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Hildegard von Bingen’s Ham Radio and Other Shamanic Charcuterie


It is well known that the 12th Century abbess, theologian, poet, mystic, and musician, Hildegard von Bingen, composed her famous morality musical revue, Ordo Virtutum, known in English as The Virtue Play, based on music she heard in one of the many trances during which her divine visions were revealed.

It is also known that Saint Hildegard, beatified in 2012 by recently-retired Pope Benedict, kept a fifty-five-pound (25 kg) dry-cured Westphalian ham in her sleeping chamber in the abbey at Disibodenberg and then at Rupertsberg under a blanket of coarsely-woven wool.


It should be no trouble, then, to place the two facts, the seeing of visions and the companioning with the ham, one fact next to the other, tie them together with additional facts from little-known sources, bind them with the duct tape of bold supposition, and discern for yourself the SuperTruth® that Hildegard’s inspiration for the Ordo Virtutum emerged from no other source than out of her beloved ham in signals from the ultra-high-wattage broadcasting antennae of Jesus in His faraway fortress of solitude, Heaven.


As a child, Little Hildegard first started having visions, hearing voices, feeling feelings, and smelling smells when she was around five years old. This was in about the year 1103. At that time she was known to be fond of carrying with her everywhere she went a cowhide pouch containing a severed, desiccated rabbit’s foot. As she grew older and entered the monastery as an oblate and assistant to Sister Jutta, she could often be found in the chapel communing with a braided cross woven of strips of venison jerky. Later some cured, dried beef, called “speck,” in a hunk about the size of a full-grown squirrel, occupied her teenage years in the Benedictine monastery at Disibodenberg. By the time she became prioress and moved her nuns to St. Rupertsberg, she had already taken up residence with the enormous meat product.


Sister Jutta, when Hildegard visited her on her deathbed, expressed her disapproval of the relationship. In Hidelgard’s own records of her visions, the Scivias, the Liber vitae meritorum, and the De operatione Dei, she never mentions her communications with the ham, which might seem odd given the big deal we’re making of it here. We can most logically attribute the omission to Jutta’s disapprobation and Hildegard’s wounded feelings. Whatever clairvoyant and prophetic sensory extravaganzas the ham revealed to her, the ecstasy – as with all experiences worthy of being so called – in addition to being ecstatic, weighed upon her with the heavy burden of shame.


Still, as has been the way with many nuns, Hildegard persisted in her queer habit. Every night she slept with the cumbersome recumbent joint of preserved pork by her side. Hildegard would cohabit with the ham, lying beside the dry-cured meat much as a Scottish herdsman might embrace the sheep he’s wooing in his Highland bower, caressing its cold-cut contours, petting its firm pellicle, whispering into the grain of its muscle, sensible to its every sinew, alert to the vibrations of its bone.


The two, the nun and her ham, would at times meet on an unearthly plane, in each other’s dream, and dream together as one. Nun and ham. Ham and nun. One divine being. Being divine one. Where we divine one we divine all.


On a particularly cold Rhineland autumn night, according to a cousin of a friend of a friend’s cousin who’d heard it from another friend, Hildegard experienced a rush of sensation in which the entirety of the Ordo Virtutum washed over her, in full, including plainchant music, lyrics, book, lighting effects, cast, costumes, choreography, and even the program design. “Eureka!” she exclaimed on coming down from her trip, but in Latin instead of Greek.


Well, of course we know in retrospect that the production was a smash hit, running for five hundred consecutive years on the Saxon circuit. Years later, George S. Kaufman famously said: “Satire is what closes on Saturday, but mystery morality musicals are forever matinéed, and that von Bingen’s is beaut!” He also said, “That’s no Teutonic turkey!” But by then no one had been listening to him for at least half an hour.


The flesh of animals –the monkey’s paw – and even humans – witness the Viking or the New Guinean devour the heart or drink the blood of a conquered foe to absorb his bravery, or the Aguaruna who parlays with his shrunken head – once-living portions of flesh have long been esteemed for their ability to conduct consciousness and power across the boundary between life and death. Hildegard von Bingen’s ham radio connection to Heaven is far from the only example of cold cuts, salumi, and deli meats intermediating between our world and the world beyond.


Nostradamus was known to consult a pistachio mortadella.


Gershom Sholem, no stranger himself to the deli counter, describes Rabbi Isaac Luria’s longtime mystical bond with a teawurst.


It’s documented quite well that many spiritualists fell under the spell of Blavatsky’s bologna.


Rasputin fraternized with a pair of kabanosi. Carlos Castaneda kept company with chorizo. William Blake had a weakness for weisswurst.


In Crackow, Aleister Crowley claimed kinship with the cosmic kielbasa of Khartoum.


Rumi made love to a plate of Moroccan merguez.


Rumanian chronicler of shamanic visions, Ioan Culianu, composed his most famous treatise on the gnostic knackwursts.


And of course, who can forget Sri Kriyananda Goswami and his shamanic salami?


The SuperTrue® record is plain: since the distant past, myriad seers have sought second-sight in sausage links to the spirit realm.


This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

Charcuterie Mysticism SuperTruth® Moment of Truth Medieval Theater


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