“I didn’t think you Pagan types believed in all that church stuff” said my better half as I purchased a bunch of red roses destined for a temporary shrine dedicated to The Magdalene. A pretty common misconception, one I admittedly found hard to explain to a non-believer / non practitioner of the craft.
July 29th is the feast day of Mary Magdalene in the Catholic calendar. Every year I acquire a bunch of red roses which I place on a small shrine dedicated to The Magdalene, with a small candle and a humble clay goblet filled with an appropriate libation. This however, was the first year I had to explain my motives for doing so (maybe it’s taken him this long to process, or maybe he’s suddenly started paying attention). However questioning one’s motives either internally or being forced to by another person can often be a valuable exercise.
Most people in craft circles will have heard the term “dual faith observance” yet I have been gradually coming to the conclusion that this can be a little misleading. When I visit a cathedral and light a candle before an image of the Virgin Mary, enshrouded in obsidian robes holding before her a radiant child crowned in light, it isn’t because I worship Mary or her holy child, it’s because I seek what hides behind the disguise. The Gods (who or whatever you wish to call them, if anything) may be some of the most abstract, ineffable forces we seek to understand in our quest for truth. Images, icons, masks and symbols, regardless of their origins or modern day associations are a potent way to help unlock and uncover what hides behind them providing we appreciate that they are just that…masks, symbols. I do not ‘worship’ the Gods, and I most certainly do not worship the image.
I don’t consider myself Catholic nor Pagan…if I am neither can I really be considered both? If I can’t be considered both or either, can what I do really be considered dual faith? Perhaps just The faith is more appropriate? Perhaps that sounds a little too fundamentalist? Perhaps it doesn’t matter? If I do not worship, can it really be considered faith at all? Faith implies belief… but what about when belief turns to knowledge?
There are layers upon layers when it comes to ‘existence’. A rose is not just its petals, or just its scent; its scent is not the emotions it evokes yet something, some force, bids us stop, admire the rose, stick our nose in and imbibe its heady floral perfume which in turn triggers a sensation, an emotion or a memory we can’t always control or easily convey. There are forces at play which work behind the scenes, behind the image. The image however, the rose, remains a powerful trigger.
When I observe the feast day of Mary Magdalene, in reality it has zero to do with the mythological character, her image and symbolism just happen to resonate personally deep within but its what’s behind it all, it’s the emotions and sense of awe that the image triggers that bids me stop, lay roses upon Her altar and breathe deep the incense! It is THE Magdalene (not Mary), the fallen woman, the scarlet harlot, the seductress, the Muse, The Lady of the Land behind (or beneath??) which works something even greater….and behind that something even greater still.