Monday, January 11, 2010

Goddess of the Week

This week's 'Goddess' card is Mary Magdalene of the Christian mythos; as I've said before, when I did these cards I was using a pretty loose definition of 'Goddess,' and included deified humans like Bodhisattvas and Saints.

Mary Magdalene (or just 'the Magdalene', i.e. 'the woman from Magdala') was a disciple to Jesus, one of a number of (largely unidentified) women who went with Jesus on His teaching rounds and supported Him and His disciples financially. She witnessed Jesus's crucifixion and His resurrection, or rather saw Jesus after He was resurrected (i.e. She did not see the actual act of His being resurrected) according to all the Gospels (though She is not mentioned by name in Luke as witness to the crucifixion).

Her legend is quite confused, tangled with the myriad Marys of the New Testament, the Church being to blame for much of the confusion as it has changed its opinion of Her over the years, several times. (Infallibly, of course. If you want a headache, just you try and parse the Wikipedia article on the Infallibility of the Church. Ow, ow, ow.)

Though She was considered a prostitute for well over a thousand years (probably the fault of Pope Gregory in the 6th century), the Church now maintains She was not and never had been; and depending on the sect, Mary Magdalene may or may not be the woman Who anointed Jesus and washed His feet, drying them with Her hair. That's said to be Mary of Bethany; many Protestant denominations consider Them two different Marys, but the Catholic Church considers them the same person (i.e. that the name refers to Mary Magdalene while She was in Bethany, not a different Mary from Bethany).

It's hard to say; there have been an awful lot of revisions of that Book, and there are several Gnostic writings that were expunged from the 'official' version in early times, such as the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary, generally thought to refer to Mary Magdalene Herself. In the Gospel of Philip, Mary is said to have quite a close relationship with Jesus, such that the other apostles would whine about how come Jesus liked her best? (shades of Tommy Smothers there); She is even called His 'companion,' a description that has caused a bit of speculation to whether that might mean 'lover' or 'wife.'

A later, extra-Biblical legend of the Magdalene is that She ended up in the Camargue in the south of France, with two other Marys, Joseph of Arimathea (the man Who lent His tomb to Jesus, and yes, 'lent' is the correct word, as Jesus only used it a couple of days) and some others including a servant-girl from Upper Egypt named Sarah (sometimes considered Mary Magdalene's daughter, with the obvious question then of well then who is the father? Hmmm). In later times a church to the three Marys was built there, and the town at which They landed was renamed Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, or 'Saint Marys of the Sea.' The church has also been the locus for certain rituals of the Romani who especially worship Saint Sarah, calling Her Sara e Kali, or Sarah the Black. As the Romani are believed to have originated in India, there may very well be some vestiges of Durga or Kali worship in this ritual, which includes taking the statue of Saint Sarah from the crypt and processing with it down to the sea (just a block or two away), and then ritually 'bathing' it in the ocean (actually just getting the hem Her skirt wet), similar to rituals to Kali and Durga in India.

I think the theme then this week given this card is one of confusion, of meanderings about; and it may be a little tricky to trace the origins of what is going on. It can be figured out, though, and maybe it isn't really all that important in the end, meaning, the echoes we are hearing right now might be the important part. Which isn't to say there isn't value in trying to sort through the different strands; but don't lose sight of the later accumulations, for they are important here too.

Or it could be about the process of meandering itself; how one thing leads to another, and another, which leads eventually to something quite marvelous. Do not be too quick to accuse your mind of wandering this week; at this time I think letting it do its thing without judgement is the best course. Even if, especially if, you normally would rein things in or dismiss them as 'frivolous.'

There is also, of course, the more traditional theme of compassion, of Mary Magdalene weeping for Jesus and His sufferings (She was considered so hysterically weepy Her name has become the word 'maudlin' in English); consider that, this week, too, and the importance of tears in the process of healing.

So, what does She make of all this?

But I went from sad to celebratory; that is my story. And of the work left unfinished after 'the end' is proclaimed; women's work, this is, the reality of tying up loose ends. Stories never really end.

Yes, kindness and compassion, for others and for yourself. Do you think I had no part in casting out those demons from me? He could not have done it were I not willing, and kind myself.

Old stories, too, remember them, wonder on how they are not finished, how they echo down to the day you have now. No, you do not have to go back into them if it is painful, certainly not; but marvel at how it has changed you. It is all a wonder.

What do you think?


Thalia said...

Boy is that a mess of capitalized pronouns; crazy how a decision to capitalize the pronouns of Deity echoes down, to the point where I'm capitalizing Christian saints' pronouns (like Joseph of Arimathea's).

It's a crazy process, which starts with the Christian practice of capitalizing pronouns referring to God/Jesus; then it's extended by Goddess-worshippers like me (and not only me) in an effort to evoke the same kind of respect, and to loosen the monotheistic monopoly on these things (and for me also being a conscious personal choice that I then follow through with in practice); but then in fairness it has to be extended to Gods, the male Deities; and then I have to define well what is Deity? Julius Caesar was a man, but was officially deified by the Senate; who am I to argue with that culture? (though of course there were plenty of critics within it) which brings it back around to, well, Christian saints are deified humans, right? Shouldn't their (Their?) pronouns be capitalized? Even though it's against Christian practice (which amuses me very much, it's true).

The hazards of being the inclusive sort, I guess.

Thalia said...

And oh yeah, a bit of trivia: the only male to be depicted in my Goddess Oracle Deck is, of all people, Jesus.

Though it's just His feet.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I've always had a fondness for Mary Magdalene. Some who read the Gnostic Gospels argue that Christ intended to build his church on the Magdalene's faith, not Peter's, and that's why Christ appeared to her first after the Resurrection and not to that turncoat Peter. So it's Mary Magdalene who really should have been the first Pope. USURPERS!!

Heather said...

I would just like to say how much I enjoy reading your blog. I have been reading it for some time now but (because I'm lazy I guess) I never took the time to leave a comment before. I always look forward to your post every week and I always find myself learning new things. Your posts are well-written and well-researched, as well as thought-provoking. Thank you very much (and I will try to comment more in the future).

Anonymous said...

Sorting through the Marys in this post is like sorting through the Marys in my family.

Fantastic post.