Friday, May 11, 2012

Looking for Mary Magdalene. 
Alternative Pilgrimage and Ritual Creativity at Catholic Shrines in France  

is now available from Oxford University Press !


Anna Fedele offers a comprehensive ethnography of alternative pilgrimages to French Catholic shrines dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene. Drawing on more than three years of extensive fieldwork, she describes how pilgrims from Italy, Spain, Britain, and the United States interpret Catholic figures, symbols, and sites according to spiritual theories and practices derived from the transnational Neopagan movement.

Fedele pays particular attention to the life stories of the pilgrims, the crafted rituals they perform, and the spiritual-esoteric literature they draw upon. She examines how they devise their rituals; why this kind of spirituality is increasingly prevalent in the West; and the influence of anthropological literature on the pilgrims. Among these pilgrims, spirituality is lived and negotiated in interaction with each other and with textual sources: Jungian psychology, Goddess mythology, and ''indigenous'' traditions merge into a corpus of theories and practices centered upon the worship of divinities such as the Goddess, Mother Earth, and the sacralization of the reproductive cycle.

The pilgrims' rituals present a critique of the Roman Catholic Church and the medical establishment and have critical implications for contemporary discourses on gender. Looking for Mary Magdalene is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in ritual and pilgrimage.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Article in "Culture and Religion"

From Christian religion to feminist spirituality: Mary Magdalene pilgrimages to La Sainte-Baume, France 

Culture and Religion, Volume 10, Issue November 2009 , pages 243 - 261


In recent years, the pilgrimage shrine of La Sainte-Baume has attracted an increasing number of non-Catholic pilgrims influenced by the 'New Age' and the Neopagan movement. These pilgrims consider Mary Magdalene as a sort of female counterpart of Jesus and the mountain of La Sainte-Baume, where according to a Christian legend she spent the last part of her life, as a 'power place' charged with 'healing energy'. Based on 3 years of field work among Mary Magdalene pilgrims and drawing on Tanya Luhrmann's idea of 'interpretive drift' (1989), the essay describes the way in which these pilgrims gradually shift from their previous Christian background towards what they generally identify as 'spirituality'. The pilgrims reconceptualise La Sainte-Baume and its saint, and make their own a shrine they feel was misappropriated and unjustly monopolised by the 'Church'.
Keywords: feminist spirituality; Neopaganism; Roman Catholicism; Mary Magdalene; shrines; pilgrimage; Da Vinci Code

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mary Magdalene Pilgrims and Contemporary Menstrual Rituals

Learning to Honour Their Body and Blood: Pilgrims on the Path of Mary Magdalene.

You can download this article on:

This article describes the beliefs and some of the ritual practices of a group of female pilgrims visiting places in France and Catalonia that they associate with the figure of Mary Magdalene. It pays particular attention to the pilgrim’s process of learning ways to relate to her own body and to her menstrual cycle. Drawing elements from neo-paganism these women reinterpret the meaning of Christian symbols and places. They consider Mary Magdalene both as a forerunner of feminism and as a model for independent women. Performing a ritual of offering menstrual blood to the earth, they establish an intimate relationship with what they identify as the “Mother Earth”. Theories used to justify the beliefs in the sacrality of menstrual blood are largely derived from anthropological texts.

You can write to: Anna Fedele,