A Story Suitable for Young Readers
She was a teenage peasant. She heard voices. She walked off the family farm and within a year freed portions of France from the English who had been there for generations; she made a princeling into a king; and within two years she was burned as an unrepentant heretic! Now she is a Saint!
Here is my understanding of her
La Pucelle d'Orleans/The Maid
...............A True Story............
A drawing was made of Joan, in the margin of the Orleans city record book on the day she got the English armies away from the city and freed the countryside around Orleans. The drawing shows her as a small determined woman carrying her banner and her sword, and looking very serious about her mission to free France of English soldiers. The English were in France, making life difficult for French peasants, destroying the crops they lived on and ocsasionally abusing and killing them without reason for more than 75 years! Then came Joan . . .
It was almost 600 years ago, when this little girl was born to a hard working peasant family in a peaceful farm village along the Meuse river. The village was called Domremy, in the country called France.
The village church had a bell that called people to meetings and prayer and warned of dangers. The sound of this bell became important to the little girl as she grew up, she loved to hear this bell. As she traveled, she loved to hear any church bell: ringing bells made her feel close to God.
In English speaking lands this little girl became known as Joan of Arc, since her father's last name was d'Arc which means "of Arc." A question you may now ask is: if this is a little girl born to simple folks in a simple village in France, why do people in English speaking countries know her name?
The answer to this question lies
in a good story that will cause you to ask
even more questions. Some of
your questions can be answered by reading
history, but to other questions
you are going to ask there are no answers.
Maybe your dad or mom can think of some answers with you. And there may be answers just for you that you can get by reaching deep inside your own imagination, deep enough to reach into your soul, maybe.
Your parents need to be warned about some-thing in this story that are not pleasant, so they can handle it wisely: but a bad thing happens to Joan on May 30, 1431.
This is a true story from almost 600 years ago. It is both sad and happy. It is an important story that teaches about people: some are good, and some are not.
Jacques and Isabelle (d'Arc) welcomed their fourth child, Jehanne, into the world in January of 1412. She was the second daughter, and was called Jeannette around the house. Later she was called Jeanne. Joan in English.
She grew up strictly, being taught her religion by her mother, and being taught to work by both her parents and older siblings. Their cottage was a typical peasant home, with one large room where cooking and sleeping and working were done. The house had a straw roof, an interior fire over which to cook, animals living in the back of the house, and lots of smoke when there was a fire.
Jacquemin and Jean were her older brothers and Catherine her older sister. Catherine died young. Later, Pierre, a brother, was born in this same house. They lived in a crowded home, but by all reports a loving one.
The life of a peasant, almost 600 years ago, was difficult. From sunup to sundown it was work, work, work. Everything they wore, almost, was made at home. Everything they ate, almost, was grown at home. There was some trading of food for cloth, building materials and other stuff that could not be made or grown at home.
Wool, and the sheep that produce it, were plentiful. Carding the wool and making thread and yarn, and then clothes, was an indoor activity. No one young or old and able to work got out of doing their share.
Children, of course, played and had their fun. They would organize games sometimes when watching the cows and sheep at pasture outside the village.
In the fields and around the house children also had their chores. A very different life from what children have now. Joan learned how to work not long after she learned to walk.
Although men, women and children all worked, and worked hard to survive in those days, that doesn't mean they had no fun. Fairs and carnivals with jugglers and musicians and acrobats were traveling from village to village and were great fun. Children loved to watch and sample the sweet treats for sale. Parents also liked the fairs, where the latest in clothing and tools were on display.
As already mentioned, children were sent out of the village with the cows and sheep to watch over them as they ate the rich grasses on the nearby hills. This was very important because the people depended on these animals for clothing, milk, and food. Children can make a game out of anything, and often had fun because children from different families and of differing ages were sent out to watch the villagers cows and sheep grazing together. The older children were to watch out for the younger ones, but different games for different age groups were often played in these pastures and just a little into the nearby woods.
Why were the children sent out to watch the cows and sheep? They needed to be watched because an alarm needed to be sounded if there were wolves or English soldiers in the area. Sounding the alarm meant the whole village would run out and herd the cows onto a nearby island in the river that ran through the village, one with a wall around a large house and garden estate. Just bringing the cows back into the village was not good enough because soldiers came into the village and stole what they wanted, killing anyone that didn't help them get their supply wagons loaded with food.
The richer man who lived on the island wanted to protect the village cows too, because the villagers paid rent to him for their property. He knew that they would have a hard time living and paying rent if they had no cows. He needed them to pay their rents, but he also cared for these villagers, and so allowed their cows and sheep to make a mess of his gardens to save them.
While out with the cows and sheep, at the age of 13, Joan was told by a boy just coming from the village that her mother wanted her. As she walked home alone through the woods, a bright cloud surrounded her and a voice told her she was chosen to free France. She protested that she was just a little peasant girl. The voice said for her to be a good girl, and that he would return and give her instructions until the time was right for her to carry out the mission chosen for her. When Joan got home her mother said she had not asked anyone to get her.
For four years she kept the secret of angels coming to visit her, encouraging her to be good and giving her instructions. Later she said three angels would speak with her, all historical figures, all Saints: Michael, Catherine and Margaret. She was being told that she would head an army. She told no one.
But her father had bad dreams in which he saw her riding away from home with soldiers. He told her brothers that if she was ever trying to run away with soldiers they should take and drown her. He had no idea about either her voices or her mission until, at the age of 17, it was time!
BEGINNING HER MISSION
It took Joan almost a year to convince a local nobleman, an important soldier on the French side, that she had indeed been sent on a mission by God. He finally sent a note of introduction to the Dauphin, the person who should become King, named Charles the Seventh, and sent four of his best soldiers with Joan to sneak her through enemy territory to the Dauphin's castle at Chinon.
Several of the soldiers that accompanied Joan on this dangerous trip became convinced, while traveling with her, that she spoke with angels. Two of them would be at her side for the next two years until she was captured. Her two older brothers also joined her side after her first battle was won and they realized who their sister had become: a national hero!
But we are getting ahead of our story: she hasn't even met the royal Dauphin yet. He is the key to the army she needs to carry out the orders of the three angels. He was at Chinon, his favorite castle, and Joan headed there in the company of four soldiers with a letter of introduction. Her father's bad dreams had come true, she really did run away from home with soldiers!
It was in the castle at Chinon that our peasant girl first met royalty. The Dauphin, or King to be, played a trick on Joan by dressing like one of his court and hiding in plain sight among his visitirs in the crowded reception hall. Maybe he was testing to see whether she was being directed by God or not. Joan was not fooled and walked right up to him and asked for his armies. The Dauphin, Charles the 7th, was not about to give his armies to a peasant girl, but she took him aside and told him things about himself that changed his mind.
Charles did want to be sure about Joan. So he had wise men from the Church in the city of Poitiers examine her in great detail about her life and her voices. They recommended to the Dauphin that she was not a fake or a witch. In those times people believed in the power of witches, and if a person were judged to be a witch she, or he, would be burned to death. But Joan was found to be a person leading a good life, who heard voices of angels telling her how to save France. So, after this important delay she finally left Chinon to become part of an army headed where her voices told her that she would see her first victory: Orleans.
Chinon is the place where she returned between battles. She did not like returning here, she was in a hurry to fulfill her mission. But the Dauphin, soon to be made King, insisted on returning to this beautiful place and enjoying moments of peace here among friends.
War in the time of Joan of Arc, as in all times, was a terrible thing. We think of the knight in shining armor with his lance and sword, and of the crossbowman, without picturing in our minds what this armor and these weapons were used for: the armor was worn to keep the bearer from getting killed while he was killing with his weapons. Joan wore her own armor, and wielded a sword in battle. War is and always has been a terrible thing. But France had been at war for 75 years! It was time to put a stop to it.
Putting an end to the war meant that the English and their allies had to be attacked in castles and behind city walls. Terrible confusion, smoke, fire, heat, noise, death and suffering come with such an attack. Joan was always in the very front of the fighting, using her long sword and flying her banner to inspire the soldiers. She was wounded twice, but knew she would be, her angel voices had told her, and knew she would live!
FROM DAUPHIN TO KING
The Dauphin was in no hurry to be anointed King, and he was in no hurry to win the war against the English. But Joan was in a hurry, she had voices telling her what to do and when to do it and she meant to obey those voices. So, almost against his will, the Dauphin and Joan went on a triumphant march to the cathedral city of Reims, where was located the holy oil, consecrated by a Saint of long ago, which had to be used to make the Dauphin into the King of France.
Perhaps Joan's best moment was not on the battlefield at Orleans or elsewhere, but standing in the position of honor, in full battle dress, next to the King as he was duly anointed and crowned King of France. This must have been an especially proud time for Joan because not only were her two older brothers in the audience, but her father and her mother were there, also as invited guests of the Dauphin, now King of France!
Joan's visions and voices had given her this crowning as a major goal, and she accomplished it by sheer force of will over a less than enthusiastic Dauphin.
He was in no hurry to be made King because of problems in his family that he did not want to face, and he was in no hurry to win a war that had been going poorly for 75 years. But thanks to Joan he was now King, and the English were now finally losing battles!
What sort of family problems kept him from wholeheartedly engaging his enemies in war, and kept him from running to Reims on his own to be crowned? One family problem stands out: his own mother was against his becoming King and was on the side of the allies of the English against her own son! All Europe's royal families were related, and his mother liked another branch of the family more than her own. Strange.
FRENCH FRIENDS OF THE ENGLISH
Just who were these terrible people that had become the allies of the English against the French? It was the Dukes of Burgundy! Fellow Frenchmen and relatives of both the Dauphin and the English king. The Dauphin's mother had chosen their side against her own son!
The court of Burgundy was world famous at that time for its splendor and richness and pageantry. Perhaps this explains some of the love the Dauphin's mother had for these cousins of theirs! Their castles were numerous and beautiful, such as the castle at the village of Saumur that can still be visited today. In contrast with the splendid Court of Burgundy, the Court of the Dauphin was poor. Charles was not as rich as these cousins, and could not afford either their castles or their armies!
Joan was very impatient with Charles because he did not want to attack his Burgundian cousins when Joan felt he should. Instead, Charles made deals with them that Joan thought foolish. Joan had orders from her voices and was trying to carry them out as best she could. What Joan could not have known is that in the end it was Joan's fighting, together with Charles' seemingly foolish alliances, that brought an end to this terrible war! About 20 years after Joan's death the Burgundians changed over to Charles' side and working together it didn't take much longer to push the English out of France. But we are again ahead of our story.
VICTORIES AND ACCUSATIONS
It took three attempts to win Orleans, and both sides of the war knew it was Joan that kept bringing the french back for each new, impossible attempt at the English fortifications. At first the English laughed at her. At the end they were angry and realized she was very dangerous to them and needed to be done away with.
The history of these three battles over Orleans shows that it was Joan's example of belief and fearlessness that caused the French to do what the English thought impossible: defeat them!
The French sent the English running into the countryside for safety. But Joan did not allow her countrymen to pursue their enemies, she wanted to observe a quiet Sabbath day after the battle and give thanks for their great victory.
There were other battles, including the great one at Patai where the French met a great English force in the open and still managed to defeat them! But the battle of Orleans had put hope and spirit into the French soldiers and made all the other battles possible.
After the battles were over, the English said Joan was a witch, a woman possessed by the Devil, since she had obviously cast a spell over the French and caused them to fight like they had never been seen to fight before.
Why were there things Joan could not have known, if she prayed all the time and angels were guiding her? A good question. Her angel voices told her some remarkable things, like where there was a special sword buried in a church she had never seen. She asked the Priest to get it for her, he dug where she told him to, and found it, to his amazement! No one knew of it before!
But on other matters the voices were more difficult to understand. They told her she would be wounded, and that she would live to lead the army again soon after. And so it happened.
But the voices also hinted she would be captured and had to be brave. She thought that the order to be brave meant if she was courageous and tried to escape, she would escape from her Burgundian captors. Joan tried to escape by jumping out of a high prison tower almost killing herself.
She had misunderstood. She thought she had been promised escape by her angelic voices, but instead she found herself having narrowly escaped death.
Worse yet, her Burgundian jailers sold her to the English! Her new jailers moved her far away, to a more secure cell, deep inside a castle very far from her friends!
This castle was by the city of Rouen. It had been built 200 years before Joan's time and had eight towers. Today one tower of this castle is left standing, and still has in it the types of instruments used by executioners to cause great pain and make people confess. Joan was kept in another tower, but was brought over to see what could happen to her if she did not repent of what she was accused of. How could she confess that she felt bad for doing things that angels told her to do? How could she promise these men that she would disobey angels and obey them instead? She could not.
JOAN IN JAIL
Maybe if her angel voices had told her exactly what was to happen to her, Joan may not have been able to go through the ordeals she now faced. Like an accused witch, Joan was taken to the place where the executioner, dressed in his black suit and hood, stood ready to cause her much pain to force her to confess. She told her judge he could separate her soul from her body and she would still not agree that she had done anything wrong. The judge believed her: she was not tortured in this place with these terrifying tools.
One wonders how she could have been so brave, after all, she was still just a teenage girl from a simple farm in the countryside. But she was sure that angels spoke to her, and she was sure it was more important to obey her angel visitors than these men, even though they were learned men representing the Church she loved.
Later, however, when she was shown the place where she was to be burned, and she saw the stake and its firewood being made ready, and crowds excited to witness the spectacular entertainment that her public burning was to be, she became very confused and scared. In her confusion, she agreed for a time that she should obey the local Church leaders who were judging her, rather than her angel voices.
Her judges were pleased and had her get out of her soldiers' clothing and into a dress to show them that she really did want to obey the judges rather than her voices of angels. Some of the judges really did want to have her repent so they would not have to burn her.
Instead of burning her, they sentenced her to spend the rest of her life in a dungeon like the one she was in now. Guarded by men who really believed she was a witch! This was a violation of the rules that said she should be housed in a lighter type of prison, and be guarded by women. The rules were violated by some of the judges to make sure Joan would go back on her word and put her soldiers' clothes back on to protect her from her jailers. This would make sure there would be a burning to please the English after all.
EXECUTION BY FIRE
Some of the judges liked Joan and did not want to have to put her to death. But the English were very upset and spoke rudely and threateningly to some of the judges. Some of the judges feared they were to be killed if Joan was allowed to live.
The very next day, no doubt to the relief of some of the judges who had been threatened, Joan changed back into her soldiers' clothing and said she had done wrong in saying these men, her judges, were more important to listen to than the voices of angels. What changed her mind? Was it the idea of spending the rest of her young and lonely life in a dungeon guarded by men who thought she was evil and deserving of every sort of punishment? Or did she receive a last visit from one of her angel voices? We do not know.
But changing her mind made her a "relapsed heretic," a person that confessed to having done wrong and then chose to do wrong again. Now there was no choice but to burn her at the stake. She was strapped to a pole surrounded by bundles of dry wood and the whole of it was set on fire.
Joan died a horrible death. It
is said her heart would not burn no matter what they did
to make the fire hotter. But
I don't know if these stories are true. What is true,
however, is that the English
ordered her ashes to be dumped into the river
to make sure no one would make
relics out of them and use them to stir up the
French against them for having
killed a girl that more and more French began to think
really did talk with angels.
THE END OF THE STORY
Some of her judges were relieved: they no longer had to fear for their own lives because the English were now happy. Some of her judges wondered if they had just killed a Saint rather than a heretic.
The people of Rouen, where this drama took place, were divided over whether Joan was a heretic and witch, or a Saint. Some celebrated riotously while others just rioted. Soldiers had to put a stop to the rioting with their weapons. Many were hurt and some killed before the city settled down again.
Charles, the new King thanks to Joan, made no effort to save Joan. He could have tried to ransom her, but he knew he could not afford the price. He did not waste the gift that Joan had given him, though. He acted, slowly, but surely. Shortly after Joan died her terrible death, the Burgundians stopped being allies with the English and eventually came over to Charles' side. It took King Charles about twenty five years to make the right alliances, fight the right battles, and make France into one land again, without English soldiers anywhere in the land stealing from and killing the people.
We will never know for sure, but it is likely that the English would not have been pushed out of France for a very, very long time had it not been for Joan of Arc's remarkable, and short, career as the "Maid of Orleans!" Many lives in both France and England were positively affected by the life of this peasant girl. After all, there is more to even an English life than spending it making French people miserable. And many millions more, worldwide, have been affected by her death.
One person affected sadly by her death was her father. In spite of the fact that his whole family, including himself, was made noble, rich, and were given large estates by an appreciative King, Joan's father died only a few years after Joan did. It is said that he died of a broken heart over the loss of his heroic little girl.
Her mother was made of different stuff. She wanted justice for her girl even though her girl was now with the angels whom she so loved in life. She moved into Joan's house in Orleans. Unbeknownst to her mother at the time, Joan at one point confessed that instead of being in jail she wished she were back home with her family helping her mother. But that was not to be.
Joan's mother, from her new home in Orleans, began to write to important persons about Joan's trial. She wrote the King and the Pope, and the King also wrote the Pope. An investigation of the trial was made, and the official verdict was that Joan had been misjudged: she was not a heretic or a witch!
About five hundred years later, Joan's mother's search for justice was finally finished: in 1920 Joan of Arc was officially declared to be a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church, the very same Church whose leaders in English-occupied territory in France declared her a lapsed heretic and had her burned, and whose leaders in the King's territories, just a couple of years before and after, had declared her a genuine receiver of miraculous knowledge from heaven.
Joan now being a genuine and official Saint means that her life may be fruitfully studied for the lessons it teaches. In Joan's case these lessons include knowing what you believe and being true to it, even at the cost of your life.
These lessons also include that when God's angels speak and tell you something is to be done, give yourself over to doing it even though you may feel totally unready. Joan had never rode a war-horse, wore armor, or wielded a sword before Orleans. But at her very first battle at Orleans she struck fear into her enemies and courage into her friends by the way she fought, fearlessly and inspired. Her friends were doubly encouraged because they also saw how carefully and prayerfully she lived her life off the battlefield.
Joan's life teaches many more lessons, and reading of her deeds can be inspiring and cause a person to think. But Joan also made real mistakes along the way and did some stuff that is not good. There is also a lesson in that: no one, not even a Saint visited and given advice by angels, is perfect.
A famous American writer of the last century, Mark Twain, wrote a book about Joan's life. He told her story as if it was being told by a person who was Joan's playmate in youth and page (a personal helper), and secretary in her two years of being a leader of armies. At the end of the book Twain makes a statement as to why he was so captivated with Joan's life as to cause him to write this book. In his last sentence he wrote of Joan that: "she is easily and by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced."
And what of today? In her home town, renamed Domremy-la-Pucelle after her, the Church bell she listened to and loved as a child still serves the local people. Her home stands as a shrine and museum. In Orleans, her home is a shrine and a museum, a very nice one at that. In Chinon there is a small Joan of Arc museum also.
But it is Rouen, where she died, where some old monuments have been preserved and where a new monument has been built to help keep her deeds in human memory. All that is left of the castle where she was imprisoned is the tower where she was taken to see the instruments of making her feel pain, to scare her into confessing that she was wrong in listening to and obeying those angel voices. It didn't work.
At the actual place of her execution in the city of Rouen there is now a tall cross as a monument commemorating her remarkable life. Nearby stands a small museum with wax figure scenes commemorating highlights of her short career.
Just a few years ago, in 1979, a very modern church was built next to the monument to commemorate her, the Church of Joan of Arc. Its stained glass windows also portray the greater moments of her life. So if a person wanted to have look into her life they could visit these places and see, hear, and feel reflections of her own experience.
But the most important monument to Joan is being written into the hearts of Normandy's teenagers every year as they prepare for and participate in the pageants of Joan's life each year that takes place in the middle of the city of Rouen on the last Sunday of every May, and during April and May in the city of Orleans as well.
The pageants not only have hundreds of participants, but people come from everywhere to see this little recreation of history and this joyful celebration of this life that is a vivid reminder that miracles do occur in real life.
The participants are teenagers, covering the same years of life as those covered in Joan's short career. The participants are excited to be part of this public display of history.
They may also be excited deeper inside themselves than shows in just the smiles on their faces. Maybe they are learning that they are the happy ending of Joan of Arc's life story: Joan's legacy is themselves, in full enjoyment of youthful life and liberty!
EPILOGUE: Joan, A Dandelion in a Field of Daisies!
It is the 1st of June, 1997. I just spent the 29th and 30th of May visiting the places where Joan of Arc triumphed in battle, by defeating the English at Orleans, and triumphed in life by passing through the fire at Rouen. So then the question arose: what am I to add to the tale I have already told to close out this story: it needs an ending with some meaning for the present.
I arrived home and found the following anonymous personal essay on my computer. Its author is a teenage girl, and she will remain as anonymous as the message itself [although now that she has aged several years, I can say it is one of my 3 daughters]. Its title is particularly meaningful since it is but a symbol, expressed in a different metaphor, of the content of the little essay (note the irony in the lettering in the title):
I think I'm like a daisy in Central Park in New York City.
I'm just one
little daisy out of millions. People pass
me by every day.
Maybe one out of a hundred people stop and look at me. They say "Look how pretty,"
then they are on their merry little way.
It feels like to me that I'm the only daisy that is not pretty as the others.
That's life for you.
I sit here and hope that one day I can grow up to be the most beautiful daisy
that was ever planted, but so does every daisy in the world.
It feels like to me that I will never have that chance to be that ever so lucky daisy.
I'll sit and think to myself "oh, how I would love to be those beautiful roses."
Daisies are probably the least pretty flowers on the outside
but they smell really good.
It's just like me, I might not be the most beautiful person on the outside,
but I smell really good.
Thank you, whoever left this for me to see. This is the perfect thought with which to end my personal look into the life of Joan of Arc. Let me tell you why:
First of all, the title "Volkswagen/- Cadillac" makes for a fitting symbol for interpreting part of Joan's life. Imagine the President of the United States chauffeured to an official function in a Volkswagen! Would the press have a field day? Would the whole world laugh? Would he still arrive at his function? The answer is "yes" to all three questions, illustrating that we naked apes do a lot of things for show, to prove we are neither naked nor apes.
We do a lot of things to remind others of how important we are in the artificial towers of power that we create, and we spend a lot of time and effort putting up gates and guards to keep others out of those towers. After all, if everyone were in our tower looking out with us, what good is the tower? We need someone to look down on so that we can feel our height, But somewhere inside us, especially while we are young and still idealistic, we sense how unfair this whole charade is.
So, the title starts out pointing to the charade of social class, the accident of birth that places some of us in ready made towers and most others in the world on the plains below, slouching toward poverty and despair.
But the little anonymous essay never touches this topic again, and plunges right down into a much deeper level, making a very personal statement about being a Daisy when everyone admires the Rose.
This personal statement betrays a youthful awareness of a reality in our lives, it is a reality and not a fairy tale:
The world is filled with people very much like us, who want the same things as we do, and it feels so crowded sometimes that we do seem like a bed of daisies along a busy thoroughfare. People typically don't stop to notice the flowers because they are in a hurry, busy building their towers of power (there is a subtle connection to the title theme here). Some may actually slow or even stop and admire the flower bed as a whole, but they fail to focus on the anonymous individuals of the total array.
This is the crisis of anonymity in a crowded world, and a young person's perception of what older people also know very well: crowds are often lonely places.
The second, and also true, observation in the little personal essay lies in noticing that some few do get pulled out of the anonymous crowd of the beds of Daisies, they are recognized and appreciated and made famous and glamorous: they are crowned Roses!
They are the offspring of, or are snatched up by those who build and maintain the towers, and some either are or become the owners and builders of towers. Life-as-a -Rose looks mighty desirable from the Daisy point of view, even though inside somewhere an alarm bell goes off that says that after all the glitz and glamor of riding in a Cadillac as a Rose, it is still entirely possible to arrive at the same place in a Volkswagen full of Daisies.
To look up and envy the Roses is to buy into the reality of the power trip that our society is on. It is fun to pretend Rosiness, or even to be a Rose, yes, but it should not be taken too serious: it is a carefully crafted lie in the eternal sense of things.
Finally, there is the poignant and dramatic cry, and observation, that even though one is a Daisy, one has value because of ones heavenly smell! It doesn't matter whether you like the smell of daisies or not, this is all figurative and symbolic. This is the healing line of the entire essay, and it signals that all is well: one has seen and longed for the artificial praises heaped on the Roses of the world, one has experienced the pain of being one among very many, but one KNOWS ones own value, KNOWS that from inside oneself comes the evidence of Divinity: the sacred odor of the presence of the Divine Nature in us.
Even if no one stops to appreciate it, it is there, and YOU KNOW IT! That is the bottom line of this marvelous little essay, and it is a healthy and happy ending even though it is arrived at in a painful context: it hurts to be one among many, it hurts not to be recognized for the quality person we know we are, it hurts when no one sees the beauty we feel inside ourselves. But amidst all that hurt there is a silent inner comfort: we KNOW that we are beautiful as any God or Goddess because we sense the Divine within, we smell wafting out from us that sweet scent that has always been used as evidence of the presence of the Sacred: we emanate the Nectar of the Gods from within us. This a fundamental TRUTH celebrated in all real spiritual literature!
And What Has This To Do With the Life of Joan of Arc?
Plenty, actually. At both levels of the truth reflected in the little anonymous essay. On the societal level, Joan was part of the lowest rung of society. She and her family were peasants, they lived only to survive and to pay homage and goods to the higher classes of society that, literally, built towers at their peasants' expense as symbols of their power!
These lordly persons who thought of themselves as "nobles," (a Rose by another name) thought they had been declared noble by God. They made wars among themselves for the pettiest of reasons imaginable, and sacrificed each other's peasants as if they were non-humans!
After 75 years of sacrificing peasants in what was a very large and very nasty family feud over which branch of the family was to own France, one of these peasants arose, took sides in the family feud, and started progress toward ending it. She walked off her family farm and into the leadership of battles that were reserved for battle hardened fighting men, men so proficient at killing they had been declared Knights and thus made noble by Royalty!
She broke into the towers of power, literally and figuratively, because of her own, internal power, which leads us to the second level of the observations in the little anonymous essay.
There is a mockup in the museum in Orleans where Joan is shown at the top of a ladder climbing onto a wall holding her Jesus-Maria flag high and taking an awful chance with soldiers seeing her and readying their weapons for a kill. It shows very literally how she climbed the towers of power: here she stands on the fortifications erected by the English to protect their position. She stands in the midst of fierce fighting, holding her banner high to inspire her men
Our imaginations are helped by historically accurate reconstructions such as in this picture. It is a picture of a three-dimensional diorama reconstructing the crucial battle scene for the little museum on Joan's life that is located in the city of Orleans.
Speaking of Orleans, in that city I did receive the impression that there is still awareness and even gratitude for the exploits of the "Maid of Orleans" in the very soil and bricks of that city. On the linked Orleans page (see picture pages linked below) is a photo of the scene described above and also of the city from the bridge upon which sat the fortification (now gone) that was reconstructed and shown in that previous picture.
It speaks volumes that on the Sabbath day immediately after her great victory, she refused to follow advice and pursue and inflict damage on the retreating English.
Was Joan a Rose or a Daisy? Did she succeed where whole generations of Roses failed because of her charm? Did noble and royal men obey her because they were bedazzled by her beauty? If the truth be known, she didn't even make it into the ranks of the Daisies. No one who described her, even men who almost worshiped her, ever mentioned any words to indicate she had any special beauty or grace.
Men who despised her said she was a manly woman, a great put-down in those times. She cut her hair like a man, dressed in a soldier's uniform like a man, and traveled and fought among men for days on end. Even in prison she was subjected to ridicule and abused verbally by her jailers, all men, but it wasn't until they forced her to put on a dress that there is even a hint of her fearing sexual attack (she quickly changed back into her soldiers' outfit, a final act of disobedience that led to her death by burning within a few days).
So, how did Joan cope with not even being a Daisy? She knew her Divine self and had many proofs, within herself, of its beauty. She was a richly scented flower, scented by the Divine presence, a presence felt and testified of by some who adored her and believed her, who thought her beautiful in a very special way, and also evidenced in a way by the extreme loathing and hate she managed to stir up in others.
So, then comes the question: why is she universally portrayed in art as a beautiful woman? The answer is simple: the art reflects and amplifies the symbolic entity that Joan and her actions have become to succeeding generations. Generations who appreciate her as a symbol of the Divine.
So, what is the bottom line of this Joan of Arc story?
She was a peasant. She was a teenager among other teenagers. She was not beautiful by any account. But she was very aware of who she was and why she was.
She never doubted herself for a moment and that is what gave her, a Daisy at best, power over Knights and Kings and Ladies: power over the Roses.
Some tried to keep her out of the towers of wordly power, even on the French side there were nobles who hated her and were pleased to see her captured by the enemy.
Why? Because she broke down barriers between peasants and nobles that were extremely dangerous: she was a real menace to society! It was less horrible for some of the nobles to picture losing to and becoming subject to another set of nobles, than it was to contemplate peasants not any longer being slaves to the noble class!
Sometimes we focus too strongly on the negative aspects of our own society. But looking at the life of a peasant like Joan's contemporaries should sober us up a bit. Those peasants lived a hard life in terms of just surviving from ones toil; times of occasionally savage, interminable warfare and marauding robber bands; and times of nobility's absolute rule enforced by religion's formally teaching that this iniquitous scheme of power represented God's will.
Freedom from coercion and from marauding armies and robber bands is something we take too easily for granted.
We still have a society of Roses and Daisies, sure, and there is inequity in opportunity and in access to wealth. But there is not absolute power vested in Roses to direct the lives of and live off the toil of Daisies.
To a great extent being a Daisy is now a good and rewarding existence.
Finally and most important: we know when we sense our inner Divinity that whether we are Roses or Daisies doesn't matter in the longer term view: we are all, regardless of the color, shape or size of our petals, children of the Divine Source from whence all Life flows.
Go to pages of photos taken at places important to Joan's life, some specific photos from Orleans were mentioned above:
Speaking of teenagers, this teenager, named "Hanka," who lives in the Czech Republic, has produced a phenomenal website dedicated to Joan (you have a choice between Czech and English when you get to its front page at http://www.joan-of-arc.euweb.cz/ ), she has created dozens of nice quality videos about Joan taken from publicly available sources (including some of my photos from Domremy for example) and posted them on YouTube. If you go to YouTube and search for Joan of Arc her work will be among the best of the numerous videos displayed there!
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