The Novels, Poetry and Songs(!)
Of Elizabeth Cunningham

Red-Robed Priestess, last and best of the Maeve Chronicles

Red Robed Priestess: Published November, 2011

After a life of passion and adventure that has brought her through slavery to the Resurrection Garden, through the controversies of the Early Church to a hermit cave in southern Gaul, Maeve, the Celtic Magdalen, finally comes full circle. At the urging of Sarah, her daughter by Jesus, Maeve returns to the British Isles to seek her first-born daughter, who was stolen from her by the druids more than forty years before.

The night prior to her channel crossing, Maeve encounters a man she first mistakes for Jesus' ghost. This familiar stranger is equally haunted, and the two are drawn into a moonstruck liaison that will entwine their lives in "an impossible Celtic knot." He is none other than General Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, the newly appointed Roman Governor of Britain, destined to defeat the Iceni Queen Boudica in one of the bloodiest battles in history.

And Boudica, the Celtic rebel queen, is none other than Maeve's long lost child. A riveting story for new readers, Red-Robed Priestess is also deeply satisfying to fans who have accompanied Maeve on her journey, reuniting them with beloved characters from the earlier novels, especially Magdalen Rising.

At sixty something, Maeve is as feisty as ever, her distinctive sense of irreverent humor very much intact, but she has also grown—and so has the author.

In this final volume of the critically acclaimed, prize-winning Maeve Chronicles, Elizabeth Cunningham confronts a political and emotional complexity that speaks to our times. Maeve's courageous and compassionate witness of an epic tragedy she cannot prevent will challenge and comfort all of us who have ever faced the intractable circumstances of our contemporary era.

Order Red-robed Priestess Here!

MaevenSong, the CD

Elizabeth Cunningham's CD, MaevenSong: a musical odyssey through The Maeve Chronicles,

You can hear clips here:

Miriam's Lament



You can buy the CD, or downloads of the CD on CD-Baby Here!

Elizabeth Cunningham, managing director of The Center at High Valley, is also an award-winning novelist, a poet, songwriter and singer.

Her most recently published novel: Bright Dark Madonna is available in bookstores (order if not in the store) and from online retailers.

The Passion of Mary Magdalen and Magdalen Rising are available (signed and at a discount) at all High Valley events, as well as at bookstores and online. A limited number of copies of Bright Dark Madonna are also available at High Valley events and through this website.

For more about The Maeve Chronicles, see the description and excerpts below. Visit Elizabeth’s website here:

Elizabeth Cunningham's website.

To be on Elizabeth's Reader’s List, email her by filling out the contact form.

Elizabeth's latest collection of poetry, Wild Mercy; Tarot-Inspired Poems is now sold out. See below two poems by Elizabeth Cunningham honoring Olga, High Valley’s Empress.

Elizabeth Cunningham has won back the rights to her earlier titles: The Return of the Goddess; The Wild Mother; Small Bird , her earlier collection of poetry, and How to Spin Gold.

How To Spin Gold Now Available!

How to Spin Gold, which completely sold out, has been reissued, and is now available under the Epigraph imprint. You can buy it at High Valley, order it at bookstores, or order it online.

Meanwhile the above titles (except Wild Mercy) are available at High Valley events and via the contact page (click here).

The Maeve Chronicles

Elizabeth's The Maeve Chronicles are a series of novels recounting the life adventures of an unconventional, unrepentant Mary Magdalen—a redheaded Celt named Maeve who is no one’s disciple! Each novel is designed to stand alone, and the series can be read in any sequence.

Publishing History:The Magdalen Trilogy was renamed The Maeve Chronicles when Monkfish became Elizabeth's publisher. All four of The Maeve Chronicles have been published (details follow). Red-Robed Priestess was published November 15th, 2011.

Magdalen Rising, The Beginning (first published by Station Hill as Daughter of the Shining Isles) was reissued by Monkfish in 2007. They are the same book. Magdalen Rising is the current edition, and the only edition of that book in print. (Any copies of Daughter are re-sales that do not benefit the author!)

The Passion of Mary Magdalen was published in 2006 and came out in paperback in 2007. Some of you anticipated its release as "Holy Whore." That was a working title that was jettisoned.

Bright Dark Madonna was published by Monkfish in 2009. See below.

Magdalen Rising, The Beginning by Elizabeth Cunningham (Monkfish Publishing, 2007) is set first on a mysterious Island of Women, and then at a druid college on Mona/Angelsey. Magdalen Rising tells the tale of Maeve’s youthful passion for a student from Galilee known to the Celts as Esus. The lovers are forced to part when Maeve defies the authority of the druids to save Jesus’s life.

The Passion of Mary Magdalen by Elizabeth Cunningham (Monkfish, 2006) follows Maeve’s perilous search for Jesus through slavery and prostitution in Rome to founding her own holy whorehouse in Magdala. The ultimate reunion of Maeve and Jesus is as stormy as it is ecstatic, infusing this passion narrative with their passion for each other. In the end, they dare together the greatest mystery of all.

Bright Dark Madonna by Elizabeth Cunningham (Monkfish, 2009) A saint is the last thing Maeve, the notably unrepentant Celtic Mary Magdalen, ever expected to be. She is not sure how it happened. Maeve’s cosmology runs more to goddesses and beansidhe than to saints and angels. Also, she is not exactly a favorite with the leaders of the early church, who don’t know what to do with her after the Resurrection.

Never a follower, will Maeve emerge as a rival leader of the Jesus movement? Will she retire quietly to mother a sacred bloodline? Will she set sail for France to proselytize and go spelunking?

The answer: all and none of the above.

No sooner does Maeve open her mouth to preach the gospel her way, than a fierce debate begins about what to do with the child she is carrying. Maeve has her own ideas. When she returns to Temple Magdalen, a custody battle of Biblical proportions ensues. Maeve, her infant daughter Sarah, and Jesus’s mother flee to the remote Taurus Mountains where they live in hiding among the Galatians until a mysterious stranger is dumped on their doorstep more dead than alive.

When Maeve discovers the identity of the man she has healed, she is appalled and more determined than ever to keep her family’s secret. But Maeve has reckoned without the will of her brilliant, angry adolescent daughter who resolves to find out the truth about her father—for herself.

A note: buying used might save you money, but buying new helps both the author and publisher, buying used does not.

You can buy signed new copies of The Passion of Mary Magdalen, Magdalen Rising, The Beginning and Bright Dark Madonna directly from the author through the contact page by clicking here. All four are available in bookstores, from online retailers and at High Valley.

Red-Robed Priestess, is the fourth and concluding chronicle.

The following are excerpts from The Maeve Chronicles, the first two adapted as poetry:


from Elizabeth Cunningham's Magdalen Rising

It’s not all pretty.
The earth knows terrible things.
She receives all deaths,
gentle and brutal.

She bears the pain of every birth.
She turns all things back into herself;
she worries the bones to dust.

She is changing, always changing.
Layers shift.
Her own bones crash and break.

Tides heave.
Rock erupts into fire.
It’s not all pretty.

Beauty never is.


from Elizabeth Cunningham's The Passion of Mary Magdalen

I don’t know exactly what was in the wine.
It tasted fiery and sweet.
I suspect it was red mead: Maeve Rhuad
Mead mixed with red wine.
An intimate joke, a pun made by the Bridegroom
that only the Bride would understand.
Its effect transcended any ingredient.
It was like drinking life itself:
new-turned earth, sun, wind scented with sea,
blossoms opening at first light, the ripe perfection of fruit—
the elements gathered on our tongues, lingering on our breath.
It was like drinking love itself,
the passion of the Bride and Bridegroom distilled,
shared among the guests,
flowing in all our veins, rivers from a single rise.
If we were drunk, we were divinely drunk.
We were in love. In Love. All of us.
None of us could bear to part that night.
The stars were so beautiful. We were so beautiful.
In the end, we all slept together,
no one alone, each one beloved.


from Elizabeth Cunningham's Bright Dark Madonna

I sing to the mother of all
she whose heart is honeycomb
who follows the spiral flight of bees

I sing to the mother long bereft
to the one who is leaving me
for the far high reaches of light and air.

O mother of earth, crowned with creation
think kindly on your daughter
toiling here, heavy with sorrow and fruit.

O wild, sweet, terrible mother
ancient and young, tended and tender
dry and translucent to my touch

when you are gone, will you be my road?
when you are gone, will you show me the stars?
when you are gone, will I find your face in my own?

I sing to the mother who is more than mine
to the girl grown ancient gathering eggs to her breast
to the abandoned mother who has never left.

Two poems from Elizabeth Cunningham's Wild Mercy, inspired by Olga


The Queen of Life likes to wear
leopard print sarongs
garments easy to slip on and off.

That mirror you see is the moon
fallen at her feet.

She never looks at herself from the outside.
She loves her body more than that.

Does the sun feel good on her flank?
Does the rock she leans against
fit the curve of her back?
Her beauty is made of ease.

Wherever she walks
there’s a smell of beach roses
and salt—sometimes a whiff
of seaweed at low tide.
It wasn’t that long ago
she was a mermaid.

If you lay your head
between her breasts
you can hear the ocean.


I cannot find my husband’s trowel to take to plant flowers
on my mother’s grave, but I know
my mother-in-law the gardener will have one.
I stop by and find her trowel on an old picnic bench
beside her clippers and gardening gloves
but I can’t find her inside resting
or out in the flower beds.
I think of leaving a note in the kitchen
then decide to walk once more around the house.
At last I see her standing near the lake
looking at the crabapple tree, blossom-heavy
and intensely pink beside the brown barn.
She stands still, and I see her as she is
The wind is bending the grass toward her,
seeds and blossoms borne on it
the water stirred in tiny waves
the sky blue but soft with moisture.

She does not see or hear me till I call hello.
“I was just thinking,” she says, “how much
Julian would have enjoyed this tree.
He planted it, you know.”
Then she turns toward the peach tree
that has given such a profusion of peaches
in all the years I’ve known her.
“I think it’s dead,” she says.
I look, and it’s so bare and grey
surrounded by all the pink and green and blue.
“It is the last of the fruit trees Julian planted.
Well,” she shrugs, “they don’t last that long.”

We talk of other things.
She lets me take the trowel
I promise to bring her a new plant.
I am thinking I will never forget
seeing her standing alone
in the spring wind
between the blossoming crabapple
and the dead peach
remembering her lover
who planted fruit trees.

All poems by Elizabeth Cunningham.