The Black Madonna
Last night before sleeping (or not!) I was reading Ean Begg’s book, The Cult of the Black Virgin. I have had a soft spot for the Black Madonna since my teens. In the transition point from Catholicism to Witchcraft she was a safe intermediary that hid my true desires under a barely acceptable semblance of Catholic doctrine.
Even today the Black Madonna is a hushed figure in the Catholic Church, most often passed off as a pagan hangover and fertility image, or at worst an accident of too much candle smoke, or a painting mistake. I am repeatedly astounded at how people put so much effort into hiding the truth.
When I lived in Germany I spent most of my time in the woods, sometimes whole days. One day I came to the edge of the wood and found a village. I wandered in and found a small chapel. It was barely big enough to seat 10 people. I walked in expecting to see one of the normal shrines dotted around the area and suddenly felt as if someone had taken all the breath out of my lungs: there was a Black Madonna. A moment I shall never forget.
In Begg’s book he wrote that in 1838 a new Catholic religious order, the Brothers of Christian Doctrine (located on two mountains in the Alsace and Lorraine in France) “fell under the spell” of a magus and mystagogue (love that word! I want to be a mystagogue!) known variously as Michel Vintras, the French Jeremiah, Elias the Artist and the Organ. Begg goes on to say:
Vintras preached the advent of the Age of the Holy Spirit, long prophesied by Joachim of Flora, which would coincide with a redemption wrought by the Virgin Mediatrix, and her predestined priestesses. In this new dispensation the greatest sacrament was the sexual act, through which the original androgyny would be restored. Thus on the mountain of Rosmerta, the love-goddess, the sacred prostitution of the old high places and the orgiastic communion of licentious Gnostics [ 🙂 Seshat falls over laughing] were celebrated anew.
Apparently there was “international support and interest” even from the House of Habsburg, but the police and bishops had their way (don’t they always) and the establishment was suppressed in 1852.
I am reminded of a religious peace conference I attended when I was 17. The days were split into small workshops and groups with a final joint meeting at the end where representatives spoke about the thoughts and findings of their particular group. I had attended a discussion on pantheism, panentheism and theism in nature generally. The discussion had wandered onto the lack of goddess imagery in Christianity. I remember being riled at only having a Virgin to look up to…
I was chosen as a representative for the group to put together a talk on our findings. I stood in front of 300+ people with arch-bishops, bishops, priests and clergy all around me. And I told them that Christianity was lacking the feminine, and that they needed to rediscover the goddess, and what was wrong with a bit of tree-loving… where was Nature in Christianity? How could it be a true faith and ignore the majority of creation when the divine was in every aspect of nature and could be found just as easily (if not more easily) in the fields as in a church. I was seventeen. When I finished, there was loud applause (particularly from the women), but afterwards a student priest from the group came up to me and said, “That’s not what we meant at all!” I replied, “Oh, but that’s what I meant…” See? Big gob even then 🙂
This dark goddess has appeared at various stages throughout my life, and I feel a deeper encounter with her awakening within me. In my mind she transforms from beautiful black to breath-taking skeleton … the Queen of the Dark and of the Dead. Through her there is Life. Blessed be her Hidden Names in the Hidden Places. All glory to the Black Madonna!