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Marys of the Sea

Lyrics by Tori Amos

Hey I am not in your way
Hey no need to push me again
I know it's your day in the sun
Last time I checked he came to light the lamp for everyone

"Relax love" he said before he left
"Take those hands away from your eyes
From where I stand you're in my sky"

You must go must flee
For they will hunt you down
You and your unborn seed
In all of Gaul is there safety?

Les Saint Marie de la Mer
You will dance the ring
Marys of the Sea
The lost bride weeps
Les Saint Marie de la Mer
We will dance your ring

Hey there's a new Jerusalem
Hey you built on rock that's on sand
For now you have hijacked the son
Last time I checked he came to light the lamp for everyone

I hear a voice and it says
"The red of the red rose is its own
And something no man can divide"
So Saint Jermaine hear the prayer of this supplicant
For two scarlet women, Black Madonna
Hey I am not in your way
Hey no need to push me again
I know it's your day in the sun
I know it's your day in the sun
Hey I am not in your way
Hey no need to push me again
I know it's your day in the sun
Last time I checked he came to light the lamp for everyone


Tori Quotes

There is a chorus here, clearly. Funny, but this one was inspired by an old folktale that I was reading the other day, the tale of Melusine. I'm just beginning to write the verse lyrics and chorus. The music I've been haunted by while developing the verse for this is a piano riff that I found for less than -- oh, I don't know -- less than a minute on the tape I was listening to while on the rowing machine. I haven't committed to any final melody to go with this verse. I've got about seventeen that I sing in the shower, and none of them has won "Ms. World" as the melody for "Marys of the Sea" yet. But I'm haunted by this piano riff, knowing that it has to join up seamlessly with the chorus. The verse piano riff is a musical motif that keeps circling itself, conjuring the picture of a ring, an image that happens to work with our story.

When I was researching this I found out that the early Christians were into ring dancing around Jesus' time, before the Council Creeds of Nicaea (A.D. 325) and Constantinople (A.D. 381) were imposed on Christianity. This compelled me to dig for information wherever I could. I found a folktale based on the power of the ring myth, which had me chasing the Ring Lord myth (the one on which Tolkien based The Lord of the Rings). Historically there is a Ring Lord culture, harkening back to ancient Sumerian and Seythian times. In ancient Sumeria (pronounced Shumeria) in the Mesopotamian region, the Anunnaki gods and goddesses from approximately 4000 B.C. were implementing the ring as part of the municipal government. I wanted to chase down a historical story that originated with Tiamat, the Dragon Queen, and I found one. The story of Melusine, whose tale (and eventually tail) finds her carrying the three rings, ends up in modern-day France. She is of a tradition that echoes back to the sacred feminine. The story seems to date from A.D. 733, which shows us that the ring dance had been able to sustain itself for thousands of years. It seems to have occurred in ancient Sumeria possibly originating in Seythia, which stretched from the Black Sea region over the Carpathian Mountains, known to us as the Balkans.

The philosophy of the ring culture seemed to spread from Seythia to Mesopotamia to Egypt to Europe to what is now known as Ireland and Great Britain, where the ring represented eternity, wholeness, and unity. Many goddesses have been featured through ancient history with the symbols of the ring and the rule, the rule symbolizing a just universal law and the ring symbolizing sovereignty. Some historians think it is possible that Jesus danced the ring, that he partook in the dance as an ancient sacred ceremony. St. Augustine of Hippo, according to ancient texts wrote about a ring dance ascribed to Jesus and the apostles. This would mean that the Magdalene probably danced the ring as well and might have brought the rings' symbolic wisdom to their inner circle herself.

As I'm pulling in different possibitlies to try and crack the code of this song, I sketch everything on this canvas. There will be many canvases for "Marys of the Sea" -- Les Saintes Maries de la Mer. Because the Magdalene went to France in A.D. 44 and died in what is now called Saint Baume in A.D. 63 in Aix-en-Provence, she is remembered as the Mistress of the Waters. I've chosen to incorporate the phrase in French, because it has existed in this form for hundreds and hundreds of years as the story has been passed down and is with us today.

I'm trying to include different sides to the Magdalene myth in "Marys of the Sea." Naturally this includes Mary Magdalene as part of the hieros gamos, sacred marriage, but also included as a subtext is the sexist attitude toward women held by the disciple Peter and the apostle Paul, fathers to the theology of the Roman Catholic Church. This sexist sentiment was echoed by men hailing from the early orthodox Christian tradition, one of whom was Bishop Irenaeus (who could be a dead ringer for my religious grandmother if you ignore their sex difference). Bishop Irenaeus was not a fan of what we call the Gnostic Gospels, and neither was another religious man called Tertullian. From Elaine Pagels and The Gnostic Gospels: "Tertullian directed another attack against "that viper" -- a woman teacher who led congregation in North Africa. He himself agreed with what he called the 'precepts of ecclesiastical discipline concerning women,' which specified: 'It is not permitted for a woman to speak in teh church, nor is it permitted for her to teach, nor to baptize, nor to offer [the eucharist], nor to claim herself a share in any masculine function -- not to mention any priestly office.'"

"Marys of the Sea" was also inspired by The Gospel of Mary Magdalene translated from the Coptic with commentary by Jean-Yves Leloup. This Gospel sheds a lot of light on the inner relationship of the disciples. Peter's envy of Mary Magdalene is obvious when, in this Gospel, Mary is recounting what Jesus (the Teacher) ahd taught her in private. When she was finished, after Andrew (Peter's brother) expressed that he did not believe the Teacher had spoken these ideas, ". . . And Peter added: 'How is it possible that the Teacher talked in this manner, with a woman, about secrets of which we ourselves are ignorant? Must we change our customs, and listen to this woman? Did he really choose her, and prefer her to us?'"

After Jean-Yves Leloup's explanation of this quote, which expanded my perception of this, the Gospel continues, "Then Mary wept, and answered him: "My brother Peter, what can you be thinking? Do you believe that his is just my own imagination, that I invented this vision? Or do you believe that I would lie about our Teacher?"

In that moment it becomes crystal clear that this is a woman who just cannot win. She cannot win in history, as she has been relegated to her position as prostitute. She cannot win with her contemporaries, many of whom are disciples, because they are filled with jealousy over her intimacy with Yeshua or Jesus (the Teacher).

I have chosen to highlight Jesus and Mary Magdalene's intimacy in the song "Marys of the Sea." I was partially inspired to do this by a quote from the Gospel of Philip (59:9), which I quote here from Jean-Yves Leloup's introduction in The Gospel of Mary Magdalene: "With regard to the unique and particular nature of his relationship with Mary Magdalene, the Gospel of Philip insists, for example, that Mary is the special companion of Jesus (koinonos) . . . The Lord loved Mary more than all the disciples, and often used to kiss her on the mouth. When others saw how he loved Mary, the said, 'Why do you love her more than you love us?' The Savior answered in this way: 'How can it be that I do not love you as much as I love her?'"

Also referenced in this song are the scarlet women, the sacred women-the Hierodulau. The Black Madonna has been attributed to the Magdalene by many. From Bloodline of the Holy Grail by Laurence Gardner: The Black Madonna has her tradition in Queen Isis and her roots in the pre-patriarchal Lilith. She thus represents the strength and equality of womanhood -- a proud, forthright and commanding figure, as against the strictly subordinate image of the conventional White Madonna as seen in Church representations of Jesus' mother. It was said that both Isis and Lilith knew the secret name of God (a secret held also by Mary Magdalene, "the woman who knew the all"). The Black Madonna is thus also representative of the Magdalene who, according to the Alexandrian doctrine, "transmitted the true secret of Jesus." In fact, the long-standing Magdalene cult was closely associated with Black Madonna locations. She is black because Wisdom (Sophia) is black, having existed in the darkness of Chaos before the Creation. To the Gnostics of Simon Zelotes, Wisdom was the Holy Spirit -- the great and immortal Sophia who brought forth the First Father, Yaldaboath, from the depths.

Hundreds of years after the historical Les Saintes Maries de la Mer occurred, apparently because the Magdalene traveled with two other Marys as well, we discover the historical Melusine who brings her rings to France from the old Pictish lands of Caledonia (in the far north of Britain, which was later incorporated into what we now know as Scotland). In the end, Melusine will likely end up evolving into an entirely different song and "Marys of the Sea" will remain her own. An amicable split will eventually occur -- as cells in the body would do -- creating an offshoot of the original bloodline. [Tori Amos: Piece by Piece]


"Marys of the Sea"
April 10, 2005 - Hartford, Connecticut



"Marys of the Sea"
October 3, 2009 - Paris, France



"Marys of the Sea"
May 28, 2014 - Brussels, Belgium




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