The Magdalene in Winter

This started as a poem (inspired by an excellent documentary about MM on the BBC around Easter). Then realising I couldn’t stuff that many gags in, I made it into prose. And now Stephen Fry is being accused of blasphemy, it seems rather ‘au courant’, so I’m wondering if by publishing this I’ll get a host of of Christian alt-right types crowding round my blog gates brandishing pitchforks and flaming torches in protest. Well, I could do with more readers–so here goes.


These days, I winter in the desert. Holed up in a nice sandy cave, location not exactly known, but that’s how I like it. The ritual is always the same. I open my ornamental skull, light the wick, then shut it tight and start to write, in the lurid glimmer cast from its empty eye sockets.

I’m editing my gospel. The rewrite of the one they destroyed. My testament and my kiss and tell epic. The one that will make good men squirm and their wives cuff them around the head after reading it. Yes, you always wondered why the disciples barely mention me, the only female disciple, Mary Magdalene. And as for those other ones, the secondary pen pushers, sitting in scratchy monks’ garb in their ecclesiastical ivory towers, encouraged by that little shite, Pope Gregory–they were all on a mission to sideline me into silence.

A woman with a dubious reputation in the company of the Son of God? She must be just a whore, a groupie, a hanger on of no consequence. Put her out–get rid of her.

Trouble is, there are too many bloody Marys in the Bible, so perhaps it’s down to me to re-brand myself and cherry pick the other personas they’ve given me over the years. Do as I damn well please, etc.

I was the mysterious woman guest at Simon Whats-his-name’s lavish feast, polishing the feet of our Lord-Prophet with my hair, before he was famous. My luxuriant tresses, my best feature,  admired by artists down the ages. Giotto spun my hair into pure gold in that chapel in Assisi, dedicated to me.

Of course that was me–in the daisy meadow next to that tomb, on a certain Sunday afternoon. Even those reluctant scribes have verified this. I must confess to being a bit squiffy after a few drinks and when JC made an exclusive post-crucifixion appearance, I almost mistook him for the gardener. And then he warned me not to touch him–I’ve never really understood why. I did love him in a way, he was kind to me and I adored gazing into those clear eyes and during the good times he’d suffer me to groom his beard and mend his robe, but he wasn’t really one to care about appearance much. I don’t want to let the cat out the bag, but I’m so looking forward to his second coming.

Those horny masters of the triptych altarpiece couldn’t resist depicting my other cameo, the one where I wear a loosely-laced red bustier at the foot of the cross, my hair tumbling over my face and into my abundant cleavage, the epitome of a maiden in mourning. Of course the Virgin Mary always stole the limelight by fainting and she never really approved of me, the jealous old cow.

Which brings me back to that expensive age-old question which dirty-minded scholars have pondered for a long time. Those twelve disciples. Well, yes–I slept with all of them. Peter the Rock was the randiest of the bunch, always pestering me for my full repertoire while stinking of the day’s catch. He even begged me for a quickie after the Sermon on the Mount, though he later denied it. Well, he had form, there. And to think they went to all the trouble of building that splendid church over bones that weren’t even his in the first place.

I never thought much of John and Matthew. John was just teacher’s pet, while Matthew’s gospels had too much backstory for my taste. As for the evangelists–Mark was a bit lazy and got me to finish his account in exchange for a pair of malachite earrings looted from Byzantium, but Luke was a real sweetie, bless him. He was by far the best writer and most quotable of the lot, especially about the Nativity, and for me, the most considerate in the sack. I should probably draw a veil over this, but he was very inventive with a filthy mind and was the only one to notice that I was a natural redhead–but I didn’t want Giotto to know, so I made him keep quiet.

Oh, and just for the record, I never liked that Judas Iscariot with his greasy five o’clock shadow, he was always trying to pimp me out to the Roman garrison for 30 pieces of silver a head.

Talking of heads, I never understood why Salome plated that John the Baptist–she was far too obsessed about him for her own good. You might not have guessed, but Sal and me go way back. I have fond memories of us as teenagers, snogging each other in front of pervy old Herod and driving him wild with desire. Yes, me and Salome the greatest untold story, worth a making into a spin off screenplay.

So I’m still scribbling away using a quill made from a vulture’s tail feather, dipped in Kandahar ink, correcting all those deliberate mistakes, setting the record straight after thousands of years. I don’t mind being alone. I look a tad gaunt in my mini dress of camel skin, but my hair still has that divine serpentine curl all the way to my knees. Not bad for someone well into their third age. Everyone thinks my beauty has finally crumbled thanks (but no thanks) to Donatello, drat him–who made me into a standing corpse, quite frightful. I must admit the desert isn’t that congenial, but still. Naturally those misogynist monks were well pleased to see the price of repentance writ large all over my once-seductive booty.

Well, if I feel lonely these days, I put a sign outside the cave, an open invitation to any stray silk merchant-adventurer, offering them a drink, one for the road as it were. Sadly they often just sit there and stare at me, overcome by the sight of my shrivelled body, repugnance in their eyes where desire should be. But there are always a few who aren’t fussy or find my carcass strangely fascinating, so I allow them to touch me, or even on occasion, hump me. I am no more to them than a withered stump or rock with convenient knothole or hollow and sometimes the sap rises and I can ride a little wave of pleasure, but the richness of the tapestry is not what it was.

I really need to stop nattering and get on with my magnum opus or it will never be finished. I live on very little like most biblical pensioners, a bit of wild goat now and then, washed down with a shot of arak from my mason jar that used to contain perfumed oils for my clients–not needed anymore, alas. When the manuscript is complete, I will post it, somewhere in this wilderness to be discovered, preferably my some handsome hunk in a cowboy hat with bullwhip and leather chaps, who’s into archaeology. Well, that’s my fantasy. Some people think I reside in a damp grotto in the South of France–more fool them. I never liked the climate there and found the table wine vastly overpriced.

Anyway, I’m sure that what I’ve put together so far will be a bestseller. I heard that a tedious scribe of airport novels made a fortune from my Holy Blood, but motherhood would never have been my thing and my tale is much grittier. As well as being pals with Salome–we often used used to go dancing together, I was for a while apprenticed to the Whore of Babylon, until she sold me on.

In my heyday I was as powerful an icon with an entrance every bit as impressive as the Queen of Sheba’s or even Material Madonna in her virgin’s gown, sailing into Venice on a gondola, doing backbends under low bridges while being stalked by a lion. I know how to position myself in a competitive market and a graphic novel is forthcoming–which suits me as I always loved being niche.

If you really can’t be bothered to wade through my memoirs, thicker than the Bible, there’s always the intro to my ‘Little Book of Mary Magdalene’ which goes, ‘You have nothing to be ashamed of–penitence is purely for wimps’.


The Magdalene in Winter

2 thoughts on “The Magdalene in Winter

  1. This is–in my humble–really good Lise. I will go all the way to say that you should try to make this more available. I will repress this on my site as well I hope you don’t mind it. If you do let me know I will stop guiding people towards the piece. Great piece and thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t mind you guiding people here at all. I’m sure they won’t have pitchforks 🙂 I had a hunch this would be hard to get a pub for anyway. Glad you liked it 🙂 Cheers, Lise x


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