Anne Fedele offers a comprehensive ethgraphy of alternative pilgrimages to French Catholic shrines dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene. Drawing on more than three years of extensive fieldwork, she describes how pilgrims from Italy, Spain, Britain, and the United States interpret Catholic figures, symbols, and sites according to spiritual theories and practices derived from the transnational Neopagan movement. Fedele pays particular attention to the life stories of the pilgrims, the crafted rituals they perform, and the spiritual-esoteric literature they draw upon. She examines how they devise their rituals; why this kind of spirituality is increasingly prevalent in the West; and the influence of anthropological literature on the pilgrims. Among these pilgrims, spirituality is lived and negotiated in interaction with each other and with textual sources: Jungian psychology, Goddess mythology, and indigeus traditions merge into a corpus of theories and practices centered upon the worship of divinities such as the Goddess, Mother Earth, and the sacralization of the reproductive cycle. The pilgrims' rituals present a critique of the Roman Catholic Church and the medical establishment and have critical implications for contemporary discourses on gender. Looking for Mary Magdalene is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in ritual and pilgrimage.
Anne Fedele is a research fellow at the Center for Research in Anthropology, Lisbon University Institute.