Dame Julian

Revelations of Divine Love


 ‘This is a Revelation of love that Jesus Christ, our endless blisse, made in sixteen Sheweings or Revelations particular.’

Revelations of Divine Love by Dame Julian of Norwich is a remarkable book; probably the first in English by a woman. Some of its themes ran counter to the church’s teaching – dangerous in the troubled century in which she lived. Her calm and compassionate writing, visionary and mystical, came from sixteen visions or ‘shewings’ in 1373 during a severe, paralysing illness, so severe that she received the last rites.

In Middle-English language, she called them shewings (showings) and revelations. Others have called them visions but they were sometimes visual, and other times intellectual, auditory or spiritual. I use showings to keep the sound and intent of the original.

She describes them as personal revelations to herself by God that she was to pass on to her fellow Christians. She reviewed the first 14 showings with twenty in-depth chapters of comment, preparing the way for the dangerous ground in her 15th and 16th showings.

Her Middle-English is hard to read today. Most translations are  readable but use much original wording and phrasing to keep the mediaeval colour. I have tried to avoid this. Words then can have different meanings to the same words today. In my modern renderings of Julian’s visions I have used Georgia Ronan Crampton’s excellent version of her later, longer book here. This is probably the closest to the original Middle-English but uses our modern alphabet. Another more comfortably modernised version is in the Christian Classics Ethereal library here.

Beware: you may find yourself on a beautiful but long road. Sometimes the meanings of words have changed, sometimes it is our understanding of what underlies those words. For instance, fear in Julian’s day carried far more sense of awe than it does today. Now it has been simplified to mean fright. We use the same word but a sense of wondering caution has given way to one of cowering. To fear God has lost something in the process. Dread carried a combined sense of respect and awe rather than horror.

14th Century Background

Continue reading

A Wave of the Hand

I have not posted on the blog for a while, mainly because of living frequently without heating in what looks, and is, increasingly like a building site. However I have been steadily updating the Dame Julian pages (see the tab above) and I am nearing the end of her comment chapters which are vital to a full understanding of her final two ‘showings’ to which I am drawing near.

Soon I hope to be blogging again, meanwhile you may find the ‘work in progress’ of Julian’s revelations worth a visit.

Kind regards to you all.


Cosmos once meant order –
universe meant a single turning point.
We were bounded by the spheres,
the eternal turning stars,
where wanderers made their way alone,
bright Venus, dull red Mars,
and others that we named for gods.
– Cosmos once meant order.

Now we have found infinity,
like turmoil of a dream
of love and hope and yearning.
tossed in an unknown stream,
Galaxies, stars, planets, dust,
spread with wilder turning,
dark energy’s pull,
dark matter’s thrust,

Now in our infinity
all we see is just
a hundredth part or more
of a far darker shore.
Are we cast there alone,
faithless, hopeless, loveless, lost?

This vast turning sphere,
dark energy, dark matter and dark fear,
is smaller than a hazel in my hand.
A multiverse infinity of worlds
would be as hazel-small and sweet
as this round which my fingers curl.

And I so loved it that I entered
as My own Son to bring you life;
became your brother, servant, friend.
I, you thought so other,
so high above, so Godly-grand,
loved so much I died
at my lovers’ hand.

There is truth and turmoil in your dream,
the unseen dark, a flowing stream,
of love and loss.
Matter is energy, dark and light.
Those who love the light,
who believe in Me,
flow on to light.
Those who love the dark flow into dark,
lost in the passing of this age.
Yet I did not only come to earth to save,
I descended into hell,
and seek you there as well.

Dame Julian of Norwich

Because of our moving house with its difficulty of finding space and time for new writing I am using spare moments to continue my translation of Dame Julians book. Being someone else’s finished work it is no more than translation into modern English from the early text as edited by Georgia Ronan Crampton, Rochester University.

I thought it might be interesting to show my working, so beginning in chapter 53 I have set out Julian’s writing, breaking it into separate lines at each punctuation and clause. At full stops I usually make a double line break so the text appears versified. Then, as I work through, I copy each ‘verse’ into two identical ones and first do a straight translation of words that differ from Modern English. I then make other changes to fit our present day way of reading and, where suitable adjust the wording to make as poetical flow as possible while keeping the meaning. This leaves the Middle English version and the Modern English together as a comparison.

Julian update

Some of you may have wondered why I have been so slack in continuing my work on  Dame Julian of Norwich’s Shewings. Mea Culpa, or perhaps Rio Culpa! The Rio Olympics, and particularly the Rio Paralympics drew me away almost completely. There is something powerful in the human spirit that makes events such as these very compelling.

Nevertheless I am getting back on course but by a somewhat extended route. In the twenty-three years after recording her visionary ‘shewings’ Julian added twenty chapters of notes on the first fourteen. They are a perceptive and compassionate introduction to the fifteenth and sixteenth showings she received. So, rather than moving straight on to her last two shewings I have begun working, as she did, on her comments on the first fourteen. Without obviously doing so they tread a gentle path among the startling revelations to come. She sees no wrath in God, and no forgiveness either; she finds boundless compassion and love; all this in a time when about a quarter of the world’s population died of the Black Death and its after-effects. In East Anglia where she lived two thirds of the population died. To write as she did, especially as a woman, when all around were looking for cause and blame, took immense character and courage.

You will find the link at the bottom of the Dame Julian tab page or here . Her first fourteen shewings/showings/revelations/visions are linked from the Dame Julian tab. Remember, if you are taking this journey with me, it is work very much in progress and may be revised as we go along.

Dame Julian

When I began the series of pages on the remarkable Dame Julian of Norwich I expected to complete it in June. This was an under-estimate but there is a good side. Having been out of internet and even pen and paper reach for a while (or at least not having time available for good fun reasons!) I need to write this to keep you up to date, which gives me the chance to explain a few things.

Why am I doing it? Dame Julian, or whatever her true name was, was a remarkable woman. Not counting her reputation as probably the first woman to write a book in the English language she lived in one of the most fear filled and accusatory times in history when stepping out of line brought terrible retribution. The time of the Black Death, the only known time when the world’s population fell – and not only fell, it plummeted by up to a quarter (in Britain by up to a half)- fear, suspicion and accusation made it very much a time for keeping your head down, particularly in matters of religion and those two enemies, Heresy and Justice. It was often not easy to say which was worse.

Julian steered a careful course between obedience to the teaching of Holy Church and an intense compassion arising from a series of powerful ‘shewings’ or revelations received during a severe illness in which she received the last rites. Unlike many of her time she survived, which suggests it was probably not the Black Death itself. Also the date of her illness did not coincide with the worst outbreaks in East Anglia at the time.

Mention of the terms shewings and revelations brings me to the problem I faced in what to call them. In these chapters and their headings which are still being written and rewritten I have flitted between ‘shewings’, ‘showings’, ‘visions’ and ‘revelations’. Currently there is an untidy and illogical mix of the terms simply because until I am sure which to use I am keeping them all out there. ‘Shewings’ is the old term and ‘showings’ would fit and mean the same in modern writing, but she also called them revelations which is current today. My only problem with that was a fear of mistaken confusion with the New Testament Book of Revelation. I tried ‘visions’ but that fails on several counts: she had a number of shewings but they were by no means all visual. Julian distinguished between them as rational, spiritual, and as things seen. Visions will have to go. In the meantime take your choice.

None of this truly explains why I am doing it. Not because of the drama of the Black Death, nor that of the trials and accusations of heresy and devil worship that were so heightened by those times. The reason is that in the worst of times she saw the best. In a time of fear and hate they speak more of our Father’s love than anything else I have read. I don’t even write them for you to read, or at least not yet, but they are such a rich source of inspiration that I want them there to draw upon for later posts on this site.

Read them if you will, although I shall revisit and change words and phrases here and there where it seems to represent her meaning better. Regard it as a journey we are taking together.