"And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams..." Acts 2:17 King James Version
Six women in the Bible are expressly stated as possessing the title of prophetess: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Noahdiah and Isaiah's wife. Philip is mentioned in Acts as having four daughters who prophesied, which brings the number of known prophetesses to ten. There is no reason to believe that there weren't thousands more, undocumented throughout history, then and now. According to religious tradition, women have often been powerful seers and that is why I've included them in my novel: The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr.
|Hildegard of Bingen|
Spiritual gifting is not given for the edification of the person receiving it, but for the church at large. Hildegard wrote three volumes of her mystical visions, and then biblically exegeted them herself. Her theology was not, as one might expect, shunned by the church establishment of the time, but instead Pope Eugenius III gave her work his approval and she was published in Paris in 1513.
Several centuries later, Julian of Norwich continued Hildegard's tradition as a seer, a mystic, and a writer. In her early thirties, Julian had a series of visions which she claimed came from Jesus Christ. In them, she felt His deep love and had a desire to transmit that He desired to be known as a God of joy and compassion and not duty and judgment. Her book, Revelations of Divine Love, is said to be the first book written in the English language by a woman. She was well known as a mystic and a spiritual director by both men and women. The message of love and joy that she delivered is still celebrated today; she has feast days in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran traditions.
|Julian of Norwich|
In that century, the smallest sign, imagined or not, could be used to indict a "witch". A gift handling herbs? Witchcraft. An unrestrained tongue? Witchcraft. Floating rather than sinking when placed in a body of water when accused of witchcraft and therefore tested? Guilty for sure. Women with "suspicious" spiritual gifts, including dreams and visions, had to be particularly careful. And yet they, like Hildegard and Julian before them, had been given just such a gift to share with others. And share they must.
|Execution of Alleged |
According to religious tradition women have often had very active prophetic gifts; we are mystical, engaging, and intuitive. I admire our sisters throughout history who actively, risk-takingly, used their intellectual and spiritual gifts with whatever power they had at hand.
To learn more about Sandra's Ladies in Waiting Series, set in Tudor England, please visit www.sandrabyrd.com. For blogs on England and English history, visit: http://sandrabyrd.com/blog/