Have you ever wondered why it has to been so important for the Roman Catholic church to disempower women and suppress their rightful place in history? And have you ever questioned why it was so important to distort symbols and legends, which for thousands of years BC, had been connected to women and our innate spirituality?
Most people haven’t. Yet, they are important questions to ask. In 1988, Pope John Paul wrote an Apostolic letter titled Mulieris Dignitatem, meaning ‘On the dignity and vocation of women.’ In this letter, the Pope officially declared that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute, and never had been. She was, instead, Apostola Apostolorum; ‘the Apostle to the Apostles’ – indicating that Mary Magdalene was the teacher to all the other Apostles. This letter not only puts her in a position of spiritual authority, it also raise her above the teachings of Jesus’ disciples. Yet, 28 years later, the church still preaches that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute and of no importance. Confused?
In 2011 I embarked on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, in the North of Spain. However, more than one year before, I began having recurring dreams about Mary Magdalene, the Grail and goddesses from all around the world. The content of these dreams not only led me to discover Pope John Paul’s letter from 1988, they also inspired me to walk the famous Catholic pilgrimage called The Camino. For the first time in my life, I began to ask why the Catholic church was so hateful towards women. To say ‘ah, we just don’t like women’ and then spend more than a thousand years violently making women into 2nd class citizens, didn’t make sense at all. Their actions testify that there was something deeper, that there was a lot more at stake.
I am an Educational Psychologist by profession. I also have a life long interest in women studies, history, gender roles and religious art. These interests became crucial elements for my discoveries as I visited every single church and church museum along the Camino. Here I quickly became aware that the iconography in these churches and church museums had a different content to anywhere else – very different – and I have visited many Catholic churches over the years.
Within these Catholic buildings mighty women – depicted as scholars, teachers, writers, preachers and spiritual authorities – filled the walls, altars and panels. Hardly any women were named, whereas every single male was clearly identified. Who were these women, I wondered again and again? Why are they repeatedly shown as being worshipped by monks? Why is there always a tower involved in this iconography? As the puzzle slowly came together, I realised that the Camino held the answers to some of the most ignored questions of our time; why it was so important for the Roman Catholic church to disempower and suppress women; why Mary Magdalene was such a threat that she had to remain a shamed prostitute; and why the Roman church, to this very day, denies women spiritual authority.
Like a true Da Vinci mystery, the iconography told about ancient times and spiritual traditions that dated back to Cybele; The Mother of Gods, born out of Oneness, and Asherah; Wife of Yahweh and Mother of the Heavens. The powerful roots of Mary Magdalene and The Virgin Mary stepped out from behind the shadows together with all the forgotten teachers, writers, scholars and spiritual authorities which history had chosen to forget.
The history along the Camino refers not only to actual women who had once lived, it also gives evidence about a time when women were able to exist in their own right and not only in the roles of mother to carry on “his” bloodline or whore to satisfy his needs. The Camino talks about powerful and ancient traditions where women were spiritual leaders, equal to men; traditions that had existed for thousands of years across many cultures before the rise of the Roman Catholic church. The essence of these traditions hid a deep insight and understanding of a very powerful knowledge; the sacred teachings of Spirit & Matter.
At one point in time, women had become the symbol of Spirit and men the symbol of Matter. Spirit being the essence of the invisible Life energy, and the knowing that we are a part of this essence. When we experience and live this connection, we will be powerful and thus impossible to control. Women and all symbolism related to these ancient teachings of Spirit had to be eliminated. We had to learn never to ask questions or know about our spiritual inheritance.
This is why I think Mary Magdalene had to remain a prostitute and why we in our modern world still suffer the denigrating gender roles once created by the Catholic church; it is a matter of control. This is the story of The Hidden Camino and the reason why the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela had to become a Catholic pilgrimage.
Louise Sommer holds a Masters degree in Educational Psychology and a BA degree in Social Education and is specialised in trauma, complicated grief and crisis. Her passion has been investigating the role of women in European history. In an effort to understand where our modern-day thought patterns originate regarding gender (men, women, masculinity and femininity), she has educated herself through all manner of reference materials – from research papers, books and articles, as well as her extensive travels. You can buy The Hidden Camino as both e-book and paperback in all major online stores. Second Edition is out early June 2016. www.louisesommer.com; blog http://www.louisesommer.com/#!blog/c112v