the pz gesture of the lactating goddess Table of contents

Abstract & Preface

poetry by
Adrienne Rich

Chapter I
The hand of "El caballero de la mano al pecho"

Chapter II
Iconographical sources of nursing and nursing gestures in pre-Christian and non-Christian cultures

Chapter III
Iconographical sources of nursing and nursing gestures in Christian cultures

Chapter IV
Breast-feeding forms in the Renaissance

Chapter V
Literary sources of lactating goddesses

Chapter VI
The meaning of the Ostentatio Mammarum
and the pseudo- zygodactylous gesture

Illustrations & Bibliography

Biographical sketch


Chapter V:
Literary sources of lactating goddesses

In order to fully understand the meaning of the breast, breast-feeding, and the use of the pseudo-zygodactylous gesture in art, we must go back to the literary sources circulated by the cultures in which the artists worked. Since Old Europe was preliterate, no literature from it is available.

India: the Rg Veda and the Upanishads "O goddess of Waters [Apah]! ... You have within you the life-giving sap. May you feed us with that even like mothers giving breast milk to their children!"183 "Your inexhaustible breast, Sarasvati, that flows with the food of life, that you use to nourish all that one could wish for, freely giving treasure and wealth and beautiful gifts--bring that here for us to suck."184 "Three women, goddesses [the three mothers of Agni, the water of the three worlds], wish to give food [soma or butter] to the god [Agni] so that he will not waken. He has stretched forth in the waters; he sucks the new milk of those who have given birth for the first time. ... Being a bull, he engendered that embryo in the females; being a child, he sucks them, and they lick him. ..."185

"By [King] Kansa's orders, the fierce Putaná [an ogress] went about killing children in towns, villages and pasture lands, for verily she was a killer of children. That wanderer of the skies [Putaná] entered Gokula [Krishna's home village] at will, assuming the form of a woman most beautiful to look at. So no one stopped her passage. She moved freely here and there and at last entered the house of Nanda. She looked like a kind mother and Yasoda and Rohini were so much struck by her fine exterior that they did not stop her access to Krishna. Putaná placed the child on her lap and gave him milk from her breast full of deadly poison. The divine child knew who Putaná was and what she was about. He held her breast with both hands and in anger drank in the very life juice of the Asura woman. She screamed forth "Let go," "Let go," "No more." Her eyes expanded. She cast up and down her hands and feet again and again in profuse perspiration. Her groans made heaven and earth tremble and space itself resounded on all sides. At last she fell over dead like a great mountain, crushing down trees within an ambit of twelve miles. Fearlessly the boy played on her body. The Gopa ladies hurried to the place with Rohini and Yasoda. They bathed the boy in cows' urine and dust from cows' feet. They pronounced the twelve names of Vishnu (Kesava and others) over twelve parts of his body. ... Yasoda then placed the child on her lap and gave him milk. ... The people of Vraja cut the body into parts and burnt them with fuel. The smoke was sweet-scented, as the touch of Krishna's body purifies even the enemy."186

Mesopotamia "From the Ugaritic Legend of King Keret, in which King Keret is told by the gods that the woman he takes will bear a son who will "draw the milk of A[she]rah / Suck the breasts of the maiden Anath, / The two wet nurs[es of the gods].""187

"The chief of all [northern Cannanite, 14th century bce] gods was El, the father god, ... His wife Asherah, also referred to as 'Lady Asherah of the Sea,' was the mother of all other gods whom she suckled at her breasts." "The Mother-goddess suckling her son (or sons) is, as we have seen, a mythologem frequently recurring in accounts of ancient tetrads."188

Ninhursag/a "The early Sumerian kings liked to describe themselves as 'constantly nourished with milk by Ninhursag [the great mother goddess].'"189

"Ningirsu implanted the seed of Eannatum in the womb and Ninhursaga bore him. Over Eannatum Ninhursaga rejoiced; Innana took him on (her) arm and named him 'Worthy of the Eanna of Ibgal.' She set him down on Ninhursaga's knee for her, and Ninhursaga suckled him."190 It is, then, the act of the goddess nursing the prince, i.e., transferring milk from her divine body into his immature mortal body and acting as his birth mother, that establishes a goddess as the physical parent of the ruler of Lagash.

Egyptian: Isis, Nephthys Many of the Egyptian texts referring to Isis and other goddesses nursing are found in the sacred scriptures of the dead in which the deceased mortal man joins the pantheon of the Egyptian gods.

Nephthys saith: ... Hail, god An! Come to Saïs; Sau is thy name. Come to the nome [sic] of Sapi (?) (Saïtes), thou shalt see thy mother Net (Neith); Beautiful Boy [Osiris], cease not to be with her, come thou to her breasts, and drink deeply there, to thy fill. O Beautiful Brother, depart not thou from her, O divine Son, come to the city of Saïs.191

Hail, Osiris (the deceased), stand up! Horus comes. He counts thee among the gods, Horus loves thee. ... Rise up, stride with thy legs, O mighty one of strength! Thou sittest at the head of the gods, and thou doest what Osiris did in the House of the Prince in Anu. Thou hast received thy Sahu. Thy foot slips not in heaven, thou art not repulsed on earth. Thou art a spirit (khu). Nut gives thee birth, Nephthys gives thee suck, they make thee complete. Thou standest on thy strength. Thou makest thy being, thou makest seed.192

O Ra, O Uakhta, O Uakhta, O Penta, O Penta! He (i.e., the deceased) is thou, thou art he. He cries with joy, his Ka cries with joy. ... The years turn back, turn back, on him, he lies down, he is conceived, he is born every day. Homage to thee, Ra, in thy beauty, in thy beauties, in thy seats, in thy properties. Thou bringest the milk of Isis to him, and the water-flood of Nephthys. ... Thou hadst no mother among men to give thee birth. Thy mother was Samt-urt, who dwells in Nekheb, with the White Crown, and the wig, and the two full feathers, and the two full, hanging breasts. She suckled thee, and she did not let thee lack [milk]. Rise up, Father! Thy water is to thee, thy flood is to thee, thy milk is to thee in the breasts of thy mother Isis. Rise up, O Son of Horus, ... 193

Nut, the great goddess with the long [...] and the pendent breasts, hath given to him her hands, and she suckleth him, and he lacketh nothing from her. She draweth him to heaven, and droppeth him not on the earth, ... Thou livest, O Pepi, for ever. Keb raiseth thee up ... Behold, thou art a spirit, Nephthys suckleth thee with her left breast. Osiris hath given thee spirits. Hours hath reared thee. ... 194

Then the Sem priest poured out a libation before the statue of Osiris, and as he did so he said:-- "Ra riseth, and Ra shineth upon the Company of the Gods. ... The Osiris hath grasped in his hand the Urerit Crown. The Company of the Gods hath fashioned him anew. Isis hath presented to him her breast, Nephthys hath given him suck, And Horus hath received him for his son. ...

The Osiris hath appeared on the thighs of Isis; And he sitteth on the thighs of Nephthys. ... O Isis, the Mother of the Osiris, give thy breast unto the Osiris, and let the Osiris, the royal scribe, put forth his mouth and suck milk therefrom. ..."195

Greek The story of the first use of the breast as an object to communicate the filial responsibility of the maternal connection is in the Greek Iliad of Homer (1230-850 bce) and tells the story of the mother Hekabe (daughter of Dymas, Priam's queen) who watches as her son Hektor prepares himself to meet Achilleus in mortal combat:

So the old man spoke, and in his hands seizing the grey hairs tore them from his head, but could not move the spirit in Hektor. And side by side with him his mother [Hekabe] in tears was mourning and laid the fold of her bosom bare and with one hand held out a breast, and wept her tears for him and called to him in winged words: 'Hektor, my child, look upon these and obey, and take pity on me, if ever I gave you the breast to quiet your sorrow. Remember all these things, dear child, and from inside the wall bear off this grim man [Achilleus]. Do not go out as a champion against him, O hard one; for if he kills you I can no longer mourn you on the death-bed, sweet branch, O child of my bearing, nor can your generous wife mourn you, but a big way from us beside the ships of the Argives the running dogs will feed on you.' So these two in tears and with much supplication called out to their dear son, but could not move the spirit in Hektor, but he awaited Achilleus as he came on, gigantic.196

The Greeks are also the first Indo-European culture whose story of the transfer of power from female to male via her breast milk still exists. Zeus, patriarch of Olympus, had been promised a great hero son by the prophecies. His wife, Hera, however, gave birth to a malformed man and a woman, but nobody that would fulfill the prophecy of a hero son that he so desired. Zeus, therefore, found a mortal woman named Alkmena whose husband was away at war. Knowing that she was a faithful wife, and not wanting to take her by force, Zeus took on the shape and personality of Alkmena's husband, Amphitryon. Alkmena became pregnant by Zeus, and only when her real husband returned did she realize that she had been tricked.

Alkmene gave birth, and, because she was afraid of Hera's jealousy, the child was [left] exposed in a place which to this day is called the Field of Herakles. Now, at the same time, Athena [Zeus' own self-created daughter], with Hera, happened to go by and was amazed at the quality of the child. She persuaded Hera to offer her breast. The child sucked on the breast more violently than a normal child, and Hera, suffering great pain, tore the child away from her breast. Athena then took him to his mother and urged her to nurture him. ...197

Demeter, mother of Kore, and for whom the Eleusinian Mysteries were created, also has breast milk that far exceeds the qualities known to humans. In the story of the founding of the Eleusinian Mysteries, Demeter wanders the earth looking for her daughter Kore who was stolen and carried off by Hades. Demeter comes to the village of Eleusis disguised as an old woman and is befriended by the household of King Celeus. Metaneira, wife of Celeus, had borne a son, Demophoön, and spoke:

'Hail, Lady! For I think you are not meanly but nobly born; truly dignity and grace are conspicuous upon your eyes as in the eyes of kings that deal justice. Yet we mortals bear perforce what the gods send us, though we be grieved; for a yoke is set upon our necks. But now, since you are come here, you shall have what I can bestow: and nurse me this child whom the gods gave me in my old age and beyond my hope, a son much prayed for. ...' Then rich-haired Demeter answered her: 'And to you, also, lady, all hail, and may the gods give you good! Gladly will I take the boy to my breast, as you bid me, and will nurse him. Never, I ween, through any heedlessness of his nurse shall witchcraft hurt him nor yet the Undercutter: for I know a charm far stronger than the Woodcutter, and I know an excellent safeguard against woeful witchcraft.' When she had so spoken, she took the child in her fragrant bosom with her divine hands: and his mother was glad in her heart. So the goddess nursed in the place Demophoon, wise Celeus' goodly son whom well-girded Metaneira bore. And the child grew like some immortal being, not fed with food nor nourished at the breast: for by day rich-crowned Demeter would anoint him with ambrosia as if he were the offspring of a god and breathe sweetly upon him as she held him in her bosom. But at night she would hide him like a brand in the heart of the fire, unknown to his dear parents. And it wrought great wonder in these that he grew beyond his age; for he was like the gods face to face. And she would have made him deathless and unaging, had not well-girded Metaneira in her heedlessness kept watch by night from her sweet-smelling chamber and spied. But she wailed and smote her two hips, because she feared for her son and was greatly distraught in her heart, ...198

Demeter stops the immortalization process, angered with Mataneira's interruption, reveals herself to be the goddess Demeter, and orders a temple and altar built for her. Demophoön remains a mortal, but "unfailing honour [shall] always rest upon him, because he lay upon my knees and slept in my arms."

Etruscan "The subscribed legend is interpreted to read: Hæc (est) monstratio (?) quomodo (?) mortalis (?) Hercules Junonis filius factum sit, or in place factum sit, possibly nascebatur, and this is evidently "an explanation of the significance of the action portrayed." The translation would be "Here is shown how the mortal Hercules became the legitimate son of Juno," or possibly "was [re-]born as the legitimate son of Juno."199

In the above-mentioned note Panofsky also points out that a prayer based on an authoritative relationship and an appeal to motherhood is a topos in the literature of antiquity. Matriarchy prevailed in the peoples around the shores of the Mediterranean, whose social forms were rather undeveloped, and the mother's status in the family was based on this. Among the Etruscans, for example, children who had received milk from the same mother were considered to be also blood relations, i.e. to belong to the same family as the mother's own children. Family affiliation was founded on the mother's adoption of the children. The antiquity of this attitude is shown by a picture on an Etruscan ivory mirror, now in an Athens museum, which represents Hercules' entry into Olympus, where, in order to be the equal of the gods and of the same blood as they, he must be adopted by Hera, the mother of all the gods, by receiving her milk. A mother's milk was ascribed divine, healing powers and this was the case also as regarded Mary. As a special favour, her devotees, by leading a holy life, could obtain a few drops of her milk, which bestowed abundant grace and relief in case of serious illness. St. Bernhard, Archbishop Fulbertus of Chartres and Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury were among the select few who shared in these lactation miracles. --Catharina Film, "Intercessio Christi" i Svensk senmedeltida konst (Uppsala 1971) p. 73

Hebrew scriptures / the Torah200 The Hebrew--and Christian--scriptures have been dismissed lately as patriarchal texts with little or no God imagery for women to identify with. The criticism is accepted, yet there remain traces of maternal imagery that have not been overridden by the patriarchs and their mythographers. This includes breast and nursing imagery, of which even the title of God used in Exodus 6:2-3, El Shaddai, traditionally interpreted as the Almighty, may be interpreted as the Breasted One from the Hebrew word shad, meaning breast, instead of using the Akkadian word shadu meaning mountain.201 In the following five selections, three are given that address milk (Hebrew chalabh) as a material commodity indicating abundance and wealth. The fourth and fifth, both from the prophet Isaiah, focus on the action of nursing, the quality of the person doing it (e.g., "royal"), and the satisfaction in both the action and the content of nursing. God is the implicit actor in both cases, reminiscent of Isis nursing the pharaohs of Egypt and of Asherah nursing the prince Yassib and Anath.202

Exodus 3:8 (3:17 repeats) So I [God] have come down to rescue them [the Jews in Egypt] from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey--the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.

Job 29:6 ... when my path was drenched with cream, and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil

Joel 3:18 In that day the mountain will drip with new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water.

Isaiah 60:14-16 14 The sons of your oppressors will come bowing before you; all who despise you will bow down at your feet and will call you The City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel. 15 Although you have been forsaken and hated, with no-one travelling through, I will make you the everlasting pride and the joy of all generations. 16 You will drink the milk of nations and be nursed at royal breasts. Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Saviour, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.

Isaiah 66:8c-13 8c Yet no sooner is Zion in labour than she gives birth to her children. 9 Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery? says the Lord. Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery? says your God. 10 Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her. 11 For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance. 12 For this is what the Lord says: I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; You will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. 13 As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.

Christian scriptures / the New Testament Only one text in the Gospels spoken by Jesus refers to a woman's breasts:

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you." He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it."203

The apostles Paul and Peter, however, refers to gala (gala) as the spiritual food offered by Christ to new Christians. Paul uses the Greek word for milk gala as a synonym "for the kerygma brought to Corinth by Paul," and as "a figure for the basic elements of divine teaching," 204 Peter speaks of milk as the "the pure, pneumatic (divine) milk by which the new born are nourished" which "is itself the gnosis provided for Christians in the Gospel."205

1 Corinthians 3:1-2 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly--mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.

Hebrews 5:11-13 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.

1 Peter 2:1-3 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Christian Apocrypha The Odes of Solomon, totally Christian or Jewish-Christian206 apocrypha from possibly the 1st century ce. "The original language of the Odes was probably Greek, although some scholars argue for a Syriac original. Harris conjectured a Jewish-Christian origin from the first century a.d.."207

Ode 8:14 (Christ speaks) I fashioned their members, And my own breasts I prepared for them, That they might drink my holy milk and live by it.

Ode 14:1-3 As the eyes of a son upon his father, So are my eyes, O lord, at all times towards Thee.

Because my breasts and my pleasure are with Thee.

Turn not aside Thy mercies from me, O Lord; And be to me a guide till the end according to thy will.

Ode 19: 1-7 A cup of milk was offered to me, And I drank it in the sweetness of the Lord's kindness.

The Son is the cup, And the Father is He who was milked; And the Holy Spirit is She who milked Him;

Because His breasts were full, And it was undesirable that His milk would be ineffectually released.

The Holy Spirit opened Her bosom, And mixed the milk of the two breasts of the Father.

Then She gave the mixture to the generation without their knowing, And those who never received (it) are in the perfection of the right hand.

The womb of the Virgin took (it), And she received conception and gave birth.

So the Virgin became a mother with great mercies.

Ode 40:1 As honey drips from the honeycomb of bees, And milk flows from the woman who loves her children, So also is my hope upon Thee, O my God.208

-The Concept of Our Great Power "And the mother of the fire was impotent. She brought the fire upon the soul and the earth and she burned all dwellings that are in it (feminine; the soul and the earth). ... Moreover, when she will not find (anything else) to burn, she will destroy herself. And it will become incorporeal, without body, and it will burn matter, until it has purged everything and all wickedness. For when it will not find anything else to burn, it will turn to itself until it has destroyed itself. Then, in this æon, which is the psychic one, the man will come into being who knows the great Power. He will receive (me) and he will know me. He will drink from the milk of the mother, in fact. He will speak in parables; he will proclaim the aeon that is to come, just as he spoke ot Noah in the first aeon of the flesh. ... And he opened the gates of the heavens with his words. And he put to shame the ruler of Hades; he raised the dead, and destroyed his dominion."209

Church Fathers: Irenæus and Jerome Irenæus, bishop of Lyons from 178-ca. 200 ce and the first great Catholic theologian, wrote in his major work Against Heresies, "Those who do not have a share in the Spirit are not nourished to life by the Mother's breasts."210 Jerome (ca. 342-420) wrote in his Roman epistles "Though thy mother, with flowing hair and rent garments, should show thee the breasts which have nourished thee ...--yet depart thou ... and fly with dry eyes to the standard of the cross [i.e., monasticism]."211

Saints and mystics

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) (Cistercian) Sermon to prelates Show affection as a mother would, correct like a father. Be gentle, avoid harshness, do not resort to blows, expose your breasts: let your bosoms swell with milk, not swell with passion. ... Why will the young man, bitten by the serpent, shy away from the judgment of the priest, to whom he ought to run as to the bosom of a mother?(42)212

Guerric of Igny (Cistercian) [Christ] is a father in virtue of natural creation ... and authority. ... He is a mother too in the mildness of his affection, and a nurse. ... The Holy Spirit (is) like milk poured out from Christ's own breasts.(39)

Clare (1194-1253) --Clare's dream The Lady Clare also told that once she had seen St. Francis in a vision and she was bringing him a jug of hot water and a towel for wiping his hands and with this she was ascending a long stairway, but so easily that it was as though she walked on the level earth. When she reached St. Francis, he bared his breast, saying "Come, take and drink." And she did so. Then St. Francis bid her suckle a second time. And what she tasted seemed to her so sweet and delightful that she could not describe it in any way. And after she had suckled, the nipple of the breast from which the milk came, remained between the lips of the happy Clare; she took what remained in her mouth into her hands, and it seemed to be such pure shining gold that she saw her own reflection in it, as in a mirror.213

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)214 Catherine wrote down her visions and her interpretations of Christian scripture, of which the first of the following excerpts from her 'dialogue' is based on the saying of Jesus, "Whosoever thirsteth, let him come to me and drink." It is offered here as a contrast to the further writings of Catherine focused on drinking.

ch. LIII "... And why did her say 'Let him come to me and drink'? Because whoever follows his doctrine, whether in the most perfect way or by dwelling in the life of common charity, finds to drink, tasting the fruit of the blood, through the union of the divine nature with the human nature. ch. LXXII "... But the soul who has in truth entered the house of self-knowledge, and by the exercise of perfect prayer has raised herself from the imperfect love of imperfect prayer, by the means of which I [the Father] speak to thee in this treatise on prayer, receives me, through affection of love, seeking to draw herself the milk of my sweetness from the breast of the doctrine of Christ crucified. ch. XCVI "... She receives the fruit of quietness of mind, a union with my sweet divine nature, where she tastes the milk, as when the child, who sleeps at peace on the breast of its mother, draws to itself milk by means of the flesh of its mother; so the soul, arrived at this last state, reposes on the breast of my divine charity, keeping in the mouth of holy desire the flesh of Christ crucified, ... So the soul reposes at the breast of Christ crucified, who is the Truth, and thus draws to herself the milk of virtue, in which she finds the life of grace, tasting in herself my divine nature, ... "Now look, sweet daughter, how sweet and glorious is this state, in which the soul has made so close a union with the breast of charity, that the mouth is not found without the breast, neither the breast without the milk. And so this soul does not find herself without Christ crucified or without me, the Eternal Father, whom she finds, tasting the supreme and Eternal Deity. ... "At this breast of love the memory fills itself, ... ch. CX "Now I will reply to that which thou didst ask me concerning the ministers of the holy Church ... And since one thing is better known by means of contrast with its contrary, I will show thee the dignity of those who use virtuously the treasure I have placed in their hands; and in this way thou wilt the better see the misery of those who to-day are suckled at the breast of my Spouse." Then this soul obediently contemplated the truth, in which she saw virtue resplendent in those who truly taste it. ... "Thou knowest that thou wentest one morning to church at sunrise to hear Mass, ... When the minister came to consecrate, thou raisedst thine eyes above his head while he was saying the words of consecration, and I manifested myself to thee, and thou didst see issue from my breast a light, like a ray from the sun, ... out of the midst of which light came a dove and hovered over the host, in virtue of the words which the minister was saying. ch. CXXXIX "... Wherefore his religion is a delightful garden, broad and joyous and fragrant, but the wretches who do not observe the order, but transgress its vows, have turned it into a desert and defiled it with their scanty virtue and light of science, though they are nourished at its breast.

Julian of Norwich (1342-1413+)215 Jesus is our true Mother in nature by our first Creation, and he is our true Mother in grace by his taking our created Nature. (15) The mother can give her child suck of her milk, but our precious Mother Jesus can feed us with himself, and does most courteously and most tenderly with the blessed sacrament, which is the precious food of true life. ... The mother can lay her child tenderly to her breast, but our tender Mother Jesus can lead us easily into his blessed breast through his sweet open side.(19)

Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444)216 Only the blessed Virgin Mary has done more for God, or just as much, as God has done for all humankind ... God fashioned us from the soil, but Mary formed him from her pure blood; God impressed on us his image, but Mary impressed hers on God. ... God taught us wisdom, but Mary taught Christ to flee from the hurtful and follow her; God nourished us with the fruits of paradise, but she nourished him with her most holy milk, so that I may say this for the blessed virgin, who, however, God made himself, God is in some way under a greater obligation to us through her than we to God.

Christian folklore From the Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine (1229-1298) --the tale of seven women followers in the martyrdom of Saint Blaise in 287 ce Meanwhile the governor, seeing that he could not force the saint [Blaise] to worship idols, had him bound to a stake, and commanded that his flesh be torn with iron spikes; after which he was again led back to gaol. Seven women, however, followed the saint, and gathered up the drops of his blood. ... Then one of the women, who was the mother of two children, laid hold of the [pagan] robes and threw them into the fire. And her babes said to her: 'Dearest mother, do not leave us behind, but as thou hast plenished us with the sweetness of thy milk, so now fill us with the sweetness of the Kingdom of Heaven!' Then the [pagan] governor had them lashed to the stake, and the executioners laid open their flesh with iron points. But their flesh remained as white as snow, and from it milk spurted forth instead of blood.217

--the martyrdom of Saint Agatha in 253 ce On the morrow, the consul said to her: 'Renounce Christ and adore the gods!' Upon her refusal, he had her bound to a rack to be tortured. ... Enraged, the consul ordered that her breasts by roughly twisted, and then commanded that they be torn off. And Agatha cried: 'Cruel and impious tyrant, does it not shame thee to torture, in a woman, that with which thy mother suckled thee? But know that in my soul I have other breasts, whose milk sustains all of my senses, which I have long since dedicated to God!'218

--Saint Bernard [Bernard's mother] bore seven children, six children and one daughter, and dedicated all the sons to be monks, and the daughter to be a nun. For as soon as she had given birth to a child, she offered it to God with her own hands. Nor would she allow her children to be suckled at the breasts of other women, but imparted to them, with the maternal milk, the nature of their mother's virtue.219