Looking for Mary Magdalene

Anne Fedele, the author of Looking for Mary Magdalene: Alternative Pilgrimage and Ritual Creativity at Catholic Shrines in France sent me an email earlier in the week to tell me about her book.  I’ve obviously been out of the Mary Magdalene loop for some time but the title caught my attention so I took a look.  Here is the description:

Anna Fedele offers a sensitive ethnography of alternative pilgrimages to French Catholic shrines dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene. Drawing on more than three years of fieldwork, she describes how pilgrims from Italy, Spain, Britain, and the United States interpret Catholic figures, symbols, and sites according to theories derived from the international Neopagan movement. Fedele pays particular attention to the pilgrims’ life stories, rituals and reading. She examines how they devise their rituals, how anthropological literature has influenced them, and why this kind of spirituality is increasingly prevalent in the West. These pilgrims cultivate spirituality in interaction with each other and with textual sources: Jungian psychology, Goddess mythology, and “indigenous” traditions merge into a corpus of practices centered upon the worship of the Goddess and Mother Earth, and the sacralization of the reproductive cycle. Their rituals present a critique of Roman Catholicism and the medical establishment, and question contemporary discourse on gender.

The reason I find this so fascinating is that when I was actively researching Mary Magdalene, a good part of my interest wasn’t in Mary Magdalene as much as it was in her followers.  There was a burgeoning Mary Magdalene movement ten years ago and it has had a good deal of time to grow and evolve.  It’s marvelous that someone is taking a look at the recent social impact that Mary Magdalene has had.  Specifically, Dr. Fedele is looking at thinking and behavior around pilgrimage, which is, I think, an excellent place to start.  Pilgrims, by definition, are doing something about their faith.  They aren’t sitting in their living rooms thinking and blogging (ahem), they have taken action.

Yes, I’ve read into the title and description a bit as I’ve not yet read the book.  I’m looking forward to it though; my MM bookshelf has been languishing unloved for some time and this looks like a marvelous title to start bringing it back to life.


About Lesa

When Lesa learned in 1997 that there was nothing in the Gospels that said Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, she hit the books and started Magdalene.org a year later. Since then she has had the good fortune to have written a book, been featured in Newsweek, spoken on NPR and appear in a documentary with some of her favorite MM authors.

4 thoughts on “Looking for Mary Magdalene

  1. In May I am leaving for Europe to hike the Camino again. I have previously walked this ancient pilgrimage trail from Le Puy, France to the West Coast of Spain and also the two week Camino deviation to Rocamadour to see the Black Madonna there. This time I will be starting at St. Jean-Pied-de-Port and hiking to Santiago, Spain along the Camino. I have always made a point of visiting any Mary Magdalene church or chapel I came upon but I would like to do so with a more specific intention this year. I have lived in the Provence area of France several times and had easy access to the St. Maximin Bascilica and the legendary cave in the Sainte-Baume Mountains; they were only an hour away from my home near Aix en Provence and I was able to spend many peaceful, inspiring hours in both places. I’ve been searching for any kind of reference text to the many Mary Magdalene churches along the Camino in Spain but can’t find anything. Do you have any suggestions of a book or website that I could access? Or maybe, this just might turn out to be my next writing project. Any help you can give to me would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi, Joyce:

      I wish I knew of such a text as well – I’ve not been able to find much about Mary Magdalene pilgrimage sites either. Without doing a bunch of digging, I would recommend Susan Haskins’ “Mary Magdalen: Myth and Metaphor” and Katherine Ludwig Jansen’s “Making of the Magdalen” if you have time to check them out. I can’t guarantee they’ll have what you’re looking for but I’ve found both of them indispensable when trying to find info about MM in the middle ages in Europe.

      Good luck! I would love to hear how your travels go. :-)

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