WHAT I LEARNED AT THE ALTAR OF Mary MAGDALENE
"I won't say things to you like god - or goddess - never gives us more than we can bear. I won't lie. Sometimes life is just too much. When you want to lie down and die, I won't judge you. I'll sit and howl with you. Just remember. I am still here. I am telling you this story. And it's not over."
-Mary Magdalene in "The Passion of Mary Magdalen" by Elizabeth Cunningham
From above, we saw there was something on the altar.
What was it?
We descended the steps to the womb of the Lady Chapel in Glastonbury Abbey, and as we approached the altar of Magdalene…we saw it.
A smashed wine bottle. Shards of glass peppering the sacred like sprinkles on cake. Yikes.
In resolute silence, Rebecca and I picked up the shards of glass, one by one, clearing the altar as a few tourists walked by, bringing their awareness to the church’s towering ruins rather than the Heart of the Chapel, the womb of the Mother that lies beneath: the Magdalene altar. I wondered how the Abbey staff hadn’t noticed; they guided tours through this area, and it was nearly noon.
Rebecca and I were preparing to lead a ritual at the altar of Magdalene, inviting our magical retreat participants to honor the women who have come before them and the women who will come after. We brought roses - fresh pink and ruby red - to arrange in a mandala as an offering to the altar.
Once the shards of glass were cleared, we poured water on the altar and wiped clean the stickiness from the surface. The altar area looked much better now, back to “normal,” though the energy still did not feel right to me; it felt heavy with competing intentions.
I shared my sense with Rebecca and suggested we pray over the altar and ask for energy clearing for the highest good. She agreed.
We walked to opposite sides of the altar and faced each other, placing our palms on the majestic stone, and closed our eyes.
I started breathing a little slower, a little deeper, dropping down into the depths of my body, into the heart of this land. I called forth the angels, divine light, in the name of honoring the Magdalene for the highest good of all.
In my mind’s eye, I began to see deep, crimson red everywhere. I felt Mary Magdalene and all her modern day messengers - the Magdalenes incarnate. I felt the legacy of feminine disparagement — how the feminine has been prostituted, vilified, raped, and poisoned with disempowering sentiment for millennia — all this heaviness carried within the smashed wine bottle.
Along with this, I felt the depth, the hurt, the pain, and the guttural roars from the veins of Mother Earth. I felt it. From this inner space, I felt like an angel with a bird’s eye view witnessing Mother Earth and her daughters — the strong, brave, courageous women who have bared their hearts and souls over countless years and lifetimes, most of whom died and rebirthed themselves to tell the truth again and again.
I became aware of the presences of Meggan Watterson and Lisa Lister, two women I know personally, though not well. Have you ever experienced this — feeling a person’s energy when they’re not physically present? I felt like they were standing at the opposite ends of the altar, surrendering to the Magdalene as if she were them, completely willing to offer their souls for the Magdalene energy to resurrect, to reclaim, to remember.
From this place of inner witnessing, I was deeply moved. While I may have had thoughts like this before, it hadn’t rooted in my consciousness as personal experience until this moment. The next thing I knew, the visions ceased and I became aware of my hands on the altar.
I felt the cold, strong power of the stone beneath my palms. I began to hear Mary Magdalene as a thousand voices — women, men, beloved souls — singing her song through their devotional lives here and now in 2017. I felt Her strength, and within my inner consciousness, I also heard, felt, knew, remembered:
The Altar of Magdalene is not fragile.
She can hold the smashed bottles of the world.
She can hold our sorrows, our fears.
She can hold our doubts, our tears, our questions, our worries.
She can hold it.
All of it.
When we feel as if we have met rock bottom, when we feel as if God/Spirit/the Divine has left us and proverbially kicked us to the curb, when we cannot understand what the opportunity is in our present situation, it is there we meet the altar of Magdalene. It is there we meet Magdalene herself. She invites us to the depths of the underground, the basement of consciousness, and reminds us this space is sacred.
She reminds us that the guts of humanity are just as true and holy as the highest notes of heaven.
From Magdalene’s perspective, smashed bottles on Her altar are considered an offering of truth.
Bruised emotions, worries, doubts, fears, insecurities that are broken and taped back together are all welcome.
This isn’t to say you only come to her lost and at rock bottom. You can meet her from wherever you are. She’s here for all of us. She’s here to serve through all of it — the good, the bad, the profane. She’s here to remind us that ALL OF IT IS SACRED.
You do not need to travel to the Glastonbury Abbey’s Lady Chapel to lay your burdens at the Altar of Magdalene. This is a timeless space that exists within each of us. The Divine is not separate from us. The Divine IS us, and the more we can accept our humanity (including the times we want to smash bottles because being human requires a lot of feelings!!), the more we will experience the grace, guidance, and acceptance available to us. This is what I learned, that divine day in June, and I’m still processing it and honor the opportunity to share my experience with you here.
My invitation, as inspired by her, is to close your eyes and visit her altar in your mind's eye. Meet Magdalene herself. Let her receive you, as YOU.
Whatever you carry today, lay it on the altar.
Nothing is too heavy, too profane, too shallow, too deep for Her.
Then tell another.
Let her altar be a place of refuge for all the hearts of this world.
PS: If you want to learn more about the Magdalenes, here are my favorite resources:
*Private ABH Session ~ Angelic Breath Healing is one way to call forth particular energies for your own inner experience. If you’d like to have a private session with a focus on connecting with Mary Magdalene, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Magdalene session."
*Ask to be guided to the resources and people that will most support your highest path. Trust who resonates with you. Leave the rest.