When I wrote Murder at the Rummage Sale, my agent warned: “You have to have a sequel in mind!” I was supposed to write a second domestic cozy, same setting, same characters, different victim. But what came to mind was a memory. When I was a troubled teen visiting England, my uncle gave me a map and let me go sightseeing in London on my own. It was early winter 1968, the war in Vietnam was raging. I did not want to be an American; so I faked an accent, wore an eccentric hat, and called myself Eliza Doolittle. When a man picked me up, I did not know how to break out of character. I ended up drunk in his flat. I just managed to fight off rape. The man must have figured out that I didn’t add up and could land him in trouble. He took me back to my uncle’s office. The kernel for All the Perils of this Night is: what if he hadn’t? What if, like so many others, I had been trafficked? I couldn’t shake that “what if.” So I wrote the standalone sequel, no domestic cozy but what I would call a numinous thriller.
In July, in honor of Mary Magdalen’s feast day, I usually post about Maeve, my Celtic Mary Magdalen. This year Maeve urged me to select an excerpt from the new novel. In the scene below Anne, teenaged Katherine’s mother, is searching for her vanished daughter in London’s red light district. A prostitute agrees to speak with her if Anne will pay for her time.Continue reading “All the Perils of this Night: a preview by Elizabeth Cunningham”
Since I began writing for FAR in July 2012, I have written about Mary Magdalen, or excerpted a passage from one of my novels, near or on her July 22 Feast Day. For why I made the controversial choice to depict her as a prostitute, see last year’s post. The below excerpt is from The Passion of Mary Magdalen. I made this selection in remembrance of all the refugees in the world today. In this passage, Judith, a Jewish widow whose family was driven from the land by tax collectors, returns to the place where Maeve (my fictional Celtic Magdalen) and her friends have recently founded a Temple to Isis on the outskirts of Magdala. Maeve has just invited Judith to join them. (Edited for brevity.)
She stared at me, her eyes full of anger and longing.
“I will not be a slave and a whore where I was once a wife, the one who made the challah bread, who said the Sabbath prayers over it. This was our place, my husband’s and mine. We brought the best we had to the temple, the finest oil and wine, the unblemished kid—”
“Goats? You kept goats? You know how to make cheese?”
She sat quietly for a moment before she answered. “How can I live here with you?” she wondered. “I don’t understand.”
The recent #metoo movement, along with young women entering Congress, has pointed to an important question. Why, in this 21st Century, are these achievements remarkable? Why has it taken so long for women to be recognized as capable for these positions? One possible reason is the Christian mythology around women. However, to recreate the way women are viewed, we must re-imagine the women who have been standard-bearers for two thousand years.
When I toured with The Passion of Mary Magdalen, opening by belting out the first paragraphs of the novel’s prologue in song, (ending with the line “when only a whore is awake!”) that question almost always came up. In celebration of Mary Magdalen’s feast day, I’d like to offer answers that continue to evolve.
There is no scriptural evidence that Mary Magdalen was a prostitute. In a sermon, 6th century Pope Gregory I gave as his opinion: “This woman, whom Luke calls a sinner and John calls Mary, I think is the Mary from whom Mark reports that seven demons were cast out.” (This confusion and proliferation of Marys inspired me to make a joke. Q: How many holy Marys does it take to change a lightbulb? A: I don’t know. I keep losing count.)
In fact, very little is known about Mary Magdalen. There are fourteen references to her in the Gospels, then she disappears from the New Testament. The possibly Gnostic gospel of Mary dates to the 2nd century CE, and there is no scholarly consensus as to which Mary is the source of the tradition. Early on Mary Magdalen gave history the slip and took on an extended life in legends, which take her to Ephesus as well as to France where her alleged fingernails, bones, and skull reside and continue to be venerated.
Since beginning her posts for FAR four years ago, Elizabeth has featured an excerpt from my chronicles each July in honor of my feast day on the 22nd. At least I thought it was my Feast day. It has been brought to our attention that Pope Francis only recently elevated the 22nd to the status of a Feast. Before that, it was merely a Memorial of me as a saint, whether optional or obligatory I am not sure. The only thing more elevated than a Feast day is a Solemnity. (Needless to say my mother-in-law, aka the Blessed Virgin Mary, has one of those.)
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? Continue reading “The Hidden Camino – Our Hidden Story by Louise Sommer”
My first post for FAR appeared on July 22, 2012, the feast day of Mary Magdalen. I like to dedicate my July posts to her and include an excerpt from The Maeve Chronicles, the novels I spent 20 years writing, which feature a feisty Celtic Magdalen who is no one’s disciple. This year’s excerpt is from Bright Dark Madonna, the third in the series, which follows her (mis)adventures from Pentecostal Jerusalem, to the wilds of Turkey’s Taurus Mountains, the port city of Ephesus, and finally to her legendary cave in France.
While doing research for the novel, I made a pilgrimage to Le Grotte de Marie Madeleine in Southern France. A forty-five minute climb, past a spring leads to a high cliff wall where a spacious cave has been made into a chapel to the saint. There were no other people at the site except my husband and daughter who kindly gave me time alone in the cave—alone with her. As I wrote in FAR’s pages a while back, I have a longing for hermitage that I haven’t allowed myself to fully inhabit. Maeve, on the other hand, goes all out, or rather, in. Here is what she has to say: Continue reading “Mary Magdalen’s Cave by Elizabeth Cunningham”
When the press began using I.S.I.S. as a perhaps inaccurate and now obsolete acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, diverse groups made a connection with the Egyptian goddess who was once worshiped all over the Greco- Roman empire. A pagan organization protested the appropriation of the goddess’s name. Others took it as a sign that the self-declared Islamic State represented the anti-Christ or confirmed a conspiracy by the Illuminati. (Divinity of any kind seems to attract human projection.)
Today is the eve of Mary Magdalen’s Feast Day, July 22. I like to celebrate with Maeve, my BIFF (best imaginary friend forever) the Celtic Mary Magdalen and narrator of The Maeve Chronicles. Below is an excerpt (edited for brevity) from The Passion of Mary Magdalen. Maeve (who against her better judgment is married to Jesus) is camped out with her beloved and his growing entourage at the house of the Bethany family, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. The huge crowd of motley guests is enough to give a good hostess hives. The scene opens as Maeve returns from an outing with her mother-in-law aka the BVM.
When we walked into the courtyard of Martha’s house, the air was as charged as the moment before a thunderclap when the wind has stilled and everything holds its breath. Martha stood, confronting Jesus in the center of a seated crowd. Her chest was heaving, and she was clearly struggling to control herself. On the ground in front of her was a platter she must have dropped (or hurled?). Bread, olive paste, cheese, and grapes lay scattered among bits of broken crockery. Mary B, sitting nearest Jesus, (yes, you could say at his feet) was the first to unfreeze. She got on her knees and started gathering up the shards, but Martha paid no attention. Continue reading “Martha, Mary—and Maeve by Elizabeth Cunningham”
You are a poet and a seer. Say you are a V.I.P (very important poet; in the first century CE when I lived such a thing was possible). Because of your poetic prowess, your ability to go between the worlds and see into the heart of the matter, it has fallen upon you to seek a vision. Who will be the new leader of the tribe? Here is no simple matter of primogeniture. Here no ballots to be counted or stolen. No one has had to endure televised political conventions or candidate debates. It goes hardest for the sacrificial bull, who has been slaughtered and must be consumed—by you, sometimes raw, sometimes cooked, depending on local tradition. In either case, you consume the flesh and blood of the sacred bull. Then you are wrapped in its still-bloody hide. You fall into a trance, you dream….
My name is Maeve (rhymes with brave). I came to be known as Mary Magdalen. (How that happened is a long and exciting story, but not the subject of today’s post.) I am taking Elizabeth’s place to make some commentary from my first century perspective as you twenty-first century Americans prepare to elect new leaders. (You hope you will be electing them. I’d trust poets in bloody bull hides over electronic voting machines any day.) The rite described above, called the tarbhfleis or bull-sleep, was used to select the kings of Tara. The Celts counted wealth in cattle, so the bull was revered. The Gallic god Esus (as the druids called Jesus) was associated with the sacrificial bull. The infamous Queen Maeve of Connacht (for whom I am named), that champion of women’s sovereignty, went to war over a bull that defected from her herds to her husband’s. People said that the bull did not want to be ruled by a woman. Those were fighting words for Queen Maeve. Continue reading “Maeve (aka the Celtic Mary Magdalen) on Elections, transcribed by Elizabeth Cunningham”