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Why Joan of Arc?

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An Excerpt from If Joan of Arc Had Cancer
by Janet Roseman

I like to visit consignment stores because I enjoy the exploration and the fact that you can often unearth treasures. A few months after my mother’s passing, in an attempt to distract myself from the emotional pain I was feeling, I asked her to send me a “sign” that would indicate that she was with me. Wandering around one of my favorite haunts, I heard a loud thump and looked around to see what had happened. A large painting had fallen over, and I picked it up. The painting was a vintage depiction of Joan of Arc confidently riding her horse with her sword held high.

At that moment, I knew this was my mother’s sign to me because she knew that I was in need of courage — frightened of living in what had become an unfamiliar world without her — and that resurrecting my courage was terrifying. I spent the next few months immersed in all things Joan and reading everything I could find about her life. The more I read, the more I became convinced that Joan of Arc would be the model for my next book, this book, for she was the ideal inspiration for any woman traversing a difficult passage. After reading the original text of her trial, I was impressed by her humor, bravado, moxie, and never-ending faith in herself.

She is the perfect choice to honor you. Perhaps you have been drawn into or experienced the prevailing cultural belief that “people with cancer are weak,” which is not the case at all. My experiences have taught me that people living with cancer (or any other serious illness) possess great courage, enviable courage. This book celebrates that fact. After your diagnosis or during your treatments, you may have received advice from well-meaning but ill-informed people who assert that you are responsible for your illness because of perceived “negative thinking.” They may have told you that “if only you would change your point of view,” then you would be cancer free.

If only life were that simple! Life is a mystery, and unfortunately, we don’t have all the answers to the “why” questions. Although everyone is entitled to their belief system, the advice is dismissive, if not dangerous, and victimizes any person with a serious illness. I have also discovered that usually the advice is delivered by people who have never had a personal experience of serious illness. These conversations are very frustrating, and if you examine the lives of the saints who suffered enormous health problems, you realize that they were hardly “negative thinkers” — on the contrary, they were mystics and sages of the highest spiritual order.

Positive thinking, exercise, great nutrition, excellent medical care, personal empowerment, and the provision of emotional and spiritual support can all offer tremendous healing in the midst of any life challenge. However, I also believe that attending to all of your feelings — the dark as well as the light — can be healing as well. All of the emotions — happiness, rage, sadness, anger — have their proper place in the flow of our life; it is when we suppress and judge our emotions and when we dishonor their messages that difficulties arise. You will find exercises in this book to help you identify your feelings, and I urge you to be honest with yourself to derive maximum benefit from these exercises. Self-reflection and self-knowledge provide valuable insights that will help you take charge of your healing journey so you can decide what is best for you.

Creating an “army of support” requires educating your healthcare providers about what you need. The medical culture is wounded; but it is slowly changing, and you can be a primary force for eliciting that change. The role you can play in their humanistic education is invaluable. Don’t be afraid to expect more from your care — care that respects all parts of you and includes not only the physical body, but the emotional and spiritual components.

I didn’t know that my mother’s illness would be the catalyst for my life’s work in healing, and she is the inspiration I often draw upon, especially when I am feeling particularly frustrated or vulnerable. This book pays tribute to her and others I have loved and lost. Her courage, much like Joan of Arc’s, was palpable.

This book is a guide to help you through the many dimensions of illness and your subsequent healing journey. It is my heartfelt wish that this book will help you summon the inner strength, fortitude, and perseverance you will need and do possess. Although her path was quite formidable, Joan of Arc never gave up on her convictions. Imagine a teenager, a young girl in the fifteenth century without any experience in battle, claiming that she would lead France to glory. Her quest seems totally outrageous. She endured ridicule and harassment, and ultimately gave her life, but she never wavered in her belief in herself.

There are many versions of Joan of Arc’s trial that you can find online or in books, and it is interesting that many of the statements attributed to Joan differ. Although her words may not be exactly the same in each history book or translation, Joan of Arc’s historical contributions are never questioned. I chose to use W. S. Scott’s version because I was drawn to the words he inscribed beneath the title: “Being the verbatim report of the proceedings from the Orleans Manuscript.” I believe it reflects the actual words that Joan spoke, carefully selected from the transcripts of her trial, held in 1431. During her trial, the proceedings were written down verbatim in French by a notary and his two assistants, who collaborated at the end of each day to produce the text of the transcripts.

The original notes were never found, although there is an abbreviated version called the d’Urfé manuscript that is now housed in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. In 1435, the official transcript, known as the Authentic Document (which had been translated from the original French into Latin), was produced by the vice inquisitor from the trial, and four copies were made and sent to the pope, the king, the judge from the trial, and the notary, with the original remaining in the vice inquisitor’s possession. All five were sealed and certified as correct.

However, historians believe that these transcripts do not contain Joan’s exact words and that her testimony was intentionally falsified to prove the claim that she was a heretic. The official report is from the notes of Guillaume Manchon and other notaries by Thomas de Courcelles, but his version was intentionally falsified. A woman successfully leading men into battle and claiming to hear voices from God was unheard-of not only for her time, but for any time. When she refused to alter one word of her narrative during her trial, proclaiming that she only took direction from Divine guidance, it cost Joan of Arc her life. She was a woman well versed in her power and willing to pay the ultimate price for reclaiming it.

The Authentic Document was published in 1902, followed by other editions in 1931 and 1956. The Orléans manuscript, which resides in the Bibliothèque Municipale d’Orléans, is considered the most authentic because it was directly copied from the original French version and reflects Joan’s actual statements.

If Joan of Arc Had Cancer is much more than words. It is a book of sacred guidance. Use each section of this book when you are in need of reinforcement, and support that can guide you during your journey. The second section of the book, called Gateways to Courage, will help you explore in depth the themes in the first section. Take your time to explore and work with the Flames of Courage in part 1. I suggest that you read a theme a day (one Flame of Courage every day) for a month. Part 1 contains meditations that can help you access your inner knowing in preparation for the Gateways to Courage in part 2.

The Gateways will help you explore in depth the themes from part 1. Each Gateway contains art and guided visualizations that mirror the corresponding themes in the Flames of Courage section of the book. You may wish to work with one theme from the Flame section during one reading session and return on another day, when you have uninterrupted time, to go deeper into that theme by reading the corresponding Gateway. There is no right way to use this book, only your way. Feel free to allow Joan of Arc to inspire you by using this book in a manner that feels right for you and addresses your desires and needs.

Everyone needs and deserves support and encouragement in life, but when navigating cancer, often you require more than that. This book will serve and guide you to resurrect the strength, courage, and wisdom that I know you hold. You have the same inner fortitude that Joan possessed. Let her be your companion on your journey, an ally you can count on.

Excerpted from the book If Joan of Arc Had Cancer. © Copyright 2015 by Janet Roseman. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com

About Joan of Arc

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An Excerpt from If Joan of Arc Had Cancer
by Janet Roseman

Joan of Arc’s achievements are extraordinary for her time, or any time in history, and it is quite tempting to think of her as myth, legend, or folklore. However, Jeanne la Pucelle, or “Joan the Maid,” as she liked to be called, was flesh and blood. The daughter of a farmer, this teenager led more than twelve thousand French militia to victory over the English, without any military training or experience riding horses or carrying a sword. Although she restored the rightful place of Charles VII, the dauphin, as king of France, he betrayed her. When she was captured in 1430 and literally sold to the English, who would later sentence her to death, the king did nothing to intervene on her behalf.

This young woman who heard “voices” from God was both a mystic and a visionary. When she was sixteen years old, her father had a prophetic dream that she would ride off to battle. Echoing the limited traditional roles for young women of that era (marriage, celibacy, or prostitution), he believed she would disgrace the family if the dream were fulfilled. How could she possibly ride into battle as the leader and not the courtesan? Because of the dream, he hastily arranged a marriage to keep Joan in line. She was so enraged that she challenged her father in court, disputing the arranged marriage and arguing that she wanted to be a free woman. The members of the court were so impressed by her impassioned pleas that they granted her request. This was an exceptional situation in the early 1400s. The theme of the “free woman” would be immortalized over four hundred years later, when Joan of Arc was chosen to be the spiritual icon of the women’s suffragette movement, honoring both her courage and her political savvy.

Joan was never taught to read or write and spent her days like most young girls of her time: sewing, tending to her family’s farm, and attending church with her mother. Yet she would be transformed from a simple, innocent teen into a mystic and military general. Defying the conventions of her time and cloaked in men’s clothing, she became the commander in chief of an army, leading men into battle countless times, although she claimed during her trial that she never killed anyone. Her quest was both a mystical and a spiritual journey, because she devoted her life to God. The fact that she was able to convince royalty, French commanders, and the French people that she alone could save France from the assaults of the English and Burgundian troops occupying half of France, and presumed annihilation at their hands, is the stuff of legend. However, Joan made good on her promises.

Tragically, she was used by the king, Charles VII, whose royal reign on the throne he owed to Joan’s intelligence in military strategy. When she lost two important military battles, her supporters, believing that these losses indicated that she no longer had the “ear” of God, withdrew their backing and sought a way to get rid of her. When she was captured during a battle at Compiègne, the king seized the moment by doing nothing at all to help her. He was insecure and very unhappy with Joan’s ever-increasing fame and adoration, which he believed only he, a royal, was entitled to. Although she still had legions of fans, he used her as his political pawn, knowing that she would be condemned to death; this was the perfect solution for him — her destruction.

She spent eight long months in prison, chained to her bed, even before her famous trial began. The records indicate that Joan slept with two pairs of irons on her legs, attached by a chain very tightly to another chain that was connected to the foot of her bed, itself anchored by a large piece of wood five or six feet long.

Deprived of sleep, food, and emotional support from family and friends, she received her only sustenance from the spiritual balm that was offered to her by her voices and the spiritual visions that guided her each day. It is stunning to realize that during a five-year period, Joan received over 750 messages and visions, communications that she refused to deny. She had her first vision when she was thirteen years old: she heard a voice that “was hardly ever without a light and after she had heard it three times, she knew it was the voice of an angel.” She believed this was the voice of Saint Michael, and during her short life, she would also be visited by Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, whom she described during her trial as wearing beautiful crowns upon their heads.

The court records reflect that during her trial, although the court members (called “inquisitors”) tried to break her will, her demeanor grew stronger as she consistently spoke boldly, fiercely, and articulately. They misrepresented her previous testimony to try to confuse her, and it was not unusual for them to show up in her prison cell at all hours of the night, demanding that she answer questions.

During the trial, she did not change her story even when threatened with death. However, in a moment of coercion and misunderstanding, she was forced to sign documents that she believed would earn her release from prison — documents that declared she was a heretic and had lied about her visions. The fact that she wore men’s clothing was considered her ultimate disobedient act and was particularly revolting to the men who admonished her during her trial. The documents she signed, called cedulas, or orders of authorization, included the demands that she would only wear women’s clothing, never carry arms, and submit to the church’s wishes. The second document was of particular significance because it included retractions of everything that she had said during the trial and, more important, a denial of ever hearing voices. It is easy to understand why Joan — who had been chained to her bed for months, assaulted emotionally (and, in the opinion of many scholars, physically), and humiliated and intimidated daily — would agree to sign these documents, especially since she couldn’t read a word of any of the papers in front of her.

When she realized what she had done, she proclaimed that she was misled: “I did not say nor did I mean to say that I retracted my apparitions; everything that I have done, I have done out of fear of fire. I have retracted nothing except what was against the truth. I didn’t understand what was written on the notification of retraction.” But it was too late. On May 30, 1431, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake as a heretic. It is said that her body was reduced to ashes but her heart remained intact, and for her devoted followers, this was further proof of her saintliness and a manifestation of the miraculous.

In 1455, her mother appealed to a papal court at Notre-Dame Cathedral in an effort to restore her daughter’s reputation and the defiled family name, arguing with skill that Joan had been deceived: “Certain enemies betrayed her (Joan) in a trial concerning the Faith, and…without any aid given to her innocence in a perfidious, violent and iniquitous trial, without shadow of right…they condemned her in a damnable and criminal fashion and made her die cruelly by fire.”

This time, supporters who were prevented from testifying on her behalf at her original trial — including her mother, friends of the family, and soldiers who fought with her in battle — were allowed to speak. After three months of investigations and hearings, her sentence as a “heretic” was declared “null and void.” More than four hundred years after her death, Joan of Arc was declared a saint by Pope Benedict XV.

Mark Twain was a huge fan of Joan of Arc. He was so enamored of her and impressed by her significance that he wrote a biography of Joan entitled “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc” for Harper’s Magazine in 1896, using the pseudonym Sieur Louis de Conte, her purported page and secretary. The articles later appeared in book form that same year. He wrote, “Joan of Arc, that wonderful child…that spirit which in one regard has had no peer and will have none….Search as you may, and this cannot be said of any other person whose name appears in profane history.” His tribute to her is passionate and typical of his irreverent writing style:

When we reflect that her century was the brutalist, the wickedest, the rottenest in history since the darkest ages, we are lost in wonder at the miracle….She was truthful when lying was the common speech of men; she was honest when honesty was become a lost virtue; she was a keeper of promises when the keeping of a promise was expected of no one;…she was steadfast when stability was unknown, and honorable in an age which has forgotten what honor was; she was a rock of convictions in a time when men believed in nothing…; she was unfailingly true in an age that was false to the core; she maintained her personal dignity unimpaired…; she was of dauntless courage when hope and courage had perished….The work wrought by Joan of Arc may fairly be regarded as ranking any recorded in history, when one considers the conditions under which it was undertaken, and the obstacles in the way.

Joan of Arc lived her flame of courage, and with If Joan of Arc Had Cancer, you can learn how you can access your own.

Excerpted from the book If Joan of Arc Had Cancer. © Copyright 2015 by Janet Roseman. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com

Make Your Home a Magical Tool

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by Tess Whitehurst

(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)

Whether you live in a dorm room, a mansion, a houseboat, a studio apartment, a trailer, or anything else, your home is a potent magical tool. Even small changes in your home can create powerful energetic shifts, setting in motion great waves of positive change on all levels and in all life areas.

How, you ask? Let me explain. Hermes Trismegistus gave us the famous magical maxim, “As above, so below.” One way to interpret this is that the realm of form is inextricably connected to the realm of spirit, and that each reflects, interacts with, and defines the other. Quantum science seems to agree, teaching that we dwell in a sea of energy and that everything is connected to everything else, whether it’s a thought, a butterfly, an atom, a flower, an emotion, or a brick wall.

And these intricately woven connections are constantly present, literally defining and creating reality in every situation and on every level of our consciousness, including the most everyday settings and occurrences. For example, even the least metaphysically minded among us knows that something as simple as the lighting in a restaurant can mean the difference between a breathtakingly romantic evening and an embarrassingly awkward first date.

How magical, then, are our homes! It is impossible to describe the scope of their power. Whether we realize it or not, they define us by simultaneously reflecting and reinforcing who we are and how we relate to the world. For example, every time your freshly showered feet step onto your gorgeous green bathmat, on some subconscious level you might say to yourself something to the effect of, “I am lucky and I am surrounded in luxury.” This belief then becomes reinforced, and begins to shape your reality to match it. It’s no wonder then that even things that seem small—like a leaking faucet or a lovely little picture on the bathroom wall—can have a profound effect on our psyche (and therefore every aspect of our existence) when encountered every single day.

And, as if that weren’t enough, our homes are the sets for the movies of our lives. If the set of Gladiator looked like a Hawaiian luau, it would have been a different movie altogether. Westerns wouldn’t be westerns without a bunch of guns, saloons, and swinging doors, and they would probably be a lot more peaceful. What kind of movie do you want to star in? It really is up to you. Setting the stage in your home for what you want to experience in your life is a powerful magical act. For example, if you live alone and you’d like more romance in your life, make your dining table into a table for two. Lose the extra chairs, or put them in the garage. Place a red candle or two in the center. Now, the stage is set! Every time you happen to notice the table, happily imagine yourself seated at it, having a delightful candlelit dinner with a captivating love interest. Then, it’s only a matter of time.

Below are some key concepts that will help you to put these ideas into action, and to interact with your home in ways that will positively affect every area of your life.

Clear your clutter. Remember, “as above, so below”? One thing that means is that physical clutter is never just clutter. It always reflects and holds in place unwanted conditions in our thoughts, emotions, and life experiences. And, when we look around our homes and everything we see is something that lifts our spirits and makes us feel good, our lives are characterized by harmony, joy, and success.

So, let go of the extras. If there’s clutter in your home, there’s nothing better you could be doing than clearing it. Take your time, knowing that every time you let go of a piece of clutter, your energy field is lightened and clarified, which immediately nourishes and benefits every area of your life.

Raise the vibes. As we sensitive folk know very well, vibes are real things. The vibrations of a space are based on prior conditions and feelings, but they also define the conditions and feelings that will occur in the present and future. So naturally, it’s important to raise them to a high and positive level. Luckily, there are a number of very fun ways to do so. Here are a few:

  • Simply cleaning your home in the usual way (provided you use healthy and non-toxic cleaners) can raise the vibrations in a serious way. You can also add aromatherapeutic oils and/or flower or gem essences to your cleaning solutions to fine-tune and intensify the effect.
  • Clap loudly in the corners and around the perimeter of each room and area to utilize sound waves to loosen and dissipate old negative or stagnant energy. You can also use a drum, gong, or tambourine for this purpose. (Please cover food and beverages when you do this, including the food and water of your animal companions, as they can absorb negativity during this process.)
  • Smudge with white sage or frankincense to lift and purify the vibrations.
  • Mist with rose water or smudge with a sweetgrass braid to call in sweetness and positive energy.

Consciously wield the power of imagery. Look around at the imagery on your walls. What is it telling you, and what conditions is it holding in place? For each picture or art piece, even if it’s abstract, ask yourself, “What’s going on here? What’s the story, or the mood of this piece?” I guarantee that—whether you chose the piece or not—the story or mood the piece describes is, in some important way, showing up in your life experience. That’s how powerful symbolism and artwork can be.

Even if all your artwork is generally positive, you might ask yourself if it’s reinforcing the conditions you’d like to be experiencing. For example, if you’d like to have more time to spend with your partner, and you have a bunch of pictures of people or animals by themselves, you might want to bring in a few pictures of harmonious-looking pairs. This will help you internalize the feeling of togetherness. Your external reality will then begin to come into harmony with your internal reality, which will naturally result in the conditions for which you aspire.

Let your home be an expression of self-love. Self-love is an all-purpose tonic that helps us to magically manifest all the desires of our hearts. And nothing could be a more appropriate vehicle for giving and receiving self-love than our homes. For example, you might show your love for yourself by:

  • Getting new bedding that is luxuriously comfortable and cozy
  • Fixing the broken drawer in the kitchen, or getting it fixed
  • Organizing your closet
  • Creating a meditation altar
  • Burning incense or diffusing essential oils
  • Buying yourself flowers

Read Magical Housekeeping. Interacting with our homes in a conscious way is a deeply spiritual practice that heals us, balances us, and infuses our lives with blessings of all kinds. And it’s a practice that lasts a lifetime! To deepen and fortify your relationship with your home, and to fully activate its magical potential, read my book, Magical Housekeeping: Simple Charms and Practical Tips for Creating a Harmonious Home.


Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2010. All rights reserved.