Side wound gallery
ready, eat 'em up, guys! No, we can't talk about this without grossing out somebody, so why even try?Jesus is Female: Moravians and the challenge of radical religion in early America by Aaron Spencer Fogleman
. The needlework by Marianne von Watteville mentioned in the text is included in the gallery.
For more about Moravians I recommend William Blake's Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision by Marsha Keith Schuchard
. Before reading that one, I did not know you could get your mind blown on every other page of a book."Mystical Acts, Queer Tendencies" by Karma Lochrie.
From "Constructing Medieval Sexuality" (University of Minnesota Press 1997).
I'll quote some text with added emphasis and notes about images:
Karma Lochrie wrote:
It is as though the mystics were engaged in a gender-correction process during their ecstatic transports in order to avoid the embarrassment of a homosexual union.
In order for the heterosexuality of female mysticism to remain intact, an awful lot of adjustments need to be made, forcing us to wonder whose paradigm this is anyway: Bynum's (and that of most scholars of mysticism) or the female mystic's? The instability of the heterosexual paradigm of mystical desire requires constant vigilance and correction on the part of the scholar to maintain it and to occlude the queer tendencies. When the devotee is male, he desires (but never identifies with) Christ's feminized body, while the female devotee identifies with the feminized body, ever reminding herself in her more erotic transports that Christ is male.
There is no evidence in the mystical writings usually cited of such gender and sexuality policing by female or male mystics; however, there is evidence of scholarly intervention when mystical genders and sexualities stray from heterosexual paradigms. The queer desire of female mystics for the feminized body of Christ is excluded by Bynum's interpretation of that feminization in terms of his maternity. Christ's feminization is chiefly expressed through his maternal physical and spiritual qualities, and his maternity, in turn, is assumed to be asexual. The queer crisis posed by female mystical desire is thus averted by the assumption that the maternal disavows the sexual.
The mystical maternal body of Christ, however, does not enact such repudiation of the sexual but "opens a mesh of possibilities" for the queering of categories of mystical devotion, the body of Christ, female desire, and the medieval construction of maternity. Bynum frequently cites Catherine of Siena to exemplify the maternity of Christ and the mystic's infantilized relationship to his body, but I would insist upon the conjunction of the erotic with the maternal, and of mystical pleasure with nurturing:
With that, he tenderly placed his right hand on her neck, and drew her towards the wound in his side. "Drink, daughter, from my side," he said, "and by that draught your soul shall become enraptured with such delight that your very body, which for my sake you have denied, shall be inundated with its overflowing goodness." Drawn close in this way to the outlet of the Fountain of Life, she fastened her lips upon that sacred wound, and still more eagerly the mouth of her soul, and there she slaked her thirst.
Bynum consistently interprets such accounts as "nursing metaphors" in which Catherine of Siena merges her own suffering with Christ's. Her desire here is tantamount to a "eucharistic craving" that suspends all other appetites, according to Bynum's analysis. The explicitly sexual nature of Christ's gesture and the erotic desire expressed in Catherine's slaking of her thirst is disallowed by the nursing metaphor and a modern asexual construction of maternal nurturance.
Queering Christ's gesture and the mystic's desire requires that the reader entertain an open mesh of possibilities, including not only the maternal's potential to function erotically here but the sacred wound's polysemy. When the wound is not made to signify monolithically -when excluded meanings are (re)introduced into the domain of cultural legibility -queer possibilities begin to signify as dissonant sites in heteronormative mystical discourse. The queer already inhabits Christ's gesture and Catherine's response at the site of his wound once the heterosexual matrix is suspended. Another cultural reference point becomes visible: Christ's wound as vulva/vagina-and an ulterior form of mystical desire becomes possible.
The sexual nature of the mystic's devotion to Christ's wound is made explicit in one of the most important texts of Franciscan mysticism, the Stimulus Amoris by James of Milan. Mystical union between soul and God is figured as a joining of wounds in a mystical act of copulation. In fact, Wolfgang Riehle argues for a "typical and quite consciously intended analogy between this wound of Christ and the female pudenda." Further-more, Riehle suggests a kind of punning on words, vulva and vulnus. The "copulation" of mystical soul with Christ thus occurs at the site of his wound (vulnus), which is transformed into the female vulva when vulnus vulneri copulatur, "wound is joined to wound.” The key to the idea of the joining of wounds is that the lover's soul becomes wounded with love, and this wounding in turn allows him to join in Christ's suffering. In James of Milan's text the speaker is enflamed with desire for entrance into the wound. Elsewhere in the Stimulus Amoris, the wound is an object of the speaker's desire for union (copulo, copulari).
James of Milan even uses the metaphor of the wound as a "gate of Paradise," invoking that famous garden of delights, the paradise enclosed, which is usually reserved for the female Bride and the allegorical figure of the Church in Song of Songs 4:12: "My sister, my spouse, is a garden enclosed, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up." Christ's wound is the open garden through which the locus deliciarum is achieved. The physical union of Christ and lover in the Song of Songs occurs at the "hole in the wall" where Christ "put his hand" and "my bowels were moved at his touch." In the Stimulus Amoris text, this image is reversed so that Christ invites penetration through the hole in his side and offers consolation and rest as well as inebriation and innumerable delights. There, the lover/speaker drinks, eats, meditates, and experiences "such an abundance of delight that it is impossible for [him] to describe.”
This reversal of the Songs of Songs tradition in which Christ becomes the feminized lover has never been commented on, as far as I know. In the Stimulus Amoris and elsewhere, gender and sexuality are transitive, rather than binary and monolithic. Christ's wound becomes the site of the "garden enclosed" usually occupied by the intact vagina of the feminine lover, and thus becomes queer. Whether or not there is a specific pun on vulva and vulnus, as Riehle suggests, the Stimulus Amoris text provides a cultural template for making such an identification of vulva/ vagina and wound.
This transitivity of wound to vulva/vagina, of masculine to feminine bodies, and of sexualities is most vividly rendered in late medieval devotional imagery. In one fourteenth -century illustration of the Man of Sorrows, the wound is detached from Christ's side and dramatically enlarged to life-size, somewhere in excess of two inches (Figure 9.1) (included in the gallery). Here, it is the focus of the viewer's devotion, rather than one among many devotional objects associated with the crucifixion. Inscribed around its edge is the claim that this image is the exact size of the wound of our Lord, who suffered death for us. Such inscription is a fairly common invocation to devotional practice among wound images by providing a vivid, quantifiable measure of Christ's suffering and hence his love. At the same time, the sexual connotation of this image is unmistakable. The visual conjunction of wound and vagina provides a visual pun of vulva and vulnus, such as Riehle finds in the Stimulus Amoris.
In the Psalter and Hours of Bonne of Luxembourg, the wound stands alone (Figure 9.2) (included in the gallery). The text states that this wound measures the distress and the bounty of Christ's suffering for us. It also represents the wounding that is meant to take place in the viewer's heart, as in the Song of Songs, so that he or she is "wounded with desire." An object of adoration and love, this wound is also the object of violence, suggested in the surrounding implements of torture. Suffering and love are conjoined in acts of violence inflicted not only on the body of Christ, but also, by implication, against the feminized wound/vulva.
This last image is part of a devotional book of hours designed for a female patron, Bonne of Luxembourg, a wealthy woman who would later become the mother of Charles V. Not all these images were designed explicitly for women, but there is evidence in devotional texts for and by women that the wound was a focus for sexual experiences of mystical union. Religious instruction and devotional texts for women explicitly invite them to touch, kiss, suck, and enter the wound of Christ. (image "The Charter of Christ" included in the gallery)
The image Arma_Christi_-_Image_du_Monde_MS_fr_547_(fol._140v)_Bibliothèque_Nationale_de_France_(year_1320) has a side wound that has worn out from all the kissing and rubbing it has been subjected to! I got it from the blog Medieval Meets World
Side wound as gate of paradise is mentioned in The Apostles' Creed by Thomas Aquinas
(ctrl-f on page for gate of paradise)
More gate of paradise + side wound in A 31-day devotional written by CarthusiansJulian of Norwich and the woundCatherine of Siena and the woundAngela of Foligno enters the wound
There is an interesting thing about a lost Gnostic Gospel described by Epiphanius of Salamis (section 8,1 onwards).
So allegedly Christ pulls out a lady from his side and has intercourse with her. Now, if the side wound is equal to a vagina, wouldn't this imply that Christ actually has intercourse with himself? Anyways, judging by the very real erotic tradition involving the side wound, this lost Gospel might not be a fabrication by Epiphanius to scandalize a heretical movement.