride-crone.

The search guided me along a journey like following a thin thread, which madethe topics appear and sometimes take unexpected turns. Shining a light in somedark corners we are still avoiding. May the well maidens come forth again MAYTHE BALANCE be reestablished may we have an awareness of our responsibilityin its creation.


Selected Bibliography

Armstrong Martin A, .web article Galla Placidia.

Baring Anne & Cashford Jules. The myth of the Goddess’ evolution of an image.’Penguin 1993

Bailey Margaret & Nahmad Claire. The secret teachings of Mary Magdalene.Watkins 2006

Bartlett Robert Allen. Real alchemy’ A Primer of Practical Alchemy’. Third EditionIbis Press 2009

Burckhardt Titus. Siena City of the Virgin. World Wisdom 2008

Cambell Joseph. Goddesses ‘Mysteries of the Feminine Divine’.New WorldLibrary 2013

Eco Umberto. Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages. Yale University Press 1986Elliot Dyan. Proving Women. Princeton University Press 2004
Fraser Antonia. The Weaker Vessel. Phoenix 2009
Gettings Fred. The Secret Zodiac. Routledge 1987

Helminski Camille Adams. Women of Sufism. Shambhala 2003

Hirschfield Jane. Women in Praise of the Sacred. Harper Collins 1994

Keeble Brian. Every Man an Artist.World Wisdom 2005

King L.W. Legends of Babylon. Oxford University Press 1918

Kimmerer Robin Wall. Braiding Sweetgrass’ Indigenous wisdom, scientificknowledge, and the teaching of plants.’ Milk Weed Editions 2013

Martin Therese. Reassessing the roles of women as ‘Makers of medieval Art &Architecture’ .Leiden and Boston: Brill 2012. Paperback edition 2015

McMillan James F. Reclaiming A Martyr: French Catholics and the Cult of Joan ofArc, 1890-1920. Online Cambridge University Press 2016

Moran Bruce T. Alchemy , Chemistry and the Scientific Revolution.HarvardUniversity Press 2006

O’Connell Matthew. The Painter of Time. Station square 2015

Ray Meredith K. Daughters of Alchemy ’Women and scientific culture in earlymodern Italy’. Hayward College publication 2015

Rossi Aldo.Medici Giovanni.Esperimenti de la Sig.Caterina Sforza. Castel Negrino14

Ruether Radford Rosemary. Visionary Women. Fortress Press 2001

Schuon Frithjof. The Feathered Sun: plains Indians in art and philosophy. WorldWisdom Books 1990

Dr. Strehlow Wighard. Hildergard of Bingen’ Spiritual Remedies’ Healing ArtsPress 2002

Starbird Margaret. The Women with the Alabastar Jar. Bear 7 Company 1993

Stafford Pauline. Valerie L. Garver. Women and Aristocratic Culture in theCarolingian World.Ithaca: Cornell University Press 2009

Watterson Megan. Mary Magdalene Revealed. Hay House 2019

Yawn-Bonghi Lila, “Medieval Women Artists and Modern Historians”, 1991


Selected Images

Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna

The Tapestry of Creation


Sabina von Steinbach Strasbourg Cathedral

Clavis Artis Manuscript


Hildegard of Bingen


Zoroaster Manuscript


Piero della Francesca Mary Magdalene


Black Madonna Icon original by Luke the Evangelist


Sacred Well of Santa Cristina , Sardegna, Italy


Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, 5tth!Century, Ravenna View from the entrance corridor

The Tapestry of Creation,11th Century, Museum of The Cathedral of Girona

Sabina von Steinbach 13th Century, Strasbourg Cathedral

Clavis Artis,                                                       17th Century , Alchemical Manuscript

Hildegard of Bingen, The Fountain of Life, 12th Century, The Hildegard Museum

Zoroaster Manuscript, 17th century, India, British Library

Piero della Francesca,                                  Mary Magdalene,1460,                          Cathedral di Ss.Donato e Pietro, Arezzo, Italy

Black Madonna Icon                                original by Luke the Evangelist 

Ancient sacred well of Santa Cristina, Sardegna , Italy

Sacred Art ,traditional art, religious art ,profane art-
Is there a difference between sacred art and religious art, and if so what is the difference?

I choose the above question, as it is something, which has been part of mylife long journey of questioning and soul search.

The lack of equilibrium and the enforcement of doctrines, themale thirst for power, eliminating the divine feminine as an essential aspectof the union.

God named as he, mans ego and the greed for power andrecognition and this also being mirrored in the arts within the collective.

But the divine Beauty all-inclusive ever present preservedin secret for the fear of extinction echoes hope within the traditions.

Hierarchies were established and religions created andalongside religious art.

All focus on the above, imbued with fear, a guilt andobedience, the divine outside of ourselves. The notion on keeping spiritualconnection through distorted implemented dogmas separates religious art fromsacred art in my view as it is fuelled by fear not love, obviously always withexceptions.

The threads to our ancestors and traditions is transmitted,unchangeable and the divine eternally present the messages carried through theages hidden in a universal understanding through symbolism as the unifyingtruth.

The moment I enter a religious place there is an immediateintuitive feeling of either being held and connected or in discomfort. This isprior to looking at the detail but taking it in as a whole.

The literature I have been suggested, solely male writers Iwish to note here. The choice of (out-dated) language belonging to a paradigmof division and judgement cast on the subjects of religious-sacred-traditionaland profane art.

Who makes the decision? Who is the judge in the matter?

Can this be put into pretentious writings with far too manywords not really getting to the source? Can these words even remotely touchupon the essence and feeling of how we experience the divine. May this be bylooking at an object, piece of art or architecture?

Looking at these terms closely and reading many differentaccounts on the subjects, I encountered a certain resistance, trying to find athread to my own feelings, admits the confusion created by the personal viewpoints of the writers.

The variations of descriptions so full of judgement andopinion, I found it hard to extract the universal truth I resonate with. Toexplore this I will look at the pieces which I feel best represent these termsto me and how this collection of work connect, define and are different fromeach other by the blurring of perceptions, definitions and categorization.

I had to go back to the beginning when humans first walkedon this earth. The Neolithic/Paleolithic times what these people our ancestorsleft as their collective belief discovered in the cave paintings and artefactsthey created.

Under the subject of sacred art I look at

The Palaeolithic mother goddess “The Venus of Willendorf”found in Austria dating back 20 000- 18 000 BC.

Embodying the sacred feminine, the figurine carved inLimestone represents the heaven and earth connection beautifully.

Her swollen breasts like galaxies hanging heavy towards theearth.

“The lines etched around herbreasts and the horizontal lines beneath them direct attention to the sacredsource.”[1]

Seven strata layered around the round head.

Seven circles –the sum of the spiritual 3 and material 4 is7, the trivium and quadrivium, the seven subjects of the liberal arts, sevennotes in a scale the seven days of the week, the seven visible planets, sevenpaths to heaven just a few of the affiliations to the number 7.

The Goddess embodying female and male in unity, as thecreative force of life.

She is laden with symbolism, the 11cm figurine made fromlimestone, which has its own significance in which I will be referring to morein detail later on.

For our Neolithic ancestors everything was sacred theirclose connection to the divine embodied in their creations, pregnant withuniversal truths.

Through observation of the moon cycles, nature and theanimals in harmony and unity with all and as direct teachings.

Next I choose the “Animal Shaman” from Les Trois Freres cavein Ariege, France, 13,000 BCE.

The first thought which springs into my mind is: Could thisbe the first icon painting?

Painted in black in contrast to the red ochre images on thecave wall, she/he stands out amongst them.

“The Shaman through theirtrance flights visited a dimension inaccessible to ordinary tribalconsciousness, believing that the living visible world rests on the invisibleworld. Palaeolithic people, living amongst the animals, would have known, asthe bushman know, that the animals had superior powers.”[2]

Here a visualization of the above about shape shifting intoanimal form to gain contact and teachings from the beyond.

“When man sought to know howhe/she should live, they went into solitude and cried until in vision someanimals bought wisdom to them. It was the Great Spirit, in truth, who senthis/her message through the animals. He/she never spoke to the peoplehim/herself, but gave command to beast or bird, and this one came to somechosen wo/man and taught them holy things. Thus were the sacred songs andceremonial dances given through the animals.’[3]

In the “Animal Shaman “painting, the focus lies on thenuminous eyes, the expression of gazing at you and beyond, as from a differentdimension.

The same concept as within iconography but would this beseen as sacred in the Christian religious art or labelled as blasphemy?

From the caves we moves on to the land in search of waterand formed communities and within them traditions were born.

Inuit people, Native Americans, Siberian shamans the threadto their ancestors unbroken. Living on the land in harmony with nature respectingher sacredness with the guidance of the Great Spirit from above.

All is a manifestation of the divine and therefore honoured.

Mongolian Shaman with his drum

Under the subject of traditional art I chose the shamans drum,a sacred instrument used for healing and transformation.

Drumming mirrors the heartbeat of the Earth and our hearts.

The monotonous beats evoking altered states to access thehealing and wisdom from the beyond.

The creation of the drum is a ritual in itself, weavingintentions and prayers into the making. The animal chosen for the hide addsspecial powers and properties.

Painted in ochre with images full of symbolism.

“If religion means spirituality, then primordial man was theembodiment of religion.

But if this word be understood strictly in it’s etymologicalsense he cannot be said to have any religion, for there is clearly no need tore-establish a connection which has never been impaired.”[4]

Symbols a reflection of the higher realities a transmissionof the divine essence.

The American Indians sacred objects and ritual clothing, asembodiment of their beliefs and taking a closer look on some of their symbolismand meaning.

Painting motifs for protection on their hides others toevoke and honour the connection to the Great Spirit and the cosmos.

Animals - as theirguardian spirits

The Sun - as providerof light and heat and facilitator for growth

The Cross- the fourcardinal points

Birds - as messengers

Water - to purify –fertility and life

Air/Wind -communication between the lands of the spirit and theirs

Fire/Smoke - asmessenger transformer and cleansing

Stars - as theircosmic heritage and ancestors

Eagle - communicatorto the divine and his ability to see things from above and rise.

The bird messengers are found as angels in pretty much allreligions.

These are just a few examples the list goes on and variesfrom tribe to tribe.

The drum is found in many different cultures if not all andthe tradition of making or birthing the drum very present today. The longing toconnect.

We often read and speak about the renaissance, as being thetime of the collective disconnection.

Personally I feel this happened much earlier….

The sacred marriage between goddess and god were representedin unity in the

 “Neolithic times within the goddess until theseparation into goddess and god around the sixth millennia BC.

With the arrival of theKurgan Tribes things changed , the cyclical lunar imagery of the peacefulgoddess culture was slowly replaced by male deities and solar mythology. Thesacred marriage endured for 5000 years until it formally died with Hebrew andChristian monotheism.” [5]

 “The desert fathers (and mothers) had no need ofcolonnades and stained glass windows, but on the other hand those who todaydespise sacred art in the name of “Pure Spirit” are the very people who leastunderstand it and have most need of it. Be this as it may, nothing noble canever be lost”[6]

Examples of what I see and feel as sacred religious art.

The cathedral of Chartres build upon the sacred site onceworshipped by the Druids sat upon the limestone plains of La Beauce in France.

The same stone our first goddess figurine was carved from.

The combination of Limestone and Granite chosen for manysacred sites like a marriage of cosmic and earthly forces.

Limestone embodies the gravitational pull downwards whereasgranite expanses upwards.

Many druidic sites where chosen by Christians to build theirCathedrals and churches upon, due to their positioning and qualities of theland and the above constellations.

Joseph of Arimathea was moved by the worship of the Black Madonnaand dedicated the place to the Mother of Jesus.

“Chartres tells a story allit’s own about the ancients, for no school in the middle ages held them ingreater esteem then the school of Chartres.”[7]

“Followingancient tradition, Dante, in his "Convivio", compares the sevenliberal arts to the seven planets, grammar corresponding to the moon, logic toMercury, rhetoric to Venus, arithmetic to the sun, music to Mars, geometry toJupiter, and astronomy to Saturn. The creators of the Royal Door of Chartreswere certainly aware of this correspondence. It is thus doubly significant thaton the tympanum of the left of the three doors the signs of thezodiac are portrayed. These belong to the unchanging heaven of fixed stars andthus represent, the kingdom of the Divine Spirit, to Whom thisdoor, with its representation of the ascension of Christ, is dedicated. Theseven planets, on the other hand, govern, according to the ancient viewpoint,the world of the soul. And Mary is the human soul in all its perfection.”[8]

Hereagain an allegory to the number 7 as seen in the seven strata around the headof the Venus from Willendorf.

“Cosmographia the sense of the earth as a living being by BernadusSilvestries found in the stone carvings and stained glass mirrored in theiconography of the cathedral. Never merely copying external appearances andcelebrated the sustaining divine energies in the work of arts. The EasternChristian tradition holds that man can see the uncreated light of divinity onlyby being himself transformed into light.”[9]

Theinspiration and motifs to uplift the mind to the spiritual, a window into thespiritual realm is what sacred art represents. The artist should be humble andnot draw attention to him/herself since the art serves a greater purpose.

Here Iwould like to compare Chartres with the Sundance lodge

Set upin the likeliness of the universe imbued with the same essence as Chartressimple in its form and materials but pregnant with meaning. “Each of the postsrepresents a particular object of creation, so the whole of the circle is theentire creation. The one tree in the centre is where the 28 poles rest upon.

Thenumber 28, 4x7, the moon cycle , the menstrual cycle, days. Each of these polesrepresent something sacred 2 for the great spirit, 2 for mother earth, 4 forthe four winds, 1 for the eagle, 1 for the sun,1for the moon, 1 for the morningstar, 4 for the four ages, 7 for the seven great rites, 1for the buffalo, 1 forthe fire,1 for the rock and the final one for the two legged people.”[10]

Bysetting these two places side by side it is my take on the difference betweenreligious art and sacred art. Religious art uses fine materials, finecraftsmanship prestigious paints and a lot of gold all taken from our sacredearth to make us experience the divine, whereas the divine is imbued within thesundance lodge without the necessity of grandeur.

“The profane or secular artcan be deeply spiritual, but not in the religious sense.”[11]

An example(s) of “profane” pieces of art, which evoke aspiritual connection in me below. Profane in a sense that they have beencreated outside religious settings by individuals , who in my view had a directconnection with the divine.

Black Panther –  MerabAbramishvili- tempera on plywood-2005  image below

This painting evokes strong memories in me, like something Iused to look at as a child.

The black panther signifies protection, strength and powerand was often associated with the goddess in ancient Greece and Egypt. I feel astrong connection with this animal.

 Paradise- Merab Abramishvili-tempera on plywood, 2005 image  below

This piece- in the centre of it all, the beauty of thecolour palette the unity and connection with all of nature and her animals.

                Emma Kunz work nr.392 1956 image below

There is a resonance I have with Emma Kunze’s work, shenever signed her pieces most of these used in her healing the inspirationreceived in a cave near her home in Switzerland. She was a visionary.

We have been conditioned for too long by the illusion ofseparation, the disconnection from our true nature ruled by the patriarchalsystem, a reflection of this by the collective and its arts.

The thread connecting us to the eternal beauty, the unity ofuniversal truths within, found all around us shimmering its frequencies, if wehave the eyes to see and the heart to feel.

The shedding of centuries imbued with distortions andimbalance, to awaken to the divinity within us and through us, as the vesselsof the eternal laws.

Acknowledging and honouring the divine feminine alongsidethe divine masculine within and around us, the cosmos and the earth in itsbeautiful marriage.

We are remembering and illuminating the traditions, whichhave always been present even if veiled and attempted to be distinguished.

Art as a collective representation of the signs of time.

It is through the participation and the act of making thatone sparks this remembrance a connection to our sacred earth and cosmos and thedivine. Through the handling of earths given materials (with respect andhonouring) and our hearts and hands we re-establish our connection.

So to conclude and looking at the subjects of sacred art,traditional art, religious art it is all one, if created in openness of heartand personal detachment and transmitting the everlasting beauty.

Not trying to recreate the past, but to be here in the now.

Not to worship the ashes of lost ways but to create andtransmit that, which always remains in the centre. Each moment has somethingfresh to offer a rebirth not a human but a sacred one.

To be willing to be empty to know nothing.

[1] Baring,Anne and Cashford,Jules,”Themyth of the Goddess” p11

[2] Baring,Anne and Cashford,Jules,”Themyth of the Goddess” p32,

[3] Cambell, “The way of the Animalpowers” transmitted by a Pawnee Indian

[4] Lings Martin, Symbol &Archetype, p9

[5]Baring Anne/Cashford Jules, The myth of the goddess ,p 82

[6] Schuon Frithjof, Art of the SacredTo Profane, p 35

[7] Querido, The Golden age of Chartres,p71

[8] Extractfrom Chartres and die Geburt der Kathedrale, (Chartresand the Birth of the Gothic Cathedral), Urs Graf Verlag, Olten Switzerland,1962. pp. 60-64.

[9] Extract from articlefrom the catholic thing by Reid , Art, Sacred and Profane

[10] Black Elks, Thesacred pipe,p.80

[11] Extract from article ,Martinique Elena ,Differentkind of religious experience.

The Palaeolithic mother goddess “The Venus of Willendorf”found in Austria dating back 20 000- 18 000 BC.

“Animal Shaman” from Les Trois Freres cave in Ariege,France, 13,000 BCE.

Mongolian Shaman with his drum


Sundance Lodge

Black Panther –  MerabAbramishvili- tempera on plywood-2005

 Paradise- Merab Abramishvili-tempera on plywood, 2005

Emma Kunz work nr.392 1956 

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