Monday, January 4, 2016


                                              Hildegard of Bingen

    Monastic medicine continued to flourish; and, as it did so, the luminosity of genius was to be found in many monasteries and cloisters.    
  Monastic settlements became acknowledged centers of learning and academia in medieval Europe.
  The art of illuminated calligraphy and gem-bound manuscripts reached a height of artistry famed throughout the world.
  Men and women of learning set out to share the message of the Gospel in different lands.
  As they travelled and founded various settlements, they brought their talents and unremitting labor in the Name of Jesus Christ to bear on their task.
  The missionary expansion in medieval times was formidable; with monks bringing learning and ability for healing in far flung areas.
  Gall, Columba, Ferghil and Aiden - along with thousands of other monks, swept with their knowledge and medical skills over the then known Europe and further afield
  The great monasteries of Iona, Lindisfarne, Luxeuil and Peronne sent forth many missionaries.
  From these great settlements sprang uncountable others.
  Wild and lonely sites cleared and settled by the monks paved the way for future great cities to rise.
  The cities of Bobbio, Wurzburg, Fontanelle and Saltzburg exist because the Irish planted monasteries there.  1

In the midst of all this brilliance and devout faith, a little girl was born in Germany.
  Her life was shortly to explode upon the medieval world like a thunderbolt from the heavens.
  Her name is Hildegard of Bingen; often known as Medieval Healer of the Rhine.

Hildegard of Bingen
  As the baby's infant cries resounded through the chamber, her parents looked down on their somewhat sickly tenth child.
  The tenth child of noble parents in medieval Germany was often gifted to the Church.
  The little girl was tenth - and tithe. 
  Mechthilde and her husband Hildebert were delighted with the arrival of their daughter, and busily set about nursing her through her childhood illnesses until her eighth birthday.
  At age eight her parents took her to the Benedictine monastery at Disibodenberg, to be tithed to the church as a servant of God. Hildegard was placed in the care of the holy anchoress, Hermit Jutta.
  Jutta was the noble daughter of Count Stephan of Spanheim, and her anchorage (or form of hermitage) was attached to the Benedictine Monastery Church.
  It was well known that Hildegard began receiving visions from God at a very early age.
  As Hildegard left the care of her parents and began her new journey in the monastery,  it could have been expected that she would quietly slip into her role and never be heard of again.
  Yet Hildegard's intellectual and spiritual brillance so exceeded any expectations that she became herbalist, writer, dramatist, poet and composer, 12th Century Abbess and mystic, theologian, visionary, monastic advisor, consultant exorcist, psychotherapist and visiting preacher.
  It appears that Hildegard burst the boundaries of 12th century monastic hermitage to take her place on the world stage; and, in so doing, her visionary light illuminated the world and the medieval healing of her times.

Hildegard the Healer
  Hildegard began her education with Jutta at the age of eight.
At eleven years of age Hildegard took her vows and went on to succeed Jutta as Abbess on the latter's death in 1136. 
  Five years later Hildegard began publicizing the visions that she had experienced since childhood and that she believed came directly from God.
  Hildegard went on to become the first German woman physician, and won fame as a healer.
  Hildegard wrote two treatises on medicine and natural history between 1151 and 1161; Book of Simple Medicine or Physica, and the Book of Composed Medicine or Causae et Curae.
 These works were widely read and influential.
  Physica is an encyclopedic work describing the nature of elements, mammals, reptiles, fish, birds, trees, plants, metals, precious stones and jewels.
  The longest and most comprehensive section of Physica contains information regarding the harvesting and medicinal uses of more than 200 herbs and other plants.
  Causae et Curae catalogs forty seven diseases according to causes, symptoms and treatments.
  Hildegard goes on to list more than 300 plants here, including medical and physiological theory as well as herbal treatments.
  Although her sources are not known, it is believed that Hildegarde used medieval herbals and older texts from Pliny, Galen, Soranus and St Isadore of Seville.
  Hildegarde thus combined published information and reliable sources with knowledge of illnesses and treatments of local folk.  
  Further experimentation with medical lore and observation were added into the mix, and her two classics on healing were the inspired result.

Hildegard's Spirituality and Philosophy
  Hildegard describes God as the Source of all life.
She speaks of the creation of angels, and the cosmos as the home for humanity.
  She writes of the sun, the moon and stars.
Hildegard's spirituality is deeply rooted in the earth; it is a cosmic spirituality, drawing strength from the Book of Genesis.

  Hildegard views Lucifer - the fallen angel and present devil - as the origin of sin and sickness.
As a result of the Fall of humanity, humans are no longer at 'one-ness' with God; and it is the 'at-one-ment- which Hildegard believes  brings health.
  This 'at-one'ment' is only possible with God's help.
God is the whole life [vita integra].

  Hildegard regarded a healthy way of life as a general attitude of moderation in all things - eating, sexuality, sleeping and movement.
  She viewed the goal of humanity as smiling composure.
She wrote, 'When the consciousness of the soul in a person perceives nothing of sadness, danger, and evil in fellow humans, then the heart of the same person opens up to joy, like flowers open towards the warmth of the sun.'

Hildegard's Healing
  In 1150, Hildegard moved her monastery to Rupertsberg near Bingen.
This monastery contained an extensive and sophisticated herb garden, and medicines were prepared from the herbs.
  Both members of her order and local people were treated with the medical tinctures, ointments, oils and cures the monastery so expertly prepared.
  Hildegard knew both the Latin botanical names as well as the German names of each herbal plant.
Her name became synonymous with both physical and supernatural cures.
Hildegard's theories continue to be clinically used today in the Hildegard Practice at Konstanz, West Germany.
  Hers healing methods recommend a balanced diet, sufficient rest, the alleviation of stress and a wholesome moral life.
Hildegard went on to emphasize the importance of psychological health, and wrote the psychotherapy textbook Liber Vitae Meritorum.
  She described 35 daily psychological risk factors; among their number, anger is included as a risk factor. 
  Studies today show that there may well be a concrete link between excessive anger and coronary heart disease.
  It is possible that anger may produce direct biological effects on the heart and arteries. 
  Excessive amounts of stress hormones may speed up the process of atherosclerosis, in which fatty plaques build up in the arteries.
  Anger may also disrupt the electrical impulses of the heart and provoke dangerous heart rhythm disturbances. 2
So Hildegard was scientifically correct in her deductions as a 12th century Abbess and healer.

Medicine and Salvation
  Hildegard told of her many visions from God, and believed she received Divine Inspiration for her written works.
She is known as the 'Medical Miracle Worker', the 12th century nun who discovered the secrets of good health by listening to God.
  In her work Physica, Hildegard linked health and spirituality.
She presented Botany and Medicine as included in the theological, God-centered concept.
  For Hildegard, medicine and the doctrine of salvation are inseparably connected with one another.
Hildegard considered all manifestations of nature, including both plants and people, as closely related with each other as part of the world as a whole - formed and organized by God.
Healing was closely linked to Genesis, where God created plants for food and health.
  The green of the leaves  of plants symbolizes that divine principle that gives all earthly lives the power and strength to thrive - the living bond between Creator and creation.
  The healing vitality of plants is transferred to people, if their 'green is useful and  mellow'.
  Plants and natural science aid healing.
  However, healing of illness does not depend entirely upon natural science by the effects of herbs; according to Hildegard, health by recovery from a serious illness lies in the Hands of God.

  Many of the herbal healing powers described by Hildegard are confirmed in modern herbal medicine.
  One such herb is ginger, which Hildegard advocated to be baked into small cakes to ease digestive problems. 3
  Ginger continues to be widely used to aid with digestive problems today.  Such as the delicious ginger biscuits we use on travel journeys!

  Hildegard employed herbs from both East and West geographical regions. She advocated the use of an eastern spice galangal [Alpinia galangal], which is a relative of ginger.
She used aloe for jaundice, and geranium for colds.
Many of her remedies are well known herbs such as fennel, parsley and nettles.
  Hildegard often gave simple home or kitchen remedies which are made from easily available ingredients. One such example is her parsley wine.
Hildegard's remedies are easy to prepare and consist of few ingredients.
They comprise many types of preparations such as herbal teas, wines, syrups, oils, salves and powders.
  She also prepared herbs with food such as herbal eggs and herbal cookies.
Hildegard integrated the use of gems and minerals with her usage of herbs.

  Diet is also an integral part of Hildegard's healing system.
She sets forth sound principles for a balanced diet.
  Hildegard employed other methods such as fasting and saunas.

  Hildegard also prescribed a spiritual element to her treatments, much as Ayurvedic practitioners in India do today.
  She advocated that the best protection against many diseases could be found in proper diet (Hildegard diet), and in the elimination of spiritual risk-factors based on the strength and fullness of religious faith.

  Medieval monastic healers looked to herbs for cures for illness; each plant was believed in medieval theory to be hot, cold, moist or dry. Herbal medicines were often prepared from a single herb, and were called simples.
  Complex illnesses frequently call for a complex herbal remedy, with various properties.
Hildegard's cure for migraine was a mixture of aloe (hot), myrrh (dry) and poppy oil (cold) mixed with flour.
  It is noteworthy to remember that poppy is still used today in the strong pain-reliever morphine.

Hildegard the Mystic
  Hildegard was a mystic who was concerned with our relationship with the Divine.
She explained that true healing cannot be arrived at by outer action alone; it requires contacting that inner consciousness and organic intelligence which is the real healing power.
  Hildegard thus considered healing as both medical and miraculous, and God's Will was an important element in her remedies.

  Dear Reader, you may well wonder; why is it important to know about monastic healing?
Simply, because such methods of healing are still so relevant for general  use today.
A revival of Hildegardian Healing in our time includes Fasting and sauna elimination and detoxification programmes, gem therapy, music therapy and the healing power of diet.
  Hildegard wrote about flower essences, as did Paracelsus in the 15th century. Dew was collected from flowering plants to treat health imbalances. There is much in common with the flower essence healing of the 12th and 15th centuries with the 20th century treatment of the famed Dr Edward Bach.
Modern treatments; Hildegard knew and practiced them all.

  Her visionary view of the Universe is one of balance and wholeness - sound advice for today as much as it was for the 12th century.
  Today herbal remedies are treasured and widely utilised, and meditation is routine as a stress relieving measure.
  Apparently her remedy for parley and honey wine is still often used today for certain heart problems.
  Hildegard - she of the visions, the medieval time and the forerunner of our times - left us an invaluable store of knowledge and mysticism.
  In the natural order, true healing requires both assistance from the natural world and from God.

  Hildegard believed Dreams to be Messengers of the soul
An undisturbed sleep is essential to well-being. A healthy dream life rejuvenates the nerves, much like the recharging of a battery.
  Hildegard believed that a confused and preoccupied mind prevents the sufferer from falling asleep. The accompanying sorrow, fear and anxiety disturbs the person.
  Restlessness and sleeplessness with recur until at last peace is found with the emotions.

  Hildegard believed there are five different kinds of dreams; and one of them is prophetic dreams, where God visits us with dreams of prophecy.
Icon of Medieval Healing
  Thus in Medieval times God called forward from His people one of the most famous healers of all time, Hildegard of Bingen.
  She led the way to become an icon of healing and a signpost to the Light of the Divine Healer Presence in our world.
From the Creation of healing agents in Genesis, through the miraculous Healings of the Nazarene Christ through the early Church to Medieval times, we have traced a constant development in healing.
Questions for the Heart and Mind
1.  Why do you think God chose some plants and flowers to be the vehicle for humanity to use for healing?

2.  If you met Hildegard of Bingen today, what do you think she would say to you?

3.  Discuss one healing herb of your choice, and link the herb to spiritual significance in your life.

4.  Why do you think God gave Hildegard her personal gifts for healing and visions?
1.  The Celtic Missionaries of Ireland. 2015. www.
2.  Kam, Kathryn, reviewed by Bryg, Robert J [MD]. (2007) Rein in the Rage; Anger and Heart Disease. WebMD.
3.  McInerney, Maude Burnett [Ed]. [1998). Hildegard of Bingen: A Book of Essays. Garland Medieval Casebook. Routledge.
Shepherd Church Seminary
Doctor of Healing Ministry Lesson One

Good Shepherd Church Seminary
Doctor of Healing Ministry Lesson Two

Good Shepherd Church Seminary
Doctor of Healing Ministry Lesson Three

Good Shepherd Church Seminary
Doctor of Healing Ministry Lesson Four
Good Shepherd Church Seminary
Doctor of Healing Ministry Lesson Five
Good Shepherd Church Seminary
Doctor of Healing Ministry Lesson Six
Rev Catherine
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Disclaimer; The information on this post is meant for information only. The information is not meant to replace your Doctor or Health professional or Herbalist care.

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