William Blake, Eve tempted by the serpent, 1799-1800
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, The Immaculate Conception, 1678
The LORD God then asked the woman,
“Why did you do such a thing?”
The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”
The further I explored the rites and symbolism of those who revered the Divine Ancestress, the more convinced I became that the Adam and Eve myth, most certainly a tale with a point of view, and with a most biased proclamation for its ending, had actually been designed to be used in the continuous Levite battle to suppress the female religion…
The female faith was a most complex theological structures… It had developed over thousands of years and its symbolism was rich and intricate. Symbols such as serpents, sacred fruit trees and sexually tempting women who took advice from serpents may once have been understood by people of biblical times to symbolize the then familiar presence of the female deity.
Merlin Stone, Chapter 10, “Unravelling the Myth of Adam and Eve”
When God Was A Woman (p. 215)
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
The doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary concerns her mother’s conception of her, not Mary’s conception of Jesus (the virgin birth of Jesus) nor the perpetual virginity of Mary. Although the belief that Mary was conceived immaculate was widely held since at least Late Antiquity, the doctrine was not dogmatically defined until December 8, 1854, by Pope Pius IX in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus.
As a woman, I seem forever trying to live down Eve’s story and feel forever asked to live up to Mary’s reputation. A lose-lose proposition if there is one.
It is now nearly forty years ago that I read Merlin Stone’s book. In those days, it was called The Paradise Papers: The Suppression of Women’s Rites (its title in the UK; it changed to When God was a Woman in the US). It liberated me from a dark spell. I had never realized until then how heavy Eve’s story felt on my shoulders. A burden had been taken away.
Was it because I had received this story on my lap sixty years ago, as a young girl? Is it different now? Do young Catholic women feel free from this story, now that so much has been written about it? Has it grown irrelevant to younger generations?
Looking through the English copy of the book this afternoon, I saw my handwriting in the margin: I have been brainwashed, I wrote…
I was a young mother then, with two young daughters. I had not read theology. I did not even read the Bible in those days. Eve’s story had been passed on to me. Was it simply in the air?
Reading Stone’s book, I gathered that the Hebrew writer(s) of Genesis had created some sort of propaganda, taking basic clues from symbols from the Goddess, and turning them upside down. The wise Goddess had become a gullible woman, and an unreliable partner to poor Adam, dragging the whole of humanity into a state of original sin…
I was Eve’s daughter. Hmmm. I still am in a way. Since then, I have read that Merlin Stone’s sources had been challenged and her results may not be historically true. I still nevertheless free free from the old Creation myth…
Now, Blessed Virgin Mary, the pure, sinless vessel, who says Yes to God and accept to give birth to his Son, our Savior, Jesus-Christ. Mary, blessed among all women, and a holy example to both women and men.
I have written about Mary before. I love Mary, but for reasons others than our Catholic dogma would like us to believe.
Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises invites the exercitant to contemplate the Incarnation (Sp. Ex. 101-109).
Here it how the Three Divine Persons gazed on the whole surface or circuit of the world, full of people; and how, seeing that they were all going down into hell, they decided in their eternity that the Second Person would become a human being, in order to save the human race. And thus, when the fullness of time had come, they send the angel St Gabriel to Our Lady. (Sp. Ex. 102)
If indeed the Trinity wanted the Second Person to become a human being, why was a sinless mother necessary to to give him birth? Isn’t it much more admirable for a simple woman, like you and me, to have the courage to say Yes to something she does not understand at all, that will threaten her very life, because in the encounter with the angel her heart is seized with a love she cannot fathom and which leads her to a life in Godde that she would have never imagined?
I realize that the devotion to Mary exists since the earliest days of the Church. The apocryphal gospel of St James gave Mary a life before the Annunciation, parents in St Anne and St Joachim, her own presentation to the temple… Early Christians wanted her to be special as well, so much so that after many centuries, Pope Pius IX gave the immaculate conception the Vatican stamp of authenticity…
In the end, maybe, both stories of Eve and Mary are inventions. The first one to oppress women for centuries; the second to prove that the only woman worthy of giving birth to the Messiah could not be a simple regular woman like all of us, one of Eve’s daughters. In both cases, the treatment of women is skewed in their disfavor somehow.
This does not prevent me to love both Eve and Mary as sisters, the second being more of an inspiration — but this is the way the makers of herstory wanted it to be.