Invoking Mary Magdalene: Accessing the Wisdom of the Divine Feminine

Invoking Mary Magdalene: Accessing the Wisdom of the Divine Feminine

By Siobhan Houston.
Boulder CO: Sounds True, 2006.
Hardcover (plus CD), 100 pages.

The popularity of The Da Vinci Code and contemporary interest in the recovery of a feminine dimension to Christianity, have drawn considerable attention to the figure of Mary Magdalene. Books by a number of popular authors such as Margaret Starbird and Tau Malachi have explored alternative perspectives on the relationship of the Magdalene to Jesus, and her place in the Christian Mysteries.

Siobhan Houston, who is both a scholar and a priestess, writes in this same revisionist stream, and yet she brings a new dimension to the discussion. Taking us beyond the historical and theological discussion, Houston offers a range of spiritual practices designed to draw the aspirant into a living experience of the Magdalene Mysteries. We begin by constructing an altar or shrine dedicated to our work with the Magdalene.

Houston then takes us deeper through prayer, meditation, and ritual. While a good number of the practices arise from her own inspiration, she also draws on some of the best contemporary and ancient sources. Houston engages Mary Magdalene from a number of different angles-Dark Goddess, Jewish woman, Christian saint, archetype of initiation, and so on, thus ensuring that her book will speak to a wide range of readers, from neo-pagans to mystical Christians to occultists. The practices are flexible enough that the reader can easily adjust them in accord with his or her own experience of the Magdalene. As a good teacher, Houston does not give pat answers, but rather provides multiple perspectives and the keys needed to guide us into our own understanding.

The one image of the Magdalene which Houston rejects is that of the repentant prostitute. She rightly points out that this is a later legend, not found in the New Testament. Houston interprets Jesus casting our seven demons from Mary Magdalene as the cleansing and empowering of her seven chakras, Without detracting in any way from Houston's perspective, one might note that at least one contemporary feminist theologian has offered a positive reappraisal of the myth of the Magdalene as prostitute-see Teresa Berger, Fragments of Real Presence (Herder & Herder, 2005).

Finally, Houston's book is very attractively produced, with a size and appearance conducive to devotional use. It is also accompanied by a CD, on which the author reads a number of meditations and prayers, as well as a resource guide to books, websites, and groups for further exploration. Transformative spirituality is always rooted in direct experience, and Siobhan Houston opens the way to such for all who are drawn to Mary Magdalene.


January/February 2007