How Old Is The Girl That Sings I Have Issues Five World Religions, Five Women Mystics

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Five World Religions, Five Women Mystics

If you Google the term “women’s spirituality,” many of the entries that come back are related to goddess worship or Wicca and Pagan traditions that honor the sacred feminine. The popularity of these traditions has exploded in recent decades, partly as a reaction against the patriarchal leadership of the world’s major religions and the role these religions have often historically played in suppressing and persecuting women.

What many people don’t realize, however, is the amazing number of female mystics who have thrived throughout history within the five major world religions – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. In recent decades, there has been a massive movement to translate their writings and popularize their teachings, in part to help address the imbalance that often existed in these traditions. Learning about their lives is empowering and inspiring for women today, especially those who value traditional religious teachings but often feel that there is a gap between what they hear from the pulpit and what they experience in their daily lives.

Consider these five examples, each taken from one of the world’s five major religions:

Margery Kempe was a medieval Christian mystic who was also a “working mother” – mother of fourteen children and owner of a home brewery. Her spiritual journey began shortly after the birth of her first child, when she was plunged into severe postpartum depression. She experienced a vision of Jesus that restored her health and transformed her into a deeply religious woman for life. Towards the end of her life, she went on several religious pilgrimages and still somehow found time to dictate the first autobiography in English by a woman.

Hannah Rachel Verbermacher, also known as the “Ludmir Girl”, was a nineteenth-century Ukrainian Jewish woman who is known today as the only Hasidic rebbe, or religious leader, although she was never officially granted that status. From a young age, she showed a penchant for religious studies and insisted on studying the Torah, usually reserved for men only. As an adult, she continued her solitary religious lifestyle, refusing to marry and offering counseling and religious lessons to a small group of followers. She later moved to Israel and her grave on the Mount of Olives became a popular religious pilgrimage site for those interested in her story.

Sukhasiddhi was an eleventh-century Indian sage who is now revered by the Tibetan Buddhist lineage as the founder and “dakini”—a magical being dedicated to helping others on their path to enlightenment. When her cruel husband kicked her out of her home at the age of fifty-nine, after raising six children, she was forced to brew her own beer for money out of desperation. Even in her desperate situation, she was generous enough to offer free beer to a local Buddhist master who offered to teach her for free to thank her. She is said to have attained enlightenment in one night of instruction and spent the rest of her life teaching and helping others.

Rabia Basri is one of the most famous Islamic saints and had a profound impact on Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam. Born in the seventh century in Iraq to a poor family, she was captured by robbers at a young age and sold into slavery. Legend has it that her spiritual desire was so great that she prayed for hours every night after completing her duties. Her owner came to her one evening, ashamed of having imprisoned such a deeply religious being. He let her go and she became a revered Islamic poet and teacher.

Mirabai was a 16th century Indian mystic and teacher who became famous for her devotional poems and songs. Forced into an unfortunate arranged marriage at a young age, she spent every free moment worshiping Krishna, a popular Hindu deity, praying, meditating, and composing her own poems in his honor. When she was widowed, she refused to commit the ritual suicide required by custom and instead became a solitary traveler and spiritual seeker – very unusual for the time. She lived in various temples and eventually achieved recognition as a poet, singer and teacher.

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