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 Witchvox Chapter: Pagan Books   Chapter Page Views: 8,046,144  

Book Specs.

ISBN: 978-0-547-56784-6
Released: Oct - 2012
List Price: $25.00

Wvox Stats.

Vox ID: 382109

Book ID: 2628

Posted: 9.28.2012

WV Impressions: 24,455

A triumphant portrait of the great visionary and herald of the Feminine Divine

Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen

Author: Mary Sharratt

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Category: fiction   Level: All

"The bright visions of Hildegard wing across the centuries on the gifted pen of Mary Sharratt in a novel that keeps faith with the ever-living joy of this most unconventional abbess.”
-Caitlin Matthews, author of Sophia: Goddess of Wisdom, Bride of God and Celtic Visions

Skillfully interweaving historical fact with psychological insight and vivid imagination, Sharratt’s redemptive novel, Illuminations, brings to life one of the most extraordinary women of the Middle Ages: Hildegard von Bingen, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath.

Offered to the Church at the age of eight, Hildegard was entombed in a small room where she was expected to live out her days in silent submission as the handmaiden of a renowned but disturbed young nun, Jutta von Sponheim. Instead, Hildegard rejected Jutta’s masochistic piety and found comfort and grace in studying books, growing herbs, and rejoicing in her own secret visions of the God she called Mother. When Jutta died some thirty years later, Hildegard broke out of her prison with the heavenly calling to speak and write about her visions and to liberate her sisters and herself from the soul-destroying anchorage. Riveting and utterly unforgettable, Illuminations is a deeply moving portrayal of a woman willing to risk everything for what she believed.

What the critics are saying:

Sharratt (The Vanishing Point; Daughters of the Witching Hill) follows Hildegard as she blossoms from a frightened child into the multitalented abbess still remembered as one of the Catholic Church’s most influential thinkers and innovative theologians. VERDICT Interest in Hildegard will likely increase this year following her long-overdue canonization in May and receipt of the title “Doctor of the Church” this coming October. Sharratt’s well-timed and well-written portrait, both admiring and humanizing, should please readers looking for an accessible way to learn more about the life of this fascinating medieval woman.
—Library Journal, Mara Bandy, Champaign P.L., IL

Sharratt brings the elusive Hildegard to vivid life, underscoring her ability to evade or transcend Church censure while espousing a proto-feminist agenda. The ideal companion to the elevation of Hildegard by the pontiff who rebuked American nuns for their outspokenness, an irony the saint herself might have relished.

In this affecting historical novel, Sharratt imagines the inner life of Hildegard, first as an angry child, then as a young woman nurturing other girls forced into this restricted life, and finally as a mature woman leading her companions out of the anchorage . . . and advocating an idea of religious devotion based on love rather than suffering. Psychological insight, passages of moving spirituality, and abundant historical detail--from straw bedding and hairshirts to turtle soup and wooden dolls--make this a memorable addition to the genre of medieval historical fiction.

Sharratt (Daughters of the Witching Hill) offers up an imaginative retelling of the fascinating life of the 12th-century nun Hildegard von Bingen. Though confined primarily to the abbey and peopled by a small cast, Sharratt’s gripping story, like Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, is primarily about relationships forged under pressure.
—Publisher's Weekly

I admit to knowing next to nothing about Hildegard von Bingen before I picked up Mary Sharratt's novel Illuminations. By the time I finished, I was in awe of the German nun, Hildegard, whose visions and persistent spirit led her to break free of her life as a forced anchorite and found her own abbey amid the male dominated church, is brought to life magnificently through a mixture of fact and conjecture that pulls you into her most unusual life . . . . A very well written tale about a woman who deserves to be remembered.
—Historical Novels Review, Tamela McCann

I read this book from cover to cover and without reserve highly recommend it. Illuminations shed mosaic stained-glass light on Hildegard's fame from visions, artistry, and composing holy music.
—Blogcritics Review

Learn more about the Hildegard and Mary Sharratt:

Feature article in the Minneapolis Star & Tribune:

Namaste Insights Fall 2012 Issue, devoted to Hildegard and the Feminine Divine:

Join Mary on her traditional tour and virtual blog tour:

Book Tour Dates:

Tuesday, Oct 9—St. Paul
7:00 pm —Common Good Books launch event: 38 S. Snelling Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105.

Wednesday, Oct 10—Edina
7:00 pm —Barnes & Noble Galleria. 3225 West 69th Street, Edina, MN 55435.

Thursday, Oct 11—Wayzata
7:00 pm — The Bookcase, 824 East Lake Street. Wayzata, MN 55391.

Monday, Oct 15—White Bear Lake
6:30 pm —White Bear Lake Public Library, 4698 Clark Ave., White Bear Lake, MN 55110.

Tuesday, Oct 16—Minneapolis
4:30 pm—University of Minnesota Bookstore, Coffman Union, University Ave.

Tuesday, Oct 16—St. Paul
7:30 pm —Carol Connolly Reading Series, University Club, Summit Ave.

Wednesday, Oct 17—St. Paul
7:00 pm—Subtext Books, 165 Western Ave. N.

Thursday, Oct 18—Mounds View
6:30 pm —Mounds View Public Library, 2576 County Rd 10, Mounds View, MN 55112

Saturday, Oct 20—Stillwater
2:00 pm—Valley Bookseller, 217 Main Street North, Stillwater MN 55082.

Sunday, Oct 21--Duluth
1:00 pm signing, 2:00 pm reading--The Bookstore at Fitger's, 600 East Superior St., Duluth MN 55802.

Monday, Oct 22--Excelsior
7:00 pm--318 Cafe, 318, Water St, Excelsior MN 55331.

Tuesday, Oct 23—Northfield
7:00 pm—Northfield Library, 210 Washington St., Northfield MN 55057

Wednesday, Oct 24 —Book Club, Golden Valley
7:00 pm —Private event.

Blog Tour Dates:

October 9th: Jenn’sBookshelves

October 10th: The Burton Review

October 12th: Kris Waldherr blog

October 15 and 16th: Passages to the Past

October 17 and 18: Beyond the Fields We Know

October 19: Gaian Soul blog

October 22 and 23: Literate Housewife blog

October 24 and 25: Booking Mama

October 29 and 30: Peeking Between the Pages

November 5 and 6: Devourer of Books

Author's Notes: What relevance does Saint Hildegard, soon-to-be Doctor of the Church, have for Witchvox readers?

Her visions of the Feminine Divine and of Viriditas, the sacred manifest in nature, have made her a pivotal figure in feminist spirituality.

Viriditas, or sacred greening power, was Hildegard’s revelation of the animating life force manifest in the natural world that infuses all creation with moisture and vitality. To her, the Divine was manifest in every leaf and blade of grass. Creation revealed the face of the invisible creator. Hildegard celebrated the sacred in nature, something highly relevant for us in this age of climate change and the destruction of natural habitats.

I, the fiery life of divine essence, am aflame beyond the beauty of the meadows, I gleam in the waters, and I burn in the sun, moon and stars . . . . I awaken everything to life.
--Hildegard von Bingen, Liber Divinorum (Book of Divine Works)

Hildegard’s philosophy of Viriditas went hand in hand with her celebration of the Feminine Divine. Although the established Church of her day could not have been more male-dominated, Hildegard’s visions revealed God as Mother. She said that she could only bear to look upon Divinity in her visions if God appeared to her in feminine form. Her visions revealed the Divine as a cosmic egg, nurturing all of life like a womb. Masculine imagery of the creator tends to focus on God’s transcendence, but Hildegard’s revelations of the Feminine Divine celebrated immanence, of God being present in all things, in every aspect of this green, burgeoning, blessed world.

According to Barbara Newman’s book Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard’s Theology of the Feminine, Hildegard’s Sapientia, or Divine Wisdom, creates the cosmos by existing within it.

O power of wisdom!
You encompassed the cosmos,
Encircling and embracing all in one living orbit
With your three wings:
One soars on high,
One distills the earth’s essence,
And the third hovers everywhere.
--Hildegard von Bingen, O virtus sapientia

This might be read as an ecstatic hymn to Sophia, the great Cosmic Mother.

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