Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Divine Feminine: Mary Magdalene, Botticelli’s Venus & The Last Page of Nostradamus’s Lost Book

Botticelli's Turin Venus, 1490

Mary Magdalene, Gregor Erhart, 1502-3

Jesus had sex. He fell in love with Mary Magdalene. He married her.

How does that change everything?

I was brought up Catholic. I still remember the day I was standing in my bedroom and I realized with a shock that the Bible story of Adam and Eve was really about men’s abject terror of women. I envisioned a group of powerful, old men sitting around a huge table deciding what the Bible should say. In my gut, I knew they were trying to control people through fear. I never went to church again. My realization came as a result of hearing what I was not ready to hear from the lips of Gloria Steinem. I was about 16 when saw her on television; she was making a speech at a woman’s college, I didn’t know where, I was too young and too out of it politically at the time to know. This is what she said: “Oh, honey, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” Years later, I would meet Ms. Steinem and she would tell me she wasn’t the one who had initially said that – it had been uttered by a Irish female cab driver in Boston. The Irish. But Gloria’s voice rang in my head and in my heart. As I stood in my bedroom that day, all of recorded history ran out from under me like the ocean tide. I knew, I just knew, she was right and that somehow I’d heard the key to everything.

Fast forward to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. A friend of mine gave it to me and I read it. I read it, though it read like an episode of Charlie’s Angels, one car chase after another, and I wasn’t satisfied, though I suspected once again that I’d heard something important. So, I went to the source. No, not the Bible. I’ve stayed away from the Bible since that initial shock. As a student and a seeker, I did not trust it and I did not want to corrupt my mind. I’ve read the gospels that were not allowed into the Bible, however. The Gospels of Mary Magdalene, The Gospel of Judas and The Gospel of Thomas – all hidden by faithful Knights Templars in terracotta jars in the desert only to be unearthed in the 19th and 20th Centuries. I figured that was where the truth would be.

I turned to Dan Brown's source, Henry Lincoln’s Holy Blood, Holy Grail. There’s a story in the introduction of the edition I read about how Henry Lincoln came to realize the true story of Jesus and the Holy Grail. He found a cheap romance novel at a bookstall along the quay in Paris, something to read on the plane. To his astonishment, the story was one he’d never heard before. Like me, he recognized something revolutionary that re-wrote history as we know it. He was so amazed that he called the author. “Why have you written something so important in such a foolish form, as a romantic novel? This is revolutionary! This should be written as a scholarly work.” The author replied, “We were waiting for you.”

So began Henry Lincoln’s journey of discovery. He teamed up with fellow investigators, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, to follow the trail of the clues revealing the truth about what has been called in The Da Vinci Code, “so dark the con of man.” But, Lincoln’s book read in an evidentiary, masculine way. I wanted more. I wanted to get to the heart of the matter. Mary Magdalene. Who was she? What was the story of her and Jesus? Where was Sarah, their daughter? It was the work of Margaret Starbird's The Woman with the Alabaster Jar that finally gave me the answers I sought. Starbird was a devout Catholic when she read Henry Lincoln's book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail. She was astonished and offended. She set out on a scholarly quest to prove him wrong. What she found, however, shook her faith. 

Although the Catholic Church has been caught doing all sorts of dirty deeds, thousands of believers in the Catholic lie still cram into St. Peter’s Square every Easter Sunday. What is the lie? What is the "con of man?" That Jesus was celibate – sex is bad, very bad (unless you’re a priest or a fat cardinal, then you can abuse children) – that Jesus died for our sins, and, most importantly, that the only salvation and, in the Church’s own words, the only “guarantee of heaven” rests with the Catholic Church, so give money. I was in my fifties by the time I was able to truly digest everything. It was all so horrible and true. They killed everyone who didn’t agree, including the lovely Cathars who had settled in France, the land of Mary Magdalene, to marry and farm and live in small communities. The Catholic Church slaughtered them. Through the ages, the Church has caused wars and Inquisitions. They abused children on an international scale, harvesting from their own schools, parishes and orphanages, including the famous, Boy’s Town. Yet, the hypocrites would not allow Catholic men to wear a condom even in the marriage bed. As I cried out to Gloria Steinem, making her laugh, “All that guilt, for nothing!”

We can laugh now. We can choose how to live. But, in ancient and medieval times, the message had to be held secret in order for the truth to stay alive.

Starbird not only talks about who Mary Magdalene was, she documents how people have kept the truth about Jesus and Mary alive throughout the centuries through the vehicle of art, coded images of Mary and Jesus in songs, stories, paintings, sculpture, architecture, coats of arms, and even secretly coded watermarks hidden in the weave of fine paper. The medieval troubadours were not singing only about personal love when they sang of “my lady” – they were singing of the eternal truth – the eternal love of the Divine Feminine. My favorite story that Starbird recounts is the meeting between Mary Magdalene and Jesus in the garden, after he rises from the dead. Mary addresses Jesus as "Rabini!" An affectionate nickname only used by the wife of a rabbi when addressing her husband. This story is also in The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Starbird also tells us, and it is confirmed in Mary's Gospel, that the apostles were very jealous of Mary because Jesus seemed to favor her. They complained that he kissed her on the mouth. They complained that she had wasted money on precious oil to anoint his feet. There is also plenty of artistic "evidence" among many centuries of artists of the Priory of Sion that Peter - that "rock upon which Jesus said he would build his church - had tried to assassinate Mary by stabbing her. The apostles also responded negatively to Mary's telling them she had seen Jesus. They were jealous that Jesus hadn't appeared to them first. Then, they began to cower in fear, "What will we do now without him?" Mary's response was simple, she told them, "Man up!"

Which brings me to the current exhibit at the Musuem of Fine Arts in Boston, “Botticelli and the Search for the Divine.” When I viewed the exhibit, I was struck by the resemblance between Botticelli’s Turin Venus as exhibited at the Museum and Gregor Erhart’s statue of Mary Magdalene at the Louvre. It’s my curse to see these resemblances and to remember. I knew Erhart, who was very influenced by the Renaissance, must have been of the Priory of Sion, those who protect the truth about Mary Magdalene and the bloodline of Christ. I didn’t need written proof in a diary or a letter or a secret coded box. Proof was right in front of me: the naked body, the long, flowing red hair (sometimes read as strawberry blonde), and the beautiful, serene face. Traditionally, women's hair was thought to be incredibly sexually stimulating, and, therefore, evil, in the eyes of the Church. Married women covered their hair in ancient times, and, until fairly recent times, women would put their hair up in a tight, modest chignon after they got married. Only the seductresses ("seduced by tresses") - Eve, Mary Magdalene - were pictured with long, loose, free-flowing hair. Nudity, long hair, pride. The message of both works is the same – the Divine Feminine. For its reference to the Divine, the MFA exhibit focused instead on the religious paintings of Botticelli and others of the time, mainly, the Madonna and Child.

But, that also works for me. The Madonna, sometimes called, “the other Mary,” was considered a virgin. But, a virgin in ancient times was not necessarily someone who hadn’t had sex. A female virgin was an autonomous woman, a very strong and powerful force. 

The Last Page of Nostradamus' Lost Book

The Roman goddess Diana comes to mind, the fierce, virginal huntress, whose symbol was the deer. On the last page of Nostradamus’s Lost Book, we see two women facing a deer (Diana, the virgin). Nostradamus’s Lost Book, a collection of eighty watercolor images probably painted by Nostradamus’s son, Caesar, was discovered in 1994 by the Italian journalist Enza Massa at the Central National Library in Rome, Italy. She found them hidden in another book. (It is not the first time Nostradamus revealed himself to a woman. The first I heard of was Erika Cheetham, who came to the Taylorian Library at Oxford to study, but was given the wrong books. She was handed The Prophecies of Nostradamus instead of the books she had ordered. Luckily, Cheetham was a scholar of medieval French and could decipher the quatrains. She became fascinated and went on to write several books about the Nostradamus and his prophecies.) 

The Lost Books are a turmoil of images that need to be translated. Nostradamus wrote in the 16th Century. He feared the Inquisition, which raged across the world for nearly 400 years. He had to write in code. The images of women at the bottom of the last page are a reference to the Feminine Divine - a message of hope to the world. We have been suffering in a male dominated world – materialistic, artificial, violent - that has finally destroyed itself. At the top of the page, we see the Wheel of Life as a funeral wreath, yet the star of human inspiration continues to burn. The books are unwritten. We may now write whatever we choose. However, the Feminine Divine will have to be our foundation for a new world. The architectural building blocks of X, Y, and Z (the Cartesian Spatial Coordinates) are carved into Nostradamus’s forehead. They still exist. We can rebuild. The connections to Mary Magdalene, the Virgin Mary and Jesus are strong. Nostradamus said in his letter to his son that he was “continuing the prophecies of Jesus” by writing the Quatrains. The images of the Lost Book are a continuation of his early work. The deer (Diana) shows the pure strength of women. 

Parthenon, Athens

Eglise de Madeleine, Paris

Notice the resemblance of the Greek temple of Athena (Roman, Diana), the Parthenon, to Eglise de Madeleine, the Church of Mary Magdalene in Paris. For Nostradamus, who was right about so many things, including Napoleon, Hitler, and 9/11, a return to the Divine Feminine, a more natural, loving, caring way of being was the only future path to save mankind.

Let’s look again at Erhart’s statue of Mary Magdalene. She is as naked as Eve.

She bears a striking resemblance to Botticelli’s Venus: the long, reddish blonde hair; her nudity; her classical contrapposto-like stance with lifted foot and thrusting hip; her sculpted form and marble-like skin, though she is sculpted of one piece of lime wood, the wood is polished and lightly painted. Her expression is serious, but sweetly calm, even resolute. The skin of Botticelli’s Turin Venus shimmers through her sheer dress from tiny gold flecks in the paint. She is painted on a deep black background causing her rounded form to appear full-fleshed, real, about to step out of the frame. Her face is serene, happy, and welcoming; yet, she holds a secret. The Catholic Church wants us to believe that Mary Magdalene was penitent for her previous life as a prostitute, but, Magdalenas do not keep that belief that she was ever a prostitute; true to the Feminine Divine, Erhart’s Mary Magdalene looks proud, not ashamed.

Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, 1486

Erhart's Mary Magdalene statue was meant to be seen from below, as she was supposed to be suspended from the church ceiling, surrounded by angels. The legend reports, during her contemplative years later in life, Mary was lifted by angels and celestial music to heaven seven times daily – very like Botticelli’s Venus (Birth of Venus) being blown to shore by nymphs and demi-gods. Erhart’s statue was not to hang above the altar after all; her destiny was to stand in the Louvre. The Louvre explains, “The languid pose and the meditative expression are intended to convey the penitent's mystic ecstasy, while her marvelous beauty and glossy golden locks are meant to evoke her holy radiance.” I see her hair as red, traditionally the hair of a harlot, but everywhere it is described as blonde, as is the Venus’s hair. One of my favorite stories about Mary’s hair: In a sermon given in the early fifteenth century, St. Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444) declared that Mary Magdalene’s "third sin was through her hair" which, he adds, "she did everything to make herself more blond" through a practice of "staying in the sun to dry her hair." I love that. I do that. It makes blonde hair sparkle with light! Obviously, St. B must have lustily observed a blonde girl drying her hair in the sun.

Mary’s hair was long enough to wipe the feet of Jesus -

Rubens, Feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee, 1620

Erhart’s Mary does not look penitent, as so many Mary Magdalenes are portrayed. One of my favorite penitent Marys is this one by Caravaggio, full of silent messages to us -

 The Penitent Magdalene, Caravaggio, 1594

You can see that Mary seems to have empty arms. She seems to be cradling a baby that is not there, Caravaggio’s way of speaking to us, telling us he is of the opinion that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had a child, but the Church will not acknowledge this fact, so he has painted Mary’s arms empty. On her skirt, Caravaggio has depicted the scallop shell, a direct reference to the Venus and the vagina, the sacred feminine, the shell upon which Botticelli’s Venus travels to us. The word, Mary comes from the Latin, stilla maris, "drop of the sea.” La mer, the sea, from which all life is born. Another reference to the Venus, Goddess of Love, Beauty, Desire, Sex, Fertility, Prosperity and Victory, born fully-grown from the sea.

The Venus shown at the MFA came from Turin. Turin is not only the resting place of The Shroud of Turin, that burial cloth that reveals the face of Jesus, salvaged and treasured by the Knights Templar, those champions of the legend of the San Graal, or the holy Bloodline of Christ within the sacred chalice of the pregnant Mary Magdalene. Turin is also the home of the Stone of Turin, whereon Nostradamus carved an inscription, or key, to help future truth seekers decipher his prophecies.

The legend of Mary Magdalene, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Nostradamus - in all of this - nudity, hair, pleasure, sex, fertility, prosperity - we must not forget the most basic human need - food. Jesus meant for us to live a natural life. Yes, he had sex. Yes, he married and had at least one child the legend tells us, a daughter, Sarah. But, Jesus did not, to my knowledge, address the terror of artificial food, the illnesses and death that follows false food, including the death of our planet. The gentle life of the Cathars, demolished by the Catholic Church, was such a life – a simple, agrarian culture. All of this legend, all of this secret coding, beautiful art, stories, gospels, truths, all culminate in one truth – we must find a way to live life according to nature, not against nature.

©Patricia Goodwin, 2017

Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die, about Marblehead legends and true crime and its sequel, Dreamwater, about the Salem witch trials and the vicious 11-year-old pirate Ned Low. Holy Days is her third novel, about the sexual, psychological seduction of Gloria Wisher and her subsequent transformation. Her newest poetry books are Telling Time By Apples, And Other Poems About Life On The Remnants of Olde Humphrey Farme, illustrated by the author, and Java Love: Poems of a Coffeehouse.