During the Middle Ages, a lay group of women dedicated to a life of prayer, hard work, and community service thrived in the Low Countries. Known as the Beguines, Karen Maitland imagines what it might have been like for a group of these women to have struck out on their own to settle in an unwelcoming English town. The atmosphere is tense as the women are seen as outsiders, not part of Mother Church and not part of the resident pagan tradition either. The women bring their ideas of Christian charity to the townsfolk who regard them with suspicion and sometimes open hostility. As the village suffers through a series of disasters, the power of the Church is threatened, dark forces from earlier times reawaken, and the beguines must decide to make a stand or return to the safety of their continental shores.
Karen Maitland novel is well-researched and executed. The story is told from the various viewpoints of the characters in the town of Ulewic. In this way, we learn each of the beguine’s has her own history and her own reasons for joining the group. We understand the struggles of the local priest as he fits into a system that leaves him little room for personal choice. A nobleman’s daughter helps us feel the restrictions of living as a young woman in Medieval society. An array of townsfolk completes the cast. The Owl Killers are a group of masked men who harken back to a day before law and order. They are definitely flesh and blood and do their share of evil, but Maitland has, at times, blurred the line. Although most of the story feels firmly planted in third dimensional reality, there are a few places where things take on an otherworldly creepiness. Man’s ability for cruelty can be disturbing and this book certainly has those moments. The ending may leave you wanting more or maybe something else entirely.
Creativity and Your Yearning to Express Yourself by Teri Degler
“Love, begin the song, and let me hear how well you sing.” Mechthild of Magdeburg
In The Divine Feminine Fire, Teri Degler explores the similarities and differences of the divine feminine expressed in Shakti (Hinduism), Sophia (Christianity), and Shekinah (Kabbalah). She examines ancient and suppressed texts leading to some fascinating insights. The reason to explore these traditions is made plain by the need for understanding in our own time of the awakening going on in us and around us. Degler asserts that it is the divine feminine that is waking up, being ignited and transforming consciousness. The divine feminine is a creative force (not limited to the female gender, in any way) experienced in the human body as a birthright. This experience is one that exists along a continuum.
photo: Kinjal bose 78
To get a feel for the extreme of the continuum, Degler examines the lives of a 12th Century Christian Saint (Mechthild of Magdeburg) and a 12th Century Hindu Saint (Mahadevi Akka). She draws some appropriate parallels and calls our attention to the whole of the transformation being rooted in the body. The stories of five modern women are also given to show the other end of the continuum. There was a compelling discussion about Gopi Krishna and how we have no reason to think we have a good handle on understanding what the far extreme of this transformation would look like. Things like where do Christ or Buddha fall on the continuum come to mind.
Throughout the book, there are examples of what transformative experiences happen when the divine feminine is awakened. Again, these are on the continuum. The principle signs of transformation include mystical experience, paranormal abilities, and divine inspiration (inspired creativity).
The final chapter of the book is a call to live a balanced life. Whether we know it or like it, all of us are in the body going through transformation somewhere along the continuum. Creativity is the way the divine feminine is expressed and how consciousness is transformed. Many of us feel this call of transformation through our creative work and the whole of life can be viewed as creative expression.