From Aphrodite’s Vulva to the Resurrection
What possible connection could there be between the sacred gardens of Aphrodite and the resurrection of Jesus?
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Winter Solstice and Christmas stories are all about birthing: the light returns, the divine becomes human.
Before I continue about Magdalene, Mary, and birth-giving, ending with a prayer for us all, here are four versions of my season's greetings card for you (including one in French), images celebrating embodiment. Clicking on each thumbnail will take you to a larger display.
A few winters ago, I was lucky enough to spend the end of December in Europe, and one of the most beautiful, sacred sites of my trip was the Chartres Cathedral in France, outside of Paris. I’d long been fascinated with this spot, since it turns up again and again in Grail lore and stories of the Magdalene heresy, but what I didn’t know before making this pilgrimage was that the cathedral stands over a holy well, and before the current stone structure was built, the site was possible a Druidic grove or Celtic holy site. Wherever the magic comes from that infuses Chartres, it’s tangible, and the visit lingers with me as one of profound peace and personal exploration.
Legend has it that, following the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene fled to southern France, spending the last years of her life in the sanctuary of Sainte Baume. Her relics are said to rest in a church in nearby Saint Maximin.
Whoever Mary Magdalene was in fact, whether she partnered with Jesus to birth a child, whatever her actual history, the idea of her heartens and strengthens me. For me, and perhaps for you too, she carries the energy of fierce compassion, fearless integrity. A woman interweaving spirit and matter, activating her body-centered power to manifest creation. A gutsy woman par excellence.
This sense of woman integrating heaven and earth, sheltering pro-creative power within her body's center, may be as old as human consciousness.
Much of what we know about human origins comes to us from southern France, the prehistoric cave paintings and engravings discovered there. Our ancestors' art, such as the Venus of Laussel, shows our original impulse to revere women and the center of women's bodies.
This limestone engraving, discovered in 1911 in the Dordogne, has been a central inspiration for The Woman's Belly Book. Seventeen and one-half inches high, the ochre-stained engraving dates back 25,000 years.
The Venus of Laussel brings forth a full-figured woman. She rests her left hand on her belly, perhaps pointing to her navel. Her head turns over her right shoulder; she's looking at the horn she's holding up in her right hand. Thirteen lines scratch the horn's surface.
Who knows what the sculptors had in mind and heart when they carved out this figure? Who knows what they meant their work to signify?
As I see her, this figure is using her arms and hands to link her belly with the calculation, the calendar, which is the horn she is holding.
Who is Mary Magdalene? We may never know, historically.
But I might have met her one day last spring in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Thistle Stop Café.
The energy in and around this breakfast-and-lunch spot was overpowering, literally. I felt as if an archangel hovered, as if some sky-high bird sheltered this place within its indestructible wings — guarding, protecting, sustaining.
What’s so special about this storefront café? It’s one of several enterprises run by an outfit called Thistle Farms. It fronts the slogan “Love Heals.”