Historical Background

What happened to the people who worshipped the “wrong” gods in Ancient Israel? What is their story? The Old Testament of the Bible is chock-full of diatribes against those who sacrificed to gods other than Yahweh, worshipped the ‘starry hosts,’ had ‘Asherah poles’ that the righteous burned, and so on and so forth.

As late as the 4th century BCE, after the return from the Babylonian exile, the people of Jerusalem were called to task for not adhering to the Sacred Law. The Maccabean revolt of the 2nd century BCE could easily be characterized as a conservative peasant revolt against the loose Hellenized Hebrews of the capital city of Jerusalem.

And we learn from Josephus Flavius, 1st century Hebrew historian, that Galilee, where so much of the New Testament occurs, was politically separate from Jerusalem and the province of Judea until 104 BCE, when the Maccabeans finally conquered it back, after 600 years of separate existence, and forcibly converted the Galileans to Judaism.

What were the Galileans doing for religion before then? Studies of agricultural societies reveal time and again that the ‘little’ people, such as they were called, never change religion. They’ll change the shape of it, worship St. Diana instead of the Goddess Diana (in fact, most of the old churches to Our Lady in Europe today were built on the site of a Dianic temple), but they will ever pour their ablutions to the gods of the fields who make their crops grow.

The Bible primarily tells us the religion of the people who could read and write at the time, anywhere from 1-5 % of the population. What was everyone else doing?

The Four Gospels of the New Testament agree on only a handful of stories. The Gospel of John especially is very different from the other three, but all four share the story of a woman, supposedly Mary Magdalene, anointing Jesus for his burial.

To those who know ancient lore, the language of that story is transparently evocative of the Sacred Marriage Ritual, central to the worship of the Goddess – and very likely the people hearing these stories in the 1st century CE did know that lore, which was not ancient then.

The Four Gospels also agree that Mary Magdalene was the 1st witness to the resurrection. The Apostle to the Apostles. The one who anointed him for burial also being the one who attends to his return, this is central to the myth of the dying and returning god, whom the goddess (be she Isis, Ishtar, Demeter, and so forth) buries at the end of harvest and welcomes back in the spring.

This is not to say that the stories of the Gospels are not true. But just as Jesus was said to be the fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah (Isaiah who by the way also participated in the Sacred Marriage Ritual, check out Is. Chap. 8:1-4), there is evidence that the writers of the Gospels were concerned with making sense of their message to people who still worshipped both a Goddess and a God.

Furthermore, Luke, also chapter 8, tells us about the women who walked with Jesus, one of whom was the wife of Herod’s steward (the equivalent of the governor’s chief of staff), women who provided for Jesus and the other men ‘out of their own sustenance.’

Who were these women who had both the money and the freedom to be gallivanting around the countryside without their husbands and with money falling out of their pockets? And no one raising an eyebrow, this is all just mentioned in passing… It seems to me there was an entire class of women who had rank and privilege about whom we’ve been told almost nothing, as if they didn’t exist.

There are many ways to answer the questions I’ve raised here. I am neither historian nor sociologist nor scientist. I do not seek correct answers, only possible ones. Most of all I seek answers that speak to me, answers that help me bridge the beauty of the tradition in which I was raised, with the beauty of the dynamics of the contemporary world into which we as a generation have been born.

This novel has been my attempt to re-make sense of a story so that it only ever brings me to where I believe its original authors intended me to go – to an experience of communion with my understanding of God, and to a path of peace and fellowship with all of Creation, especially other human beings. That means you, and me.