Long Review by Joan Norton:
Author Sandra Pope
was kind enough to thank me in the dedication of her book, but I’m really writing this review as a “Magdalene community” member, one of those who work to raise awareness of Mary Magdalene as the sacred feminine in Christianity.

Growing Up Without the Goddess is the spiritual memoir of a little girl without an image of herself as sacred and divine, which is where we’ve all been left without Mary Magdalene in our Christian story. This little girl had to learn the hard way, on the hard road of sexual abuse, what it means to be a spiritually motherless child. Reading this story, we can all shutter at the thought of her physical abandonment and revel in the spiritual recovery of her life and love and divinity.

But I’m ahead of myself. Let me tell you about little Sandra, Southern girl of the Pope family in a small town in North Carolina, mothered by . . . no one.

Lots of women suffer through mothering dysfunctions, and we have plenty of those types of books. But Sandra’s recovery to “thriving, not surviving” gave her back the sacred feminine “role model” of Mary Magdalene, and that makes this a different kind of book. She makes a clear case for sexual abuse being a normal aspect of religious patriarchal power abuse, meaning it’s “built in” to any religion without a Goddess.

This is something we don’t think about often, that without the story of a Beloved Goddess who is loved by a Beloved God, women are simply not as important and, therefore, they are very vulnerable to misuse. Raised to please the men folk becomes a very dangerous idea.

We meet Sandra first as a young women of the 60’s committed to the left wing politics of the time, working on voter registration and integration issues. Almost joined the Weather Underground, but came out to California instead. Life goes on the way it will for young women, with wonderful motherhood of twin girls, new career directions, and new marriage. She says she was never interested in the self-reflection “stuff” of the consciousness movement of the 70’s, never overly worried about her inner self.

You can guess where this is going. In Los Angeles, in a guided imagery experience that a friend dragged her to, Sandra attempts to talk to her literary role models -- Plato, William Blake, and Wordsworth. They won’t talk and instead a photograph of her long lost mother shows up in her inner vision. And so the journey begins. This is the mother who sent her to live with people who touched her and beat her and saw to it that she felt like a sinner. Oh no, not her.

If you ever wondered just exactly what it’s like to discover you’ve been hurt badly and to feel what it’s like to think you must be imagining it, Sandra’s book will take you there. You learn about her therapeutic work, her dreamwork through which the truths of her soul were told, her efforts to see and feel the sick patterns in herself and try to stop them. Reading and feeling these struggles will make you want to do everything you can to be kind to yourself, knowing that you, too, share in the recovery of the sacred feminine dimension in yourself. Men, too.

This book is so important because, as Sandra explains, one in four young women will be abused by the time they are 18. That’s right now! So shocking. In a later chapter of description of her continual recovering, Sandra gives us a very clear, bullet-point list of the ways abuse warped her life. You may see yourself on that list . . . we all share it.

Growing Up Without the Goddess reads like a novel. The writing style draws you in, painting a picture of small town life in the 50’s rural South, with the dialog and attitude that fit the times. The difference is that this memoir has an “observing voice” which narrates the “journey of a wounded healer,” giving us insight into ourselves as well as the story of a little girl harmed. This may be familiar territory to some readers; the stories of how abuse can cause anorexia and other physical ills, suicidal inclinations, impossible relationships, and searing self-doubt. The difference here is recovery into “prophesy and revelation” by Mary Magdalene and her daughter and the meaning in that for everyone’s recovery of their own sacred dimension.

By the way, one of the very interesting stories within the book is that Sandra comes from a family heritage of “fire healers,” people who can remove burns.  In recovering memories of abuse, she also recovers her own ability to heal, and today she works as a vibrational healer.  I think she has recovered her own inner fire as well. 

You can order the book from Amazon.com and Booksurge.com.

- - Joan Norton, M.F.T. is author of The Mary Magdalene Within (iUniverse, 2005) and 14 Steps to Awaken the Sacred Feminine, Women in the Circle of Mary Magdalene (with Margaret Starbird)  (Inner Traditions, 2009). You can hear her Magdalene Meditations at www.MaryMagdaleneWithin.podomatic.com and participate in “all things Magdalene” at www.blog.MaryMagdaleneWithin.com