Mary – Quite Contrary

“It’s not that I hate the Virgin Mary, I just don’t think she deserves so much attention…,”

I think we’ve all had that moment: you are standing in a public place and you hear a snippet of conversation from the people walking by that grabs your attention away from whatever it is you were doing.  Sometimes it’s just a fragment of a sentence, an incomplete thought, that leaves you hanging, waiting for a resolution that will never come.  Or perhaps, it’s something that seemed as if it were intended for you but was not: the verbal equivalent of waving back to the stranger who you see enthusiastically gesturing at someone immediately behind you in a crowd.

And then there are those moments when you overhear a complete thought, and you know that it was not intended for you, but the concept expressed is so strange that you must restrain yourself from turning to the speaker and saying, “What!?”

The young woman behind the counter was waiting for me to order my sandwich, and I was trying to do just that, while at the same time wondering why a group of Catholic school girls standing behind me in line were talking about “hating the Virgin Mary”.  Suddenly, I couldn’t remember if I had decided on the Bacon Turkey or the Italian Combo.

Mother of God?

When I talk about Christianity in this blog, it is usually done from a perspective of “fight for your right to be different from them”.  On the whole, I try to leave discussions of biblical mythology to others who are more vested in the topic.  It is not that I don’t find their stories and perspectives interesting.  It is simply that I learned long ago that the lessons of the biblical narrative do not resonate with me.  Having spent much of my youth examining them with an ever more critical eye, I find that my spiritual path has taken me in other directions.  Aside from a few “universal truths” that all faiths may share, I see little of value to me in Christian teachings.

In fact, the most appealing elements of the Christian mythology would appear to be the ones that Christians take the greatest pains to ignore and obfuscate.

Take the case of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

On the one hand, the Catholic church has, over the centuries, taken a page from their Roman forefathers, and transformed her into something of a goddess.  She is set apart from other women through the miracles of the Immaculate Conception (which marks her as sinless), the Perpetual Virginity (meaning she remained pure in body, even after childbirth), and her bodily Assumption into Heaven at the end of her life.  None of these things are attested to in the Christian scriptures.  They simply exist as “church tradition”, handed down through the centuries.

This is a Marian Shrine built overlooking Valencia Island, near the town of Portmagee, County Kerry, Ireland.  The shrine was built over the Tobairin Holy Well which, like scores of other Holy Wells scattered throughout Ireland, would previously have been dedicated to a local goddess.

This is a Marian Shrine built overlooking Valencia Island, near the town of Portmagee, County Kerry, Ireland. The shrine was built over the Tobairin Holy Well which, like scores of other Holy Wells scattered throughout Ireland, would previously have been dedicated to a local goddess.

On the other hand, there are the Protestant churches that all but ignore her existence.  She was, they contend, but a vessel used to deliver their savior into the world.  Beyond that, she is a figure of little importance to them.  Her veneration is seen as a distraction from the mission of Christ.  Only God, through Christ, is worthy of reverence in their eyes.

But why?  Why are such extreme and contrary emotions (passionate love and scornful disregard) directed at a single young woman, who may or may not have given birth to a demigod?

Perhaps it is because Mary represents a fundamental truth that certain people are desperate to keep hidden, even if they themselves are not entirely conscious of it.

One of the great miracles of Jesus is purported to have been his ability to raise one from the dead.  Indeed, it is the core belief upon which the Christian religion is founded, that he himself returned to life after three days in the grave.  Yet, nowhere does the Bible say that Jesus is able to actually create life.  He is shown healing the sick and wounded.  He may recall the spirits of those who have passed back into the bodies from which they fled, but that’s just moving energy and consciousness from one place to another.  Throughout the gospels, nothing new is ever created by Jesus of Nazareth.

Any act of true creation needs a woman.

The Hebrew God ‘may’ have sent his son to pay, in blood, for the sins of his fallen people, but he was only able to do so through the agency of a mortal woman.

Try as they might to either dress her up as some specially created paragon of holy virtue, or dismiss her as a distraction from the more showy miracles which involve walking on water or replicating loaves and fishes, the simple truth is that the deliverance of mankind could only be accomplished through the power of a mortal woman.

They may call their god “The Father” but what is a father without a mother?

Impotent.

The power of creation requires a father and a mother, male and female principals, which in combination, produce a third.

Some may wish to argue at this point, that the first books of the Bible describe the creation of the universe by their God, alone, without a goddess anywhere to be seen.  And if the literalist view of ancient scripture is what appeals to you, you will get no argument from me.  Although I might enquire as to why you think the feminine plural pronoun is used so often in the untranslated Hebrew.

A discussion for another day perhaps.

Getting back to my point.  I would contend that we lowly humans are, in many ways, as powerful as the gods themselves.  The miracle of creation is but one of the more obvious forces at our command.

And that’s just the thing about Mary that drives certain folks to such lengths as to either ignore her altogether or elevate her to a status beyond that of mere mortal.

If a regular thirteen-year-old girl from the 1st century equivalent of a 3rd World country, can do something that their supreme deity cannot do…, well it seems like the whole enterprise is on a pretty rickety foundation.  And shoring up that foundation, keeping the faithful distracted and their own coffers flush – that’s gotta be a full time job even without all those uppity women creating life everywhere you look.

So lets shame them and put them down.  Let’s tell them that all of their worth is contained in their unbroken hymen and lacking that, they are mere vessels awaiting a mans seed.  Let us make childbirth and motherhood into commodities, to be regulated and controlled by men.

Above all, let us ignore the example of Mary, and look down our noses upon those sinful wenches who conceive out of wedlock.

There is a special kind of irony in listening to a group of Catholic school girls complain that the ‘Virgin Mary’ steals too much attention away from their Christ.

You’re quite correct girls.  She wasn’t a goddess.  She wasn’t sinless, or forever virgin, and was almost certainly not bodily transported into whatever realm your god may reside in.

She was a young woman, just like you.

Perhaps she was chosen by a god, as others had been before her.  Or perhaps not.

Either way, she had a power envied by politicians and priests for generations beyond count.  She, like you, held within her the most powerful force known to man: the power to give life.

A little something to think about on Mother’s Day.

Send your mom a card and thank her for the miracle.

10 Comments

Filed under Mythology, Religion

10 responses to “Mary – Quite Contrary

  1. shy00

    This was a very interesting read, Thank You

  2. Reblogged this on Biblebelt Witch and commented:
    A little thought going into Mother’s Day…and some perspective added to it from an “infertile” woman:

    Ladies don’t take their womanhood into full consideration until they don’t have it any longer. I was just beginning to embrace my womanhood…my physical womanhood with my cycles and the moon and all of the natural beauty that comes with the female body, when I was diagnosed and it felt like it was all taken away. One of the biggest shared feelings of the infertile woman is feeling broken and less than a woman. I certainly felt this way. And now that I am 32 weeks along, feeling my baby move inside of me, and knowing that I am about to give life to something precious and wonderful…something a man can’t do.

    The pregnant “man” was a biologically born woman who still had a uterus inside of him. It wasn’t scientific phenomena. It was biology.

    My husband and I have discussed before that men build things because they can’t grow people. As a fertility challenged woman, I really see how politicians, a historically male position, have taken over the reproductive aspects of a woman. Perhaps out of spite or jealousy.

    Interesting though to see young Catholic girls having a hatred for Mary…

  3. While my memory of Christian things may become dull, Proverbs 8 still sticks in my mind. I think it is one of those conveniently ignored things, too.

  4. Excellent post! It’s certainly true that the Christian church, be it in it’s Catholic, Protestant or Eastern forms, has had an uneasy relationship with Mary, the divine feminine…and maybe women in general! In particular with Mary, you can a wide variety of perspectives regarding her role, ranging from out and veneration through to virtually ignoring her altogether.
    Our own approach does have ‘Christian’ aspects and we’ve always liked, and employ, the term ‘Theotokus’ or ‘God Bearer’.
    Maybe the reason for the schoolgirl’s antagonism toward Mary, stemmed from the fact that they may have been finding it rather difficult to live up to as a role model. The ‘mother’ aspect is after all but one face of the goddess/divine feminine, not the totality.

    • I got the same feeling! Growing up a christian, it was hard to relate to the divine at all, and Mary always seemed either obnoxiously perfect or a complete fraud.

      It’s a great point to make, thanks for sharing this!

  5. Isabeau D'anjou 1981

    The more I read your reflections, the more I look forward to the next lot of time I have spare to read more… Very moorish…
    Anyway, this entry made me wonder if you have ever listened to the ballad/song “On a Sea of Fleur de Lis” by Richard Shindell. He tells stories in his acoustic offerings. This one uses ideas of Mother Mary and aspects of pre-Christian connections to our world we have lost… (I’m trying not to say too much so I don’t influence how you listen, if you choose to listen to it)

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