Mary Magdalene is my safe harbor
2023 the year we learn to listen to life
Week 14--in which we look back at stories we've been told and whisper, "maybe not."
Friends, soul writers, mystics, witches, and lovers of prayer,
This past week is tough for me. I loathe this week so much I considered skipping a Notes from the Field. But in the end, I am not only writing today (Saturday), but offering my thoughts in the hopes that they might be a balm for anyone else who is uncomfortable with the religious interpretation of this otherwise luscious early week of Spring.
I wanted to hide because this week stirs up memories of growing up strict catholic. As a child, I was told this is “passion week.” A week when we are expected to remember, in detail, the torture and execution of a beautiful Jewish teacher. A man I was taught to revere not just as a prince of peace, but as a god.
Today I would label passion week as child abuse. At just seven-years-old, I had to walk around the church staring at 14 increasingly unbearable images of horror. If that weren’t awful enough, I was told I did this. Jesus died for my sins.
No wonder I ran screaming from the church the first chance I got.
I was 19 and no longer under my parent’s control. And that, I thought, was the end of that. I brushed religion off my hands and turned my face to create a life I wanted to life, a life with zero religion.
And so it was for a long time. But then, in 1991, after giving birth at 41, I followed an itch to explore feminine spirituality. I showed up for a 10-week Women’s Spiritual Empowerment class with not a clue what it was about or what I’d see or learn. I just liked the sound of “women’s spiritual empowerment,” and so I found myself on Thursday evenings on Charlotte Starfire’s living room floor in Tampa.
Something happened in that room.
From the moment Charlotte opened her mouth, my eyes widened in glorious shock, my heart thumped in excitement, and my poor mind just had to let go and give up trying to figure out what we were doing.
All I can say is magic ensued. Magic that has never stopped.
Week after week, Charlotte fed us morsels of ancient Goddess culture, earth-based spirituality, plant, animal, and crystal medicine, knowledge hiding in plain sight in chakras and color and numbers, all infused with the prayer and ceremonial wisdom of the First Peoples of the land. When that 10-week series ended, I couldn’t sign up fast enough for the next. And the next. And the next.
Charlotte opened a door into what my body knew to be true, even if my poor mind couldn’t articulate it at all.
I was on the road home.
It was all so delightful. So fun. So rich. So endlessly interesting. I, for one, was never going to get back on the religion road ever again.
Until Mary Magdalene upset my plans.
She kept poking me. I wanted nothing to do with the horror story called redemption; I was quite clear about that. But when I learned about the Gnostic gospels later that decade, I thought, now this is worth exploring. It was thrilling to learn that there were dozens of gospels beyond the four I was told were THE bible. And horrifying to learn that church officials consciously voted against all but the four they could control.
Luckily some wise and holy people stuffed the “heretical” gospels in urns and buried them to be discovered centuries later.
I began to poke around in the Gospels of Thomas and Phillip and all the other wild and mysterious texts under the label “gnostic.” What I read sounded NOTHING like Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. With each gospel, I wanted more. And then more. Until, at last, the big one landed. The Gospel of Mary Magdalene.
For such a tiny gospel—19 scraps—the thump it makes when it lands in your life is massive. And you are never the same.
Mind you, I didn’t understand what I was reading. The Gospel of Mary Magdalene doesn’t tell a story like the canonical ones do. At least no story the linear mind can absorb. Even with the help of Jean-Yves Leloup’s brilliant commentary all I could do was stare at the page.
In Mary’s gospel, despite so much of it being missing, we still clearly see that Mary is with Jesus after his death. She didn’t just hover outside the tomb or show up the next day to anoint his body, she was THERE, beside him, with him, experiencing what he experienced, in what the church calls “the descent into hell.”
The Magdalene’s gospel is difficult to read because it takes us into a dream state we have not experienced before.
A dream state patriarchy did everything in its power to prevent us from exploring. Leloup describes it as “the creative imagination to which she bears witness is the meeting place where the sensible and supersensible Divine descend together in a single dwelling. The imagination is the sympathetic resonance of the invisible and the visible, of the spiritual and the physical.”
Got that? Me neither. But even though the words don’t quite register as something I’ve heard before or can even begin to understand, I still knew the first time I read this gospel, and each subsequent time, that somehow these words carry a mystical knowledge I want.
A knowledge the church actively hid.
Somebody in power didn’t want us to know this, remember this, practice this. So they selected 4 sets of stories, called it the New Testament, strictly controlled the interpretation of those stories, and labeled everything else heresy.
In her gospel, Mary Magdalene gives us a master class on the Mystic, the great Mystery.
She explains what Jesus taught about how to be “fully human.” (A term I did not hear once in 16 years of Catholic education.) Her sharing doesn’t go well with the male apostles. It’s right there, plain as day. Peter acknowledges the Teacher loved her most, then asks what Yeshua taught her that they have not heard.
And so, Mary begins to describe what happened while Jesus was in the tomb.
When she’s finished, Andrew says “I do not believe that the Teacher would speak like this. These ideas are too different from those we have known.”
Peter adds, “How is it possible that the Teacher talked in this manner with a woman about secrets of which we ourselves are ignorant.” And then displaying his full blown misogynism, “Must we change our customs and listen to this woman? Did he really choose her, and prefer her to us?”
To which I found myself shouting to the ceiling, “YES!”
This is the guy who ends up being chosen as the first pope, the founder of the church. Good heavens. No wonder I never felt at home in Christianity. Even my 7-year-old self knew something was off. Something was missing. Something was wrong.
What was wrong, I now see, is the total removal of the sacred feminine. Of the Goddess. And of all feminine leadership. Consider Thecla. She was a bishop in the nascent church, revered by all, seen as equal or superior to Paul. He silenced her and all women, and soon paintings of women and men saints beside one another were repainted so all the figures were male.
We wouldn’t know any of this if it weren’t for the Gnostic Gospels. But we do know. And knowing, we begin to wake up.
Mary Magdalene woke me up in December 2014 when I was suddenly too sick to function. I sat in my reading chair and read a stack of books that somehow (gee, I wonder how) were all about the Divine Feminine and Magdalene in particular.
- I read three of Margaret Starbird’s books starting with The Woman with the Alabaster Jar.
- Then, I read Cynthia Bourgeault’s The Meaning of Mary Magdalene.
- And wrapped up with Wisdom Has Built Her House about how the symbol of the Goddess, the Dove, moves through history all the way to landing on Jesus’ shoulder in the Jordan River. A symbol of the Goddess that everyone present immediately recognized.
After 25 days of reading, the Sacred Feminine arrived. She took over my hand and from that moment on, I have had to address my deep soul writing to “Beloved Vibration of Sophia!”
What a ride it has been these 9 years. And it’s only just begun.
Mary Magdalene is a constant presence now.
- She has nudged me to learn about anointing—her sacrament—and include sacred anointing in all my intensives. (Watch for the first ever prayer intensive on anointing next year,)
- She nudged me to start reading. It was she who dropped her gospel into my lap in 2019.
- And then, she brought me the biggest surprise of all. Joan of Arc.
Were you in my intensive with Perdita Finn on The 15 Mysteries of Joan of Arc? (It’s still available on demand). That intensive completely blew my mind.
I now co-host A Witches Rosary Circle with Cathy Pratt on Monday’s at 2pm eastern to pray Joan’s mysteries. (The zoom information to join is at The Way of the Rose, click on calendar.)
And Joan, as you must know if you’ve been in any of my events, is always with me.
And just who is Joan?
Well, Jeanne d’Arc has quite the hidden and deeply mysterious connection to the Magdalene. Consider that Joan’s banner said “Jesu Maria” and that her dying words were “Jesu, Jesu, Jesu.”
So on this Easter Sunday, you won’t find me in church. I’ve kept that vow my 19-year-old self made. But you will find me with my nose buried in Mary Magdalene. I’ve got a half dozen books on my reading table. I won’t get through all of them in one day, of course. But when I’ve absorbed all I can, I’ll be on the Pinellas Trail walking a rosary. A Joan of Arc rosary.
I think the Magdalene will be praying, too.
to finding safe harbor in the Magdalene
PS: This is the last week you can join The A.R.T. of Becoming a Witch: How to Awaken, Remember, and Trust Your Body's Natural Intuitive Senses
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