Wise Woman Nun

It’s tempting to transcribe the entirety of Meda Ryan’s book on Biddy Early, as it offers such wonderful insight to the mystical and shamanic wise woman tradition that thrived in Ireland in spite of, and in many cases within, the Catholic Church. As Imbolc is upon us it will be good to honor Brigit, goddess and saint, for her contributions. Yet the echoes of this ancient and deep Earth based knowing were heard well beyond Ireland.

In Germany, some 700 years before Biddy’s time, a remarkable woman was on a similar path. Hildegard Von Bingen, nun and abbess, was deeply rooted in the tradition of creation spirituality. From this world view she honored the sacred in all things and named a deep connection with the Earth as the source of her wisdom and power. And indeed she Hildegard Von Bingenwas powerful. As a poet, healer, visionary, artist, writer and teacher her tenacious and prolific expressions of spiritual and sacred wisdom were a source of great consternation for the Church hierarchy.

Spiritual teacher and author Matthew Fox has spent much of his life exploring the teachings and writings of Hildegard. In his latest book he writes:  She calls for an awakening of the kind of creativity she refers to as “greening power”, leading to an honoring of Mother Earth and the return of the Green Man….an archetype that underscores the deep relationship between human and the plant world, the human and natural world. Hildegard was fully cognizant of the Green Man movement of her time…she even calls Christ “a green man” who caused “all the greening power of the virtues.”

For their wisdom these women were ridiculed and persecuted. Biddy was tried as a witch, Hildegard was condemned and eventually, along with her entire monastic community, ex-communicated for a year. But the power of their wisdom, the truth of this ancient Earth based knowing is too strong to be silenced. Too strong and too vital for our lives today. It is both astounding and encouraging that last October the Catholic Church canonized Hildegard of Bingen.