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Posts Tagged ‘Biblical Ruth and Naomi’

Note: I recently co-lead a workshop on exploring myth in words and visual art at the Art Room in Philadelphia where I read the following excerpt of my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders. The YouTube video is below and under that the text of my reading — which features the biblical version of Ruth and Naomi. There is a lesbian tradition of linking Ruth and Naomi together as lovers. (Ruth and Naomi are frequently pictured embracing.) And the writer and Biblical historian Gore Vidal agreed that it looked to him like Ruth and Naomi were lovers. I know it certainly informed my vision of traditional religion — and I’m honored to pass this tradition along.

 

 

 

Tamar looked down on herself. Her body lay on her bed.
Tabitha was at Tamar’s side. Her eyes were wet. Tamar knew why her sister was crying. They were almost the same person, from the same womb, from the same egg split into two. They were identical in looks, if not in spirit. They shared the same secret — that of tricking Judah. Zerah and Pharez were still living in Egypt with Judah.
Tamar saw a well-built man, younger but no longer young, dusting sand from his hands. He must have been digging the hole outside. Tamar somehow knew that the hole was where her body would be buried.
Shaggy salt and pepper hair brushed his shoulders. Light circled his head. She remembered that he was the young shepherd who had lain with Tabitha. Tamar had met him several times when he was a boy and his mother had brought him to her tent.
Tamar came back to herself, opened her eyes, and stared at her sister.
Tabitha looked down at her and said, “I am past my bleeding time now, so there won’t be a scandal.”
“Good,” Tamar said. That was her final word.
Tamar took her last breath — or so she thought. But in death, she found that she was breath.
She was the gentle breeze sweeping from her mouth as her lifeless body was put in the ground.
From the sky above their heads, she looked down and saw a small group of mourners. Judith was there. She was wearing her brown and white striped robe. It did not look like she was wearing her silver necklaces. A fat tear slid down her face, leaving a glistening trail. Judith was holding the hand of her youngest. She was now old enough to walk and to understand that the woman she had known as “Auntie” was no longer with them. But Tamar was not sad. She felt like herself — only like more of herself. She was the silence. Then she realized that someone else was with her. Aziz. (Her late pet camel) He had gone before her. He had died in the last growing season. She had made arrangements to leave Azizi (the baby camel she adopted when she was still alive) to Tabitha who had matured and was more of an animal person. When she was still living, Tamar had thought of Aziz every day. Now she felt a soft furry breeze next to her. They were together again. She caressed the face of the mourners. She lingered for a moment on Judith’s tear stained cheek. Then, in a gust, she took off across the desert. She had places to go.
Her first stop was the marketplace. She had told Tabitha not to tell Naomi that she was dying.RandN 4 stained glass
She only saw Naomi when she went to her tent to make the camel cheese. But they had struck up a friendship. Naomi’s daughter-in-law Ruth was left on her own when Naomi’s son had died.
Naomi had confided to Tamar that she loved Ruth. The famine was still bad in the land, and Naomi feared that Ruth might starve since she was on her own. Tamar had known that Ruth was fretting, and that was why she forbade Tabitha to tell Naomi that she was dying.
Tamar was a breeze blowing through the marketplace. She wanted to caress Naomi’s rough face, to thank her quietly for bringing her Azizi and for teaching her to make the camel cheese. But most of all, she wanted to thank Naomi for being a friend. A friend was hard to come by in the harsh desert. But Naomi’s stall in the marketplace was empty. So Tamar flew to her tent and found that she could slip inside the flap.
Naomi was still small and stooped. Tamar recognized her black and white striped robe. But it was no longer new. Time had left it in tatters. Ruth had aged too. Tamar had been right about Naomi’s skin. It had become brown and crinkled like the skin of an almond.
Ruth was beseeching Naomi: “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
The two women embraced.
“I will think of a plan,” said Naomi, in her gravelly voice, “so that we can be together.”
The younger woman looked at Naomi with shining eyes. Tamar saw that they loved each other as lovers. The two women began caressing each other so tenderly that they looked like they might create a daughter.

 

 

With They: A Biblical Tale of Secret Genders, author Janet Mason posits that there could have been a hidden tribe of intersex children, kept under the radar by a pair of savvy twin sisters. Matriarchs Tamar and Tabitha can set the record straight on biblical heroes like Joseph and Jesus, along with other miracles of conception and reincarnation they’ve had to keep to themselves. — Windy City Times

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