Seven deadly sins

albrecht woman vienna.jpg

Seven. Deadly. Sins. Three little words that still send a shiver down spines but in today’s world what relevance do they have and do we still reference them in any meaningful way? The nature of sin itself is to be argued. As a performance artist and poet, my work can only ever be truthful. I have no censor. What must be spoken is spoken. Whether it be perceived as deadly or as a sin. My truth as a woman. A feminist. An artist. Am I committing a sin every time I write my truth? The wages of sin are death after all. Perhaps the deadlier the sin, the higher the price to pay. But doesn’t that make it all the more tempting and what exactly is a ‘sin’ these days?

The seven deadly sins were invented as a classification system. A way to catalogue man (and presumably woman’s) sin. Fundamentally Christian they were divided into the venial and the mortal. You can guess which was deemed worse. Either way the sins break down into seven key dastardly deeds – wrath, avarice, pride, lust, envy, sloth and gluttony. I thought it would be interesting to get under the skin of the sin to see what is really underneath these ancient definitions of the ‘worst’ that we do as humans – but of course with a feminist twist. After all, aren’t most of the sins of the world blamed on one woman – Eve? Or is it Mary Magdalene..

Wow and I’m not even religious in the traditional sense but what I am interested in is what the definition of a sin might be and the associations that go with this. For me as a woman and perhaps to all women who are judged on a daily basis by our actions. Are we ever given free reign to be ‘sinful’ as men are? I must begin by stating that I am stating my perspective as a white Caucasian European woman. This is my lived experience and my relationsip to ‘sin’ might be very different to women from other cultures or identities. I think that’s important to say and important to recognize.

A is for Avarice – not a word that is used in general conversation but is really just the old fashioned word for greed. But what are we greedy for – sex, money, belongings, experience? How do women manifest their greed? I’m not sure. When I think about my own life and what I might be greedy for then it has to be words. Time. Opportunities. Greed implies the inability to stop. To have control over ones desires. When I look back I can see that I was taught to control and temper responses. To behave. To be the good girl and not be greedy.

But is it the same for men? I think not. Boys are taught to go for it. Grab everything they can. Gorge on life. Be greedy. Does the last piece of cake go to the girl or the boy? Remember Gordon Gekko (no coincidence about the lizard connection)

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. ”

Can you imagine a woman saying that but how delicious if she did? And if we were more open about our greed would we achieve more success? But would this be considered ‘male’ success or female? Are these markers of success different or do we essentially want the same things – love, power, sex, money?

I’m not saying greed is good. Quite the opposite but I think that the messages we get as young women are so opposed to the messages that boys get that it can lead to some really damaging situations.

What I am discovering in exploring the sins is how similar they are – avarice, gluttony, lust, envy – all are interconnected in some way shape or form. But are they really sinful or just mutated, inflated aspects of how we behave as human beings? Do they allow us the opportunity to perhaps live out in an extreme way, that which makes us who we are? Mortal after all. And if you were wondering what venial means (and I didn’t know this either) it is as follows:

“Venial – denoting a sin that is not regarded as depriving the soul of divine grace.”

Confused? Let me leave you with a poem:

lizard tongued

the grip of it entices

slipping into orifice

avarice curls


Photo is of a painting by Albrecht Dürer which hangs in Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum. It is a portrait of an allagorical woman representing vanity, time passing and greed. The woman has shoulder length grey hair and has a red cloth draped over one shoulder leaving one breast naked. She holds a bag of money. Photo taken by Jean Louis Mazieres on flikr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence.