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Updated: 5 days ago

I find it fascinating that Mary Magdalene has had such a variety of characters, which might explain why I and so many others keep heading back to her story, or perhaps better said, her stories.

Mary, for many, is a hero, or a heroine if you'd rather. And why do we want and need heroes and heroines?

This from The Psychronicle (formerly The Introspect):

"THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE HERO’S JOURNEY "According to Jeffrey, the Hero’s Journey is a narrative structure formulated by mythologist Joseph Campbell. While studying the mythology and folklore of various cultures throughout time, he discovered a pattern in how these stories were told, from its themes to its characters. Similar to Carl Jung’s archetypes, Campbell describes a universal narrative structure, made up of elements that communicated ideas across cultures and time. Campbell even observed these patterns in the story of Jesus Christ, Moses, and Gautama Buddha. Hence, the term monomyth was coined, the universal myth of the human race."

And what better way is there to create and perpetuate the journey of Mary Magdalene than through art?

Though Mary appears in the Christian bible only 4 times, she has had many identities, one of which was that of a Saint. And, as it seems, Mary was Saintly in many ways.

Because she is reported to have washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and dried them with her hair, Mary Magdalene was made the 'Patron Saint of Hairdressers'. She is also the 'Patron Saint of Prostitutes', and the general over-all 'Patron Saint of Provence' in France.

(Provence in France is where Mary Magdalen and the two other two Mary’s are reported to have miraculously landed in a rudder-less and sail-less boat after being exiled from the holy land and set adrift in the Mediterranean Sea.)

She was also made the 'Patron Saint of the Dominicans'.

The Dominicans were a fierce religious order of monks bound by a vow of poverty and dedicated to an ascetic way of life by travelling the world to preach. Acting as the moral-punishers-in-chief for the Catholic Church, they advocated that since they didn't need money, neither did you, and yours should be given to the Catholic Church (which was used to finance wars).

Encouraging others to suffer mightily for their own sins, the Dominican convent in San Marco in Florence hosts a fresco of Mary depicted with the Dominicans as the great flagellates of the monkish order they were. They suffered mightily for their sins, and if they did, so should you.

Mary was even given her own church called the Basilica of Mary Magdalene in the small town of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume in France, which is where a group of monks claimed they discovered her perfectly preserved corps in an ancient sarcophagus while excavating a crypt in 1279.

And if you were willing to pay them enough money, as a great number of pilgrims who flocked there did, you could see and even touch her. You could be cured of terminal illness, experience divine inspiration, be able to have children or be saved from eternal damnation.

Because relics had magical powers, her saintliness would flow through you and you'd be able to go to heaven.

Here's another one.

Even though Mary Magdalene didn’t immediately recognize the resurrected Jesus when she first saw him in a garden where she found him wearing a gardeners hat, Mary Magdalene also became the 'Patron Saint of Gardeners'.

She has been 'Mary the Sinner', 'The Penitent Mary', 'The Witness Mary' and 'Mary the Lover'. She was also 'Mary the Mother' because she is said to have had a baby with Jesus.

NOTE: 'Mary the Mother' should not to be confused with the 'Mother Mary', aka 'The Virgin Mary', who is the one that gave birth to Jesus by immaculate conception.

And apparently Mary was also a visionary who wrote, you guessed it, 'The Gospel of Mary'. (see Mary Magdalene in the Apocryphal Gospels).

Mary was also an apostle, and eventually became the 'apostle' of apostles. Texts like the Golden Legend, written in the thirteenth century by Jacobus de Voragine, described Mary Magdalene as a rich and voluptuous woman who was a courtesan when she met Jesus.

The author elaborated on her earlier sins, and it was him that emphasized she was the 'apostle of the apostles' who evangelized France before retiring to a cave in Provence.

The original inhabitant of that cave, where the penitent Mary Magdalen is said to have retired to for the last 30 years of her life, was the Virgin Mary. I suppose it seemed only fitting that the cave should switch identities and be sacrificed by Mother Mary to become the cave of Mary Magdalen.

NOTE: We have no idea as to where Jesus' mom Mother Mary consequently went to live. Apparently she was no longer on the 'Top 10 Chart'.

Although nothing in the Bible described Mary as a prostitute or a missionary, theologians and hagiographers invented and elaborated on her supposed sinfulness. By reimagining Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, theologians could have her take over the identity of Mary of Egypt, a repentant sinner who prostituted herself.

Now consider what David Cross wrote, that after "the Bible was written, it was edited, then rewritten, then rewritten (again), then re-edited, then translated from dead languages, then re-translated, then edited, then rewritten, then given to kings for them to take their favorite parts, then rewritten, then re-rewritten, then translated again, then given to the pope for him to approve, then rewritten, then edited again, the re-re-re-re-rewritten again . . ." and it was all originally "based on stories that were told orally 30 to 90 years AFTER they happened, to people who didn't know how to write.”.

"In art, all Christian saints are inventions, but Mary Magdalene has been the subject of more invention, and 're-invention', than any other.

And when ever Mary needed a new identity, religion paid artists to get busy inventing one for her.

As Joan Didion wrote, "we tell ourselves stories in order to live", and the story of Mary Magdalene is a big one for a woman who possibly never even existed.

But wait. All of this art is irrefutable proof that she was real. Right?

One last thing. Although I can't prove it, I have proof that Mary Magdalene was a pioneer feminist. Be the times what they were, she was likely in the closet, but her being a pioneer of the feminist movement is what I chose to believe, and along with Meryl Streep plus Anne Lister and Joan of Arc (if they were still alive), that makes Mary Magdalene one of my biggest heroines.


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