"Magdalena" as written by and Brandon Flowers....
Please don't tell me I can't make it
It ain't gonna do me any good
And please don't offer me your modern methods
I'm fixing to carve this out of wood

From Nogales to Magdalena
There are sixty miles of sacred road
And the promises made to those who venture
San Francisco will lift your load

In the land of old Sonora
A shallow river valley cries
The summer left her without forgiveness
It's mirrored in her children's eyes
Prodigal sons and wayward daughters
Carry mandas that they might
Be delivered from the depths of darkness
And born again by candlelight
And born again by candlelight

Blisters on my feet, wooden rosary
I felt them in my pocket as I ran
A bullet in the night
A Federales' light
San Francisco, do you understand?

Tell him that I made the journey
And tell him that my heart is true
I'd like his blessing of forgiveness before the angels send it through

And I will know that I am clean now
And I will dance and the band will play
In the old out to cantina
Cause we'll runneth over the ancient clay

And if I should fall to temptation when I return to evil throes
From Nogales to Magdalena
As a two time beggar
I will go where I know I can be forgiven
The broken heart of Mexico
The broken heart of Mexico
The broken heart of Mexico


Lyrics submitted by MayaMoo

"Magdalena" as written by Brandon Flowers

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Magdalena song meanings
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17 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentNo one else interested into the deep meaning of this one ?

    I'm truly puzzled at those lines :

    "Be delivered from the debts of darkness
    And born again by candlelight
    And born again my candlelight"

    And

    "I'd like his blessing of forgiveness
    Before the angels send it through"

    Who is he referring to ?

    I think it's about a sinner who is asking The Almighty LORD to forgive him and giving him a second "Born Again At Candlelight" chance to make it, on his journey from Mexico to the USA.


    I'm surprised so few posts for this one which seems to be pretty popular and is for me the most catchy track of the album.
    MrFlamingoon September 29, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song is about a yearly pilgrimage made to Magdalena, a town in Sonora, one of the Mexican states, every year. In the historic church is a famous statue of San Francis Xavier, though it is meant to be Saint Francis of Assai--it is kinda complicated. Look it up, and any of the other names or terms I mention below, for more background. The best background piece on the pilgrimage I found was here borderzine.com/2010/04/mandas-a-magdalena/ (I hope this site accepts links.) This song rests tons of religious history and theory. Seriously, you could write, and many have, books on the topics touched on in this song. More than a few wars have been fought over the ideas expressed too. I can give you a quick taste, though.

    It is easiest to break down by verse.

    Please don't tell me I can't make it
It ain't gonna do me any good
And please don't offer me your modern methods
I'm fixin' to carve this out of wood
    Historically the journey to Magdalena was often very hard. Poorer people would beg on their way even. This narrator isn’t giving up. He’s going to do the walk. “Please don’t offer me your modern methods” might be a reference to getting there in easier transportation these days, but I think it is a reference to the redemption the narrator seeks. Asking a saint for a blessing is an old-school, Catholic way of seeking redemption. The Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther’s 95 Theses turn mainly on stuff like this. Martin Luther was upset that some of the Catholic clergy had sold “indulgences” to the local people for forgiveness, that they thought they had to buy forgiveness, which had already been offered by Christ. They merely had ask for it and then to earn it by repentance, not cash. The best modern illustration is something like carbon offsets for environmentalists. They believe in lowering carbon emissions but think that by paying for their own continued emissions that they don’t actually have to work at reducing their own emissions. That is, they can buy the privilege to keep sinning yet tell themselves that they are doing well, all the while the only practical result is a bunch of authority types get richer. The Catholic Church of the time had many similar issues. ML wrote up a list of such grievances and posted it for discussion. That began the Protestant Reformation.
    Protestants believe that you gain forgiveness by personally asking for it and repenting--trying to stop sinning. So the narrator is refusing the new way of asking forgiveness and going to do it the old way, do some task and then ask for a saint’s blessing. “Carve this out of wood” might be a reference to the St. Francis statue’s feet being wood, or just to old skilled craftsmanship.
    This verse shows how BF can write lyrics that can be taken multiple ways by listeners. If you are Catholic, for example you can listen and think he is celebrating this pilgrimage--I’m seeking redemption in the tradition of my ancestors. Many commenters on this thread get that vibe from the song. If you are Protestant, and I am, then you can pick up a sigh of frustration feel from this song; the frustration of trying to explain that you don’t have to go through this for redemption.

    

From Nogales to Magdalena
There are 60 miles of sacred road
And the promise is made to those who venture
San Francisco will lift your load
    This is just background on the journey. Go there, ask St. Francis for forgiveness and it will be granted.
    


    In the land of old Sonora
A shallow river valley cries
The summer left her without forgiveness
It's mirrored in her children's eyes
    Sonora is the state in Mexico where Magdalena is. It is a desert. For Protestants, baptism is a baptism of belief--it is done on confession of belief in God, not when you are born or join the church. This is such a big deal to some denominations that it is why Baptists are called Baptists. Furthermore, for many denominations, Baptists and Mormons included, baptism is essential and requires a full dunking so the valley “left without forgiveness” is a land without water. “Mirrored in her children’s eyes” I think refers to the holes and emptiness in the lives of people without God in their lives. This is a land that misunderstands the path to salvation, therefore, for all the formality and festivity the people are still empty. Note well, I don’t mean to start a Catholic and Protestant war on the web. If you have ever wondered why Catholics and Protestants fought so often in history, this is the crux of it. Does man need an intercessor, an authority, before God? Protestants give, and have given, a resounding ‘No!‘ This is a big deal, something that has driven hundreds of years of Western history, and BF has written a pop song about it. The man has some serious cojones.



    Prodigal sons and wayward daughters
Carry Mandas that they might
be delivered from the depths of darkness
And born again by candlelight
And born again by candlelight
    Sinners, prodigal sons and wayward daughters are Biblical references, come with Mandas, desire for a miracle or forgiveness. They whisper them in the statue’s ear, kiss his head and receive his blessing. 


    Blisters on my feet
Wooden rosary
I felt them in my pocket as I ran
    Physical realities of the journey, burdens that you carry. 



    A bullet in the night
A federales's life
San Francisco do you understand?
    Historically Sonora has seen much violence. This is a reference the drug traffickers and the resulting violence in the Sonora desert today. Because of its remoteness, drug cartels can easily hide there. There is so much violence now that the main company that does tours for the old Missions including Magdalena, is thinking about stopping. Many of the real baddies in Mexico come seeking forgiveness. This, I think, is the Mandas of some drug cartel baddie asking forgiveness for shooting a cop.
    


    Tell him that I made the journey
And tell him that my heart is true
I'd like his blessing of forgiveness
Before the angels send it through
    Tell Saint Francis that I did it and I’m sincere; bless me. Once again, if you are Protestant this verse is sad because someone is asking forgiveness of from a middleman.

    

And I will know that I am clean now
And I will dance and the band will play
In the old Artu Cantina
Cups will runneth over the ancient clay

And if I should fall to temptation
When I return to evil throws
From Nogales to Magdalena
As a two time beggar I will go
Where I know I can be forgiven
    the broken heart of Mexico
The broken heart of Mexico
The broken heart of Mexico
    I’ll treat these two verses together. Whereas the previous verse is sad because people don’t need a middleman for forgiveness, this one hits at one of the two major obstacles* to redemption, not trying. One will not be redeemed by merely asking for forgiveness. One must try to reform. What are blisters on your feet, a cross in your pocket, and a sincere heart to the difficulty of actually changing your ways? After the whispering in the ear of the saint, there is a big party in the town. The verse suggests of an attitude like, ‘God forgives. Why should I worry about being good. I can go ask for forgiveness again. As a two time beggar I will go. Let's go party!’ And things never change. That’s why this is the “broken heart of Mexico.”

    *In case you are wondering, the other major obstacle to redemption is pride. It is one thing to be proud of an accomplishment, of a job well done. It is entirely another to think that means you are all that. To quote CS Lewis, “The trouble begins when you pass from thinking, ‘I have pleased him: all is well,” to thinking, ‘What a fine person I must be to have done it.’ If you are that kind of proud, then you are too busy with keeping up appearances, so to speak, that you can’t see God. It is like focusing on your SATs and college admissions rather than what kind of person you will be when you are 35.

    Like I said, this isn't your typical pop song. Not by a long shot.
    AHLondonon October 27, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI love this song, it's my favorite in the album!
    I love watching his expressions when he sings it! I noticed he can't help smiling every time he sings the lines: in the land of old sonora... it's mirrored in her children's eyes. I wonder if it means something to him? Love that song so much!
    mimi58on January 21, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentHello people, I've got an interesting answer from a person who is from Nogales Mexico !

    He told me this :

    "it's about faith... but this faith comes from the missionary founder of Magdalena San Franciso. It's amazing see that thousands of people walk from Nogales to Magdalena. The purpose of the walking is called "manda" that means like a promise to San Francisco, you pray to him and ask him for your needs or family needs...it happens only once in a year, actually is in this days... just in October.... you should look for some info about it... I'm from Nogales"

    Very interesting isn't it ?
    MrFlamingoon October 02, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI read in rock and review that this song is about border jumpers and also mixed a bit with spiritual meanings too.
    Patricklog12on September 28, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthe song is about a pilgrimage from Nogales to Magdalena, as is mentioned in the song
    i too am puzzled by certain lines, the candlelight being one of them... i like the way it sounds though :)
    MisssssMiseryon September 30, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI like how he smiles each time he sings this song. You can tell this song means a lot to him whatever the meaning behind.
    rosalindaon October 01, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI noticed he smiles a lot when he sings this song.
    JOSH5on October 19, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentGorgeous song!
    I'm pregnant,am having a baby girl, wanna call her Sonora!! Thanks BF!
    jello9on November 29, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAll of the "long alleys" need to be changed to "Nogales"
    "A feather of his life" should be "A Federales light"
    "Not like his blessing of forgiveness" should be "I'd like his blessing forgiveness"
    "Comical" should be "Prodigal"
    "Mandalas" should be "mandas"
    "As he runneth.." should be "Cause we'll runneth"
    It should be "delivered from the depths of darkness"
    "A felt them" should be "I felt them"
    And I've seen "By fixing the carpets out of wood" on another site too, but I hear "I'm fixing to carve this out of wood"
    kbb02on September 05, 2010   Link

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