Friday, January 4, 2008

The Hernal

If you don't know what that title means, then you're still to some degree being brainwashed by patriarchal western society. Some of you, no doubt, go to church/mosque/temple each week to celebrate liturgy and empower the community around you. (Some of you may not, too, and that's fine -- just to be clear, I don't want to seem judgmental here -- if church isn't for you, then it's not for you. It's really just a building after all; the important thing is the womanspirit in each of us.) Anyway, since silent prayer is really an oxymoron, and since speaking gets old after a while, I'd bet that most of your worship areas use song to praise the deity within you. Now, traditionally, spiritual songs are called "hymns." DON'T let the spelling fool you: despite what some chauvinist man-philologists might tell you, the word "hymn" comes directly from the English pronoun "him." Is it starting to click, sisters? Of course we're supposed to call our songs "hymns": after all, if God is called "Father" and referred to by "He" and "Him," if only men should be priests and servers, if males need not wear head coverings in church, etc. etc. etc. -- then why not just go ahead and call even our religious songs "hims"?! And they thought they could get away with it, too! Well, they may have since the beginning of the English language, but no more.

For years now, Feminique and Pat and I have refused to sing "hymns," instead calling them "hers." We don't use hymnals -- only hernals. Music is so important to worship that we can't afford to let its very terminology be affected by sexism. Fortunately the last few decades have seen a marked improvement in worship music, especially through the bouncy melodies and inclusive lyrics of composers such as Marty Haugen, David Haas, Dan Schutte, Ernest Sands, Bernadette Farrell, and Michael Joncas. True, most of those are men, which is unfortunate, but it just goes to show that the Cosmic Christa can use even dirty man-pigs to achieve our great goal. The plodding strains of man-chant once made it next to impossible for the womanspirit to focus on herself, instead distracting her with that otherworldly droning in a strange language. Not only that, but even those old Fr. Faber "hymns" (for that's what they were) insisted so much on stressing Catholicism and pope-loyalty stuff that they brought out the differences between religions instead of our similarities, and were totally unsuitable for responsible modern-day worship.

I could go on and on, but instead of talking, I will soon show you what I mean by good and bad music. For now, though, let me share with you a wonderful new her that's just been written by a promising young feminist student. It's called "We Are Not Servants," and is sung to the tune of "Morning Has Broken":

We are not servants, we are creators
In this great cosmos that we call life;
Every woman should be the leader,
Every man should bow to his wife.

We are not servants, we are empowered:
Don't want to be a stay-at-home mom.
So to our husbands, then to the bishops,
Let us each cry out: non serviam.

Marvelous! Look how it immediately debunks the fallacy that good Christians must be "servants" of one another. I don't know where people ever got that idea, but whatever the source, it's very repressive to the human spirit, and especially to women. We are truly creators: creators of our social constructs, of our religions, of our very destinies. And look at that beautiful irony at the end of the first stanza. It's about time! A slight problem arises at the end of the second stanza -- why this young lady used a Latin phrase, I will never fathom. Latin is one of the patriarchs' greatest weapons. What language is the traditional Latin mass in? Latin. Enough said. Overlooking that flaw, though, this really is quite a stirring piece of music; and the problem can easily be remedied by a loose translation of the Latin at the end, such as, "Won't serve you, Tom!" Of course, this fits in with the rhyme scheme and meter, which is a little legalistic itself, so you can feel free to substitute any phrase you would like that expresses your determination not to serve a male. In fact, every member of the assembly can individually sing whatever the womanspirit leads her to sing at that point.

By contrast, we must now warn you, dear readers, that the Other Side is not asleep at the switch. When they're not attending mass in Latin or blithering on about obedience to the pope, they're writing parodies of our sacred womansong. I almost refrained from posting this because it seemed tantamount to blasphemy, but these sorts of things must be exposed.

The question is: what is it? What is its purpose? Does it just make fun of us, and leave it at that? NO!!!! Not only does this atrocity steal the beautiful music and lyrics of Miriam Therese Winter's masterpiece "Circle of Love," but it promotes some of the most dangerous and false ideologies the Other Side has at its disposal.

First take a look at the original lyrics of Miss Winter's song, at the bottom of this wonderful link. Now below is the parody. Those of you with weak constitutions may want to hit the Back button now:

1. Thrifty like you won't believe: pious women,
Fix a surplice sleeve: pious women,
No one can compare
To a pia mulier
In thimbles, thread, and pious womanly stuff.

2. Skirts and hats and chapel veils: pious women,
Proud that they're not males: pious women,
But call them feminists
And they'll probably break your wrists,
'Cause that's one thing you can't accuse them of. (But ...)

Speaking out, listening in, and besides that, to the men's chagrin,
Follow them, and you'll see how to live intrusively.
Other than that, they're not so bad -- our belov'd mantilla-clad!
For today you can't praise pious women enough.

3. Follow Holy Church, they do: the pious women,
M.T.W.: a woman,
To Rome their hearts are stirred
(That's the city, not the verb),
And to Rome they give their pious womanly love.

4. Know that Priesthood's not for them: pious women,
(Clearly they're not men): pious women,
They'll be splendid nuns
Or moms of splendid sons,
Our pious women, trusty, true, and tough.

5. To a world that hates the good; pious women,
They show womanhood: pious women,
Still don't let that fool ya:
Don't give them hyperdulia,
'Cause that's reserved for the Pious Woman above.

What a hateful song! It's almost unbelievable. They've torn down about everything we stand for -- equality, independence, women's ordination, inclusive language, you name it. They even snuck Latin AND Greek in there! How shamelessly they use the original composer's initials in the 3rd verse, and then they think they're being clever about the roam/Rome thing in the next lines. There they go, exalting their so-called "pious" women ... and of course, like any antiquarian goody two-shoes Catholic from the '50s, they just had to get a reference in to Mary at the end. Well, for the thousandth time: what if we don't want to be like Mary?! Unbelievable.

More later. Between this and Pat's post, the one keyword is: watch out! Things are starting to go backwards in Rome, and now these insane little ideologues are scampering around in the homeland, desecrating our music. I hate to lose hope, but perhaps Pat said it best:



Pat said...

I propose we use the term hernial instead of sounds so much more euphonious to my ears for some reason...

Darlene said...

Hmm, yes ... yes, Pat, I like it. Good call. It sounds much more poetic and passionate and visceral, doesn't it ... the womanchurch gals and I will be singing from our *hernial* tomorrow then! ...if we feel like it.