In the past two years, I began a project which I call biblical poetry. I had been doing my own translations of biblical verse based on the hieroglyphic meanings of Hebrew words. Ancient Hebrew or Semitic Early writing grew out of the hieroglyphs of Egypt. Since hieroglyphs are pictures, we are able to use the rebuses or picture puzzles to glean the original or at least older meanings of words. I have begun to see these a route to interpreting meanings from before the dawn of patriarchy. This door to understanding appeals to my religious/spiritual/feminist sensibilities. At first, I attempted to stay somewhat true to the well-known meanings as they have come down through the ages. When I began my poetry project, I broke out of that structure to reveal the more mystical/shamanic/pagan meanings that I find beneath the words. At the bottom of this post, I have links to a few of my past biblical poetry posts.
The bible is quite large, so this is an encompassing project with lots of material to explore. This month, I wanted to take a look at how the concept of beauty is treated in the bible. The word for beauty is yaphah. Yaphah can also mean miracle and wonder as well as beauty. Let’s stop for a minute to unpack that. When we think of the word beauty in our culture, the thought is generally about how someone looks (unusually a female someone). But just the Hebrew word alone broadens the meaning. If beauty is someone or something that is wondrous and has miraculous qualities than it goes well beyond cultural standards of how someone looks. If you love someone, they would be beautiful to you because they would be wondrous. Biblical usages and translations tend to focus on beauty, mostly women, sometimes cows (yep cows) and a few handsome men in the mix. But I found that yaphah doesn’t have to be a vision that relies on one’s eyes.
The letters which make up the word yaphah are yud, pey and hey (traditionally “y,” “p,” and “h.” Here are the letters written in Semitic Early which form the rebus for us to explore (remember the language is written right to left.)
Pey (the middle letter) is a mouth. If we think about what comes out of a mouth, it is vibration which we humans form into words, singing and chanting. Hey (the final letter) is the figure of a person who has their arms in the air. It can be seen as happy or celebratory. Hey is also the letter of breath – the ha or ah sound.
Yud, the first letter is fascinating. It is the letter that forms the basis for the Hebrew aleph-beit. (All the modern letters use yud in their formation.)
Yud in modern Hebrew is a small flame:
In Semitic Early it is an arm that bends at the elbow and ends in a rudimentary hand.
The Egyptian carving below, is from the 1300s BCE. It shows the Pharaoh Akhenaten and his family and sheds some light upon the letter yud.
Notice the rays that come down from the sun and approach the human heads. The ones closest to human noses hold ankhs, the ancient Egyptian symbol of life and breath. This can be seen more clearly in the close-up below.
The “arms” between the sun and humanity are straight, while in the Semitic yud they are bent with “opposable” thumbs more visible. The rays emanate from the sun connecting sun/divine with breath/human. For this reason, Corinne Heline calls the yud, the “Workman of Deity” It is that bridge which creates manifestation for us here on Earth.
With these meanings in mind, let’s take another look at yaphah or beauty. From the rebus we see the product or emanation of creation (yud) which manifests with vibration (pey) and joy along with breath (hey). Beauty brings us joy. Think of gardens, flowers, loved ones. I see it as a connection not with our eyes and how something or someone looks but a connection with our breath. We breath in, in-spire the essence of the beauty that we experience.
When I went through my traditional shamanic training, it was quite harsh at times. But we always had fresh flowers on our altar or the center of our circle. That was because the focus of beauty brings up qualities of wonder, appreciation, awe.
Here are the two verses I focused on for this post. The first is a traditional translation and the second is my mystic pagan (MPV) version. I see Songs 4:7 as a definition of beauty rather than a declaration to a specific “you” as it is usually translated. Or perhaps, as is often the case, it is both.
He hath made every thing beautiful in his time:
also he hath set the world in their heart,
so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
King James Version
Everything is wondrous in its season, heart gifted wisdom bathed in beauty.
The great mysteries, shrouded within the veils of all potentiality
stretching from genesis to all thresholds.
Song of Songs 4:7
You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.
New International Version
Beauty is a harmonious flow of wholeness and love.
As promised, a few of my biblical poetry posts:
 Heline, Corinne, The Bible & The Tarot (DeVorss Publications, 1969), 41
BIO: Janet Maika’i Rudolph. “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE QUEST.” I have walked the spirit path for over 25 years traveling to sacred sites around the world including Israel to do an Ulpan (Hebrew language studies while working on a Kibbutz), Eleusis and Delphi in Greece, Avebury and Glastonbury in England, Brodgar in Scotland, Machu Picchu in Peru, Teotihuacan in Mexico, and Giza in Egypt. Within these travels, I have participated in numerous shamanic rites and rituals, attended a mystery school based on the ancient Greek model, and studied with shamans around the world. I am twice initiated. The first as a shaman practitioner of a pathway known as Divine Humanity. The second ordination in 2016 was as an Alaka’i (a Hawaiian spiritual guide with Aloha International). I have written three books: When Moses Was a Shaman, When Eve Was a Goddess, (now available in Spanish, Cuando Eva era una Diosa), and One Gods
12 thoughts on “Beauty in the Heart of the Beholder by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”
Yaphah is adjective for a female subject
Yaphee is adjective for a masculine subject
Yaphot – adjective for plural feminine subjects
Yaphim — adjective for plural masculine subjects
YOPHY is the noun for beauty in nominal position and is
Yes, and thank you, those are the verb forms. I am working off the root of the word which is the same in each of the forms. I mostly work off the roots as they are used in Strong’s which is the most generally accepted compendium that catalogues verses and words. Yapheh or yaphah (#3303) is their descriptive of the pronunciation of the word.
Hebrew roots tend to be 2 or 3 letters.
You can find the specific information about yahphah in Biblehub here: https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3303.htm
Thank-you for this. I love your revised translations!
Thank you AliB. It means so much to me when people “get” and appreciate my work.
“I have begun to see these a route to interpreting meanings from before the dawn of patriarchy. This door to understanding appeals to my religious/spiritual/feminist sensibilities”.
How brilliant Janet! of course, the image always precedes the word!
I am absolutely fascinated by these translations and had to re -read thee earlier posts.
My earnest hope is that your work will influence many…
Fantastic original scholarship.
Hurrah for Janet!!!
Thanks so much Sara. I can see how these verses also appeal to your religious/spiritual/feminist sensibilities.”
And your hope about influencing many . . .from your keyboard to . . . well everyone. LOL
I love this. When you show us the many layers and meanings of these words that we use everyday, each one becomes a poem.
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Thank you Carolyn. “each one becomes a poem” – poetry in itself!
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This is fascinating, Janet. I look forward to reading each of your pieces of poetry. Coincidentally, a piece I just wrote for my personal blog also focused on beauty and its miraculous powers of healing and was very much connected to breath. Thank you for this.
Thank you Beth, I am very excited read how you view beauty and its connection to breath. To me, breath is one of the pillars of our lives here on earth.
Please send the link to your blog.