Raising Lost Wisdom of the Jewish Tradition through Art
This week’s post is by Kohenet Bekah Starr, a Sacred Artist exploring connections between Hebrew Mysticism and the Divine Feminine.
As a Sacred Artist exploring connections between the Divine Feminine and Hebrew Mysticism, my art allows access for people who would otherwise choose not to engage in Jewish life. People have told me that my work inspires them to create their own art, to explore and respond to the deep, hard questions that exist as part of this human world. In helping modern people experience lives with sacred purpose my work aligns with Rabbi Sid’s proposition 4: Kedusha,.
I’m a visual thinker. Understanding the hidden wisdom of our ancient traditions & ancestors is hard. They lived in different time periods, had different challenges, and experienced entirely different ways of life. Significantly, men spoke for women. We certainly don’t have all the records I’d like to have from our foremothers. Imagine the wisdom we have lost! One way to interpret the written history of rabbinical Judaism is a 3,000-year exercise in mansplaining.
In making art, I attempt to reveal insight into the hidden wisdom as it relates to the divine feminine. Through contemplation of the small portion of ancient texts where we can glimpse our foremother’s actions, thoughts, and dreams, I aim to draw these concepts into normative modern-day culture in a visual way. The objective is to help others find ways to make life more meaningful. The hidden feminine perspective in the Jewish tradition is understood through magic and earth-based living in deeply rooted ways that have been lost in this lifetime.
The title I took when receiving smicha from the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute is Oreget Torat haNistar, Weaver of the Hidden Torah. A feminist idea is that each person’s sacred life purpose is their own Torah, their wisdom and insights to share with the world. Their inner Torah informs how they live in the world. Sometimes these ideas are hidden. I help weave these hidden strains of wisdom into manifestation or reality. Whether creating a ritual with someone or inspiring a new understanding within themselves from viewing my art, I help uncover the hidden Torah, sacred purpose, within individuals, our ancestors and our traditions.
I also see my work as a Sacred artist aligned with Rabbi Sid’s proposition 1: Chochma, the wisdom of the sacred texts put into the context of contemporary culture. I draw on ancient sources of wisdom texts and different types of traditional knowledge to create artwork that draws in the viewer to have an experience that might be more meaningful for them than might be the case in their typical Jewish experience. By studying ancient texts and translating them into art, I am able to invite people into an experience of Judaism that they may not have known about it. I re-interpret and reimagine ways of connecting with Jewish tradition that is more accessible for people in modern times. I take concepts such as the sefirot and the concept of Shekhinah as the feminine version of God/Goddess, and create art that brings this narrative into the contemporary Jewish world.
One of the ways that I see my work outside of these four frameworks is my desire to elevate the experience of the feminine. Judaism has been a very patriarchal religion and I believe that leaves many people feeling unable to access the wisdom of the tradition. I also see it as a challenge for society as a whole. The wisdom of Shekinah or the Goddess, is deeply rooted in the ancient traditions of Judaism. I view my job as an artist to awaken this aspect of knowledge. Through my work as a ritualist, ordained as a Kohenet by the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute, I create rituals to deepen into experiences of holiness and embodied Jewish practice and identity. I also do this by speaking about and elevating the idea and concept of sacred conscious menstruation, and connecting our daily lives to the cycles of the earth and the moon. This is all reinterpreting ideas of Judaism in a way that acknowledges, celebrates and honors the Divine feminine. Using mystical Hebrew tradition, my work is focused on uplifting and celebrating women’s contribution to our Jewish heritage and culture.
My series “Hamsas for the Divine Feminine” is a work of 13-line drawing illustrations that acknowledge and offer access to different archetypes that are present within the tradition of Judaism and the ancient ideas of Divine femininity. Each of the line drawings celebrates one aspect as identified by the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute.
Another painting I created called “The Divine Feminine Sephirot” reimagines the traditional hierarchical version of the well-known tree of life design as an ever evolving, co-evolving, interconnected Source of life. It re-focuses on the interconnectedness of all the aspects of our sacred tradition.
A new series that I am working on reimagines figurative drawing as the bodies of Shekinah. Adding translucent ethereal wings adorned with Hebrew prayers to these figure paintings creates an opportunity for people in human bodies to understand their divinity within their own human form.
I seek to share the wisdom of mystical Judaism and being a translator so that people have access to this depth of wisdom and knowledge. Being a Kohenet is about reclaiming the ancient wisdom of the Divine Feminine, wisdom that has gotten lost over years of patriarchy and capitalism. What I’m after is a meaningful life and making art helps me understand how to have that.
What is being created here, with the Kenissa network, is art. People coming together to use their creativity to explore new ways of being is art. We are doing the work of sacred art. I hope my work helps reveal some of the hidden wisdom we are reclaiming from the Jewish tradition.
Kohenet Bekah Starr is a Sacred Artist exploring connections between Hebrew Mysticism and the Divine Feminine. Her artwork, workshops, and writing have been featured around the world. She lives with her amazingly supportive husband and their two inspiring children on the lands of the Wappinger First Nation people, also known as the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York. (www.BekahStarrArt.com)