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Ink and Honey Paperback – December 26, 2012
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This is a magnificent and original, mystical, historical novel. It depicts the intense spiritual lives of a group of holy women that struggle in the thirteenth century against great odds to keep alive the ancient matriarchal wisdom. The time has come for the message of the women in this book to pour down upon the world and green its heart again.
Andrew Harvey, author of Radical Passion: Sacred Love and Wisdom in Action
With the soul of a mystic and the voice of a poet, Sibyl Dana Reynolds has scribed a novel of profound grace and beauty. Ink and Honey is a story of deep faith, community and healing, set in a long-ago time but as relevant and urgent as today's headlines. Not since Mists of Avalon have I been so swept away by a tale of women's Mysteries. A stunning work, pure and true.
Kathleen Adams, author of Journal to the Self and Scribing the Soul
Sibyl Dana Reynolds offers us a lush and generous gift of storytelling and immersion in the medieval culture of women monks and mystics. Her novel is filled with sensual details that make her writing and the time period come alive, while her story is compelling, drawing the reader always forward. You grow to care deeply about these characters and come to recognize something of yourself in their journeys and longings.
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, author of The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Spirit with Monastic Wisdom
This sensitive book merges history with the contemporary through the lens of Wisdom. Embodiment, intuition and visionary experience characterize the writing, which is rich in descriptive metaphor. Women's creative spirituality infuses all the narrative. I recommend this gentle insightful book to all who are interested in the wisdom western societies have marginalized.
The Reverend Professor June Boyce Tillman, author of The Creative Spirit
About the Author
Sibyl Dana Reynolds is a writer, spiritual director and founder of Sacred Life-Arts, an online sanctuary and resource center devoted to bringing creative inspiration and spiritual illumination to women. InkandHoneytheBook.com www.SacredLifeArts.com
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I must confess that I was startled when a clergy friend who shared my beyond-the-pale experience of Ink and Honey wrote that some of the folks to whom she'd recommended it responded that they "just didn't get it." I did feel while reading it that (1) it's a woman's book (2) it's for women who are dedicated to their spiritual journey (3) probably most relevant to women in Catholic traditions, i.e., Roman Catholic or Anglo-Catholic/Episcopal. All that said, I also thought, "Who am I to limit to whose soul this book might speak as powerfully as to mine, but in a different way?" And so I add that the 3 above were my personal assumptions, not necessarily correct.
First, I know and adore the region of France in which the book takes place. Though the Sisters of Belle Coeur never made it to Vezelay, I've been there, worshipped in the Cathedral, and had a profound "Experience" there of Light, of Truth, of Welcome, of the Message of The Christ. I spent the better part of a day thoroughly enjoying the people and shops in the village area nearby. I've breathed deep in the profound subtle light of Chartres, have among my treasures a piece of rock from the same quarry as its Labyrinth, and remain in awe at the magnificence of its stained glass. I also have long harbored deep within me a calling to the Canonical Hours ~ something about them seems to be profoundly in tune with Nature Herself. I'm a Reiki Initiate, which points to my devotion to healing and the Healing Arts. And I'm an Episcopal priest, which covers a lot of the rest of the book, including hospitality, ritual and liturgy, etc,. While it might appear that I could believe the book was written expressly for someone like me, I think its themes are universal beyond the individual experiences of any one person.
All of that said, I was not prepared for the extraordinary impact the story of a fictitious little band of early 13th cen. women had on me. Some of it involves the ancient and, sadly, contemporary tale of violence born out of ignorance and fear, of assumptions and generalizations escalated to wickedness, of allegiances demanded and, dismayingly, pledged. That part gets the blood flowing, the blood pressure up, and the mind producing endless arguments and refutations. It's the other side, though, the Heart-and-Soul Opening side, that gently, inexorably, yields itself to the women's faith and faithfulness, their dedication, their courage (not "guts" but literally from the French "Coeur," or "heart"), their steadfastness, their creativity, knowledge, and skill. Reynolds dares to speak of God and God's designs and intentions for this world of ours. Blessedly, her view is in stark contrast to most of what one gets from those in the media these days, who declare a punitive God of judgment and seem to know exactly what groups are outside God's embrace. The biblical imperative of Hospitality, from Genesis through Revelation, permeates this book, no matter how strange the Stranger. At times, as I read along, it was almost as if my heart knew the Truth that was coming before my mind apprehended the words, thus meaning that tears streamed unbidden down my cheeks as I did. I'd have to admit I probably cried through about 25% of the book, not because I was sad about the events or the characters, but because of the profundity of the beauty and truths I was encountering.
Of course this is a book I'd choose for the proverbial "What would you take if you were going to be marooned on a desert island?" If I'm truly honest, I don't think I can get back far enough from it to say a critical or negative word about it at all, nor do I think I can assume that there is ANY heart, ANY soul, male or female, that wouldn't be reached by some aspect of this story. Reynolds claims to have labored on it for 20 years. I'm reminded that Mother Julian of Norwich did the same before she wrote down her Revelations of Divine Love, the first book ever in English by a woman. This isn't a tale that could have been written quickly, nor one that could have been written by a younger person. This is a tale so embodied, so imbued with life, and faith, experience, and devotion to God's voice that it required years of gestation, of the marvelous Alchemy that takes the Ordinary and works it to birth the Golden.
This book succeeds in the two ways its title promises: a story that engages us as if hand-scrawled, moving with power, passion, integrity - yet also a parable, thick with meaning and layer, honeycombed with depth and allusion. I found it sometimes tempting, as a historian, to label her characters anachronistic in a way - out of or far ahead of their time and culture, like the ludicrously outspoken females one finds in too many 'historical romances' - but then one would dismiss, too easily, the possibility that such women existed in any time but the 'liberated' twentieth century. No, the author creates, instead, a vivid picture of the expectations, the constraints, the written and unwritten rules that shape each of her characters; nor does she settle for two-dimensional stereotypes, either female or male.
On finishing "Ink and Honey", I sat for a while in silence, reflecting on it, and found myself torn by unexpected emotion. To borrow a trope from Revelation, 'it was sweet as honey in my mouth, then bitter...' Sweet to devour the tale, to meet the Sisters, to reveal and discover the layers of truth and parable, to taste the richness of the writing and the beauty in the characters - but bitter and bracing to be finished, to think about the deeper implications that fear and patriarchy and division brought to the women of faith in that time...and still bring in ours.