Category: Blog

Awaken the Feminine Fire: Mary Magdalene & the Feminine Divine

The unexpected pilgrimage in the center of Rome: the Church of Mary Magdalene, on Via della Maddalena, in Piazza della Maddalena. Even though the church was closed on each of my attempts at a visit, I decided I could still treat the site as a pilgrim stop. I took a photo with the Easter egg which I have reclaimed as a symbol of the Sacred Feminine. In the Eastern Christian tradition, Magdalene is the bearer of the red egg. Whereas the original tradition teaches that the white-turned-red egg is a symbol of Christ’s resurrection, I have revisioned Her egg with a feminine blood-painted downward triangle, the ancient symbol of the Goddess. Therefore, Mary Magdalene as the bearer of the egg, becomes a powerful symbol of the regeneration of the Sacred Feminine. Ave Magdalena! Photos: 1) La Chiesa di Maria Maddalena 2) The sign of the piazza 3) the image of Mary Magdalene on a corner of the Piazza della Maddalena 4) Me in front of Her Church, with an offering of the sacred egg and rose petals, another symbol of the Goddess. #marymagdalene #mariamaddalena #mariemadeleine #goddesswithin goddesswithin #womensspirituality #womenswisdom #sacredwomen #sacredfeminine #sacredportal #divinefeminine #vulva #egg #regeneration #piazzadellamaddelena #lachiesadisantamariamaddalena #church #roma #rome #pilgrim #pilgrimage #devotion #mythology. ***Many thanks to my friend Marco for helping me to document this special site. (at Chiesa di Santa Maria Maddalena (La Maddalena))

Read Full Blog Post

Finding Mary Magdalene – Blog 9: Languedoc, Part 3: 
Finding Mary Magdalene

Coming off my “angelic high” from the previous day’s journey to Alet-les-Bains, I awoke and prepared for another driving adventure in France.  You may remember that I previously mentioned how terrified I was to drive in France.  All those round-abouts and foreign traffic signs…gave me knots in my stomach for months before departure.  When the time finally came, the only “challenge” I had was finding a gas station amongst the bountiful vineyards.  My second driving experience was not as charming. I took a shuttle bus to the Carcassonne airport only to discover the car rental place was not actually located at the airport; and to make matters worse, it required me take a taxi to the rental office.  Hello!  Clearly those renting a car don’t have transport, hence their need to rent a car. After setting my GPS in English mode, I took off for the nearest gas station. There was, however, a minor problem. The station had no gas attendant on duty to take my cash and because my American credit cards lack a “chip,” the French card machine would not take them. So off I went in search of a mega gas station. Again, I encountered the same problem. I kindly asked another driver what was going on and he informed me that because it was a national holiday in France, the gas attendant would not be on duty. Well! That would surely pose a problem with just a quarter tank of gas and several sites to visit. I drove back to the agency and explained my dilemma, of which he could offer me no solution but ensured me there would be a station along the way in Limoux. So, off I went. By the seventh try, I was desperate. I sat at the pump wondering what to…

Read Full Blog Post

Finding Mary Magdalene – Blog 8: Languedoc, Part 2: The Angel Sanctuary of Alet-les-Bains

Day 2 I awoke with anticipation. My plan: to rent a car and drive to famous Mary Magdalene pilgrim site, Rennes-le-Chateau. Well, that didn’t happen. I couldn’t get a car, so decided to postpone for the following day. Annoyed, but not defeated, I decided to take a day trip by bus to nearby town, Alet-Les-Bains. After much difficulty trying to figure out how to get there, how to buy the bus ticket, and where to catch the bus, I arrived in the peaceful hamlet of Alet-Les-Bains. Reminiscent of a village straight out of a Grimm’s fairy-tale, Alet-Les-Bains lay at the foot of the Pyrenees and was once a destination for its natural springs and healing waters, perfect for the skin and digestion. Excellent! I mean, who couldn’t use some special healing water after 7 years swimming in the bowels of the world, also known as NYC. Enchanted by its picturesque perfection, I crossed over the ancient stone bridge set high above the gushing waters below. I made my way to an “island” between the town and the road where I ate my “picnic” lunch. Meandering down to the river, I ran my hand along its waters, ceremoniously dipping my feet in its fresh stream. Happiness filled my heart. I crossed the little pedestrian path back into town and came face-to-face with The Angel Sanctuary. The sign in English, I wondered what could be beyond its gates. Cautiously, I walked through its gardens and up the steps. A few people sat in chairs sipping tea and coffee as I looked around for where to go next. I entered through a non-descript door and was welcomed by various colorful paintings and an Irishman named Eugene. Suddenly I felt as if I had come home, fully at ease and welcomed in this calming…

Read Full Blog Post

Finding Mary Magdalene – Blog 7: Languedoc, Part 1: Arles to Nimes to the Fortified Medieval Castle of Carcassonne

Because of my hotel mishap in Les Maries, I had an extra day at my disposal. I decided to use that as an opportunity to spend a night in Arles. Arles has a reputation for being one of the most charming cities in Southern France; and boy does it live up to its reputation! Teeming with life and verve, Arles was the final home and inspiration for some of van Gogh’s most famous paintings. It sits along the Rhone and has been colonized by many peoples, most notably, the Romans. It at once feels very Italian, complete with fully intact Roman Amphitheater, yet oozes French charm. Hotel Musee, my hotel for the night, provided me with the perfect backdrop to complete my French Country Dream. Chic and warm and cozy, my room smelled of lavender. Aged green shutters opened up to a glorious view of the quaint patio below, adorned with jasmine and roses and climbing vines, terracotta tiles and cast iron patio furniture. I spent the evening walking in a dream world. I found a neighborhood cafe and quickly made myself at home. A glass of wine and fondue, and viola, my life was complete. I awoke the next morning and with a sadness in my heart, made my way to Nimes. Nimes is also a former Roman colony, but has the underlying feeling of brute force, lacking the quaint charm of Arles. I stayed an uneventful night there before heading to my final pilgrim site of Carcassonne. Carcassonne Cite is a fortified medieval city embodying, among other historically important events and peoples, the wisdom of the Cathars and Templars. After plopping my stuff in the hotel, I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the Medieval Castle at the heart of the city. I made my…

Read Full Blog Post

Finding Mary Magdalene – Blog 6: Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Part 3: Sainte Sara’s Final Procession into the Sea

Sunday I awoke feeling as if the day before had all been a dream. Celice and I had a LUXURIOUS breakfast complete with freshly baked croissant, creamy yogurt, fresh juice, and house-made cappuccino topped with whipped cream. The proprietor of our family-run hotel was more than willing to make our stay memorable. He even offered to drive us into town, saying for him it is only a “promenade.” Having experienced the grand procession the previous day, I walked into town feeling light and free of expectation. As it turned out, Sainte Sarah granted us the privilege to re-witness the procession from beginning to end. We came face to face with the Head Priest who lead the procession, blessing the pilgrims along his processional route. Followed by the men riding atop beautiful white horses. They parted the crowds allowing the statue of the Two Marys to pass through (Mary Jacobe and Mary Salome). I thought this curious that the third Mary, Our Lady Mary Magdalene, was not represented along with the other two. Quickly, we ran ahead, cutting through town in an attempt to beat the head of the procession to the sea. In moments we made it to the shore to witness the entire processional ceremony unfolding before our eyes. The Priests, along their route, chanted over blow horns, “Long Live Les Sainte Maries!” and “Long Live Sainte Sarah!” The crowd soulfully repeated the chant. Suddenly a waive of otherworldly spirit took over the crowd as time and space expanded to take us pilgrims back to the moment the Three Marys landed upon the shores of French Gaul, greeted by our Celebrated Saint, Sarah. Entranced, I watched as the pilgrims steadily processed the Two Marys and then Sainte Sarah into the sea. Moments later the procession turned face, and began…

Read Full Blog Post

Finding Mary Magdalene – Blog 5: Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Part, 2: The Procession of Saint Sara

Celice and I awoke in excited anticipation for the day’s events, as if children on Christmas morning. We quickly readied ourselves for the walk into town. The streets were lined with parked campers and horses stood in stalls awaiting riders.The outskirts of town were calmly buzzing with the hum of gypsy music. As we approached the center of town, we entered the festivities. There, it was packed with people: tourists, gypsies, free spirits, photographers, and those anticipating a little piece of magic. We followed the music to discover it came from inside the basilica. 11am Mass was under way and the church was packed to the brim, reminiscent of my morning subway commute. Celice and I tried to enter, with no avail. Suddenly, the service ended and the wall of people broke. People began to flood out of the church and onto the streets, followed by ornately robed priests. Within his orbit a priest administered blessings amongst the oldest and youngest of the crowd, softly touching their foreheads with sincerity and warmth. Celice and I made our way into the church. The space had a quality of arid lightness to it, similar to that of the churches I remember visiting in Sicily. The church was strewn with various depictions of Saint Sara greeting the Three Marys on the shores of France. A real sense of the feminine spirit was at play in this space. I found myself meander toward the crypt. I descended the steps, touching my hand along the arched ceiling as I entered the space. A thick wave of moist heat enveloped me. Votive candles baring Saint Sara’s image lined the cavernous wall. The crowd of people pushed forward into the furthest-most right corner of the crypt. The ceiling was low and the temperature stifling. I lit my…

Read Full Blog Post

Finding Mary Magdalene – Blog 4: Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, Part 1: The Gypsy Festival of Les Maries

As legend has it, Mary Magdalene arrived on the shores of Gaul with Mary Salome and Mary Jacobe and possibly Joseph of Armithea. The mystery and intrigue of this legend involves a woman named Sarah. Some claim she was native to Gaul and greeted the party fleeing the Roman Empire, while others say she arrived on the boat with the Marys; either an Egyptian handmaiden to Mary, or better yet, the secret daughter of Jesus and Mary. Either way, Sarah has become the Patron Saint of gypsies the world round. So, I decided to head to Les Saintes Maries de la Mer for the annual gypsy festival honoring Sainte Sarah. Les Saintes Maries de la Mer is a tiny beach town in the Camargue region of France; a national park of long green grass and canals accommodating migratory birds from Africa. The feel is somewhere between American west, Spanish Conquistador, and Old-World gypsy. But before I found myself in Les Maries, I first had to find a way to get there from Arles (Another Exquisitely BEAUTIFUL town in France). So, I made my way to the tourist office and started a conversion with another woman looking to get to the festival. As it turns out, Celice, a Venezuelan national, was also on a Pilgrimage. Hers revolved around the Camino de Santiago in Spain, but overlapped with my pilgrimage at this festival. We became fast friends. In fact, we were inseparable for those few days. And she became my angel. Celice and I found the bus (super easy and way cheap) to Les Maries. We chatted the whole time about our experiences thus far and all we hoped would happen at the festival. As the bus approached our destination, it turned out that our hotels were right next to one another….

Read Full Blog Post

Finding Mary Magdalene – Blog 3: Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume: The Relics of Sainte Marie Madeleine

I arrived in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume with a pep in my step. I had just an hour to experience the Magdalene presence there before returning my car in Aix-en-Provence. First, I decided to find a pastry to enjoy with my morning coffee. As luck would have it, I walked into the best artisinal patisserie in all of France! The shop was full of beautiful meringues adorned with pines nuts and delicate-looking tartes. My stomach only wanted a pain-au-chocolat, but my eyes feasted on them all. I walked across the way to a sidewalk cafe and order a cafe creme, which tasted somewhere along the lines of a caffe latte. After an exquisite moment of cafe life à la française, I was off in the direction of the basilica of St. Maximin. St. Maximin has at its medieval core a basilica that is seemingly basic from the outside…that is until you enter through its unsuspecting doors. Prepare yourself to be dazzled by the glory of its grandeur in praise of the Magdalene. Walking into the large, dark, and cavernous space, I felt as if I was entering into the underworld or perhaps the womb of Mother Earth. I was mesmerized by the magnificent stained glass windows at the front of the church. The rays of the sun hit the windows and illuminated the “underworld” in all their colorful glory. As I admired the way the light from the outside world lit up the interior space, I suddenly realized why the Church constructed these sacred spaced in this fashion. These churches were built to convey such ominous darkness so that the partitioners would feel as if the priest, who stood completely illuminated by the rays of the sun, was their only hope out of the tomb-like space. AHA! I thought. The church was the first indoor…

Read Full Blog Post

Finding Mary Magdalene – Blog 2 : La Sainte Baume, Part 2: The Anointed

My final full day at La Sainte Baume I awoke with excitement. However, the night had not been kind to me; I had been kept up by the loud talking and banging of doors by private school teenagers staying at the Hostellerie for an extended school field trip. After 9 PM class ended, the teens liked to play loud American music and laugh and play. Because the Monastery had a policy of quiet hours after 10 PM, which the kids clearly didn’t observe, it made me question why the school found it necessary to bring the kids to the Monastery when most did not care to be there. When, clearly, there were serious spiritual seekers longing to have a peaceful and connected experience. 🙂 That aside, I had a job to do. I gathered my crystals and stones and picked a single poppy for Mary, gently setting it in the folds of my scarf. As I looked up toward the Monastery on the side of the mountain, a heavy mist hung in the air rendering it invisible, and I wondered what Mary had in store for me. The climb was challenging, I thought maybe it because I had made the trek twice the day before. Either way, I made it to the top and again went directly to my Mary. I didn’t know what I was going to do, so I allowed my intuition to lead the way. I lit a candle and set it before the statue. I took my stones – both from my home in NY and the few granted me from the ancient forest – and ran them over the flame and then touched them to Mary, and finally myself. I found some paper and wrote a note of gratitude to Our Lady Mary and left…

Read Full Blog Post

Finding Mary Magdalene – Blog 1: The Grotto of La Sainte Baume, Part 1: The Pilgrimage Begins

The Legend of Mary Magdalene post crucifixion is sort of a “choose your own adventure” story. However, what is commonly held as truth, in the South of France at least, is that Mary Magdalene, along with Mary Salome and Mary Jacobe were set assail in a boat belonging to Joseph of Armithea. They were in exile, fleeing the Roman Empire, and determined to spread the message of “the way” as expressed by Jesus. Their ship landed upon the shores of what was once known as Gaul but today is known as the Camargue region of France in a little sea-town called Les Sainte Maries de la Mer. Although there are many variations on story and legend throughout the region, it is told that in her mission to convert the inhabitants of Provence, Magdalene eventually made her way atop Le Plan d’Aups, to the cave, La Sainte Baume. There she spent thirty years in prayer and meditation, taken to the heavens every hour of the day for material and spiritual sustenance by angels. And this is where my story begins: La Sainte Baume is a pilgrim site at the base of Le Plan d’Aups. One must rent a car to get there, which, admittedly scared the crap out of me. For months I had been worrying about driving in France, and the moment was finally upon me. Making my way to the Aix-en-Provence train station, I quickly found my car for the next three days:  a compact citroen diesal engine – tiny, lightweight, and non-descript. After several deep breaths, as if preparing myself for my final child-birthing contractions, I began my engine and took off for La Sainte Baume. Wanting to ease into my European driving experience, I chose to avoid the highways and instead took the back route from Aix to St. Maximin and…

Read Full Blog Post