The Heart of the Black Madonna

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Beginnings of the Journey

The Milky Way from Earth

In many ways, I feel like I have been saying the same things over and over for the past several years; soon, in progress, coming. When I embarked on this journey with the Black Madonna, I never anticipated that I would experience to the depth of my soul, much of what I felt was her message. With every day I entered as never before, endurance, developing the will, searing pain, abandonment, and unknowing. Each step of progress of publishing was thwarted with unbelievable and seemingly insurmountable odds in all areas of my life. I was met with health challenges, destruction of family, betrayal of career, economic loss and emotional abandonment.  And yet, with the Black Madonna as my companion, all my turmoil has lead to wisdom and an underlying peace in the midst of deep chaos and sorrow. In essence, I have learned to trust Grace since all human institutions and persons had crumbled under the strain. 

Our age is one of great transformation in the midst of a culture of supposed convenience and instant gratification. We are promised through slick publicity campaigns and celebrity blogs that the path to so called enlightenment can be obtained without any effort. Pain is the sign of disfavor, of moral failure. Apparently if we visualize properly, all of life's challenges will melt away, leaving us with material wealth and physical beauty. Both, we are told, are proof that the Spiritual World is on our side.

The Black Madonna of Czetsochowa, Poland

The Black Madonna brings a deeper message, one of the reality of earthly existence, of a beauty that transcends what we can see with our fashion magazine trained eyes. The process of bringing this message to the world has encountered all aspects of earthly trials. Through it all, the messages coming through these enigmatic Madonna's have actually sustained me. As the final edits and designs are in progress, the copyright has been solidified, the text soon to be transferred to the publisher, all happening when what little threadbare rug I had left under me was unjustly yanked away, leaving me more vulnerable than I have ever been in my entire life. My fury was not hidden, especially to the vapid souls inspired by the evil one who seem to attack almost simultaneously as I submit edits and dialogue with publishers, but I decided that the devil had had enough fun with me, and I would go forward anyways, even if it was in a spitting fit. Those who have abused me will be the better for it, since they have met resistance and have had to learn to mend their ways.

In some ways I will miss these intense years. With no earthly safety net and very little emotional support during the trials, often outright rejection from all aspects of friends, family and culture, not knowing where I would be from day to day, the one constant has been contemplating and listening to the Black Madonna. She has much to say, she has listened for so long, and for me, she is revealing a seemingly endless story of the mystery of the Cosmos as to where we have been, where we are now, and what we are to become, if only we would listen. The enlightenment she offers is not flashy, but it is constant, deep and ever so real, like a mothers deep love for her children.

The Black Madonna of Montserrat, Catalonia Spain

Here is another excerpt of the soon to be titled and published book. Watch for details on how you can order, and please pass this on to your circles. Our times are hard, but we are not alone. The transformation may be difficult, but the wisdom gained is priceless, and truly the only thing you can honestly possess in your life. Blessings on your Journey!

The Beginning of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Le Puy en Valee, France

Chapter Two: The Phenomena of the Black Madonna

When I first heard of focused study on the Black Madonna, it was part of a Master’s program in culture and spirituality at Holy Names College. Before this, I was unfamiliar with what “The Black Madonna” was in culture or art. My orientation towards the Madonna was mainly through the pink cherubic Madonnas tenderly caressing the Christ Child on Christmas cards. As a Protestant raised in an ecumenical household that recognized Eastern Orthodox Christian traditions, I had a full spectrum exposure to images of Mary. 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. The author China Galland spoke to our class for one of the modules. Her book Longing for Darkness (1) was a biographical sketch of her encounters with the Black Madonna in the Americas, Europe and Asia. She brought slides of numerous Black Madonnas from all over the world, as well as small cards on which we were to reflect. I chose the Virgin of Montserrat, and dutifully followed the directions for the class exercise to “hear what the image was telling me.” 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 masters 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 Madonnas. Much of what is written or discussed seemed to me to be projection of needs: a need to paganize Christianity, a 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 Madonnas is that they are statues, paintings, mosaics and stained glass windows in which the Virgin Mary is purposefully colored black or very dark brown. The bulk of these works of art appeared in areas where the only external racial expression was Caucasian 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 the images 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 fifth and sixth centuries up to the fourteenth century. Most of the images have legends and history associated with them that date between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. They are scattered throughout Europe, with a great number of Black Madonnas in France. Another common theme is that many Black Madonnas are found in churches along the European pilgrim route Camino de Santiago de Compostela. In Eastern Europe there are a few Black Madonnas in Russia. The most famous image in the East is found 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. There are also numerous Black Madonnas in South America and the Caribbean.

Many theories abound as to why the Black Madonnas 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 Madonnas placed in a historically Caucasian geography during the early centuries of Christianity up to the age of the Crusades?

And so it goes, more to come!

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