Who was Mary Magdalene, really?
And why is this question important at all given that we're talking about a woman who lived 2,000 years ago, and about whom we have only slender references?
Over the past several weeks, once again, Mary Magdalene has been coming up (along with Lilith), and that's usually a clue to pay attention to what's arising.
Such questions seem to arise in force when the answer is important to the times, it seems. And this seems a question whose time has come, if all of the movies and books offer a clue.
Mary Magdalene resurfaces in our collective consciousness as part of a general rise of the Feminine and the Goddess.
Most of us grew up with the notion that Mary Magdalene was a repenting prostitute, if we heard of her at all. More recently, we've learned that she was a very close companion of Jesus, one of his devoted disciples, 'the apostle of apostles', according to gospel references.
The bible doesn't actually say that Magdalene was a prostitute; we have a sixth century sermon by Pope Gregory 'the Great' to thank for that, and though it 'stuck' for centuries, it's since been debunked as lie or misinterpretation.
The film, The DaVinci Code, brought Mary Magdalene into even greater visibility, raising the possibility and stimulating conversation and debate about whether she was the wife as well as disciple of Jesus. While this is interesting, to me it seems a distraction from the more important question, and greater likelihood, that she was a spiritual adept, priestess, early church leader, and teacher in her own right.
In the preface of The Gospel of Mary Magdalene by Jean-Yves Leloup, David Tresemer, PhD, and Laura-Lee Cannon, write:
"...Mary Magdalene focuses on the inner worlds of initiation. We imagine that, not through outer pomp and pageantry, but through gnosis or direct knowing, she seeks union with the Divine. Hers is the path of the sacred marriage, accomplished within."
They continue, "Her path emphasizes inner preparation, introspection, and inner transformation. Perhaps, in addition, she also represents the feeling world; she carries the sensitivity of sensuality, in the truest meaning of the word, finding the divinity in the senses."
She's also seen, in the various gospels, as one who 'gets it' -- one who has truly understood and experienced the teachings of the wisdom master, the rabbi Jesus. The scholar John Lamb Lash has explored this indepth in his writings on Mary Magdalene and the resurgence of the Feminine.
She is portrayed as a teacher and adept, yes, but also as one who is devoted in action -- it is she, with two other women, for example, who don't flee the threats at the crucifixion.
They remain there, present, witnessing, and perhaps 'holding the space' through their attention and devotion. It is Magdalene who goes to the tomb with the sacred oils, and it is to her that the risen Jesus first appears and gives the instruction to 'go tell the others what you have seen'. Because Mary Magdalene is one who has seen.
Joan Chittester, OSB, in her book The Friendship of Women: The Hidden Tradition of the Bible, writes this of Magdalene:
"The Magdalene quality of friendship is what distinguishes those who walk with us through the shallows of life from those who take the soundings of our soul and follow us into the depths of them...Intimacy, the Magdalene quality, is about appreciation, affection, and warmth...it is about being deeply valued, reverently respected, lovingly tended, and warmly received." (p. 83)
In these reflections we begin to see why the question of who Mary Magdalene really was is important -- why these ways and qualities are so needed in our lives and in our world now. We see how the path of inner transformation and devotion to wisdom enlivens these beautiful qualities of sensuality, devotion, intimacy, dignity, wisdom, and deep respect and reverence for all as Divine expressions of sacredness.
Who was Mary Magdalene, and what does she offer us now? The explorations continue...
Wild & Beautiful Blessings,
Listen to the Feminine Mojo Show on BlogTalkRadio, with guests talking about Mary Magdalene, Sophia, the Mysteries, the Divine Feminine, and more.
* Image Credit: Leonardo Davinci's Mary Magdalene; Mary Magdalene by Richard Stodart (purchase the print here).