Easter is a good time to share why I wrote the tune “Magdalena’s Revenge”.
Magadalena’s Revenge is a fast-paced tune, in 2 4, and is a kind of frailich.
Listen to a full live version on our BandCamp site.
For those not familiar with christian mythology, Easter Sunday celebrates Jesus’ rising from the dead. There’s nothing new under the sun, even zombie stories. Christ’s rising from the dead and wandering around for 40 days is one of the great zombie stories of all time.
Mary of Magdala was the first one to see Jesus after he rose from the dead. The other disciples were afraid of the authorities and wouldn’t go to the tomb. She was bold and went. She is the one who spread the “good news” that he had risen.
In her gospel, the Gospel of Mary — yes, there are other gospels that the church fathers opted not to include in the new testament — the Magdalene describes the rising of Jesus as a kind of vision, not an actual physical body. That is, of course, more reasonable but so much less spectacular for marketing purposes than a walking, talking previously dead person. Her description of the event was undoubtedly one of the reasons that her gospel didn’t make the final cut of the new testament.
Back in 1995, I watched a documentary based on Susan Haskins definitive work
“Mary Magdalene: Myth and Metaphor”. I was aghast at the blatant re-writing of her life by church fathers hellbent on perpetuating male dominance in christianity. I was irked. I had to write a tune for her.
In a very small nutshell, Mary of Magdala, the Magdalene was the favorite disciple and close companion of Jesus the Nazarene. There is historical evidence that women around Jesus had equal power. This power was eventually eroded by jealous, frightened sex-obsessed, religious leaders.
The church, over a span a several hundred years morphed Mary Magdalene from the historical, empowered special associate of Jesus that she was into a repentant, deferential prostitute which fit the church’s view of women, you know, us scary sexual beings that need to be controlled.
Pope Gregory the Great, in 591, merged three women, including Mary of Magdala, from the early gospels into one person, a repentant prostitute. Vatican II, interestingly, removed the prostitute label. Don’t you just love how those church officials can write and re-write history as they please?
Revenge is sweet
I like it when the truth wins out, even if it takes centuries. After hundreds of years of distortion, the real Mary of Magdala has started to be vindicated by historians.
Lots to read here:
- Smithsonian article – Who Was Mary Magdalene? – From the writing of the New Testament to the filming of The Da Vinci Code, her image has been repeatedly conscripted, contorted and contradicted
- New Yorker article – The Saintly Sinner – The two-thousand-year obsession with Mary Magdalene
- Magdalene was none of the things a pope claimed
- A theosophical take
- Susan Haskins discusses the bad history in the DaVinci Code and Holy Blood, Holy Grail