Johanna Ackva & Carrie McIlwain December 2021

As a continuation of previous collaborative works around feminity and its conception in western culture since Ancient Greece (Women and Watery Men, EARTHBOUND SQUATTERS, The Pile + the Pyre), this research focuses on the figure of Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179). “Gifted” to the church by her parents, Hildegard lived as an anchoress (walled-in seclusion) and later became the abess of her own cloister. Remarkably, Hildegard is one of few female voices that has survived within a historical record. She is a prolific composer of the middle ages, recorded her own mystical visions, scientific and natural findings as well as leaving behind an archive of letters and correspondence.

We are drawn to the notion of Viriditas (Greenness), a metaphor within her work that points at the omnipresence and the sensorial experience of divinity in the earthly world. Reclaiming this idea independently from patriarchical and anthropocentric Christianity, we want to engage with this “Greenness” as an image of erotic entanglement and a potentiality to relate otherwisely to a contemporary world threatened by ecological crises. The residency at LAKE studios gives us the opportunity to vocally explore specific “green” lines from Hildegard’s compositions, as well as looking for their resonance in our bodies’ presence and movements. ///


We read out loud to each other the text from Audre Lorde “the uses of the erotic” while receiving head to toe body work.

Tapping the erotic sap

Hilde like many a female mystic before her penned some hot and heavy devotionals to her Beloved. The Song of Songs inclusion in the bible established the acceptable precedence, parameters and metaphors for how longing, physical desire, or sexuality could be expressed in word. The Song of Songs is the erotic text of the bible and offers sensuous imagery of things growing, blooming, wet with dew, spices, fruits, animals, lips, mouths, eyes and of course the Beloved and Bride.

// excerpt from ch. 4 Song of Songs – Old Testament

Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride;
    milk and honey are under your tongue.
The fragrance of your garments
    is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride;
    you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.
Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates

// excerpt from Favus distillants – Hildegard v. Bingen

A honeycomb dripping honey was Virgin Ursula 
who longed to embrace the Lamb of God. 
Honey and milk were beneath her tongue. 
For she had gathered around her, 
in a host of virgins, 
a garden of apples 
and the flowers of all flowers.

Taking single lines out of text from Hilde’s compositions, we then gave ourselves 5 mins to write new poems.

Hilde wrote  “and your mouth is like the sound of many waters”

Answer I

and your mouth is like the sound of many waters 
my lips are thirsty for your truth 
my tongue wet and strong 
growing as a vine from the back of my throat 
pushing past unparted lips 
like a seedling leaving the soil 
in search of the sun

Answer II

your mouth
is like the sound
of many waters

your eyes
like the sky and
how it changes every day

the toes of your
feet like pebbles
in a mountain river

minutes spent with you
disperse like humming bees
in friendly sunlight

it is winter in you
the stars reflect
from your frozen skin

the infinite universe
in your night

it is spring again
i ride on your
sweet fragrance

Hilde:  „previously she had disfigured earth“

Answer I

she had disfigured earth 
fiddling around with those 
fingers wet & warm of innocence 

raising her eyes from 
the site of her play & facing chaos 
shivers crossed her small body 

to hold onto 
leaning into darkness 
she found home 

things begin & end 
the cutting of the thread 
the breaking of the bread/branch

Answer II

previously she had disfigured earth 
when she laid within it
from head to hip
against the mud
spreading her legs and arms
apart together
and tried her best to be an angel


adapting a ritual from the poet CA CONRAD, with closed eyes and fingers spread, touching texts we asked for assistance in writing prayers. prayers for prayers and when is a prayer praise? the number 5 a sometimes guide.

I speak to you in tongues
there is no other way
in order to know you
(however I will call you).

I speak to you words yet unknown
Every word I speak is a name for you
for every word is a call, is me tilt(ing) toward you,
the other.  I'm inclined.

And thus, every name I call you by
bears a secret, something untouchable
every word I know for you
speaks of a world behind a veil.

I cannot lift the fogs to see behind,
my bones are heavy, 
but sometimes 
your light shines through
and warms us like a fire.


O to reject protection
that I shall love with exceeding love
that I might appropriate all kinds of knowledge
secret and sacred languages
and in all their riches
a sense of mystery
remains distinct
delights and haunts 

(Through) a dedication of song
that is purely sacred
the unknown language
switches roles
the hierarchical list
made humble in the fear of death
flees beneath the wings
Like the roof of the world,
which in ancient times was believed
to be held up by Atlas, the titan,
also the roof of your mouth is dark.
Like the winds, your soothing murmurs
are born in the darkness.
We say roof to what is lifted 
to create spaces underneath it.
We say arch and refer to the beginning of the world.
First, you set the tent. Then the story begins.
After all, the world you made has been cosy
for many of us until now.
After all, it is the dark cave of your mouth
that expels the words that come to touch us.
What is the so-called inside  
if it is feeling that lifts me up to the stars 
carries me to the edges of the world? 


Viriditas – work in progress showing at UNFINISHED FRIDAYS V.78


The Ten Commandments | Revised Version from DECEMBRIS XXII ANNO MMXXI | as received through green messaging from Hildi v.B.

I am the Earth, I am your home, I am holy. I gift and sustain your life.

This is not about restricting your freedom, but you will never leave me. No matter how far you journey, you will always return to me. We can’t avoid each other. We have the most intimate relationship of all relationships.

I will stay unknown to you and you have inherited my mystery.

To take my name in vain is to curse your own.

Respect rest. Cherish what is.

Be grateful to those who have supported and and fed your growth.

Nurture all living things, whether you understand their courses or not. Do not violently interfere in their paths. Life needs your love. Be aware of your role in the cycle of life and death.

Honor the power of erotic bonds.

Do not be moved by scarcity, it is an illusion. There is no such thing as owning. You can always only have a share. Be generous/generative with your entanglements.

Be honest. Practice listening. Do not betray yourself or others.

All forms of life are of equal value inherent unto themselves. Do not fear difference.

If you would like to try and live according to the revised 10 Commandments, we are happy to receive reports of your experience at

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