"The ideal woman"

Nat Geo explores the global devotion to the mysterious Virgin Mary

Maureen Orth has been traveling the world to find stories about the Virgin Mary, uncovering the appeal of the iconic figure to a vast range of individuals, faiths, and cultures. In Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Orth meets with Ivan Dragicevic, who in 1981 was one of six poor shepherd children to report visions of the Virgin. Thanks in part to their visions, Medjugorje would emerge as a hub of miracle cures and spiritual conversions, attracting 30 million pilgrims over the past 30 years.

In Kibeho, Rwanda, Orth meets another visionary, Anathalie Mukamazimpaka, one of three girls who say their visions of Mary predicted the slaughter of the Tutsi at the hands of the Hutu in 1994 — an account endorsed by the Vatican as genuine. In Mexico, Orth attends the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and discovers the special place the Virgin holds in the hearts of the Mexican people. And in Egypt she meets with Muslims who explain that Mary has a whole sura (chapter) devoted to her in the Koran, and that Mary is often worshiped and seen in visions in Muslim tradition as well.

Ultimately, she finds Mary takes on a variety of roles in a variety of places: “You can project on her whatever cultural values you have,” says Amy-Jill Levine, a professor of New Testament and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt University. “Just as Jesus is the ideal man, Mary is the ideal woman.”

Read the full story at National Geographic.

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