Julia Lee Barclay-Morton
A detail from Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 3, 1907 by Hilma af Klint
This Christmas Eve day I felt something new, a sense of mystery, not in the intellectual sense or even religious sense but in the felt sense of that which is real but cannot be explained. It had something to do with birth and thinking about the mythology of Mary and the Virgin Birth—and instead of either buying into that as a literal thing or being dismissive of it as something only gullible people believe, seeing something Else. A woman giving birth to a new part of herself that is somehow connected directly to god, as in a higher power, something greater than the small s self. And I felt a connection with this.
The part of the mythology wherein she, Mary, needs to be accepted as she is, in a pregnant state that makes no logical sense but is real nonetheless, a situation in which if someone wanted to lay blame they could but somehow she has a companion who does not, who believes Mary’s connection to these greater forces. Why does he believe her? True love? As in actual unconditional love? The kind that is so rare as to feel miraculous when it appears?
And what real growth happens without this kind of unconditional support from somewhere? How else can we lose the shell of a false self, the one we have created to conform with our culture to go along to get along, that leaves us feeling lonely and small because all we show is a mask that has become so fused with our face we become alienated from our own deepest self?
But even in the mythology in terms of the larger social surround, there is no belief. Mary has to give birth in a barn on hay. The rest of the world is distinctly meh about her miracle claims, her connection. All most people see are two homeless people grubbing for free help. Let’s just say where she ends up is recognizable even thousands of years later.
There is also a bounty on the head of what Mary gives birth to. The Powers That Be decide that something has occurred that may be a threat and so Must Be Destroyed. Sound familiar? It should.
But Mary holds on and she and her companion continue to move through the world protecting That which Mary has given birth to even if it makes no sense. There are a few wise people who seem to understand and they bring gifts and know to not give out her location to the Powers That Be. The only people to recognize Mary's miracle are also tuned into unique frequencies and act accordingly. The kind of people who would follow a strange star leading them to a barn to give gifts to this impoverished family's baby who they know has something precious, these believers in the evidence of things not seen.
The mythology as told implies everyone should have seen how special what Mary has given birth to is, but let’s face it, when a woman of any kind gives birth to Something New, it’s rare anyone believes her or gives a shit.
And this is where the mystery becomes interesting because buried in a deeply patriarchal religion is this story of this woman who Does give birth to Something New and is believed by enough people that she survives. Now, because this isn’t a total fantasy, that which she gives birth to must be manifest as Male, right? Because heya is there any planet on which Mary saying the shit Jesus did would have been listened to?
Laugh cry emoji.
I mean even Jesus had to kick it, because he was so much of a threat to the Powers That Be. But if it had been Mary—and make no mistake it could have been Mary because She Is the One Who Gave Birth to this dude so like…yeah. She’s got the goods, right? Yes. I think we can agree now, lo these two thousand plus years later. And this is if you want to believe the story as told.
We could go along with this all being symbolic and there being no literal Jesus and Mary is the One with the Goods and this is the story of her idea and yeah actually this is more interesting so let’s see where that goes…
Cropped photo of Group IX/UW, The Dove, No. 13, 1915 by Hilma af Klint
So if Jesus is symbolic of Mary and what she is saying, then we have a woman (probably disguised as a man) basically telling a patriarchal world a la Diane Keaton in Godfather 2: This all must end....this whole Sicilian Thing that's been going on for thousands of years. And there are people who actually believe her! What?!
Yes, they do. Wow, maybe it is good to turn the other cheek, maybe the meek Do inherit the Earth, maybe it Is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven! Woah!
And the water to wine business? Well, who stomps the grapes my friend? Why yes, that would be the women. Walking on water? Gonna guess Mary could see stones beneath the surface. Or maybe these were just full on miracles. What do I know? But the main thing is, if anyone would be responsible for it, it would have been Mary.
Maybe she dressed like a man to get away with it, maybe she was trans, who knows? But in any case this Christmas Eve it came to me that this mystery of Birth and Rebirth, whether literal or figurative deserves some respect, and it’s about time to drag Mary out of the sappy backstage role she is given in the Histories aka Bible as written by Men and put her where she belongs as the Mother of Some Really Good Ideas.
Ideas about communal living, ethical actions, nonviolence, and fair distribution of wealth that are Still considered a threat and for which people of all genders are still routinely killed.
But so why does this feel like a Mystery and something Sacred? I guess because it squeaked through at all, even if it has been buried beneath endless religious hoo-ha and twisted to back up patriarchal authority and then most mystifyingly of all the capitalist spin that somehow not only sanctions but insists that wealth shows you are Chosen by God, because like, really? How do you get that from Jesus, the homeless dude who kicked over the tables of money lenders?
Nietzsche said Christ was the only Christian, and he had a point to a point, but blinded as was everyone in the 19th Century (and still for the most part even now in this the 21st) by virulent and unrelenting misogyny. he could not see that She aka Mary was the one with the Goods.
And just as with the Big Bang so is it with conception that science can only see either right after but not at the moment, because the money shot, the moment—the actual moment of—both the Birth of the Universe and the Birth of an embryo has never been revealed, not really. It is the ultimate mystery, alongside what happens after we die and after the Universe itself implodes.
So as the sun begins to return here in the Northern Hemisphere and we begin to see that which looks as if it is dead and doing nothing on the ground bear fruit in the coming months, so yes Hail Mary—whoever She was or symbolizes—that did miraculously get a message out—even if it has been overcoded by patriarchal Powers That Be to something tepid and nonthreatening—that without loving one another unconditionally and seeing how we are all interconnected, we are gonna destroy the gift we have been given of life here on Earth. The gift that our individualism and violent tendencies have almost destroyed and may in the end succeed in doing.
She can’t force us to listen to her, but we might wanna give it a whirl. What say?
And meanwhile, maybe it can give us courage to give birth to our own larger Selves and act accordingly, and to help others birthing this process within themselves. Transitioning from a false self to a true one. Yes we are always becoming and no it’s not static but to have the courage to face our True selves means to give up all the smaller worlds and ideas in which we imprison ourselves and submit to this mystery of Birth and Rebirth.
Group IX/UW, The D, 1915 by Hilma af Klint