Why We Named the Boat Sophia

We expected to give our new boat a new name, but this one seemed just right. Sophia (σοφία) means wisdom in Greek and Sophia is the name of the goddess and creator who appears in the Bible as the co-founder of the universe.

14.25_Sophia_(Wisdom)_in_the_Celsus_Library_in_Ephesus
Personification of wisdom (in Greek, “Σοφία” or “Sophia”) at the Celsus Library in Ephesus, Turkey.

In Proverbs 8, Wisdom speaks:

I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.

24 When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.

25 Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:

26 While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.

27 When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:

28 When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:

29 When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth:

30 Then I was by him, as one brought up with him:

The Greek noun sophia is the translation of “wisdom” in the Greek Septuagint for Hebrew חכמות, Ḥokmot or chokma.      Plato taught that philosophy is the friend (philo) of wisdom (sophy).  To create, to do or know anything, one requires wisdom, which Plato regarded as something beyond mere human inventions and constructions.  Hildegard von Bingen, the great medieval mystic and composer, regarded Sophia, or Sapientia, in Latin, as the divine, undying source of existence. In Hinduism, the goddess Durga,mother of all things, is also believed to be outside of time.  These ancient concepts of wisdom are not unlike Buddhist notions of the dharma, or the way, as a knowing that cannot be expressed in words, an awareness of what is that comes through meditation.

Below, Karen Clark sings Hildegard’s beautiful hymn to Sapientia:

O virtus Sapientie

Antiphon for Divine Wisdom (R 466rb) by Hildegard of BingenBack to Table of Contents

O virtus Sapientie,
que circuiens circuisti,
comprehendendo omnia
in una via que habet vitam,
tres alas habens,
quarum una in altum volat
et altera de terra sudat
et tercia undique volat.
Laus tibi sit, sicut te decet, O Sapientia.
O Wisdom’s energy!
Whirling, you encircle
and everything embrace
in the single way of life.
Three wings you have:
one soars above into the heights,
one from the earth exudes,
and all about now flies the third.
Praise be to you, as is your due, O Wisdom.

Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.

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Author: Kimberly Latta, Ph.D.

Psychotherapist, writer, artist, and independent feminist scholar.

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