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Winner of the Award for Excellence in Religion: Analytical-Descriptive Studies from the American Academy of Religion
Anna Fedele offers a sensitive ethnography of alternative pilgrimages to French Catholic shrines dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene. Drawing on more than three years of fieldwork, she describes how pilgrims from Italy, Spain, Britain, and the United States interpret Catholic figures, symbols, and sites according to theories derived from the international Neopagan movement. Fedele pays particular attention to the pilgrims' life stories, rituals and reading. She examines how they devise their rituals, how anthropological literature has influenced them, and why this kind of spirituality is increasingly prevalent in the West. These pilgrims cultivate spirituality in interaction with each other and with textual sources: Jungian psychology, Goddess mythology, and "indigenous" traditions merge into a corpus of practices centered upon the worship of the Goddess and Mother Earth, and the sacralization of the reproductive cycle. Their rituals present a critique of Roman Catholicism and the medical establishment, and question contemporary discourse on gender.
Anna Fedele is a research fellow of the Center for Research in Anthropology of the Lisbon University Institute and a chercheure associée of the Groupe de Sociologie Politique et Morale of the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. She is co-editor of Encounters of Body and Soul in Contemporary Religious Practices and of Gender and Power in Contemporary Spirituality.
"Over the course of the book [Fedele] provides a sophisticated account of the re-imagination of sacred sites and the elaboration of new rituals to enact and embody the pilgrims' developing ideas about feminine spirituality."
--Journal of Anthropological Research
"Fedele brilliantly explores the pilgrims ritual creativity....Fedele also succeeds at bringing her subjects close to the reader. She handles evidence from interviews with a light touch, so that pilgrims' voices appear clear and uncompromised." --Marginalia
"In this theoretically nuanced and ethnographically rich study, Anna Fedele carefully lays out the complex and imaginative worlds of Mary Magdalene's contemporary spiritual pilgrims and their sacred landscapes of European forests, waters, caves, and rocks imbued with symbol and meaning. Immersing herself in their created ceremonies, she reports back to us with sensitivity and insight about their reinterpretations of gender, sexuality, community, and religion."--Sarah M. Pike, author of Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community
"This is a rich, thoughtful, and quite startling account of the new spirituality around Mary Magdalene, and around menstruation, darkness and the creativity of loss."--Tanya Luhrmann, Watkins University Professor, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University