Jeanne’s Voices and Visions

May 30th was the anniversary of the burning of Jeanne, from Domremy in France, by the English in 1431 because of her leadership in opposing British efforts to take over her country near the end of the 100 years war (1337 to 1453). Commonly she is referred to as Joan of Arc. She is celebrated as a Christian saint on May 30th. At the time of her death she believed she was about 19 years old and had been involved in fighting for the freedom of France on behalf of her prince, and later, king, for about two years.

A seventeen year old French peasant girl involved herself in a conflict between two monarchies because she heard voices and saw visions. Much has been made of that, of course, in the last six hundred years, beginning with Jeanne’s execution by fire for claiming she was worthy of attention and direction from God— and for succeeding, with no prior training, where military men previously failed. More recently 20th and 21st century experts have made guesses about what mental illness she had, assuming it was the cause of her voices and visions . If she did have one it did not stop her from achieving great things in the face of great opposition. We know this because the trial and later posthumous re-trial that vindicated her is—for the times—better documented than many other legends.

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From the point of view of depth psychology, growth comes in part from paying attention to the voices we hear and the visions we see. Mythic voices and visions can motivate personal and cultural change, as they did for Jeanne and France. Because of her willingness to attend to those voices and visions Jeanne is today a continuing example of the sacred warrior woman.

Jeanne was often told to return home and prepare to marry. Criticism of the young by people the age of their parents and grandparents throughout history is not uncommon. Today we often refer to this as a generation gap. In recent years much as been made of young people referred to as millennials—people born between about 1982 and 2000, and much of it is critical. In response millennials say they are not listened to, their concerns about life and livelihood are not addressed, and that they inherited the fruits of their previous generations—good and bad.

Are we listening enough to the voices and visions of the millennials? Do we avoid them because we bear some guilt about the world they were born into with its entrenched, critical, and hard-to-solve problems? While listening has to go both ways (and young people often believe, as I did, that no one before them ever felt what they were feeling), it was those who listened to seventeen year old Jeanne’s insistence on being true to her inner voices and visions who helped her change her world. What mythic characters bringing change will the millennials embody today if we honor and encourage their insights and dreams?

Today’s blog post is by Editorial Board member Lola McCrary. Lola has an M.A. in Integral Psychology from John F. Kennedy University. She currently works as a first reader, fact checker, and proofreader of both fiction and non-fiction in her areas of interest.

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