First, let me say that I loved this movie. I have seen it twice. First, purely for entertainment and the second time at the invitation of a friend who wanted my observations from a spiritual perspective.
The film is wonderful. Well written, well acted, well directed. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf are amazing! I laughed and I cried. Mostly, I was seamlessly lost in the story.
Yet, there are many spiritual lessons to be learned here. How is it that a priest has no one to turn to? How is it that the Mother Superior is still glowing after being married to Christ for 40 years? Forgiveness is a theme to be sure and also having the courage to live authentically.
We come from different spiritual traditions, my friend and I. Both of us Christian, Catholic and Protestant, we have both had exposure and training in other spiritual paths. What I came away with is something that I have yet to see mentioned in other blogs. Maybe those who would notice think it’s ordinary but religious/spiritual symbolism abounds on many levels and across traditions and history in this movie. Perhaps they too were caught up in the experience as I was and need to see it again to look closer. There is much more than can be mentioned in this blog post!
Symbols as words, numbers, names and colors. They all have meaning in our lives whether we actively realize it or not and it applies to Lady Bird as well.
This blog is not a piece of religious or filmmaking scholarship, merely my observations of watching the movie more closely a second time.
The title character is Christine (birth name) AKA “Lady Bird” (chosen name). Christine perhaps Christ-ine, and “Lady Bird”, a creature more commonly known in the U.S. as a “Lady Bug”. The Lady (Lady’s) Beetle was once thought to be sacred to the Virgin Mary, some scholars would even go so far to claim that it was her intermediary on Earth and her most favored creature. Interesting for a young woman who is a rebel and refuses communion, then again the real Mary wouldn’t have participated in communion at least not until after the death of her son, Jesus.
“Lady Bird” attends Immaculate Heart of Mary High School, against her wishes. She would rather go to public school but her parents are paying for Catholic HS in order to protect their daughter from possible violence at the public school as witnessed by Lady Bird’s brother, Miguel (Michael). The fact that it’s Immaculate Heart of Mary and not Sacred Heart of Jesus is just as important as is Lady Bird’s chosen appellation and the fact that her biological mother is named “Marion”.
Lady Bird’s favorite house, the one she wishes she lived in, belongs to the grandmother of her first boyfriend, Daniel. Daniel is indeed in a lion’s den situation as he is the oldest son in a very Irish-Catholic family and has yet to come out to them as a gay man.
Grandma’s house is large but homey inside. Grandma likes Lady Bird. Symbolically, Grandma’s house is blue and white, the colors of the Blessed Mother. Lady Bird also brings roses to Thanksgiving dinner as a gift for Grandma. Roses are another symbol considered sacred to Mother Mary.
Grandma’s lives on 44th street and her house number is 1224. 12/24 is Christmas Eve, the designated date of Mary’s work in birthing the Christ child. Adding the digits 1224 will give you a reduction to 9. If one is interested in numerology, 9 carries the vibration of altruism and spiritual evolution. Both are Mary themes. Nine also signals the near end of a cycle and Lady Bird is getting ready to graduate.
The house is located on 44th Street. The number 4 magnified. The 4 directions, 4 cardinal points on the compass AKA 4 corners of the Earth, 4 seasons of the year, 4 Archangels mentioned in the old testament, the number 4 contains the entire physical world, the setting of Earth. The number 44 is, in some traditions, considered the number of the Master Healer, the Great Physician.
Lady Bird’s address is 1067, 14 Temperance, all things in moderation, alchemy, and stirring things up which she does! Her house is yellow, the color of the solar plexus chakra, the center of confidence, authenticity and self-esteem.
Add in that she lives in Sacramento, which really is the place the director grew up, and well, there are Sacraments in Christianity. Sacraments add Spirit to major rights of passage in our Earthly life and this might explain why Lady Bird wears a pentacle necklace in many scenes in the movie along with a peace sign, which in and of itself has many other meanings from its use in ancient runes to propaganda in WWII.
Personally, I like the pentacle, is a symbolic representation of humans on the planet. The elements of Air, Fire and Water combine to create the composite element Earth, add in humans and you no longer have 4 elements. The fifth element is Spirit and you have “change” which is the usual theme of “5”. So the pentacle or 5 pointed star represents the abundance of the earthly realm, the below when we think of the world of “below” in “as above, so below” or “on earth as it is in heaven”. I use it as a symbol for my musical work and perhaps I’ll write more on it another time. 🙂
Lady Bird has red (pink) hair. Legend says true witches have red hair so she’s again being a heretic in her own way. Red hair, pentacle and the bird headed goddess on her school election poster, she’s my kind of teenager. The added goddess imagery here, Isis and Inanna were both “bird” goddesses, as was the great “Ma” mother of all creation. Christian spirituality is also riddled with bird imagery, notably doves. One would be remiss to speak of a human with a bird head without mentioning Thoth, Egyptian God of wisdom, writing and magic.
What also caught my eye were the signs passed along the road near end of movie, The Tower, The Raven (crow), these are places in Lady Bird’s home town. Does seeing the Tower represent sudden change as it would if it were a the tarot card, life altering change, a lightening flash of spiritual awakening? The crow, a bird with foresight, associated with crossing realms, shaman often dispatch a crow totem to see into the future.
At the end, Lady Bird enters First Presbyterian Church in Greenwich Village and rather than sit in a pew she climbs the stairs and listens to the choir sing. Music is a catalyst for spiritual transformation. When she leaves, she calls home and ends the phone call by using the name her parents gave her, Christine. She, Lady Bird, Lady Beetle, is reborn again to another version of herself, the transformative cycle of life in action.
There is more, this is just some of what I noted while watching at the request of my friend. As I said, this is far from a scholarly blog post, it is merely some of my observations at the time and what they meant to me. I was blessed to watch this movie twice, once as a participant, totally immersed in the experience of the film, and then again as a watcher which expanded my enjoyment as I saw more threads of meaning woven together.
This week, I ask you to be a bit of a watcher, this doesn’t mean sit on the sidelines or to be disconnected from your feelings, it means be mindful, look for those signs that may have previously blown right past you, they contain Magic.
If Magic is the ability to see what others don’t, then Magic is paying attention.
Blessings of the season of light to all! And a Happy New Year!