I should start by posting the English translation of the text, originally composed in Italian in the year 1224. It is somewhat long, but worth reading.
Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honour, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no man is worthy to mention Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendour!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather through which
You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night and he is beautiful
and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains us and governs us and who produces
varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord,
through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those who will
find Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord,
and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.
While there is a lot that can be said about this beautiful text, I want to focus this post on some specific areas, which are the gender attributes. According to occult traditions, such as alchemy and Hermeticism, elements have gender aspects and are associated with directions. These are briefly outlined below.
- Air is Masculine and associated with East
- Water is Feminine and associated with West
- Fire is Masculine and associated with South
- Earth is Feminine and associated with North
Saint Francis mirrors these gendered elementals in his text:
- Brother Wind
- Sister Water
- Brother Fire
- Sister Mother Earth
It is important to note the order here. In some ceremonial rituals, the elemental forces are evoked in a specific order: East – West – South – North, which forms a cross. This is the same order in which Saint Francis offers his praises. Essentially, recitation of the Canticle surrounds an individual with the elemental forces.
It is also worth pointing out that masculine and feminine characteristics are associated with the Sun and Moon, respectively. This is fairly common among mystical traditions. But what is fascinating is that Saint Francis also refers to death as Sister Bodily Death, implying a connection between birth and death, since both are connected to the Divine Feminine. We are born of Sister Mother Earth, and we return through Sister Bodily Death, completing a cycle which will ultimately begin anew with rebirth through Sister Mother Earth.
Hopefully you found this interesting. The comments will be open for two weeks after post date, so feel free to share any thoughts during that period.
2 responses to “Occult Symbolism in “Canticle of the Sun” by Saint Francis of Assisi”
I did find this interesting. It seemed odd to praise death though, which I see as the opposite of Eternal Life, which I see as God or the divine Creator.
Hi Deborah. I hope you are well. You bring up an interesting point. It seems to me that St. Francis viewed death as part of life, that it is a cycle of regeneration. Many mystical teachings assert that our incarnation is part of a process of evolution of the soul, which eventually will return to the divine source of emanation. If we see death as the completion of a cycle and a marking of another step closer to union with the divine, then this is something to praise.
Anyway, that’s just my interpretation, for what it’s worth. Glad that it was thought-provoking for you. Enjoy the rest of your weekend 🙂