How Should Anything Be Amiss?

The Wendy Tree at Galilee Retreat Centre, Arnprior, Canada

The winter had been long, dark, frigid, lifeless. As I drove to the Galilee Retreat Centre on that morning in late February, 2002, the fog that veiled the frozen Ottawa River on my left and the road ahead of me slowly lifted, revealing trees on either side in their winter nakedness. Suddenly I was aware of beauty: each delicate twig was encased in ice, a crystal carapace that caught the rays of the morning sun, sparkling like cut glass, throwing joy through the air, across the soft roseate sky. Inside, I felt a surge of joy as my inner winter melted, as new, previously unimagined possibilities for travel, for poetry, for a fuller life danced within me.

 I reached Galilee in a state of expectant joy. But what awaited me there was word of the overnight death of our beloved co-worker, Wendy McNamara. Her husband and two young adult sons, all of us who loved her, had walked the journey with her for over two years of cancer treatment, certain she would recover. She must get well. Any other outcome was unthinkable.

Yet the unthinkable is what happened.

Wendy had called her husband the previous morning from the hospital where she was having routine tests. She was crying, upset, so unlike our brave Wendy! “The coffee here is awful!” she told Mike. “Come, and bring me some Tim Horton’s coffee.” So he did, and spent the day with her. That night, Wendy died.

 I moved through the days that followed in a state of blank incomprehension. I felt betrayed by my own trust that she would recover. I felt, as Tennyson wrote, that “someone had blunder’d”. There was no time to grieve as I was preparing to offer the Julian play to some two hundred women in Ottawa. All my time and energy was needed to rehearse. Moving through the familiar lines of James Janda’s script, I was stopped short by the words Jesus spoke to Julian:

I lead all to the end I ordained it to be from without beginning, by the same Might, Wisdom, and Love whereby I made it. How should anything be amiss?

 Suddenly, I got it! This was not an error, not a blunder; rather, it was part of the guiding love that began with Wendy’s conception, and accompanied her through life to her death. The grief, the loss would not be assuaged by this, but the sense of betrayal was obliterated.

James Janda told me that the quotations he used from Julian’s writing in his script came from a 1927 edition of Revelations of Divine Love by Dom Roger Huddleston (London: Burns, Oates and Washbourne). He had found the book in the New York Public Library. Later, as I read newer translations of Julian’s writings, I realized I had misinterpreted the word “end”. It was not, as I had thought on that February day, a reference to death (for death is not an end of our love relationships. It means something more like “purpose”.

Brendan Doyle in Meditations with Julian of Norwich writes the passage this way:

I lead everything

Toward the purpose I ordained it to

from without beginning,

By the same Power, Wisdom and Love

by which I created it.

How could anything be amiss? (p.39)

Marion Glasscoe’s almost-Middle English translation reads this way:

I lede althing to the end I ordeynd it to fro withoute beginning

be the same might, wisdam and love that I made it.

How should anything be amysse? (Chapter Eleven, p. 19)

What is so heartening here is the assurance of guidance towards our purpose, for many of us today the Holy Grail. We set forth on countless quests, seeking teachers, guides, seminars, webinars, books, programs, asking, asking, asking always: “Why am I here? What is my purpose in life?”

Even our poets put that question to us. Mary Oliver writes: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Rilke reminds us that … all living things in nature must unfold in their particular way and become themselves at any cost and despite all opposition.

 Julian teaches us that the Love that embraces us also guides us towards that purpose. We need to find, in the midst of our searching outside ourselves, time each day for some quiet listening to the inner voice, the Beloved of our Soul. In sacred space, in stillness, we ask, “What is the purpose to which you are guiding me?”

We might in that quiet time also look, as Jean Houston teaches, at the recurring patterns, the fractals, to which our life returns in each new endeavour. Is it healing? writing? leadership? exploring new ideas? creating community? guiding youth? conflict resolution? peace-making? cross-cultural reconciliation? Our purpose may be written in our own footsteps across the sands of our lives.

For Julian, the recurring fractal was teaching. It is what led her to devote twenty years to write for us her Revelations of Divine Love, finding ever fresh ways to express what had been revealed to her in her night of visions, continuing to reflect, to deepen her understanding so she could teach us to trust in love. Seated at her window, which opened out to one of the busiest streets in Norwich, she was listener and teacher to those who came to her for guidance.

 In my friend Wendy, I see now a similar fractal of teaching about the Love in which we are held. Wendy had at times been invited to give the homily at St. Joseph’s Parish in Ottawa. In her last talk, she had spoken with her unique infusion of gentle courage and power: “There is NOTHING you can do that will make God love you more than you are now loved!” She said that was the one message she wanted to leave with us for always.

 I shall never forget her words. I know now that she was guided to fulfill the purpose ordained for her from without beginning. I believe the joy that surged through me after her death was a parting gift.

 How should anything be amysse?

Julian on Longing: Ours/ Love’s

As I write to you today, summer has come to Calabogie. Morning coffee has become a time of bliss. On the deck, above the lake, I watch the shimmer of silver on water while soft winds play with tendrils of my hair, cooling me in the sun’s sudden fire.

We had a long cold spring. Days of rain were interspersed with days when dark clouds hovered as though wondering whether to rain or not. Yesterday, scarcely visible buds that had been sitting in stillness on the tall deciduous trees around my home burst into leafy green abundance.

These fluctuations make me think of Julian who wrote of a time of prayer when in swift succession consolation was followed by desolation, then consolation, then desolation, thirty three times! “It was a marvellous mix-up!” she comments.

Perhaps the fact of Julian is as important as her teachings in Revelations of Divine Love. That such a woman lived on this planet, experienced its rain and wind, the beauty of its flowers and trees, the song of its birds, that she experienced bliss and sorrow, seeking as we do to know God, to understand the meaning of life, to love more deeply: that’s the gift.

Julian loved us, whom she would never know, writing her book for us, longing to share with us all she had learned of Love that we might share her joy:

Everything that I say about me I mean to apply to all my fellow Christians, for I am taught that this is what our Lord intends in this spiritual revelation. And therefore I pray you all for God’s sake, and I counsel you for your own profit, that you disregard the wretch (editor: !!!) to whom it was shown, and that mightily, wisely, and  meekly you contemplate upon God, who out of his courteous love and his endless goodness was willing to show it generally to the comfort of us all. For it is God’s will that you accept it with great joy and delight, as Jesus has shown it to you. (Showings Chapter Eight, 191, Colledge and Walsh editors, Paulist Press, New York, Toronto, 1978)

Today I’m choosing a few passages from Showings that speak of the way that all of life is held in love, passages that reveal how we especially are longed for and loved by the One whom Julian knew so intimately.

To any soul who sees the Creator of all things, all that is created seems very little…he who created it created everything for love, and by that same love it is preserved, and always will be without end…God is everything which is good, as I see, and the goodness which everything has is God. (Showings Chapter Eight, 190)

To any soul who sees the Creator of all things, all that is created seems very little…‘ image of Julian by Jane Joyner

This next passage from Julian’s tenth chapter reveals both the longing on Julian’s part and on the part of the One she seeks: I saw him and sought him, for we are now so blind and so foolish that we can never seek God until the time when he in his goodness shows himself to us. And when by grace we see something of him then we are moved by the same grace to seek with great desire to see him for our greater joy. So I saw him and sought him, and I had him and lacked him; and this is and should be our ordinary undertaking in this life, as I see it.

 Once my understanding was let down into the bottom of the sea, and there I saw green hills and valleys, with the appearance of moss strewn with seaweed and gravel. Then I understood in this way: that if a man or woman were there under the wide waters, if s/he could see God, as God is continually with (us), s/he would be safe in soul and body, and come to no harm. And furthermore, s/he would have more consolation and strength than all this world can tell. For it is God’s will that we believe that we see him continually, though it seems to us that the sight be only partial; and through this belief he makes us always to gain more grace, for God wishes to be seen, and he wishes to be sought, and he wishes to be expected, and he wishes to be trusted. (Showings Chapter Ten, 193-4)

I feel drawn to take a risk today. We know that, for Julian, the Love “that moves the sun and all the other stars” (as Dante writes) was contained in the person of Jesus. I trust that Julian would allow me to rephrase her references to “God” in the way I now understand the Presence of Love in its feminine form as Sophia, the one who tells us:

“Yahweh created me, when his purpose first unfolded;

before the oldest of his works….

The deep was not, when I was born;

there were no springs to gush with water….”

(excerpts from Proverbs 8 in The Jerusalem Bible)

Kathleen Duffy writes that Sophia “seeks to capture our attention as she peers out from behind the stars, overwhelms us with the glorious radiance of a sunset, and caresses us with a gentle breeze.”

I rewrite Julian’s words to say that (Sophia) wishes to be seen, and She wishes to be sought, and She wishes to be expected, and She wishes to be trusted.  

All Your Living is Prayer

Early February, thirty years ago. I’m standing before a carved oak door  beside the sanctuary in St. Julian’s Church in Norwich, England. I press my thumb down on the iron latch.  When the door swings inwards, I enter the reconstructed anchorhold where Julian lived for the last forty years of her life.

Julian’s Reconstructed Anchorhold in Norwich, England

The sense of her presence is so powerful that I have to sit down on the wooden bench beneath the mullioned window. I commune with this wise and kindly woman. Only later do I take in other aspects of the room. On the wall just inside the door, there is a small white card on which someone has printed in careful calligraphy Julian’s words: prayer oneth the soul to God.

 What did Julian understand about prayer? Diid Julian, like us, wonder if there was anyone there to listen to her longings? What was revealed to her in the sacred intimacy of her night of “Showings”? Julian writes a great deal about prayer in the Longer Text of her Revelations of Divine Love.  She writes for us, to us, that we might know the confidence and joy that she knew.

For many years, I found Julian’s writing difficult to read. I felt as though I were being spun around in circles. Until the invention of moveable type by Johann Gutenberg in 1450 (thirty years after Julian’s death), the compression of thought we associate with the written text was undeveloped. People wrote as they spoke, expressing an idea, repeating it, then underscoring it to be sure it was understood. Julian was writing at a time when the English language was just coming to birth. Her words and expressions are fresh, sometimes invented for her purposes.

 I was slow to read and appreciate the full richness of her thought.  In reparation, I offer Julian’s own words on prayer. From among the several different translations of Julian’s Showings, I choose Not for the Wise (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 1994), by Ritamary Bradley, Professor Emerita at St. Ambrose University in Iowa. This translation is based on Marion Glasscoe’s Middle English edition of A Revelation of Love. Julian leads into the theme of Prayer by offering us assurance of how much we are loved:

Then I understood truly that all manner of thing is made ready for us

– by the great goodness of God

To the degree that whenever we are ourselves in peace and love

-we are, in fact, saved.

But since we may not have this in fullness while we are here

it behooves us always to live

– in sweet prayer

-in lovely longing,

with our Lord Jesus.

For he longs to bring us to fullness of joy…

God is love and teaches us to do as he does.

He wants us to be like him

-in wholeness of endless love

– for ourselves- and for our even-Christians.

Just as God’s love for us is never broken because of our sins,

In the same way God wills that our love

– for ourselves

– and for our even-Christians

Should never be broken.

This word that God said is an endless comfort:

“I keep you securely.”

(Chapter Forty: Fourteenth Showing)

After this, our Lord showed me about prayer.

In this showing I saw there are two conditions our Lord intends for it.

– one is that we pray aright;

-the other is that we have unwavering trust.

But oftentimes we do not trust completely,

for we are not sure that God hears us, as we think

– either because we are unworthy

– or because we feel absolutely nothing.

– for we are as sterile and dry oftentimes after our prayer as before.

And this, in our feeling and our folly, is the cause of our weakness.

At times I have felt this way myself.

Our Lord brought all of this (about trust)

suddenly to my mind, and said:

“I am the ground of your beseeching.

– first, it is my will that you should have it;

– and since I make you to want it

– and you do ask for it,

How should it then be that you should not have what you ask?”

….where he says: “And you do ask for it”,

he shows a very great pleasure,

and the endless reward he will give us for our petitioning.

And in the part where he says:

“How should it then be that you should not have what you ask?”

he is indicating that this is impossible.

For it is a most impossible thing that we should ask for

mercy and grace

and not have it.

For all these things that our good Lord makes us to ask for,

God has already ordained to give us from the beginning.

Glad and merry is Christ over our prayer.

He awaits it, and he wants it.

For with his grace

– he makes us like to himself

– in our hearts

-as we already are in our humanity.

This is his blessed will.

Here is what Christ says:

“Pray earnestly -though you have no taste for it, as you think.

“For it does you good

– though you do not feel that it does;

– though you see nothing;

– yes, even though you think you are powerless.

“For when you are dry and empty, sick and frail, then your prayer is most pleasing to me

-though there seems to you to be little pleasure in it.

And thus all your living is prayer in my sight.”

Thanking also belongs to prayer.

Thanking is a new, inward, knowing

Accompanied with great reverence and loving awe

– inclining us to do, with our whole strength,

what the good Lord draws us towards;

– and inwardly

– to give thanks

– and to enjoy.

Sometimes, in its abundance, thanking breaks out into

words, and we say:

“Good Lord, grant us mercy. Blessed may you be!”

… (Chapter 41 Fourteenth Showing)

Julian of Norwich “Thou art enough”

Julian’s words of guidance in her book Revelations of Divine Love (also called Showings) were written out of love for us, whom she considered her “even Christians”, or “kindred spirits”. Five of these words leapt out at me on that February day in 1992 when, entering the reconstructed anchorhold in the tiny Church of St. Julian in Norwich, I saw incised in a marble slab: Thou art enough to me.

 Looking back to that moment now, I wonder that I did not immediately turn around and exit by the door through which I’d just entered. Those five words struck me to the heart, challenging me to make a complete turn-around in my life, to let go of what I had until that moment considered necessary. I had left a place, a ministry and a friendship that had been the threefold source of my life’s happiness. Now I faced a future without all three. There was no way that I could accept that Julian’s unseen “Thou” could be enough.

I see now that I understood almost nothing of the One Julian addressed as “Thou” and even less of the meaning of “enough”. Later, as I prepared to offer Julian’s words to others through James Janda’s play, I found the context for those words:

For this is the loving yearning of the soul through the touch of the Holy Spirit, from the understanding which I have in this revelation:

“God, of your goodness give me yourself, for you are enough for me, and I can ask for nothing which is less which can give you full worship. And if I ask anything which is less, always I am in want; but only in you do I have everything.” (Showings Colledge and Walsh, 184)

Look now at the same words in a different translation. Marion Glasscoe’s Julian of Norwich: A Revelation of Love is my personal favourite among the dozens of newer renderings of Julian’s “Showings” because it comes closest to the Middle English of Julian’s time (sending my spell-check into orbit):

For this is the kinde yernings of the soule by the touching of the Holy Ghost, as be the understondyng that I have in this shewing: “ God, of thy goodnesse, give me thyselfe; for thou art enow to me and I may nothing aske that is less that may be full worshippe to thee. And if I aske anything that is lesse, ever me wantith, but only in thee I have all.”  (Glasscoe 7-8)

 Julian is not asking us to set aside our desires; she is not saying that to find God we must relinquish everything for which we long. Quite the opposite. Julian is saying that the deepest yearning of our souls will only be satisfied when we know the One who both made us to yearn and can alone fill that yearning. What Julian found for herself she wants us to know: Only in you (the one to whom we entrust our longings) do I have everything, or in the Glasscoe translation: only in thee I have all.

 This is a startling revelation for Julian, for each of us.

As Julian says in Janda’s play: 

Some of us believe that God is Almighty

And may do all,

And that God is All-Wisdom,

And can do all,

But that God is All-Love and will do all…..

There we stop short.

 The Presence of Love that we in the 21st Century are coming to know as permeating all of life in the metaverse, as well as in the depths of our own souls, our very being, may be differently imaged for us than it was for Julian. Yet our experience of that all-pervading Love within our lives is very like Julian’s. However we name that Love, however we call upon it, we can know ourselves held safe in its embrace. Our deepest yearnings are for Love, for knowing our life has meaning, that we matter to that Love, that our longings are not only understood, but even prompted by that same Love.

 Our task then, is to journey within those longings to find how they are drawing us into the embrace of the One who can satisfy them, who can fill us with the kind of joy that might lead us one day to say with Julian: Thou art enough to me.

 In that same passage, Julian goes on to say:

And these words of the goodness of God are very dear to the soul, and very close to touching our Lord’s will, for his goodness fills all his creatures and all his blessed works full, and endlessly overflows in them. For he is everlastingness, and he made us only for himself, and restored us by his precious Passion and always preserves us in his blessed love; and all this of his goodness. (Colledge and Walsh ,184)

The Glasscoe text reads this way:

And these words are full lovesome to the soule and full nere touchen the will of God and his goodness; for his goodness comprehendith all his creatures and all his blissid works and overpassith without end, for he is the endleshede. And he hath made us only to himselfe and restorid us be his blissid passion and kepith us in his blissid love. And all this is of his goodness. (Glasscoe, 8)

 May we stay safely, joyfully within that “blissid love”.

Love Is His Meaning

love was our lords mening

(A Revelation of Love by Julian of Norwich, trans. Marion Glasscoe)

In the darkened room, the slides of the Hubble photographs radiate like jewels. There are perhaps a dozen or more, each dancing onto the large screen, then disappearing, each one stunning in its play of light on darkness, its brilliant colours, its unimagined beauty. One image imprints itself deeply on my memory, so strongly that now, years later, I recall it vividly. It is a segment of sky somewhere in the universe where the black darkness is pierced with uncountable rose-pink lights. “This photo shows an expanse of some trillions of miles in space,” the speaker tells us. “Look at the rosy colour that fills the darkness. This is the LOVE that fills the Universe.”

Hubble Photo of Spiral Galaxy

Julian of Norwich would never have seen a photograph, could not have imagined deep space or the wonders that the Hubble telescope offers us for our enchantment.  Yet she too knew from her mystical experience that it is love that pervades the universe. She knew this absolutely. She trusted it despite her own experience of intense suffering in 14th Century England, a time of plague, endless war, religious persecution. 

Julian does not give us this news of the centrality of love lightly, as one might share a passing feeling, a response to a moment of spiritual bliss. This is Julian’s carefully considered understanding of what she learned from her dialogues with Jesus, the Presence of Love in her life. She tells us clearly that it took fifteen years of reflection for her to finally know that love is at the centre of all that has been revealed to her, that love is her lords mening.

 As Julian writes the final Chapter of her book, she seeks to summarize for us all that she understands from her visions over the two decades she spent reflecting on them. She asks (as each one of us does when we look at our life): “What does it all mean?”

Here are the closing words in the Colledge and Walsh translation (Paulist Press 1978) of her Showings:

This book is begun by God’s gift and his grace, but it is not yet performed, as I see it. For charity, let us all join with God’s working in prayer, thanking, trusting, rejoicing, for so will our good Lord be entreated, by the understanding which I took in all his own intention, and in the sweet words where he says most happily: “I am the foundation of your beseeching.”

 For truly I saw and understood in our Lord’s meaning that he revealed it because he wants to have it better known than it is. In which knowledge he wants to give us grace to love him and to cleave to him, for he beholds his heavenly treasure with so great love on earth that he will give us more light and solace in heavenly joy, by drawing our hearts from the sorrow and the darkness which we are in.

And from the time that it was revealed, I desired many times to know in what was our Lord’s meaning. And fifteen years after and more, I was answered in spiritual understanding, and it was said: “What, do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal to you? Love. Why does he reveal it to you? For love. Remain in this, and you will know more of the same. But you will never know different, without end.”

 So I was taught that love is our Lord’s meaning. And I saw very certainly in this and in everything that before God made us he loved us, which love was never abated and never will be. And in this love he has done all his works, and in this love he has made all things profitable to us, and in this love our life is everlasting. In our creation we had beginning, but the love in which he created us was in him from without beginning. In this love we have our beginning, and all this shall we see in God without end. (Showings Chapter 86)  

 In Anne Baring’s magnificent book, The Dream of the Cosmos : A Quest for the Soul (Archive Publishing, Dorset, England 2013) there is an account of a mystical experience. It gently weaves together Julian’s awareness of love at the heart of the Universe with our present day visual awareness of a Universe birthed and bathed in love. Baring offers Richard Bucke’s account of returning from a poetry reading and discussion with two friends on a night in 1872:

 My mind, deeply under the influence of the ideas, images, and emotions called up by the reading and talk, was calm and peaceful. I was in a state of quiet, almost passive enjoyment, not actually thinking, but letting ideas, images, and emotions flow of themselves, as it were, through my mind. All at once, without warning of any kind, I found myself wrapped in a flame-coloured cloud. For an instant I thought of fire, an immense conflagration somewhere close by in that great city; the next I knew that the fire was within myself. Directly afterward there came upon me a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination impossible to describe.

Among other things, I did not merely come to believe, but I saw that the universe is not composed of dead matter, but is, on the contrary, a living Presence; I became conscious in myself of eternal life. It was not a conviction that I would have eternal life, but a consciousness that I possessed eternal life then; I saw that all men are immortal; that the cosmic order is such that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all; that the foundation principle of the world, of all the worlds, is what we call love, and that the happiness of each and all is in the long run absolutely certain. (Baring, p. 443)

This experience, recorded six centuries after Julian wrote her Showings, echoes two of her great mystic teachings: “love is his meaning” and “all manner of thing shall be well.”

The Easter Mystery 2022

Through the cold, quiet nighttime of the grave underground,

The earth concentrated on him with complete longing

Until his sleep could recall the dark from beyond

To enfold memory lost in the requiem of mind.

The moon stirs a wave of brightening in the stone.

He rises clothed in the young colours of dawn.

(John O’Donohue “Resurrection”)

he Easter Mystery of life-death-life is at the heart of the universe, at the heart of life on our planet, in the deep heart of our own lives. From its birth out of the womb of a dying star, through its daily cycle of day/dusk/ night/dawn, its yearly cycle of summer/autumn/ winter/spring, the earth teaches us to live within the paschal mystery.

Ancient peoples understood this mystery. Through their careful observations they constructed buildings such as the mound in Newgrange Ireland where a tiny lintel receives the first rays of dawn only on the winter solstice.

The ancients wove their understanding of life/death/life into their mythologies: the Egyptians had the story of Osiris, whose severed body was put together piece by piece by his wife Isis, then reawakened. The Sumerians tell of the great queen Inanna who descended to the underworld to visit her sister Erishkigal. There she was stripped of all her royal robes and insignia, and murdered by her sister who then hung her lifeless body on a hook. Three days later, Inanna was restored to life, all her honour returned to her.

The people of Jesus’ time would have known these and other great myths of the ancient Near East. What was so stunningly different in the Jesus story was that the mystery of life-death-life was incarnated in a historical person.

The Resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of the Christian faith. As Paul wrote, “If Christ be not risen then our faith is in vain”.

In our lifetime, the illumination of new science shows us the life/death/mystery at the heart of the universe. Like exploding stars, our lives are continuously being rebirthed into a deeper more joyous existence. By allowing the death within ourselves of old habits, old mindsets and narrow ideas of who or what we may be, we open ourselves to the possibility of new life being birthed within us.  As Jesus told his friends, “You will do what I do. You will do even greater things”.

“Resurrection is about being pulsed into new patterns appropriate to our new time and place,” Jean Houston writes in Godseed. For this to happen, we need to open in our deep core to “the Heart of existence and the Love that knows no limits. It is to allow for the Glory of Love to have its way with us, to encounter and surrender to That which is forever seeking us, and from this to conceive the Godseed”.

“The need for resurrection has increased in our time,” Jean continues. “We are living at the very edge of history, at a time when the whole planet is heading toward a global passion play, a planetary crucifixion.” Yet “the longing with which we yearn for God is the same longing with which God yearns for us…. the strength of that mutual longing can give us the evolutionary passion to roll away the stone, the stumbling blocks that keep us sealed away and dead to the renewal of life”. (Godseed pp.129-130)

The yearly miracle of spring awakens within us the confidence and joy that this same rebirth is ours to accept and to live. We know our call to green our lives, our times, our planet:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

Drives my green age (Dylan Thomas)

Where in my life do I most experience the need for a rebirth?

What old habits and beliefs would I have to let die in order for this new life to be born?

How would my life be more joyful if I knew that my yearning for the Love at the heart of the Univers is matched by the same longing of Love for me?

What would a resurrected life look like, feel like, for me? for those with whom my life is woven? for our planet?

May Sophia, the feminine presence of Sacred Wisdom, gently guide us through the death of what no longer serves us into the joy of the rebirth for which our hearts yearn.

At Julian’s Open Window

Seeking wisdom, seeking comfort, in the midst of the sufferings, the inconceivable violence of our time, we come to the window that opens into Julian’s Anchorhold in Norwich.

Let’s listen to her:

 God showed me in my palm

A little thing round as a ball

About the size of a hazelnut.

I looked at it with the eye of my

understanding and asked myself:

“What is this thing?”

And I was answered: “It is everything that is created.”

I wondered how it would survive since

It seemed so little it could suddenly disintegrate into nothing.

The answer came: “It endures and ever will endure,

because God loves it.”

And so everything has being

because of God’s love.

(Meditations with Julian of Norwich: A Centering Book, Brendan Doyle, Bear & Company, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1983)

What Julian saw in “the eye of (her) understanding”, the astronaut Edgar Mitchell saw with his own eyes as he travelled back from the moon to the earth. He later said, “My view of our planet was a glimpse of divinity.” This photo of the earth from the moon was taken fifty years ago during the Apollo Mission of 1972, one year after Mitchell’s view of the earth from space.

As we enter into the Sacred Week of the Paschal Mystery, reliving the life/death/resurrection of Jesus, our Planet Earth, our Mother, is enduring her own passion. The vibrant blue green planet that Edgar Mitchell saw from space is in agony, her land desertified, her waters polluted, her rainforests being destroyed for profit, many of her life forms disappearing,.

What then are we to make of the promise Julian heard, “It endures and shall endure because God loves it”?

Other words that Julian heard echo in us with the familiarity of a loved song. We speak them to others, we say them to ourselves, words of comfort in times of fear or loss, anxiety or sadness.

Al shal be wele, and al shal be wele,

And all manner of thyng shal be wele.

(Marion Glasscoe translation)

What do these words mean? What is the context in which Julian heard them? They appear in the thirteenth revelation or “showing” that Julian received during her night of visions after a near-death experience. Julian became an anchoress and recorded her showings soon afterwards in what we know as the “Shorter Text”. She would spend the next twenty years in meditation and prayer, reflecting on what she experienced in that single night, writing the “Longer Text”.

Julian writes of being troubled by the suffering she sees and experiences (as are we in this year of 2022, as wave after wave of Covid washes over us, as horrific suffering is inflicted on people in a  brutal war in Ukraine…). In Julian’s mind, the cause of suffering is sin. This leads her to question why God allowed sin to happen when it might have been prevented, allowing us to live as Jesus lived.

The why of suffering still haunts us today in the 21st century. What has changed since Julian’s time is our perception of God.

The horrors of the twentieth Century, especially the Holocaust, led to a re-conception of God, seen no longer as an all-powerful being, one who can prevent the pain caused by human choice, by our blindness, our fear, our inability to love as we wish to love. Instead we have come to know a Presence of Love that is vulnerable, feeling our pain, One who will never let us go, never give up on us.

 Etty Hillesum expressed this best, writing in Auschwitz shortly before her death in 1943:

I shall try to help you, God, to stop my strength ebbing away, though I cannot vouch for it in advance.  But one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me: that you cannot help us that we must help you to help ourselves.  And that is all we can manage these days, also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of you, God, in ourselves.  And in others as well. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much you yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives.  Neither do I hold you responsible. You cannot help us but we must help you and defend your dwelling place inside us to the end.

 Like Etty, Julian entered into a reflective dialogue pondering God’s role in allowing suffering and sin. What I find alluring is Julian’s freedom as she explores these questions. She is confident in the love she experiences from God. She does not view sin (a word that for her embraces whatever causes suffering), either her own sin or that of others, with shame or fear or guilt.

 Here is Julian’s reflection from the Longer Text: …Our Lord brought to my mind the longing that I had for him…and I saw that nothing hindered me but sin, and I saw that this is true of us all in general, and it seemed to me that if there had been no sin, we should all have been pure and as like our Lord as created us. And so in my folly before this time I often wondered why, through the great prescient wisdom of God, the beginning of sin was not prevented. For then it seemed to me that all should have been well.

The impulse to think this was greatly to be shunned; and nevertheless I mourned and sorrowed on this account unreasonably, lacking discretion. But Jesus, who in this vision informed me about everything needful to me, answered with these words and said: “Sin is necessary, but all will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.” 

In this naked word “sin”, our Lord brought generally to my mind all which is not good, and the shameful contempt and the direst tribulation which he endured for us in this life, and his death and all his pains, and the passions, spiritual and bodily of all his creatures. For we are all in part troubled, and we shall be troubled, following our master Jesus until we are fully purged of our mortal flesh and all our inward affections which are not very good.

And with the beholding of this, with all the pains that ever were or ever will be, I understood Christ’s Passion for the greatest and surpassing pain.  And yet this was shown to me in an instant and quickly turned into consolation. For our good Lord would not have the soul frightened by this ugly sight. But I did not see sin, for I believe that it has no kind of substance, no share in being, nor can it be recognized except by the pain caused by it.  And it seems to me that this pain is something for a time, for it purges and makes us know ourselves and ask for mercy; for the Passion of our Lord is comfort to us against all this, and that is his blessed will.  And because of the tender love which our good Lord has for all who will be saved, he comforts us readily and sweetly, meaning this: it is true that sin is the cause of all this pain, but all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.

These words were revealed most tenderly, showing no kind of blame to me or to anyone who will be saved. So it would be most unkind of me to blame God or marvel at him on account of my sins, since he does not blame me for sin.

And in these same words I saw hidden in God an exalted and wonderful mystery, which he will make plain and we shall know in heaven. In this knowledge we shall truly see the cause why he allowed sin to come, and in this sight we shall rejoice forever.

(Showings The Thirteenth Revelation, 224-226 translation Colledge and Walsh Paulist Press, New York, Toronto, 1978)

 God showed me in my palm

A little thing round as a ball

About the size of a hazelnut.

I looked at it with the eye of my

understanding and asked myself:

“What is this thing?”

And I was answered: “It is everything that is created.”

I wondered how it would survive since

It seemed so little it could suddenly disintegrate into nothing.

The answer came: “It endures and ever will endure,

because God loves it.”

And so everything has being

because of God’s love.

(Meditations with Julian of Norwich: A Centering Book, Brendan Doyle, Bear & Company, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1983)

What Julian saw in “the eye of (her) understanding”, the astronaut Edgar Mitchell saw with his own eyes as he travelled back from the moon to the earth. He later said, “My view of our planet was a glimpse of divinity.” This photo of the earth from the moon was taken fifty years ago during the Apollo Mission of 1972, one year after Mitchell’s view of the earth from space.

(earth image 1972)

As we enter into the Sacred Week of the Paschal Mystery, reliving the life/death/resurrection of Jesus, our Planet Earth, our Mother, is enduring her own passion. The vibrant blue green planet that Edgar Mitchell saw from space is in agony, her land desertified, her waters polluted, her rainforests being destroyed for profit, many of her life forms disappearing,.

What then are we to make of the promise Julian heard, “It endures and shall endure because God loves it”?

Other words that Julian heard echo in us with the familiarity of a loved song. We speak them to others, we say them to ourselves, words of comfort in times of fear or loss, anxiety or sadness.

Al shal be wele, and al shal be wele,

And all manner of thyng shal be wele.

(Marion Glasscoe translation)

What do these words mean? What is the context in which Julian heard them? They appear in the thirteenth revelation or “showing” that Julian received during her night of visions after a near-death experience. Julian became an anchoress and recorded her showings soon afterwards in what we know as the “Shorter Text”. She would spend the next twenty years in meditation and prayer, reflecting on what she experienced in that single night, writing the “Longer Text”.

Julian writes of being troubled by the suffering she sees and experiences (as are we in this year of 2022, as wave after wave of Covid washes over us, as horrific suffering is inflicted on people in a  brutal war in Ukraine…). In Julian’s mind, the cause of suffering is sin. This leads her to question why God allowed sin to happen when it might have been prevented, allowing us to live as Jesus lived.

Julian is neither the first nor the only one to ponder these questions. The why of suffering still haunts us today in the 21st century. What has changed since Julian’s time is our perception of God.

The horrors of the twentieth Century, especially the Holocaust, led to a re-conception of God, seen no longer as an all-powerful being, one who can prevent the pain caused by human choice, by our blindness, our fear, our inability to love as we wish to love. Instead we have come to know a Presence of Love that is vulnerable, feeling our pain, One who will never let us go, never give up on us.

 Etty Hillesum expressed this best, writing in Auschwitz shortly before her death in 1943:

I shall try to help you, God, to stop my strength ebbing away, though I cannot vouch for it in advance.  But one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me: that you cannot help us that we must help you to help ourselves.  And that is all we can manage these days, also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of you, God, in ourselves.  And in others as well. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much you yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives.  Neither do I hold you responsible. You cannot help us but we must help you and defend your dwelling place inside us to the end.

 Like Etty, Julian entered into a reflective dialogue pondering God’s role in allowing suffering and sin. What I find alluring is Julian’s freedom as she explores these questions. She is confident in the love she experiences from God. She does not view sin (a word that for her embraces whatever causes suffering), either her own sin or that of others, with shame or fear or guilt.

 Here is Julian’s reflection from the Longer Text: …Our Lord brought to my mind the longing that I had for him…and I saw that nothing hindered me but sin, and I saw that this is true of us all in general, and it seemed to me that if there had been no sin, we should all have been pure and as like our Lord as created us. And so in my folly before this time I often wondered why, through the great prescient wisdom of God, the beginning of sin was not prevented. For then it seemed to me that all should have been well.

The impulse to think this was greatly to be shunned; and nevertheless I mourned and sorrowed on this account unreasonably, lacking discretion. But Jesus, who in this vision informed me about everything needful to me, answered with these words and said: “Sin is necessary, but all will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.” 

In this naked word “sin”, our Lord brought generally to my mind all which is not good, and the shameful contempt and the direst tribulation which he endured for us in this life, and his death and all his pains, and the passions, spiritual and bodily of all his creatures. For we are all in part troubled, and we shall be troubled, following our master Jesus until we are fully purged of our mortal flesh and all our inward affections which are not very good.

And with the beholding of this, with all the pains that ever were or ever will be, I understood Christ’s Passion for the greatest and surpassing pain.  And yet this was shown to me in an instant and quickly turned into consolation. For our good Lord would not have the soul frightened by this ugly sight. But I did not see sin, for I believe that it has no kind of substance, no share in being, nor can it be recognized except by the pain caused by it.  And it seems to me that this pain is something for a time, for it purges and makes us know ourselves and ask for mercy; for the Passion of our Lord is comfort to us against all this, and that is his blessed will.  And because of the tender love which our good Lord has for all who will be saved, he comforts us readily and sweetly, meaning this: it is true that sin is the cause of all this pain, but all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.

These words were revealed most tenderly, showing no kind of blame to me or to anyone who will be saved. So it would be most unkind of me to blame God or marvel at him on account of my sins, since he does not blame me for sin.

And in these same words I saw hidden in God an exalted and wonderful mystery, which he will make plain and we shall know in heaven. In this knowledge we shall truly see the cause why he allowed sin to come, and in this sight we shall rejoice forever.

(Showings The Thirteenth Revelation, 224-226 translation Colledge and Walsh Paulist Press, New York, Toronto, 1978)

Return to Norwich

In 1999 I returned to Norwich. In the seven years since I’d been here, I’d changed. With the reverse logic of the lover, I’d thought that Norwich would’ve remained the same. With a sense of betrayal, I looked on large car parks, half-demolished industrial buildings, a new four-storey shopping mall that towered over the old Castle. My favourite pub, “The Murderer’s Cafe”, was gone. Altered roadways blotted out the clarity of the city map I held in my head.

Yet the Church of St. Julian had not altered. I walked towards the tiny flintstone building, rebuilt after the bombing of the original twelfth century structure in June, 1942. As I made my way along Julian’s Alley, my attention was caught by a notice attached to the arched front door of the Church. I drew nearer. I was reading my own name. Soon the whole notice became legible, announcing four performances I’d come to Norwich to offer: a one-woman play on the life and writings of Julian, written by James Janda.

The interior of the church had been adapted for the event. The altar, with its reredos (which had survived the bombing), stood just behind a built – up stage area, adding some three feet to the height of the floor to allow the audience seated in the church pews a clearer view. Felicity Maton, secretary to the Friends of Julian, who’d made the arrangements for the event, explained the plans for lighting. Together we examined the props: the bed, a trunk, the stool, the writing desk.

“Excuse me for a moment,” I said to Felicity. “I need to greet someone.” I walked to the arched doorway at the right of the sanctuary, pushed my thumb down on the iron latch. The door to Julian’s reconstructed cell swung inwards.

 Inside, all was as I’d remembered it, as I’d seen it in memory many times over the past years. I sat down on the bench that was built against the far wall under windows that in Julian’s time would have opened onto the street. Now they looked out to the green grass and trees of the Church yard, edged with a gigantic bush of red roses.

 I let my eyes rest on the marble slab that contained an image of the crucified Jesus.  It bore the words that on my first visit had transfixed me, “Thou art enough to me.”  This time, my eyes lighted on the other words carved into the marble, “Lo, how I loved thee.”

 Yes.  How you loved me, I repeated silently to the One who had brought me here, who had brought me on a far longer journey from emptiness to fullness over the past years, from the state of being without a ministry or a place to live, to the eruption in my life of a ministry so full and satisfying that I could hardly take it in. 

 On that earlier visit I’d prayed to Julian, “Please find me a work like yours, where I can speak to others of God’s love.” Now in the palpable presence of Julian’s spirit, I thanked this goodly woman who had changed my life.

 I returned to Felicity after a few moments with a question, “What do you suggest I do about changing into costume?”

“Why don’t you dress in Mother Julian’s cell and emerge from there to begin the play?”

 So that is how it was, for the four performances over the two weekends.  At first I had to catch myself in the midst of my lines, distracted by the thought, It’s happening here, in the very place where Julian lived.

 On the night of the third performance there was a difference. The wonder had not ceased, but the lack of reality was replaced by an intense awareness that was joyous.  I felt the role with every aspect of my being. In the midst of the first act, I was so conscious of elation, that I tried to touch its source.  It came to me soon enough.

That afternoon I’d been invited to tea in the small apartment of Father Robert Llewellyn, an Anglican priest whose name I’d seen liberally sprinkled through bibliographies of works on Julian.  As we shared the last pieces of his ninetieth birthday cake, Father Robert told me of his assignment in 1976: to be a presence in the Julian Cell.

“For the first month, I spoke with no one,” he recalled. “I just went morning and afternoon and sat in her cell, and prayed.”  After a month someone approached with a question, and gradually his work of listening and advising, mostly in aspects of prayer, began to grow.

Through Father Robert’s efforts, a bookstore/study room and counselling room were created in a hall belonging to the Anglican convent next door. Now this “Julian Centre” attracts scholars and pilgrims who come to read about Julian, to ask about her teachings, to purchase books and souvenirs.

 At the end of our visit, Father Robert asked if we might have fifteen minutes of silent prayer together. There were people he’d promised to pray for, and he suggested that prayers be offered for the performance scheduled for that evening, that it would reach people who would need Julian’s message.

The lightness and joy I felt in the midst of that evening’s performance were the fruit of that silent prayer with Father Robert After the first act, he pressed my hand to his heart. “Thank you,” he said. “You have given us a gentle Julian. You have made her homely.” With a smile he added, “I know in America, that is not a good word, but it is here.” 

My life and my work have become intertwined with the loving trust and homely wisdom of this woman whose teaching is meant for the ordinary days of our lives. 

Days like my second last in England in that summer of 1999, when I stood at the airline desk, one half hour before the departure of my flight from Gatwick to Ottawa, and was told the flight was closed.

 In a moment of near panic, followed by a sense of utter despair, I said, “What am I to do?  I have nowhere to go.” I was met with closed faces. Then from within me Julian’s words arose: “He did not say, `You shall not be tempest – tossed, you shall not be discomfited.’ But He said, `You shall not be overcome.'”

 I believed her. I turned my luggage cart around, trying to balance the seven-foot container of the tapestry, my luggage with costume and props, the weight of new books on Julian. I stood in the middle of Gatwick Airport and cried. Then, having finished with tears, I wheeled the cart outside and found a taxi, a hotel, and the peace to accept this reversal.  I was not overcome.

Revisiting Julian of Norwich

      Wondering what theme might offer us both inspiration and courage in this time of intense suffering and daily uncertainty on our planet, I suddenly found the answer. Who better to guide us than Julian of Norwich whose life in England in the fourteenth century in many ways mirrors ours in the twenty-first? Yet her writings affirm the tender love in which we are held, with assurance that, finally, “all shall be well.”

In the wonderful manuscript she left us, Revelations of Divine Love, Julian’s desire was to share the tender passionate love she experienced in a near-death experience, a night of visions of the Crucified Jesus.

Of Julian herself we know nothing at all, not even her name. She took the name “Julian” when she became an anchoress in the Church of Saints Julian and Edward in Norwich, England in the late years of the 14th century.

 And yet, I have come to know Julian by heart. I begin this reflection on Julian by writing of my own encounter with this beloved woman.

 On a cold wet February day in 1992, I first visited Julian’s reconstructed cell in Norwich. I was on sabbatical in England, studying writing at the University of Sussex. My writing tutor, who had come from Magdalene College at Oxford, Geoff Hemstead, was a gift of wisdom and encouragement in my fledgling work.

 At his suggestion that I should learn about Julian, I searched the University’s library where I found a 1901 edition of Revelations. Editor Grace Warrack wrote in her introduction: From the first we find Julian holding her diverse threads of nature, mercy and grace for the fabric of love she is weaving…

 That’s Julian. In a hazelnut shell.

Caption: In the corners of this painting of Julian by Jane Joyner, notice that each of the four elements is present, reminding us that we are not alone in the challenges we face, nor is the earth alone, for Love is present everywhere, transforming darkness into light, despair into hope, death into life.

 Geoff began to urge me to visit Norwich. To quiet his insistence, I wrote to the Julian Centre, booking a room for the next February weekend. After a two-hour train journey from London, I walked through the streets of Norwich, map in hand, to seek the Church and Visitors’ Centre.

Along King Street, turning right at Julian’s Alley, I found the tiny, perfect flint-stone church a 1950’s reconstruction after the original was destroyed by a World War Two bombing. A plaque was set into the outer wall: Dame Julian of Norwich, Mystic, became an anchoress living in a cell attached to the south wall of this church soon after 1373, and here she wrote, “Revelations of Divine Love”.

 The Church was open. I went inside, walked up the centre aisle, saw a low wooden door to the right, with a sign welcoming visitors to the reconstructed anchorhold. I pressed the iron latch with my thumb and entered, thinking I’d take a few photos and leave.

 I was stopped in my tracks. There was a presence in the room that I had to acknowledge. I sat down and began to tell this kindly wise woman about the pain that had brought me to England. She heard, and responded with words that sustained me for the rest of my sabbatical and guided me home. She has been my friend ever since.

That night in the guest house, I found a small book with a one-woman play about Julian. written by the Jesuit priest James Janda. I copied down the information. After I returned to Canada, I ordered the play. As an incentive, I paid in advance the required royalty for the first performance of the play. Over the next three decades of my life I would offer this play some eighty times in Canada, the US, England and Ireland.

On our troubled, ailing, agonized planet with our twenty-first century awareness of the sufferings and sorrows of its inhabitants, it is easy to imagine earlier centuries as alluringly quiet and peaceful. If we picture Julian’ s century like that, we may dismiss her optimism, her profound trust in the Love that contains us, as naïve.

Julian’s time was far from idyllic. She lived through three outbreaks of black plague that reduced the population of England by one-half; in her time the pre-Reformation Church was in schism, with two popes, one in Rome and one in Avignon! And into the windows of her anchorhold  wafted smoke from the fires burning heretics in her city of Norwich.

 Julian’s original manuscript has never been found, though there are later copies in the British Library and in the Paris Bibliotheque, the earliest dating from the late fifteenth century, some fifty years after her death. Her writings were forgotten, buried in the debris of a troubled historical time, amidst the destruction of the monasteries where such manuscripts would have been preserved. It was only in the twentieth century that her writings came to be widely known.

 One of the earliest references to Julian’s words is in TS Eliot’s Four Quartets, in the final passage of “Little Gidding”:

Quick now, here, now, always –

And the fire and the rose are one.

A condition of complete simplicity

(Costing not less than everything)

And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are infolded

Into the crown of knotted fire

Thomas Merton brought Julian into 20th century awareness in these impassioned words: Julian is without doubt one of the most wonderful of all Christian voices. She gets greater and greater in my eyes as I grow older, and whereas in the old days I used to be crazy about St. John of the Cross, I would not exchange him now for Julian if you gave me the world and the Indies and all the Spanish mystics rolled up in one bundle. (Seeds of Destruction)

Theologian Margaret Brennan says of Julian: It takes a kind of raw faith to believe in God’s goodness and love in a time of societal collapse.

We need Julian’s “raw faith” now as never before on our planet.   

Marauders and the Mistresses of Water

Goddess of Healing by Flo Schell

Jean Houston forwarded this article by anthropologist Carla Stang about the archetypal dynamics of the War in Europe:

As an anthropologist I take a long long view of this war and what I see is something stunning. This conflict is an echo of a thing terrible and crucial that occurred in exactly this place in ancient times, and which has been reverberating ever since. It’s little known that 7000 years ago western Ukraine was the cradle of Europe’s first civilisation, and in three waves it was invaded by people of the steppes of Russia and southeast Ukraine. The subjugation of this civilisation and the destruction of their peaceful, egalitarian way of life set the course for Western culture as we know it, that is to say, the culture of the West that we inherited is a culture of marauders.

It is no surprise then that we are outraged to our bones. We are witnessing the playing out of a primordial nightmare, the seed of the blasted tree that would grow into a history of misogyny, war and the horrors of colonialism. Which means what is being fought for is nothing less than the redemption of European culture, an ancient European culture which cherished the earth, children, women along with men, art and peace, a culture which was not only vanquished but purposely hidden and forgotten, which still grows its tendrils through present day Ukraine. In a sense what is being fought for is what the West once was, what barely survived of it and what could be once more.

Let us first remember.

Before the ziggurats and pyramids there existed from 5500 – 2750 BC the megasite cities of the Cucuteni-Trypillia or the Tripolye or Trypilsti people, with a population that at its height exceeded one million, in an area that extended through Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine. The largest of these settlements was in Ukraine near Kyiv and reached the size of medieval London.

Why is this not widely known? Why do the textbooks and Google say that the first complex civilisation was in Mesopotamia? First because the initial archaeological finds in 1885 occurred after those of the civilisations of Sumer and Ancient Egypt. Then because the research which the Soviets funded at first was then silenced by them because the finds did not fit with their ideology, research was stopped, archaeologists were convicted of being spies and many fled to other countries.

In the last few decades since communist rule, there has been a tide of scholarship and interest. What has been found continues to be astonishing and confounding. These huge settlements do not fit with theories about the Neolithic and about urbanisation. The sprawling settlements incorporated the rural into the urban, rather than being one or the other. And the intricate and sophisticated way they did this defies long held ideas of Europe as having nothing but a smattering of small, warring tribes.

“Under the earth were strewn thousands and thousands of images of woman” – Vikentiy Khvoika

Large well-made temples and houses, 90 foot quarries, trade routes, supply chains, inventories. Agriculturalists, potters, blacksmiths, gold and coppersmiths and weavers. The largest burial of worked gold ever found anywhere. And everywhere images of throned women, and images of men with exquisite expression, carvings of stone so beautifully made one can see the tenderness of the hands that hold the baby. Every object used in every aspect of life is lovingly ornamented.

Earthenware, ceramics, pottery, tools, vessels, dishes, pottery moulds, internal walls of houses painted in varying earth-colours, white, red, ochre and black, and sometimes carved with incisions or encrusted with symbols of nature sun, moon, stars, rain, snakes, birds, bulls, trees, branches, seeds, flowers, water and with magical symbols circle, teeth, rhombus, crosses, endless meanders, snake-pattern.

I could go on and on about this culture where nature entwined and pulsed through every aspect human life. But for brevity’s sake let us continue and add that this was a culture which depicted councils as concentric circles of throned women. And rituals of initiation, fertility and farming by women and men who venerated before all others the goddess in forms of crone, lover, mother and young maiden, bird and serpent but also the animal-masked god-man, ecstatic dancer, the one-eyed ancient one and the divine child. No images of war. There were no slaves. And the priestess and priest who wore the gold at public events went home to an ordinary house.

From around 3000 BC in successive waves down came the Proto-Indo-Europeans, riders on horseback. And conquest included the things we have learned to be familiar with, murder, rape, deliberate obliteration of local culture. In this way the semi-nomadic pastoralists of the steppes, carrying with them their sky gods and patrilineal and patriarchal social systems, destroyed the great Neolithic civilizations of the 4-5th millennia. I wonder at how many cultures the survivors seeded elsewhere (I know of a few), in how many of us ancestral memories stir, and how far these survivors were flung.

But archaeologists agree too that the land of the Trypiltsi has been tilled without cease since these ancient times, and just as under this earth the lives of the Trypiltsi were preserved, so were they in the people of Ukraine, the celebration of singing children and men, of nature and powerful women, flower on clothing and stove, the meandering line of water on the wall, beliefs and attitudes that just would not die.

May the people of the Mistresses of Water wash the Marauders away, and may the West find the spiralling way back to the dream before the nightmare, of the beauty of what it might have become and could become again.

awakening to the sacred feminine presence in our lives