Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene have been with me as spiritual guides for a long time now and lately, Mother Mary has been coming to me in unexpected places. I bought two statues of Mary that caught my eye at a couple of vintage stores I recently stopped into. One is of her face, which I am decoupaging, and the other is a full figure with chipped paint and a little angel peeking out from beneath her robes. The two Marys came to me again recently after my annual exam since having thyroid cancer and my thyroid removed in 1997. A lymph node lit up on a PET scan in my lung area. I called in the two Marys, who had helped me though my healing process before, and after 3 months of probing and questioning by doctors and talk of removing it, the lymph node disappeared without medical intervention. Through this, I was reminded of the healing power of these two goddesses once more. They have guided me through some dark times.
I'm feeling the need for Mary's protection and guidance now as I step into somewhat new territory of leading goddess workshops based on the goddesses in my workbook. I am feeling a bit tender and vulnerable and even a little overwhelmed as I prepare for this new leadership role. It is times like these that I seem to need her most.
I think there is a part of me that has resisted the mother, Mary, because of the way she has been sanctified and even made a bit saccharine in Christian tradition, so I have been trying to meet her--the Christian version of her--and see her in her full depth and meaning.
I find her more approachable and accessible in her old, chthonic forms. I've found that her spirit lives in every culture, going back to the images of the Great Mother from Neolithic and Paleolithic times. In the round, full-figured Venuses that have been dug up throughout Europe and Asia.
She is Stella Maris, mother of the sea, personified as Yemaya in West Africa. She is Artemis of Ephesus, the ancient many-breasted goddess before she became the Greek goddess of the forest and its creatures. She is Kwan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. She is Brigid, the Celtic earth goddess. She is Isis, the Egyptian goddess who gives birth to a divine child. She is even Kali Ma, the blue-faced Hindu mother goddess. All of these goddesses are considered midwives who watch over women during childbirth, where life and death hover at the crossroads.
The Christian mother of God could be said to be one of the later incarnations of this powerful, earthy archetype. Except, in Christian tradition her earthiness and sexuality were split off and given to the other Mary, of Magdalene. Both she and Lilith, goddess of Jewish tradition, were cast in the role of prostitute by Judeo-Christian patriarchy because in that dualistic worldview, the feminine was not to be sexual unless she was "bad." Only the feminine divorced from her earthiness, fecundity and sexuality, was "good." That put women in quite a bind.
This is also why I have struggled with Mother Mary, a supposed virgin mother. She represents only part of the feminine whole, an exalted part, an idealized version that is hard, if not impossible, to reach. Only by embracing the two Marys have I felt that there is completion and a mirror in which I can see myself.
Mary Magdalene, the human Mary, carries the energy of the error-prone, often misunderstood wife/mother, who must find her way in the world. Only recently has the Catholic Church admitted that there is no evidence she was a prostitute and allowed that she was, in fact, a disciple, although many believe she was more than that. They're not ready to admit that she may have been the wife of Jesus and the mother of their child, Sarah, a girl -- what was cryptically referred to as the Holy Grail -- a cup, a feminine holder of Wisdom, the missing part to the masculine divinity that took hold and has prevailed ever since. In many ways, we're still searching for the Holy Grail, the feminine divine.
Mother Mary comes to me, perhaps asking to be understood, accepted, allowed in, as she is. After all, she has survived the patriarchal attempts to mute and transform her. Now when I look at her I can't help but see the hidden layers, knowing there is a deep, dark goddess at her heart, a timeless being that cannot be thwarted.
There is no question that the Madonna and child is beautiful in art, but in most paintings I find her remote. I am drawn to the black Madonna, which seems to hold more of her down-to-earth nature: dark, black, warm, moist, like the soil.
On my altar, I have both the light and the dark Mary to remind me of the riches to be found in both places, above and below, in the shadow and in the light, in the labor of birth and in the release of death, in her humanness and in her glory. Symbolically, we are giving birth over and over again as we create every new permutation of our lives. And, so, too, are we dying many little deaths throughout the spiral dance of life. We need our mother, the Great Mother, to see us through these often cataclysmic changes.
I have found that when working with the energy of whatever goddess is making herself known, it is important to bring her into the world, to find or create images, symbols, and totems to see and touch, to work with on a daily basis. It is through images and symbols that we can create a dialog with our soul, and thus find the deeper meaning of our existence.
I offer here the Gnostic prayer to Mary Magdalene:
I am first, I am last,
I am loved and I am scorned.
I am life, I am death.
I am pure and I am soiled.
I am the knowledge
that hides within all questions.
I am what is sought, and I
am the seeking itself.
I am all that is within you
and all that is outside you.
I am the garment that shows you
the secret shape of your soul.