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Hadewijch

Category: Mystic

The following has been partly extracted from Wikipedia

Hadewijch was a 13th century poet and mystic, probably living in the Duchy of Brabant.

Most of her extant writings, none of which survived the Middle Ages as an autograph, are in a Brabantian form of Middle Dutch. She is associated with Antwerp (often she is referred to as Hadewych of Antwerp) but this is only based on a later addition to one of the manuscript copies of her works, that was produced several centuries after her death. Most of the other manuscripts containing her work were found near Brussels.

Her writings include visions, prose letters and poetry.

Beguinage, Bruges - Brangwyn and Urushibara

Her lyrical poetry followed the forms and conventions used by the trouvères and minnesingers of her time, where worldly courtship is replaced by sublimated love to God – in fact she  practised Love with visualisation

What also appears to have happened is that she gradually worked through the stages of the spiritual path and achieved annihilation - she speaks of it and knows of it, though trying to describe how it felt was beyond her, as it is most people.

Ursula King, Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies.
Love is her spouse, her companion, her Lady Mistress, her God. Love is a person to whom one can speak, a lady, a queen whose strength and richness are praised. But love is above all Divine Love whose gifts inebriate and whose strength makes her experience all the rage and fury, the suffering of love when love becomes inaccessible.

Wim Abeleven 1938 

In her later poems, Hadewijch uses striking language and metaphysical themes that were to be further developed by the German mystic Meister Eckhart.
She speaks of nakedness and void, of the shedding of the will, of all images and forms in order to attain “pure and naked Nothingness,” so that union with God is no longer experienced as the highest stage of beatitude but as a plunge into boundless unknowing, into the “wild desert” of the Divine Essence.
To reach the divine summit, nothing must remain to encumber the spirit: “The circle of things must shrink and be annihilated so that the circle of nakedness can grow and extend in order to embrace the All.”
Hadewijch’s language expresses the superabundance of spiritual experience, reflecting her participation in the trinitarian mysteries. She celebrates the divine names: Presence in the Son, Overflow in the Holy Spirit, Totality in the Father
There exists an abyss between this experience of spiritual plenitude and her efforts to say something about it.   Words are utterly insufficient here, yet they must be used to communicate something of the “blessedness of being lost in the fruition of Love” to those who are capable of receiving such a message.

 

Bruges - Brangwyn and Urushibara

No details of her life are known outside the sparse indications in her own writings. These indications lead many to conclude that she was involved in the then emerging beguine movement.

That she would have been a nun can be excluded, as her writings (primarily her prose letters) show that she travelled and lived in several places, and as in general her writings lack references to life in a convent. She must have come from a wealthy family: she had a wide knowledge of literature and theological treatises in several languages, including Latin and French, in a time when studying was a luxury only exceptionally granted to women.

Harvey D. Egan, An Anthology of Christian Mysticism
The Flemish Beguine Hadewijch, is perhaps the most sublime exponent of love mysticism in the Western tradition. This deeply emotional, visionary, and bridal form of mysticism contends that God allows himself to be experienced as love by a person who ardently desires to be united with God in this life.

Her intensely personal writings reveal that she was of noble birth, highly educated, an ecstatic, a profound mystic, and a subtle and daring mystical theologian - but little of the particulars of her life are known...She was highly esteemed one century later by the great mystic and theologian Jan van Ruysbroeck.... Yet only in the twentieth century have her mystical riches come to be appreciated on a broad scale

 

References

 

Poems in Stanzas (Strophische Gedichten) - Her forty-five Poems in Stanzas are lyric poems following the forms and conventions used by the trouvères and minnesingers of her time, but in Flemish, and with the theme of worldly courtship replaced by sublimated love to God.

Poems in Couplets (Mengeldichten or Berijmde brieven) - The sixteen Poems in Couplets (Mengeldichten, also Berijmde brieven, "letters on rhyme") are simpler didactical poems in letter format, composed in rhyming couplets, on Christian topics, not all of them considered authentic.

Visions (Visioenen) Hadewijch’s Book of Visions (Visioenenboek), the earliest vernacular collection of such revelations, appears to have been composed in the 1240s.

Letters (Brieven) - Thirty prose letters also survive: here Hadewijch explains her views, and they give some context to her life.

Lijst der volmaakten - The "Lijst der volmaakten" (list of the perfect ones), is joined to the Visions in some manuscripts, and to the Poems in Stanzas in a more recent one. It includes a beguine that had been condemned to death by the inquisition.

 

Observations

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