The Significance of Psalms

13th-century_painters_-_Amesbury_Psalter_-_WGA15754Over the past year I have been periodically posting from a group of medieval 13th century psalms from The Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What is the significance of these psalms in particular and of  psalms such of those of the Bible in general? Are psalms just pretty poetry, full of metaphors, exaggerations, and imaginative language not to be taken too seriously? Are they just of entertainment value as most of us today take poetry? Well the biblical psalms and the medieval Marian psalms are certainly beautiful. However that is not all that they are.

To look at the question of the significance of psalms we first have to look at their significance in the history of religion. To do that we must look at some aspects of what they do. Enclosed are two Marian psalms to help in this.

Wound my Heart – psalm 82

O my Lady, who shall be like unto thee ? In grace and glory you surpass all.

As the heavens are above the earth: so are you high above all, and exceedingly exalted.

Wound my heart with your love: make me worthy of your grace and your gifts.

May my heart melt in thy fear: and may the desire of thee inkindle my soul.

Make me desire your honor and your glory: that I may be received by you .

The Foundation of Life – psalm 86

The foundation of life in the soul of the just is to persevere in love unto the end.

Your grace raises up the poor man in adversity: and the invocation of your name inspires him with confidence.

Paradise is filled with thy mercies: and by the fear of thee the infernal enemy is confounded.

He who hopes in thee, will find treasures of peace:

And he who invokes you not in this life, will not attain to your kingdom.

Grant, O Lady, that we may live in the grace of the Holy Spirit: and lead our souls to a good end.

On viewing both of these psalms / poems / hymns it becomes clear that praise of the Deity  lies at their center. “Wound my Heart” begins its first line with “O Lady who shall be like unto you? ” It continues with ” As the heavens are above the earth so are you above all.” Within “The Foundation of Life” the spirit of praise is not  so direct. However it is implicit in the text. By citing the Lady’s achievement and actions “Your grace raises up the poor man,” “Paradise is filled with your mercies.” the praise is still very much there. In the centrality of praise both of these hymns are very typical of psalms in general.

The second primary aspect of the psalms is that they address the Deity in the form of petition. Historically peoples and individuals have tended to pray for concrete things such as good harvests, help in personal troubles, help in war, etc. The Marian and Biblical psalms  are some what different for in them more spiritual gifts are often requested. Thus the saint asks that he or she be brought closer to the Lady by “having her heart wounded by the [Lady’s] love,” that ” we be made worthy of her gifts and grace,” that we may live by the grace of the holy spirit.” Of course in other hymns other things are asked for such as deliverance from enemies, sins, or illness.

In all these things the Biblical and Marian hymns are not exceptional. They do for certain religious communities i.e. the Jewish national community and the monastic communities of the Medieval period what all religious communities have done, that is to address the Deity(s) in praise and thanksgiving and to petition the deity for the good things of life. Certainly the hymns and writings of the monotheistic faiths of the West, of Christianity, Judaism and Islam are full of both praise and petition. The hymns and sacred songs  of Hinduism, Sikhism, and other world religions often do much the same.

The ancient pagan religions of ancient Egypt, Greece, Sumeria, etc were no exception to this. The ancient peoples all regularly sang hymns of praise and petitions to their gods and goddesses. Unfortunately because these religions were ultimately eradicated by a triumphal Christianity, their psalms generally preserved orally by religious priesthoods have generally been eliminated. Ask yourself a question.  How many songs of praise do we still have for Athena, Demeter, the Celtic Bridget?  The fact that we have so few is not because they did not exist. They were eliminated.

The significance of psalms? While some may not feel any loss, I and, I  suspect,  many others have felt great loss. I  feel loss in the fact that almost all of the beautiful devotional psalms and songs that are now used in worship are used  only in masculined religions to a masculine God. The songs that exist are to Jesus , the Father, the King and Lord and never to the Queen of Heaven and Earth. It is a misfortune that almost all communal worship in this society is addressed only to a Father and Lord and never to a Mother and Lady. This is at least part of what the monopolization of religion by both Christianity and Islam has done to us.

However fortunately the Queen of Heaven in her mercy in Christianity at least has revealed herself in the form of the Virgin Mary and by inspiring her psalms and other devotions has given us songs of praise by which we may praise her name.

Glenn King

some Isian hymns

Enclosed are two prayers / hymns I have written which I use regularly in my daily devotions. They are directly inspired by both the hymns to Isis by Isidorus and by my own experience.  Perhaps some may find them of interest. What I attempt to do is to memorize them and chant them as they might be chanted for example within the divine liturgy of an Eastern Orthodox Church. While I have not musical gifts this is something I can do and it is more helpful then simply reciting them as secular poetry.

Glenn

All Praises to Isis

All praises to Isis, Queen of the angels, the Pure One, the Holy One, the Almighty,

the Lady who gives all good things, the food to sustain us and the wealth that we enjoy.

All praises to her whose beautiful face is joy and glory,

the Great One who establishes the security of nations and peoples.

Honor to the Goddess who brings justice; the Lady who breaks the bond of oppression.

All praise her glorious Name.

Praise Isis

Praise Isis who gives a good fate to those who love her

and is merciful to those who do not.

To Demeter, the creatress of the grains of the fields, the fruit of the trees,

and the food by which we live. All praises to your Holy Name!

Isis, assist us in our affairs and bring success to them.

Protect those in the chains of death and suffering. Redeem them. Save their souls

Our Goddess and Queen, grant me happiness during the rest of the days of my life.

Hymn to the Seven Hathor

I have often wondered about what the  musics of ancient Egypt, Greece and other nations were like. Well a few years ago a friend of mine as a gift bought me an CD called “Music in the Time of the Pyramids” which was “composed” by Spanish musicologist Rafael Perez Arroya. I have been listoning to it recently and have decided to share at least a little of it. Mr Perez’s CD produced by his Hathor Ensemble is probably the most acurate  recontruction of the music of Ancient Egypt that has been developed yet. Mr Perez’ reconstruction of Egyptian hymns and music is based on  over ten years his study of simply everything that is known of ancient Egyptian music, the instruments, how they were played, Egyptian musical texts, etc. The result of this work of scholarship was the CD and a book of the same title of over 400 pages which explains Rafael Perez understanding of ancient Egyptian music. As a consequence of his work Mr Perez won  the First Prize from the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sport for best Scientific book.

Enough of this  introduction. Enclosed is the link to the “Hymn to the Seven Hathor” a beautiful New Kingdom hymn dedicated to the goddess Hathor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=503kvqmWjUM
I hope people enjoy it.

Glenn King

Mary you are covered with roses

thorns and rosesI am attempting to keep to a commitment to post a message here at least once a week. Unfortunately due to some very problematic issues  in connection with some other groups I have kept me occupied. Therefore I really do not have any particularly  new thoughts to contribute now. However sometimes I do run into poems or hymns which should be posted here. One of these is an unconventional poem to Mary which was posted a couple of months ago at the Divine Mother yahoo site. Click at the Divine Mother link to connect with the site.  I think that the poem  is hauntingly beautiful.
The only problem which I have with the poem are with its last two lines,
Glenn

 

Mary you're covered in roses, you're covered in ashes
You're covered in rain
You're covered in babies, you're covered in slashes
You're covered in wilderness, you're covered in stains ...
.... Mary you're covered in roses, you're covered in ruin
You're covered in secrets
You're covered in treetops, you're covered in birds
Who can sing a million songs without any words ...
.... Jesus said, Mother I couldn't stay another day longer
Flys right by me and leaves a kiss upon her face.
While the angels are singin' his praises in a blaze of glory
Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place ...

Patty Griffin

A Song to Neda

Introduction

This post may seem a bit off the topic but I do not think that it is. Isis is the Goddess of Maat / Righteousness and Justice. She liberates from oppression. Mary has  often  been seen as one who liberates from injustice. An important example is the liberating role of Mary  in Mexico as the Virgin of Guadeloupe. Religious faith is property centered on political economic and social justice. Now in Iran the  people are  struggling against the tyranny of a small but powerful theological / political elite. I think that Aset Maryam is on the side of those struggling for liberation. She is not an apolitical Goddess. I am closing this post from another blog which I own which deals primarily with political issues.

Glenn King

A Song to Neda Tuesday, Jun 23 2009  1 glenn3land 8:06 pmEdit This

Enclosed are links to both the Song to Neda and Poem for Neda  posted on The Writing Life II blog. As those  following the current political struggles  in Iran are aware,  Neda Agha-Soltan,  a 26 year old woman – was killed this past Saturday as she got out of her automobile for a breath of air. She was shot in the heart  presumably by forces firing at anti government protestors of the stolen Iranian elections. See the NYT’s article.  Her death was recorded on U-tube and has been circulated globally and Neda is now mourned as a martyr and a symbol of sufferings of Iran’s people. Perhaps this poem and the music may give a better picture of the true nature of the current events in Iran than would several news stories. Part of the poem goes thus”
Stay, Neda—
Look at this city
At the shaken foundations of palaces,
The height of Tehran’s maple trees,
They call us “dust,” and if so
Let us sully the air for the oppressor
Don’t go, Neda
Glenn