Sedona Goddess Women’s Retreat Announced for April

The Sedona Goddess Empowerment Retreat, co-facilitated by Shamanic healer and soul guide Anahata Ananda and Janet Farnsworth, a nationally recognized yoga teacher and women’s empowerment coach, will take place April 26-30, 2018 at the Sedona Mago Retreat Center and is now open for registrations. This multi-day, women-only retreat dedicated to awakening the Divine Feminine Goddess within, is sponsored by Shamangelic Healing, Sedona’s premier center for Shamanic healing and spiritual awakening.

“As caregivers, professionals, mothers, wives, teachers, healers and leaders, women are, in many ways, the heartbeat of our communities,” said Anahata Ananda, founder of Shamangelic Healing. “While juggling these many roles and responsibilities, it is vital that women receive the support, rejuvenation, guidance and nourishment they need to remain balanced, centered, healthy and radiant,” she added.

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Now in its sixth year, the Sedona Goddess Empowerment Retreat features opportunities for soul-sisters to connect, expand, express, nourish, laugh, journey awaken and thrive. Participants will learn tools and practices to help them maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle while also deepening their connection to self and others. The 2018 retreat, priced between $1650-$1850, includes double/single room accommodations in cozy casitas and buffet-styled meals at the Sedona Mago Retreat Center, located in Arizona’s pristine desert wilderness just 30 minutes from Sedona’s city center.

The four-day itinerary includes interactive workshops and sharing circles that will offer a sacred environment in which women can express themselves, experience healing and awaken spiritually. Soulful land journeys, labyrinth walks and Shamanic ceremony and rituals will provide the invitation to connect with nature and experience the healing power of Sedona’s energy vortexes. Cleansing and nourishing physical activities such as sacred movement, restorative yoga, meditation, Shamanglic Breathwork and sound healing journeys will provide the ultimate gift of both relaxation and rejuvenation.

“This retreat is really about the power of sisterhood—the strength we have in numbers and the power we gain by lifting one another up through sharing, caring, connecting and building new relationships with one another,” said Anahata. “As was practiced in ancient times, women coming together and sharing is a priceless gift. Now more than ever, we need this gift to affect positive change in the world”

The intimate Goddess Retreat has limited spaces so those interested should register online soon at Shamangelic Retreats. Optional, private Shamangelic Healing Journeys with Anahata are also available on the days prior to and after the retreat.

Anahata Ananda has trained extensively with gifted shamans, energy healers and spiritual teachers from around the world to artfully integrate the fields of spirituality, energy healing, self-empowerment and shamanic teachings. Blending the compassion and tenderness of an Angel and the wisdom and strength of a Shaman, Anahata guides journeys of profound healing and awakening. Her client-base spans the globe with individuals from all walks of life who are seeking to heal and awaken to their fullest potential.

Janet Farnsworth is a nationally recognized yoga teacher, somatic therapist and women’s empowerment coach. A certified Kripalu Yoga instructor and body-centered psychotherapist based in Austin, Texas, Janet facilitates a variety of movement meditation journeys for people of all ages. Her business, The Practice of Now, is a model of open, heart-based movement that honors each person’s instinct as a means of connecting to one’s highest and deepest wisdom.

For those unable to attend the retreat, Anahata offers a variety of Shamangelic Healing services year-round, including private sessions, sacred land journeys and training courses that incorporate Shamanic teachings and other energy healing modalities. She also offers Tailored Retreats for individuals, couples and small groups that can include a combination of private healing sessions, sacred land journeys and other offerings based on various needs and areas of interest.

Shamangelic Healing is a premier center for Shamanic healing and spiritual awakening in Sedona. It is nestled beneath Thunder Mountain with breathtaking views and within walking distance to a medicine wheel and healing vortexes, making it the perfect setting for healing and expansion.

For detailed descriptions and a calendar of all training courses and spiritual awakening services offered by Anahata visit http://www.shamangelichealing.com/



Dark Goddess Craft Book Review

People tend to think that darkness is evil, malign and dangerous, that anything that is feared or hidden should be avoided, only to be seen in the distance. Some pagans often decide to focus on what shines, the commonly descriptive as the ‘light’ side of magic, while the ‘dark’ is approached with more caution, more fear and even with doubt.

With her book “Dark Goddess Craft: A Journey through the Heart of Transformation,” which is filled with Goddesses from different cultures and myths, each a new face of the same Goddess many pagans worship in their rituals and ceremonies, author Stephanie Woodfield showed that there’s nothing to be afraid of in the dark.

Woodfield explores the many version on how darkness, as perceived nowadays, could lead to a positive, useful and valuable part of spirituality in general, along with examples on how to honor those deities, work with them, ask for their help, so the reader can do their own ways in the future after some practice, which is also encouraged by the author, understanding that Paganism is a very personal path depending on who practices it.

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Because of that, Woodfield has included her own and experiences, along with those of her friends, with such deities as a way of providing an example of the possible outcome, but always making it clear that any approach is as valid as hers, as long as comfortable to the reader and taking into consideration the background of each Goddess.

Well known myths such as Hekate’s, Kali’s and Morrigan are explained to newcomers along with those who could be more foreign such as Sedna’s, Eris’, Blodeuwedd’s and Ereshkigal’s, making it an interesting and juicy learning process, a well invested amount of time that provides a window to a larger picture about the common, shared and publicized vision of the Goddess.

Each of the chapters of Dark Goddess Craft presents a different Goddess, each one with her own lore, the myths that surround her, different version of their stories by some authors and the elements the rule over, giving a complete, yet practical and simple approach to them for the reader to fully understand what they all mean for both the author and the readers themselves.

Stephanie Woodfield uses a simple language, very descriptive at times to cover the amount of details that have to be understood in order to properly work with some of the deities, but not boring at any time. It also sparked my interest that each of the chapters start with a kind of guided meditation, or a narrative that could be used as such, when working with the Goddess presented.

Dark Goddess Craft: A Journey Through the Heart of Transformation is a book many Pagans should read, and that could even be of use for those who are uninformed about what Paganism is about in order to corrects wrong interpretations and fight ignorance about a topic, perhaps controversial, but that can bring a lot of good and light, no matter how contradictory or ironic it can sound.

Dark Goddess Craft: A Journey through the Heart of Transformation
Print Length: 242 pages
Publisher: Llewellyn Publications (November 8, 2017)
Publication Date: November 8, 2017

About the Author:

Stephanie Woodfield (Brookfield, CT) has been a practicing Witch for over fourteen years and a Priestess for ten years. Her lifelong love of Irish mythology led to a close study of Celtic Witchcraft. A natural clairvoyant and empath, she has worked as a tarot card reader and is ordained as a minister with the Universal Life Church.

About the reviewer:

Bader Saab is a digital journalist and self-published writer; a solitary, eclectic wiccan interested in the darker side of magic and divination; a gothic guy that tries to educate whenever he cans. Hopefully, someday he will succeed in one of them.


Goddess Spirituality as Liberation Thealogy

by Rev. Dr. Karen Tate

A friend of mine startled me one day when she announced she was leaving what we loosely called Goddess Spirituality because it lacked substance. Besides the Wiccan Rede, which left a lot of gray area to rationalize wrong-doing, she felt what we were learning about Goddess Spirituality didn’t delve enough into ethics and learning about individual pantheons or the Wheel of the Year was not really providing us adequate guidance as a template for living. She had made the decision to turn to Buddhism to see what it offered. Her decision stuck with me because I believed she had a point – and I kept mulling it over for sometime. Yes, there was so much to learn – tarot, doing ritual and magic, herstory, astrology, herbology, study of various traditions, sacred sites – but what about making the ancient teachings relevant to help change our patriarchal world? What did Goddess Spirituality offer?

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What first jumped out at me was Wiccans and Pagans and Goddess Advocates may very well have different wayshowers, elders and foremothers. While Wiccans and Pagans might turn to Starhawk , Selena Fox, Dion Fortune, Scott Cunningham and Ray Buckland, to name just a few well known teachers, Goddess Advocates might also turn to Fox and Starhawk, but certainly were turning to, again, naming only a few, Riane Eisler, Mairja Gimbutas, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Merlin Stone, academia and feminists. In fact, it was Merlin Stone’s When God Was a Woman and Riane Eisler’s extensive research of history in The Chalice and the Blade, that kept me on the path as I discovered herstory was not a feminist fantasy. Eisler’s dominator paradigm theory, then her partnership theories from The Partnership Way, informed the budding feminist blossoming within and laid some of the ground work leading me toward becoming a social justice activist. I could see that for some there was a fork in the road as some Wiccans and Pagans never took that path of activism that I eventually found most relevant as a Goddess Advocate. My own books reflect my growth as Priestessing became more than making ancient rituals relevant for contemporary devotees or doing Wheel of the Year rituals.

My earliest years as a Priestess, discovering the impact of standing in Her sacred sites, culminated in writing Sacred Places of Goddess: 108 Destinations, which miraculously got me into mainstream places teaching about Goddess through the back door of “sacred travel and pilgrimage”that I might never have gained entry to had I just been teaching Wicca 101. One could easily see the diversity of Goddess by her many names and faces across the globe from ancient times to living traditions – and how to get there if you were an armchair traveler or you actually ventured out with boots on the ground.

Priestessing the community for dozens of years, starting an Iseum within the Fellowship of Isis, then later, the not-for-profit Isis Ancient Cultures Society, resulted in my documenting esoteric and exoteric experiences in Walking An Ancient Path: Rebirthing Goddess on Planet Earth, but it wasn’t until the newest book, Goddess Calling, out in early 2014, that I connect all the dots between what I’d learned as a Priestess of Goddess Spirituality with how it all fits in with social justice and politics. Getting beyond Wicca 101, tarot, astrology, ritual making and all the rest, I realized what Goddess taught us was in fact the new liberation thealogy of our time. Goddess set us free from patriarchal oppression! Now I could answer my friends’ faulty conclusion with certainty and find her assessment of Goddess Spirituality being lacking untrue because the Divine Feminine does in fact teach us quite a lot about how to live a peaceful, joyous, empowered and sustainable life. We just have to go beyond Wicca 101 and the Wheel of the Year. Her many images of divinity and mythology teach us much if we are willing to rethink and reinterpret and courageously tell new stories, some of which I’ll gently touch on here and now.

So let us look at several examples of the Sacred Feminine as metaphor or myth and how they might give us a template for living or suggest values we might embrace.

1) We find under the broad umbrella of Goddess, many faces across continents and cultures, with no mandate that we worship one name, one face. Instead we see a metaphor for plurality, diversity and inclusion in the loving and life-affirming Sacred Feminine, rather than the jealous, One Way, androcentric and exclusionary god of patriarchy keen on asking men to sacrifice their sons to prove their loyalty and a holy book filled with violence. Those embracing Goddess might easily see embracing peace, tolerance, gender equality and peoples of all walks of life; gay, straight, people of all skin colors and religions or no religion at all, as being in alignment with Her diversity, resulting in a more just, equal, balanced and sustainable world and society.

2) Consider the mythology of the Inuit Goddess Sedna. She is the gatekeeper between humankind and the sea creatures of the regions near icy waters which people depend for their livelihood. If mankind becomes too greedy and exploits the creatures of the sea, Sedna cuts humanity off until he takes only what he needs. Greed and excess are taboo as we are all inter-dependent upon each other. As our environmental Goddess, Sedna, teaches us to be wise stewards of Mother Earth and Her creatures. This is a rejection of excess and exploitation and She calls us to environmentalism and to be Her spokes people protecting habitats across the globe. We might be called to be at the forefront fighting against fracking, poisoning our water and air, and depleting our natural resources. We would deplore exploitation of any kind, including wage discrimination, worker exploitation or multi-national corporations decimating local economies and indigenous peoples.   We certainly would use our vote to support those who fight for the 99% and allies who would protect Mother Earth and Sedna’s creatures.

3) The Egyptian Goddess Isis bestowed upon pharaohs their right to rule and they were to rule their kingdoms governing under the laws of the Goddess Maat, namely truth, balance, order, and justice. Similarly, we see the Hindu Goddess Kali standing atop her consort, Shiva, whose powers must be activated by Her. Clearly this suggests patriarchy, or rule of the father, resulting in rule by the male gender, has not always been the way of the world, nor would be the way of the world with Goddess restored to center. Neither would we want patriarchy in a skirt as absolute power corrupts absolutely. Even a cursory glimpse here shows a call for female leadership and a respect for women’s power, both of which are sorely lacking in our world as academia, corporate America, religious institutions and politics has less than 20% representation by women in the United States. We must support women who embrace Goddess ideals and support their leadership in these bastions of male control. Isis instructing pharaoh she is granting him the right to rule, but only if he employs the Laws of the Goddess Maat, can be seen in support for civil rights, voter rights, worker and immigrant rights and consumer protection from powers that might mis-use and exploit the individual or the planet.

4) In the thealogy of the Sacred Feminine, Goddess affirms women’s bodies and sexuality. Priestesses of pharmacology, mid-wives and women hold the power over their own bodies and life and death is in their hands.

Today the patriarchy dictates to women the parameters of beauty and women fall victims to their standards spending millions with plastic surgeons to live up to some impossible ideal. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 13.1 million cosmetic procedures were performed in 2010, up 5% from 2009. Beyond physical beauty, the patriarchy wants to control all aspects of women’s sexuality and reproduction. Known in the United States as Big Pharma, pharmaceutical companies now hold the power over women’s bodies as they encourage women to disconnect from their menses, that monthly inconvenience, that curse. They say, here, take our pill and see your sacred blood magically disappear. Disconnect from one of the very things that empowers you as a woman! In a not-so veiled culture war, one political party has declared war on women by attempting to de-fund Planned Parenthood, thwarting access to contraception, trying to pass laws to make divorces harder to obtain, trying to legalize the murder of abortion providers, and by having miscarriages investigated and abortions abolished. Women’s bodies and lives are the terrain on which this current extremist conservative movement is taking a stand.

If we had a feminine face of god at the center of society, or Her ideals affirming female authority and leadership, men and their institutions would not control or dictate to women. Equal is equal. Women would understand their sexuality and bodies are sacred and in their own hands and would not be complicit in their own oppression or exploitation..

5) Goddess thealogy affirms female power. Where Goddess was worshiped, her temples were the centers of wisdom, culture, and financial power and were often presided over by women. Researchers such as Merlin Stone and Heide Goettner-Abendroth, in her book, Societies of Peace: Matriarchies Past, Present and Future point to matriarchal societies where Goddess was venerated and maternal values practiced, women and children were protected and had a spot at the center of the culture, reaping the benefit of that positioning at the center.   We must once again turn to the attributes of the Feminine, such as caring, sharing, nurturing, negotiation, collaboration, solidarity, partnership and peace – all of which have been marginalized or demonized under patriarchy – and embrace these values so that quality of life is restored for the most of us.

In conclusion, these are but a few ideas showing how Sacred Feminine mythology might be reclaimed and reinterpreted to provide a roadmap toward a more sustainable future. We have in the feminine images of divinity deities, archetypes and ideals to show us the way. It is up to us if we want to embrace them as our role models and heed their advice.

About the author:

Karen TateRev. Karen Tate is an ordained minister, independent scholar of the sacred feminine, speaker, sacred tour leader and author. Her five published books, besides this newest anthology include: Goddess Calling: Inspirational Messages & Meditations of Sacred Feminine Liberation Thealogy, the anthology Voices of the Sacred Feminine: Conversations to Re-Shape Our World, Sacred Places of Goddess: 108 Destinations and Walking An Ancient Path: Rebirthing Goddess on Planet Earth, the latter a finalist in the National USA Best Books of 2008 Awards.  Karen has been named One of the Thirteen Most Influential Women in Goddess Spirituality, A Wisdom Keeper of the Goddess Spirituality Movement, and she can be seen in the film, Femme: Women Healing the World.  She gives talks regularly to prestigious venues such as the Council for the Parliament of World Religions.  Her weekly radio show, Voices of the Sacred Feminine airs live on Wednesday evenings or listeners can heard past guests from the archives. Karen is available to speak to your group for workshops, rituals and life passage ceremonies and provides life coaching services.  For more information, see www.karentate.com.

About her new book:

Goddess 2.0 –  Advancing A New Path Forward

goddess-2-0You are not alone if you believe domination and authoritarian patriarchy are destroying countless lives and our planet. There is a more sustainable alternative and it’s not new. In fact it’s ancient. Exiled for a time, but making a return, the Sacred Feminine has become indelibly integrated into our lives, reminding humanity during this time of crisis that the ideals of the Great She offer a pathway to secure a more sustainable future. As people lose faith in organized religion, as the paradigm of power shifts across the globe, as climate change quickly approaches a point of no return, people are leading using their divine intelligence gleaned from Goddess teachings to find solutions and sanctuary. They’re listening to their consciences, heart wisdom, and intuition to manifest a new normal. They’re practicing partnership, generosity, and compassion to establish a new way of being. They’re tapping into their empathy and morality as they hit the reset button. We are witnessing this awakening across the globe as people from all walks of life and cultures turn to Goddess, deity, archetype and ideal, to evolve from the malignant chaos we face today. Using the wisdom and activism suggested in Goddess 2.0; Advancing a New Path Forward, we see through the lens of spiritual, cultural and political leaders, old and new, male and female. They share the many ways Goddess Spirituality has grown and matured in the minds of Her advocates to inspire the birth of a new world and usher in a time of security, peace, joy, equality and prosperity for all.

Meet the contributors:  Anne Baring, Starhawk, Carol P. Christ, Riane Eisler, Barbara G. Walker, Cristina Biaggi, Elizabeth and Robert Fisher, Shirley Ann Ranck, Bob Gratrix, Patricia ‘Iolana, Nancy Vedder-Shults, M. Isidora Forrest, Karen Tate, Amy “Amalya” Peck, Linda Iles, Andrew Gurevich, Charlotte L. Cressey, Delphine DeMore, Tabby Biddle, Trista Hendren, and Harita Meenee.

For a signed advance copy send $18 (includes S&H in US) place your order at PayPal.Me/karentate.

If you’d like to send a personal check, please make checks payable to Karen Tate and mail to 2554 Lincoln Blvd, #678, Venice, CA  90291


Mary Magdalene: The Goddess and the Woman

Mary Magdaleneby 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.