Joan of Arc

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When I think of archetypal female Elder Leader figures, Joan of Arc comes quickly to mind. She exhibited strengths of a Mystic and a Warrior, and as a Leader, Jeanne d’Arc led an army to victory at Orleans in defense of her beloved France. This brave young woman listened to her own inner voices, whether from her unconscious archetypal assembly and/or spiritual agencies supporting her mission.

I acted in a play while in college in the the role of a schizophrenic woman who believed she was Joan of Arc. For the part, I read all I could find about St. Joan so by the time the play was performed I really did identify strongly with La Pucelle.  The night before the first performance of this play, Chamber Music, a well-known author focussing on women’s psychology gave a talk on my college campus and she mentioned Joan of Arc as a primary example of the highest qualities of a heroic figure. She ended her lecture after mentioning Joan, saying, “having spoken of Joan of Arc, I cannot say anything more.”

I felt the weight of the world land on my shoulders then, and I promptly went to my dormitory to re-read the entirety of George Bernard Shaw’s play, Saint Joan, that night.

The Good Joan

Along the thousand roads of France,
Now there, now here, swift as a glance,
A cloud, a mist blown down the sky,
Good Joan of Arc goes riding by.In Domremy at candlelight,
The orchards blowing rose and white
About the shadowy houses lie;
And Joan of Arc goes riding by.On Avignon there falls a hush,
Brief as the singing of a thrush
Across old gardens April-high;
And Joan of Arc goes riding by.The women bring the apples in,
Round Arles when the long gusts begin,
Then sit them down to sob and cry;
And Joan of Arc goes riding by.Dim fall the hoofs down old Calais;
In Tours a flash of silver-gray,
Like flaw of rain in a clear sky;
And Joan of Arc goes riding by.Who saith that ancient France shall fail,
A rotting leaf driv’n down the gale?
Then her sons know not how to die;
Then good God dwells no more on high!

Tours, Arles, and Domremy reply!
For Joan of Arc goes riding by.

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Could there have been a “better ending” for Joan of Arc, who died by being burned at the stake in 1431 at the age of 19? We know of the tragic betrayal and of her torturous death for having held to her truth and fought for her people. She was declared a heretic for not denying that she heard the archangel Michael and other spiritual agencies directing her campaign. Women were not expected to have a direct communication with God or angels then, let alone to set out to lead an army to victory. St. Joan could have recanted; she might have escaped, but history records how she chose not to betray her spiritual agencies just to save her physical form.
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I can hardly abide the more recent biographical films about Jeanne (though from a modern context they are well acted); it is Ingrid Bergman’s 1948 film depiction of St. Joan, based on Shaw’s play, that feels to me to be the best or better ‘rendering’ of this true tale of valor and faith that has become culturally iconic and archetypally embedded in human consciousness.
I cannot conceive of a better ending than what St. Joan chose by her own nature and conscience to endure for the sake of her faith and her relationship with Divinity Itself.
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The best account of Joan’s passing to my sensibility is Leonard Cohen’s song of tribute, https://www.youtube.com/embed/gtwUyDPXROQ?rel=0“>Joan of Arc, as sung by Jennifer Warnes. Click on this link or select:   to see this excellent YouTube performance.
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images gratefully from pixabay.com
Those attending Joan’s heroic passing witnessed a White Dove flying to the heavens as her bodily form crumbled to dust. Watch this video (above link) and read about St. Joan to contemplate your own archetypal Elder Leader (combined with Warrior and Mystic) potentials!

2 thoughts on “Joan of Arc

  1. That’s quite the role to play for school, Joan od arc has always intrigued me too, Whether she heard voices or not her devotion to her cause always stayed true and the influence she created, is what makes her name spoken even today 🙂

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