The Agonies and Ecstasies Of Erotic Love: Āṇṭāḷ and Hadewijch on the Divine-Human relationship

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Charlotte Radler and Tracy Sayuki Tiemeier. (2022). The Agonies and Ecstasies Of Erotic Love: Āṇṭāḷ and Hadewijch on the Divine-Human relationship: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 22(2), 85–105. Retrieved from


In this article, we examine comparatively the dynamics of the divine-human relationship through the category of erotic love. Rather than depending on the Western categories of erotic and affective mysticism, we use as our lens the 9th-century South-Indian Hindu poet-saint, Āṇṭāḷ, and her loving surrender to her divine cowherd Lover, Kṛṣṇa. Taking the voice of the legendary cowherd lovers of Kṛṣṇa, Āṇṭāḷ speaks as a lover in painful separation. A previous experience of union has left her wasted and desperate for her divine Lover, Kṛṣṇa. She cajoles, demands, and even threatens Kṛṣṇa to “break open her womanhood” and quench her desire. The Minnemystiek (“love mysticism”) of 13th-century Dutch Christian poet-visionary, Hadewijch of Brabant, also describes the oscillation between agony and ecstasy of desire (begheerte): in a frenzy, Hadewijch devours Christ’s body; Christ and Hadewijch penetrate,
pleasure, and satisfy each other; Hadewijch experiences abjection, despair, and death, as she hungers and thirsts for her absent Lover. Our comparison of the agonies and ecstasies of human love for the divine reveals the different ways in which both women undo binaries and claim authority. It also questions Western scholarship of mysticism that depends on the very binaries Āṇṭāḷ and Hadewijch

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