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From The Book

Mary Magdalene and the Sacred Union

Margaret Starbird is a tireless and persuasive advocate for restoring the concept of the "sacred union" into the heart of Christianity-a heart she believes was lost in the rush to orthodoxy and the establishment of rigid patriarchal doctrine. A devout Catholic who set out years ago to debunk the "royal blood" thesis of Holy Blood, Holy Grail and ended up convinced of its veracity instead, she has written a half dozen books about the sacred feminine and its centrality to true Christianity. Among the best known are The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail and The Goddess in the Gospels: Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine.

Margaret Starbird makes the case that Mary Magdalene and Jesus had a "holy, dynastic marriage." Separating Mary from Jesus, as she says the church has done, represents "a distortion of the most basic model for life on our planet-the 'sacred union' of devoted partners."

Although considered overly speculative by many in the scholarly mainstream, many others agree with much of what Starbird has said. All are likely to acknowledge that her books are important for understanding the modern fascination with Mary Magdalene and her new mythology. Dan Brown specifically cites her work as having been a major influence informing the story told in The Da Vinci Code.

Margaret Starbird is in great demand as a speaker, and as a leader of workshops and retreats, the form of public appearance she most prefers. She was previously interviewed by us for Secrets of the Code.

Let's begin with a somewhat personal question: You have said that your journey over the last twenty years has changed you in numerous ways and given you a new sense of your own spirituality. Can you elaborate? Where has the journey taken you, and what does Mary Magdalene mean to you on a personal level?
I came to the quest for the Lost Bride as a devout Roman Catholic and member of a small charismatic prayer community. In the mid-1970s, we were shown that something crucial was missing from the foundations of Christianity, with devastating consequences. We gradually realized that this loss involved the desecration of the feminine. At the time, we renewed our devotions to the Virgin Mary, but after reading Holy Blood, Holy Grail in 1985, I sensed that the full-bodied revelation of the sacred feminine was incarnate in Mary Magdalene. Uncovering the truth about the status of Mary Magdalene has allowed me to create an image of the divine as an intimate partnership and to consciously integrate this understanding into my own faith and experience.

The concept of the sacred feminine, of course, shines throughout your writings. Please trace it back a bit more for us in the context of your religious education.
In the 1970s, many women went out seeking the lost Goddess traditions, but I was not one of them. I was a faithful daughter of my Roman Catholic Church and firmly rooted in her traditions. In 1988, I was researching Mark 14, the anointing of Jesus by the woman with the alabaster jar of precious nard, for a class at Vanderbilt Divinity School. In researching the gospel anointing passages, I came upon their connection with the "sacred marriage" liturgies indigenous to fertility cults of the ancient Near East, described in recently translated liturgical poetry from Sumer, Babylon, Canaan, and Egypt. Because my M.A. studies were in comparative literature, I don't consider ancient pagan rites taboo. They are literature. I discovered that the anointing of the Sacred King was the prerogative of the Bride, who later meets her sacrificed Bridegroom resurrected in the Garden. How can we fail to notice the similarities of these ancient rites with the Passion narratives of the Christian gospels where the "Bride" plays the same role? If "sacred partnership" was a cornerstone of early Christianity, shouldn't we make an attempt to restore it? I'm encouraged when I see amazing numbers of people embracing the "sacred union."

Including, of course, Dan Brown in his phenomenally successful The Da Vinci Code. Many of the ideas he expresses there have their basis in your work; indeed, he puts your book The Woman with the Alabaster Jar in a prominent place on Leigh Teabing's bookshelf. From your ideal vantage point, what do you think Dan Brown got right, and what did he get wrong?
Dan Brown managed to pour Mary Magdalene's story into the mainstream, ensuring that it reached every corner of the planet. He understood that the importance of the story was not an elitist claim to a special bloodline, but rather, the "sacred union" at the heart of the Christian gospel. . . .

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For the full interview with Margaret Starbird and her discussion about the Sacred Union and the role of Mary Magdalene within the context of the sacred feminine, see Chapter 2, page 81, of the book.