The Story Beneath the Story. What's Yours?Apr 30, 2023
One cave's sacred herstory erasure tells a bigger story.
I'm in Scotland doing what I love—
excavating our sacred herstory—in the wild.
I am focusing on a sacred cave that bears the name of St. Fillan. I have been fascinated by it since I discovered it lay mere steps away from the house we'd be staying at this month in Pittenweem.
But I knew that St. Fillan's claim to the cave was not the right story. Just like I knew that humankind entered the world through a woman's womb, not through a man's rib. An intuitive truth.
I have been here three days, and I have a solid grasp on the story beneath the story that's universally plastered in every church-sanctioned promotion, glossy tourism brochure and helpful website.
I have visited the library, talked to locals, read well-researched books & articles, and corresponded with their author, Anthony Lodge, a professor at St. Andrews, where our son is finishing up his first year.
And I have sat in the moistness of the cave,
listening to the dripping water and trusting what I learned.
It turns out that there is zero evidence of the local lore that places St. Fillan as a monastic in the cave. And the lore about the glowing arm divinely granted to aid his scroll transcription in the cave? Big nope.
What there is on town charters from the late 1400s are consistent references to that cave as fons Sancte Marie Magdalene (‘spring of St Mary Magdalene’), referencing the constant flow of water which collects in a small pool in the cave’s deepest recess.
"Mary Magdalene’s association with the cave was forgotten, erased, we might suppose, by protestant hostility to sacred springs and the ‘papist superstitions’ surrounding them. A charter issued by the commendator James Stewart, as early as 1562, referred to the cave simply as quodam fonte (‘a certain spring’)."
Lodge's research above shows the erasure of the feminine in heartbreakingly concrete ways, going on to document the ushering in of the name St. Fillan's Cave and the glowing arm tale in the 1800s.
The story of this cave is both unique and universal.
In the beginning, the feminine was revered.
Then it was systematically erased, replaced and forgotten.
I am committed to excavating the story beneath the story—both in our sacred inheritance of myth and legend and within myself.
What truth and beauty has patriarchy erased within you?
If you are ready to start your own excavation,
we'd love to walk with you on your journey.
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