Feminine Symbols in Medieval Religious Literature

Rosemary Radford Ruether

in Goddesses and the Divine Feminine

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780520231467
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520940413 | DOI:
Feminine Symbols in Medieval Religious Literature

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Mary is the pure virgin at her conception and at the birth of Jesus as well as the exalted queen of heaven. But she is also the sorrowful mother. She understands and is with us in our suffering. More fundamentally, she shared fully in her son' suffering, having foreknowledge of his crucifixion from his birth. Feminine symbolism is central to the work of several key medieval mystical writers, including Hildegard of Bingen. This chapter explores the development of Mariology through the medieval world. It looks at five medieval women mystics who laid hold of these female symbols—Wisdom, Mother Church, and bridal soul—to affirm their own spiritual journeys as women empowered to speak, write, teach, and guide other women. It also discusses feminine symbols in Cistercian and beguine love mysticism, as well as the views of fourteenth-century recluse Julian of Norwich.

Keywords: Mary; Mariology; female symbols; mysticism; Julian of Norwich; Hildegard of Bingen; women mystics; Wisdom; Mother Church; bridal soul

Chapter.  11836 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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