Today we are going to start talking about the 13th-century and courtly love. This will take probably two or three posts because the subject is quite intensive, so bear with me.
Courtly love or the age of chivalry ran historically from the 12th century to the late 16th century and is a notable time in the history of women and the beginning of feminism.
At the beginning, women were basically despised not only by men but by themselves. They were hardly treated like people.
I have to backtrack here, back before Christ and back before the invention of reading and writing. Over 4000 years ago, women ran the place with goddess based religions and these goddess based religions had females playing the prominent role. This was because it was the females that brought life into this world and they were also held responsible for death and rebirth.
So the whole focus way back then was around women and the important role they played in bringing life into this world. Gradually the male became more powerful and more empowered and it was around the time of the invention of reading and writing that the tide turned for the male.
Well, it was during this time, during the age of chivalry, that the tide began to turn back in favor of the female. Now the beginnings were small but they led to a lot of the things that are happening in the women’s movement today. At the end of the 16th century, women were respected and admired and this set the stage for the modern women’s movement.
Now back during the goddess religions of ancient times civilization was matriarchal and dominated by women. They failed to consider the males growing importance until it was too late.
In this time men were so obsessed about living in their heads that they indulged the women and let them do what they wanted. So women began taking over the running of things. This especially happened during the Crusades when a lot of the men were gone and the women were left home to take care of routine business. The women began to realize that they had a head for running things.
Now, one of the important consequences of the Crusades was a meeting of cultures. Europe was living in the dark ages compared to Persia, or compared to the Muslim countries who were highly civilized and had knowledge of Greek and Roman literature.
Suddenly these crude and uneducated Crusaders met up with this advanced civilization, and it was quite a shock. So they came back with a lot of eye-opening experiences which they wanted to share. But they came back to a world that women had kind of settled into while they were gone.
Courtly love is the great theme of late medieval literature. Europe was rediscovering the sciences and the wisdom of the classical world through the influence of Muslim scholars in the translations of Greek and Roman texts. So philosophy and the sciences were being reintroduced.
This was a golden opportunity for women of the upper class. At the same time, the cult of the Virgin Mary was brought back to Europe by the Crusaders.
Courtly love was class conscious, escapist and idealized. It was basically considered a harmless daydream by a lot of people. But it was very powerful in its own way as we shall see. Courtly love was the game of love. We’ve all heard about the game of love. This is where it started!
It was first thought to have been characteristic of the romantic German and Celtic peoples and included remnants of the Organic Gnostics through the influence of the Bogomils who came from the Caucasus area in eastern Europe. So courtly love still had traces of those early feminine goddess religions.
Now it was also considered a conspiracy of the Cathars to overturn the Church. But mostly courtly love was influenced by the Arabs because the Arabs treated their women differently than the Europeans did. The Arabs kept their women apart from everybody else. They segregated them and locked them up into harems. They made the women wear veils over their faces.
In Europe the female was always out in public and because she was out in public she was not considered special. The Arabs considered their women special and that trait also influenced this idea of courtly love.
Courtly love was sufficiently possible to be attractive to lovers, but improbable enough to be a challenge. It was like a hopeless case of soulmates never destined to join together in love and that’s probably the way to think of it in a in a metaphysical sense.
This was a meeting of souls, not a meeting of sexual pleasures. In fact, one of the phrases back then was that the union of souls was a thousand times more beautiful than that of bodies, so the whole concept of courtly love was Tantric.
It was talking about the mixing and the touching union of male and female souls. This is important because that’s part part of Organic Gnosticism. These tantric based teachings were spreading into every aristocratic family.
There was at least one person who could read and write, and they would snap up books because there were not very many to read. They in turn wanted to talk about what they read. They want to talk about new concepts and ideas just like we do today.
So the nobility began to permanently employ scholars. These scholars in turn would help with the business deals. They would write legal papers, keep the accounts and add some scholarly debate into the household and actually provide tutorship to the younger generation of children.
Things were different in the countryside for the superstitious common people. Sexuality was rampant with succubus and incubus attacks everywhere. These were vampires sucking up the energies of those with weaker blood. But the prevailing opinion of the common folk came from the Cathars. There was no sin from the belly button and below.
The aristocrats were talking about the soul. They were talking about the love of the soul and about soulmates. They were not talking about the physical consummation of sexuality.
The priests made generous use of this idea and the upper part of the body became so spiritual that it no longer knew what the lower half of the body was doing! If you can believe that!
Every act was holy and the priest was able to sanctify all women who sinned with him because sin was of the body and not of the soul. In Spain and France nuns were called the “consecrated ones” or mistresses of the priests. This was how pervasive sexuality was among the Church and among the common people.