V Voice Lilith

It was 25 years ago when I flew down to Cape Town to be with my mother for her 80th birthday. Her cousin Naka Pillman had also travelled to be with us. Naka died last week a little short of her 99th birthday, so it is in honour of her that I’m writing this.

Naka was a larger than life character. Aย  world traveller, writer, artist, craftswoman, well known in her field and for her contribution to South African history. My mother was looking lovely, happy to have her family with her. Naka was dressed in her usual flamboyant style, wearing cloths from all around the world, bracelets and beads adorning her, wearing a bandana, her wild and curly hair that escaped framing her delicately boned face, her eyes as blue as cornflowers.

One of the stories she told us was of her then recent trip to India on her own. She rose early to go to the Taj Mahal. She said about the early pink gleaming light as she walked. She said that she went to the very top of the Taj. She was aware of the acoustics right at the top. Gripped by a sudden desire to sing, she asked her guide permission. No no he said, no singing. But she got her way, and sang Ave Maria. She said the air was filled with the sweetest sounds – and while singing, completely unexpectedly, she received an answer to a personal question that had been plaguing her for many years. The voice was clear and commanding … and on that she made her particular life decision …

Ave Maria, maiden mild
Oh, listen to a maiden’s prayer
For thou canst hear amid the wild
‘Tis thou, ’tis thou canst save amid despair
We slumber safely till the morrow
Though we’ve by man outcast reviled
Oh maiden, see a maiden’s sorrow
Oh mother, hear a suppliant child *


Since ancient times, countries have been been involved in war. Karen Armstrong in ‘The Axial Age’ (known as a pivotal period in history that dates from 800 to 200 BC) writes how in times of need, forces arise to counter violent times. “One of the things that is very striking is that all the great sages were living in a time like our ownโ€”a time full of fear, violence, and horror. Their experience of utter impotence in a cruel world impelled them to seek the highest goals and an absolute reality in the depths of their beings”.

Your voicesย in the comments have made my soul sing, my heart and mind broadened in so many ways, I am so grateful. Thank you so much. You are all sages in our current times, a feminine energy sorely needed as counter-force.

*As sung by Celine Dion. Different renditions use different words. (The Latin is very particular)

Thank you for reading!

35 Comments on A to Z V Voice

  1. Naka sounds like a Crone I’d love to know, Susan. Thank you for sharing her. She wouldn’t let her Voice be shut down. It takes unbelievable courage to sing at the Taj Mahal. Wow! My hearing doesn’t allow me to listen to the music, but I remember the melody and sing her words to myself. “For thou canst hear amid the wild…” You teach me so much, Susan. I thank you for the wisdom you offer about Lilith and so much else. The wisdom of the Emerging Feminine struggles for footing in our mixed-up patriarchal world. You give her a helping hand.

    • Thanks Elaine, you would have loved her.. and those words ‘for thou cans’t hear amid the wild’ ring very true for you and for me …

      I keep on wondering about Lilith `and the emerging feminine’ and how we can continue to give her a helping hand …

  2. Hi Susan – how wonderful to have Naka Pillman in your family and be able to relate to her travels and journey into life … she certainly lived, and wrote and no doubt put down a lot of other essays on her meetings with other compassionate souls … cheers Hilary

    • Thanks Hilary for coming by and my apologies for responding only now … have only just seen it! Yes, she wrote plenty, a few novels as well that are wonderfully written … Susan

  3. Interesting observation by Karen Armstrong. I’ve been wondering in my own small way if as a society we need Trump to make clear what is wrong with us as a whole. One can only solve a problem if you acknowledge it and define it. He and those who praise him are showing us their worst, so that we might understand them and do better.

    • I agree, Ally. As are those who praise and supported Hillary Clinton, known for her long history of warmongering, corporatism and imperialism. Both reveal what it is we’ve been taught to value . . . and how easily we’re misled by superficial promises and propaganda. Both are symptoms of a much larger problem.

    • I suspect that what we acknowledge on the outside (if we’re talking politics) provides a perfect opportunity to ‘define’ and reflect on the reality – to see the fissures and the cracks – and to put into action a remedy for the wounds. Which may meet cutting down very deep to allow the ‘poison’ to get out. Thanks Ally Bean ..

    • Perseverance is the name of the game for sure. I’ll pop by you now Mary; I didn’t know you’re doing the A-Z? Thank you for coming by .. Actually I just NOW popped by – you’re not doing it!

  4. Women’s voices are often muted. I discovered this when I wrote about my inability to find my “voice” as I describe my younger self in memoir.

    I appreciate the writings of Karen Armstrong though I’ve read only The Spiral Staircase. Have you read it?

    Happy (belated) birthday to your sweet mother.

      • Yes, 25 years ago! No, I know of The Spiral Staircase but have not read it. I like her – have a book by her on a Compassionate Life. I hope you found your voice Marian difficult though it may have been to describe your younger self. I actually can’t think of anything harder ..

  5. Susan I am so glad to know that your mom celebrated her 8oth birthday and you were there with her, I felt happy reading your tribute to Naka Pillman and very interesting to know that she visited India and sang “Ave Maria” and how beautiful you have compared the our voices in the comment for your soulful song:) Thanks for bringing in so much learning and empowering me with your thought provoking posts.

  6. Thank you, Susan. My inner Lilith has appreciated the shared journey and voice you’ve given her through your posts. What a magical story about your grandmother and mother.

    I love the Karen Armstrong quote you included: ” . . . Their experience of utter impotence in a cruel world impelled them to seek the highest goals and an absolute reality in the depths of their beings.” I’d guessed today’s word might be “vanquished”, or “visceral”, both of which the quote speaks to. Every morning, I wake to a small icon beside my bed, of beautiful, world-weary Mary, with swords piercing her heart.

    This afternoon Mother Mary came up during a chance intuitive encounter I had with a young woman who’d lost her own grandmother. At one point I saw roses, which is sometimes my symbol for Mary. Turned out her grandmother’s name was Rosa and that, although she was Mormon (something else I’d picked up on), she’d maintained a close relationship with the Mary.

    Btw, Celine Dion’s version of Ava Maria makes my husband cry.

      • That is lovely about Mother Mary, roses and Rosa LB! Lovely bits of synchronicity! Naka was my aunt, cousin to my mother. My grandmothers are long dead!

        As I mentioned to Deborah Gregory below, Karlyn M.Ward, PhD., Jungian analyst from California has a wonderful DVD called โ€˜Anchored in the Heart: Redeeming the Dark Feminineโ€™ โ€“ and addresses Mary Magdalene โ€“

        I better listen to Celine Dion’s Ave Maria … ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s so refreshing to shed a tear or three, to feel a little twisting of the heart – and to witness a man being moved. I wonder if she and Pavarotti do a duo ..

  7. How blessed we are Susan to have your voice. What a wonderful story. Naka sounds like a treasure – how lucky you are to claim her in your lineage.

    • That’s very kind Deborah thank you. I regard myself blessed to have you and others come by. She was a treasure – with a deep rumbling voice with a laugh not far behind ..

  8. Susan, your posts have been very intriguing. I especially loved this post as your aunt sang Ave Maria at the Taj Mahal. Since women especially don’t have a voice in India, your aunt definitely did her own imitation of Lilith. Thank you!

  9. What a touching story of your mother, looking lovely at her eightieth birthday, and Naka singing ‘Ava Maria’ the Taj Mahal. They both sound like incredible women. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  10. What a beautiful story, Susan. I’m glad Naka got her way and in the process, not only did she get to sing in such a unique place, she got an answer to her question. A most wonderful song, with a theme of hope. Thank you for your encouraging words on voice. I’ve enjoyed reading your voice throughout this challenge and always. We are the powerful, positive energy the world needs — each and every one of us.

    • Thank you Silvia – a theme of hope for sure. Thank you for reading my voice throughout this whole A-Z; I so appreciate your support.

  11. Another beautiful synchronicity between us happened to me a few minutes ago in reference to your topic about music being the voice of the soul. Yesterday, my dearest friend in the world (a Jungian therapist I worked with and taught classes for) called to tell me that her husband, Bob, had had a massive stroke caused by a blood clot to the carotid artery feeding the left side of his brain. He had surgery to save his life, but has no voice, and the right side of his body is paralyzed.

    After talking to her I read an e-mail that arrived yesterday containing a brief video of Andrew Harvey in India. In it he said that the Milky Way sings to the vibration of the musical note G flat below middle C, and that this is the sound of Om used in meditation because it aligns the vibrations of the body with the vibrations of our galaxy. So today while I was meditating/praying for Bob I tried to bring up an image in my mind of a profile of the left side of his head so I could visualize sending the love/light energy from my heart to the damaged part of his brain, and hummed Om as I meditated. To find that note, I got out my ukulele and played G flat below middle C.

    I just finished writing an e-mail to her asking her to take a picture of the left side of his head and send it to me so I could put it on my computer screen to help me focus when I meditate. I also told her about the sound of G flat below middle C. After I hit “send” I opened this post.

    It is always a joy when you and I connect in this way, and it only happens because we, like Lilith, are both using our voices to sing and write the songs of our souls.

    Blessings, my sister

    • Jeanie, my thoughts are with Bob and his full recovery, and his wife and you and all who are praying for him. May the music of the spheres help him recover – and it may be an idea that he is played the music he most loves while he recuperates? And some meditative music even – I’ll try to access a particular piece – the name escapes me for the moment but I will look tomorrow.

      This is an extraordinary and beautiful synchronicity; ‘and it only happens because we, like Lilith, are both using our voices to sing and write the songs of our souls’. Thank you, this is so affirming and so – special, thank you. Blessings to you Jeanie.

  12. Dear Susan, A truly wonderful memorial for Naka and her Ave Maria. What a story, and what a song to sing at the Taj Mahal! Wonderful, much like the lovely choir of voices gathered here in the Garden of Eden in search of the Wild Feminine. Celine Dion is one of my favourite singers, so thank you for pointing me in her direction to listen to this amazing (unheard before today!) version, wow, beyond words, simply beautiful. Hail Mary full of grace! In soul, Deborah.

    • Dear Deborah – the lovely choir of voices in the Garden of Eden in search of the Wild Feminine! This is so lovely thank you! I am smiling ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ Hail Mary indeed! Karlyn M.Ward, PhD., Jungian analyst from Ca in the US has a wonderful DVD called ‘Anchored in the Heart: Redeeming the Dark Feminine’ – and addresses Mary Magdalene – Grace indeed! In soul, Susan

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