An incomplete search for the meaning of 'viriditas'…

O Nobilissima Viriditas… “O most noble greenness, you whose roots are in the sun and who shine in bright serenity in a wheel that no earthly eminence can comprehend.” - Hildegard von Bingen

“Inwardness is the characteristic feature of the vegetable rather than the animal approach to existence. The animals move, migrate and swarm, while plants hold fast. Plants live in a dimension characterised by solid state, the fixed and the enduring. If there is movement in the consciousness of plants then it must be the movement of spirit and attention in the domain of vegetal imagination. (…) This is the truth that the shamans have always known and practiced. Awareness of the green side of mind was called Veriditas by the twelfth century visionary Hildegard Von Bingen.” –Terence McKenna

“Look at the pattern this seashell makes. The dappled whorl, curving inward to infinity. That's the shape of the universe itself.There's a constant pressure, pushing toward pattern. A tendency in matter to evolve into ever more complex forms. It's a kind of pattern gravity, a holy greening power we call viriditas, and it is the driving force in the cosmos. Life, you see…” -Kim Robinson “(…) also honour the stability of the world: the orbits of the Sun and the Moon, winds and air, earth and water… We have no other foothold. If we give up this world we shall be destroyed by demons and deprived of the angels' protection”. -Hildegard von Bingen

Viriditas, a word coined by Hildegard von Bingen and more recently used by science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, describes the green force of life, expanding into the Universe. The final movement of Shattering Suns is a dance of life: a rhythmic outburst acting as a pendant to the opening, chaotic explosion of a dying star in the first movement. Mixed meters and fast, ascending scales combine to produce a feeling of rushing forward, joyfully, to greet the unknown.

Stevie Wishart

  O Life-green finger of God,
  in you God has placed a garden.
  You reflect heaven's eminent radiance
  like a raised pillar.
  You are glorious
  as you perform God's deeds.
  O sublime mountains,
  which can never be made low
  by the discretion of God.
  Yet still you stand at a distance,
  as if in exile,
  But there is no armed power
  which can tear you away.
  You are glorious
  as you perform God's deeds.
  Glory to the One, the Body,
  and to the Holy Spirit.
  Glorious you are,
  as you perform God's deeds.

“There is a power that has been since all eternity and that force and potentiality is green!”

Hildegard’s cures are loosely understood as recipes and their main purpose is to restore viriditas, or what she understood metaphorically as a “greening” life force, energy, or balanced essence. Viriditas comes from the Latin verb, virido, “to make green” or “to cause to grow green.” The related noun viridis, is simply the color green. The noun viriditas literally means greenness, vigor, verdure, and viridity, (greenness of plants). This word has been a bane to Hildegardian scholars because the various meanings she applied to it (or, various ways she applied it). She used it in a literal sense, as in the greenness of plants, a metaphorical sense, as something analogous to a liquid or an essence, and also in a spiritual sense. For example, she wrote that God breathed viriditas into Adam, i that the sun brings viriditas into the world, that tree branches and stones contain viriditas, and that the prelate who is weary lacks viriditas. In a macrocosmic view, Hildegard refers to the Gospel of John: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.ii Viriditas, Hildegard writes, is the work of the Word. It is all of creation and it resides in the earth, the air, and the sun. Describing an emerald, she wrote, “the viriditas of the earth and plants greatly thrive in the morning, because the air is cold and the sun is warm. And the herbs very strongly suck viriditas, like a lamb who sucks milk, because the heat of the day is barely sufficient to . . . cook and fortify the day’s viriditas so far as it is made fertile for the producing of fruit. The emerald is strong against all weaknesses and infirmities of humans, because the sun raises it and because all its matter is from the viriditas of the air.”iii Because Hildegard saw viriditas in the entirety of the natural world, her lists of plants, animals, and stones are extensive. Some of the plants were certainly grown in the convent’s garden or found locally; other herbs and spices had to be purchased, such as pepper and ginger.iv Hildegard also describes mythical creatures, such as the griffin and the unicorn, whose pulverized liver mixed with egg yolk cures leprosy. Hildegard explained that viriditas animates plant, animal, stone, and mineral (yes, stones and minerals are animated). It is similar to but distinct from the soul. Because a plant or animal cannot have a soul, viriditas is its essence. When humans ingest these plants and animals, they [humans] are sustaining their own viriditas, or balanced essence. Medical historian Victoria Sweet describes viriditas as a “liquid” that seeps from the earth into plants and becomes visible in the green foliage. Viriditas moves up the food chain—animals eat plants and humans feed on both, restoring the natural viriditas originally given by God. Almost all naturally occurring viriditas is found in plants or creatures related to the earth, such as the earthworm. She does not list viriditas as a property naturally occurring in animals, fish, or birds; like humans, these beings must eat it. However, even though viriditas was first given by God, this does not mean that it is inherently good. Hildegard explained that because of the Fall of Man, “a human being has both good and evil knowledge, and good and bad herbs were created for him.”v As a result, God spread plants, animals, and humans throughout the different climates of the earth. Each species has more or less strength according to the viriditas provided by the sun. (…) Like blood, viriditas moves through human veins and without it, humans become weak and tired and they lack spirituality. It is restored only through eating…

- Allison Jaines Elledge

  Oh fire of the Holy Spirit,
  life of the life of every creature,
  holy are you in giving life to forms…
  Oh boldest path,
  penetrating into all places,
  in the heights, on earth,
  and in every abyss,
  you bring and bind all together
  From you clouds flow, air flies,
  Rocks have their humours,
  Rivers spring forth from the waters
  And earth wears her green vigour

Viriditas. Venite, adoremus. Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Throughout my whole life, during every moment I have lived, the world has gradually been taking on light and fire for me, until it has come to envelop me in one mass of luminosity, glowing from within. . . . The purple flush of matter fading imperceptibly into the gold of spirit, to be lost […]

O nobilissima viriditas / Responsory for Virgins

  Most noble
  evergreen with your roots
  in the sun:
  you shine in the cloudless
  sky of a sphere no earthly
  eminence can grasp,
  enfolded in the clasp
  of ministries divine.
  You blush like the dawn,
  you burn like a flame
  of the sun.

  Art is that Ithaca
  of green eternity, not wonders.
  Art is endless like the river flowing
  passing yet remaining; it mirrors the same
  inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
  and yet another, like the river flowing.
  -Borges, The Art of Poetry

Viriditas on flickr:

Related by name:

What is Viriditas? In the year 1098 in a small town in what is now Southern Germany, a baby girl named Hildegard was born. She was the 10th child in her family, and in that day, the 10th of anything belonged to the church (a “tithe”). So, Hildegard was given to the church and became the apprentice to a nun in a local convent. Aside from being a reknowned visionary, during her life Hildegard drew inspiring art work, composed music, and was an accomplished herbalist. She coined the word “Viriditas” (from the latin for green and truth). To her it was a way to describe the presence of the divine in everything green. This divine knowledge in the plants was why they healed, because they brought that divine into people. She believed that we were all a part of a circle/cycle. The moist, juiciness of the plants showed their health, and if we are all moist and juicy, then we are filled with the presence of Spirit. :-)

So, in honor of Hildegard and the plants, we named our clinic Viriditas. We believe that we all hold with in us the ability to heal, the knowledge of the plants, of the cycles of the seasons, and of life and death. Sometimes, it just takes a little nudge from the plants to help us remember…

Essential oils.

trio viriditas – jazz…

Palaeo-viriditas: In Steven Mithen's paper 'Ethnobiology and the Human Mind' he explores what could be called the pre-historic origin of Viriditas. First he refutes the claim that the human brain grew rapidly because of social circumstances (Dunbar 1996:2004). Instead he proposes:

In place of a single general-purpose intelligence, I have proposed elsewhere (Mithen 1996) that there were three isolated cognitive domains in the minds of large brain hominins (i.e. post-Homo habilis) that I described as social, technical, and natural history intelligences, with each being constituted by a bundle of interacting mental modules. Our interest here is with natural history intelligence, which might also be characterized as ‘intuitive biology’. By this I mean stores of information about the natural world, methods of acquiring further information, and methods of processing information that had become embedded within the hominin genome and did not require learning and/or cultural transmission to acquire. Moreover, these were dedicated to the natural world and quite different to the stores of information and processing methods that were dedicated to interacting with other individuals or manufactur- ing artefacts. Such intuitive biology would have provided hominins with the type of expert folk-botanical and folk-zoological knowledge that is characteristic of recent hunter-gatherers.

We must, however, make a distinction here between this type of ecological knowledge and the use of anthropomorphism….. Indeed, Kennedy (1992) argues that human beings in general are prone to a compulsive anthropomorphizing, and with modern hunter-gatherers the social and natural worlds appear to have no boundaries. I have argued that this ‘cognitive fluidity’ has arisen in relatively recent times and is a consequence of the evolution of compositional language (Mithen 1996:2005). Consequently for pre-modern hominins I would expect a natural history and a social intelligence that are effectively isolated from each other: the natural and social worlds were two distinct entities…..The key archaeological evidence to support the proposition of a discrete natural history intelligence (or intuitive biology) evolving relatively early in human evolution is the extraordinary diversity of environments and hence foraging strategies that were adopted by hominins…….But what is even more striking is the ease with which this knowledge is acquired and culturally transmitted – human minds appear to be pre-tuned for acquiring and processing information about animals and plants such that virtually no active teaching is required (Atran 1990:1994). Formal training appears to be generally rare among hunter-gatherer societies.

He concludes:

For almost the whole of the six million years of human evolution since the common ancestor, hominins have perceived, classified, interpreted, and made decisions about the natural world in a pre-linguistic mode. Some of those hominins may have had sophisticated communications system of the type I have characterized as Hmmmmm, which made extensive use of onomatopoeia, mimicry, and sound synaesthesia.

  • viriditas.txt
  • Last modified: 2016-03-20 09:09
  • by maja