‘A Magdalene Awakens’ is an eerie tale

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Nancy Safford’s magical mystery tour, “A Magdalene Awakens: Hidden Temple Secrets,” takes the reader from Sedona, Ariz., to the Rennes-le-Château commune of southern France, to Glastonbury, England, then loop-de-loops between the France and Sedona locations numerous times. It’s part spiritual memoir and part female Indiana Jones adventure.

First, to ensure you understand Ms. Safford is a flesh-and-blood individual, to us in particular: She summered on Martha’s Vineyard as a child, moved here in the early ’70s as a professional photographer, and brought out a book many of us may fondly recall, called “Time’s Island,” about old-school fishermen, their boats, and their stories. Her sister is Susan Safford, who is married to Tony Omer, both longtime Islanders and MV Times hands.

Also, on the firmly real side, her work in photography has kept her fully employed, along with classes in holography for school kids. But then her move some years ago from upstate New York to Sedona propelled her into a new, clairvoyant sense of deeper mysteries (Sedona is apparently known for this). But another sacred chunk of geography was calling to her, and this was in the South of France: “When I discovered ancient secrets hidden in a temple in southern France, it seemed essential that I reveal the story of what led me to find them. A long-guarded secret, it is part of the Rennes-le-Château mystery in the Languedoc area … which carried a legacy that was possibly left there by early masters and alchemists, and guarded by priestesses who knew the workings of this inner temple.”

In effect, Ms. Safford’s sixth sense is as fundamentally developed as an average person’s capacity for smell when entering an Italian cafe just as the mozzarella-with-oregano pizza is brought forth from the oven.

Whether or not you believe that visions of white-hooded figures in diamond-sparkly pyramids can float outside your hotel window, or you’re descended from preceptors from ancient times or even Other Worlds, well, in truth, if you don’t believe, and that puts you squarely in the cynical ranks of the “nonreligulous” (to borrow from Bill Maher), all the same Ms. Safford spins a heck of a tale. Take it as fiction, if you like. She whisks you into secret caves and special consultations with an apparition of Mary Magdalene herself, and whether this is make-believe or pure hand-on-the-Bible truthfulness — and let’s be clear, it’s more fun to believe, at least while you sit around the campfire — the voice running through this memoir sounds entirely sane and stable.

Plus, you can’t help thinking of Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” and the esoteric search for the spirit of Mary Magdalene, putative wife of Jesus, who after the Crucifixion, is rumored to have moved to Rennes-le-Château, which has its own coy nods to the legend in its Magdalene Church and a ruined stone campanile called the Tour de Magdala. Ms. Safford is positively besieged by apparitions and haunting messages.

She studies shamanic healing and becomes an ordained priestess of the Magdalene Mysteries, and for years now she’s been guiding pilgrimages to these spots in France that literally speak to her. There even comes a point in the narrative where she crosses paths with the Medieval secret order of the Knights Templar. The modern-day head of the Templars offers her a knighthood. Will she join? You’ll have to read it for yourself!

It’s heady stuff, but I guarantee a willing suspension of disbelief is achieved right away as you follow Ms. Safford on her ceaseless explorations. And for further reassurance from this reporter, someone who has it on her bucket list to see a vision of the Virgin Mary, preferably in Squash Meadow overlooking Sunset Lake, because I have no immediate plans to visit Medjugorje, I’ve known a few mediums who were, to my mind, very much the real deal, and Ms. Safford, as a blue-chip clairvoyant herself, has intriguing knowledge to impart.

On Sunday, May 14, at 2 pm at the West Tisbury library, the author and priestess will explore the legacies of Mary Magdalene, the Knights Templar, saints, angels, and darkness visible (to borrow from William Styron). Books will be available for purchase. The event is free and open to the public.