The Consolamentum of Leonard Cohen

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This is a painting that Suzanne [Elrod] did … That’s me playing guitar and being comforted by her. It’s the consolamentum, you know, the kiss of peace.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From the Armelle Brusq documentary, Leonard Cohen, Spring 96, A Portrait.

The Consolamentum of Leonard Cohen Page

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The Consolamentum in Leonard Cohen’s Work:
An informal introduction

By David Peloquin

As Allan Showalter and I began to work together over the last few months, we soon discovered that we shared a passion for one of Leonard Cohen’s deepest themes: the poet’s timeless relationship with the Muse.

Allan came to this through his interest in the Consolamentum; the kiss of peace, which was a sacramental ritual for the Cathars of the 12th century. He saw the Consolamentum theme running through Leonard Cohen’s work. The story of the horrific persecution and elimination of the Albigensian Cathars, who were seen as a heretical sect, is one of the darkest chapters in European history. And what was their crime? It was the confession of the direct, personal experience of the mystery, of spirit; a stance that has always been a serious threat to exoteric religion. This confessional aspect dovetails with my own interest and research on this theme.

My route involved following the threads of embrace and of longing for the feminine divine that runs like a steady, gentle stream in Leonard’s poetry and song. I am using the Consolamentum as a metaphor that includes the original sense of the the word, and then opens out into a wider discussion. I have always felt that the song Sisters of Mercy is central to understanding Cohen’s meditation on the consolations of solitude and em-brace of the Muse.

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