2017/09/22

Brief Glimpses into the Lives of Four Women : Dhuoda, Elisabeth of Schonau, Claire of Assisi, and Jacoba Felicie


This week I had the opportunity to read about a few different women from past history. There are very few records of women in history books or documents- the records that do exist give us an insight into the lives of very privileged and/or wealthy women. I have studied history for years and I can spend hours talking about wars, royal genealogies and the stories of women who were European queens... but the lives, choices and stories of the majority of women have rarely been covered or made easily available for study. However, I had the opportunity to read about four particular women this week and I wanted to share a little bit of their stories and talk about some of the differences and similarities in their lives. Many of the comparisons that I make are obviously my opinion as there is very little information to use. Many of my thoughts are guesses and I would love for others to read their stories and tell me what they think of these women and my assessments. I have tried to post links to sites with specific information about these women.

Dhuoda – She is a mother who worries about the world's influence on her son and worries enough that she has written a specific guide hoping that he will carry her words with him as they are no longer together. The name of her 'guide for her son is titled the "Handbook for William". This is the only major text written by a woman to survive from the Carolingian period (generally seen at 750-900 AD.) She expresses a deep love and fear/ belief in a deity and, while she doesn't tell us what religion her beliefs belong to, they are clearly integral to her thoughts and life. She appears to be a strong believer in justice, honor given to your betters (or understanding of hierarchy) as well as chastity.

Elizabeth of Schonau – She was known for her mystical visions and miracles that she performed during her lifetime which is believed to be from 1128-1164. She became a Benedictine nun which tells us that she was a member of the Roman Catholic church and lived in an order that practiced the rules of St. Benedict. She appears to be a woman of some education (although I did discover on doing some research that most of her writing were actually writing down by her brother so I do wonder if she could write…) and she clearly felt very strongly about spiritually calling. She showed a great desire for information from God that could help her in her spiritual journey- she also hoped and prayed for guidance and visions from the Virgin Mary and other saints. She appears to be a strong believer in God, saints, hope, and visionary knowledge.

Claire of Assisi – She was a one of the first followers of St Francis and lived in the church of San Damiano. She created a spiritual community of women and helped write the rules for her created community that followed the ideals of St Francis when it came to finances -absolute poverty was the ideal. This order that was created by her along with the rules she wrote were the first monastic rules that were written by a woman. The ideals and desires of her community to live in absolute poverty was controversial in the church at that time and it took decades for her community to gain papal approval- this approval was only gained two days before she passed away. She lived a devout life and was a strong believer in charity, community, and simpler living.

Jacoba Felicie – She was a women who practiced medicine at a time where women were forbidden to do so. At this time, medical practitioners were trained through informal apprenticeships which were only available for men. As guilds were developed, individuals could be licensed for their medical knowledge which, again, were only available to men. However, Jacoba would examine patients, use herbs and give medicines top patients, and was sometimes paid for her work. (We can’t be sure from the writing that she was paid all the time and I suspect where she wasn’t successful she wasn’t paid.) The documents available suggest that she had been told not to practice medicine before and was being brought up on charges of doing it again… so she was persistent (whether the persistence was from stubbornness, a need for financial stability with no other options, or even a love of her craft we can’t know from the reading.) She was found guilty at the hearing and was excommunicated from the church as well as charged a significant fine. There is no evidence known as to whether she continued to practice after her trial and/ or what the rest of her life was like.

These women had a few things in common. All of them seem to have some sort of religious mindset and lifestyle. Dhouda frequently mentions her spirituality and morals in the letter to her son, Elizabeth is a Benedictine nun which suggests she is a practicing Catholic, Claire of Assisi is a nun in an established order that she helped create under the auspices of the Pope, and Jacoba was known to have said she could heal sick persons if “God is willing.” How they practiced their spiritual and religious lives were different, but each individual clearly felt the mark of deity on her life. Another thing in common was that all four women seems to feel some motivation to help other people- Dhouda wanted to help her son, Elizabeth wanted to share spiritual knowledge to bring people to a belief in the Virgin Mary and Christ, Claire spent her life giving of her time, energy and physical possessions to others, and Jacoba appears to have made healing the pain and illness of other people her life’s work. Each of these women wanted to share something- whether it was love, knowledge or health with someone else. They saw themselves as teachers and mentors to others whether it was by sharing advice, visions, medical care or charity. Each woman was putting herself at risk- whether of punishment or losing respect in the church- for her views and behavior and all managed to do OK in spite of the risks that they took (from what we can tell- Jacoba is a possible exception.)

Some differences seem apparent to me as well although here is where I jump into some real guesswork and the differences that I see may say more about my biases and perspectives than the women I am analyzing. I feel like Dhouda and Elizabeth grew up in different environments and in different ways, but neither individual seemed to have a great deal of confidence in themselves. From reading either their writings or the things written about them, the writings suggest that both were insecure and their self-talk suggests the low esteem they had for themselves. It appears that both Claire and Jacoba felt fairly confident and brave enough to follow their muse. All four women recognized how their gender affected their lives, but Dhouda and Elizabeth needed more encouragement to do the things they wanted to do and felt held back by their sex…. While Claire and Jacoba were clearly also held back in their societies and chosen professions due to being female, but they found ways to accomplish things unacceptable to their sex in spite of the difficulties presented. I am not sure about Jacoba, but the other women made decisions about leaving their pasts aside or the decision was made for them by others. Dhouda had many of her privileges taken away, Claire walked away from her privileged beginnings to recreate her life as she wanted, and Elizabeth left obscurity to become an abbess in a monastery.

We are so lucky to have opportunity to read the writings and thoughts of women from so many centuries ago- doubly so because we have so few surviving records of any women during this time period. Looking at the challenges they faced, I see some similarities between the burdens they worked to overcome and some of the same burdens facing women today. Each of these women tried to be a positive influence towards those they loved and interacted with, but they also worked to survive and thrive within the world they lived in. No matter what gender we each are, that is what each of us is trying to do too : )



2017/09/21

Self Reflection Collage

Here is two views of my finished product:


So here is a copy of my final art project. My silhouette is completed with more emphasis the disparate parts within the body- even though I think that most of the separation is really in my mind and attitude. My body has very little color because while I am not goth, I tend to where only dark colors no matter how often good friends have tried to get me to do otherwise. My hair is stringy and full of curls and craziness because that is the way my hair tends to be which is why it is always tied back and away from my face and skin- because my hair is so crazy I pretty much used gesture to create it while it is pretty obvious in other areas I was more careful with my line drawing. However, I feel more beautiful when it is down, hence, why I tried to leave it down in this work. My hands are folded to not only hold people and things back from me but to hold a book which is my favorite thing to do..... after cats. I am an animal fanatic and I have eight cats, five ferrets, and a hamster- all rescues with the exception of Desdemona the hamster. My son, cats, and reading are the highlights of my world... with an occasional eggnog for a treat. :)

2017/09/20

Short Definitions of Color


Sir Isaac Newton discovered that color is a “direct function of light + that whole light is a mixture of all the colors of the rainbow and named that idea/ process ‘the spectrum’. So even when we do not see color I light it is there and is what creates the colors we see- neither exists without the other. When we organize the visible spectrum of color into a circle, we get an image of the conventional color wheel.

There are three primary colors: red, yellow and blue. These colors are colors in their own right… in a sense pure, because you do not have to mix colors to come up with them. There are three secondary colors: orange, green, and violet… which are created with a mixing of two of the primary colors together to create the secondary shade. Intermediate colors are created when we mix primary colors as well as a secondary color that neighbors the primary on the color wheel.

The subtractive process of color mixing happens when we mix colors together from a light color to an end result of black due to the mixing of so many colors- black is the absence of discernible color. In this sense, light seems to also be absent as it cannot radiate any of the colors once they have been mixed to black.

Color saturation refers to the intensity or visible sensation of purity of color. It can also refer to how different a color is from white and the ‘strength’ of its visual ‘pull.’

A complementary color scheme is use in works that use hues of color that lie opposite of each other across the color wheel which helps to make both looks look more intense and to complement each other. When an artist uses this effect, it is called simultaneous contrast due to how the human eye registers and recognizes color and how our brain interprets it. As the retina can only respond to one color at a time, our perceptions of each color seems to be stronger and more highly focused. Analogous color scheme are works that are created using colors that are next to each other on the color wheel… These colors can tend to appear to blend into each other and even bring other views of each color out with the way the light around the work hits and amplifies the images. Analogous colors usually are sorted according to temperature, while complimentary colors tend to be brought out by opposition.

Color can be ‘sorted’ by temperature which is a way of describing the light measured in degrees of Kelvin. An easier way to look at color temperature is to recognize that this is a way to describe the characteristic of light in term for temperature- either warm or cold… or variations of those descriptions.

2017/09/18

Mina Snuggles


I rarely sleep on the couch for many reasons. It is fairly uncomfortable, I tend to feel cold, and as the couch is a major cat stampeding ground I can find myself waking up feeling like a soft mountain being pummeled by the rush of feet and purring... the sound of the pounding of the feet echoing in my ears for minutes afterwards mainly because the stamping tends to continue. The full extent of the stampede tends to start in the kitchen then up the counter onto the stove, then the kitchen table, then the island... then down to the floor and onto the couch, then down the couch and onto the television and a leap to the top of the treadmill with a last drop to the plant table... and then back to the kitchen to start the circuit again. As you can imagine, that kind of behavior is not conducive to sleep. Actually, it is not conducive to doing homework either when you are trying to type as Salem leaps up onto the table leading the others running right over my keyboard. Sometimes their toes rip off keys and my colorful language after some of these episodes is loud and contains lots of sighs and stomping.

But last night I had friends over and, as I had loaned them my bed, the couch had my name on it. And as I settled in, Mina jumped up and squashed herself in between me and the back of the couch. She is a funny cat. She is very hesitant and reticent during the day- many of my good friends who come over often have rarely caught even a glimpse of her. But as soon as the sun is low enough in the sky that dusk has settled she allows herself to wander within eyesight and fairly close to me. And when it is dark and only vampires are up and moving, Mina is at her ease and ready to cuddle, play and purr. She doesn't like to hang out on the bed much though as there are already a few cats stretched out on it every evening. So it felt wonderful to have her come up and squeeze herself in such a small space and quite touching that she would reach out a paw if I started to move or adjust myself to communicate that keeping me close was her fondest wish. That was wonderful and it was with a light heart that I was able to try and fall asleep again after every stampede... for she would reach over and push me down reminding me that my job was to sleep and hold her. A small gift last night. :)