The Cave of the Eggs… is it a myth or a real place? I don’t actually know, but I’m going to find out.
“I think we’ve lost the trail, Apollo… I haven’t seen any markers in a long time!” I’m starting to feel a tingle of real fear. We have only one protein bar between us and maybe a liter of water at the most and we are in very hot, dry, and steep country filled with underbrush. “We absolutely cannot get off the trail, no matter what!” I add. He has more confidence than I do. I say a little prayer for help. “Stay there and let me look a little farther down,” he says. I stay put. We’ve already climbed 1.5 km up a steep trail to the Grotto, and we’ve got that steep climb back down to do yet. We’re not ready to give up on the special place we’re looking for, but not being lost in the wilderness in France has suddenly become a bigger priority.
48 hours earlier…
We arrived today in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, home of the Basilica of Marie Madeleine (Mary Magdalene). After a week of one- and two-night stands, we get to settle in for 4 whole nights. It feels quite luxurious. We’ll visit the very impressive Basilica which is quite near our AirBnB and drive the next day to the Grotto and Monastery of St. Marie Madeleine, which was miraculously built into a granite rock face and has been lovingly maintained by various orders of monks since the 5th century.
All of these places are known pilgrimage sites, and I’m holding a vision of finding a place that I read about in a recently released book. The place is called Grotte aux Oeufs (The Cave of Eggs). I searched and searched, but I was unable to find any information about this place online. I found only a youtube video that showed the entrance to the cave, and it took my breath away. The book is called Mary Magdalene Revealed: The First Apostle, Her Feminist Gospel & the Christianity We Haven’t Tried Yet by Meggan Watterson (Thank you, mEGGan!)
Trusting Divine Guidance
As we climb the path up the mountain in the steps of pilgrims that have walked this same path for untold millennia to experience the grotto at St. Baume mountain, I silently ask for guidance about finding the cave. I have an idea it’s somewhere in the vicinity of the grotto, along a path on the side of the mountain. We’re deeply moved by Mary Magdalene’s Grotto. As we compete with the Grotto and Apollo looks at google maps on his phone, suddenly Grotte aux Oeufs appears on the map! I am elated, but we still have steep terrain and a network of trails to navigate and many more steps to take.
We take a few wrong turns on the trails and have to backtrack. While we have cell service and google maps, the location service cannot quite place us exactly on the trail. I surrender to Apollo’s navigation and wonder if we’re going to have to give up. We’re getting tired and have not had a proper meal yet today.
French is like cursive… it all runs together
I hear a voice in the distance and we cross paths with a woman who speaks to us in rapid French. Apollo has had some French lessons, but is by no means fluent. We joke that he can say some things in French, but then someone might respond in French and then what would he do? This is one of those situations where she is trying to communicate something and we don’t really understand what. Apollo follows bits of it, says a few words in French, nods his head, and decides it’s about the narrowness of the trail. That was true, but we found out later that’s not what she was trying to tell us. She was trying to tell us we were on the wrong path and that it would narrow to nothing.
Balanced on the ragged edge
The trail is indeed very narrow and rocky, and there are steep drop-offs. Footing is precarious and my mantra becomes, “grounded, present, balanced.” There are a few slips and near misses, but we do just fine. Our knees and ankles are starting to ache. When we finally figure out we are on the wrong trail and just as a surge of panic seeps in around my edges, we find our way back to the trail with no small amount of relief. Again, we backtrack, and find the place where we missed the trail marker on the rock that is an “X”… meaning don’t go this way. We continue on gamely and the terrain starts to look like what I saw in the video. I hear Apollo’s intake of breath and I know that we made it.
Cave of the Eggs Catherdral
It’s a yoni cave, a sacred place of feminine power and presence. I’ve come prepared with a headlamp and it comes in handy. The temperature drops many degrees as I venture into the cave. It’s a very steep downslope and as my tennis shoes find slick, wet rock, I take a tumble. I’m lucky I don’t sprain anything… just a few scrapes and a grubby derriere.
It’s like a cathedral. Offerings have been left and I leave one of my own. I say prayers of gratitude and blessing. We have truly been divinely guided. I’ve learned that divine guidance can come via google when it’s the medium at hand… modern times call for modern measures. I feel fulfilled and gratified.
As we walk back down to the car, Apollo stops and turns around and again my breath is taken away as I look just above the treeline at the perched monastery. I can hardly believe we have hiked that far up and back down. This place is unreal. How on earth was it built? I try to imagine the hundreds upon hundreds of years that it’s been cared for with candles lit in devotion to St. Marie Madeleine. This is not devotion to a “prostitute” or a “penitent sinner.” This is devotion to the closest companion of Jesus… His co-teacher, His beloved first disciple, quite possibly even His wife.
A saline solution
We have a few more days in France before we head home. Our last 3 nights will be on the Côte d’Azur (Azure Coast) in Villefranche, in a sweet little place right on the water. It will probably be the most vacation-like part of the trip, and I’m ready for some beach and ocean time to help me integrate the incredible experiences I’ve had since we left home on July 29.
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In love and devotion, Amrita