a Wind Rose (Barbara Hanlo, 1996)

9 min

from Not Afraid of Super 8: Films from Studio één (1988 – 2005)

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In addition to Scivias she wrote two other major works of visionary writing Liber vitae meritorum (1150-63) (Book of Life’s Merits) and Liber divinorum operum(1163) (“Book of Divine Works”), in which she further expounded on her theology of microcosm and macrocosm-man being the peak of god’s creation, man as a mirror through which the splendor of the macrocosm was reflected. Hildegard also authored Physica and Causae et Curae (1150), both works on natural history and curative powers of various natural objects, which are together known as Liber subtilatum (“The book of subtleties of the Diverse Nature of Things”). These works were uncharacteristic of Hildegard’s writings, including her correspondences, in that they were not presented in a visionary form and don’t contain any references to divine source or revelation. However, like her religious writings they reflected her religious philosophy-that the man was the peak of god’s creation and everything was put in the world for man to use.

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Her scientific views were derived from the ancient Greek cosmology of the four elements-fire, air, water, and earth-with their complementary qualities of heat, dryness, moisture, and cold, and the corresponding four humours in the body-choler (yellow bile), blood, phlegm, and melancholy (black bile). Human constitution was based on the preponderance of one or two of the humours. Indeed, we still use words “choleric”, “sanguine”, “phlegmatic” and “melancholy” to describe personalities. Sickness upset the delicate balance of the humours, and only consuming the right plant or animal which had that quality you were missing, could restore the healthy balance to the body. That is why in giving descriptions of plants, trees, birds, animals, stones, Hildegard is mostly concerned in describing that object’s quality and giving its medicinal use. Thus, “Reyan (tansy) is hot and a little damp and is good against all superfluous flowing humours and whoever suffers from catarrh and has a cough, let him eat tansy. It will bind humors so that they do not overflow, and thus will lessen.”

Hildegard’s writings are also unique for their generally positive view of sexual relations and her description of pleasure from the point of view of a woman. They might also contain the first description of the female orgasm.

When a woman is making love with a man, a sense of heat in her brain, which brings with it sensual delight, communicates the taste of that delight during the act and summons forth the emission of the man’s seed. And when the seed has fallen into its place, that vehement heat descending from her brain draws the seed to itself and holds it, and soon the woman’s sexual organs contract, and all the parts that are ready to open up during the time of menstruation now close, in the same way as a strong man can old something enclosed in his fist.

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She also wrote that strength of semen determined the sex of the child, while the amount of love and passion determine child’s disposition. The worst case, where the seed is weak and parents feel no love, leads to a bitter daughter.

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[] – learn about hildegard von bingen
[] – scivias on google books
[] – fragment found on youtube

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