Monday, August 5, 2013

August feature Illuminations Week one discussion

























We've gotten insight into the Twelfth Century Church and a bit of secular life so let's dig right into the story
remember Mary will be with us so if you have questions or specific concerns ask her.



Illuminations
Week One
Chapter 1-5

Talk about the “tithe”.


Your thoughts on the mixture of pagan and Christian beliefs and acceptance.


Your feelings on Jutta.



Your favorite character so far and why?




What about the novel has most surprised you so far?




Remember this is just a guide to get you started so please include your own thoughts and feelings!


39 comments:

  1. Deb,
    Once again you've chosen a book that might have otherwise been sitting patiently on my nightstand for a while longer... I absolutely love this book! In fact, I just ordered some of Hildegard's music on CDs and an English translation of Scivias, to get a little more insight into this incredible woman. This book just sucked me in from the start.

    My favorite character is, of course, Hildegard. Wise beyond her years, she is fascinating to me. I keep visualizing my own daughters being walled in an anchorage at that age, and it gives me shivers to consider it. Such a difficult life, and she comes to accept it as well as a little girl can. I am not overfond of Jutta, but I think there is more there than we're seeing. Or perhaps she is simply bitter and self-punishing. I find it interesting that people would accept her as holy based on her personal sacrifice of freedom. Not that I'd be willing to trade places, but is that really the criteria for holiness?? Hildegard, on the other hand, truly has visions and foresight. Interesting also are the headaches. I've read other books (Mark Salzman - Lying Awake, for one) where visions are linked to brain tumors, and it does bring up a whole line of thinking - about the brain, the 'God spot', etc.

    I think the mix of pagan and Christian beliefs, from my scanty knowledge, is appropriate for that time. Belief systems/religions grow and evolve, and this is my understanding of where things stood at that time.

    I had concerns about the welfare of those two young ladies at the monastery - would they really be cared for once they were walled in? So perhaps my biggest surprise is that yes, they were cared for and fed! How easy it is to see an alternate possibility - that the generous dowry is received and Jutta and Hildegard forgotten. Sorry, just the skeptic in me coming out here.
    Elaine

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    1. Thanks Elaine I really love experiencing history through Mary's characters

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    2. The girls were cared for and fed Elaine but what if Muse's beliefs came true and they didn't have Volmar to aide them what then.

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    3. I think they'd be treated quite poorly, at best. In fact, I maintain that my biggest surprise in this section is that they girls were even fed and cared for. Thanks to Volmar for that!

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    4. Thanks Elaine
      How is your sister and did you have a good visit?

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    5. Oh Deb, my sister will have to be the subject of a nice long chat over a hot cup of java when I come to St. Louis. But yes, I had a good visit, and I'm glad I went. How was the birthday party??

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    6. I can't wait for your next visit.
      the party was fine but I still wish I could have seen Ben

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  2. FANTASTIC READ!!!!
    Mary, I love your love of Middle Age History. I am wrapped in a blanket, as I am chilled to the bone after reading Part One, even though is it a horrid muggy 85 degrees with 80% humidity outside.
    In short, the church of the Middle Ages put women and children back into the bondage and and servitude that Christ and His teachings set them free from. But, for now, we won't go there.... that is another book for Mary to write about my least liked Catholic Saint(s).
    From the time of Constantine (and before) the "church" incorporated local pagan mythology and symbolism into their perifrial church icons and extra-cannical writings that became part of the accepted exclesia. There has now, in the recent history since the Vactican Library has loosened it's access, had more documentation as to what and how this all happened come to light..... such things as easter eggs, the christmas tree, the choosing of sacred holiday dates, etc.
    Christian beliefs and acceptance? Are you referring to our acceptance to our lot in life? Crock! You have to remember that women were not taught to read, in general. Only the men of the church and then not all noblemen were lettered during this age. Even then it was highly unusual for a nobleman to own volumes of illuminations. The vast libraries were limited to the monestaries and to the Vatican. Even then, most of the works were in Latin/Greek. The vulgar language texts were few and far between. Given this, the majority of the nobility and all but the fewest of the rest of the minions were illiterate and only knew the scriptures as read and interpreted by the priest during mass. Men being who they are, tend to want to control those under their "care". So they taught their subjects humility and subjecation.... out the door all the freedoms of the original teachings. All were taught to accept the voice of the clergy as the voice of God and to accept their lot in life, for you could not move or hope to better yourself from one stratta to one higher.....if you were a peasant and penniless and hungry, that is the way you were born, that is the way you were made to be and the nobility wanted the clergy to make sure you didn't try to raise your lot or leave or create a rucus..... (okay, a little short and round a bout, but basic political attitude and collusion of control of the masses between clergy and nobility.... especially as most clergy came from nobility.)
    Enough on this for the moment.... :-) All of the said same applied to women, expecially during the Crusades.... when the men went off to fight, the women had to continue to remember their useless state and remember their sub-existence to men and were left in care of the celebate priests who, for many, ha no love for women. (Maybe it's because they couldn't have one LOL)
    Okay, Mary, shoot me down. :-) But how do you put volumes of info and hundreds of years of attitude into a few paragraphs, all of which come to bear in your book. Starting with Jutta's brotther (GRRrrrrrrrrr) to the Abbott of the Monestary (he is a greedy work of art), to the very thought of allowing two young innocent maidens to be entombed in a monestary.... talk about committing a greedy sin in the name of "Glorifying God" when all you want is the parent's money!!!!! Oh wait, that still happens...... :-(
    Sorrry, writing my own book here..... will add more later.
    Muse/Karen

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    1. Muse, I love your "sprited" answers now tell us how you really feel :)
      what I meant by the Christian and pagan acceptance was this.

      it's always interested me how during different eras of "The Church" different things were considered ok or taboo and at this point in the organized church pagan beliefs were more than tolerated.

      As I said above in I love looking through Mary's characters to see history. and in this part the one thing that stands out is Hildegard's vision seeing God as a woman and also her thoughts about the texts Volmar was giving her about the very people that her Father and Brother's were fighting who according to the books possessed extreme intelligence

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    2. Deb, do you remember, this very same topic came up in Witching Hill. "The. Church" has always demonstrated a certain amount of tolerance for local custom ans etnic religion when moving into a new area. Other than totally kick out the old gods , which met with much resistence, and fewer converts, they negotiated and assimilated the. Celebrations, holidays, traditions, and sometimes allowed the local gods to remain benevolent (yes this truely happened in the name of spreading the gospel.) This practice remained prominent through the exploration and settling of the "New World" . Even within the US, you will find the assimilation to local custom.... in the Bilbe Belt of OK you will find the local Catholic Church in small backwater towns look like all the other Baptist and Methodist Curches and that they have Wednesday night Bible Study. In the SW, ontribal lands , you will find Kacinas (Indian Dieties) in the churches, as well as the local parish priests taking part and saying masses at the Indian feast days for their Dieties. And believe me, the mass of the Church from Maine and Chicago is alien to the mass of the SW....
      Assimilation was the only way for the church to survive and go forth. ( or so history showed us.) Where they went forth with the sword and ultimatum, the local populace did not accept the religon of the conquerors and when the conquorors left, the religon left with them. Did that answer your question?

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    3. I do remember thank you for bringing that up.

      But Daughter's had a very different feel to the people and times, perhaps because the Reformation was finally taking hold but it had a much darker feel to the story than this one. for me anyway

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    4. Okay, still missed the mark. Yes, the age old European attitude of supremacy. Nothing has changed. Lol... I lolve that. Volmar was setting Hildegarde free the only way he could....by giving her the keys to learn and to discover and to think...and she was seeing some harsh realities and truthes that most people would never see. This is because the curch held the keys to learning and knowledge and they were a miserly lot. BTW. I love the new Pope accept for his stand on women in priesthood.

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    5. No you didn't miss the mark I do remember the inclusion of the pagan rites and celebrations the waning importance of the "wise woman" and the general practices in the Early English Church.
      It's just that my mind seems to work faster than my fingers and once I hit send I'm out of luck :)

      and I also like what the new Pope has been saying so far

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  3. Volmar is by far my favorite character. He is the knight in shining armour. He understood so deeply what Hildegard AND Jutta were both suffering through. But he had compassion. If not for him, I think the two girls would bave received minimal care and been left to molder and rot. Without him and his kind input and link to the outside world, they and their souls would have shrivelled and died in the tomb within a year or two.... How long do you think it will take HIldegarde to realize his pychological importance to them? Do you think Jutta will every realize it?

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  4. Ah, Volmar, he's so important that I have just been taking him for granted. Yes, I also am quite fond of him, and I agree that the ladies would not have received any real attention if not for him.

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    1. Volmar is a favorite of mine now too.

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    2. Volmar is definitely one of my favorite characters. I agree with Muse. What would Hildegard and Jutta have done without him? He befriended them and made sure they were taken care of. He brought them books and plants. He listened to their secrets. He was indeed a good friend to them both.

      -April

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  5. Also what do you think of the Prologue and that very definite look at the future

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  6. Due to the grimmness of the subject matter of the story and how very horrid the first portion is, I think it was brilliant on Mary' part to give us hope for the future.

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  7. You know, even in this austere, bleak situation, we have the ultimate love triangle going on... She loves him from afar, while watching him love her from afar and none the twain shall meet in this life.... but their hearts beat and sigh in unfulfillment.
    If goes to show that love is ingrained and deep... you can remove the body from the heat of the battle, but the war rages on with each beat of the heart. We all long to love and be loved, isolating ourselves will not remove that need, though the monastic practice did force those who could not contain the yearnings to seek alternate venues of release.... As we all know this has not turned out well over thelast several hundred years. ??????
    I will say this latter subject is in no way addressed in the story, but the evidence of unrequieted love and it's needs speak loudly to it.

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    1. How true Muse
      I think the practices in the early Church were predestined to have problems just from the fact that so many were given to the church by their families ie both Hildegard and her brother as prime examples, others relied on the church for their literal daily bread. So I understand the problems this could cause.
      Never the less I think there was more good people than bad unfortunately some of the really bad were Popes, Bishops and Cardinals
      The later problems though can't really be compared as no one (supposedly) is forced into the priesthood any longer.


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  8. Hi ladies, I got an email from Mary last night she said to tell you Iceland is in the internet dead zone so she'll be with us on Monday when she gets home.

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  9. Are you ready for week two. Remember Mary's going to be with us this week.

    Also for my book club members I posted a question on the top right hand box titled Previews, Headliners and Active Contests and I'd appreciate your responses.
    Thanks

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  10. Sorry I'm so late posting on the first chapters. I got a late start reading and just finished them up last night.

    Talk about the tithe:

    When Hildegard and her mother talk about the tithe, I must admit I was slightly surprised. I knew of Christians giving a tenth of what they owned to the church, but I had no idea that included people. So when her mother simply states, you are the tenth child, my heart broke for Hildegard. I couldn't imagine what that must have felt like to know she was to be sent away to a strange place with only Jutta as company, a person Hildegard barely knew and one that others described as mad. I kept trying to put myself in Hildegard's mother's shoes, trying to find a reason that would make it easier to understand why she would let her young daughter be taken away and walled in the monastery, but none of the reasons I could come up with (money for her other daughters' dowry, too many mouths to feed) could justify why she let Hildegard go. By the end of chapter five though I began to forgive her mother. Rorich coming to visit Hildegard at the monastery to tell her their mother had died and letting her know how much their mother loved Hildegard and wanted to save her from a fate that could have been worse, eased some of the anger I felt towards her. Especially when he gave Hildegard their mother's ring. The finest thing she owned, a gift from her own mother. I think her mother wanting her to have that ring meant a lot to Hildegard, perhaps she even felt at that moment that her mother really did love her.

    -April

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    1. April, Thanks for your comments
      I too was aghast at what her mother did. I have to admit I know very little of the time and the struggles of these people but my heart broke for Hildegard too.

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  11. I'm glad you were able to forgive her mother. I wasn't so gracious. All I saw from her mother in the end was remorse and guilt. She came up with the after-reasoning as to why Hildegarde was better off, but it was all for trying to relieve her own guilt. She turned her back on her own daughter and sold her for the advancement of the two older and prettier daughters who were more favored.
    Telling Hilde that she was the tithe was just another copout, too. Thought in the wealth aristocracy at least one of the sonswas always expected to go to the church. See my previous post. The church and the reigning families were tightly woven and this was one of the reasons the chur h was so heavily drawn into the politics of the courts. Because all the church leadership was related to the courts......

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    1. I admit, I wondered if possibly Hildegard's mother wasn't telling Rorich how much she loved Hildegard and the reason she gave her daughter up was so she would be better off, just to ease her conscience on her deathbed. In the end, I chose to believe her mother was sincere because I needed her to have a good reason for giving up her daughter. I couldn't imagine any mother just wanting to be rid of her child. Reading how Hildegard felt abandoned by her mother and felt her mother no longer loved her (if she ever did) just broke my heart. After Jutta revealed what happened to her at the hands of her brother, I began to understand how women (girls really) were treated by the men in these times and I really do believe that Hildegard's mother may have been trying to save her daughter from something worse.

      -April

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  12. Feelings on Jutta:

    My feelings on Jutta seem to be all over the place in these first chapters. At first I wasn't sure what to make of Jutta. I couldn't understand why she would choose such a young girl to accompany her to the monastery. I was horrified reading about her starving herself and beating herself until she bled. I couldn't wrap my head around why she was doing that to herself. I suspected something must have happened between her and Meginhard, for whenever she came in contact with him, she would go crazy. When she finally reveals to Hildegard about Meginhard raping her and explains that to be the reason that she chose Hildegard to accompany her to the monastery (so nothing like that could ever happen to her) I felt myself better understanding Jutta and softening towards her. In fact at that point I even began to like her. By the end of chapter five though, I found myself not liking Jutta. After the hermit visits and reveals to Jutta that she knows that Hildegard also has visions and that one day she will outshine her, Jutta becomes angry and refuses to talk to Hildegard anymore, even threatens to tell the abbot and have her cast out. I think she became jealous of Hildegard's visions, wishing she was blessed with this gift.

    -April

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    1. Again April thanks for your comments. I had a hard time liking Jutta at all, feeling sorry for her yes but not liking her.
      I'm glad you caught up I was wondering if maybe you had a new arrival yet :)

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    2. Nothing yet, but only six more weeks to go! :)

      -April

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  13. I too am behind in my reading, bad moderator :)

    I am finishing up this weeks section and will post sometime today.
    Thank you all for your support
    Remember Mary is home from vacation and will be joining us

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  15. Favorite character:

    My favorite character by far is Hildegard. She is a very strong person, much stronger than I think she even knows. To be able to survive walled in the monastery against her will at such a young age and still be able to find a way to live each day. Amazing. I have been intrigued by her since the beginning of the novel when we see her and her daughters ripping apart the cemetery. This scene was so vivid and made me want to learn more about this woman who would go to any lengths to protect the grave of a runaway monk who came to them for help.

    -April

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  16. Mary does a wonderful job of Humanizing Hildegard too, where she's not this untouchable saintly being but a red blooded, moody, real woman

    Thank you all for your responses for week one

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  17. Just back from Iceland. Thank you, everyone, for your wonderful comments and spirited discussion!

    Volmar was indeed Hildegard's lifelong friend and supporter. He and her young friend Richardis supported her as she began to write her first book. Without Volmar, without the support from the sisters who believed in her, Hildegard might have remained forever silenced. He actually sacrificed his own intellectual career as a scribe to serve Hildegard's greater glory and helped polish her Latin so her writings would be taken serious and gain the widest possible audience. They were friends until he died and Volmar's one remaining letter to Hildegard is so touching in revealing their lifelong friendship.

    Jutta was an ascetic whose extremes of fasting and mortification of the flesh were considered extreme, even for her own time. Her Vita was recently discovered and gives evidence to this. Although Hildegard, in her own writings, is lavish in expressing her affection and praise for Volmar, she is curiously reticent about expressing her feelings for Jutta and she herself took such a different direction in her own spirituality, rejecting Jutta's path of pain to embrace the divine as love, as manifest in music, creativity, and the burgeoning green natural world.

    Re the pagan/Christian thing--I just got back from Iceland with its rich history of the Eddas and Sagas. Nearly all of what we know about "pagan" Iceland was written by monks who described the old deities such as Odin, Thor, and Freyja in great loving detail. Without the monks, all those ancient stories and lore might have been lost.

    Re the Feminine Divine, it's actually in the canon, in the Book of Wisdom in the Old Testament in the Catholic Bible. Divine Wisdom is personified as female and given the full power of divine creation. So Hildegard, in her later writings on the Feminine Divine, wasn't inventing anything. She was drawing on the Wisdom scriptures that belonged firmly to Catholic teachings, believe it or not. Barbara Newman explains this in her book Sister of Wisdom, which I highly recommend if you want to delve into Hildegard's theology of the Feminine Divine.

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    1. Mary welcome back.
      What interesting things you learned while on vacation.
      And thanks for enlightening us on all things in the early church.
      Not being a catholic myself I never learned about the Feminine Devine and am very surprised to learn about it especially knowing their feelings about women's roles in the higher ups in the church.

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