Artemis As Artemisia: Ancient Female Spirituality & Modern Medicine by Stuart Dean

Detail of Artemis from a 5th century BCE Attic Vase
Detail of Artemis from a 5th century BCE Attic Vase  (Museum of Fine Arts (Boston))

The 2015 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded in part to a Chinese woman (Tu) for her identification and isolation to treat malaria of a chemical known as Artemisinin.  The name of that chemical derives from the fact that it is found in varying amounts in the ‘family’ (technically, genus) of plants known as Artemisia.  The name of that family derives from its association with the goddess Artemis.

Because Tu’s work began in China in the 1960s it is understandable that even if she knew this about Artemisia (a term I use to refer to any one plant or all of the plants of that family) it would not have been a ‘careerbuilder’ for her to point it out to those for whom she was working.  It was bad enough that she was a woman.  At that place and time, however, if she had said or done something that could be associated with Western culture her name might not even be known today.   

Nevertheless, because those awarding the Nobel Prize are free from discrimination or intimidation, it is startling that in the explanation provided for the award no mention is made of the Western legacy of Artemisia.  To begin with, the very fact that the Prize was being awarded to a woman for a plant named after a goddess should have elicited at a sense of uncanniness that arguably deserved mention.  Be that as it may, the failure to mention that Artemisia has a long history of being used medicinally in the West not only as an insect repellent but also to treat fever–a common symptom of malaria–is simply inexcusable. Continue reading “Artemis As Artemisia: Ancient Female Spirituality & Modern Medicine by Stuart Dean”

The Flesh Made Word: Colm Toibin’s “The Testament of Mary” on stage and in print By Joyce Zonana

Colm Toibin Fiona Shaw Testament of Mary Ephesus Artemis House of the VirginBefore the play begins, the audience is invited on stage; we walk around, not quite knowing what to do, gazing at the props, uncertain.  A few chairs, scattered jars of honey, jugs of water beside a free-standing waist-high faucet, a tall ladder, a long table, a stripped tree trunk with a wooden wheel at the top suspended from the rafters, a menacing roll of barbed wire, and a live turkey vulture occasionally spreading wide its iridescent blue-black wings: such is the set for Deborah Warner’s searing production of Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary, a one-woman show currently in previews at the Walter Kerr Theater in New York.  In a large open-sided box, stage left, the actress Fiona Shaw, draped in blue from head to toe, arranges herself, then sits perfectly still, holding a lily and an apple.  We know this woman.  The Virgin Mary.  The Icon.  Incarnate.

Fiona Shaw rehearses for her role as the Virgin Mary in The Testament of Mary. Irish novelist Colm Toibin's one-woman play opens April 22 at Broadway's Walter Kerr Theater.
Shaw in rehearsal. Photo by Hugo Glendinning

But when we are all back in our seats, Mary casts off her robe to stand before us in a simple black shift, flowing easily over narrow brown pants. Her hair is cropped, her face haunted; wearing short leather boots, she fumbles as she searches for a hand-rolled cigarette to steady herself.   “I remember everything.  Memory fills my body as much as blood and bones.”  No longer an icon, hardly a virgin, this Mary addresses us with the piercing directness of the passion she has suffered: to have seen her only son crucified despite her efforts to save him. Now, interrogated by two unnamed apostles (John and Luke?) who want to fix the story of her son’s life and death and resurrection, Mary insists on reporting only what she knows:  “I was there.  I fled before it was over but if you want witnesses then I am one and I can tell you now, when you say that he redeemed the world, I will say that it was not worth it.  It was not worth it.”

Continue reading “The Flesh Made Word: Colm Toibin’s “The Testament of Mary” on stage and in print By Joyce Zonana”

Mary’s Feast Rooted in Lesbian Goddesses Diana and Artemis By Kittredge Cherry

Kittredge Cherry

The following is a guest post written by Rev. Kittredge Cherry, lesbian Christian author and art historian who blogs about LGBT spirituality and the arts at the Jesus in Love Blog.  Her books include “Equal Rites” and “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More“.

August 15 was once the festival of the lesbian goddess Diana (Artemis), but it has been adapted into a feast day for the Virgin Mary.

Midsummer feasts have celebrated the divine feminine on this date since before the time of Christ.  Now devoted to Mary, August 15 carries the torch of lesbian spiritual power to a new generation.

Saint Mary, mother of Jesus, is honored by churches today in a major feast day marking her death and entrance into heaven.  Catholic and Orthodox churches call it the Feast of the Assumption or Dormition, when Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul.

The Virgin Mary’s holiday was adapted — some would say appropriated — from an ancient Roman festival for Diana, the virgin goddess of the moon and the hunt.  Diana, or Artemis in Greek, is sometimes called a lesbian goddess because of her love for woman and her vow never to marry a man.  The ancient Roman Festival of Torches (Nemoralia) was held from Aug. 13-15 as Diana’s chief festival. Continue reading “Mary’s Feast Rooted in Lesbian Goddesses Diana and Artemis By Kittredge Cherry”

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