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A Poetic and Mythic Approach to Mary ~ A Love Note from Your Online Abbess

Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,

I am thrilled that my book Birthing the Holy: Wisdom from Mary to Nurture Creativity and Renewal is being published this Friday, April 8th. (Also mark your calendars for our May 2nd contemplative prayer service where I will be joined by Simon de Voil, Soyinka Rahim, Betsey Beckman, and Richard Bruxvoort Colligan to launch my book, the album, and the forthcoming prayer cycle). 

In the meantime, this excerpt is from the introduction and explains how the archetypes shapes my approach to writing about Mary’s names and titles: 

Mary has gone by many names in the Christian tradition. My approach to these names is influenced strongly by Jungian thought on the archetypes. Archetypes are universal energies that we all experience within ourselves and across cultures through dreams and collective symbols. David Richo writes that Jesus and Mary offer us windows into the essential Self. His book draws on the Litany of Loreto which names Mary in a variety of ways. “Litany titles are fields of energy in the spiritual world. They describe what is in us potentially and what we are called to display in and disperse into the universe.” Litany titles are indeed archetypes. Not all of the names I explore in this book come from the Litany of Loreto, but many do.

I am drawn to the names of Mary because their multitude of images points to the many ways we hunger to embody and ultimately find within ourselves. Mary can be a mirror for our deepest sacred longings. Mary invites us into practices and ways of being – these archetypes point both to her multi-facetedness as well as our own inner multiplicity. When we embrace the multiplicity of Mary’s names and titles, we discover that her qualities as Mother, as Seat of Wisdom, as Queen of Heaven do not just exist in an exterior way to ourselves, but within each of us as a mirror of our own deepest qualities when we cultivate intimacy and an encounter with them. Each name, title, or archetype describes what qualities live within us too as potential. By calling on these names, we empower these qualities within us to become more fully alive. We manifest the qualities of the sacred feminine in the world and move closer to our own growing wholeness. 

Mary is also the counterbalance to a tradition where the sacred has been heavily masculinized and patriarchal. We need the masculine energies in their healthy forms, just as we need the feminine in her life-giving aspects. 

Psychologist Carl Jung believed there were two levels to our unconscious. The first was the personal level created by personal experience, and the second was the collective level consisting of instinctual and universal patterns of thought developed in human beings over thousands of years. These primordial blueprints are called archetypes and form the foundation of our experience. 

We each have within us a gathering of different energies. Archetypes appear across cultures and traditions, in myths, stories, and dreams.  By exploring a particular archetype we can reflect on how it is alive in us, how we have suppressed this aspect, how it might illumine our personal shadows and areas in need of awareness and growth.  They can help us move toward our own growing wholeness and freedom.

Jungian Analyst Mariann Burke, in her book Re-Imagining Mary, describes two ways of encountering images of Mary. The first is historical where when we view a painting of the Annunciation, for example, it is an event in the past. However in “the poetic or mythic approach, we are not so much viewing an image as experiencing it.” When we regard images in this way, we become open to seeing “the Annunciation not as history, but as something happening now. Taken in this way, the image reflects something within me. Like a dream, the image is happening within.” This is how archetypes work. They do not invite us to simply consider these names of Mary as historical realities, but as living encounters right now with sacred aspects of ourselves. This poetic, mythic, and contemplative approach is the lens I bring to considering Mary’s titles as an encounter with dimensions of our own soul’s longing.

You can order my book on Mary at this link and pre-order the album here!

With great and growing love,


Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

P.S. I offer enormous gratitude for your generous love, care and prayers for me as I recover from a successful transabdominal hysterectomy. Click to here to read my latest health update >>

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