Best of Pagan Song: Catherine Madsen
Her song "Heretic Heart" was first recorded by Catherine Madsen and the "Greater Lansing Spinsters Guild" of Michigan
on her album "The Patience of Love", produced by Wormwood Productions in 1982 (out of print).
Two years later it was recorded by Holly Tannen on her album "Between the Worlds" (1984),
with a few adaptations (see below) and is now available on CD.
The tune that Catherine chose is "
Forest Green", a traditional English tune which is also applied to
the Christmas carol "O Little Town of Bethlehem in England and in Episcopal churches in the USA.
Margot Adler later used the title of Madsen's song for her autobiography, see:
Catherine Madsen is best known today in interfaith religious circles as a profound writer on the topic of liturgy.
Madsen has contributed many essays for CrossCurrents (an essay search is available at bottom of that page)
Books written by Catherine Madsen available on Amazon:
A Portable Egypt (novel, 2002)
The Bones Reassembled, Reconstituting Liturgical Speech (2005)
In Medias Res: Liturgy for the Estranged. (2008)


Heretic Heart
by Catherine Madsen, 1982

(capo iii)

  /G  C                                            F             G            C
1. I  am a bold and a Pagan soul a-rattlin' through this land.
    C                                                          F         G            C
I judge the world by my own lights and I come by my own hand;
        G                      C                 G   C        D7     G7
And if you ask me where I learned to live so recklessly,
        C                                                    F        G   C
My skin, my bones, my heretic heart are my authority.

2. My mother was a spinner of tales, my father a dreaming man*.
And I have swung on the Dragon's Tongue and danced on holy land.
I have sung the seed up from the ground and the bird down from the tree;
My skin, my bones, my heretic heart are my authority.

3. Once I was bound but now I'm gone away from the faithful fold
From those who preach that holiness is to do as you are told.
Though law and scripture, priest and prayer have all instructed me,
My skin, my bones, my heretic heart are my authority.

4. They tell me Jesus loves me, but I think he loves in vain;
He must go unrequited, on me he has no claim.**
For the man who would command me must wear the horn and let me be***
My skin, my bones, my heretic heart are my authority.

5. And while I breathe this glorious air, an outlaw I'll remain;
My body will not be subdued and I will not be saved
And if I cannot shout aloud, I'll sing it secretly,
My skin, my bones, my heretic heart are my authority!

Holly Tannen's version has these adaptations, made with consent from the author:

* [My mother lived her life in fear, my father's a broken man]
** [For what can any man-god know of women's secret pain?]
***[My healer is the Lady Moon whose tides run deep in me.]


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Last Updated Mabon 2009 ce