The Black Madonna. You know her, we all know her in memory, – she is hidden behind a sacred black veil, and when we call to her that veil is immediately parted and she sits in silent acknowledgement of our (male or female) deepest being. She is the dark aspect of the goddess, the one that accompanies the white and the red. Wise, benevolent, and unthinkably strong and wise, she is also known as “Sophia”, the one who sees all, is shocked by nothing, and knows all. She is our Great Mother, the one who embraces us in silence when our concerns are too difficult for common understanding. Never judging, never questioning, she is the one who hears, then knows, and unflinchingly provides answers though her vast reserves of wisdom. She is the one who pushes us forward and provides strength, lending hers to ours, and being part of our body so we can do what we must.
In Spain, during the Crusade periods, the Black Madonna of Montserrat became well known. Pilgrims would come to her for forgiveness, healing, advice, love, and wisdom. She was an idolised image, and from what various resources say (see below for excellent references), there was such a feverish love of her that churches, caves and grottoes had trouble keeping her inside. That is, people wanted to have her with them, so there was often theft of her statues and images.
There are old, wizened, wooden images of her that survive, cool dark marble ones, perhaps embellished with gold. Indeed, I had no real understanding of her until later in life. In our Catholic household we had a beautiful grey stone Madonna, done by an artist, that we all loved but didn’t really know why. There is a fascination around her that defies description. Nothing is ever lost, only waiting to be rediscovered. She is our connection to the earth.
There is a striking statue of her in Chartres Cathedral. Many of these were brought back from the Holy Land after the Crusades to be put in European churches, shrines, and groves. An excerpt of interest from the resource below explains in more detail:
“From the tenth century onwards there is a veritable explosion of veneration for the Black Virgin, and the places sacred to her began to draw more devotees than the cult of either the father god or his son. Now, suddenly, kings, saints, and pilgrims flocked to bow their heads before the Black Virgin at Le Puy, Rocamadour, Mont St Michel and Montserrat in Spain, beseeching her favour and endowing her shrines with immense wealth and treasure.”
There are connections to her with the original earth goddesses, so there is sustenance in going to her, sitting in front of her in a shrouded grotto, wooded hill slope, or her shape carved out tree. Or she can appear to us out of a void, just when we need her most. She knows all and understands all, when we don’t.
Baring, Anne & Cashford, Jules “The Myth of the Goddess” Viking Books
George, Demetra “Mysteries of the Dark Moon” (The Healing Power of the Dark Goddess.) Harper Collins
Images: “Rossetti’s Beloved” – taken from own picture, and “She Oak Dream”
copyright Imogen Crest 2005