The Animals in the Manger

     The animals in the Christmas manger in the holy nights of solstice  are riviting. Especially the ox, who is sometimes a cow . They're bigger than the baby Jesus, aren't they? He needs their devotion.
 I was surprised to find out that the creche scene with the animals has been with us only since the 1200's, when St. Francis of Assisi  felt the spiritual urge to create one. What did they do before that to express the idea that  our animal instincts are necessary to support the birth of "the new" inside of us? The Light within needs the manger within. It's that way in dream guidance, where it's very important to notice what the animals are doing. If they're acting strangely or are against us, something is awry in our own ability to support our own true self in continuing growth.  This true self  is pictured as the return of the Light in the manger.
   I've seen nativity scenes without alot of animals, with many people instead, and they look really wrong. We respond to them with our head instead of our heart.

      The animals carry something of the earthly heart in the Nativity scene. Certainly they know who they're devoted to. I've seen Christmas manger scenes with dogs and they are a wonderful image of devotion and loyalty.  It's a moment for celebration when you've dreamed of a dog being with you. If we lived with cows and sheep we'd probably know the same things about them, and they'd figure in  our dream world more.   I love the way the cow is looking right at me in this painting. 

 We need the animals and we need our own animal instincts more than ever right now as we work towards creation of a new world. It's our animal instincts which say "go this way for safety" and "go this way to be more comfortable" and "rest right now because you're depleted" and "this is just the right spot to be in". Our animal instincts save us from being in our heads too much. They help us define, with strong feeling, what we want to give birth to and to nurture into life. 
    I have a poem to share with you and it's related to thinking about instincts because it expresses  spiritual urge. Spirituality is an instinct. I think this poem expresses the spiritual urge for "the Mary Magdalene within" that vast numbers of women (and heart centered men) are feeling. Penn Kemp and Katerina Fretwell are poets in Ontario, Canada and they've written this poem to be read by two people. That in itself is "Magdalene" because it's the feminine urge towards collaboration and relationship.

Magdalene Rising

                                        Magdalene, we whisk you away
                                        from scriptural demotion.

Memories locked
in rolled stone reveals
vastness open
to sky on one
dawn only.

                                        Harlot-with-a-heart  your tears
                                        moisten and your hair dries Jesus' feet.

You’ve been watering the garden
again.  Your tears plash
upon bare feet.  Crimson
desert flowers spring round.
                                        Cast as his mom in verse contraire,
                                        Mother Goose's Mary Quite Contrary,
                                        loath to let him go and first to find him
                                        transported from his tomb.

are in so much sorrow
you cannot recognize
the joy that greets you.
How can you?

                                        We ease you back to the Magdalenian prehistory, 
                                        your earlier name or consort,
                                        Venus of Willendorf, 
                                        fertility cult figurine buried   in Catal Huyuk's roomiest mound, 
                                        that of your high priestess.
This Sunday you visit
the tomb again
in seasonal round.

                                        On to Ice Age France, we're spellbound over
                                        La Magdaleine Cave art
                   Who are we
to recognize that which is, has been
up to now, invisible?
                                        reclining females in repose, 
                                        rulers prefiguring Isis, Artemis, Astarte.

In plain sight.  Arms outstretched
but noli me tangere,
not to be touched.

                                        We hand you your Gospel, 
                                        quote your find, 
                                        the risen Christ.

The mixed message of Salvation.
Come hither / You are already
here.   Here.   Here.

                                                Denounced by Peter & James, 
                                        envying you, First Apostle, bride of Christ.

Your own wisdom 
reminds you.

                                        Your bones boxed side by side.  
                                        Whatever's lost in layers of church-speakKnowing does not prepare
you for witnessing
such sorrow, such joy.

                                        Hail, Mary, sprung from the earthbound role 
                                        ascribed to you

unrehearsed now that real
time takes
                                        vibrant breath of the cosmos.

“Magdalene Once More”                                     “The Risen Magdalene”
        by Penn Kemp                                                     by Katerina Fretwell


As Western's writer-in-residence for 2009-10, I host Gathering Voices, an eclectic radio show on Radio Western, which you can read about and hear archived on
 Muse/news, renewed for OCTOBER on, featuring Upcoming Events!

     Thank you, Penn and Katerina, for giving the great swell of desire for the sacred feminine a unique and heartfelt voice. We'll be able to hear the poets themselves read this poem on the January Magdalene Circle radio show.  More about that later. 
   For now....let's tend our beautiful animals, both inner and outer. We can probably never adequately express what they mean to us. 

If you feel the instinct to pray the Magdalene Mysteries,  click here to see the chaplets and rosaries


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  • 12/7/2009 6:15 AM Jennifer Reif wrote:
    Hi there,
    What glorious poetry! Love it!

    It's so interesting that in a way we can't force people to come to the real Mary Magdalene, that she must all them to herself. Yes, I think the power of instinct plays a role, and certain personalities are more open to the instinctual side of things that others.

    We can display the true facts about Mary Magdalene, and form an argument in favor of her special place, but she must come to each one and our instinctual nature must open the door.

    It's amazing that there are mainstream Christians who still have a problem with a full view of the Sacred Feminine in Christian mythos. So we chip away at their doubts, hoping to make a place for their natural instinctual nature to open the door to HER, as we keep on loving.

    Love, Jen
    Jennifer Reif
    "The Holy Book of Mary Magdalene:
    The Path of the Grail Steward"
    Author Website:
    Reply to this
    1. 12/7/2009 8:43 AM Joan Norton wrote:
      Hi Jen, Nice to have you here. I always hope that people will look up your book on Amazon and see the wonderful ceremonies and rituals you've been inspired to create. Talk about instinct for enlightenment!....that's what I'd call the "happenings" in you which prompted you to write your cycle of ceremonies for Sacred Union Christianity.  You're a perfect example of the inner instinct for enlightenment, which is another word for the creation of harmony on earth. Yes, it is happening inside individuals, not so much as a church taught way of sacredness.  I have hope, though, that many heart-centered individuals who are students of the way of sacred union, will be urged to create ceremony and ritual like you've done. Ever hopeful, right? Love, Joan

      Reply to this
      1. 12/8/2009 6:19 AM Anonymous wrote:
        Hi Joan,
        Yes, I am ever hopeful, others are starting to create rituals with Mary Magdalene as the Beloved of Jesus. I've had more come through me, more rituals and sacred hymns, but the time isn't yet right for a second edition of my book, "The Holy Book of Mary Magdalene." I also have an idea for a painting of Jesus and Mary Magdalene together for a new cover, you know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. In the meantime, here's a link to the first edition:

        Staying in faith, SHE has returned, it just takes a bit of time for more of humanity to realize it!

        Love, Jen
        Author website:
        Reply to this
        1. 12/9/2009 7:22 AM Joan Norton wrote:
          Hi, Thanks for the link to your book... and I'm so happy to hear that more ceremony is "pouring through you".  I can't wait to see your painting of Jesus and Mary Magdalene together! Did you see the icon that Bishop John Beverley Butcher  commissioned for the work he's doing on their Sacred Partnership? Here's the link that shows the icon partially, and I put it on a blog a couple week's back.  
                I am most anxious to see your painting  of them because the one you did of Mary Magdalene for your book cover is so happy and serene and beautiful..... I want to see that Magdalene with her Beloved.
                They are returning together through our inner sight , which is then expressed through our creativity, don't you think?  Thanks, Jen, for your continuing inspiration.

          Reply to this
  • 12/7/2009 10:33 AM Sally wrote:
    Today in my prayer and meditation practice I was reminded how the Sacred Feminine view unites and brings all into community while the Wounded Masculine ranks and measures, better than and less than, etc. In the article about Nature and animals, there is also an organic connection to the seasons and rhythms that guide internally as well. All are connected and significant to the whole.

    I think this is why much of the current and traditional Christian teaching is threatening by the Sacred Feminine principles. We are asked to rethink our desire for control, ranking and designating good and bad. In Sacred Divine principles, we are called to welcome, embrace and unite.

    Thank you for your writing and sharing.

    Blessings, Sally
    Reply to this
    1. 12/7/2009 5:04 PM Joan Norton wrote:
      Dear Sally, I really couldn't have said this any better than you have.... and thank you very much for your way of expressing.  I think you're right about why "we" are threatening to some with our heretical ideas of "union between all things" and that Magdalene and Christ picture that idea in their union.  I love that there are so many ways to say this, each way so valuable. So good to have you here! Joan
      Reply to this
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