is the virtual face of The Magdalineage Project, an educational undertaking
I initiated in 1993 after traveling to France and discovering the legends
about Mary Magdalene as teacher and contemplative.
Like most of us, all I had ever heard was that Mary Magdalene was a whore.
A part of my psyche exploded when I realized there were traditions that
viewed Mary Magdalene as a courageous preacher. Since childhood I had
been drawn to the spiritual life and over a period of many years I sought
out stories about holy women in many different cultures. But here, within
my own tradition, was an extraordinary story about a woman I had long
ago dismissed. It was like uncovering a long buried family secret that
suddenly made all the pieces of a confusing puzzle shift into place.
The confusing puzzle of course was the fundamental dilemma out of which
feminism arose: why does “history” not document women as the
movers and shakers they clearly are? The last thirty years of feminist
analysis have begun to address this inequity. Women are being acknowledged
as movers and shakers, and our experience of the present and out understanding
of the past is changing dramatically. In particular, feminist scholars
in religion have been able to document that before the Church Fathers
forbid women to preach and baptize, women were indeed preaching and baptizing
in the earliest days of the Jesus Movement. And after two thousand years,
Mary Magdalene’s powerful and primary role in this movement is finally
coming to light.
When I traveled to the South of France in 1993, I knew nothing about Mary
Magdalene but distorted fragments from a Catholic childhood. With great
surprise, I kept encountering images of a young woman who taught fisherman
and shepherds and then retired to a cave to live out her life in contemplation.
These images were embedded in the everyday life of the people of Marseilles,
Aix-en-Provence, St Maximen and Les Saintes Maries de la Mer. I was determined
to learn more.
1993, it turns out, was a pivotal year for the awakening of the dormant
Magdalene. When I returned to the States and begin research, I saw that
two important books had been published: Susan Haskins’ Mary
Magdalen: Myth and Metaphor, a powerful scholarly examination of
the Magdalene in history, legend, art and literature; and Margaret Starbird’s
Woman with the Alabaster Jar, an intuitive interpretation of
the Magdalene material that asserts that Jesus and Mary were marriage
Since 1993, the literature about Mary Magdalene has blossomed into a veritable
industry. As most people know, The DaVinci Code novel has outsold
every other book in the history of publishing. What’s less well
known is the development of some wonderful feminist scholarship about
Mary Magdalene.(See Reading)
I dove into all the above with great relish.
Twice more I returned to France and once to Turkey for field research.
While traveling I wrote a series of “discovery” articles that
were published in the international journal Goddessing. Other
articles appeared in Spirit of Change magazine, The Beltane
Papers and Gaia. I presented slideshows throughout New England
on Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother and the pagan underpinnings of Christianity.
Particularly satisfying was a collaboration with several other women on
a theatre piece called "The Three Marys Speak" that premiered
on Good Friday, 1999, in the First Congregational Church in Concord, MA.
This activity generated a great deal of interest within women’s
spirituality circles and the next phase of The Magdalineage Project was
to lead tours to the holy sites of Mary Magdalene in France. The first
tour was organized around the fabled Gypsy festival in the seaside town
of Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, the legendary port of entry for Mary
Magdalene and her friends. The second tour focused on the Magdalene’s
feast day and included the procession of her blackened skull throughout
the streets of St Maximen, a small working class town near Aix-en-Provence
that was once a main center of her pilgrimage. (See Meeting the Skull
of the Magdalene.)
For several years The Magdalineage Project lay
dormant as I cleared cancer out of my body. Just as I was returning to
health, The Da Vinci Code novel was bringing the legends of Mary
Magdalene to a huge and eager audience. I knew there was another piece
of work for me to do and I listened carefully to all the many conversations
generated by The Da Vinci Code. What I heard was that many people
were taking the legends to be literal fact, which they are not. There
is a great deal of confusion around the true identity of Mary Magdalene
and suspicion, even hostility, towards historical scholarship. In the
home page I talk about the legends as part of Mythic Reality, how Mythic
Reality is different from historic reality and how, paradoxically, both
To explain – and explore - the mythic and
historical versions of Mary Magdalene, I produced an audio CD “Her
Time Has Come: Mary Magdalene in the 21st Century.” in which I share
my own evolution of thinking as I traveled through the many layers of
tradition, legend and contemporary scholarship. Like so many people I
originally confused the legends with “fact.” It took me years
to uncover my own truth with the material. It is my hope that the CD will
stretch you and help you discover yours.
My primary approach to the world is that of a healer and whether one resonates
with the historic or mythical perspectives about Mary Magdalene, there
is enormous healing available for women and men through the rediscovery
of Mary Magdalene. (See Healing Through the Magdalene)
To facilitate that healing, which I see so often on the faces of the people
listening to my presentations, I developed an experiential workshop called
"Her Mystical Body: Exploring the Archetypes of the Magdalene for
Healing and Transformation." The workshop combined with the “Her
Time has Come” lecture work very well together. They are my current
Over time The Magdalineage Project has had many different phases. The
process reminds me of the musical form called call and response: an impulse
– a call - arises and gets sent it out into the world. What returns
as response shapes the next impulse - and on and on.
So what’s next for The Magdalineage Project?
With such an organic process, one never knows - but certainly one intention
is to find my way back to France to complete research for a manuscript
called She Lives in the South of France, the Legends and Holy Sites
of Mary Magdalene.
Stay tuned in!
Deborah Rose has been exploring sacred sites with an emphasis
on women’s spirituality for longer than she can remember.
She is a healer, writer and spiritual activist. She earns her
living as an acupuncturist and lives in Somerville, MA. For
more about Deborah’s acupuncture work see www.DeborahRose-Acupuncture.com.