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by Nick Inman
Up in the hills near where I live in France there is a church decorated with fading 18th-century murals. Some of the paintings are obviously products of artistic imagination. The angels looking down from the vault and the gigantic red devil gathering up sinners across the west wall have a sense of unreality about them. But what about the characters from the Bible depicted in the apse, around the altar? It is not so easy to say whether they are fictitious or not.
One red-haired woman is particularly interesting and it is her that I have come to see and photograph. I was brought up believing that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute who was taught to repent her previous life of fornication by Jesus. A role model for all Christian women: she would never be as perfect as the sin-free Virgin Mary but if she was evermore on her best behaviour she would be among the saved. It was true, I was assured, because it was in the Bible.
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Actually, the Bible has little to say about her. It is vague about most characters in it. No one gets a lengthy biography and there are holes in everyone’s story. Most of what we think we know about Mary Magdalene is later invention – by the men who led and wrote about the developing Church, notably Jacobus de Voragine in his medieval bestseller, The Golden Legend. Making Mary Magdalene a whore on permanent probation was undoubtedly a good way to encourage obedience in women who were given a subservient role in a world which nominally made celibacy and chastity (and hence deliberate infertility) into the highest virtues.
In Provence, Mary Magdalene is the protagonist in a very different legend. There are various versions of it but the essence of all of them is as follows.
Around the year AD40, the Jews of Palestine (among them the followers of Christ) were being persecuted. Mary Magdalene was forced to board a boat with at least five companions: Mary Salome (mother of James the Greater, venerated in Santiago de Compostela), Mary Jacob (mother of James the Less), Lazarus (who Jesus had raised from the dead) and his sister Martha, and another disciple, Maximinus. There is a striking resonance, of course, with the modern day refugees who try to cross the Mediterranean. This boat, however, had no oars or sail or even rudder and those on board seemed sure to perish.
Miraculously, the vessel landed on the shore of the Camargue at what is now Saintes-Maries-de-la Mer. Mary Salome and Mary Jacob stayed where they had arrived and a cult of the “Saintes Maries” developed. A church dedicated to them now stands on the site.
The other people from the boat went off to convert Gaul. Maximinus became the first bishop of Aix and Lazarus bishop of Marseilles. Martha is famed for taming a monster in the town of Tarascon with the cross, holy water and a sash from around her neck.
Mary Magdalene went first to Marseille and then to St-Baume where she lived in a cave in the hills for the last thirty-three years of her life. On the day she knew she was to die, it is said, she went down to the plain so that Maximinus could give her communion and arrange her burial.
Her remains were discovered in the 13th century. They were moved to Vezelay, in Burgundy, for safekeeping but finally returned to Saint-Baume where they are now displayed for the faithful in the Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine de Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. The cave where she lived is a sanctuary tended by Dominicans.
A variation of the legend has it that Mary Magdalene gave birth to a daughter. In the 1980s three British authors* assembled the ingenious theory that she was the consort-wife of Jesus and that she went not east but west, to Rennes-le-Chateau in the hills of the Aude – but that is another story.
Is any of this true and does it matter whether it is or it isn’t? What is the value of a legend? Is it just a good yarn, an entertainment that each person can make of what he or she wants. Or is there something here to engage our minds?
The 21st century is clear on the issue. The contemporary world is built on fact and legends are not to be taken seriously.
We are all expected to take a loyalty test. Either you are guided by evidence or you “believe” something else. This is one way of differentiating between the thinking of the “Old Age” (empiricism, the tangible world) and the “New” (esotericism, the invisible world).
If you want to be thought of as intellectually respectable not soft-headed, you must shun ambiguity. If something is not verifiable it is to be regarded with suspicion. The dubious is strictly second rate. This is the creed of the machine: the emotionless brain that despises that which it cannot categorise.
Legend, however, is not to be disparaged so easily. It is a slippery substance. It is not true – you can’t prove Mary Magdalene ever came to France – but there is no good reason to assume it is purely a lie. It is a kind of intermediate knowledge.
A legend is a story and stories have become valueless in a literal age. Technological overload is causing us to forget why we tell stories. For marketing purposes, all stories are rolled into one word – fiction – meaning distraction and entertainment that doesn’t contribute to knowledge in the way that science does.
The irony is that we all tell stories to ourselves and others all the time – including the people who believe that they are intellectually macho enough to see that all existence is material and that proof is the only guarantee of information.
This is especially true in history, which is everything we know about where we come from; and everything we have tried out and learned. Most of human history – prehistory – has no documentation to go with it at all. For the rest of the past we have relatively little to go on. Much of it is suspect and open to interpretation. We possess hardly any of the “soft” material that we need to understand history: the recorded thoughts and feelings of humans who have lived before us. All that we have in this respect is legend, which is unreliable. It is important to recognize this but not be inhibited by it.
We must have the courage to explore the disorientating interface where fact and fiction intertwine because legend caters to our archetypal needs. Somewhere inside it are truths; but more than that, legend explores questions for which there are no definitive answers.
Legend is the way we speak of that which cannot be expressed in other language: human experience (thought and feeling) and the numinous. It perpetuates our collective unconscious.
If we remember Mary Magdalene, it is for reasons of our own that are worth teasing out. Inside ourselves we have the information to re-hydrate her and learn what she represents to us.
If she existed at all, she must have had a life beyond the three mentions of her in the New Testament. A life similar to yours or mine. We have no reason to suppose that she suddenly died after the gospel accounts end, having fulfilled her walk-on part. She must therefore have emerged out of the shadow of the crucified man-god and had a story of her own.
The same is true of the other woman central to Christianity, who we think we know better.
To begin with, the mother of Jesus was no more than a background character. Early Christianity showed no curiosity about her. Only later did Mary develop into something else, becoming something very close to a deity in her own right.
In several parts of France there are clues to how this process happened. Many churches venerate ancient statues of the Virgin Mary which have black skin. Many spurious reasons are given for this – candlesmoke, the colour of the wood etc – but it is far more likely that the name of the mother of Jesus was merged with effigies of existing goddesses with lineages stretching back to pre-Roman civilisations.
Every religion – every expression of human hopes, fears desires – has both a masculine and feminine component. A male god and his son, whose words were interpreted by a male priesthood, could not entirely supplant an archetypal belief in the female energies that underpinned the world, along with the male ones.
The Virgin Mary became the irreproachable mother to us all and the perfect woman free from the crude limitations of incarnation, especially doubt, choice and compromise. We may like to believe that such a person could exist in reality but we know she doesn’t. The gods and goddesses may look like us but they are not like us because their supernatural abilities to overcome the stresses we face distance them from us.
The religious urge is always accompanied by a dose or pragmatism and the need for real role models is supplied by legend.
Mary Magdalene is the necessary counterpart to the Virgin. Although she is a saint, she is seen comparatively rarely in churches, in contrast to the “other,” male, disciples of Jesus who have been celebrated and immortalized as Apostles. She is normally reduced to a role with a message. She is the ever-repentant sinner with sensual red hair standing at the foot of the Cross besides the Virgin Mary, who has been declared incapable of sin.
Mary Magdalene is like us. She is an imperfect woman and, perhaps, an imperfect wife and mother too. Well intentioned, we suppose, and keen to learn and listen but entirely human living in a world of endlessly difficult choices. She is, in short, complex. The doings of complex people do not make for good sermons: they cannot be simplified into a message of virtue over vice; they cannot be idolized as faultless; they are inconvenient if you want to build an ideology in monosyllabic words.
It is as if Mary Magdalene came to stand for everything that was awkward in the new religion; the gap between fine ideas and human reality. All those thousands of devout men preaching over the centuries about how to live in accordance with God’s desires for us, and not one of them (as far as we know) had ever had an open honest sexual relationship with another person. No wonder Mary Magalene was once vilified for being part of the story of Christianity but retaining her humanity. No wonder we want to know what became of her.
That is, if she ever existed; if she was ever more than a name. Language blurs fact and fiction making it hard to distinguish between someone real (your neighbor) and a mythological personality (a god of antiquity). Mary Magdelene inhabits that space between what we know and don’t know, reminding us that both certainty and mystery have equal importance to us.
* Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. London: Jonathan Cape, 1982.
About the author:
Nick Inman (born in Yorkshire in 1956) is a travel writer and photographer specialising in France and Spain. in 1984-5 he spent nine formative months living with the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. He is the author of A Guide to Mystical France: Secrets, Mysteries, Sacred Sites, as well as Politipedia, The Optimist’s Handbook and Who On Earth Are You? He lives in southwest France.
by Amara Rose
For me, the Great Remembering began in illness. On a descent to the depths of my being, I found myself throwing my arms around trees and sobbing, feeling their loving embrace. I began talking to crows, paying tribute to their visceral wisdom in a poem that concluded, “A coded conversation/In guttural cries/Opens my eyes/And lifts me higher.” Stunned from exhaustion, I’d never lived in such clarity. With my brain on an extended vacation, I was forced to access a more primitive part of my being, to participate in the instinctual world, not merely watch.
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Rapt with recognition, I devoured books such as The Feminine Face of God by Sherry Ruth Anderson and Patricia Hopkins, and The Moon Under Her Feet by Clysta Kinstler. I became Inanna, the ancient Sumerian Goddess who symbolizes death and rebirth, with wisdom gained.
I attended a pivotal event, Returning to the Mother of Us All, birthed by singer/songwriter Jennifer Berezan. A multilayered, sensory-rich immersion, Returning featured musicians, dancers, poets, actors and activists from all over the world. I participated from an altered state of pure consciousness approaching ecstasy, and at the conclusion, as a 12-foot tall Black Madonna danced in the center of the main stage and the audience cavorted around her, I made my way through the throng to clasp Jennifer’s hands and affirm with heartfelt conviction, “You’ve changed my life”.
Synchronicity and spiritual service
These are just a few examples of the myriad ways the Divine Feminine began showing up in my life, as she is now showing up for women (and many men) everywhere. Shannon Andersen, author of The Magdalene Awakening, is a powerful voice in service to this remembering, sharing the essence of the journey she’s lived, decoding the sacred symbols and synchronicities that herald the re-emergence of the Divine Feminine on Earth, as reflected in the archetype of Mary Magdalene.
Trained in past life regression by Brian Weiss, M.D. (author of Many Lives, Many Masters) with an extensive background in religion, psychology, metaphysics and mental health, Shannon embarked on a global quest to discover the meaning of recurring synchronicities surrounding numbers such as 444, 222, and 153, and symbols such as the lily. She eventually found the link between Mary Magdalene, the Cathars, the Knights Templar, and gematria (numerically encoded messages embedded in both the Old and New Testaments). And true to the synchronous manner in which such awakenings unfold, her first past-life regression client remembered a lifetime as Mary Magdalene!
As I listened to Shannon singing my soul’s song during a gathering, I was enfolded in the Returning experience anew, at a deeper level of understanding. A sister in the Magdalene lineage, her words echoed in my cells. The beauty and sanctity of Mary Magdalene is that she is Everywoman. “So many people are having Magdalene experiences now because it is a call to come back to the heart,” says Shannon. “Mary Magdalene represents the strong spiritual aspects within ourselves.
“She is the voice of the Divine Feminine more easily heard by those brought up in a Christian/Jewish culture, as well as those who grew up in this time of awakening feminine power. In myth and legend she is known as the Apostle to the Apostles. She opened up southern France and Europe to Christianity; churches throughout the region are dedicated in her name. Mary Magdalene correlates cross-culturally with Isis, Mother Mary, Quan Yin, White Buffalo Woman and other archetypes of the Divine Feminine found around the world.”
I know from my own journey that synchronicity — a word coined by psychologist Carl Jung that means “meaningful coincidence” — is a key way Spirit commands our attention in the West, where we inhabit ninety-mile-an-hour lives and seldom take time to listen to our inner voice. Shannon had begun seeing the numbers 444 on digital clocks, waking every night at that exact time. She discovered a correspondence with Archangel Michael, and started using this synchronicity for guidance in making important decisions. When she pulled into the parking lot of a building where she was considering employment and the odometer rolled over to 444, she knew the job was hers.
She later learned that on a higher level of meaning, in the gematria of the Greek New Testament, the phrase, “In the beginning there was the word…” adds up to 444. After her book was published, she discovered, as with Magdalene dreams and visions, that people all over the world had begun seeing these master numbers as powerful messengers from their own subconscious mind. And she understood she was being called into service.
(Similarly, when my relationship with crows began in 1993, as legions of Lightbearers were being summoned worldwide, I did not yet recognize Crow as a powerful archetype of the Divine Feminine. I only knew that when they cawed to me, I felt kinship.)
When you step onto the path of awakening, synchronicity will find you. It is the manifestation of spiritual alchemy.
The Magdalene frequency
This is the time when the Feminine frequency is returning to Earth, to heal and balance the masculine energies that have held sway on the planet for the past 5000 years. It’s the close of a Great Cycle, the Shift of the Ages, and spiritual leaders in all traditions are calling for this sacred reunion. Native American elder, Chief Sonne Reyna says, “It is time for the women to lead.” The Dalai Lama reportedly said, “The world will be saved by the Western woman.” This is why Magdalene has returned now: to help bring us home to our hearts. The gematria of Magdalene in the Greek New Testament is 153.
Shannon recounts: “At my first book signing, I was curious to see men showing up. I asked one why he was there, and he told me he was a member of the Knights Templar, dedicated to Mary Magdalene. As similar experiences continued I became convinced it is the mission of strong spiritual women to initiate the men into their hearts.”
A secret order that arose during the Middle Ages, the Knights Templar are peace warriors who carry the sword of peace, like Archangel Michael. The historical Knights were thought to worship the Divine Feminine — and some say these Knights held the secret of the marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The sexual initiations of the sacred marriage represented the very alchemy of the creation of life.
The Cathars, a group of monks from the Middle Ages who also held the heretical belief that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were intimate, exalted them as a couple. The Cathars resonate to the number 222. When the Church launched a Crusade against the Cathars, 222 priests were slaughtered. A troubadour poet prophesied that the Cathars would return in 700 years to finish their work.
Similarly: the Knights Templar were massacred on Friday, October 13, 1309 — which is why Friday the 13th is still considered unlucky! Of course, the Knights Templar vibrate to the number 13. It is the number that denotes transformation, enabling us to make a subtle yet quantum shift, from scared to sacred.
Yet the Knights, known as the “snail men” because they left a trail for us to follow, knew that death was but a doorway into the next dimension. And today, those of us who are reawakening are both Cathars and Knights: rainbow warriors leading the way into a new dawn. It is 700 years since the 1309 execution, The Age of Aquarius.
“The Magdalene lineage is about service — being a strong, spiritual, heart-driven warrior-monk,” affirms Shannon.
One way to open the doorway to the Divine is to walk a labyrinth. A form of sacred geometry, the labyrinth serves as a connecting link between Heaven and Earth — just as the heart chakra joins the three lower, physical chakras with the three upper, spiritual ones.
When I was moving deeply into my own healing journey, I began visiting the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, which is patterned on the one at Chartes Cathedral in France. Each walk was a release and a blessing, as I remembered and reclaimed a lost aspect of myself.
Shannon shared that the six innermost petals of a labyrinth represent the initiation of the Lord’s Prayer. The rose image (Rose itself being one of the ancient secret names for Magdalene) models the Holy Spirit. The ceremony for walking the center petal, which can be found in The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan, is:
1st petal = Faith
2nd petal = Surrender
3rd petal = Service
4th petal = Abundance
5th petal = Forgiveness
6th petal = Strength
You can find a labyrinth to walk via the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator.
Coming home, again
Shannon concluded our initiatory afternoon with a group past-life regression, asking us to watch for the lesson in that lifetime. I found myself as an 18th century Dutch child named Magda, who turned away from the man I loved at age 17 and spent the rest of my life in regret. At my death I cried, “Oh, Ezekiel!”
Initially, I thought the lesson was to accept/allow love when and where I may find it. I felt Mary Magdalene’s presence; certainly I was named for her then, as now — and knew the message was to realize I AM love, and must receive it in order for my own wells to be full, to have something to pour back out to the collective (I’m an Aquarian, the zodiacal Water Bearer).
However, reading The Magdalene Awakening I discovered that 444 is also the number of the Biblical Ezekiel, denoting the angelic realm: “From the spinning orb of light there appeared four beings, with four wings and four faces.” (Ezekiel 1:4). And now I sense that I was looking into my own face, my Divine Masculine, who was asking me to claim my lineage as Magdalene and become one with him in sacred reunion. All true love must begin first within our own beings.
I was unable or unwilling to do so then. But I am here now, with a clear mission to connect the collective towards our eventual expression of unity. I am honored and humbled to be part of the Magdalene lineage, and to be in service at this magnificent moment on Earth.
If you are reading this, you are ready to reclaim your sacred power. Be not afraid. There are too many of us this time — and the Light will prevail.
© Copyright 2009-2015 Amara Rose. All rights reserved.
About the author:
Amara Rose is a spiritual artisan, author, and “midwife” for our global rebirth. She offers soul guidance, e-courses, business alchemy and talks to accelerate your evolutionary journey. Learn more at LiveYourLight.com, where you can subscribe to her e-newsletter, What Shines. Her eBook trilogy, What You Need to Know Now: Practical Wisdom for Unleashing Your Inner Brilliance, is available from RadiancePublishing.com
by Valerie Gross
Do you ever wonder what happened to all those Goddess-worshippers in the Bible? You know, the ones who kept having their altars smashed and their sacred groves cut down and their priests and priestesses put to death? Those who worshipped Asherah, consort of Yahweh, and Yahweh as consort of Asherah?
After the fall of the Solomon’s Temple in the 6th century BCE , and the ensuing exile to Babylon, we never hear about the Asherah “problem” again. As far as the Bible is concerned, no one worshipped Her anymore.
I don’t believe it. For one thing, to this day we have yet to hear of an entire religion being wiped out. When persecuted, people hide, they have secret meetings, they create remote outposts where they can worship openly. I believe that those who worshipped a sacred couple, Yahweh and his Asherah, Asherah and her Yahweh, lived on, and grew strong.
This is not just wishful thinking, not just a fantasy what-if. In the Bible, in the New Testament, the four Gospels that tell the story of Jesus, tell it full of the symbols of Asherah, and her priestesses, if one understands how to read them.
We are told Mary the Mother communed with an angel and became pregnant. To us 21st century folk, this is unique and miraculous. To the people of ancient times, it simply indicated that she was a priestess. For example, the followers of the great mathematician Pythagoras claimed that he had been born from his human mother and her union with the god Apollo. This meant his mother was a priestess too. (If you are interested in priestesses and their unions with Gods, look into the Sacred Marriage Ritual).
So we are told Mary had a child and brought it to Anna to be blessed by her in the Temple. Second century, early Christian lore tells us that Saint Anne was Mary’s mother. Thus we may see another confirmation of Mary’s status: priestesshood ran in the family.
All of this would have been obvious to those hearing the stories of the Gospels at the time they were first shared. It was a common cultural language. And it is not an accident that these stories were included. The four Gospels of the New Testament were carefully selected from dozens of gospels (many of them known today as the Gnostic Gospels) that existed at the time, and edited to form a coherent narrative. The men who edited them together had been appointed to do so by the Pope, and some evidence of their work survives to this date. They were not shy about shaping these stories, and they were not worried about inconsistent timelines and characters across the four Gospels they included.
So when all four Gospels agree on a story, we know it is particularly significant. The longest narrative on which they agree is the story of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, all featuring Mary Magdalene as the one who stayed at the cross till the very end as Jesus died, and as the first witness to his resurrection.
Now, that story of witness has no older context to us today than that the Gospels themselves. But, to a 1st century audience, that story was 3000 years old. It was the story of the Great Goddess who mourns her beloved’s death in winter and rejoices at his/her return in Spring. It is Inanna and Dumuzi, Ishtar and Tammuz, Isis and Osiris, and Asherah and Tammuz/Yahweh, Demeter and Persephone.
That witness to burial and resurrection – this was the most important ritual a priestess of Asherah could perform. And only the high priestess could do it.
Clearly, the early Church wanted its followers to see Mary as the new high priestess, descended from those they had known for thousands of years. Just as the Gospels are sprinkled with references to Isaiah and other proof that Jesus was the Messiah whose arrival had been foretold in the Old Testament, so are they sprinkled with references to the approval of the priestesses and the embodiment of that ancient Goddess story.
While this would have been obvious to a 1st century or 4th century audience, it is not so obvious to us. Because, unlike the book of Isaiah, that ancient story with the Goddess and the priestesses was not explicitly included in the Bible.
(Why? Maybe it was so obvious at the time, they didn’t think it was necessary. Maybe it was a conspiracy. I’ll leave that question to the sociologists and the historians. Me, I tell stories – rooted in history, blossoming in the heart and imagination. )
Peeling back the layers in the different Gospel stories, we find Mary Magdalene’s friend and fellow priestess Salome, who may well have been the author of the magnificent Gnostic Gospel called Thunder Perfect Mind. With them is Joanna, whose husband was the governor’s chief of staff. That’s right, the wife of the governor Herod’s chief of staff was out there, wandering the countryside with these women and men who went around with Jesus. And we are told that these women supported the group with their own money.
The money is key – women had such low status in the ancient world, only royalty and priestesses would have had any money and especially the freedom to move about without a man to answer for them. So when we are told that these women had enough money to support a movement – one that was likely tied to the revitalization of the priestesshood and women’s value – and enough freedom to devote their lives to it, that is also evidence that these women were of a different class of society than we are told even existed.
And what was this movement they were drawn to, in the middle of this land oppressed by Roman conquest and taxes, brutalized by local authorities and pummeled with drought, famine and plague? What was born in the midst of a guerrilla warfare so intense that it exploded into full revolution only a generation later? A movement of universal love, personal power, and total forgiveness.
Whether or not we believe Jesus was divine, became divine, or even lived at all, we cannot deny that something happened in the 1st century CE that forever changed how people understood and valued their relationship to each other, to God, and to their own souls.
We find at its essence what we would call today a humanist movement, one that affirms that all beings are precious, be they man or woman, soldier or tax collector, sinner or saint, Hebrew or Roman, friend or foe, dying or just born. One that affirms that God cares more about who you are in your heart than how you act in Church or Temple. Up until then, God was one to be appeased and feared and adored. It was revolutionary, at the time, to consider that God loves us back, you and me, personally.
No one had ever said anything like this before. It was completely radical, and it changed everything.
And while the records of time tell us that this message was communicated to the community primarily by Jesus, they also tell us that it was literally made possible by a group of powerful, self-reliant, independent women, especially Mary Magdalene, who never lost faith, not even in the face of death.
So what else can we know about these women? What about Elizabeth, Hannah’s other daughter, who was John the Baptist’s mother? What about Martha, Mary Magdalene sister? And what about the six hundred of years of priestesses from the time of the fall of the Temple, to the time of Mary Magdalene’s birth? How did they live? What were they like? What can we learn from them?
Through careful weaving of what is Biblically known with what is historically possible, I breathed them all back to life, in my book, Magdala, just for you. Come and have a look.
About the author
Born in Manhattan in the 1960’s summer of love, Valerie Gross shares her time between her beloved native city and the wilderness that surrounds her, with her husband Paul, a musician. In addition to Magdala, Valerie has written an unpublished novel, Our Lady of Everything, and edits many works of scholarship, memoir and fiction. She has recently taken a break from teaching women’s spirituality workshops in order to devote herself full-time to a new historical fiction, set in America in the 1850’s.
Find out more: http://www.magdalathebook.com