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From The Book

Piece by Piece: How Mary Magdalene, the Patriarchy,
and Sinsuality Have Influenced My Life and Career

Tori Amos is an internationally famous pianist and singer-songwriter who has been heavily influenced by mythology and religion. She is an avid student of the Gnostic gospels in particular and used her reading of it to animate her 2005 hit album, “Beekeeper.” (Beekeeping, she has said, is a source of female inspiration and empowerment.)

At the core of her belief and inspiration stands the figure of Mary Magdalene. For Amos, she is muse, teacher, Lost Bride, sacred prostitute, symbol of the struggle against patriarchy in both religion and politics, and the motivator in her search for “a way to reach orgasm and keep your spirituality intact.” This attempt to integrate sin and sensuality has been a big part of her public image. Her worldwide tour for “Beekeeper,” for example, was labeled the “Original Sinsuality Tour” (renamed the “Summer of Sin Tour” in the U.S.). Also in connection with this album she published an autobiography, Tori Amos Piece by Piece, which one reviewer characterized as, “No mere star memoir…it’s more like a soul-map of Amos’s stride from pop tart to poet provocateur.” All that and more is exemplified by our excerpts from the chapter entitled, “Mary Magdalene: The Erotic Muse.”

Jesus was a feminist, dear.”

At nineteen years old I look up at my mom and with exasperation say, “Ma, I got no problem with Jesus, okay? Always dug the guy—still do. Do you really think the Magdalene would have entertained the idea of them as an item if he weren’t for women’s rights and equality in the workplace?”

“Yes, dear, I understand all that, dear, but you do seem to be carrying a lot of aggression concerning the Church.”

“Damn right I am, Mom.”

“Please don’t use damn, dear.”

“Okay, Ma. Darn tooting I am. But I am harboring a lot of fucking rage over those Passive-Aggressive Manipulators of Authority that constitute The Patriarchy.”

“That’s better, dear. Articulate the breaking of the dam, the breaking of the emotional chains that have bound women for centuries—from your young feminist perspective. Use your music to tackle the infirmities of the patriarchal structure, which at its foundation has a cancerous moral flaw.”

“Huh . . . ? Ma, are you all right?”

“Am I alright? Oh, darlin’, I haven’t felt so alive in years. Thank heaven your generation is rising to the call.”

For a moment it seemed as if my mom were singing “Sister Suffragette,” from the movie Mary Poppins. She was on a roll.

“In my own daughter, in other mothers’ draughts across the land, there will be a thirst for knowledge. Yes, that is the way we will rattle the foundation of The Patriarchy’s segregation. Their segregation of heart from mind, of actions from consequences, of man from woman, of power from imagination, and of passion from compassion.”

“Jeez, Ma. I didn’t know. I had no idea you still had it in you.”

And she looked away. When she turned back she took my hand and whispered, “We all have it in us, but those voices can get lost and buried. Those thoughts you just heard have only been sleeping in me. And they sleep in everybody, dear. Don’t let anyone tell you that these thoughts are dead. But they have been in a deep sleep. Your passion for the Magdalene is electric. So I don’t want to discourage you when I say, a majority of the people in America are just not quite ready to open up to Mary Magdalene the way you have. But be vigilant.”

“Why? What do you mean?”

“Be vigilant. Be vigilant against dangers. Be vigilant against the Magdalene’s villains, against her vicious betrayers. And, dear, in most cases . . . they won’t even know who she is or what she is. Some will, but many won’t.”

* * *

For the rest of Tori Amos' fascinating and highly personal story, please see Chapter 8, page 268 of the book.