Legend has it that, following the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene fled to southern France, spending the last years of her life in the sanctuary of Sainte Baume. Her relics are said to rest in a church in nearby Saint Maximin.
Whoever Mary Magdalene was in fact, whatever her actual history, the idea of her heartens and strengthens me. For me, and perhaps for you too, she carries the energy of fierce compassion, fearless integrity. A woman interweaving spirit and matter, activating her body-centered power to promote creation. A gutsy woman par excellence.
This sense of woman integrating heaven and earth, sheltering pro-creative power within her body's center, may be as old as human consciousness.
Much of what we know about human origins comes to us from southern France, the prehistoric cave paintings and engravings discovered there. Our ancestors' art, such as the Venus of Laussel, shows our original impulse to revere women and the center of women's bodies.
This limestone engraving, discovered in 1911 in the Dordogne, has been a central inspiration for The Woman's Belly Book. Seventeen and one-half feet high, the ochre-stained engraving dates back 25,000 years.
The Venus of Laussel brings forth a full-figured woman. She rests her left hand on her belly, perhaps pointing to her navel. Her head turns over her right shoulder; she's looking at the horn she's holding up in her right hand. Thirteen lines scratch the horn's surface.
Who knows what the sculptors had in mind and heart when they carved out this figure? Who knows what they meant their work to signify?
As I see her, this figure is using her arms and hands to link her belly with the calculation, the calendar, which is the horn she is holding.