In many ways, I’ve been feeling disassociated from my priestess self. From my connection with the Goddess. It seems like I set most of that aspect of myself aside to be part of Divine Feminine Institute, crazy as that sounds. Even though I was setting up the altars and creating opening ceremonies each workshop, it was relatively secular compared to the priestess life I lived in the early and mid 2000’s. Apparently, however, the Goddess has not forgotten me. In the final stages of Divine Feminine Institute, she sent me Asha, a beloved sister I met in this life less than a year ago, but whom I have know for thousands of lifetimes. Asha has been helping me “re-member” who I am as a priestess.
Asha invited me to bring a Reclaiming Aphrodite workshop to Oakland, and has assisted with every Reclaiming Aphrodite workshop prior. I stayed with her while I was in Oakland, and she has supported me in taking the workshops to new levels with each weekend, especially in the realms of ceremony. It was she who suggested I visit a sweet little sacred arts shop in one of Oakland’s shopping districts near where the workshop was held. I went in the day before the workshop started, intending to find some little gifts to give the participants.
Ilana, my other assistant for the weekend, and I ventured into Sagrada together and I found what I was looking for. As I was choosing, a woman came to greet me. As I looked up into her eyes, I saw her whole face transform as if she recognized me. I told her what I was in town for and she introduced herself as Mary. She was very supportive of the workshop, offering to post something in the store. She asked Ilana and I if was possible we had met before, but we were sure it was not. She asked if we had a few extra minutes, as there was something she wanted to show us. We did.
She had us put down our goodies, and told her helper she would be back in a few minutes. Mystified, we followed her out the front door and around back down a passageway behind the shop. There was a row of low-roofed, plain metal doors, and she unlocked a door and pushed the rolling metal door aside. Behind it was a regular wooden door with a window, and a sign saying “Magdalene Temple.” I drew in a deep breath.
Ilana and I stepped in. There was a tiny entry alcove where we left our shoes. To the right, a black iron candelabra stood majestically holding a few small white candles. Stepping further in, there were three or four rows of red-upholstered chairs facing an altar at the back of the small building. Skylights let in diffused light through the white draping that hung beneath them. The altar held a figure of an ancient goddess holding candles. There were orchids in pots and roses in vases. We took seats in the red chairs. I felt a wave of emotion take me and I felt so held, so supported in this place. I knew that I could ride that wave into full meltdown and surrender, but I chose to hold it together in honor of my responsibility to the fourteen women who would be under my care for the next three days.
As we looked around, we saw there was a beautiful quilted wall hanging on the back wall, a rose in various shades of red. Mary explained that it had been created by a group of women who came together and worked on it, and while it was not designed for the temple, it was indeed a perfect fit both on the wall and with the energy of the space.
I noticed a small painting that reminded me of a part of “The Last Supper”, where Jesus and Mary Magdalene are leaning away from each other, except that in this painting, they were leaning towards each other. Mary told us it was painted by a friend who paints Russian icons who kept doing it over until she deemed it perfect, sometimes painting over the whole image that was near completion to start again. I’m struck right now by my misremembering of “The Last Supper”, thinking that the painting in the temple was a section of the full painting and that they were leaning into each other in the original.
Before leaving , I spoke to the temple about my breast cancer diagnosis, asking a blessing. Mary handed us each an orchid blossom, and we walked out into the Oakland sunshine in a very altered state. I felt high as a kite, blissed out. We went back into the store, and Mary tucked a little rosewood tub of Magdalene anointing balm into Ilana’s purse. We completed our purchases, then went on to do the much more mundane tasks of grocery shopping and office supply hunting in preparation for the workshop.
I told the women in the workshop about the temple. They were invited to come into the temple on Saturday after the workshop, and almost all of them took advantage of that opportunity. I had a dinner date, so did not go… but I joined the procession and watched them go in. At the last moment, Asha and Mary turned back to me and I snapped a picture with my phone. I learned later that arrangements had been made and shared with the women to bring me back to the temple for a special surprise ceremonial healing on Monday.
When Asha, Ilana, and I came back on Monday and opened the door to the temple, the first thing I saw was Mary with her back to me spinning at a spinning wheel. It was like being transported back to another era. Time and space shifted inside me. I seated myself near the altar and Asha lit the candles. I sat in meditation for some time, then signaled to Asha. She had asked me to bring along the anointing balm, which had not tipped me off to the surprise, interestingly enough. She brought it, and kneeling before me, she blessed and anointed me. In unspoken agreement, I removed my top and she anointed my breasts as well. I felt Ilana’s hands on my shoulders. She later told me that Mary’s hands were on her shoulders as well. Mary spoke a blessing. Though I could not see her, I felt the power in her words. Perhaps she was channeling them from Mary Magdalene herself.
Upon my return home, as I was putting things away in my office, I came across the Mary Magdalene doll that stands in the corner on a high shelf. She came to me via another women’s workshop I facilitated a few years ago in Portland. She is part of a series of Goddess Wisdom dolls that were designed to reflect different sizes of women, to be more authentic in their portrayal of the female form in all its beautiful shapes and sizes. The dolls were created in very high quality. It seems they are no longer available, as I cannot find them anywhere online. They used to be part of Beverly Danusis’ About Wisdom website. Apparently, I have a collector’s item! The woman who offered her to me in partial trade said she had long, red curly hair, just like mine. She wears an alabaster jar around her neck. I feel the presence she represents more than ever now.
The Goddess continues to conspire to bring me back into her arms. What better timing than this turning point in my life? The signs are all there, pointing the way. As Beltane washes over me, I will gladly follow them.
Please leave your comments below. Thank you!
Love & blessings, Amrita
Included in a small white scroll with the Magdalene balm:
Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper; he was reclining at table when a woman came in with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the ointment over his head. Some who where there said to one another indignantly, “Why this waste of ointment? Ointment like this could have been sold for over three hundred denari and the money given to the poor”; and they were angry with her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why are you upsetting her” What she has done for me is one of the good works. You have the poor with you always, and you can be kind to them whenever you wish, but you will not always have me. She has done what was in her power to do; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. I tell you solemnly, whenever throughout all the world the good news is proclaimed, what she has done will be told also, in remembrance of her.” Gospel of Mark