Margaret Starbird (born 18 June 1942) is the author of seven books arguing for the existence of a secret Christian tradition that held Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, calling it the "Grail heresy", after having set out to discredit the bloodline hypothesis contained in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.
Works and beliefs
In her 1993 book The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail, Margaret Starbird developed the hypothesis that Saint Sarah was the daughter of Jesus and Mary Magdalen and that this was the source of the legend associated with the cult at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. She also claimed that the name "Sarah" meant "Princess" in Hebrew, thus making her the forgotten child of the "sang réal", the blood royal of the King of the Jews. Her works contain many references to ancient alphanumeric codes known as Hebrew Gematria and Greek Isopsephy. She also exposes secrets encoded in classical art. Starbird believes that the patriarchal Roman Catholic church suppressed the veneration and devotion of the sacred feminine, leading to an unbalanced spirituality in mainstream Christianity.
Margaret Starbird has outlined her conviction that "Christianity at its inception included the celebration of the Hieros gamos ("holy wedding") of opposites, a model incarnate in the archetypal bridegroom and his bride - Jesus the Christ and the woman called "the Magdalen". This model of unity, tragically lost in the cradle of Christianity, is patterned on the fundamental blueprint for life on our planet, and manifested in the leadership role played by certain women in the community of Jesus' first followers." Starbird claims this sacred partnership was the same as that which existed in other regions of the Near East that predated Christianity, comparable to the cults of Inanna and Dummuzi, Ishtar and Tammuz - being part of a fertility cult that brought well being to its people. This marriage honored "the cosmic dance of masculine and feminine energies and the eternal cycles manifested by the Life Force", with Mary Magdalene designated the "Queen of Heaven".
Starbird does not believe that Mary Magdalen originated from the town of Magdala, saying it was originally named Taricheae in biblical times before its destruction in AD 67, and when rebuilt after the death of Mary Magdalen was renamed "Magdala".
Margaret Starbird holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Maryland, where she majored in Medieval Studies, Comparative Literature and German Language. From 1988, Starbird took classes at Vanderbilt Divinity School, later teaching religious education and Scripture in Catholic parishes.
Margaret Starbird's father was Army Major General Charles F. Leonard Jr (1914-2006), who won a Silver Medal in the modern pentathlon at the 1936 Olympic Games held in Germany.
Although Starbird's works have very little mention of a continuing sacred bloodline of descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalen which is also a significant portion of the premises behind such books as The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, she did state in The Woman With the Alabaster Jar that "there is evidence to suggest that the royal bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalen eventually flowed in the veins of the Merovingian monarchs of France", and mistakenly claimed that the fleur-de-lys was the royal emblem of Clovis I and the "heraldic emblem of the Merovingian bloodline" - the symbol was a "Capetian innovation, first employed by Robert II of France before the science of heraldry even existed." An anonymous twelfth century poem about the Battle of Tolbiac (c.496) first claimed that Clovis replaced his toad-covered buckler with the fleur-de-lys.
Starbird's theories have been criticized for being based on medieval lore and art, rather than on historical treatment of the Bible. Both Darrell Bock and Bart D. Ehrman have responded by claiming that "There is no reference to Jesus' marriage or a wife in the Four Gospels" and, "There is no reference to Jesus' marriage or a wife in any other early Christian writing".
Starbird's interpretation of the Gnostic Gospels as suggesting an amorous relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalen is not widely accepted amongst Biblical scholars or skeptics. The (non-canonical) Gospel of Philip states that Mary Magdalen was Jesus' "companion", that Jesus "loved her more than all his disciples", and that he "often kissed her". The paragraph concerned describes Mary Magdalene as "barren" and being "the mother of the angels"; one scholar observed that the Gospel of Philip goes so far as to say "that marital relations defile a woman.". Likewise, Starbird has claimed that the medieval Cathars believed Jesus was married to Mary Magdelen, through an interpretation of the Major Arcana of the Tarot, but this is also disputed. Even if one were to acknowledge Starbird's interpretation of these, critics of The Da Vinci Code such as Robert M. Price have countered that no institutional continuity exists between 2nd century Gnostics and medieval Cathars, nor between the Cathars and the Knights Templar as works such as The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail have suggested.
- The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail (Bear & Co, 1993). ISBN 1-879181-03-7
- The Goddess in the Gospels: Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine (Bear & Co, 1998). ISBN 1-879181-55-X
- The Tarot Trumps and the Holy Grail: Great Secrets of the Middle Ages (Bear & Co, 2000). ISBN 0-9678428-0-8
- Magdalene’s Lost Legacy: Symbolic Numbers and the Sacred Union in Christianity (Bear & Co, 2003). ISBN 1-59143-012-7
- The Feminine Face of Christianity (Godsfield Press Ltd., UK, 2003). ISBN 1-84181-184-X
- Mary Magdalene, Bride in Exile (Bear & Co, 2005). ISBN 1-59143-054-2
Co-authored with Joan Norton
- 14 Steps to Awaken the Sacred Feminine: Women in the Circle of Mary Magdalene (Bear & Co, 2009). ISBN 1-59143-091-7
- Margaret Starbird's work is the main subject in the National Geographic TV series "Ancient X Files" in Season 2, Episode 10 "The Mystery Of Mary Magdelene" originally broadcast July 3, 2012 on the National Geographic Channel in the UK.
In Popular Culture
Starbird's works along with those of Lynn Picknett, Michael Baigent, Henry Lincoln, and others were highly influential upon Dan Brown's bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Code and are directly mentioned in that work.
- Abraxas (2006). "Cofee, Cigarettes and Gnosis podcast episode #4" (audio (mp3)). The God above God. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
- Margaret Starbird, The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail,pages 60-62, Bear & Company, 1993. ISBN 1-879181-03-7
- Margaret Starbird, Magdalene's Lost Legacy: Symbolic Numbers and The Sacred Union In Christianity, pages 8-9 (Bear & Co, 2003). ISBN 1-59143-012-7
- Joan Norton, Margaret Starbird, 14 Steps to Awaken the Sacred Feminine: Women in the Circle of Mary Magdalene, pages 15-16 (Bear & Co, 2009). ISBN 1-59143-091-7
- "Interview with Margaret Starbird", in Dan Burstein, Arne J. de Keijzer (editors), Secrets of Mary Magdalene: The Untold Story of History's Most Misunderstood Woman, page 89 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006). ISBN 978-0-297-85168-4
- Dan Burstein (editor), Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind The Da Vinci Code, page 554 (Orion Paperback, 2004). ISBN 0-7528-6450-5
-  Biography on Quest Books website
- David L. Porter, Basketball: A Biographical Dictionary, page 451 (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005). ISBN 0-313-30952-3
- Margaret Starbird, Woman With the Alabaster Jar, page 62.
- Carl E. Olson, Sandra Miesel, The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing The Errors In The Da Vinci Code, page 231 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004). ISBN 1-58617-034-1
- Anne Walters Robinson, Guillaume de Machaut and Reims: Context and Meaning In His Musical Works, page 242, and quote "The connection of the fleur-de-lys with the kings of France dates back to the twelfth century. Prior to this time, royal banners displayed crescents or toads, both of which were pagan symbols held over from pre-Christian Gaul" (Cambridge University Press, 2002). ISBN 0-521-41876-3
- Ben Witherington, The Gospel Code: novel claims about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Da Vinci, page 16 (InterVarsity Press, 2004). ISBN 0-8308-3267-X
- Bock, Darrell L. Breaking The Da Vinci Code : Answers To The Questions Everyone's Asking / Darrell L. Bock. Waterville, Me. : Thorndike Press, 2004. 239 p. (large print) ; 22 cm. ISBN 0-7862-6967-7 (alk. paper)
- Bart D. Ehrman (2004). Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-518140-1.
- Darrell L. Bock, Was Jesus Married?
- Richard Abanes, The Truth Behind The Da Vinci Code, page 41 (Harvest House Publishers, 2004). ISBN 0-7369-1439-0. Citing Wesley Isenberg, who translated the Gospel of Philip.
- Carl E. Olson, Sandra Miesel, The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing The Errors In The Da Vinci Code, page 220 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004). ISBN 1-58617-034-1
- Robert Price. "The Da Vinci Hoax". Retrieved 30 August 2011.