For the woman of Judges 19

I’m currently taking a class which focuses on sex, gender and power in the Bible. I admit that at first, I anticipated that this class would be boring – I do sometimes fall into the pagan habit of being dismissive of the Abrahamic faiths. But I must admit, once I got back into it I began enjoying the discussion, particularly from my perspective now as an adult feminist. My professor is very insightful, as well as having a near exhaustive memory for finding the chapter and verse of whatever story I half remember at the moment.

I read the Bible cover to cover, once, in my teens, and apparently forgot quite a bit of it – or never really processed it in the first place. I did not recall the story of Judges 19 (links to the NSRV text we are using in class), or perhaps I confused it with Sodom and Gomorrah, which makes sense – the story has similar themes. In both, visitors to a city were in the home and under the protection of a towns member, in both the male visitors were threatened with rape by a crowd of men, and in both women (3/4 of which were specifically virgin daughters of the protectors) were offered to the rapacious crowed in lieu of the men.

However unlike Sodom and Gomorrah, where the strangers were angels of the God of Abraham who struck the would be rapists blind, in Judges one of those women was actually handed over to the crowd.

That woman, the wife of the Levite who was visiting the city, is violently sexually assaulted by the men through out the night, and is found in the morning, bloodied and laying on the ground with her hand on the step out side the door. Her husband orders her to get up, and she cannot, either already dead at this point or gravely injured. He puts her on a donkey, and when home, dismembers her body into 12 pieces, which he sends to the tribes of Israel to show the slight against him by the Benjamites.

This woman is never named, not once. She is at best known as “the Levite’s Concubine“, and her rape and death are the inciting incident of the Benjamite War.

Because we are focusing on power and gender, a big part of our class discussion was the fact that this woman was never given a name, any description of her, nor any idea of her motivations and feelings. This a theme throughout the Bible, where we also find many texts that contain women, but which do not contain the stories of (many) women.

Even the art created of this story tends to objectify the woman – there are paintings of her raped body propped up against the door, draped across the step, over the back of the donkey, being dismembered (including an image from the middle ages which included details of her disembowelment) and even a Lego version, but very few of the woman alive or with any dignity.

I did not want to depict her that way. The image attached to this post is not specifically the woman of Judges – it is art from the #SheToo series of the Bible Society Podcast, a 7 part series discussing stories of violence against women in the Bible. The 4th episode discusses this story and provides some excellent context for the actions and set up in the Judges text.

As a feminist, as a woman, as a non-binary person and as a victim of sexual violence, I was furious at this text (lets be real, most of the stories we’ve read in this class have made me angry, but this one was particularly upsetting.) Its clear from the reading that this is not a good or laudable action – her death leads to a civil war among the Hebrews and SO much rape and murder. The Judges texts are presenting a period of time when Israel had no king to lead and guide them, and this is an example of the things that happen when the land was lawless.

Yet still, its troubling. On the podcast #SheToo, they discuss these violent stories of women, and point out that despite the fact that these stories are in the Bible, they are not aspirational, but warnings of how not to behave. At the same time, some of these texts have been used to justify abhorrent behavior and beliefs, including sexual violence against women and supporting slavery.

On a personal level, I think it is important for us to bear witness too the lives and fates of these women, to remember them AS women, and not just as victims. This is why I was so pleased when our professor asked us to think about an obituary for this woman, and I felt moved to write this poem for her.

For the woman of Judges 19

Hail to the unnamed woman

Like Cassandra before you, your wisdom was ignored
You ran from one man to another
	Your patriarch plead your case to your man,
	and you were handed over to

Your master’s care and protection

(Such tender care) 

Like Iphiginia before you, so trusting of your father
bidding you to marry
and yet handing you over to brutality and death

(Like father, like son/-in-law)

And then from the frying pan to the fire
Your own man hands you off to save his own ass


Like so many women before you, in your abuse your voice was stolen
Your name erased and YOUR story untold
Except that you were angry, and you left

(How dare you?)

Like so many women after you, in your death your story was stolen
	Your death twisted and used as justification for war
		and more evil deeds to come.

Like so many women before you, the outcry against your treatment 
comes only at the end,
	and men call for the blood of your rapists
		but not the ones who handed you over to be raped.

		(may the blood on their hands and their paving stones never wash off)

I see you, woman
	I know you Sister,
		I will remember you as you were
		and I will tell your story as best I can.

(by Úlfdís, 2/2022)


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“For the woman of Judges 19” by Úlfdís is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


I am a woman waiting for an apocalypse
One day, my howling children will pluck the stars from the sky
They will consume their heavenly bodies
and shit stardust for Aftertimes.

I am a woman waiting for an apocalypse
One day my erstwhile lover will captain a ship of the Dead to battle
They will fight the einherjar; dead will fight dead will fight dead
and my lover will kill, and be killed by his old foe.

I am a woman waiting for an apocalypse,
One day, the sea will roil with rage, my serpentine child rearing up for Revenge
Their life will be lost,
but Thor will fall dead within Nine steps.

I am a woman waiting for an apocalypse,
One day, the Chaos I bore will free himself, eyes blazing, jaws wide to catch up
the One Eyed One, swallowed whole
before he himself is torn asunder

I am a woman waiting for an apocalypse
One day, my daughter will open the gates wide
She will welcome her siblings, and
the dead will march back down the Hel-road home again

I am a woman waiting for an apocalypse,
One day, the crowing of Fjalar will rouse my children to the final battle.
Then, all debts will be paid,
In full, and in Blood.

I am a woman, waiting for an apocalypse,
One day, all I have seen will come to pass.
I bide my time in the East, with my wild children,
honing the blade of my knife.

I am a Woman.
Waiting for the Apocalypse.

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Waiting by Úlfdís is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Of Lilith

I will be a hairy woman
like Lilith
and steal the seed of men
and leave them aching
for lack of sleep and untapped lust
I will fly through the desert,
the woods, across all the land
on my hair, and
scream horribly in the night.

-Úlfdís, 2018

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Of Lilith by Úlfdís is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

The Road to Hel


They say “The road to Hel is paved with good intentions.”


(And Intestines, the restless writhing mess,
it is paved with the teeth of the dead
from mouths made sour by words unsaid

Its paved with the sharp shins,
the straight spines shattered,
the knee of those who remain unbending

The Road to Hel is paved with the skulls of your enemies
If thy enemies are Cowardice, Shame and Fear
for it is that conquered road which will bring peace.

Its paved with the hands of many
untold ages, lifting you up
guiding you to a long Remembered place.

The Road to Hel is caked with the mud
of ten hundred thousand times ten thousand journeys
and the strange prints of those who came before.

Its lit with the stories
of the walks to this door:

“Life is a slow march towards Death”


“You have gone nowhere Someone hasn’t walked before”

and that on this road, is comforting.)


The Road to Hel is paved with good intentions.

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The Road To Hel by Úlfdís is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Gnosis, Wisdom, Knowledge

Ages ago, Odin set out to wander the Nine Worlds,
in search of knowledge, and he’s never stopped.
He hung from the Great Tree for Nine Nights,
to obtain the Runes.
When wise Mimir was beheaded,
Odin took the head, worked spells over it,
and kept it for counsel.
To He Who Guards the Well,
His eye he sacrificed to see all.
From the embrace of the daughter of Suttung,
he won back the stolen blood of Kvasir,
the gift of poets, of inspiration.
Against Vafthrdnir he wagered his life
that He knew, and Vafthrdnir is no more.
From her mound, Heith he raised
the wand wielding witch,
Volva brought forth to prophecy,
of the end, and the creation.
Queer things did Freya teach him,
when willingly He wove that wyrd,
seething and shaking in spā.
With Frigga he share his high seat,
and the fates of all men she leaves unspoken.
He who is frenzy wanders to this day,
Gangleri on the road, ever searching for more to know.

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Gnosis, Wisdom, Knowledge by Úlfdís is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

The First Lesson

By Maris Pái

The first lesson, She said, is to look at the path before you:
None of this eyes-downcasted fear. No more stomach-clenched dread
Of all the things you don’t and can’t know. Because, Little One,
all the things you don’t and can’t know are legion and I will not
have one of my own flinching at shadows. Look at your path
and do not cower. Square your shoulders and
lift your chin. Have you not realized your own strength by now?

There are as many paths to the Tree as there are stars in the sky:
it matters less which you choose than that you have chosen
and been chosen and that you continue to choose
to put one foot in front of the other and walk the road ahead of you.
Sometimes you will walk on razor-blades, each step an agonized trudge,
and sometimes you will run, eager to reach that which lies ahead, or
eager again to flee that which came before. The dragons you do not slay
may chase you down later and find you unguarded: Better to face them
the first time and not be tripped up later and find that the smoke ahead
is not a friendly bonfire or hearth but new immolation.

I am in the staff by your side and your backbone and your feet
and I am the falcon soaring high above, leading you to the rising sun
and dazzling your eyes when what your focus should be is the journey
and not the potholes.


The First Lesson: Maris Pái

HUGINN v1.2 Midsummer 2011; “The Work”