Scarlet Music

Front Cover for Scarlet Music

Scarlet Music

Hildegard of Bingen: A Novel

Joan Ohanneson brings to life the "feather on the breath of God" —Hildegard of Bingen, the prophet who shattered stereotypes of women, saints, and even God. This gripping memoir includes the saint’s own vivid accounts of her visions and thoughts.

Hildegard of Bingen, the tenth child of Hildebert and Mechthilde, was tithed to the Church before her birth. She grew up in the care of Lady Jutta in the abbey of Disibodenberg in the Palatinate Forest and became an eminent visionary, influencing the fields of medicine, music, ecology, and theater to this day.

Ohanneson interweaves the events in Hildegard of Bingen's life with her illuminating written works to create a vital and intense characterization of the fascinating woman who in her humble yet authoritative way spoke to the power of the God and changed the Church forever.

Reviews and endorsements

“Hildegard was pledged to a life with the church even before her birth . . . Even as a young child, Hildegard had visions that separated her from those around her. Once accustomed to religious life, Hildegard quickly became renowned for her intelligence, creativity, and visionary spirit . . . a feminist heroine for many women today.”
Library Journal

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"What an eye-opener it was to read about Hildegard of Bingen’s work in the early Christian Church in Germany. Author Joan Ohanneson skillfully transports us to the 12th century, to a place where we can experience the life of the church and get a feel for early Western Europe and the religious and political posturing of the time. She tells a gripping tale.

A feminist in the Middle Ages and a recognized saint today, Hildegard worked diligently within the male dominated church. Her abilities as a prophetess and a mystic are dramatically portrayed and carefully woven into the story. Her strength as a leader and her service to others was deeply rooted in her life, which was dedicated to the church prior to her birth. Descriptions of daily life in the abbey are outstanding, and the characters are well developed. This is a must for all Christian readers who want to learn more about their Roman Catholic background and their feminist roots. Highly recommended."
Lois Roberts, Church and Synagogue Library Association

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"Scarlet Music skillfully weaves the story of Hildegarde of Bingen against the historical framework of 12th century Germany. It deftly depicts Hildegarde’s personal character, as well as her understanding and restoration of the feminine face of God present in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament."
Kathryn Baker, Presbyterian Women Reading List

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"Reclaimed after almost nine centuries, Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), is heralded today as a foremother by modern feminist and as a saint by Pope John Paul II.

Her prophetic writings include warnings of the Reformation; celebration and restoration of the feminine face of God present in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament; the promotion of holistic healing; and forewarnings about the ecological peril that we find confronting our planet today.

In Scarlet Music, Joan Ohanneson brings to life a fictional biography of the astonishing visionary named Hildegard, who is a prophet, artist and healer and whose music is sweeping music charts of today. A truly inspiring and unforgettable read!"
Leading Edge Review

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"Scarlet Music is a compelling, novelized account of Hildegard’s life and work. Ohanneson stays true to historical fact, but brings a depth of personality to her subject that makes the centuries drop away as one reads."
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


“In this fictional biography, Ohanneson firmly anchors Hildegard of Bingen’s life and prophetic witness in the historical events, both religious and secular, of twelfth-century Europe yet weaves for us a remarkable portrayal of a woman, deeply steeped through her visionary insights and mystic experiences into the numinous feminine divine which expresses itself as Wisdom and Love. With creative imagination and profound insight into the mind and heart of Hildegard of Bingen, Ohanneson evokes for us an intriguing yet deeply moving characterization.”
Miriam Schmitt, O.S.B., coeditor of Medieval Women Monastics: Wisdom’s Wellsprings

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“In a culture that hungers for depth, Scarlet Music is food for the soul. A good story wakes us up, provides fresh alternatives, consecrates our sufferings, offers meaning. Scarlet Music is a good story. The hours spent with this music will enrich the heart and mind.”
Robert F. Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop of Green Bay, author of Ashes to Easter and The Gift

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“Joan Ohanneson succeeds in revealing more of the woman behind the mystic, the visionary, and the prophet —a woman who saw herself as ‘weak’ but who could make corrupt clergy and kings tremble, a woman who suffered severe bouts of illness but who could expend her energies in monumental accomplishments. We see the strength and weakness of her human attachments, her anxieties and her fears, but also her daunting courage and her compassion for ordinary folk. Scarlet Music is an admiring, sensitive, and richly detailed walk through the life and times, in the footsteps of Hildegard of Bingen.”
Madonna Kolbenschlag, author of Eastward toward Eve and Lost in the Land of Oz

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Scarlet Music will rivet the modern reader with its masterly evocation of times and peoples past, of saints and sinners, abbots and popes, and the shadows of great monasteries spreading across the landscape. Joan Ohanneson breathes life into the statued choirs of the Middle Ages so that they stand vividly before us debating far more seriously than we the questions we think of as our own bold inventions. Soon the pages and binding fall away and we find ourselves eavesdropping on all that is human in Hildegard and all that is divine as well. It lacks only Russell Baker offering an introduction to seem an episode of Masterpiece Theater at its most arresting and enlightening.”
Eugene Kennedy, Ph.D., author of Queen Bee and On Becoming a Counselor

9780824516468
Paperback / 280 pages
Dimensions: 5.96 x 8.91
CROSSROAD, 1997