Not many people know this about me but I love exploring history. If I hadn’t gone into social work, I probably would have majored in History at college – however, I never quite trusted the history books….preferring to do my own research and draw my own conclusions. I suppose that’s what historians do….but I didn’t like the idea of always having to defend my hypothesis!
Anyhow, in recent years I’ve discovered a renewed love of history and particularly the stories of women who have been misaligned by the history books over the years. It’s always felt as if most views on women such as Mary Magdalene, Queen Boudicca etc have been presented from a male perspective. I began reading books written by women about women. Some were dry, some felt over sensationalized and then I found Kathleen McGowan.
While Kathleen’s books are marketed as fiction, intuitively I’ve felt the truth in her words. Her work is thoroughly researched and unlike many authors she has lived in the regions of the world she is writing about. Often based on oral history coupled with her own experiences while researching material, she writes with authority and substance. My amazing Mum often shared stories about strong women in history. She found their stories inspirational and helped her to become fiercely independent. So when I found Kathleen I felt as if she was continuing the lessons Mum began.
Last Summer, I spent time on a tour of Provence and the Languedoc in the south of France which was led by Kathleen. Retracing the steps of Mary Magdalene and the Cathars, it was as if we had fallen down a rabbit hole that shows no sign of stopping. I never believed the story that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute and after learning that there are many gospels that were not included in the Bible, I started to wonder if there were missing elements in some of the stories I held so dear.
Who decides what is truth and what is not? Isn’t it up to each of us to discover what we each believe to be true rather than relying on others for answers? How many stories are biased? Are these stories about power? Why are so many stories written from a male standpoint? Why do I constantly feel as if most churches I enter in the region are an exercise in public relations rather than truth? So many more questions…too many to share here! Yes, I feel a little like Alice in Wonderland at times. But Kathleen’s research has answered many questions and left me with even more.
The French have fiercely protected the story of Mary Magdalene – believing that she and her followers escaped the Romans to France to minister throughout Europe. Whether or not you read the Bible or believe these stories is for each of us to discover for ourselves. Kathleen taught me how to find the hidden meaning in so much of what we saw and experienced last Summer- for those with eyes to see. SO much was crammed into our short time together and most of us were left with many more questions and ideas to further research. With than in mind, many of us decided to return this year! And I brought Matt along for the ride too! In July we spent 10 days in beautiful Alet Les Bains from where we continued our exploration of the area…and area we are fast falling in love with!
Over the next few posts I’ll share some of the snippets and stories we’ve discovered this year. There are some experiences I don’t feel comfortable sharing publicly for now as I continue to process their meaning. But do feel free to ask questions and share your thoughts too.