What Has Mary to do?

What has the Christian Mary to do with Isis, or to reverse it what has  Isis, the Pagan Goddess, to do with Mary?  Christians who believe that all the expressions of hatred and contempt for Paganism found in the Bible are the “Word” of God will of course answer “None at all!” Many Pagans  will respond with a  “None at all!” answer as well. After all what can enlightened, tolerant, free thinking Paganism have in common with  Mary the white bread imitation of a goddess that Christianity  created as a substitute for the real thing.

I do not want respond to these perceptions in this post. However, I do want to  explain why I think that Isis and Mary  have a lot to do with each other. Since I suspect that most of the readers of this blog  are Pagans most of this  writing will be a discussion of  Mary. To talk about  Mary is impossible unless one also discusses Jesus and Christianity. The problem is that  there are  many forms of Christianity some of which have theologies that are morally repugnant and some of which have real moral and intellectual credibility. Many still interpret Christianity through the lens of intolerant and theologically  problematic Protestant and Roman Catholic forms of fundamentalism. For those who see these interpretations as being definitive of what Christianity is,  little can be said positive of the religion. A rigid belief system which focuses primarily on the afterlife, on  a literal  heaven, hell, or purgatory has little to recommend it. A religion which interprets   salvation by faith in Jesus to mean that all other non Christian people are lost to an everlasting hell is abominable. The same goes for the   belief that the Bible is the only, infallible Word of God. This Christianity  is clearly incompatible with the humane  religion of the Goddess Isis.

Fundamentalist versions of Christianity,  however, are not the only interpretations of Christianity possible. Christian liberalism, social gospel, liberation theology all represent forms of Christianity  which focus primarily  on the Christian concerns  of love of God and neighbor, political, social and economic justice, the kingdom of God and living life righteously in this world. These forms of modern Christianity categorically reject hatred of the other. Further more historically  for every Christian Inquisitor and Crusading butcher there have been Christians such as St. Theresa of Avila, Meister Eckart, St Frances of Assisi and countless anonymous men and women who have attempted to live by the highest moral standards.

Something must also be said about the civilizational role of Christianity. I am talking here of the beauty of Christian art and icons,  architecture, the great cathedrals, and the great liturgical traditions of worship. I mention these because for many all that Christianity has produced is horror and brutality. Certainly horror and brutality are part of the historical record of Christianity. However that has not been the full picture. Christianity’s record is complex and ambiguous.  In that it is entirely human.

The last word I have about Christianity is of course its relationship to Mary. Clearly Mary was the human mother of Jesus who came to be seen by Christians as both Christ and Divine. Early Christianity  saw little remarkable in Mary beyond the fact that she suppossedly gave birth to Jesus as a virgin. The Church fathers attention was almost entirely focused on Jesus. After the year 400 CE all of that changed. By 450 CE approximately fifty years latter, Mary had began to receive the adoration and prayers that have characterized Marian devotion within the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity

Ukraine, St Sophia Cathedral

The raise of Marian theology and devotionalism is interpreted in many ways. Protestantism of course interprets it negatively. The goddess like status of Mary is a form of Christian paganism or idolatry. Roman Catholic traditionalists while they want to maintain their rich devotional relationship with Mary want to make sure that Mary is kept in the nice  safe theological confines of Christian patriarchy. For  theologically heterodox  Marians, for  Mariavites, Collyridians, Sophian Gnostics, etc;  Mary  is seen and adored as the Feminine Divine, the Incarnation of the Holy Spirit, or the Divine Sophia.

From a theological / historical perspective I  believe that the earliest form of Christianity  saw God only in  the man Jesus. The patriarchal Jewish roots of Christianity  could not see the light of God which shined in Mary. What happened in the Fifth Century CE with the rise of the Marian tradition within the Church was the revelation  of the Feminine Sacred within Christianity. The theological rise in the status of Mary was not a distortion of the faith but a correction of it.

Glenn King

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