Study Guide

The Red Tent Spirituality

By Anita Diamant


"I got religious again and poured the last of the good wine out in the name of Anath the healer." (1.1.78)

Getting "religious again" is just another way of saying I was feeling lucky. Or maybe unlucky. Basically, the point is that there's a lot of uncertainty in these people's lives, and getting into some rituals in order to appease outside forces is one way of trying to get a little control over the situation.

He poured libations and sang to the god of his fathers. He poured libations over Asherah, too, and opened his hand before her. (1.2.91)

Pouring libations means that you pour a liquid offering. You know, this was probably a much better way to make a sacrifice than offering up things like cows. Or humans.

She slept with her belly against trees said to be sacred to local goddesses. Whenever she saw running water, she lay down in it, hoping for the life of the river to inspire life within her. (1.2.111)

We all have that friend, always trying out crazy things to gain an edge. Does it actually work here? Does she think it works?

I thought of the gods and goddesses as aunts and uncles who were bigger than my parents and able to live inside the ground or above the earth as they liked. (2.2.19)

Dinah's spirituality as a child isn't really far off from most adults' way of looking at the gods; for her, the gods are simply larger than life, and they're everywhere. They're omnipresent and omnipotent.

Jacob said that his god had come to him in a dream and spoken to him and told him to go with his wives and his sons and his flocks in abundance. [...] This troubled the old man, who shivered before the power of any god. (2.2.34)

Laban is one of those guys who's easily frightened by the gods. But really, Jacob could have said anything, and Laban would have believed him. That's how much power the gods had over some people. Does that make Laban fearful or just, at least in his view, devout?

I wondered if the teraphims would come to life and cast terrible spells on us for disturbing them. (2.2.79)

Praise the gods, and you'll get good fortune; steal the gods, and you'll get cursed. Seems pretty straightforward to us. Some people might even see Rachel's theft as the reason why Dinah's life gets ruined in Shechem.

But when Inna saw how some of the hill women painted the mother's body with yellow spirals "to fool the demons," she curled her lip and muttered that it did nothing but irritate the skin. (2.6.45)

Though most people in the book are deeply spiritual (or religious, or both), there are still some skeptics out there, like Inna. Once spirituality comes into play, she thinks all reason is thrown out the window.

The wives of all the important men came to visit Ashnan and her little boy, who would not be publicly named until he reached three months, according to the custom of Egypt. "So the demons will not know how to find him," Ashnan whispered. (2.7.44)

Err, right. That's how naming children works. Uh huh.

I named them each and called forth the power of every god and every goddess, every demon and every torment, to destroy and devour them. (2.8.12)

Dinah curses her brothers here, and boy, do they suffer the consequences. Dinah's spirituality is pretty powerful, and she does seem to have some kind of spiritual power. Do you think her curses actually worked?

"Her dreams are powerful, and her anger is to be feared, for I have seen her blast an evil man out of the prime of his life for harming a young mother." (3.3.45)

Like we said earlier, Dinah pretty much turns into an oracle after her husband is killed. We're not telling you to believe in curses. But, hey, if you want some answers, maybe try talking to a Chicago Cubs fan.