Magdalen Rising

Magdalen Rising

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The Beginning (The Maeve Chronicles)

Elizabeth Cunningham

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In this Celtic wonder tale, young Maeve and Jesus, brimming with youthful charm and arrogance, find each other and fall in love, forging a bond that is stronger than death. Born to eight warrior-witches on a magical isle, Maeve heads for druid college with high hopes of meeting the Mysterious Other she has glimpsed only in visions and dream.

From the start, Maeve and Esus, as the druids call him, are sparring partners, by turns delighting and outraging each other with their opposing views on just about everything. Their pleasure is overshadowed by a brilliant but unbalanced druid who knows a perilous secret about Maeve’s past. He also becomes obsessed with Esus as a perfect victim for the most sacred druid rite.

In a daring scheme, Maeve risks everything to save the life of the one she loves.


"The prequel to The Passion of Mary Magdalen (2006) lets us in on how a redheaded Celtic lass wound up the literal bride of Christ, and whereas Passion was deeply based in the New Testament (and the sociology of Roman brothels), Magdalen Rising is rooted in Celtic lore. Mary, nee Maeve, was born to weather-witches on a magical, floating island somewhere in the Celtic lands. Raised with unconditional maternal love and with few restraints on body or soul, she grows to be a glorious creature, with plenty of the talents that her possibly divine mothers used for witchcraft. Yes, she has more than one mother, though it would be giving away the story to explain how. She also has a destiny that she encounters in a vision of a man in desert garb taking a leak--a trademark Cunningham touch, both intensely religious and frankly, even humorously, embodied. When she meets that man at druid school, their fated love begins to unfold. Is he Esus, doomed god of the Celts, or Jesus, doomed god of the Jews, or both? Is she goddess or woman or both? Cunningham plays with complex theological issues--the role of embodiment in salvation, the gender of divinity, the question of sacrifice—but she is preeminently a storyteller, and the reader engages those questions within a marvelous, romantic tale. —Patricia Monaghan Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved. From Booklist *Starred Review*

"Smart and Earthy...richly imaginative…the epitome of the storyteller's art." —St. Louis Post-Dispatch (chosen as one of "The Year's Best Books")

"This amazing book could well become a classic of women's literature."  —Booklist (chosen as one of the "Year's Ten Best Fantasy Books")


Elizabeth Cunningham is the direct descendant of nine generations of Episcopal priests. She grew up hearing rich (sometimes terrifying) liturgical and biblical language. When she was not in church or school, she read fairytales and fantasy novels or wandered in the enchanted wood of an overgrown, abandoned estate next door to the rectory. Her religious background, the magic of fairytales, and the numinous experience of nature continue to inform her work.

After being altogether too good and studious during her earliest years, Cunningham was expelled from a progressive boarding school for nudity. She subsequently earned a GED and went on to The College of General Studies at Boston University. From there she transferred to Harvard-Radcliffe College where she graduated in 1976 with BA in English and American language and literature. Somehow, she resisted the temptation to go to seminary to study for the Episcopal priesthood. The possibility was especially tempting, because, at that time, ordination of women was not allowed. When the church ruled in favor of women's ordination a few months later, she heaved a sigh of relief and went on writing The Wild Mother, her first novel, hailed by Publishers Weekly as a beguiling tour de force.

The Passion of Mary Magdalen, the centerpiece of The Maeve Chronicles, is Cunningham's fifth novel, and the book she believes she was born to write. Her other novels include The Return of the Goddess, a Divine Comedy; ; and How to Spin Gold, a Woman's Tale (re-released by Epigraph, May 2009). Magdalen Rising, the prequel to The Passion of Mary Magdalen was published in 2007. Bright Dark Madonna, the sequel, was published in April 2009. Red-Robed Priestess, the fourth and final Maeve Chronicle, was published in Novemeber, 2011.

Cunningham is also the author of two collections of poetry Small Bird, and Wild Mercy.

Although Cunningham managed to avoid becoming an Episcopal priest, she graduated from The New Seminary in 1997 and was ordained as an interfaith minister and counselor. Both The Maeve Chronicles and her interfaith ministry express Cunningham's profound desire to reconcile her Christian roots with her call to explore the divine feminine.

Since her ordination, Cunningham has been in private practice as a counselor and maintains that the reading and writing of novels has been as important to this work as her seminary training.

The mother of grown children, Cunningham lives with her husband in the Hudson Valley.