And welcome to the RH Blog!
You're probably wondering why you're here. What this whole Reviving Herstory thing is all about. Who I am. And what you'll find within these tent walls.
Well, pull up a pillow and gather around the fire; I'll snip some fresh mint for your tea.
Reviving Herstory is an act of homage. A dedication. A soft whisper that you have to lean in very close to hear, and a shout from the rooftops.
As for me, I'm a scholar. An educator. A storyteller. And Reviving Herstory is my baby, my artifact discovered beneath layers of earth and rock, my gift to the world.
My name is Sivan, and I have been studying women's biblical history and literature for nearly twenty years. Oh, here I am:
As a woman, my Jewish upbringing was peppered with questions about women. Why are they confined to kitchens and nurseries? Why do we pray to the God of our forefathers? What about our foremothers? If Eve came from Adam's rib, is she less of a person than her mate? Is woman less than man? Who is this Jezebel character, and was she really that bad?
So I started digging. Reading. Devouring, really. Archaeological findings. Near Eastern history and mythology. Historical and scientific studies and arguments. Poetry and literature. And, of course, the Bible.
And guess what I found! A rich woman's history beyond our wildest imaginations. A legacy of revered and celebrated female characters. Evidence that our foremothers were goddess-worshippers. Evidence of a time and place where women were sacred, and of the slow erosion of that way of life by the patriarchy and the pen.
It turns out, history tried to erase us. But history is only half of the equation. It is, by its very nature, history. Reviving Herstory is dedicated to the other half of the equation, to our shared—and lost—herstory.
After twenty years of study, I've become somewhat of an expert in the field. I teach Women's Biblical Literature at the City University of New York, and I am writing a novel about a woman scribe who authored some of the earliest sections of the Bible. I know what I know because I have spent more than half my lifetime researching. And now it's time to share what I've learned.
We're here—you and I—because I want to share my wealth of knowledge. I want you to know the truth about the amazing women who comprise our past and who shape our present.
For thousands of years, women have gotten a bad rap.
Our stories started as an oral history—shared around camps and cooking fires, passed down from generation to generation. There is no way to know how far back the roots of our stories reach or what shape they took before they were written down. But what we know with some certainty is this: around the time of King David, scribes began writing the stories of our people. Transforming them from longstanding—yet ever-changing—oral legends into a fixed, written form that became the foundations of the Bible as we know it today.
Our stories were written down. And then they were edited. And redacted (portions were erased). For hundreds of years, this process went on. Writing, editing, redacting. In the end, the stories that survived were mostly men's stories.
Sometimes I think it's a wonder that we were left with any women's stories at all.
But we were. And while our appearances in the Bible are brief, while we are often nameless, and voiceless, there is enough there to give us a place to start digging.
How many times have you heard—or said—"It's all because Eve ate the apple"? No matter how many times I hear someone say this, it still makes me bristle. What did Eve really do? She chose knowledge, and we all know that knowledge is power. And the "punishment" for her choice? Childbirth. The greatest gift humankind has ever known. Eve chose to disobey her father in order to become a powerful, aware, and capable woman. Her name in Hebrew—Chava—means "mother of all life." Eve has suffered a bad rap for thousands of years because she is the mother of us all. Freud would have a field day.
This is an example of how a more critical reading of the text (in this case, the Bible) itself can lead to a different understanding of the story than what we are told in Church or Hebrew School. We—you and I—have a choice. We can accept what we are told about our role in the world, or we can do as Eve did. We can eat the apple. We can become knowledgeable and aware, and we can make informed decisions for ourselves.
But engaging in critical readings of ancient texts is only one way we can unearth our herstory. The Bible is one document, written (in large part, if not entirely) by men. Like any piece of persuasive communication, the Bible has a point of view and an agenda. The "real" story behind it is, therefore, illuminated by an informed, historical reading.
What was lost to us when the Bible was written, edited, and redacted may never be found. But, when we begin to read the Bible in light of history and archaeology, in light of what we know of the peoples the ancient Israelites settled amongst and intermarried, in light of science and anthropology and Near Eastern studies, a brilliant picture begins to emerge. One that gives us new insight into our ancient past—and our present.
And so we begin our journey together. Our archaeological dig. Our storytelling hour. Our studies and speculations. This is our time around the campfire. Our chance to revive herstory, together.
I want to hear your voices. Your soft whispers. Your shouts from the rooftops. Because your voice matters. Your thoughts, ideas, and perspective. Your take. Your reflections and reactions. What inspires you about the archetypal women in whose images we are made? What have you always wondered about them? Speak up. Show us how big your brave is.
The RH Blog is a communal space. We are all around the campfire together. We are here to enrich one another's lives. To explore and discover and shed new light on women's history, together.
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