After reading “The Passion of Mary Magdalen” I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the prequel, and wasn’t disappointed, either.

In this, the first of the “Maeve Chronicles”, we read of the birth of MM, (who names herself Maeve later, following an extraordinary encounter with the original Queen Maeve of Connaught) on a mysterious island called Tir na mBan – one of those Shining Isles that always seem to be somewhere away to the  West, no matter where you are.  Maeve herself tells us of her childhood with no fewer than eight mothers. Will she be the ninth sacred woman of the island?  And who is her father? She is told it was Manannán Mac Lir – Son of the Wave – but can this be true in any but a metaphorical sense?

I enjoyed the mysteries of the novel, and once again, the language and the skill of the writer gave me great pleasure. Such a change from run-of-the-mill “pagan” stories where we are fed obvious clues of the heroine’s witchy status early on (Brigid threw back her auburn braids and her green eyes glittered with anticipation … she turned to the working corner of her hut, where sweet-smelling herbs were strung above a well-used cauldron, and her athame lay in readiness … yeah, yeah, we know). Instead, Elizabeth Cunningham gives us more great one-liners and even more fun at the expense of the Romans: “Why, the Romans don’t know how to take a good honest shit in the woods anymore.” declares a Druid.

We follow Maeve Rhuad from her childhood in the Land of Women, encounters with Crones and other goddesses and an early initiation, then on to Druid College on Mona (modern Anglesey), where her career of letting her mouth get her into big trouble really gets under way.  Her first intimations of a soul-deep connection to Yeshua –also a very different character from the pious Jesus we’ve all come to expect – are also here, although the first encounters are not quite as we’ve read in the bible, and the tale of the descending dove is touching and funny at the same time. Druid College as described by Elizabeth Cunningham is as extraordinary as you might expect, owing a little to American colleges, I suspect – but then, there are only so many ways to organize an educational establishment.  We also follow her through encounters with the Druid Lovernios – who is he to Maeve? – to the often terrifying denouement. But we know there’s more to come …

As with The Passion of Mary Magdalen, the book isn’t yet published in the UK, but it is available on Amazon. Don’t miss it!

©Geraldine Charles

“Magdalen Rising: The Beginning” by Elizabeth Cunningham, is published by Monkfish Book Publishing, New York (2007). ISBN 978-097668432

Read our review of The Passion of Mary Magdalen, also by Elizabeth Cunningham, here.