The Creative Power of a Feminine Voice:
Pomegranate flower essence and Montserrat Figueras,
Archetypal Character Study:
Editor's note: Archetypes are universal forces originating at the highest levels of creation to shape the physical world of Nature as well as the human soul. Larger than a single “thing,” they are the prototypes or patterns that emanate from the spiritual world and are revealed in symbols, images, gestures, energetic patterns and qualities in both nature and human culture. The ability to become articulate in this language is a fundamental practitioner skill in flower essence therapy. Following is an archetypal character study written by Lola Ferrer as part of her requirements for the FES Certification Program, under the tutelage of Ricardo Mateos in Spain.
The vibration of Pomegranate essence
The healing effect of the Pomegranate flower essence has to do with feminine creativity and the power of the feminine soul in all its life-stages. For women to reach the balance between their natural impulse to procreate and the pressure to fit into a demanding, competitive culture results in a very hard struggle: finding balance between the wish to express creativity in opposing spheres, in the inner sphere of home and family without sacrificing the powerful impulse to make a creative mark in the outside world, is a hard, lifelong task. In Patricia Kaminski’s words “those who attempt to balance both possibilities, may feel that their energies are drained and compromised, so that neither role provides full, creative satisfaction.”1
Nature has endowed women with a multi-faceted range of creative expression, and choosing the right path, focusing, and at the same time avoiding the “inner confusion and turmoil”2 among so many possibilities and torn desires, may act as a drain and end up in disconnection, dissatisfaction and a feeling of failure. Woman has to keep her inner connection and remain in touch with her inner experience of power and passion, using it not to compete with men nor to efface herself, maintaining her active receptivity, a willingness to give and receive. It is crucial for women to recognise their unique kind of creative intelligence, based on intuition, sensibility and emotion. Pomegranate essence promotes “conscious alignment with the feminine creative self, so that a woman can see more clearly her right destiny and choices.”3 Pomegranate essence can help women at all stages of their development and cycles to remain consciously aligned with their inner creative core and “connected to the Mother-Spirit-of Love in all that it gives to the world.”4
It is not very often that we come across real people who embody flower essence archetypes as clearly as Montserrat Figueras has both in her private life and in her art as a singer and musician. Montserrat passed away last November 23rd. 2011, leaving an endlessly rich legacy in her chosen art field, Early Music, as a world - wide recognised researcher, teacher and performer. But she also gave generously of herself not only on stage but also in everyday life supporting her husband and children, with family, friends, a great number of acquaintances and the fond audiences who follow the work of her husband the viola player and musician Jordi Savall, and the several Ensembles they both created.
I see her as a successful example of the wonderful gift of the Pomegranate essence: the ability to combine the feminine qualities of creative artist without giving up her genuine nurturing soul as inspiring muse, wife and mother. Versatile and immensely curious, she was actively productive in the outside world and also as an individual with a unique inner spiritual life—an accomplishment she did not give herself credit for but which was evident to those of us who were lucky enough to be touched by the light that shone through her singing and her radiant presence. As she grew in years and wisdom she realised how little that creative inner light of women had been truly appreciated, especially in the field of music.
In her album “Lux Feminae”, a homage to women of all centuries, she clearly states:
“Lux Feminae is a homage to the light of Woman. Having sung of that light so long through music and poetry, I naturally became aware that it has not always been free to shine. Lux Feminae is also a story with music about women and an invocation to femininity as the key to he spiritual world.”
“Lux feminae is a hymn to the place of woman through history, focusing on her aspects of light: mysticism, sensuality, motherhood, love, lament, rejoicing and wisdom. Women sing the story of humanity, celebrating the beauty and possibility of being sweet as honeycomb on the tongue, celebrating mystical love, the fruitful womb and the tender breast that nurtures God: celebrating the experience of giving birth, of motherhood and nursing a child; the gift and duty of transmitting life, teaching and being teachers of life, celebrating the experience of joy, even in the midst of grief and loss. All the protagonists of the poems and songs in Lux feminae embody and bear witness to that light.”5
The qualities of richness and female fecundity associated with the healing and balancing effect of the Pomegranate flower essence can be deduced from the signature of the Pomegranate plant.
When we mention Pomegranate or think about it, what first comes to mind is not the flower itself, but the image of the FRUIT, for there are few essences in the whole California set which so clearly bring to mind the idea of exuberance and plenty that fruit has always carried, so we could say that Pomegranate is naturally associated with fruitfulness and fulfilment. The Pomegranate (Punica granatum)—one of the oldest known fruit trees—is a rosacea mentioned in very ancient texts, the Bible and the Koran, and always symbolically related to richness and fertility. The origin of the word Granatum comes from “grains”, since the “granatum pome” or apple, is bursting with a multiplicity of seeds from 200 to 1400, thinly separated in clusters by a veil. It is native of Persia, the Middle East, and spread to all Mediterranean countries, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco Italy and Spain where even a town in Andalusia gets its name, Granada, from the fruit. Its etymology is related to the gemstone word “garnet”, the deep red colour of seeds and juice. So we see that both abundance of seeds and colour intensity may point again to blood, generation, vitality and creative power.
The Pomegranate tree is strong, not very tall, with a profusion of strong bright leaves, and magnificent powerful crimson-red flowers, strong and full of stamens, from which the essence is made. The tree develops two kinds of flowers, male, -sterile-, and hermaphrodite, so the flowers are usually self-pollinated (a reference to the feminine ability to generate from woman’s innermost core) though they can also be cross-pollinated.
The seeds inside the round and well-protected fruit of the Pomegranate (ovary-shaped and tightly packed) grow in clusters separated by thin veils (setting of boundaries) a symbol of union in multiplicity. The juice has a pleasant refreshing taste and has quite a significant amount of healing and hygienic properties, antioxidants, folic acid, potassium and anti-inflammatory flavonoids. It has been recently discovered that it is one of the few plants in nature known to contain the sex steroid, estrone. So, modern medicine may be giving scientific proof of the qualities that popular lore and literature have always attributed to the fruit: a fertility enhancer. It is called “nature’s power fruit.”
Pomegranate flower essence is often used in reproductive disorders to help women connect with their ability to conceive, to procreate.
It is not only in nature and in the signature of the plant that we can see the mark of fertility. In culture, classical references to Pomegranate are countless. Since ancient times, it has always represented the womb of woman, rich with countless seeds. In ancient Greece, Hera and Aphrodite, were the goddesses of fertility and love, often depicted with Pomegranate.
According to Greek mythology, the power of the fruit is so strong that it symbolizes the promise of resurrection: Rea, Dionysos’ grandmother, gave him a cup of its juice to bring him back to life after having been torn to pieces by the Titans. Another well-known myth related to Pomegranate is the Myth of Persephone, Demeter’s daughter, who having been raped by the god Hades and taken to the underworld was turned from an innocent girl into a fertile woman by eating only seven seeds of the fruit. Persephone is the symbol of woman giving birth to her real self, something Pomegranate essence can help develop.
In Rome, brides used to wear a headdress made of Pomegranate branches. And in Judeo-Christian tradition it is a symbol of exuberance, a symbol of the promised land with its riches, together with grapes and figs. (Numbers, 13,23). Pomegranate is also mentioned three times in the Koran as a symbol of the earth’s richness and as a gift of Allah.
Inner spiritual generation can also be represented through the fruit. The Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross, in his “Cántico espiritual” sees divine perfection in the Pomegranate fruit, with its countless effects. The roundness enclosing the seeds is an expression of divine eternity and the sweetness of the juice, similar to that of the soul that knows and loves God.
Another great poet, Federico García Lorca uses the image of the fruit as a metaphor for the countless stars in the sky:
So we see the rich and wide spectrum of Pomegranate, as a flower essence, as a fruit, and even as an ancient and eternal symbol of the fertility of woman as a living representative of Mother-Spirit of Love. Montserrat Figueras’s life mirrors the struggle of a creative woman to incarnate that feminine power both in body and spirit.
Montserrat was born in Barcelona on 15th March 1942 – a triple Pisces, with Sun, Moon and Ascendant in this sign full of sensitivity, but also flexible and resilient. Hers was a very musical family, and from an early age she knew that she wanted to follow a creative call to the arts, and live a life of fullness in every sense. Although originally she planned to be an actress and a dancer, and in her own words “could not see” [herself] “singing” she began studying music and joined Ars Musicae, a renowned early music ensemble. Choosing singing as her artistic option was not easy, for it was a world, according to her own words “full of refinement but extremely demanding for the voice.”
The music world attracted her because it was “humanistic, and at the centre of all times in relation to the sciences” and it demanded “a great amount of passion, a spirit full of emotion, and the working together of body and mind.”7
It was there that she met an outstanding viola player, Jordi Savall, fell in love and began a relationship that would last all her life, becoming an indispensable companion to the man and the musician. Both were interested in perfecting their musical studies on Early music and they moved to Basel in Swizterland to the Music Academy and Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, which has a wonderful Musical Library.
There they continued with their research, among a group of teachers and students who with scarce means were interested in revitalising ancient music, going back to the sources, and giving the world the old sounds performed with ancient instruments while finding “new aesthetics, away from old referents, a new way of singing the old annotated musical texts”. Also, early vocal music was in need of a new stylistic and technical approach, and “among the young singers involved in this search Montserrat was acclaimed to be one of the most fascinating new voices.”8 This was the start of what would become the Early Music revival movement.
She married Jordi in 1968 and until their first child, Arianna, was born in 1972, she was able to devote herself entirely to her art. But she had always longed to be a mother and express herself through a family, and Arianna was a very much welcomed and loved child. Passionate as she was, now she longed to give herself entirely to her daughter. Time, psyche, knowledge, social life and values were then put to the service of motherhood. This moment of life, with all its ambivalence, pushed her to overcome obstacles while trying to harmonize individual needs with external professional demands.
The gift of Pomegranate to balance and integrate both needs, art and motherhood, helped her to be present as a mother without neglecting her child. She often took her to concerts and tours, so it is not surprising that Arianna, herself a gifted artist, has nowadays become an extraordinary singer and harpist. Seven years later Ferran, her son, was born, but by this time she had already learned how to harmoniously blend her different creative aspects and needs.
Montserrat often mentioned Clara Schummann, a mother of eight who had to give up her career for a long time. Though those were “difficult times” because she “wanted to give everything as a mother, and keeping both roles was a big effort,” on the whole she “enjoyed it enormously.”9 For Monstserrat, raising her children was a joyful creative task, teaching them music whenever possible and choosing schools that promoted a holistic approach to education. It is not surprising that both Arianna and Ferran have not only turned into original artists with a personal voice, but also into mature young people.
Her husband Jordi was a great help, realising how much she needed to fulfil both roles. They made a good team on stage and at home, and he could not do without her.
By this time, according to a musical critic they had evolved their joint technique to a point where ”the same musical phrase was circulating between the voice and the viola”, the impression they created was that “Jordi’s viola was literally singing while Montserrat’s voice produced exactly the same effects of projecting the sound as if she possessed some miraculous way of transforming her vocal chords into bowed strings.”10
For her, creativity at home and in the world were not in conflict. She could easily flow from one area to the other with great simplicity, being naturally creative in both. One of her greatest abilities was to be always in touch with her intuition and her feminine instinct, so she knew what was right both in life and in music in a very natural way.
She was praised for not being purely intellectual or academic, for having technical discipline and a spontaneous approach to interpretation: “Her face becomes the mirror of emotional tension in each text conveying joy and sorrow, desire and devotion, passion and melancholy, excitement and serenity.” And the same could be said of her voice “with its blend of warmth and transparency it can support the whole gamut of human emotion.”
In 1974, Jordi and Montserrat, together with musicians Lorenzo Alpert and Hopkinson Smith formed Hesperion XX, (renamed Hesperion XXI in 2000) an ensemble focusing mainly on the music of 16th and 17th Century Spain, but open to reinterpreting all kinds of Late Middle Ages Music, from Mediterranean origin, Sephardite songs, Monteverdi madrigals, Early romantic canzonnetas, traditional Catalan songs, or music from the Magreb to the Balkans, from the Near East to the trobadours of the French Midi.
One of Montserrat’s greatest gifts was her ability to bring to reality her deep longing for beauty and harmony, clinging to the ideal and the belief that the common origin of music has the power to unite all cultures and is a great medium to bring about peace and harmony. Montserrat was always an eager researcher and vocal performer, always trying to recreate, through our present-day technique the sounds of the old Spanish, “tañer con buen ayre”, “rezitar cantando” or the Italian “imitare colla voce qui suona.”
Later on they created the “Capella Real de Catalunya” and “Le Concert des Nations”, where she was always the leading voice. They were responsible for the musical soundtrack of the film “Tous les matins du Monde”, (1991) a story about the viol player Marquis de Sainte Colombe and the musician Marin Marais. It was a global success that remained on the lists of the top ten for many weeks, the first time this kind of record had become so popular that they almost became “superstars” of early music.
For many years she was Jordi’s inspirer and close assistant and their paths appeared almost undifferentiated, but by mid-life, with their children already grown up and living again in Catalonia, she felt the need to listen to the voice of a more personal calling.
She was growing aware of how easy it was for her to fulfil the needs of husband, family and those around her while neglecting her own. She felt satisfied but still she needed to explore more deeply her own personal, individual feminine creativity, to tap the sacred energy enclosed in the soul of woman. She started teaching herself psalterium technique, an old instrument with which she would accompany herself in many of her performances. It was time for a shift in consciousness pointing to a self-affirming choice.
Patricia Kaminski places Pomegranate essence in the Jupiter MetaLevel, that area in-between the personal and the global, where the needs of the self merge with the service to society. In one of Montserrat’s best loved songs, the “Cant de la Sibil.la” a Xth. Century religious song, a recurring sentence states “El dia del Judici, parrà qui haurà fet servici”: On judgment day, those who have served will be saved.” I believe that was one of her mottos: that her task was of some use to the world.
She had recorded Monteverdi, Tarquino Merula, Sephardite songs, and many others as a soloist. But she had also gone through a severe voice crisis, which had her searching and finding new ways of using her vocal possibilities, and she started feeling the need to work not only on joint projects with her husband and their Ensembles but also to create and materialise her own works. So, her first personal project album, “Ninna Nanna” was born.
[For more discussion of the MetaLevels, please read here.]
When Alia Vox, Jordi and Montserrat’s record label was created in 1998 she could put all her strength into a much desired compilation of lullabies from all times and Mediterranean origin, Hebrew, Berber, Greek, Portuguese… She loved to sing lullabies because they were ”our first human language.”
For Montserrat, a lullaby is a feminine creation, the first medium through which “affection and tenderness” are expressed. The very core of Pomegranate essence, the ability to create directly from motherly love a piece of art for the child that appears in every culture. It is like “food to the young child, lulling him to placid restoring sleep, transporting him into a dream world of peace, beauty and love” “The intimacy of the moment creates a space rich in ancestral symbols, in which words and music create a bond of pure emotion and truth.”
The lullaby is also a powerful means of transmitting through emotion, it is the “language of the heart” because ”It is in this space that the child experiences his first dialogue, his first story, his first contact with the teachings of tradition, experience and culture, which over time build into an essential part of our collective memory.”11
For Montserrat, being open to possibilities and creativity was a daily task. She felt that it was a woman’s unique gift to be able to harmonise different or conflicting personalities in a musical ensemble or in a family. She had already experienced that ability with musicians from different cultures, Jewish, Arab, Greek or Spanish, helping them share the same stage, mixing their styles.
She had the ability to feel the flow of time without sharp breaks and use it to blend diversity in unity, mirroring the multiplicity of seeds inside the Pomegranate fruit, the thin veils separating the clusters. So another well-loved project was a family album called “Du temps et de l’instant” in which the four members of her family participate, enhancing the “ability” of music “to promote dialogue and harmony.” By then, their children Arianna and Ferran had become mature musicians, with clearly differentiated personalities merging harmoniously together.
Lux Feminae, her most personal album, an “homage to the light of Woman” issued in her early sixties, and it was the project that made her feel proud to place her little grain of sand in the retrieval of long lost songs and the recognition of the long-forgotten creative capacities of women, not always accepted in a male-oriented society. That light in women that has not always been “free to shine.”
She focuses on seven aspects of women in ancient Hesperia (the old Latin word for the Spanish and Italian peninsulas), the Femina Antiqua, the Femina Nova, the Femina Ludica, the Femina Mystica, the Femina Amans, the Femina Mater and the Femina Gemens. She is not only the singer but also the thorough researcher and exquisite writer. All of these aspects she had lived and experienced, it was not just theoretical for her, and as the critic Paul Griffits said, her voice had the “phenomenal ability to make ancient song come alive in the present.”
Her experience in creating this album was of extreme concentration. She realized she had to have space for herself to access a type of creation that demanded technical abilities, deep research and spiritual dedication. She managed to have a little wooden house built in her garden to shelter from the pressure of external demands and give birth to that special cd-book.
In Femina Antiqua she rescues the role of the wise woman as prophetess and priestess in the “Song of the Sibyl”. This ancient mystical and apocalyptical song was performed on Christmas Eve in the 9th and 10th centuries, and the light of the ancient mediterranean sibyls “continues to live on in the female voice and figure.” Thanks to her work, its many ancient versions have been rescued and are still sung in their original language and tune.
In Femina Nova she revives a new generation of women poets in Occitania around 1200, the “trobairitz” who “acquired initiative and a voice of their own, expressing their feelings and love in a freer, bolder way.” Femina Ludica, gathers together anonymous “villancicos,” a large corpus of songs “in the female voice,” allowing us to imagine a “possible female creative presence, since the woman is the narrator and protagonist.”
In Femina Mistica she reinterprets music from the female Cistercian monasteries and texts of Saint Teresa of Avila, conveying “an exquisite inner world of pure feminine fragility and an intensely passionate experience of faith.” Femina Amans evokes the atmosphere of the Arab courts of Al-Andalus, where “both poetry and music were cultivated and where women as the embodiment of intimacy, beauty, sensuality and feminine mystery became emboldened and aware of their creative power.”
Femina Mater is a homage to maternity, the Virgin-Mother, but also to Demeter, Mother Earth, Gaia who “nurtures us” for “she as woman and mother is the source of all life.”
Femina Gemens expresses the “planh”, or “lament”, a medieval song of sorrow used to keep the memory alive of the beloved or departed.
All these women she had experienced, all of them she became, because her voice could reflect and mirror all these feelings with a powerful depth of emotion: ”with its unique blend of warmth and transparency, it can support the whole gamut of emotion, while expressing each nuance of the meaning of the poem.”12
Together, Figueras and Savall made a great creative couple, and their task was recognised more than once. In 2003 she was made officer of the French Order of Arts and Letters, and then commander. In 2008 she was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace together with her husband, in recognition for her immense sensitivity towards the problems of global peace, the rights of women and the diffusion of culture.
In 2011, she was awarded the “Creu de sant Jordi” from the government of Catalonia for her work towards the rediscovery of early music. The same year they were also awarded a Grammy for the CD-book “The Borgia Dynasty.”
Montserrat never ceased searching, learning and working, never stopped listening to her inner voice, a calling to fulfil her own creative need and give it to the world at large. By the end of 2010 she had made more than 60 recordings. In 2011 during her illness and in her discreet style of “silent fame” she recorded her last two works, “La Sublime Porte”, music from Istanbul, and the cd-book “Mare Nostrum.” What better legacy that her “inimitable sound—keening and precise, passionate and dark-toned,” a sound that can accompany us forever.
Her search for spirituality, for remaining true to her inner voice, was also visible in many areas of her life, in the way she deeply connected with sacred spaces, especially to sing and record, such as the Abbaye of Fontfroide in France or the Colegiata of Cardona in Spain. Also through her connection with the “contemplative state” evoked by ancient music, the search for “the music of the spheres” and in her friendly and devoted relationship to philosopher Raimon Panikkar, a guiding light in her life until he passed in 2010.
In one of her interviews on radio, when she was asked about the future, her answer was that she wanted to follow her inner “guiding thread” and “try to find what is infinite and best” in herself so as to “share and transmit it through music and the musical word.”14
After her death, Alia Vox, the record label Figueras and Savall founded in 1998, said: ‘Her honesty and insightful connection with different cultures in her approach to music are an interpretative tower of strength, in which beauty and spirituality have always been the heart and soul of her existence.”15
Jordi, her husband, in her goodbye ceremony, said he had had “the privilege of sharing 45 years of fecund and intense life with her.” She had been “friend, companion, lover, mother, muse, teacher and exceptional counsellor in all moments”16 of their existence.
I would like to close with a simple, evident fact: Montserrat loved dark-red “garnet” colour. She had so deeply tapped into the fecundity of her Pomegranate essence that she instinctively felt the need to be in touch with its power. She always used to wear something in garnet hue, especially onstage. And that was a colour that suited her immensely.
The color of Pomegranate, the color of nourishing feminine power, was, and is, in the words of Patricia Kaminski “impregnating the World with the Spirit-Mother of Love”17 through her art, her voice and her presence.
I became acquainted with Montserrat in 1996, when she came for the first time for an astrological session.
She was soon interested in getting some help from flower essences, which she took with some interruptions from 1998 until 2011 when she left us. She always referred to flower therapy as the “drops with light.” Essences were a favorite with her, and Pomegrate was often in her formula.
This archetypal character study is my homage to her, her wonderful ability to connect with people, to create magic with her voice and to her humanity. I was lucky to share with her many moments of infinite beauty.
Thanks so much, Montserrat!About Lola Ferrer
Lola Ferrer is a practicing astrologer, certified by the Astrological Faculty of London and the Huber School of Astrological Psychology. She started studying astrology in 1981 and since then she has strived to find a more integrative and wider perspective of the meaning and purpose of astrology as related to psychology and healing.
1Patricia Kaminski Flower Essence Repertory - Pomegranate essence
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