Spring Blossoming: The Holy Orchard as Goddess by Jill Hammer

Every year when the cherries, pears, plums, and apple trees begin to bloom, I go out walking.  I look for every spot in my vicinity where white and pink blossoms are blooming in exquisite profusion like foam on an ocean. Every year I take photographs, even though I already have so many.  I walk at every hour of the day because, as the light changes, the colors change. I have albums and albums of pictures of my beloveds, the trees.

For me, the apple and cherry trees are a manifestation of Goddess.  Of course, everything is a manifestation of Goddess, but these, for me, have an extra measure of that life-giving beauty and abundance I associate with the indwelling Presence in the cosmos.  My enjoyment of the blossoms is both a sensual appreciation of the gorgeousness of Being and a poignant awareness that they will not last forever.  Sometimes these glories manifest for me as feminine, sometimes as masculine, and sometimes just as Life itself.


Continue reading “Spring Blossoming: The Holy Orchard as Goddess by Jill Hammer”

Sappho & Early Christianity by Stuart Dean

Stuart WordPress photoGiven modern perceptions of Sappho it is, I am sure, going to seem at a minimum counterintuitive that early Christians would have had an interest in Sappho.  The issue is not helped by the fact that a story about Saint Gregory of Nazianzus ordering the burning of Sappho’s poetry has been frequently repeated both in print and online.  There is no basis for it in any reliable historical source. Mention is first made of it in the Renaissance, possibly as the result of confusing attitudes and policies of later times with those of Gregory’s time.  Whatever the explanation, it is ironic any credence was given to such a story, for not only was Gregory very interested in Sappho in particular, but he was also a keen advocate for appreciating the relevance to Christianity of art and literature generally.  A prominent figure in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Gregory is not well known to ‘Western’ Christianity, especially among English speaking Christians.  An excellent place to familiarize yourself with him is a brief talk given by John McGuckin, who is a priest, poet and scholar at Columbia University, available on youtube here.

There are a variety of possible explanations for Gregory’s interest in Sappho that relate to both his personal circumstances as well as how Sappho had been received within the Judaeo-Christian tradition in ancient times.  It is worth noting that Gregory was from what is today a region of Turkey occupied by Hittites in very ancient times.  That happens to be an area that Sappho may have had some cultural connection with, for modern linguistic analysis suggests that her name, which does not mean anything in Greek, derives from Hittite or a related ancient Turkish language.  What did ‘Sappho’ mean in Hittite?  ‘Holy one.’  I am basing this on an article by Edwin Brown that is available online here for those who want more granularity. Continue reading “Sappho & Early Christianity by Stuart Dean”

Painting the Shulamite By Angela Yarber

Calling the Shulamite holy is my way of affirming female sexuality, the beautiful variety of the body’s shapes and sizes, and including the LGBT community in the canon of saints.

Several years ago, after experiencing the innate maleness and straightness of most traditional icons, I decided to give iconography a folk and feminist twist.  Biblical women, mythological figures, poets, artists, dancers, scholars, literary figures, and personal loved-ones graced my canvases and with a brush-stroke they were canonized.  Miriam, Sappho, Gaia, Jephthah’s daughter, Virginia Woolf, Tiamat, Mary, Baby Suggs, Isadora Duncan, Fatima, the Shulamite, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, Mary Daly, Sophia, Sojourner Truth, and many of my friends and colleagues became “Holy Women Icons.”  It is these icons—these holy women—that will be the focus of my monthly articles in Feminism and Religion.

This month, the Shulamite is the center of our attention.  She is a dancer made famous by the erotic love poetry dedicated to her sensuous curves in Song of Songs:

Return, return, the Shulamite.

Return, return, and let us gaze on you.

How will you gaze on Shulamite in the dance of the two camps?

How beautiful are your sandaled feet, O prince’s daughter.

The curves of your (quivering) thighs like jewels crafted by artist hands.

Your vulva a rounded bowl; may it never lack wine.

Your belly a mound of wheat hedged by lotuses.

Your breasts like two fawns…

(Song of Songs 7:1-4 translation mine) Continue reading “Painting the Shulamite By Angela Yarber”

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