At first glance, the pewter pendant hanging around my neck doesn’t look like anything special. If one can’t tell immediately that it’s an image of a saint, they might assume that it’s an ancient-looking coin. For those who can detect the tiny engraving of Saint Joan of Arc, they might automatically assume I am Catholic, which I am not. I don’t mind, however; the image of a saint can have multiple implications about one’s faith or convictions, as opposed to a more specific – and perhaps brazen – pendant of a cross or Ichthus fish.
It’s not a fancy necklace by any means. My husband frequently asks me why I don’t wear my nicer pieces more often – the beaded necklaces I make to sell on my Etsy shop, and the pearl necklace he gave me on the day of our wedding. As I get older, I find that I prefer simpler, non-attention grabbing jewelry, but that’s not the real reason I wear Joan almost every day. I’m not a big believer in “good luck charms,” nor do I place a great deal of emotional value in objects, but the symbolism behind Joan’s image is what matters to me. I like to believe that the pendant has a placebo effect on my courage as the racist and sexist underbelly of America becomes more apparent under the Donald Trump regime presidency.
Granted, the strife that Joan and her villagers faced during the Hundred Years War was significantly worse than this increasingly dystopian America. Medieval France was not a democracy by any means – there were no checks and balances in place, no human rights written into law, and no law enforcement to stop, let alone prosecute, English invaders who sacked villages and killed the inhabitants. Joan’s people had no hope of protection or justice.
But young Joan had a conviction that she was called to a special mission, and did not let fear or the limitations of her sex keep her from leading an army to save her country. She accomplished this all at the age of seventeen, and was executed on trumped-up charges of heresy at nineteen. Arguably, she lived more in barely two decades than most humans do in eight.
I sometimes wish I believed that power and energy could manifest in ordinary objects, like some people believe about crystals or certain stones. But in the same way that my wedding ring is a reminder of the promises I made to my husband, my Joan pendant is a reminder that if a teenager could lead a revolution, I can find the courage to speak up against bigotry when I hear it. If a teenage girl can stand by her convictions despite the threat of burning at the stake, I can risk compromising my comfort by standing up for the marginalized, even if it means sacrificing friendships.
My Joan necklace may look like an ordinary, unremarkable piece of dull silver, but to me, it’s a reminder of the values I hold closest to my heart – and that one need not have a great deal of prestige in order to make history.
Like this post? Check out Confessions of a Jew-ish Skeptic, now available on Amazon.