The Emergence of the Goddess Mary: from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages


  • Dana Kramer-Rolls Independent Scholar and Writer



cult, Virgin Mary, bridegroom,


While it has long been assumed that the goddess veneration generated by the mystery cults of Late Antiquity were subsumed into the cult of the Virgin Mary, examination of the collections of legendaries called Mariales exposes direct links between Mary’s attributions and those of Isis and Cybele, among others. While canonical references to Mary were few, and often unflattering, with the establishment of Mary as the Theotokos, or God Bearer, at Ephesus in 431 CE, she was lifted in importance in both the mind of the church and the people. The evolution of the motif of “Mary and the Bridegroom” from its origins as a legend concerning Venus to its Medieval form, which culminates in a simulated sacred marriage by a devotee, exemplifies the integration of pre- and post-conversion tales. In “Murieldis” Mary’s powers exceed those of the Trinity, while Mary’s acts of shape-changing, necromancy, control of the elements, and healing, as well as her extraordinary protection of her devotees, expose Mary as a magical helper, and demonstrate Mary as both a repository of folk religious beliefs and a subversive locus by which doctrinal Christianity might be moderated in the popular mind.

Author Biography

Dana Kramer-Rolls, Independent Scholar and Writer

Dana Kramer-Rolls is an independent scholar and writer. She received her doctorate in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a focus on Folklore and History/Anthropology of Religion from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. Her new book The Way of the Cat (Red Wheel/Weiser, 2004) explores multi-species communication and deep ecology from a practical point of view.


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How to Cite

Kramer-Rolls, D. (2007). The Emergence of the Goddess Mary: from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Pomegranate, 6(1), 34–50.