Mary Magdalene has been on my mind for months now. This preoccupation is not typical. Even though I had a Christian upbringing, Mary Magdalene, like other biblical or New Testament figures, certainly wasn’t highlighted as someone important enough or worthy for in-depth Sunday school discussion. Instead, I came to my current Mary Magdalene preoccupation through my occupation. In other words, mythology and being a feminist mythologist brought her to the fore for me.
A call for papers went out from the ASWM late last year. While I was musing on what I’d like to write for the upcoming symposium, a sister mythologist asked me if I would join her as part of a panel presenting papers on Mary Magdalene. Although I was ever so pleased to be asked, at the time I really hesitated. I didn’t know much more than what I had read about her in biblical texts. My friend, and the other panelist, are both writing their dissertations on Mary Magdalene. Rather a high ledge to leap up and join!
After doing a quick two-week cursory survey of Mary Magdalene material, I thought I could put together something both original and interesting about Mary Magdalene so, I accepted being on the panel. Having said yes, I embarked on a wild, in-depth research journey about the woman who anointed Jesus, thus making him Christ.
My paper (which I present on April 11th in Portland) focuses on the key funerary roles and symbolism that link Mary Magdalene with the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis. Anointment, fragrance, weeping, sexuality, and burial rites that prepare the mortal king or ruler who will rise as the immortal god of the Otherworld or heaven deeply connect these two mythological women. The research was fascinating as I dove into areas that I had not fully explored before. Mary Magdalene became very interesting to me in those interconnected contexts and I am grateful that I had the chance to write about her and a small piece of her mythology.
Synchronistically, my friend has flown from the East to stay with me prior to the symposium. Other synchronicities or perhaps, just symbolic echoes are thick around me. This winter has been full of endings, difficulties, crosses to bear and mourning losses both for me and others. Now, it is Easter week, the week of the Christian mystery or passion play. Rain has been heavy at times yesterday and today, making me think about the copious weeping of Mary Magdalene as she washed Jesus’ feet and anointed his head as part of the burial rites.
A walk along the river moved my friend and I toward an intoxicating fragrance. A gorgeous honeysuckle vine draped its heady aroma over a wooden trellis. We stopped to inhale this strong signal of spring and new life. There will be three of us presenting our findings on Mary Magdalene–a lovely mirroring of the three Mary’s who attended the stages of Jesus’ dying to resurrection. Rising anew with joy. This mythological theme occurs not just in the Mary Magdalene-Jesus story, but in multiple settings.
The power of love and beauty binds up all those winter wounds as the warm graciousness and care from new and old friends, the lovely burgeoning new growth of nature, and the comfort of good work well done and well met renews my heart and soul. It’s the season of Mary Magdalene. And I’ve been blessed by her healing balm of anointment too. Sending bounteous wishes of all types of rising, resurrecting, renewal, and rejoicing to each and every one of you!