The Blade of the Bride .:. the Sword Dance and The Song of Songs
from the Song of Songs :
the maidens saw her
and called her blesséd
and the queens
and the noble women
gave praise to her, saying :
who is she that looketh forth
as the morning ?
fair as the moon
clear as the sun
as an army with banners ?
turn, turn, O Shulammite
that we may gaze upon you !
why should you gaze in rapture
upon the Shulammite
as upon a sword-dancer ?
during the 19th century the discovery of ancestral traditions such as the “King's Week” wedding ceremonies of rural Syria did much to expand our understanding of the ancient ritual context from which emerged The Song of Songs
for an entire week the betrothed - who are given the titles of Solomon and his bride - are enthroned as royalty while songs which closely resemble the vibrant poetic beauty of the Canticles are sung in their honour
on the first night of the seven, the bride performs a symbolic dance with a drawn sword in her right hand and a red scarf in her left
there are echoes of this in the dance of the Mahanaim and in the battle imagery of Book 6 of the Canticles
yet less than a century later this ancient custom began to change as the ritual sword of the bride passed into the hands of her bridesmaids, her female friends and her kinswomen
the sword morphed into an entirely new form - becoming the knife which is needed to cut the wedding cake - which her female friends and the women of her family wield in a sensual, teasing dance
The figure of the dancer, her dark waving hair, her serious noble bearing, her downcast eyes, her graceful movements, the quick and secure step of her small naked feet, the lightning-like flashing of the blade, the skilful movements of her left hand, in which she holds a handkerchief, the exact keeping of time, form a scene which contributes not a little to make the “King's Week” the happiest in a Syrian peasant's life.
Shulammite : Since a definite article precedes this name, it is probably an epithet, such as “perfect one,” not a personal name. The name may be based on a feminine form of the name Solomon, or possibly there is a connection with the Mesopotamian goddess Shulmanitu or Sala.
( IVP Bible Background Commentary )
The Shulamite of Canticles goes back almost certainly to Šulmanitu, name of the goddess of love and
( W.F. Albright - "Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan", 1951 )
A most likely conjecture is to consider this name as the Hebrew equivalent of the Akkadian Shulmanitu, one of the appellations of Ishtar, goddess of war and of love. While the dawn, the moon, the sun, and the great constellations were deified in the ancient Near Eastern cultures, one may easily understand that the climax of the same strophe would identify that young woman with a female deity personifying the tenderness and the violence of passion.
( Samuel L. Terrien, "Till the Heart Sings : A Biblical Theology of Manhood and Womanhood", 2004 )
The lover feels the dangerous and threatening aspect of the woman.
This is a well-known topos in love literature.
The imagery may have mythological overtones, suggesting goddesses who inspire terror.
A prime candidate among the latter is Anat, the Ugaritic goddess of love and war, with whom Inanna, Ishtar, Isis and others are also to be associated.
It is reasonable to conclude that such a model has influenced the growth of the theme of the dangerous woman.
It is perhaps difficult for the modem to hold together the traits of love and war in the beloved but this was apparently no problem to the ancient.
The description in verse 4 is meant as a compliment to the woman and as a testimony to the attractive but fnghtening mystery which the male finds in her.
( Grace Rostig, "Ambiguity in the Song of Songs : A Thesis in the Department of Theological Stuidies", 2000)
The Syrian bride's dance which is still performed dangerously with a sword in one hand and a scarf in the other, clearly belongs to Canaanite matriarchal tradition; an ancient warning to the bridegroom that, unless he respects her, she will treat him as Jael had treated Sisera, or Judith, Holofernes.
( Robert Graves, "The Song of Songs" with illustrations by Hans Erni )
"OUR Gettysburg," an original musical, is a ground up examination of the Battle of Gettysburg, with songs and spoken word poems from the point of view of the common soldier and the townspeople who suffered arguably the worst unnatural disaster of the Nineteenth Century. Elisabeth Thorn, the wife of the caretaker of Evergreen Cemetery, still suffering with her sickly infant after burying over a hundred dead soldiers left to rot on Cemetery Hill while six months pregnant, offers an alternate address to the one President Lincoln is giving outside.