The Lamp

Follow Hanna from a Chalcolithic fishing village to the cradle of international banking and commerce at Tyre. Maryam Hanna bat Shelomit learns her worth, develops her skills, and wins her greatest triumph at the cost of a shattering betrayal. Though she is young, her determination and choices form one of those levers which can move the very planet.


First, I need to thank my mother. Without her love, support, and abiding interest, I am certain that this project could not have gotten as far as it has. In that same vein, I owe deep thanks also to Paul Demmitt, Asha Sanaker, Cat Baumgartner, Henry Kramer, Amy Bender, Dot Steck, Frederique Boele, Scott Gilbert, Rowan Hoskyns-Abrahall, and Peter X.

Without the internet, a fair amount of the research I have conducted would not have been feasible. Kudos especially to Wikipedia, all those books-out-of-copyright on Google, and The Great Courses series.

With exceptions as noted elsewhere, I have attempted to create reasonable facsimiles of the likely environments in which this account is set. Flora, fauna and foodstuffs were points of especial interest to me. Let me know if there are egregious inaccuracies or any downright falsehoods I have inadvertently told. This is a work in progress, and factual detail can only add to the narrative.

I’d also like to thank you, my newest readers. “Have at” the text. I will entertain and respond to all respectful notes and queries.

Preface to The Lamp, being the first volume in The Life and Times of Mary Magdalene

Let me be clear. This volume is an extended work of fan-fiction. The text of which I am such a fan is The Bible. Irrespective of Pope Gregory’s mischaracterisation of Mary Magdalene as synonymous with the unnamed prostitute out of whom demons were cast, I have chosen to retain this late interpolation. In addition, I have become an admirer of other works of fan-fiction having to do with The Bible. More than any other, the blessed Jacobus da Varagine, aka Voragine, author of the Golden Legend, has directed the course of my narrative.

Voragine profoundly influenced European Christian iconography with his 13th century CE text about the lives of the saints, with its special focus on the Holy Family and their many relatives. The Golden Legend was a more popular read than The Bible in its hey-day. More than eleven hundred manuscripts of the text are still extant. It was one of the first volumes printed by William Caxton. Voragine’s work on the extended family of Jesus of Nazareth became the foundational authority for all the illuminations, tapestries, stained glass windows, sculptures, prints, pageants, and paintings reflecting on the subject throughout Western Europe.

My debt to the blessed hagiographer can’t be overstated. I was raised in one of the American branches of Protestantism, and had no truck with saints who weren’t also Disciples. Through Art History courses, and my abiding love of Romanesque and Gothic churches, I saw a lot of the Holy Family as delineated by Voragine; like most people, I had no idea he was the single creative impetus behind the continuously celebrated branch of the Jesse Tree.

Although I am happy to give full credit to the material that pointed the way, I will state that this is my version of what happened “off-stage” in the text of the New Testament. Wherever possible, I try not to contradict the core text. Where I do so, I hope that the context I provide allows for the interpretation I developed.

A word about Tyre as I have chosen to portray it. Everything I wrote about the Murex dye, its industry, and economic value is entirely true. However, the Sidonian Port, at the north end of the peninsular city, is not a deep volcanic cone. Further, it never had a temple dedicated to the Goddess--or at least not within the last four thousand and seven hundred years on record. Ushu, the landside Old City, did have a number of temples, from large complexes to decorated niches, honoring the Goddess in many of her manifestations: Astarte, Asherah, Shapshu, Atargatis, LIuri, Ishara, Nikkal-wa-Ib, Cybele, Inanna, to name a few.

My depiction of widespread reverence for the Goddess throughout the Levant is entirely accurate in an historical sense. Our primary source of information about the period, The Bible, has an irreconcilable hate on for The Lady in all her forms of worship. That final editions of the sacred text effectively excised her almost completely says more about editorial fervor than any adherence to historicity.

As I have ‘little Latin and less Greek’ and no Hebrew or Aramaic whatsoever, I presuppose my liberal use of colorful tidbits to jolly-up the text may contain errors. Please do, if you know, send me whatever corrections seem necessary. I will say, insofar as I was able, I elected to use Tiberian Hebrew over modern--for what appear as obvious reasons to me.

I am happy to respond to comments, which I encourage if they are of the thoughtful, constructive variety. I am including a means of dropping me a few shekels without making it into a pay wall, if you find yourself enjoying the read and want to support the rest of the story’s genesis

Please do let me know what you think I should know in order to make the text better, more clear, more lively, more accurate, more challenging-- whatever it is. Or maybe you’ll want it to be less of some of the same. Fine. Let’s keep the lines of dialogue open and flowing.

In Peace,

Alexandra D Smith

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June 2020

Hope Springs, Arkansas