Born into a Lutheran family of academicians, from earliest childhood I questioned their divisive, anti-Catholic rhetoric and systemic methods of indoctrination. The punitive consequences of my rebellion against their worldview were swift, harsh and unrelenting. Separated emotionally from my mother, subjected to abuse by a narcissistic father who considered himself a warlock, I subconsciously adopted the warrior archetype as a means of survival. Steely armor encased my heart, hidden beneath a feminine veil. When the feminist voices of the 1970’s grew into a force that would not be silenced, for the first time, I felt less alone.
Actively seeking alternative spiritual resources throughout the years that followed, I found a road with many tributaries rising up to meet me, as though that ancient Irish blessing had touched my life with grace. Soothed by nature’s elements, I have always felt the presence of divinity in the earth and sky, in the company of animals and invisible beings. Through studying Hindu and Buddhist traditions, I learned the value of going into the silence. A glimpse of the divine feminine appeared when Quan Yin poured compassion into my soul from the vessel she carries. An immersion into the Western Mystery Schools brought the Hebrew Tree of Life into focus, and there I found a balance of yin and yang, male and female in the Kabbalah’s Sephiroth.
Still I longed for a deeper, authentic connection to the maternal face of God. During the winter of 1996, as I lit the candles on my altar each day, I silently asked that a female spiritual counselor might be revealed to me. My first trip to Europe was set for May of that year, and I embarked on a journey through France. In the region of Normandy, our first destination was Rouen, where Gothic architecture is renowned. The guide book also noted that Joan of Arc had died at the stake in that city, but until I stood at the site in Rouen’s market square where the fire, fueled by the French Inquisitional court, had ended her life at age nineteen, her story had not captured my interest. She was after all, a teenaged warrior and Catholic saint. I was seeking an incarnation of the Divine Mother.
A startlingly contemporary church stands as a monument in that market square. Against its north entrance, a sculpture of Joan by Real del Sarte turns toward a tall, slender cross that casts its shadow across the site of her execution. Nearby, inscribed on the monument’s wall are the profound words of André Malraux, Charles DeGaulle’s Minister of Culture, who spoke during its dedication.
Toi qui savais que le tombeau des héros
Est le coeur des vivants.
Oh Jeanne, without sepulcher and without portrait,
You who knew that the hero’s tomb
Is the heart of the living.
Leaving Rouen, we headed toward Omaha Beach. The silence there was broken only by the sounds of birdsong and waves crashing against steep cliffs beyond 9,387 white headstones marking the graves of American soldiers. Walking amongst those crosses and stars of David, my heart split open, as though every grave contained the body of my own son, my daughter, my brother, my sister, my father, my mother, my closest friend. The torrent of tears did not stop until hours after we’d left that sacred ground. A veteran who had been with us there asked me, “Who did you lose, on D-Day?” I answered, “Everyone.”
What is the connection between Joan of Arc and the Landing Beaches of Normandy? She is the patron saint of French and American soldiers. She loathed war and wept at the sight of bloodshed, and yet her own words, “I was born for this,” and “My Voices call me Jehanne, Daughter of God,” stated a divine purpose. She was born to end the Hundred Years War.
In the full decade I spent researching her life following that first trip to France, blessed by a multitude of discoveries, I felt compelled to share them with others. Ruth-Inge Heinze read my first essays on Joan’s mystic legacy and invited me to present a paper during the 2002 annual shamanism conference that she organized each year, in San Rafael. In 2003, a second paper, Jeanne d’Arc and the Exiled Shechinah included esoteric elements directly related to the Zohar, the Tetragrammaton, and Joan’s position on the Tree of Life.
The biography I published in late 2011, Joan of Arc, The Mystic Legacy does not discuss those specific topics, as it is intended to reach everyone, not just readers who have studied mysticism and shamanism. Part One, entitled The Inclusive Nature of Mysticism contains a single chapter on the shamanic elements that are for me, clearly evident in her life story. She is the Grail Seeker who manifested the ultimate example of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey; she is the Divine Child described in Rowena Pattee Kryder’s Gaia Matrix Oracle. Joan’s incarnation, exactly six hundred years ago (1412) exemplifies the divine feminine; she is my sister, my mother, my friend, my counselor.
All photographs included in this piece were taken by the author, and protected by copyright.
Marcia Quinn Noren is a California writer whose travels have increased her appreciation for the global community, for the natural and human-made wonders of planet earth, and have taught her to embrace life’s infinite mysteries. Her library is filled with nonfiction books on cross cultural mysticism, psychology, sociology and anthropology. Biographies, letters and journals probing the inner lives of authors whose books influenced her most track her interest in understanding how the creative process can be interwoven within a well balanced life. Marcia can be contacted through her website or on facebook.
Joan of Arc, The Mystic Legacy was published in November, 2011. Reviews can be found here and book trailer here. A second edition will eventually follow. Her memoir, Sheets of White Linen is still in progress. An excerpt from the memoir, submitted for critique, was awarded “first place, nonfiction book” by the California Writer’s Club.