Pomba Gira and Mary Magdalene: Sacred Whores for the Holiday!

Pomba Gira and Mary Magdalene: Sacred Whores for the Holiday! April 15, 2014
The Penitent Magdalen painting by de la Tour. Photo by schizoform. Licensed under CC 2.0

Happy Ostara, Everybody! Happy Easter, as you may be used to calling the day! Nothing like a sacred whore to celebrate the holy season, so today I’m writing about two of the most famous ever, Pomba Gira and Mary Magdalene. Neo-Pagans in general seem to have a special affinity for both of these women, probably because they are real, they have sex, they help people, they don’t make excuses. There are some differences, however. I’m not proposing a celebrity death match between the two, but they are definitely opposite sides of the same sensual Goddess coin.

Pomba Gira Maria Padilha photo by Lilith Dorsey

Pomba Gira is hot stuff. She is a Brazilian Umbanda Orixa (divine spirit) of the streets, of the ghettos, of the people. She is brazen, very often depicted bare breasted and sporting a necklace of skulls, giving new meaning to the word bling. In my book Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism, I note her “prowess is invaluable in removing obstacles blocking your path toward love and happiness. She undulates with joy and mirth.”  I know one group of strippers who set up a shrine to her backstage, and she granted them wealth and success for every dollar they stuffed into her spiritual g-string. She understands the importance of money and what women sometimes have to do to survive. There are many different avatars of Pomba Gira. Pomba Gira Mundo, world spinner who keeps the world turning on its axis. Pomba Gira Maria Padhilha (shown here), based on a woman in living memory who embodied these qualities so much she became deified. There is a Pomba Gira Siete Encruzadas, the goddess of the seven crossroads. This is an Orixa, or goddess for lack of a better term, that celebrates all her powers: her sensuality, her strength, her wisdom.

Mary Magdalene, St. Stephen’s Church. Photo by John Taylor. Licensed under CC 2.0

Mary Magdalene, like Pomba Gira, is seen as a sacred prostitute. Traditional Christian doctrine tells us she gave up her wicked ways to follow Jesus and live a life of humble servitude. Many scholars and historians dispute this recounting of the “greatest story ever told.” Even the Smithsonian Magazine tells us that the story “that she was a repentant prostitute is most certainly untrue…. discrediting sexuality in general and disempowering women in particular.” Many modern women have attempted to reclaim the sacred feminine power of Mary Magdalene that was lost to many over the years. This is a necessary effort after years of suppression and much confusion surrounding the interpretation of many different versions of Christian “His”tory.

Mary Magdalene has stories about washing feet and a wicked past, while Pomba Gira is “possibly evil, definitely dangerous,” according to the book Holy Harlots by Kelly E Hayes. She has also taken on modern media and is a frequent feature in popular telenovelas (soap operas). They prove, however, that you can’t keep a good woman, nee goddess figure, down. Maybe, this Easter season, take some time to celebrate these misunderstood powerful women, and recast them in the history of your mind. The egg is after all a symbol of new beginnings and transformation.


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