Madonna: From Catholicism to Kabbalah
The most successful female recording artist of all time (according to Guinness World Records), Madonna Louise Ciccone was born and raised a Catholic—even attending Catholic school as a child. "The Material Girl" was named after her mother, who was most likely named after the biblical Virgin Mary. As a young adult Madonna moved to New York City to pursue a dance/music career but instead fell into singing. Her lacey—sometimes racy—outfits and sexy dance moves while performing were in stark contrast to the crosses she'd wear as jewelry and her virginal, pure name. And, of course, Madonna continually addressed religious themes in her music, often mixing them with sexuality ("When you call my name, it's like a little prayer, I'm down on my knees, I wanna take you there. In the midnight hour, I can feel your power, just like a prayer, you know I'll take you there..."—"Like a Prayer")
After about 15 years of ticking off the Catholic Church, in the late '90s Madonna began studying Kabbalah, a school of thought that delves into the mystical aspects of Judaism, and she has been one of its most active, high profile members ever since. She's also adopted the Hebrew name Esther, which is derived from the Persian word "star." Fitting, wouldn't you say?