WTFWMD?! Celebrating Red-Robed Priestess Publication

by Elizabeth Cunningham

Here I am (Maeve, that is) as promised, celebrating the official publication date by answering the questions you’ve posed regarding WTFWMD. 

First a note about Eliz. She has just put her earplugs in because one of the neighbors is using a chainsaw. No diesel engines in the first century. I don’t know WTF to do about noise pollution. But you can read Eliz’s latest Huffpo post Longing for Silence and Solitude If I could I would whisk Eliz away to The Lake Isle of Innisfree or Tir na mBan.


A few other items of business before I begin to ponder WTF I would do. I have a FaceBook page created by my combrogo Tim Dillinger. It will be unveiled on November 15. I welcome your friendship! Eliz has a FaceBook fan page created and maintained by her sister Ruth Cunningham.  Elizabeth herself is not on FaceBook directly, but she receives your kind comments and appreciates them.

The virtual tour schedule will be posted on the above FB pages. It is also appears in the post just prior to this one. Eliz and I have had several interviews that will soon be available for everyone to read. Also: 7:00 Saturday, Nov 19th at Oblong Books Rhinebeck, NY is the book launch. I hope we will be livestreaming. Check in later at the sites above for URL.

Questions and a caution

I am not sure who thought up the idea that I should answer the question WTFWMD? Eliz and/or Tim, but before I begin, let me remind you that I am outspoken, impulsive, and therefore often in trouble. So doing what I would do may not be such a good idea. That said, here goes.

One person asked a question that might be better directed to my friend Mary of Bethany. “Why in the world do some women act like men?”

Those of you have read The Passion of Mary Magdalen may remember that rather than marry Jesus, Mary B ran away with him disguised as a man to join the Essenes. She had a fine old time until she was discovered and sent home in disgrace where she lived as a recluse until she became a full-blown disciple. She acted like a man because, at the time, she could not fulfill her ambition to be a religious leader and teacher in any other way. Eliz just reminded me that the Bronte sisters wrote under male pseudonyms so that their literary works and ambitions would be taken seriously. Having “breasts to die for” (and I quote) I never had the option of passing as male, nor did I have any interest in doing so. My daughter Sarah, however, passed as a boy when she ran away from home. It kept her marginally safer. So I suppose my answer is that it was then and is still a hard world for women. Definitions of how men and women act also keep changing and individual expressions of gender and sexuality vary. A great day will come when we all feel free to be ourselves, without apology or disguise.

“If you had a young daughter in this day and time, what woman/women, would you encourage her to look to as a role model? “

This is a worthy question and I wish I had more knowledge of women in your time. (Eliz has spent so much time hanging out with me in the first century, she doesn’t know a whole lot more than I do about twenty-first century women of note.) If you read Magdalen Rising, you will remember that my role model and namesake was Queen Maeve of Connacht, a warrior queen known for her quantities of lovers. My mothers felt she was an excellent model of women’s sovereignty. With a caveat about practicing safe sex, that kind of woman is still a good model. Not because of the quantity of lovers but because she had the power to say yes—and no! Too often, as regards sexuality, women have felt bereft of choice.

Speaking of my daughter Sarah, when she was twelve (and a runaway!) my old friend and nemesis Mary B found her and took her under her wing. They were an excellent match for each other, being more temperamentally similar. Mary could understand and help Sarah in ways I could not.

More important than a famous role model are older women who can be friends and mentors. The Cailleach, Dwynwyn and Anna the Prophetess all filled that role for me. When Eliz was a teenager, she became close friends with an older woman in her father’s congregation. I would say pay attention to who your daughter likes among your friends, in your community, in her school. Encourage that adult to play a part in your daughter’s life. Teenagers desperately need trustworthy mentors who are not their parents (who they must, to some extent, resist and reject at that time). A good mentor can make all the difference in the world

Several people mentioned estrangement from daughters, difficult marriages, having no money. One person noted that in my life I have faced all these situations and that she consults the novels.

I did have a period of estrangement from Jesus. I threw figs at him in the Temple Porticoes and returned to whoring. We reconciled when he saved me from being stoned as an adulteress. These ways of dealing with marital strife may be a bit dramatic. Today I would go to a couples counselor like Eliz. BTW Eliz says couples counseling is for clarity. Sometimes a couple will reconcile, sometimes they will part. It’s good to have the support and understanding of a third party in either case.

The mother-daughter relationship is so profound, primeval really. When we are in our own mother’s womb, we already carry the egg that will one day be fertilized and grow into our daughter. In our matrilineage, we are like nesting dolls. Many daughters struggle mightily to differentiate themselves from their mothers. Many mothers—Eliz and I included—take that struggle personally. If we were wiser or had more perspective, we might not have.

I find the Demeter-Persephone story helpful. In some versions the daughter is not abducted, but chooses a path that is incomprehensible to her mother. For a while she disappears. The mother rages and mourns, but the daughter returns—and goes away again—then returns—and goes away again. Seasons, tides, moons, all these things teach us about the mother-daughter relationship.

Also, in my experience, some relationships are so profound, you do not experience them on the surface but at the root. Just love your daughter. That’s all I know to do. I love Sarah, I love Boudica, though it is not clear to me that we ever fully reconciled. Still I love her.

One last question: “When you are in an unhappy marriage is it more honorable to stay or leave? If you love someone in a marriage like that, what do you do?”

My own marriage was sadly brief and as ecstatic as it was stormy, so it was not at all like a longterm chronically unhappy marriage. Honor and honesty have the same root, and you cannot have one without the other. The truth can be complex. When people marry they make vows in the moment that are meant to last through circumstances that cannot be foreseen. Is it ever honorable to break a vow? Maybe not. But to say I made a vow, and I no longer want to keep it is at least honest. The thing about honesty is that you cannot predict how the other person will respond. You cannot control it. Lying is a way people try to control another person. Instead of admitting the impulse to control, people often say they want to protect the other person. And they may believe it, too. Honesty begins with facing yourself.

If you love someone in that circumstance, let him or her be. Acknowledge that he or she has to do things in his or her own time. He or she has a lot at stake.

If you are asking would I sleep with someone who is married, see the above caution. I think relationships can take many forms. My favorite example of marriage is Maeve of Connacht’s. She had a husband and a chief lover and everyone was quite content—until the Brown Bull wandered from Maeve’s herd into her husband’s. Now that was a problem. I hope you don’t have to deal with livestock as well as potential adultery.

If you love someone, love that person. Give up attachment to form or outcome. Do nothing deceitful. Deceit hurts more than anything. Truth has consequences, but in the end I have to agree with my beloved: It sets you—and others—free.

Now everyone, please celebrate the publication of Red-Robed Priestess in some way. Have a party, invite all your friends. Eat, drink, and be merry. Open the books randomly and read passages as a form of divination. If you are on twitter, quote a favorite passage with #holywhorereturns as a hashtag.

Finally, thank you all for inviting me into your lives.

Love and Blessed Bees,

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Brooke November 15, 2011 - 12:22 am

Thank you, Maeve! You are so wise, and yet at the same time know how to let your hair down and have a good time. You continue to teach me so much! I love all your rich insight here. I'm proud to say that I don't find you so intimidating anymore. Like maybe we could just hang out and eat figs! I think that is your doing too. Seeing your freedom to be, think and do in action then and now is contagious. Love you, and mostly love how you didn't lose yourself in your children (for long).

And I attest to using the Maeve Chronicles as divination. It has been eerie how they have walked right with me, holding my hand, most literally!

Brooke November 15, 2011 - 12:24 am

Oh, and congratulations to you, Elizabeth!

Unknown November 15, 2011 - 2:51 pm

Congratulations on your book launch (both of you), and I love you both.

As for marriage counseling: I think a lot of troubled couples don't enter into it precisely because they assume it's to SAVE their marriage, and they'd rather it blow up, or just continue to simmer. Maeve/Eliz's point that counseling is for clarity, not for saving or jettisoning a marriage should be underlined. A lot of couples might benefit from that. We did.

BaaadRaven November 15, 2011 - 3:09 pm

Blessings Maeve!!! BaaadRaven here!
Is this where I post my Questions???

Sorrow November 18, 2011 - 4:09 am

THese were wonderful to read. Thank you for the wit and wisdom, it shines !


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