In researching icon paintings of Mary Magdalene, she is often confused with Mary of Egypt. This discussion is taken from the book In Light of Women. Images of women in Byzantine icons are sparse, she often appears with long light colored hair covering her body. Were the images conjured up of Mary Magdalene; from Egypt or France? I am truly fascinated with both their lives and message overlap.
Her feast day is July 22.
There are more and more scholars today trying to prove or identify the “Cult of Mary Magdalene so popular in France”. It arose in Provence France during the 11th century. Scholars seek evidence for Mary and her companions fleeing persecution in Jerusalem. Apparently the crossed the Mediterranean in a boat. They landed near Arles in the South of France, named Saintes Maries de la Mer where a Commune continues to exist today. Mary is believed to have retired to the Holy Cave,“Sainte-Baume” on a hill in the Marseille region, and while there converted the residents to Christianity. This tradition holds that throughout 30 years, as a Gnostic Apostle of Jesus, she taught her own disciples. This legend of how Christianity came to France was widely accepted throughout the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages.
Mary in the Cave
As a Roman Catholic saint, Mary Magdalene’s relics are accepted as authentic and are venerated at Saint Maximin la Sainte Baume, Provence. Throngs of pilgrims flock to her great Basilica in France, erected in the mid thirteenth century. Her bones are said to be scattered during the French Revolution, but her head is said to remain in the cave shrine at La Sainte-Baume near Marseille.
The Biblical Mary Magdalene was a woman of independent means, she followed Jesus, and ministered to him (Mark 15:40-41), (Luke 8:2-3). She was a great help and support those first Apostles of Jesus. The iconic Templar symbol for her status as the Apostles patron Saint is her trademark money pouch and X drawn across her garment. Other visual attributes are a flask or alabaster jar and long light colored hair. In France she is frequently identified as the Black Madonna with a child standing in her lap. The draps of her clothing are significantly different form those of The Virgin Mary. Having said all this so far, I have to ask is Mary Magdalene; from Egypt or France?
Women are being restored to their rightful place.
I sincerely hope we discover more real evidence surrounding the first century Essene Gospels, lost archives and historical documents from France. Ones that date earlier than the 13th century. It would help clarify if Mary Magdalene is from Egypt or France. Today everyone recognizes women were not mentioned in full through Biblical accounts . Today there are real and important discoveries changing how we read historical accounts. Women are being restored to their rightful place through our modern-day gender debate, painful as it may be for some.
Mary Magdalene, named Mary of “Magda”, a town on the western shore of the Lake of Tiberias, 10 kilometers from Copernium. Outside of The New Testament accounts and the apocrypha nothing is known about her. Whether she lived in Magda or simply born there is unknown. However, she was apparently a wealthy woman and a dedicated follower of Jesus.
The “Wisdom Texts” of the Essene scrolls describe “Wisdom” as a female figure.
We have failed to develop doctrines inclusive of the feminine aspects of God. The early church as it was debating the theological attributes of the Holy Trinity doctrine, wisdom and spirit did have a feminine aspect. In the Essene Priesthood, for the first 300 years or more after the death of Christ, women were given initiatory training.They were the healers. Historian Flavius Josephus documents that women were recognized as Priestesses, and equal to the men.
Women are Priestess and Healer
It is documented that Jesus the Nazarene had studied with the ancient Priesthood of the Essenes in Egypt, and of which he was a High Priest. Their rituals included practices of spiritual purification using energy centers located at seven points along the spinal column. I find this astonishingly similar to what new Buddhists popularly call the seven energy chakras.
Many spiritual traditions intentionally practice working with energy chakras to “clear” or “cleanse” the astral body by “removing” clouds or blocks of “negative energy”. Perhaps this practice is referenced in early Christianity as “casting out demons”. For any healing it is ritual, training, purity and spritual dedication on the part of the Hig Priest(ess) to remove blockages in the body, to ensure that the Holy Spirit flows more effectively.
In light of new research and findings, the true identity of Mary Magdelena is changing, and effecting women in general.
What became the accepted prejudice against women as wise healers with priestly power is coming to an end and it should. We are not unclean. Women have been silenced by decrees since before the 7th century when Pope Gregory (590-604 AD) mistakenly associated Mary Magdalene with a “sinner”’.
Mary’s identity became dirty and sinful in 591. In that year Pope Gregory the Great gave a sermon which overlapped Mary who had been cured of seven demons with the same penitent prostitute who anointed Jesus’ feet with ointment (Luke 7:37-50) This was the beginning of Mary Magdalene; from Egypt or France and all the confusion. This one sermon took any power women had away and launched generations of prejudice against them. Icons of Mary Magdalene and Mary of Egypt are spare and i hope to add a few to a growing collection. BUY BOOK
The Iconic image of Mary Magdalene
Our society and the institutional church has miles to go and plenty of room for change, especially where women are concerned. Their image, their history and their unrecognized contributions to the biblical revelation is limited in todays theology. I am comfortable to provoke the question and the debate; Christ was the son of God and never intended to have a diminished place for women. We will one day come to see women as complete and whole through His eyes.