The subject of spirituality, as in so many other subjects, has been dominated by the voices of men over the course of history. But some of the most inspiring messages have come from women, who defied convention, lived in seclusion and sometimes remained nameless so that their thoughts on the Divine, the Earth, and their spirituality could last through the ages.
I’ve collected some quotes from women who were writing in the middle ages. Most of them are European, though there are also women from Japan, India and the Middle East. The women were devout in their – mostly Christian – beliefs, but often had a different way of looking at their spirituality that may have come from being outside the power structure of their religion.
I first discovered Hildegard of Bingen last year while looking for quotes outside of copyright. I was surprised at how much I agreed with a Catholic nun who died 800 years before I was born. If I changed ‘God’ to ‘Goddess’, ‘Spirit’ or ‘the Divine’, which I normally do, then I’d be saying the same things. The same was true of a lot of quotes I read.
So, on this International Women’s Day, I thought I’d share with you some of the quotes from medieval women that continue to fire my spirit.
Our life is all grounded and rooted in love, and without love we may not live.
– Julian of Norwich
Trees are not known by their leaves, nor even by their blossoms, but by their fruits.
– Eleanor of Aquitaine
Settle yourself in solitude, and you will come upon God in yourself.
-Teresa of Avila
Make two homes for thyself, my daughter. One actual home… and the other a spiritual home which thou are to carry with thee always.
– Catherine of Siena
It is not a matter of thinking a great deal but of loving a great deal, so do whatever arouses you most to love.
-Teresa of Avila
We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a wold that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.
– Hildegard of Bingen
It is a fearful mistake to believe that because our wishes are not accomplished they can do no harm.
– Gertrude the Great
Love is that burning fire which devours everything and shall never, never cease in all the endless ages to come.
Don’t forget love
It will bring all the madness you need
To unfurl yourself across
One night as I sat in quiet, I seemed on the verge of entering a world inse so vast I knew it is the source of all of us.
Every creature is a glittering, glistening mirror of Divinity.
-Hildegard of Bingen
I am not afraid… I was born to do this.
– Joan of Arc
How else would God speak to me, if not through my imagination?
– Joan of Arc
No art or learning is to be pursued half-heartedly… and any art worth learning will certainly reward more or less generously the effort made to study it.
– Murasaki Shikibu
In plain-looking rock
Lies a golden ore,
And in seeds,
The treasure of oil.
Rests concealed in the heart.
He who holds his senses under control,
Can in the dark catch hold of the sun,
(Can see the Light in the darkness of the soul).
– Lalla Ded
For more quotes to fire your spirit, including lots from kickass women, check out my Instagram. What’s your favourite spiritual quote? Have I included it here? Let me know in the comments! And Happy International Women’s Day!