A traditional pious legend passed down in the Eastern Church holds that St. Mary Magdalene was bringing cooked eggs to share with the other women at the tomb of Jesus. The eggs in her basket miraculously turned brilliant red when she beheld the Risen Christ. The egg is taken to represent the boulder over the entrance to the tomb of Jesus.
Another common legend talks about St. Mary Magdalene’s role as an evangelist, helping to spread the Gospel. It says that after Jesus’ Ascension, Mary travelled to visit the Emperor Tiberius in Rome and greeted him with: “Christ has risen” [a traditional Orthodox Easter greeting, also adopted by many Christians]; whereupon he pointed to an egg on his table and quipped, “Christ has no more risen than that egg is red.” The egg, it is said, immediately turned blood-red.
However, I would like to suggest a different meaning behind this symbolism and one in which yet again a truth is obvious and on show yet has been hidden, as much of Sophia Wisdom [and the role and life of Mary Magdalene and other women] has by the dominant structure of the Christian Church as it stands at present. Mary Magdalene is often pictured holding the egg. The egg stands for several meanings when you know how to read its symbolism. Firstly however, it describes the new way on which power-relations were intended to be seen and lived out in the new future from Jesus Christs life, teachings, death and resurrection; by the new strand of Judaism which became Christianity. When looked at as existing power relations versus alternative ways of perceiving power such as power as affiliation, the egg symbolises a non-destructive view of power, and in psychological terms, a means of advancing ones own development without at the same time having to limit the development of others. In visual terms it is a representation of power as linking. Since the earliest times this concept has been symbolised by the circle or oval; the Goddess’s cosmic egg or great round, rather than by the jaggard lines of a pyramid where gods, or as heads of families or nations, men rule from the top. Long suppressed by androcratic ideology, the secret of transformation expressed by the Chalice was in earlier times seen as the consciousness of our unity and linking with one another and all else in the Universe. The seers and mystics have always expressed this as the transformative power; and earlier Christians called this agape. This is the elemental linking between humans which is a selfless love, for example the divine love of the Great Mother for her human children. It reinforces the elementary principles of human relations by valuing birth and nurturing over killing and exploiting. The feminine principle embodied in the Divine Feminine [which has been suppressed] was the image not only of resurrection or regeneration of death into life, but also of the illumination of human consciousness through divine revelation.
The egg is regarded as holding the seed from which manifestation will spring. It is a universal and self-explanatory symbol. It is to be found in literally every religion and every culture past and present. Often the cosmic egg rises to the surface of the primeval waters, where it is incubated by the Spirit or Breath of God [that kiss again] and splits into two halves to give birth to Heaven and Earth. The egg is the primary symbol for resurrection and rebirth. The alchemical tradition of the Philosophers Egg embodies the idea of the seed, but in this case it is the seed of spiritual life. “within its shell it contains the elements of life, just as the hermetically sealed flask [my note..or tomb?] contains the matter of the work. Whatever the shape of the flask…it had to be incubated like an egg so that the matter within was transmuted. the heat for this incubation was provided by the alchemists furnace [my note-fire of the Holy Spirit?] The matter may then be distilled to provide the elixir or transmuted into silver or gold…From the products of this matter…ought to spring the Philosophers Child, in other words gold or wisdom.” VANA p 19. Ahh Wisdom again…and Mary Magdalene holds the egg for all to see.
For centuries artists have portrayed Mary Magdalene with her sacred vessel, which has been depicted as a variety of receptacles. For example: in 1317 the medieval Italian painter Simone Martini depicted it a spice pot,in 1525 the Italian Renaissance artist Bernardino Luini depicted it as a perfume jar and in 1859 the English Pre-Raphaelite painter Frederick Sandys depicted it as an ointment cup.
In a much earlier tradition, Jesus’ follower Mary Magdalene is said to have collected Christ’s blood after the Crucifixion. In this version of the story, however, it is not the cup of the Last Supper, but prepared Jesus for his martyrdom by anointing him with spikenard, an aromatic oil or balm, and it was the vessel which once contained this unguent that she is said to have used to collect Christ’s blood. From the early Middle Ages, Mary’s sacred vessel has been depicted by artists as a variety of receptacles, such as spice pots, perfume jars, and ointment cups. The word used in the English translation of the Bible for Mary’s unguent vessel is “box”, although the earlier Latin Bible uses the word alabastrum, the Roman name for a container for perfumes or scented oils, so-called because they were usually made from alabaster. Such receptacles were fashioned in a variety of shapes and sizes; not only boxes, but also flasks, pots, and jars.
Hildegard de Bingen’s Scrivias 11:6 depicts Ecclesia holding a chalice in which to catch Christs blood at the crucifixion. This redemptive blood does not fall upon the earth, therefore, but is reserved sacramentally for all baptised Christians. Ecclesia means Church, so this hidden reference to the Divine Feminine and Mary Magdalene, as embodiment of this is again shown as the apostle of apostles, true and rightful leader of the Church, kissed by Jesus, most beloved disciple. Julian of Norwich refers to God as mother, you will find these references to the knowledge of the Divine Feminine all over the place once you start looking! Hidden, and sometimes not recognised by those who had power, revealed by those who although they had to be very careful-kept the knowledge alive…even within orthodoxy…even when discovery meant death or being excommunicated, burnt at the stake…
Originally called the Marian Chalice, meaning the Chalice of Mary Magdalene, Mary’s sacred vessel was believed to have been sealed up in Jesus’ empty tomb where it remained for almost four hundred years. After the Roman emperor Constantine the Great converted to Christianity in the early fourth century, his mother the Empress Helena ordered the excavation of the Holy Sepulchre, the purported site of Christ’s tomb in Jerusalem. During the excavation a cup was found which many believed to be the Marian Chalice. It was taken to Rome where it was believed to possess miraculous healing powers. The Marian Chalice remained in Rome until the city was sacked by the barbarians in AD 410. Along with other treasures, it was taken from the city in an armed convoy of carts and brought to the safety of Britain, the last outpost of Roman civilization in Western Europe. What then happened to the sacred relic went unrecorded, but well into the Middle Ages the legend persisted that it was still hidden somewhere in the British Isles.
There is a fascinating website here by Graham Philips which details his quest, with pictures to find the vessel, by decoding a poem.