Our Lady of Czestochowa, Poland
Please enjoy an excerpt from the soon to be published The Black Madonna Journey of the Human Heart by Stephanie Georgieff
The Phenomena of the Black Madonna
When I first heard of focused study of The Black Madonna, it was part of a masters program in culture and spirituality at Holy Names College. Before this, I really was unfamiliar with what “The Black Madonna” was either in culture or art. My orientation towards the Madonna was mainly through the pink cherubic Madonna’s tenderly caressing the Christ child on Christmas cards. As a protestant raised in an ecumenical household that recognized Eastern Orthodox traditions, I had a full spectrum exposure to images of Mary, but the Orthodox Icons were stiff and inhuman in my estimation. The color of the Mary’s was not in my consciousness, if pressed, I assumed that the original Mary was a Palestinian Jewess, who most likely had brown skin, dark eyes and hair.
One of my classmates in the masters program was doing her thesis on the subject of The Black Madonna, from a racial cultural perspective. We had the author China Galland speak to our class for one of the modules. Her book Longing for Darkness (2) was a biographical sketch of her encounters with the Black Madonna in the Americas, Europe and Asia. She brought slides of numerous Black Madonna’s from all over the world, as well as small cards for us to reflect upon. I chose the Virgin of Montserrat , and dutifully followed the directions for the class exercise to “hear what the image was telling me.” Aside from inviting me to get a snack, the only thing I could decipher from the black image before me, was “I am what I am, stop making me into something I am not.”
Part of my program required a response paper to each module presented. We were to read a list of books and go on to our own research to supplement the assigned texts. What I found in my research at that time was there is very little definitive scholarship of the Black Madonna’s. Much of what is written or discussed I felt was a projection of needs: A need to paganize Christianity, an need to assert feminist principles, a need for the goddess, a need to justify nationalism as a direct blessing from the divine. What is known objectively about the phenomenon of the Black Madonna’s is that they are statues, paintings, and stained glass windows purposefully colored Black or very dark brown. The bulk of these works of art appeared in areas where the only external racial expression was white at the time. The images rarely have an artist associated with them, and are often attributed to the handiwork of St Luke the Apostle. With no documented artist associated with their origins, the exact dates of creation are unknown. Many of the stories of their genesis are associated with their discoveries. Scholars do agree that the majority of the works of art date from the 5th and 6th centuries up to the 14th century. Most of the images have legends and history associated with them that date between the 11th and 13th centuries. They are scattered through out Europe, with a great number of them in France. Another common theme is that many Black Madonna’s are found in churches along the pilgrim route Camino de Santiago de Compostela. There are a few in Russia, with the most famous image in Czestochowa, Poland. The original Black Madonna of the Americas is The Virgin of Guadalupe, in Mexico. This Virgin is considered to be “Black” because of her mestizo appearance.
Many theories abound as to why the Black Madonna’s are “Black.” One theory indicates that these dark images are blackened through age and candle smoke. Another theory states that the images are remnants of Goddess worship of the conquered local populations. So, what was the reason there are so many Black Madonna’s placed in a historically Caucasian geography during the early centuries of Christianity up to the age of the Crusades?
The Spiritual Significance of Art
Anthroposophists look at art from a deeper perspective.
Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian painter who lived from 1866 - 1944, states in an essay on The Problem of Form; “Thus behind Matter, within matter, the creative Spirit is concealed.”
Austrian philosopher and founder of the Anthroposophical Movement Rudolf Steiner, 1861 – 1925, in the lecture cycle The Influence of Spiritual Beings on Man, states that “Art is the creation of organs through which the gods are able to speak to humanity.”
I interpret from these statements and the works of these two authors, that Art is a medium where the Spiritual World, the Divine speaks to humanity. The reader is invited to keep these basic tenants of art as we delve deeper into the mysteries surrounding The Black Madonna.
You can hear a reading by Stephanie at http://hosts.blogtalkradio.com/blackstefka/2014/09/15/the-heart-of-the-black-madonna and make sure to "like" The Heart of the Black Madonna on Facebook where Stephanie posts beautiful and inspirational pictures of the Black Madonna https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Heart-of-the-Black-Madonna/452078264864169