Hildegard von Bingen, songs about ‘the Spirit of Fire’

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 Folk and Sacred/Choral Music Hildegard von Bingen, songs about ‘the Spirit of Fire’

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    My apologies for the long post!

    Hildegard von Bingen was a visionary mystic nun in Germany in the 12th century. She had been experiencing powerful mystical experiences in the form of visions since the age of 5 and started writing about them in her 40s in a series of books. She also wrote books about medicine and the natural world.

    She composed her own music and stated that it came to her whole from God, words and music together, the same way she received her visions. Thanks to her being well known through her works, her music survived to our modern age as it was copied and passed on in her time.

    Below are two hymns by her and a vision of hers set to medieval music. I was inspired by how they seem to describe this ‘spirit of fire’, some of its attributes, how it works with humans, etc., and then in the last song it almost seems to me like describing the divine mother.

    The first hymn is called O Ignis Spiritus Paracliti (Oh Spirit of Fire, Bringer of Comfort) and is her own composition.

    The English lyrics are:

    O fire of the Spirit and Defender,
    the life of every life created:
    Holy are you—giving life to every form.

    Holy are you—anointing the critically
    broken. Holy are you—cleansing
    the festering wounds.

    O breath of holiness,
    O fire of love,
    O taste so sweet within the breast,
    that floods the heart with virtues’ fragrant good.

    O clearest fountain,
    in which is seen the mirrored work of God:
    to gather the estranged
    and seek again the lost.

    O living armor, hope that binds
    the every limb,
    O belt of honor: save the blessed.

    Guard those enchained in evil’s prison,
    and loose the bonds of those
    whose saving freedom is the forceful will of God.

    O mighty course that runs within and through
    the all—up in the heights, upon the earth,
    and in the every depth—
    you bind and gather all together.

    From you the clouds flow forth, the wind takes flight,
    the stones their moisture hold,
    the waters rivers spring,
    and earth viridity exudes.

    You are the teacher of the truly learned,
    whose joy you grant
    through Wisdom’s inspiration.

    And so may you be praised, who are the sound of praise,
    the joy of life, the hope and potent honor,
    and the giver of the gifts of light.

    The second hymn is called O Ignee Spiritus (O Fiery Spirit):

    The English lyrics are:

    O fiery Spirit, praise to you,
    who on the tympana and lyre
    work and play!

    By you the human mind is set ablaze,
    the tabernacle of its soul
    contains its strength.

    So mounts the will
    and grants the soul to taste—
    desire is its lamp.

    In sweetest sound the intellect upon you calls,
    a dwelling-place prepares for you,
    with reason sweating in the golden labor.

    Yet in your hand you always hold the sword
    to cut away
    the deadly apple offering
    its blackened heart—a homicide,

    when once that cloud reached out
    to overshade the will and its desires,
    in which the soul takes flight and circles round about.

    But of the will and of desire the mind serves as the bond.

    For when the spirit rears itself
    to seek to see the evil eye, the gaping maw of wickedness,
    then swiftly in your fire do you consume it, when you will.

    But when the reason strays and, working evil things,
    falls flat and low,
    then as you will, you draw, constrain, and bring it back
    through floods of trials and ordeals.

    When evil yet its sword against you
    draws, you break its blade into its heart—
    the thrust against the fallen angel first
    you made when into Hell you cast
    his tower of pride.

    Another tower you raised up in its place,
    amongst the taxmen and the sinners—
    to you their sins they do confess by their own works and deeds.

    So ev’ry creature, as it takes
    its life from you, returns to you its praise,
    for you are that most precious balm
    for broken, fetid wounds,
    transforming them into
    most precious gems.

    Now deign to gather us, to draw us all to you,
    and to direct us on the upright course.

    The final song, The Fiery Spirit, is actually not her own composition, but is a description of a vision of hers that was set to a medieval chant melody by the group Anonymous 4 (through to 42:46, I couldn’t find it as a separate video).

    The English lyrics are:

    And again I heard a voice from heaven
    instructing me thus. And it said:
    Write therefore what I tell you in this manner.

    And I saw as amid the airs of the South
    in the mystery of God a beautiful and marvelous
    image of a human figure;
    her face was of such beauty and brightness
    that I could more easily have stared at the sun.
    On her head she had
    a broad band of gold.

    The figure spoke:
    I am the supreme fire and energy.
    I have kindled all the sparks of the living,
    and I have breathed out no mortal things,
    for I judge them as they are.
    I have properly ordained the cosmos,
    flying about the circling circle
    with my upper wings,
    that is with wisdom.
    I am the fiery life of divine substance,
    I blaze above the beauty of the fields,
    I shine in the waters,
    I burn in the sun,
    moon and stars.



    Thank you Laura for bringing Hildegard von Bingen to the picture. I also noticed how quite a few of her works describe the spirit of fire, divine ecstasy, etc.

    The last one you shared has really beautiful words, it feels like it is describing something real that could actually exist in higher dimensions.


    Jordan Resnick

    Thanks Laura – I’ve always liked her music. Haven’t looked into it in relation to the Religion of the Sun as of yet, but I look forward to it!



    Thanks Laura, Hildegard has always been a favourite of mine! I wonder if you or anyone has seen the film about her life and if you can recommend it?


    Jordan Resnick

    Hi Ella,

    I’ve seen it a while ago so I couldn’t actually recommend or not recommend it as I can’t remember the whole thing atm! However, from what I do remember, I found it interesting at the time seeing her story come to life, a few aspects about it I didn’t know, and how she was persecuted by the church, betrayed, and yet kept going on her quest.



    @lucia, yes, it seems like she had some really powerful visions. Another vision by her, again not her music but modern combining of her words and a medieval chant melody by the group Anonymous 4, is called Love. It is describing another spiritual being/spiritual principle? and I thought it was beautiful.

    (Through to 58:15)

    Vision: Love

    In a true vision of the spirit in a waking state,
    I saw the likeness of a beautiful girl
    shining with a splendour so bright
    that I could not look upon her properly.
    She had a cloak whiter than snow
    and brighter than a star.
    And she had in her right hand the sun and the moon,
    gently embracing them.

    And I heard a voice saying these things to me.
    The girl you see is Love,
    who has her dwelling in eternity.
    For when God wanted to create the world,
    he inclined himself in the sweetest affection,
    and foresaw all things necessary,
    just as a father provides an inheritance for his son;
    and in this way he ordered all his works
    in a great burning fire of love.
    Then every creature in every species
    and form acknowledged its creator,
    for in the beginning Love was the base matter
    from which all creatures came.
    And God said ‘Let it be done’, and it was done,
    for every creature was made through Love
    in the twinkling of an eye.
    (Trans. Mark Atherton)

    @jordan, that’s interesting to hear she was persecuted by the church and betrayed. From the little I read about her life, I thought church and lay people all over Europe respected her and sought her advice, but maybe I missed something.


    Jordan Resnick

    Hi Laura,

    According to accounts (and as depicted in that movie), either she was instructed via her visions or just saw it best to move the nuns from where they were staying to build their own new monastery completely separate from the monks and the local head priest/monk of the church wouldn’t allow it. You get the sense they kept getting in her way. Furthermore, he and other “higher ups” were quite belittling of her visions, and the church in general was quite prohibitive in terms of her being able to spread her teachings to the world at large (hence a lot of it had to be done through her art and not directly). She did have some supporters and so on as you said, but not without this aspect of conflict and trouble all the time.

    From what I gather, it brings to mind the general attitude displayed toward Joan of Arc by Pierre Cauchon and the rest of the clergy at that ridiculous trial they put her through and subsequent execution.

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