Today November 1 is All Saints Day, also known as All Hallows or Hallowmas, a Roman Catholic holiday to honor all saints known and unknown. This refers to all those individuals who have attained the heavenly beatific vision, which is the eternal and direct perception of God. The holiday dates to the 8th century, when the Pope moved a feast for saints from the spring season of Pentecost to the fall season around Samhain, the Celtic celebration of the harvest and ancestral spirits. Our modern holiday of Halloween is fixed to the night before All Saints Day, with the name coming from a shortening of All Hallows Evening, the evening before All Hallows. Oh the logic of history!
I can very personally sense that my soul guide Hildegard of Bingen has attained that eternal and direct perception of God. She is often called a saint, even though she was never canonized and remains “only” at the level of beatification, by which the Catholic Church acknowledges a spirit’s ascension to heaven and ability to intercede on another’s prayerful behalf. From the heartfelt 1997 semi-fictionalized biography called “Scarlet Music” by Joan Ohanneson, the back cover promotes Hildegard as having “shattered stereotypes of women, of saints, and of God for all time.” Ah yes, this will become increasingly clear, I can say with a smile. So in this season of celebrating ancestral spirits and spooky weirdness, let’s have some fun talking about what a saint’s karma looks like, shall we? It’s a scoop fit for a tabloid in heaven, so remember you heard it here first!
This is the story of Strawberry Karma, and it is remarkably true. I discovered this curious thread of history just last week before Halloween, when a mutual friend of Hildegard’s found me in the grocery store. That is to say, when in 1997 I discovered my own connection to Hildegard, I was sitting next to a woman on the subway and a voice in my head said “talk to her about Hildegard”. So I did, and was delighted to find that she believed in reincarnation and had discovered her own past life as a Venice nobleman while on tour in Italy singing the Ordo Virtutum, playing the part of Humilitas. Thirteen years later this year, as Hildegard has ascended again so prominently in my consciousness, I’d been recalling this woman and asking the universe to see her again. One evening after work, after thanking Hildegard for guiding my life, I went to the market to buy such things as strawberries and meat and cheese. This woman called me out after us not seeing each other in years, though she had been on the mailing list for the annual autumnal Mystical Art and Talent Shows and had not forgotten our prior associations. She said for some reason she felt called to Trader Joe's that night, despite not particularly needing any supplies.
We renewed our friendship and mystical connection, this friend of some good karma and I. She was excited to note from me the Boston opening the next week of Hildegard’s new biopic “Vision” by Margarethe von Trotta (more about that in another post, for it has many wonderful scenes, though it can make it look like we enjoyed a New Age resort back then). I was delighted to hear that a friend of hers was behind the Ordo Virtutum performance I’ll be attending soon after that, serendipitously timed as it was to the film’s opening.
When I left her she was fondling a strawberry rhubarb pie of remarkably low calories; oh do enjoy it I encouraged her. I didn’t explain that my friend Marjie in London, who knows me so well and knows herself to have been Jutta, loved to bake rhubarb pies for us in the perception that it was a favorite back in Germany. But what of the strawberry I wondered? Not my London friend’s favorite, but to be certain, I loooove strawberries now. I have fond memories of strawberry fields picking forever throughout my life, I’ve packed them on dates as veritable aphrodisiacs, and the vulnerable latticework of external seeds endears me to their sweet ineffable charms. I’ve since learned that though oft regarded throughout history as a lowly food, the native people of my own Massachusetts state prized their succulence and referred to them as berries of the heart.
One branch of Hildegard’s fame is that of personally cataloging plants and minerals for their spiritual healing properties. She was not the first of course to do this, but she did have a knack for exploring and popularizing in original ways those energies that were about to come into greater recognition, and previous to her the knowledge of flora had been rooted in Greek and Roman classics which had become increasingly mistranslated and misapplied. Hildegard’s treatises on plant medicine are consulted by herbalists to this day, but she was at times deplorably subjective in her assessments. Thus she inflicted upon the valiant strawberry a disservice for which a dear friend of our mutual soul would later pay the karma referred to by this blog entry’s title.
Because Hildegard saw a snake among the strawberries in a garden, she decided that strawberries were too easily contaminated by evil and thus poisonous for human consumption. As her fame grew in the late 1100’s, this remarkably narrow prejudice single-handedly caused the noble strawberry to go out of favor in Europe for centuries.
500 years later, the North American strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), enjoyed and esteemed by wiser natives, was regaining favor among the colonies for preserves and desserts. In 18th century Europe, the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus was harmonizing with the mission of his soul friend Hildegard, updating the gospel of plants and minerals with new scientific sensibilities, not beholden as she was to the Roman Church but rather aligned to Uppsala University. Unlike the sexually repressed Hildegard – oh let us not malign her for it, because she was so honestly fond of her charges and appropriately loved God more than the flesh, having been given to the church as little girl and knowing no other way to be – Carolus was wed, married to the daughter of a cousin of none other than the great mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (did he attend the wedding?)
When Carolus suffered a gout so painful that was he said to consider not living, his wife Sara recommended to him the strawberry (genus Fragaria of the rose family Rosaceae whose blessings to humanity extend without end). Something about the high mineral salt content of the fruit (which is actually not the fruit but the engorged stem head of the seed receptacle, for around each seed is the ovarian flesh which constitutes the true fruit, scientifically speaking) cured Carolus’ gout. So grateful was our romantically inclined botanist (his first paper was on plant genitalia) that he evangelized the strawberry for the rest of his life, and lived on a diet of strawberries alone for some stretch of time to demonstrate their nutritional wholeness (exactly how long seems lost to history, but I'm certain he enjoyed the period).
And so my friends, that is the karma to the strawberry deva which my soul family has so happily paid, that I might enjoy this luscious fruit with a lover to this day, as you are as well encouraged to do. I will leave as exercise to the reader, and bemused fans of Freud, to piece together what Emanuel would term the correspondences, for what strawberries in Heaven refer to on Earth. ;-)
As for the place of Humilitas, queen of the virtues, to those who would accuse either Hildegard or myself of being too brazen in revealing the secrets of Heaven, I defer to the definition of humility that my great teacher Lazaris taught me. (This becomes most appropriate on this morning of November 6 as I finish tweaking this post, since Lazaris sang to me in a dream, yes, sang for the first time ever.) Too many prize humility as a tool of subjugation, to keep one’s self lowly, and that’s not what it is at all. Humility is the willingness to see things as different from what you expected, thus does it counterbalance trust and open the doors to miracles in realities that are personally created by your own expectations.
In every day terms, humility would certainly indicate the willingness to admit when you are less than what you thought you were, but as well the courage to declare when you are greater than you ever knew. And of this you may rest assured, gentle reader, by the immortal Soul that enlivens you, you are so very much greater than you ever knew. The Saints are merely those who have developed this knowing ahead of others to lead the way and call the suffering home. Following All Saint's Day is November 2, All Soul’s Day, the day for the rest of us who have not yet attained that eternal and direct perception of God which the ascended enjoy. Together we will get there, my human friend, and by the peak lifetimes and moments that you and I are invited to humbly reclaim we shall find ourselves already more than halfway Home.
Blessings to you all, in this season of the harvest and the Ancients’ New Year.