Song of Songs: Desire & IntuitionMar 21, 2023
We all have desires within that we hold close; often forming a complex, private world hidden from others. There is a tension created in these intimate desires between wanting and satisfaction. Are we willing to take the actions necessary to make our desires a reality?
Although the majority of the Hebrew Bible is concerned with male-oriented life, we are offered a glimpse into the inner world of a young woman in The Song of Songs. The female protagonist, often called the Shulammite woman, expresses her deepest desires through a series of songs. However, the reader quickly learns that desire is about wanting, but not necessarily getting in this story.
The Shulammite woman is teeming with passion for her lover from the first scene: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!” (1:2). This erotically charged display of emotion remains consistent throughout the Song. The young woman encompasses desire, and the reader is immediately thrown into her world of yearning and longing. She goes to great lengths to not only find her beloved, but to make her love for him known.
But there are also several external obstacles to her desire. Her brothers are sometimes angry with her (1:6), other times she feels threatened by the “watchmen'' of the city (5:7), and she wishes to display publicly affectionate for her beloved (8:1). Unfortunately, societal constraints do not allow her to be running around after dark alone or exhibiting this type of public display.
Toward the end of the song, the power of love and desire is compared to death and the grave. “For love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave” (8:6a). Notice here the fine line here between desire and loss of self. This is one of the tensions the woman is struggling with throughout the Song.
The final chapter also compares love to fire; “Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame” (8:6b). A raging fire embodies chaos and total loss of control. Desire is thus a force that quite possibly cannot be soothed or quelled.
I would argue that the Shulammite woman and her beloved never fully consummate their love in this Song. The yearning is still palpable at the end, keeping their desire burning strong. Ecclesiastes 12:5 implies that the end of desire is the end of life. Instead, this young woman comes to the realization that she alone is the one to establish boundaries regarding desire and sexuality. In Song of Songs 8:12 she exclaims, “My vineyard, my very own, is for myself.” The Shulammite woman acknowledges that the desires she possesses must be claimed as her own. Instead of fearing the “foxes that ruin the vineyard” (2:15), this woman clings to that which is beautiful and blooming, her authentic self.
Desire and the self are intricately correlated. In Clarissa Pinkola Estés’s wild woman archetype, the woman in the Song of Songs would be considered “living at the edge of the world” (p. 7). The wild woman is a force close to nature, one that many of us lose touch with at some point in our lives. This woman is bold and assertive, knowing innately what she desires. “No matter how many times she is pushed down, she bounds up again…Even the most captured woman guards the place of the wildish self, for she knows that intuitively someday there will be a loophole, an aperture, a chance, and she will highlight it to escape” (p. 9).
What desires do you hold close to the self? Have you fully articulated or reclaimed your wildish self? The woman in the Song of Songs expresses hers through song, but you might keep a journal or simply daydream about these desires. I have found that it is often difficult to express deeply held desires because once they are out there, decisions are expected. And decisions require change. The word decision comes from the Latin meaning to “cut off” choices. If you choose one thing, that means you are deciding against something else.
We may not express our desires as boldly as the Shulammite woman, but we all have them. Desire and intuition are often closely linked, but require contemplation and reflection to fully articulate. Perhaps, take some time the next few weeks to explore your own guarded places.
- Go out in nature. Walking in nature is a chance to be present; removed from daily distractions. Being present is correlated with a greater awareness of one's intuition.
- Read through the Song of Psalms. Notice the deep ties to nature, including the rich use of nature metaphors throughout the text.
- Get a copy of Estés's book Women Who Run with Wolves, and delve into the myth of the wild woman archetype. These stories are there to help us connect to our inner self, a self that often needs re-examining because we are so conditioned by the culture around us.
Jennifer Metten Pantoja