TABOO ::: Mary of Magdala
I woke early, before dawn and quietly slipped out of the room.
My heart was in my throat, my stomach softly flip-flopping in little crescendos of ‘I really shouldn’t be doing this’ as the elevator door slid closed. I was on my honeymoon, and my new husband was not pleased that I wanted to spend a morning alone. I was being called … and it was like there was no other choice but to listen.
I had my camera and my notebook, the two things vital as my breath, as if they were exterior mirrorings of my left and right lung. I didn’t need anything else.
Dawn was slipping upward in the twilight sky when the rental car pulled out of the parking garage. The city of Tiberius was still asleep, but the sun was tirelessly climbing up into Israel.
Soon, the water was beside me. And everything else faded as my truest self came into focus.
I drove the three miles to Capernaum.
The sky was orange, and so was the water visible through the windshield. The air was thick. The sound of dawn surrounded me.
When I arrived, I couldn’t believe my luck. The old ruins of Capernaum were empty. Early bird gets the worm. The squares of rubble, the ancient interiors of the homes the people communed, loved, and slept in held court tirelessly all these centuries. The old streets the disciples canvased, spreading the word. The white pillars of a synagogue absorbed the golden glow of the sun as it continued its ascent into the sky.
Overwhelmed with a powerful collision of past and present, I walked the short trip to the Sea of Galilee. I placed my feet reverently in the water. I watched the horizon where the sea (it is actually a very large lake) meets the sky. I felt into the mystery of time, consciousness, and what it means to truly be holy.
What transpired there defies description. It was my moment of holy anyway, and the older and wiser I get I realize we are entitled to our quiet moments of holy: honeymoon or not, teaching a class on holy embodiment … it matters not. In a loud world full of crescendoing - sometimes cacophonizing - beliefs, every experience we have doesn’t belong ‘out there’. Especially the most profound ones. Right?
In fact, true teaching is a guiding toward and inward … not a declaration of, or dogma-spreading, or do-it-this-way. True partnership is an allowance of what the other requires and desires. True connection is … finding your own holy and being so damn connected to what that is for you that nothing else gets in the way. EVER.
That’s when we truly begin to live.
How many times a day do we need to be reminded of this?
When the hordes of tourists began disembarking from growling, silence-penetrating tour buses, I left. They were kinda cramping my style.
I drove the short distance to Migdal, the little fishing village which clings to the slop of the hill next to the Galilee.
This is where they say she was born, and lived. Mary, of Migdal (Hebrew), or who we know as Mary of Magdala (Greek).
I drove the loop up, then down, the humble village under the rising heat emanating from the sun. I waited for the feelings to set in.
You see, I have a funny relationship with time, and with the people who lived before me. I can touch them, I can visit the history, and understand the people.
Sometimes, the rush of history overtakes me. Drowns me in a swoosh of a cyclonic deluge that spins me senseless - only later can I process it, and often only through art forms, or words I weave together, or both.
Sometimes, it rises up from a slumber deep within my bones and presents suddenly as something I always knew - but did not know that I knew until that moment. Again, it is best expressed through creative thought.
Sometimes, it is more subtle; softer than anything you can imagine, and says something like: there is more than this, and you will not find it here. There is no creative expression for this experience. Only a famished quest for knowledge, research, and the information necessary to find a conclusion.
Migdal was the latter.
Unlike many of our mythological mavens of Taboo, I believe Mary was a real, living woman.
Mary of Magdala, or Mary of Migdal, is for us, a woman of mystery. Many stories have clung to her throughout the centuries: prostitute, devil-posessed, and adulteress chief among them. In recent years, she has become the wife of Jesus, and a sex-magic priestess through the occult traditions of Isis.
If you spend time really cracking open traceable (if you believe the Bible as a factual source) stories of Mary Magdalene, you will find the following:
She was a witness to the death of Jesus, and he appeared to her first when he resurrected.
She may or may not have been from Migdal, depending on the source.
She financially supported the ministry of Christ.
She was possessed by seven devils. (There are opinions among theologians that this is not literal. Plus, the author of this slice of story was Luke, and evidence exists he kinda didn’t like women. So … what if Mary’s seven ‘devils’ were strength, voice, sensuality, independence, courage, intelligence, and wisdom? TABOO AF, AM I RIGHT? Just sayin’).
Outside of the Bible as a source, there is a Gospel of Mary, an incomplete Gnostic text which has been found in fragments dating from the 5th century, in which Mary teaches the Word.
In the Gospel of Phillip, she is mentioned in two passages. Once as the companion of Jesus, and once as being kissed by Jesus. As a result of this, his disciples asked him why he loved her more than he loved them. His response was a vague parable about sight and darkness.
Everything else, as far as my research has carried me to this present moment, is conjecture.
In spite of this, or because of it, Mary Magdalene represents the most taboo, and horrendous, character assassination of all womankind. The suppression of her story, and the spin-doctoring of it, has influenced and mirrored the way women have been treated through all time.
The supporting research of Mary Magdalene is not something that can be tightly written into a succinct form, for it involves various rabbit holes of cultural norms and traditions, the utter clusterfuck that is the development of Christianity (yep, I said that), and hundreds of years of religious regurgitations.
We can examine the cultural norms of the time, along with the few facts above, and deduce that Mary was indeed important to Jesus and his ministry, and carried on his teachings after his resurrection. Just those bare facts tell us she is worthy of respect, right?
Instead, she became a whore, a sinner, and a symbol of a fallen woman. The Council of Nicea and the various Popes have been complicit in the tearing down of this woman of immense power, regardless of how few facts remain about her … if she is, in fact, real.
Mary of Magdala, or Migdal, in spite of herself, became the symbol of the fallen woman … even though … as some historians ponder, she may have been aptly named Mary the Tower.
Migdal was spoken as Majdal which translates to ‘tower’ in Arab. The town of Migdal, or Magdala, was an Arab settlement long before the German protestants landed on its shores in 1908 and resurrected the tradition that the town was the home of Mary of Magdala.
Something to think about.
Here’s a little something I wrote last spring, written to accompany the photo above.
It’s kinda hard to talk about Mary of Magdala without also talking about Jesus. I believe, and this is just my belief formed from hundreds of hours of reading and contemplating, they are two peas in a pod, living beings who were as human as could be and committed to extremely high level consciousness. Through the development of their mythology I interpret their holiness in my own ways, and have zero expectation for anyone to tag along.
Holy moly, living in the skin of my newest book is taking on layers I could never have expected. I’m striving to open myself up and excavate my own truths in the process.
It’s taking me places.
This is a very old art journal spread, from 2010. Those are my feet in the Sea of Galilee.
There are a few places on this earth where I feel utterly at home. Completely at peace. Like my flesh and bones belong to the air itself. Like my marrow was formed from the dirt scattered here and there.
Glastonbury, England. Prague, Czech Republic. And Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee, in Israel.
Jesus is my dude. I write about it a bit in my first book, I think. How the adults in my world felt uncomfortable to the extreme, but the idea of the adult named Jesus was equally extreme in providing comfort. I was taught that by confessing my sins, he would save me. But even then I felt that the definition of ‘being saved’ was subjective. I had my own self-formed idea of relationship with him. And it did save me ...
An adult now, and not religious in any way, I have a mighty respect for those who walk the walk. Like really walk it. Jesus is top of that list for me.
(For those who care, I’m talking about Jesus the man, stripped of all the dogma and doctrine. I have spent quite a bit of time studying all that jazz, and will stand by and protect my personal interpretation of Jesus fiercely til the day I die. This post is not an invitation to tell me I’ve got it wrong. Just sayin’.)
When I experienced the glow of the sunrise on the Galilee, walking *where* he walked his walk ... Mind. Blown.
My feet beside and *in* the Galilee is by far one of the top 3 experiences of my life. Maybe even Numero Uno. I died a million times from the sheer joy and comfort of it. Like I’d been waiting my whole life to feel this ancient history whipping through me, straight to my core. Straight to my marrow born on its shores.
So. Here we are, 8 years after my 10 days in Israel. I’ve seen a lot come and go in these 8 years. When I look at this art journal, one thing strikes me deeply: we always are who we are.
It’s *how* we show up in who we are that shifts the sands of time.
The above journal spread was made when I returned home from Israel in 2010, using a photograph taken there, of my feet in the Sea of Galilee. As usual, my markmaking was instinctual. I marked my skin with crescent moon tattoos, and my legs with something similar to portals or vaginas.
In ancient times, the priests and priestesses would mark their skin with symbols believing them to evoke the level of consciousness that symbol represented.
What symbols would you mark your skin with?
How would that make you feel?
Would you carry yourself differently?
Would you make different decisions?
Would you dress differently?
What else would you do differently?
If you dare …
Do it. Make the mark.
It doesn’t have to be visible to anyone else but you.
This is a powerful ritual. If you give yourself to it, and practice it regularly, you will witness your skin shift from the inside out.
This feels ‘simple’ but it is a profound and powerful way to set your intention, align your consciousness, and honor your inner deity.
Photograph yourself. Share with us, if you’d like to be witnessed. But definitely, no matter what, treat this moment as holy.
What do YOU think of Mary? HOW do you interpret her story? WHO do you think she was, and is? WHEN can you call on her story to guide you? WHAT can she teach you about taboo? WHY do you think we are still so fascinated by her? WHERE can you expand your own questions about her, and find your own answers?