Act of Worship
Updated: Sep 6
The Private Journal of Mr.Muliebris, 11 of --, --5
"A certain Middle Eastern gentleman of my acquaintance, knowing that I am an avid collector of ancient texts, recently furnished me with a remarkable set of Babylonian cuneiform tablets, for which he was rewarded handsomely. A good friend of mine, a professor of Babylonian history at the XXX in XXX, was good enough to translate them.
Dated to somewhere around the turn of the second millennium BC, and therefore predating any known Judeo-Christian religion, but echoing their form, they offer an astonishing insight into a previously unknown matriarchal society that exalted femininity. In a series of short verses entitled ‘Act of Worship’ [reproduced below] they set out the story of an unnamed woman, who, exiled to the wilderness, is rescued and becomes enlightened.
The closest translation to the title of the works is ‘Penumbra’ - the partial or imperfect shadow outside the complete shadow of an opaque body, as a planet, where the light from the source of illumination is only partly cut off. And so it is with great pleasure that I offer you a collaboration with artist-muse Lizzie as an accompaniment and artistic response to these ancient texts."
She wandered in the wilderness - Act of Worship, part 1
‘So it was that she was born into torment and was cast out. She wandered in the wilderness and she was solitary; she was stricken and bore great griefs and sorrows. And she found no home to dwell in, for all had deserted her.’
-- Act of Worship (Penumbra, 1:14)
The first circle - Act of Worship, part 2
'The sands parted and she beheld a ruin lit from within by a ragged circle of light. And a voice rang out and said, "Thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and alone. But do not be afraid. Stand at the door and knock and thou shalt be admitted." And this was the first circle.'
-- Act of Worship (Penumbra, 1:16)
Show me the way - Act of Worship, part 3
‘The voice beseeched her therefore, that she present her body a living sacrifice, which was her reasonable service. But she was greatly troubled and yielded instead a burning offering, and said, "I appeal to the light, which has set before me life and death, the blessing and the curse, to show me the way." And this was the second circle.’
-- Act of Worship (Penumbra, 1:18)
She demanded a sign - Act of Worship, part 4
'She trembled like a branch of a tree driven with the wind and tossed, and in her doubt she demanded a sign, and, lo, a circle of light blazed forth, the foundations of the threshold trembled, and the house filled with smoke.'
-- Act of Worship (Penumbra, 1:20)
Act of submission - Act of Worship, part 5
'With this sign she lay down upon the shrine and said, “I am not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. I submit myself in everything therefore to the light.” And by this sacrifice she set aside her griefs and sorrows, and accepted of herself, and abandoned herself unreservedly to the light.'
-- Act of Worship (Penumbra, 1:22)
They brought her the clear oil - Act of Worship, part 6
'Having submitted herself, they brought her the clear oil to make a lamp burn continually, and with it commanded she should anoint herself.'
-- Act of Worship (Penumbra, 1:24)
She was sanctified - Act of Worship, part 7
'And she poured of the anointing oil, and anointed herself upon her breast, and with this act she was sanctified. And a voice spake thus: ‘Arise, shine; free thyself; for thy light is come, and the glory of it is sculpted upon thee for now and for ever.’ And this was our voice and thus did we adore her.'
-- Act of Worship (Penumbra, 1:26)
For she is the promise - Act of Worship, part 8
‘In the holiest grotto shall she strip herself also of her raiment and leave herself naked and beautiful, that we may wonder. And so shall we give ourselves into her mercy and give her our fair jewels, and we shall raise up her eminence, and venerate her in our high places. And by these acts of adoration shall we worship her, for she is the promise, she is the joy, she is our life and she is the light everlasting and evermore.’
-- Act of Worship (Penumbra, 1:28)