Behind the Book
Listen to Margaret George being interviewed about Mary Magdalene by Shelley Irwin at WGVU
Adventures in Research
Most of my adventures seem to center around either trying to do something forbidden (either by people or by the weather), or meeting strange characters at the site.
I’ve never sought help in gaining entry to a site by writing ahead or trying to contact some professional guardian. Maybe it just seems too packaged that way, and that’s why I stubbornly avoid doing it. The advantage to this is that you can see the site incognito. The down side, of course, is that you might not be able to see it at all!
I spent some time in Israel doing research for MARY CALLED MAGDALENE; Mary Magdalene takes her name from Magdala, a fishing town on the west side of the Sea of Galilee. The ancient site of Magdala was excavated in the 1970s but in the passing years had become overgrown again, and it was never part of the tourist track. It proved as elusive to find as the character of Mary herself. A large, yellow, bullet-pockmarked sign along the highway proclaims that the town is there below, but it is invisible.
No road leads to it, and inquiries at other buildings along the way drew blank looks. Finally I turned off into a citrus grove and was directed along the shoreline, past a tacky water park. It was just sunset and although I could glimpse the site, it was encircled with a chain fence and locked.
A year later I was back during the daytime, only to find it locked again. Then a rattletrap truck drove down a dirt road leading up to the locked gates; the owners were returning, briefly. They allowed me in, although they could not understand what it was I wanted, as we did not speak one another’s language. It was a very peaceful site, with old trees by the abandoned waterfront, donkeys tethered underneath, and the town—excavated by the Franciscan Institute—open and waiting, its squares and streets empty, except of ghosts. The owners let me stay as long as I liked, drinking in the feel of the place. Had I not been there at the moment the truck came along, I never would have gained entrance to the place where Mary Magdalene grew up, and it would have been difficult to re-imagine her world. The entire rest of the time I was in the area, I never saw the owners again or saw anyone at the site; it remained locked up.