was born and raised in Germany and moved to the US when I was 19
a child in Germany, I always had a feeling of innocence, protection
and safety. The repetitive cycles of the customs and traditions
of the seasons gave me a feeling of assurance about continuance
could literally start my childhood story by saying "Once upon
a time I used to live behind the rolling hills of Franconia, tucked
away in a small village." There was almost a fairy-tale innocence
to that life.
is a nostalgic, almost romantic, atmosphere in places that are rich
in traditions, history and culture. It awakens the archetypes of
heroes and maidens, kings and queens and kingly knights whose purpose
is to fight evil with the honorable motive of a pure heart. This
pure heart – required for u2018servant-hood' instead of “ruling” – resonates
in the mythology, folk-songs, fairy tales and poems of my native
a child I always wanted to be a princess or a queen, because I'd
seen paintings and statues of them everywhere. One could not escape
history. The remnants of aristocratic rule are visible in every
town and city in Germany.
a city about 20 kilometers from where I grew up, is over 1000 years
old. Its German-Frankonian King was Heinrich II (1002 AD), who later
became the Protector and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (1014
AD). His stone coffin is still displayed in the cathedral he had
built, where he lies with his wife, Kunigunde. Picture relics displaying
their life stories are carved on every side of the coffin.
folklore is rich with stories about her life. She is depicted as
a caring "mother" for her citizens and as a woman who possessed
great wisdom. Heinrich and Kunigunde remained childless, which marked
the ending of the Ottonian dynasty.
which goes back to ancient times, has always been seen as a connection
between the earthly realm and the heavenly realm. As I researched
the origin of kingship, I found the underlying theme is that of
servant-hood: a guardian and protector over the land and its people,
one who has its best interest in his heart.
often felt a sort of reverence when I would visit a castle or fortress.
I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the symbols in paintings, tapestries
and statues that told the stories of Percival and the Holy Grail,
the trials and tribulation to save Christendom, the times of the
troubadours and the battles and wars fought in the name of the King.
felt the same when visiting a small chapel in the country or a big
cathedral in a city. Some of these buildings, over 1000 years old,
echo stories of their patriarchs and matriarchs in the artful paintings
on the ceilings and through the saintly figures carved in wood and
area I am from was settled by Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries
and had estate manors that still belong to the local diocese that
was under the jurisdiction of an apt or aptness. The monks or the
nuns were devoted to education and scholarly studies. Many of them
also farmed, but the majority of them took it as their responsibility
to educate the elite and later the commoner's children.
attended a boarding school when I was a teenager that was run by
the Franciscan nuns. The convent housed about 50 nuns and over 130
girls. If you ever wondered what angels sounded like, then the singing
voices of the nuns are close to it. They still give me a mysterious
chill down my spine when I think of their voices.
am mentioning the clergy because their influence was so visible
where I grew up. The clergy has always played a major role in Germany’s
history. The prince-bishops did not only have religious powers,
but also secular powers, and were obedient to the king.
always liked the monks, though. They are not only smart but also
funny. Maybe that's why they were good at brewing beer. Many of
them were scribes, craftsmen and great scholars, and were the u2018guardians'
over the arts of science and many ancient manuscripts. Some of them
made great contributions to mathematics, physics and astronomy.
knowledge they possessed was a sign of great power. Most of them
encouraged studies of different arts amidst a flourishing spirit
a child and young woman, I could not but wonder how life was like
and what it meant to people that lived during those times.
the early elementary school grades we had a subject called “Heimatkunde,”
where our teacher would take us out into the country and visit local
important historical sights and teach us about nature. I remember
one teacher in particular, Herr Marx (not to be confused with the
founder of Marxism). He was an older gentleman from Prussia, and
my fourth-grade teacher. I learned a lot from him.
would hike through the fields and woods to learn about the local
flowers and plants. We'd look for fossils, and he’d tell us the
names of every hill and mountain. He also took us to a place that
used to be a village that perished with the deadly plague during
the Middle Ages. And he would greatly go into the details of the
landlords of the "Scherenburg."
of it fascinated me. I couldn't help but activate my imagination
when Herr Marx would tell us of the legends of how knighthood got
started and how the knights became corrupt. I would try to imagine
what it used to look like 500 or even 900 years ago and how people
dressed and looked like back then in their armors and fine frocks.
the most intriguing question to me has always been how did this
get started? What did all the ceremonies and traditions really mean?
are many hardships the people had to endure over nine centuries.
This includes the many attacks by other dynastic successions, the
brutal peasant wars and the separation of Protestant and Catholic
that started the Thirty Year’s War. The atrocities committed during
these times range from horrible tortures to persecutions and starvations.
I am often surprised that people survived all these cruelties, not
to forget the loss of lives in the 20th Century.
age comes maturity and I have since learned that man will always
have to deal with the elements of good and evil within his own nature.
desire of seeing purity of heart in the leadership of people's Kings
and Queens is expressed in many stories and legends that showed
their divine strength in obedience and love for God, earthly power
through bravery and courage, and intelligence through wisdom. These
were symbolic expressions of a pure heart that came from a higher
source than the person's own earthly desires.
stories told of prosperity and well-being for the land and its people.
The Bible itself is full of these stories.
many paintings in Germany, the wooden reed shown in the hands of
saints, angels and kings is a sign of authority. It is also seen
in the royal scepter held by kings. It is the humble sign of servant-hood
bestowed upon a person of leadership. It is not to rule, but to
serve and govern.
these characteristics and symbols and stories have lost their meaning
nowadays, because we no longer believe in kings and queens. Their
spiritual meaning has been lost over time.
history can teach the lesson of what happens when a dignified position
to serve the people and its land gets abused through wrong motives
that lack the insight of wisdom. And only the application of wisdom
can bring forth the best in people.
personal experience growing up with this history has given me glimpses
into a rich and colorful past that show the downfall of each era
through greed and corruption by their leadership. The ruins of the
past were my backyard.
ancient times the holder of such a position of "servant-hood" was
usually a learned man who was able to abandon his narcissism and
desire to have power and control over others.
any man can re-connect to the true meaning of heroism, it will certainly
not include the show of power through force and might. He would
rule over chaos with wisdom, a kingly act indeed. He would bring
order to chaos.
is a wonderful tool to use for people of wisdom. It can teach wise
lessons to anyone who is willing to listen. When I read of all the
ancient empires that rose to great fame only to have a tragic ending,
I found there are aspects these nations had in common besides a
big — or the biggest — territory.
aspects are arrogance, disregard for human life (slavery and murder),
and an attitude to be a "ruler" rather than a "servant" over the
land and people that was given in their care.
Barnhart [send her mail]
moved to the US in 1980 and lives in Fort Worth, TX with
her three children. For the past 15 years she has been working for
an international service company.