Narrative weaving the biblical account of Mary and Jesus, the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris, and the Sumerian story of Inanna and Dumuzi to create an exotic tale of a strong, sensual woman.
|Edition description:||1st HarperCollins Paperback Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.76(d)|
About the Author
Clysta Kinstler teaches philosophy, religion, and women's studies at American River College in Sacramento, California.
Read an Excerpt
The Morning Star
A woman clothed with the sun,
And the moon under her feet.
On the day I was given to the Goddess I awakened before daylight, a strange fluttering inside me. The excitement that had wakened me combined with the cold, and I shivered, pulling my cloak around me. I went outdoors with the milking bowl and breathed in the sweet air. Hanging the bowl on Nadja's tether post, I faced into the dawn breeze and climbed the little rise behind our house. The sparse grass showed weak new growth at the crown of the hill where it lay open to the dew and fight frost of the winter just past. There had been little rain this year or the one before, and though my parents worried about it in their talk, I thought little of it. I saw only that sunny days were better than rainy ones.She was there the Morning Star just as Grandmother Lili had promised, brilliant in the brightening sky above the far roofs of Jerusalem, and beneath her, just rising over the dark shape of the Temple, the slimmest crescent moon. The cold wind flapped my cloak about me, but I did not feel it, overcome as I was by that heavenly sign. The Goddess was smiling her blessing on my special day, and the moon was under her feet.
Presently, chilled, I trudged down the hill and got the bowl. Nadja already stood expectantly on her milking bench watching me with soft eyes. I put two handfuls of oats in her box, and she chewed happily, moving her little jaws and flicking her long ears rapidly.
"Nadja smells good." A flash of unaccustomed anger eased the strange fluttering in my belly. Mother took the milk, and I untied Nadja, led her up the slope to the middle of the grassy mound, and pounded her peg securely into the earth with a heavy rock. I put my arms around her neck and dragged my clean hair over her brown back. She bleated sympathetically. There were tears in my throat.
The dawn had bleached the pale sliver of the moon to a bloodless white, but the Queen of Heaven still gleamed like a tiny candle in the blue morning. My sign. She would stay even when the sun rose and hid her light. Remembering that, I felt the fluttering ease.
I went in and Mamma pressed a steaming cup into my hand. She began to comb my hair. I drank Nadja's warmth with her milk.
"Let me do that, Aethel. You need to dress the little ones," Grandmother said, lifting the headband of gold links I was to wear out of her carved jewelry box lined with purple wool.Baby Lazarus was still asleep. Mother combed Martha's black curls and put on her best gown while Grandmother struggled with the headband, which wanted to slide forward over my eyes. Martha was only three, two years younger than I, and she cried for a headband too. Mamma pacified her with a saffron-dyed ribbon and came back to me with her comb.
"Don't braid her hair Aethel. It is a glory." Grandfather Claudius spoke from the doorway, his arms full of blossoming branches.
"You would tempt the angels, then?" Mamma said, sniffing handfuls of my hair for goat smell.
Grandmother Lili took the blossoms and began to weave them with linen strips into a garland. "The Pharisees would cover her for certain," she observed.
"Let the Pharisees veil their maids if they want ,"scoffed Grandfather. "The eye starved for delight is the one that strays."
"Hush!" admonished Grandmother. "The child is innocent."
Grandfather lifted me to match his height; my legs dangled. The fierceness of his blue eyes puzzled me, though I could never be afraid of him. He had taught me the names and hiding places of the wild birds and animals along the little streams between the hills, how to carve their wooden images without cutting myself, and how to keep from getting lost. He kissed me on each cheek, and I smelled apple blossoms. "Let the angels beware," he said.
Shocked, I saw tears brimming over in Mamma's eyes, but they embarrassed rather than moved me. I was not ready to forgive her for sending me away. She turned and began to braid her black hair into a plait as thick as her wrist. I knew she had guessed my thought and I was ashamed, but I could say nothing. The unfamiliar anger was a knot in my chest.
The Temple was blinding with the morning sun reflecting off its beaten gold and polished marble, more huge and grand than I remembered from the year before when my parents had brought me. There had been six maidens given to the Goddess then. Now, smallest and last in line, an insignificant seventh, I followed the heels of the maid before me, moving in procession between endless banks of people, keeping my chin high so the headband would not fall over my eyes. I could not see the top of the massive wall of the Temple Mount from the wide paved street bordering it along which we moved. The single stones that formed the wall were large as houses, and there were stones left out at intervals forming cavelike niches for the merchants' shops along the way.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book was a gift a few years ago from my sister. I fell in love with it the first time I read it, and have read it more than once…a very rare occurrence for me. I don’t keep many books, mainly for space reasons. But this re-imagining of the greatest story ever told, which brings the role of women back into Jesus Christ’s story, is one that has never, and probably never will, leave my bookshelf. Let me begin by saying, if you are a person with no wiggle room in your Christian beliefs and the Bible, this read is not for you. In fact, you may consider it heresy. As for me, I went to Catholic school from kindergarten on, but they pretty much lost me in 3rd grade…the day I was told any baby who died unbaptized would never see the eyes of God. So, I am very open to reinterpretations, and author Clysta Kinstler has not only re-imagined just who the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene were, but she has stitched the story of Jesus Christ together with the myth of Queen Isis and the loss of her beloved Osiris to create a narrative which is bold, beautiful, and ingenious. As I read, I marveled at how the author intermingled such diverse “tales” into not only a coherent story, but a riveting one I could not put down. This read also puts an intensely human face on many of the religious figures we know so well –Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, Joseph, Judas, and Jesus Christ himself. We are so used to revering them and seeing them other than as flesh and blood beings born with all the hopes, dreams, troubles and cares as the rest of us that they are almost unapproachable. Kinstler’s work served to remind me that, in the end, they were simply people just like the rest of us, which helps to make me feel closer, rather than simply in awe or removed completely. Without hitting one over the head or having the story suffer for it, the author incorporates the divine feminine and invigorates the role of women in nascent Christianity, a role all but wiped out by modern churches. As priestesses, Mari Almah and Mari Anath worship the Goddess as Supreme. What I really appreciated about this is the inclusion and acceptance of ideas in the story, for even while worshipping the Goddess, they are Jewish women awaiting the Messiah, seeing no dissonance in the two beliefs, but rather connections. Kinstler’s weaving of those connections, along with story of Isis and Osiris, is compelling and feels like a blueprint for mankind’s acceptance and validation of not just one belief system, but many. Finally, lest one think this is simply a boring, tortured, perhaps angry feminist recasting of early Christianity, let me be clear. If simply viewed as a novel, this is a beautifully told story that grabs the reader and holds on till the end. It has a spellbinding plot and enough surprises to keep you entertained, whether or not you subscribe to its female perspective. Simply put, I cannot recommend it enough.
In the telling of her own life's story, Mary Magdalene gives us a fresh new view of the birth, life and death of Jesus as well as a better understanding of the times in which they both lived. By reading only the Bible, you would never know that Goddess worship was very much alive and well in Jerusalem during this period. The flowing of this story caught me in its current right from the first sentence and carried me swiftly on through its course. It made me cry at times because I could truly feel what the characters were feeling and understand the choices they made. It was hard to put the book down. I would recommend it to any one who would like to broaden their views on Christianity. I think it would be a difficult book for any one with a closed mind.
This was given to me by a friend whose literary tastes I respect, but I'm afraid this a case of a novel that however well-written I couldn't wrap my mind around. The subtitle of the novel is "The Story of Mari Magdalene in the Service of the Great Mother." It's the first person account of the figure we know as Mary Magdalene in the New Testament and here the wife of Jesus. This was written over a decade before The Da Vinci Code, but given her Notes and Bibliography at the back of the book shares some common inspirations. (Notably the whacky cult book Holy Blood, Holy Grail.)It's not that I'm offended by humanized, alternate or feminist views of Jesus. Quite the contrary. In fact, Kinstler lists in her bibliography a favorite book of mine King Jesus by Robert Graves (author of I, Claudius) that also posits a Jesus of royal birth married to Mary Magdalene. I've read that a Jewish man of that era would routinely be married at Jesus' purported age and even a Catholic priest I heard interviewed said that if Jesus was married there's no better candidate than Mary Magdalene considering scripture. I found it plausible enough I could go with Graves' vision and enjoy his novel. What I find hard to credit in Kinstler's book isn't a married or human Jesus--it's a Paganized Israel at the time it was a Roman province, with "Magdalene" referring to "the High Priestess" who serves the Mother Goddess right within the temple precincts--in an era when anything smacking of Paganism could cause riots, even uprisings among the populace. It's not as if Judaism and Judea of this period isn't well-documented from many sources including by Romans, Greeks, Egyptians. I could well believe there once was a female counterpart and consort to Yahweh (Jehovah) called Asherah. I completely bought the background of goddess worship in Diamant's The Red Tent set in the time of the Patriarchs. It's certainly plausible in the time of Solomon whose many wives from far flung nations certainly brought with them varied modes of worship. I could easily credit the scenario of Goddess worship and priestesses any time before the Babylonian Exile. I could believe that remnants of goddess worship could be found in folk practice or even in some underground sects in the Israel of the time of Jesus. But accepted as mainstream practice in Second Temple period Judea? I wasn't buying it for a moment and filling a bibliography with the likes of Elizabeth Clare Prophet and Starhawk doesn't gain it one scintilla of credibility with me. Oh, and Judas is really Jesus' evil twin. Really? Enjoying a historical novel depends on a willing suspension of disbelief. And I'm just not willing to believe in the world Kinstler paints.
I can't say that I liked this book. I wanted to like it, but I just didn't. It was recommended to me years ago and I have been curious about it for ages (8years to be exact) so when I saw it in a used bookstore I snatched it up. I'm the first to love a feminist retelling of Christianity/history but something about the way the stories of the bible were weaved together into a plot just bothered me. My main problem with the text was that I felt like she was trying to hard to get in as many biblical figures as possible in order to re-tell/create their narrative. I think I would have enjoyed the story more had she just stuck with the stories of Mary Magdalene, Jesus, and Judas. The premise was fascinating and thought provoking, but the delivery lacked.
Absolutely loved this book and wish it was available in Spanish. I would then give the spanish version to my mom so she could see where I'm coming from with the Goddess & Christianity. If anyone knows how to contact the author, please let me know as well. Thanks!
An alternative imagining of Mary Magdalene as Priestess of the pagan Temple of Ashera, that weaves together a rich semi-historical tapestry and retells the times of Jesus as never before (although I haven¿t read Holy Blood, Holy Grail, to which this story must owe something). The author teaches (or has taught) philosophy, religion and women¿s studies at American River College in Sacramento, California, and whilst the story gains much credibility by her obvious knowledge of those subjects and other esoteric texts, I felt at times that it was weighed down by them and could have been made a more enjoyable read with extra editing. At times I found the cast of multitudes difficult to keep track of, and the pace too slow for my liking. I couldn¿t help sensing the author¿s desire to teach throughout, and although I love to learn, at times it became a little too much. The end notes were useful to refer to in the course of reading, and the bibliography enlightening in itself.
I was visiting with a good friend one day when she read a passage out of this book to me. I was so touched/fascinated/intrigued that I asked myself, "how come I've never read this?" I immediately bought it, and within 24 hours had devoured the entire thing. Kinstler has presented her tale as a Fictional representation, and I honestly wanted to believe that the events and characters she describes are real and accurate. In my mind, her story is plausible, and in fact, very likely to have unfolded in a similar fashion. At the very least, the perspective she is able to share of the Divine Feminine aspect of their society feels like a large piece of the puzzle that has been missing in our historical records from the time period. Her bibliography is impressive, and it is quite obvious that she has done her studying of the topics at hand. If you have ever wondered what the world was like before Christianity came in to existence, read this book. Have you ever been curious about paganism, the Goddess, High Priestesses, and who was Mary Magdalene? I recommend that everyone read this book for the sheer fact that your mind will be open to new possibilities. Looking back at the way the Bible has been interpreted will take on new meaning. This is an excellent read, it will keep you intrigued from the first words. Janet Stephenson, author "Young Bodies, Old Souls" (coming soon to Barnes & Noble)