Category Archives: Archetypes as Companions for our Lives

The Two Mary’s of Chartres

 Part Two: Mary Magdalene

“As you know,” Anne Baring reminds participants in Madonna Rising, “there are two Mary’s honoured at the heart of Chartres Cathedral: the Virgin Mary and her daughter-in –law Mary Magdalene. The Virgin is celebrated in the glorious northern Rose Window North Rose Window Chartres Cathedral.

“Mary Magdalene is present in the second window on the right as you enter the West door. “

Window in Chartrew Cathedral “Life of Mary Magdalene”

“Both are connected with the Black Madonna in the crypt. I have come to the conclusion that the Black Madonna represents Mary Magdalene and the Wisdom Tradition that she brought with her from Palestine to France, or Gaul as it was called during the first century AD. The Wisdom Tradition enshrines the lost Feminine aspect of God, named Sophia, Divine Wisdom and the Holy Spirit.”

For those us who grew up in the Christian Tradition, whether Catholic, Anglican or branches of Protestantism, this one paragraph from Anne Baring’s talk during Ubiquity University’s on-line program, “Madonna Rising” holds statements that might have sent us racing for the sol volatile…

Yet for us, living as we are now in this time of the Great Recovery of so much that was lost over the millennia of human existence, wisdom suggests that we listen with an open heart and mind. Anne Baring, and others whose research over many decades has led them to consider other possibilities than those that once seemed engraved in stone, deserve our attention.

So in this Reflection on Mary Magdalene, I offer you Anne Baring’s perspective on “Mary Magdalene or Mary of Bethany with blue roses.”

Anne begins by noting the many books on Mary Magdalene that have been published over the past two decades showing that “the feminine archetype is using this channel to activate and spread its influence in the world. “

Anne sees the time as right for this, when “what was lost can be restored without fear”:

The despicable calumny placed on Mary Magdalene has been removed and we can now understand that she was the beloved consort of Jesus and co-teacher with him in Palestine, later taking the Essene Wisdom Tradition to France. She was, in the words of Tau Malalchi, the Holy Bride. She may also have been, as Tricia McCannon writes in her book, Return of the Divine Sophia, “the most important single teacher, aside from Jesus, in the entire Christian movement.” She was the embodiment of the Divine Feminine, the feminine counterpart to the Divine Masculine as held by Jesus. She is also the expression of the Divine Feminine within us and her growing importance reflects the activation of the archetype within our soul and within our culture.

As Anne Baring related in her earlier talk on the Shekinah, a powerful priesthood in 6th c BC in Judea succeeded in eradicating the Divine Feminine from the image of God. Referring to the negative influence of this eradication on two religions, Judaism and Christianity, and on their cultures, Anne says:

This is the unhealed wound that lies at the heart of these civilizations. It is an extraordinary and also tragic story, whose scattered fragments are gradually being pieced together. I believe, with Betty Kovacs, that the Mission of Jesus and Mary Magdalene was to restore the lost Love-Wisdom teachings and practices of the First Temple.

Anne is now convinced that “Mary Magdalene was the beloved consort of Jesus or Yeshua as he was called in Aramaic, and the Apostle to the Apostles, described in a gnostic text discovered at Nag Hammadi (Dialogue of the Saviour) as “The Woman who knew the All” and “the Woman whom Jesus loved.”

The Meeting in the Sepulchre Garden

Anne notes that in all four gospels, Mary Magdalene is described as “present at the crucifixion of Jesus,standing with his mother and sister at the foot of the cross.”

However, the famous scene of the meeting of Mary and Jesus in the sepulchre garden after his Resurrection is only recorded in the Gospel of John (20:1) ….In the Jewish customs of that time, Mary Magdalene would not have been allowed access to the Sepulchre, with or without other women accompanying her, unless as his wife, she had come to anoint his body for burial, as was the burial custom at that time – a custom to which Mark (16:1) testifies.

Anne Baring adds: “This is so blindingly obvious that I am amazed the academic world has not recognized it.”  

The Gospel of John gives the most detailed description of the meeting in the sepulchre garden, saying that Mary came there alone, when it was not yet light, on the first day of the week and saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

(image by Serge Koder)

She stood there weeping, then looked into the sepulchre and saw there two angels. One of them said to her, “Woman, why weepest thou?” She answered, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” Then she turned away and saw a man standing nearby who said to her, “Woman why weepest thou?” She, supposing him to be the gardener, said to him, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary”. She turned around and, astonished, said to him, “Rabboni”.  

Jesus said to her, “Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father, but go to my brethren, and say unto them, ‘I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.”

Fra Angelico’s “Noli  Me Tangere”

Then Mary went back to the disciples and told then what had taken place.

Later that day when the disciples were gathered together indoors, Jesus appeared to them.

Anne Baring adds that a further meeting of the disciples occurred the following week, one described in The Gospel of Mary and in The Gospel of  the Beloved Companion* both of which record that the disciples met a week later in Mary’s House in Bethany:

(Mary) told them in answer to their questions, the words that Yeshua had spoken to her. What she told them was rejected by Peter, always jealous of her closeness to Jesus and uncomprehending of what he taught the disciples.  

*The Gospel of the Beloved Companion has recently been translated by Jehanne de Quillan from a First Century Greek text brought to France from Alexandria. It matches fragments of the Gnostic Gospel of Mary and may be the source text for the later Gospel of John.

( next week: Part Two: Mary Magdalene in France) 

The Two Marys of Chartres

Following her presentation on the Shekinah, Anne Baring offered to participants in Ubiquity University‘s online program, “Madonna Rising” a Reflection on Mary of Nazareth, Mother of Jesus the Christ, and Mary Magdalene, both “women who lived on this earth.” Though both women appear briefly in the New Testament Gospel stories, each has now, two millennia later, taken on Archetypal status.

Part One: Mary of Nazareth

Mary of Nazareth is “the unrecognized Great Goddess of the Wisdom Tradition”. Anne Baring makes this startling statement after a lifetime of research into the art, ritual and mythology honouring the Goddess in cultures and civilizations that existed for several thousand years before the Christian era. By the time of Christ, the tradition of the Sacred Feminine in Judaism had been obliterated, so that Christianity’s Scriptural inheritance lacked a feminine divinity. As Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the great goddesses: Isis of Egypt, Inanna of Sumeria, and the Greek goddesses Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter, Persephone, Artemis and Hera with their Roman counterparts were effectively banished.

Susan Seddon Boulet: Goddess

Yet Anne Baring reveals an unexpected turn in the tale. Though worship of a particular emanation of the Goddess may be forbidden, though her sacred groves may be cut down, her statues and carvings smashed and slashed, though the speaking of her name may be forbidden, the Archetype that responds to human longing cannot be obliterated. It will persist over millennia in paintings and statues, in poetry and song, in symbol and above all in the cries of the human hearts that turn to her. As Christianity became the dominant religion of the Western World, those longings became centred on Mary, the woman who bore in her body Jesus who is the Christ.

Mary. pregnant with her Son, greets her cousin Elizabeth

In The Myth of the Goddess, co-authored with Jules Cashford, (Viking, 1991) Anne Baring notes that “the entire ancient world, from Asia Minor to the Nile, from Greece to the Indus Valley, abounds in figures of the naked female form in various attitudes of all-supporting, all-including goddesses… Mary…became the sole inheritor of all the names and forms, sorrows, joys and consolations of the Goddess-Mother of the Western World: Seat of Wisdom, Vessel of Honour, Mystical Rose, House of Gold, Gate of Heaven, Morning Star, Refuge of Sinners, Queen of Angels, Queen of Peace.”

As Anne pointed out in her presentation during “Madonna Rising”, within 500 years of her death, Mary of Nazareth had attained the presence and status of the Great Goddesses who preceded her: Inanna of Sumeria and Isis of Egypt, carrying the archetype of Wisdom, associated, as were the earlier goddesses, with Venus, the Morning Star, with the moon, with the Rose Garden, with the Sacred Grove

Devotion to Mary blossomed in Medieval times, when the concept of courtly love was flourishing. Over a period of 125 years during the 12th and 13th centuries, while Chartres Cathedral was being constructed as the centre of devotion to Mary, another 500 Churches were built and dedicated to Mary. Within the Cathedral of Chartres, magnificent works of art celebrate Mary as womb of creation, fountain of love, tree of life and rose garden.

Statue of Mary as Black Madonna in Chartres Cathedral

This statue of Mary, depicting her as the Black Madonna, seated on a throne, holding her child on her lap, associates Mary with Isis of Egypt, whose symbol is the throne, who appears in ancient images seated with her son Horus on her lap. The widowed Isis wears a black robe in mourning for her husband Osiris. In a title Mary inherits from Isis, she is “Star of the Sea”, in Latin. “Stella Maris”. Like Isis, Mary is invoked by sailors for protection, especially at night when they must navigate by starlight. The rich imagery of the Black Madonna extends in Christian symbolism to the heart of the mystic experience in the dark night of the soul.

Church Doctrine over the past 1500 years had to work to “catch up” to what Christians already knew in their hearts. The Church Fathers debated for decades, for centuries, to find their way through the tangle of Augustine’s concept of “Original Sin”, in order to proclaim that a human, Mary, might be worthy to carry God in her womb, to be, as Mary was proclaimed, “Theotokos” or “God Bearer”. It was St. Anthony, an early follower of St. Francis of Assisi, who found the way through. Mary must have, from the moment of her conception through the lovemaking of her parents Anna and Joachim, been without original sin. Thus in the Doctrine of the “Immaculate Conception” Mary was recognized as free from Original Sin in advance of her Son’s coming as Redeemer.

Other Church proclamations lifted Mary to the status of the ancient Goddesses. In 1950 Pope Pius XII proclaimed the doctrine of the Assumption declaring that Mary upon her death was taken into Heaven, body and soul. In the proclamation of the Assumption, Pope Pius alluded to “the heavenly marriage.” Carl Jung saw this doctrine as the most significant Christian religious event since the Reformation, an integration of the feminine principle into the Christian conception of the Godhead.

Four years later, in 1954, Mary was given the title long ago held by Isis and Inanna: “Queen of Heaven”.  

Who has Mary become for us? Anne Baring notes that in the past thousand years, there have been 21,000 Visions of Mary, 210 reported between 1928 and 1971. Many Churches have been constructed on the site of Visions, notably the Sanctuary of Lourdes. The prayers addressed to her by mystics and ordinary suffering humanity are themselves witness to her presence of love in our lives. As Isis received the prayers of ancient people who were in danger, suffering, or approaching death, now Mary hears those prayers. As a palpable, reachable, presence of love in our daily lives on this planet, Mary embodies in human form aspects of the Shekinah that somehow have been transferred to her: the heart-centred qualities that we humans have sought for millennia beyond counting: wisdom, love, justice, beauty, harmony, and the instinct to heal, nurture, protect and cherish.

 Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th c. abbot and mystic, wrote a prayer to Mary (found in Visions of Mary by Jill K. H. Geoffrion, Paraclete Press, Brewster MA 2017)

In dangers,

in distress,

in uncertainty,

think of Mary,

call upon Mary.

….

If you follow her, you cannot falter;

if you pray to her, you cannot despair;

if you think of her, you cannot err.

If she sustains you, you will not stumble;

if she protects you, you have nothing to fear;

if she guides you, you will never flag;

if she is favourable to you, you will attain your goal.

Sophia and Mary of Nazareth

I write this on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 2020 at a time when each of us is being called into a new planet-wide reality, invited to give our love, our trust, our assistance, our presence, (our respectful absence!) in a crisis unlike any we have experienced.

In this moment, we, like Mary of Nazareth, may feel astonished.

May we respond with the courage Mary showed to a request beyond anything she might have imagined.

Today, I travel back in time to my first encounter with Mary. I remember a day when I was perhaps eleven years old. Each afternoon, walking home from school, I passed our parish church. On this day, I was drawn to go inside.

I remember glancing at the marble statue of Mary, standing to the left side of the altar.

Her stone pale white face was shuttered, her eyes downcast. The statue radiated coldness. Though I did not understand what her title of “Virgin” signified, I associated the word with an absence of what I longed for most in my life: warmth, caring, love.

I turned my gaze away from the statue, noticed a small booklet on the bench where I was sitting. It contained the Scripture readings for the Sundays of each month, with reflections. On the inside front cover, someone had written of Mary, creatively presenting ideas in the form of a letter as though it had been written by her.I have now no memory of the letter’s content. Perhaps I did not even read it. I was transfixed by the words at the end, “Your Loving Mother Mary.”

 In that instant, my life shifted. A loving presence entered into my existence and has never left me.

As Jean Houston has written, “Whenever they move into our awareness, both personally and collectively, archetypes and the old and new stories that they bring with them announce a time of change and deepening.”

To grasp the true significance of Mary as Archetype, come with me now to the tiny sanctuary dedicated to Isis on the Island of Philae in the Nile River.

Crowded into a space never meant for a group as large as ours, stand here with the other travellers on this spiritual journey to Egypt, led by Jean Houston. Listen now to the words Jean is reading from the writings of Apuleius, a second century Roman, not a Christian. In the story, a hapless magician named Lucius has cried out to the goddess for help. Isis responds.

The way the Sacred One identifies herself to Lucius may startle you:  I, the natural mother of all life, the mistress of the elements, the first child of time, the supreme divinity…. I, whose single godhead is venerated all over the earth under manifold forms, varying rites, and changing names…

 Behold, I am come to you in your calamity. I am come with solace and aid. Away then with tears. Cease to moan. Send sorrow packing.

Soon through my providence shall the sun of your salvation rise. Hearken therefore with care unto what I bid.

Eternal religion has dedicated to me the day which will be born from the womb of this present darkness.

After the reading, listen as someone suggests that we call out all the names by which we have known the Sacred Feminine.

Listen as voice after voice calls out wonderful names. Many of these names are familiar to you, titles you may have learned as a child. We knew them as part of a litany, composed in honour of Mary. Yet many of these titles were given thousands of years earlier to Isis:

Mystical Rose. Tower of Ivory.  Gate of Heaven. My own voice calls out: Star of the Sea. Jean’s voice, strong, certain, proclaims: Mary in all her forms.

The human heart longs for a divine mothering presence. Ancient cultures honoured a feminine divine who over millennia was called by many names: Isis in Egypt; Inanna in Sumeria; Ishtar in Babylon; Athena, Hera and Demeter in Greece; Anu or Danu among the ancient Celts; Durga, Kali and Lakshmi in India; for the Kabbalists, Shekinah; for the gnostics, Sophia or Divine Wisdom.

In the early centuries of Christianity, Mary of Nazareth became an Archetype of a Loving Mother. How that came about is a luminous story.

Christianity had no “Mother God” to put in the place of the Goddesses whose worship it was determined to eradicate. In his book The Virgin, Geoffrey Ashe writes of his theory that Mary’s gradual ascension in Christianity was not an initiative of Church Leadership, but rather a response to the hunger of the early Christians for a sacred feminine presence.

Mary became for Christianity a portal for that sacred presence. Or, put another way, a sacred presence responded to the cries of her people when they called her “Mary”, just as that presence had responded over the millennia to other names cried out in love or sorrow or desperate need.

And yet, and still, before any of that happened, Mary, a young woman living in Nazareth, a town despised in Israel, was already a luminous presence who made a choice to say “yes” to a call that held mystery, uncertainty, unimaginable risk, a call to mother a child with a love that would ask of her everything.

When we first meet Mary in the Gospels, she is being offered that invitation.

Here is how Irish poet John O’Donohue imagines the scene:

Cast from afar before the stones were born

And rain had rinsed the darkness for colour,

The words have waited for the hunger in her

To become the silence where they could form.

The day’s last light frames her by the window,

A young woman with distance in her gaze,

She could never imagine the surprise

That is hovering over her life now.

 

The sentence awakens like a raven,

Fluttering and dark, opening her heart

To nest the voice that first whispered the earth

From dream into wind, stone, sky and ocean.

 

She offers to mother the shadow’s child;

Her untouched life becoming wild inside.

Where does our story touch Mary’s? Where are the meeting points? What are the words waiting for the hunger in us “to become the silence where they could form”? When our hearts open, will they also become a nest for a new birthing of the Holy?

The urgent needs of our time require a “yes” to the conception, followed by the birthing, of new life.

Mary’s story gives us the courage to say “yes” without knowing where that “yes” may lead. It is enough to know that certainly our own life will become, like Mary’s, “wild inside”. Mary comes as Archetype to each one of us who carries the Holy within us, seeking a place of birth.

We walk the dark road, with Mary, in trust. We walk companioned by one who knows our struggles to maintain our trust in the face of inner doubts and outer calamity.

We walk with one who loves us and encourages us, prepares us, to welcome “the day which will be born from the womb of this present darkness.”

 

Archetypes: Our Travelling Companions

In my grandmother’s tiny front parlour, next to her Victrola, sat a heavy hard-bound book containing all of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. In the  summers of my childhood, after a magical overnight train journey, we stayed with my grandmother. I remember my eagerness to open that book on each visit, turning always to the same story, “The Travelling Companion”. It had all the delights a child could want: terror and sadness, mystery and secret journeys to a hidden cave in a mountain, an ogre and a bloodthirsty princess who beheaded her suitors when they could not answer her questions… but most of all I loved the main character, John.

Andersen begins, “Poor John was very sad, for his father was ill and would not recover.” After a loving farewell, promising that John would be cared for by providence, the father dies, leaving the young man all alone in the world. After the funeral, John sets off into the wide world, carrying his inheritance of fifty gold marks. That night he seeks shelter in church where an open coffin sits, awaiting a funeral the next day. Wicked men, to whom the dead man owed money, come to seek revenge. They plan to seize the man’s body and hurl it into the woods. But John approaches them, offering his fifty gold marks if they will promise not to dishonour the dead man. They agree….

Next morning, as John continues on his way, a stranger with a wise and kind countenance asks if he might travel with John as a companion. Well, you can guess the rest…. This was no ordinary mortal, but a magical being who helps John to win the love of the fierce princess with whom he has fallen deeply in love. When John and his new bride, now a loving woman, freed from the ogre’s power, begin their new life together, the companion bids John farewell, revealing himself as the spirit of the dead man whose body John saved from dishonor….

This story has been rising in my memory over these recent weeks as we have been exploring together the concept of Archetypes. For, after all, is not an archetype in our life truly a “travelling companion”, offering not only company but powerful assistance in achieving the tasks of our lives, the desires of our heart?

On Saturday, I joined a ZOOM call. Jean Houston (jeanhouston.com) offered further insights from her decades-long study of Archetypes. Here are some highlights from that Zoom Meeting:

At the base/root of our relationship with an Archetypal presence is LOVE, the Beloved Friend, the Companion of our lives.

Archetypes are our connection to the wider reality, the “hooks and eyes” that assist us in accessing the “Implicate order” as David Bohm calls it. We are the part of the “explicate order”, limited in our reality. Archetypes bring to us the inspirations, ideas, supports, strengths to engage in our lives/our tasks with greater capability.

Susan Seddon Boulet’s image of Moon Goddess Selene

Einstein believed imagination was the key to knowing. As we learn to extend our imagination, it takes us into the imaginal field where so much potential lies, where we encounter the Archetypes. Rumi wrote that for each garden that he sees around him, there are a thousand magnificent gardens within his soul…

Who is the Archetype you chose or were chosen by in your life? He or she may be a real person living now, or someone who once lived (Julian of Norwich, Hildegard, Brigid of Kildare, Mary of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene) or someone in the imaginal realm, such as the Greek Goddesses, or Brigid, the ancient goddess of the Irish, or Isis of Egypt. We are called to grow the Archetypes if they are of the past, to engage with them as co-creative partners, to assist in their rebirth for our times.

Jean suggests we think of a time when we called upon an Archetypal presence to assist us with some task or challenge. Now imagine how our lives might change if we were to live more consciously, more continuously aware of being partnered by the Archetypal presence in our daily tasks, our relationships, decisions, challenges… Jean suggests we begin with our strongest senses to engage the Archetype, whether that be through dance, music, art, or perhaps writing a dialogue where we ask the Archetype a question, then write the answer that rises in us…

During the Zoom Call Jean invited us into the following processes:

  1. Breathe deeply, and sense you are drawing in with each breath the presence of your Archetype; draw in her/his seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, knowing, loving… In the practice what do you see, hear, touch, feel, experience in the presence of the Archetype? (When I offered this process to a group of friends, some experienced the scent of sandalwood, of roses; one felt a sense of wholeness; another heard the song, “Love Changes Everything”, and yet another had an inspiration related to a workshop being planned…)

2. Raise your hands, palms outward, towards where you imagine your Archetype standing, facing you. Feel the energy that may tingle on your palms. Know yourself deeply loved, known, encouraged and understood by this presence, the part of yourself that links you to the sacred, the LOVE in the Universe.

As Jean assures us, a relationship with an Archetypal presence is not unlike other relationships in our lives: it will grow, deepen, and expand over time as we journey with our travelling companion.