Madonna or the Magdalene?
I spent an interesting hour in the company of Bettany Hughes watching BBC4 last night. She’s always good value. Her programme was about how the cults surrounding Aphrodite/Venus developed through history in different cultures, mainly pre-christian but with a brief reference to the Madonna. My novel Where’s Sailor Jack? is a family saga, which assumes monogamy and love between partners as the norm, while the storylines substantially are about the difficulties in complying with that norm.
In the midquel to Where’s Sailor Jack?, provisionally called No Precedent? (I do like titles with question marks but they’re damned difficult to punctuate), now about half-written, I’ve created an alluring character, a young woman called Maddie, who is happy with more than one partner at once, of either gender. She does not feel that this is sinful, and as she throws away her family’s catholicism, will come to deride the notion that she stands in need of salvation.
I realised last night that I am writing her as a modern-day Venus, sometimes in blue jeans but mainly in a short, tight skirt when she’s wearing anything at all.If I allow her approach to life to become the theme of the book, don’t I negate the finely-nuanced acceptance of the basic Christian message of the first novel? The fall as depicted in the Garden of Eden, perhaps a little later than the first Aphrodite, is from a state of innocent obedience to guilty disobedience to the will of God, with no interim state of either guilty obedience, which some would accuse Christianity of, or innocent disobedience, the status perhaps being claimed for Maddie.
I’ve also realised that Maddie subliminally was suggested to me by Mary Magdalene. Maddie shows selfishness and deviousness with her fellow humanity, not seeking harmony in her pursuit of pleasure. If you take the gods out of the narrative, she does still for me stand in need of repentance and salvation, as do we all.
I’m sure that the development of the cults of Venus and the Madonna has been happening since humans came into being, and before. One time, my old dog ran off to investigate some food he’d spotted a few hundred yards back. It was along a main road, and I worriedly chased after him. I tripped over a flagstone and crashed to the pavement, cutting myself nastily. He heard, turned and ran back to me. He had a conscience. I was his lifetime partner. He didn’t have to forsake all others but he put me first. The Madonna or Mary Magdalene are both in the story.