Well, how interesting that the topic of Magdalene and the Reclaiming approach to story came up over the weekend as a way to explore what I see as paradigmatic difference between my relationship with Reclaiming and my experience in O.T.O. [also]. Interesting because when I got back from an extended weekend away, at an O.T.O. conference on the Divine Feminine, I had a message in my inbox that the theme for BC Witchcamp 2009 is Magdalene.
Below are two selected bits from a message, which isn’t up on the site yet so I can’t link to, that BC Witchcamp actually did manage to select Magdalene, which I really didn’t think they’d manage to do, but also did exactly the thing I was afraid they would do to the story if they did select it:
Activist, Lover, Priestess of Isis
Witness to Change”
“Story of Mary Magdalene: Request that teaching team assure a strong presence of Deity/Isis
Reclaiming Mary’s story, correcting the bad PR, like the witches, like so many strong and powerful women
Not focusing on Jesus story
Mary as high priestess of the Goddess
Tie into history, tie into current politics, age of Aquarius, group consciousness, feminism, social justice”
I’m trying really hard not to be a manic ex-pat, but I feel like snidely suggesting that next year’s theme be St. Patrick.
Only, without all that noise about christianity.
And, let’s explore the fact that St. Patrick was a Priest of Serapis and his relationship with snake worship. That whole bit about St. Partick converting people to christianity was just bad PR … we should set the record straight.
And, you know, not so much with the Irish either … so, let’s talk about his history as an enslaved Roman from Wales instead and just skip the part where he’s in Ireland. You know, because what the hell good is cultural context when it gets in the way of a good week of appropriation to a self-consciously politically aware tradition such as Reclaiming? And, you know, the source culture is historically oppressed so the less said about where we appropriate … er, respectfully honor and celebrate … it from the better.
Oh, and St. Patrick will now be St. Patricia [contra], because any male role that’s more dangerous than or different than sex toy or buffoon threatens an welcome level of self-examination. After all, it’s easier to stay in control of the bloody mess of revolution if instead of changing the system one simply exchanges dictators. The history of actual revolutions [see] not withstanding, of course; but, we’ve already established the inconvenience of research.
Oh, man, I’ve got to stop before I go on a rant. Ugh. Too late.
I get it; I do. But, what a horrid disservice to the richness of the source material to do Magdalene in name only. It’s like the worst example of a Hollywood translation from book to screen [also, et] … but, I offer the selected quotes from the announcement e-mail above as an example of the looseness with which such things are treated, which honestly surprises me at least as much as I understand it as an act of reclaiming and Reclaiming.
I mean, really, Magdalene as a priestess, sure, but of friggin’ Isis?! A woman in a self-consciously pro-Jewish, anti-Roman faction was the priestess of what by that time was a syncretic Hellenistic-Egyptian goddess?! Asherah will be pissed when she hears about this. Asherah gets stood up on Prom night … again!? And, I can really see in my mind’s and heart’s eye Magdalene going medieval on someone if they said to her face that Jesus had nothing to do with her story. She’s the real first disciple, to my own mind … and disciples tend to be focused on, oh, I don’t know … something other than themselves.
Don’t get me started on the irony of a retelling of a story about the loss of the Beloved that self-consciously scrubs out the Beloved. Don’t get me started on the irony of Reclaiming selecting a story and modifying an authentic Herstory in such a way that it silences the voice of the central female out of expediency and convenience because of a political and religious agenda.
I really do get the deep and dire need to take control of social, religious and political narrative because of the magical sympathy and contagion between consciousness and reality mediated and changed through narrative. I also get that the story doesn’t really matter in the end because the real work is about coming together in a religious and political collective to do community sustaining ritual and organizing. But, how sad that to achieve these goals means sanitizing a story to the point of denaturing it.
I think Magdalene, by which I mean that aspect of her fullness with which I have a relationship, and I will both sit this one out. While others are off at camp, we’ll commiserate over the loss of our Beloveds, dear Magda for what’s-his-name and I for Reclaiming. And, when camp is over, maybe we could get together over tea for a post-mortem on our various experiences. Let’s be sure to do that and remember to invite the gardener. Maybe some time around Ostara?