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.