The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail

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Overview

Margaret Starbird’s theological beliefs were profoundly shaken when she read Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a book that dared to suggest that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalen and that their descendants carried on his holy bloodline in Western Europe. Shocked by such heresy, this Roman Catholic scholar set out to refute it, but instead found new and compelling evidence for the existence of the bride of Jesus—the same enigmatic woman who anointed him with precious unguent from ...

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The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail

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Overview

Margaret Starbird’s theological beliefs were profoundly shaken when she read Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a book that dared to suggest that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalen and that their descendants carried on his holy bloodline in Western Europe. Shocked by such heresy, this Roman Catholic scholar set out to refute it, but instead found new and compelling evidence for the existence of the bride of Jesus—the same enigmatic woman who anointed him with precious unguent from her “alabaster jar.”

In this provocative book, Starbird draws her conclusions from an extensive study of history, heraldry, symbolism, medieval art, mythology, psychology, and the Bible itself. The Woman with the Alabaster Jar is a quest for the forgotten feminine—in the hope that its return will help restore a healthy balance to planet Earth.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"As Starbird says, 'No wonder icons of Mary weep!' "

"Margaret Starbird's work is of particular interest to me because it fuses the diverse fields of symbolism, mythology, art, heraldry, psychology, and gospel history. Her research opens doors for each of us to further explore the rich iconography of our own spiritual history."

"Offers an alternative view of Christianity for women. . . . It cannot be ignored."

"Provocative and controversial—it will outrage some and give hope to others."

"This fascinating and courageous narrative takes a fresh look at the true meaning of the Holy Grail and the defeminization of the early church, and comes up with some shocking revelations that may change the way one perceives Christianity forever."

“Margaret Starbird is a seeker after truth. She seeks to recover the long-suppressed, and not infrequently emotionally opposed, feminine side of the Christian story. Hers is an exciting narrative probing regions of thought long neglected. Magdalen, the Great Mary, emerges with new power.”

Episcopal bishop and author of Born of a Woman John Shelby Spong
“Margaret Starbird is a seeker after truth. She seeks to recover the long-suppressed, and not infrequently emotionally opposed, feminine side of the Christian story. Hers is an exciting narrative probing regions of thought long neglected. Magdalen, the Great Mary, emerges with new power.”
author of The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown
"Margaret Starbird's work is of particular interest to me because it fuses the diverse fields of symbolism, mythology, art, heraldry, psychology, and gospel history. Her research opens doors for each of us to further explore the rich iconography of our own spiritual history."
Catholic Women's Network
"Provocative and controversial—it will outrage some and give hope to others."
National Catholic Reporter
"As Starbird says, 'No wonder icons of Mary weep!' "
Nexus
"This fascinating and courageous narrative takes a fresh look at the true meaning of the Holy Grail and the defeminization of the early church, and comes up with some shocking revelations that may change the way one perceives Christianity forever."
John Shelby Spong
“Margaret Starbird is a seeker after truth. She seeks to recover the long-suppressed, and not infrequently emotionally opposed, feminine side of the Christian story. Hers is an exciting narrative probing regions of thought long neglected. Magdalen, the Great Mary, emerges with new power.”
Dan Brown
"Margaret Starbird's work is of particular interest to me because it fuses the diverse fields of symbolism, mythology, art, heraldry, psychology, and gospel history. Her research opens doors for each of us to further explore the rich iconography of our own spiritual history."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781879181038
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Publication date: 6/28/1993
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 380,289
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

MARGARET STARBIRD is the author of The Goddess in the Gospels, Magdalene’s Lost Legacy, and Mary Magdalene: Bride in Exile. She lives near Seattle, Washington.

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Read an Excerpt

from Chapter 1

The Lost Bride

The Sacred Prostitute
While two Gospels, those of Mark and Luke, maintain that Mary Magdalen was healed by Jesus of possession by seven demons, nowhere does it say she was a prostitute, and yet this stigma has followed her throughout Christendom. The original story of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany by the woman with the alabaster jar may have been misinterpreted by the author of Luke's gospel writing nearly fifty years after the event. The anointing performed by the woman at Bethany was similar to the familiar ritual practice of a sacred priestess or temple "prostitute" in the Goddes cults of the Roman Empire. Even the term prostitute is a misnomer. The term, chosen by modern translators, is applied to the hierodulae, or "sacred women" of the temple of the Goddess, who played an important part in the everyday life of the classical world. As priestesses of the Goddess, their importance dates back through the centuries to the Neolithic period (7000-3500 B.C.), back to the time when God was honored and treasured as feminine throughout the lands that are now known as the Middle East and Europe.

In the ancient world, sexuality was considered sacred, a special gift from the goddess of love, and the priestess who officiated at the temples of the love goddesses in the Middle East were considered holy by the citizens of the Greek and Roman empires. Known as "consecrated women," they were held in high esteem as invokers of the love, ecstacy, and fertility of the Goddess. At some periods of Jewish history, they were even a part of the ritual worship in the Temple of Jerusalem, although some of the prophets of Yahweh deplored the influence of the Great Goddess locally called "Ashera." The discovery in Israeli achaeological digs of virtually thousands of figurines of the Sumerian/Canaanite love goddess (Inanna, Astarte), holding her breasts cupped in her hands, has convinced experts that the worship of the Hebrew version of this goddess was commonplace in ancient Israel. The priestess of the love goddess was a familiar sight in every city of the Roman Empire, including Jerusalem.

In the Gospel context, the woman with the alabaster jar of unguent may have been one of these priestesses. But curiously, Jesus does not seem to have been at all affronted by her action when she anointed him. He even told his friends gathered at the banquet in the house of Simon at Bethany that the woman had anointed him for burial (Mark 14:8, Matt. 26:12). The significance of this statement cannot possibly have been misunderstood by the early Christian community, which preserved this story in its oral tradition. The anointing for burial was an enactment of a key part of the cult ritual of the dying/rising sun and the fertility gods of the whole region washed by the Meditteranean Sea.

The anointing by the woman with the alabaster jar was familiar to the citizens of the empire because of the cultic ritual of their love goddess. But in more ancient times, the anointing of the sacred king was the unique privilege of a royal bride. For millennia this same action had been part of an actual marriage rite performed by a daughter of the royal house, and the marriage rite itself conferred kingship on her consort.

In those remote times, up until about the third millenniem B.C., most of the societies of the Near and Middle East had been matrilineal, with property and position passed through the mother and female kinship. In fact, among the royal houses of much of the region, this practice continued well into classical times. Both the Queen of Sheba nd Cleopatra of Egypt ruled as dynastic heiresses. In Palestine, almost contemporaneously with Jesus, the Edomite king Herod the Great (who reigned from 37-4 B.C.), claimed the throne of Israel on the basis of marriage to Mariamne, a descendant of the Hasmonian House of Maccabees, the last legitimate rulers in Palestine.

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Table of Contents

Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Foreword by Rev. Terrance Sweeney, Ph.D.

Preface

PROLOGUE: Miriam of the Garden

CHAPTER I: The Lost Bride

CHAPTER II: The Bridegroom

CHAPTER III: The Blood Royal and the Vine

CHAPTER IV: The Twelth-Century Awakening

CHAPTER V: Relics of the Hidden Church

CHAPTER VI: Heretical Artists anf Their Symbols

CHAPTER VII: The Unicorn and the Lady

CHAPTER VIII: The Bride in Folklore and Legend

CHAPTER IX: The Desert Shall Bloom

EPILOGUE: The Sacred Reunion

Notes

Selected Bibliography

Index

About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2003

    The lesson of the 'anointment'

    'Annew' (in the previous posting) is right on about the significance of the book and the identity of the anointing woman. The woman's anonymity is highly significant: she becomes 'any woman.' The incident is unfortunately overshadowed by one of the greatest 'quotes out of context' in all history: 'The poor you always have with you.' The mean-spirited turn it upside down: 'There will always be poor people; forget about 'em.' In context I hear Jesus saying: 'We're not bean-counters or rule-book polishers here. You can continue taking care of the poor after I'm dead and gone. This woman has offered me a generous gift. It's an act of free will and sacrifice. That is what we're all about; never forget it.' Like the disciples on so many occasions, readers are in the position of students whose misconceptions Jesus overturns.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2000

    Sound research and astounding revelations, mystic connections

    I was amazed to see that other reviewers had given this great book four star reviews. My copy was read ragged by friends who ultimately had to have their own copy. She makes amazing connections that have long been ignored and presents them in clear, understandable form. It all makes sense now! Thank you Margaret Starbird.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2013

    A Sensible Approach to an Alternative View

    "The Woman with the Alabaster Jar," by Margaret Starbird is well researched yet written in a way that is easy to follow and understand. It's amazing the questions she asks. It inspired me to ask and to check it out. This isn't a dry academic work, but a very lively and poetic piece of literature that makes a lot of sense.

    For a long time, I have seen the Divine only as a masculine figure, not in a feminine light. I wanted to relate to a "goddess," I thought I would have to leave the Judeo/Christian traditions and go somewhere else. Mrs. Starbird here shows that leaving my childhood spirituality is no longer necessary, that Christians (and by extension, Jews; because Mary Magdalene is Jewish) can have a feminine side to Divinity. The way this book approaches this makes the whole idea plausible.

    I didn't grow up with positive male role models, so it is hard for me to relate to a male "God" without feeling judged and a recipient of wrath. I could not relate to anyone who abandons or abuses, not that God does, but that is the typical behavior of the male role models I have had growing up. As soon as I was able to see God as a "grandmother" figure, that changed. I can see and feel unconditional love and as a result, my spirituality blossomed.

    Some may not agree with the conclusions that Starbird has come up with, but that is okay. I see the possibilities and I don't have to leave my intelligence outside. Once I am able to have an open mind, and to see for myself, giving this argument a fair chance, I am able to give Christianity another look. Instead of exiting, I re-entered the spirituality of my childhood. This is what this book gave me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2003

    It's the alabaster jar.

    The issue isn't Mary's identity. It's about the powerful significance of her actions in that time and place and culture. Margaret Starbird dared to asked different questions than the Baltimore Catechism--and seek answers wherever the journey took her. Whether you come to the same conclusions or different ones than the author, you will be asking different kinds of questions after reading this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2009

    Intriguing, thought provoking, and a good read

    Anyone interested in learning more about the sacred feminine and how this idea has faired throughout history will enjoy this book. Her research seems to be extensive and she puts together some compelling arguments. It will make you think and if you are female - possibly make you a little sad for opportunities lost.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2007

    Exellent source

    This book is a well researched credible source. An interesting look at our beliefs.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2006

    Topical, No Depth

    The author makes some interesting assertions and does a good job of writing at the average person's level, which means this is not a book full of esoteric references and untranslated phrases in Latin or other languages. However, I think in her quest to make it easy to understand, she dumbed down the topic and made some unsubstantiated assertions as well as made references to some incredible deductive leaps that were made by some other 'quack' theologians. I think most educated people would agree that Christianity borrows extensively from pagan religions (probably to find the path of least resistance in propagating the faith), and that the Christian faith is traditionally chauvenistic (e.g. for a man to take holy orders it is a sacrament but not for a woman). But, I don't think that the chauvenism is enough of a basis to ground a theory that Mary Magdalen is the suppressed, denied spouse of Jesus or the matriarch of his bloodline. Like Da Vinci Code, this book is an interesting diversion and foray into a 'what if' scenario, but it is not a research text or one that really answers with any proof the questions that many people have...many of these questions which can only be answered by faith alone.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2004

    A must read for anyone on the spiritual path

    If you are searching for more about Mary Magdalene, here it is! If you are a feminist searching for more of the feminine side of Christianity, here it is! If you have an open mind and wish to have your old beliefs challenged, here it is! The first chapter of the book is fiction, a story about what might have been, but then the Bible is but a work of fiction also, right? Stories about what might have been, written long after the principle player had departed. The balance of the book is interspersed with research and the author¿s conclusions. I consider this a must read for anyone on a spiritual path. Consider this: have you ever considered the fairy tales of Cinderalla, Snow White, Rapunzel, and others, as having a spiritual connection to the New Testament? Have you ever once thought about the unicorn as being a spiritual symbol as well? Please read this book with an open mind and see if some sort of ¿enlightenment¿ doesn¿t happen to you.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2004

    Review by a Catholic Priest

    This is a very poor book and not an accurate account of history. Sadly, books like this one (e.g. the fictional 'DiVinci Code')do little to strengthen the faith of believers. I would not recommend this book at all to any faithful Catholic

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2003

    She is way Wrong

    Unfortunately the author has her history and theology wrong. Mary Magdalen was not the women who anointed Jesus and she was not a prostitute she came from a prominent family and was possessed by demons. (Luke 8 2and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out;) Even in the Synoptic Gospels, Gnostic Gospels and Christian Apocrypha she was not the woman who anointed Jesus¿ feet with oils, perfume and her tears. This woman has never been identified and is not Mary Magdalen: Matthew 26:7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. (Whole Chapter: Matthew 26 In context: Matthew 26:6-8) Mark 14:3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. (Whole Chapter: Mark 14 In context: Mark 14:2-4) Luke 7:37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, (Whole Chapter: Luke 7 In context: Luke 7:36-38) The only history any where about Mary Magdalen involved in the anointment of Jesus is at the Tomb: Mark 16The Resurrection 1When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. This brings questionable validity to her discovery which is unfortunate because I do believe there is proof that a very deep relationship existed between Jesus and Mary.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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