Showing posts with label mary lapp. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mary lapp. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Milla Clementsdotter and the Readers

Matt Perkins has a new post about Mary Lapp, the Reader movement, pietism, and Laestadianism out on his blog this morning. I think it's worth checking out.

Lapin Maija, by Matt Perkins

Since I finished reading Lars Levi Laestadius and the Revival in Lapland, by Warren H. Hepokoski I've gotten more interested in the Reader movement. Many of the on-line sources place Laestadius within the Reader context. What I find fascinating about the Readers are the extremes of their belief, with Hepokoski reporting that some Readers actually thought they were Jesus Christ, and that their pronouncements superceded Scripture.

The more I read about Laestadian history, the more I can sympathize with why Laestadius would start his movement, but I also sympathize with why the established church found it so troubling. It's fun to imagine myself back in the 1850s in Finland. Would I be a Reader, a Laestadian, or would I support the state church? Would I come to the same conclusions my ancestors did?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Something About Mary

I've been musing about Mary. Did you know that Lapp Mary, the woman through whom Laestadius found enlightenment, was actually named Milla? He met her in a parish in Asele, Sweden when he was 44 years old (and the father of 15 children with his wife Britta). Milla was 31, unmarried, a Sami, a Lutheran, a member of the Readers (devoted to self-study of the Bible), and passionately spiritual.

Why did he call her Mary? Did he wish to evoke Mary, mother of Jesus? Or was this skilled mythographer attempting to draw on something even older and more meaningful to the pagan Sami: the power of the feminine divine. If so, it would not be the only way in which Laestadius incorporated Sami traditions into his new religion.

In the history of humanity, goddess worship is the very earliest, symbolized in the Venus of Willendorf around 3,000 BCE. Later, she was revered as Inanna in ancient Sumeria, Ishtar in Babylon, Anat in Canaan, Isis in Egypt and Aphrodite in Greece. According to Joseph Campbell, remarkably similar stories of the sacred feminine are common to all cultures. For the ancients, The Great Mother was the Earth, growth, fertility, death and regeneration, and experienced in the flowers and trees, moon and ocean, cycles of life and nature. She was life itself.

Even as monotheism and patriarchal religions gained sway (often at the point of a spear), goddesses like Ashera, Ishtar or Anat retained a great following among the Israelites, particularly among women. (See Jeremiah 44:15-19). With Christianity came a retelling of an ancient tale of the goddess and her divine child who is sacrificed and reborn. As Hans Kung wrote in "On Being a Christian," the Virgin Birth is a "collection of largely uncertain, mutually contradictory, strongly legendary" narratives. Yet it has a power, metaphorically, that cannot be overestimated.

We are so immersed in the patriarchy of the Judeo-Christian tradition that it is difficult to imagine a worldview in which the divine was feminine. But for the Sami, whom Laestadius worked so diligently to convert, goddesses were natural and their names familiar: the mother Mátaráhkka with her daughters Sáráhká, Uksáhkka and Juksáhkka, who took care of the family and guarded the home.

No doubt for many Sami, even those already converted to Christianity, the demands of Laestadius were severe. They were compelled to give up goddesses, shamans, drums, joiking (singing), dancing, unmarried sex and whiskey. However, he allowed them a vestige of their ecstatic trances in "the movement" of repentance, and in the gift of Lapp Mary, a new kind of shaman or spirit guide, pointing not only to the Virgin but beyond, beneath, behind, to the eternal feminine.