My Mother is black, loveliest of all;
Yes, she is as pure as the new made morn;
Her song of glee is a clear rhythmic call
To these arms of love to which I was born.
— Marcus Garvey
In the world’s Creation tales, from science stories to the most ancient oral traditions, the darkness always comes before the light. So in this dark time of the year, we are considering what is sacred about the dark, especially the dark aspect of the Feminine Divine. For the past several days, this discussion has focused specifically on the Black Madonna, the dark interpretation of Christianity’s Mary, the mother of Jesus.
The origins of the Black Madonna point to Isis and Her child Horus. Much of the sacred artwork depicting the Christian God child on His mother’s lap or at her breast is nearly identical to ancient Egyptian poses depicting Isis and Horus. There is even evidence that some of the oldest Black Mary and Jesus statues in Europe were originally Isis and Horus, and were “repurposed” for use in the Christian religion.
It is quite interesting that in many of the holiest places, these ancient Black Madonnas are explained as being simply the result of centuries of candle soot. As if they are never cleaned or cared for? In reading through several of the Catholic websites that discuss the Black Madonna of Czestochowka in Poland, I found that this was the rather off-hand explanation, if it was discussed at all. Yet, as theologian Matthew Fox describes, in his own epiphany when viewing the famed Black Madonna of Chartres, there is another, less savory truth at work.
“I stood before the statue of the Black Madonna and was quite mesmerized,” he writes. ‘What is this? Who is this?’ I asked myself. A French woman came by and I quizzed her about it. The answer was as follows. ‘Oh, this is a statue that turned black over the years because of the number of candles burning around it,’ she declared.
“I didn’t believe her. It made no sense,” he tells us. “I looked carefully and saw no excessive candle power around the statue.
“The story is an old one, one of ignorance and of racism. Even the French, at their most central holy spot, have lost the meaning and the story of the Black Madonna. And racism has contributed to this neglect. The Black Madonna is found all over Europe—in Sicily, Spain, Switzerland, France, Poland, Czechoslovakia—as well as in Turkey and in Africa and in Asia as Tara in China and as Kali in India. She is also named by Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. (Sometimes called the ‘brown Madonna.’) What is she about and why is interest returning in her today?”
Why indeed. Some more thoughts about this tomorrow.
Over the next several days, as we honor this Dark time of Winter, we are exploring the mystery of the Dark Goddess in many of Her forms, including the ancient origins of the Black Madonna. As always, I invite your thoughts and experiences if you would like to share.