Sunday, September 30, 2018

Black Madonna of Chartres


XI Seat of Wisdom
Sacred Mysteries of Mary deck
Notre Dame Sous Terre de Chartres
Our Lady Underground
The Black Madonna hidden below the Cathedral of Chartres.

I read a wonderful book by Sybil Dana Reynolds
called Honey and Ink which brings
Our Lady of Chartres vividly back to life.

Since then I have visited Chartres twice.
The background tapestry in this shrine
I drew and stitched myself.  It is a replica
of the one that hangs behind Notre Dame Sous Terre
in the underground chapel of Chartres.
The image of the hand seen here is also painted above the door
which leads to the chapel and it is called
'The Hand of God'
and it is as though you are being blessed
by merely entering the hidden chapel
of the Underground Madonna


The artist that did the original tapestry said
that it depicts the Source of all Life
and she sees the Black Madonna seated
at the centre of the chaos of creation.

The hidden Black Madonna under the earth
is seated on the throne of wisdom and justice.
One has to descend through the Chartres Cathedral
to access these underground passages and
chapels, all of which are dimly lit and often
only by candle light.  You can only visit
this chapel under the guidance of an appointed
tour leader and you are not allowed to linger in
the chapel to pray or meditate.



The Black Madonna in the upper Basilica is
no longer black, but has been repainted and
redressed in a more modern European style
as part of the renovation of the Cathedral.
This seems to be an ongoing process of 'cleaning up' 
the Black Madonnas and removing all trace of their powerful
message and history. 


Oh Lady of Justice,
Seat of Wisdom,
where will I find thee?


“There is a reason Mary is everywhere. I've seen her image all over the world, 
in cafés in Istanbul, on students' backpacks in Scotland, in a market stall in Jakarta, 
but I don't think her image is everywhere because she is a reminder to be obedient, 
and I don't think it has to do with social revolution. 
Images of  Mary remind us of  God's favor. 
Mary is what it looks like to believe that we already are who God says we are.”

― Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints: 
Finding God in All the Wrong People




Blessings
Hettienne

Saturday, September 29, 2018




'scarlet woman, penitent sinner, Sister-Bride,
whore, Black Madonna, High Priestess of Isis,
Mistress of the Elements,
beloved wife of Jesus, favoured disciple,
Mary of Bethany,
Miriam of Magdala, Magdal-eder, the tower-stronghold,
Daughter of Sion  .......
- extracted from Hymn to the Eternal Feminine by Teilhard de Chardin


XII The Tower
The Magdalen
Sacred Mysteries of Mary Tarot Deck
The tower is often seen as a bolt of lightning
coming down from the sky, and I suppose by inference,
from God in Heaven.

Here is Mary Magdalene, the woman from
Magdal-elder, the tower-stronghold,
Daughter of Sion seen as the embodiment of
Wisdom as the Changemaker.



She holds the closed book of the Mystery in her hand.
At her feet is the skull, a symbol of Wisdom
and the ability to overcome the fear of death.
In the right hand corner she is depicted as the consort
of Jesus and her sacred oil and jar is displayed
as a reminder of her role as the woman who
anointed the King.

The tower represents the principle
of "living in one's own tower"
This symbol is often used in fairytales,
think of Rapunzel and her tower and
also in the story in the Bible of the Tower of Babel.
The tower separates one from the communion of
others;  it places you 'above' it all and it highlights the differences 
between you and others.  



The path of Wisdom is not always pleasant and comfy, but
she does promise regeneration and rebirth
and new enlivening circumstances
even if it means tumbling down from your high tower!!
(an extract from Magdalen, the changemaker
http://www.hergracesacredart.com/2015/07/xii-magdalen.html)



blessings
Hettienne

Friday, September 28, 2018

The annunciation of Anna

The Annunciation of Anna


All alone, she (Anna) went into the garden and sat down
 beneath the laurel tree. Looking toward the heavens, 
she saw a nest of sparrows in the tree. Fresh tears welled up in her eyes. 
How she longed to have a child of her own. Anna entreated the Lord, 
saying” Woe is me! To what am I likened? 
I am not likened to this earth, for even the earth brings 
forth her fruit in its season and blesses you, O Lord.” 
And behold an angel of the Lord appeared, 
saying “Anna, the Lord God heard your prayer, 
and you will conceive and give birth, 
and your offspring shall be spoken of in the whole inhabited world.” – extract from the Infancy Gospel of Mary

Anna was barren and never conceived with child. 
The Archangel Gabriel announced to her that she will miraculously conceive.  
It is told that this is a miraculous conception of the Holy child Mary 
and it is an echo of the immaculate conception of Mary still to come.  
As Anna and Joachim, Mary’s father, was too old to physically conceive a child, this was regarded as a conception by Spirit.  
‘Promise them, that by the favour of our right hand they will receive the Fruit of benediction, and that Anne shall conceive a Daughter, to whom We give the name MARY…. were revealed to St Gabriel.’ 
And Gabriel said: ‘She shall be elect, exalted, powerful and full of the Holy Ghost; 
on account of the sterility of Anne her  conception shall be miraculous;’ – Mystical City of God

Anna is Greek for the Hebrew name Hannah and it means ‘grace’. 

Anna’s story is also in the Quran and she is revered in Islam.  
In Islam Joachim is called by the name Imran 
and he dies before Mary is born. 
The priest Zacharias predicted the birth of a male Messiah to Anna, 
but she gave birth to a girl.  
She is revered as a mystic in Islam for her wisdom 
and realisation that Mary was a highly spiritual 
and special child to be dedicated to the Temple. 


In this shrine we see Anna sitting under the palm tree, working on her sewing.
Gabriel is holding the red thread of the mystical message of love and good news
which he delivered to Anna.


blessings
Hettienne

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Handmaiden of the Holy Mystery

I am Thy Handmaiden
The fiat of Mary's consent

Each one of us is called to become the handmaiden of the Holy Mystery



The Angel said to her :
Hail full of grace,
the Lord is with you;
Blessed art thou amongst women

Two of Cups in Tarot Deck


Rejoice, depth hard to contemplate even for the eyes of angels!
Rejoice, you who are the King's throne!
Rejoice, you who bear Him who bears all!

Two of Vessels in the Suit of Compassion
Mysteries of Mary Tarot Deck
www.hergracesacredart.com

Rejoice, star that causes the Sun to appear!
Rejoice, womb of the Divine Incarnation!
Rejoice, you through whom the creation becomes new!
                                                 -  Romanus Melodos, Akathist Hymn to the Virgin



This is the Two of Vessels, 
from the suit of Compassion
and the mystery of Mary as Virgin
Archangel Gabriel, divine messenger,
gives her the news that she is the chosen one,
the Godbearer.  This is a pivotal moment in
Mary's life and her response changes the course
of the world.



I am Thy Handmaiden

 Archangel Gabriel is standing on 
two vessels.  The vessels are mainly used for
water or wine and here they are  symbolic of
the living waters of consciousness .
And indeed Mary is to become the vessel
of the Holy Son.
We are reminded of our own individual roles
as vessels of consciousness and our own
birthing of the new, be it art
or hope or inspiration or consciousness.

Each one of us is called to become the handmaiden of the Holy Mystery


And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; 

be it unto me according to thy word.

The fiat of Mary is Mary's consent to the divine plan.
Her acceptance and consent
has created a new world of grace and
it is within the potential of each one of us
 to birth such love and grace.


Down the side of the card are tiny forget-me-not flowers,
one of Mary's sacred flowers and the white lilies
in the background.

The flower garland on Mary's head shows
that she is a virgin. 
It is also predictive of her future
state as Theotokos and
Queen of Heaven and  Earth.

blessings
Hettienne

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Through the Eastern Gate


Triumph
Mary and her Child's return to Nazareth
Six of the Suit of the Holy Rood
in the path of Beauty
(traditionally Six of Wands)
Sacred Mysteries of Mary Deck
www.hergracesacredart.com
The return of Mary and her Son through the
gates of Jerusalem.

The traditional Six of Wands look like this :


and its meaning is victory, success or triumph.

Many people are familiar with the fact that Joseph and
Mary fled with the infant Jesus to Egypt at the threat
of the massacre of the innocents by King Herod.
This event is well covered by many artists
and it is seen as one of the seven sorrows of Mary.

However, what is not clear, is the amount of time that
was spent in Egypt and what transpired there.
The two accounts in the books of Matthew and Luke
do not correspond at all.  Luke mentions nothing about Egypt
and Matthew says nothing about a trip to Nazareth
soon after Jesus' birth whereas Luke describes in detail
how Jesus was taken to the temple in Jerusalem
'after Mary's purification according to the law of Moses.'



 And when they had performed everything
 according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, 
to their own town of Nazareth - Luke 2:39

The town of Nazareth is in the 'kingdom' of Jerusalem
and here we see Mary on the donkey riding
through the gate of Jerusalem.



In The Hebrew Goddess, a book by Jewish historian
and anthropologist Raphael Patai, we learn
that the Hebrew goddess Asherah was seen as the
mother of Yahweh.  
In the time of King Joshua the Hebrew goddess
had to go 'underground'.  The use of her name and images
were forbidden and her devotees replaced her with
the tree, a pole or rod and the branches of the menorah.
She was known as the Lady of Jerusalem;
the Gate of Jerusalem and the Eastern Gate.
The Lady of Jerusalem was also depicted as an arch.
According to the Dead Sea Scrolls and
The Mother of the Lord by Margaret Barker,
 the ancients
believed Mary to be the incarnation of
the Lady of Jerusalem.

In Christian iconography from the East
we see Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn.
Her image is above the city gates (in Lithuania
and Poland) to protect the city and its inhabitants
and many miracles have been ascribed to her.

In Ezekiel it is written that the eastern gate of
Jerusalem has been shut
and that it will only re-open for the divine One.


So here we have Mary returning victoriously
through the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem
into the light of a new dawn.

A marriage of eastern and western iconography
and cultures and more importantly,
a marriage of masculine and feminine values
for our world.
This card is a way shower of the return of Mary
and her hidden and lost meaning to our world.

The deck takes us on a journey through the 
life, the initiations and the mysteries of Mary
as the Sacred Feminine and what it means
to our natural world as well as our spiritual,
emotional and social health.

May the values of mercy, compassion, forgiveness and acceptance
of all diversity as embodied by Mary
return to a place of honour and respect in our world.

(the above is an extract from the Sacred Mysteries of Mary Deck -
a work in progress and to be published in 2016
Each tarot card is a handcrafted shrine)


Blessings
Hettienne

Mysteries of Mary tarot deck



Hierophant of the Mysteries
Mysteries of Mary Tarot 



Truth did not come into the world naked, but veiled with images
and archetypes, otherwise it cannot be received - Logion 67, The Gospel of Philip




The Path of Love is Within Oneself;
with Mary as Divine Shepherdess
of the inner flock




Each card is a shrine dedicated to an archetype,
an initiation, a Mystery in the Great Mystery and a vignette
of one of the stories woven into the tapestry of the story of Mary.
When you read them together, one after the other, laid out in a sacred
dance of meaning and insight, they become a garland of roses,
a rosary of cards, creating a Rose Garden to the Mother of Love.

Now available at The French Madonna
www.etsy.com/shop/thefrenchmadonna


Peace,
Hettienne

The Bee Goddess is the Cure

Virgo Maria Potens
III The Empress
Sacred Mysteries of Mary Tarot deck


Working on the Black Madonna tarot deck I have once again uncovered
many golden threads.  One of them being the Presence of the Bee Goddess and
her Bee Priestesses.  In the Mysteries of Mary deck there are many
references to the Sacred Bee.

Mary as The Empress Virgo Maria Potens
in the Sacred Mysteries of Mary Tarot deck is 
connected to the Sacred Bee
Here Mary is the strong,  powerful and positive Feminine, 
Empress and Mother of the World.
She is pregnant with Life and the absolute abundance of creativity
and beauty and she is the womb of potential 
for ever-returning life;  the possibility of birthing 
sustaining and fertile life both within the psyche,
the spiritual and the physical.

The Empress
The Mysteries of Mary tarot deck  www.hergracesacredart.com

Mary as the Empress embodies the powerful feminine force which is within
both the masculine and the feminine.  This strength is not limited to the masculine
action of this world. The receptivity of the feminine does not make
her only submissive and dependent and the activity
of the masculine does not make it only divisive and cutting.

The strong positive feminine power within the Soul and
within the person, is often regarded as wild and chaotic
and it is also mostly deeply feared and our culture
believes that she should be controlled and harnessed
for our own use and benefit.
In a simplistic fashion, mother nature is seen
as the pure expression of the powerful feminine.
But mother nature, and our instinctual nature, is only a
part of the feminine power.  The soul is, and in earlier times,
the Holy Spirit was as well, most often depicted as a woman
and if the soul is only seen as a wild force of nature which
should be dominated and controlled, where does that leave us
as human beings?  And where does that put women
in this world of organisation and structure?  And
what happens to traditionally womanly values
and enterprises and to whom is the mothering of
the world relegated?   We end up with a world in
which the ideal and image of a
 positive nurturing mother and the powerful empress 
is completely absent.

She is surrounded by the symbols of the Mother of Nature
and the Mother as Earth as known to mankind
through the ages and throughout many cultures.
  She is standing in the stream of living waters, 
as they are eternally birthing through her.
She has the bee, the Queen bee, the sheafs of wheat, bunches
of grapes and is standing on a mountain covered in roses.

She is the Queen Bee surrounded by bees.
In the ancient world those who worshipped Demeter and Artemis 
were referred to as 'bees' or 'melissas'.
The bee was also a symbol of Potnia, also referred to as the
pure Mother Bee in the Minoan mysteries.
The priestess at the sacred site of Delphi was known as
the 'honey bee' and honey has many sacred and profound metaphysical
and physical properties and metaphoric meaning.

In Samuel 1 "Jonathan... put forth the end of the rod 
that was in his hand, and dipped it in a honey comb, 
and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened."


The Empress
The Mysteries of Mary tarot deck http://www.hergracesacredart.com

Mary as The Empress embodies the great positive
Mother of the World.  Through her courageous
acts of meekness and mercy she manifests
the positive feminine force in this world.
She is the icon and symbol of our own
positive feminine strength and courage
and of the great mothering power that we possess.
We are capable of great acts of kindness,
we are capable of staying present in life with an open
heart and being present to our own vulnerability
and allowing the infinite waters of compassion
to flow through us to all of creation and to all living creatures,
including ourselves.


blessings
Hettienne

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Black Madonna tradition

The Black Madonna Tradition 

Photo: Black Madonna at Meymac in the Correze department, France.
The Origins of the Black Madonna in Europe




I have undertaken many pilgrimages to the Black Madonna over the past 18 years, the
first one being the Black Madonna in the sanctuary of San Michele in the grotto
at Monte San'Angelo in Puglia.  In my research for the creation of the Black Madonna tarot deck I am unearthing many interpretations and I have not come to any conclusions yet.  
I am sharing this article written by Cassandra Eason with you; the link is below.


Black Madonnas are potentially the most exciting mystery and source of mysticism within the Catholic Church today. They can be frequently traced back to pre Christian mother goddess figures and have become even more than conventional Marian figures, associated with healing miracles, pilgrimages and even magical powers. For this reason they are often kept in crypts or dark corners of a church, tolerated, but often mistrusted by more conventional religious authorities.


The Black Madonna is the hidden secret in the heart of Catholicism, the old often demonised pagan goddess tradition actually thriving in churches today, though to those who worship her she is the Mother.

In some cases Black Madonnas are the oldest of statues. Often Catholic churches and cathedrals were built on top of former goddess shrines and in the case of at least some Black Madonnas, for example at Chartres Cathedral near Paris the original statues now worshipped as Black Madonnas may in fact have been originally pagan goddesses who were renamed to transfer worship of the Earth Mother to the Virgin Mary.

In France, where the majority of Black Madonnas are found, indigenous mother goddess worshipping traditions date back to the Goddess of Laussel, found in the entrance to an Ice age cave in the Dordogne region in central France. She was crafted around 23,000BCE and is important because she is the first representation of the Earth Mother as a lunar deity. She holds in her right hand a bison horn, shaped like the crescent-Moon. The horn is divided with 13 marks probably representing the 13 moons in a lunar year. Her other hand touches her womb.


Even today there are more than 500 known Black Madonna statues and paintings throughout the world, the majority in France, though many more that have been documented in historical records were destroyed during the French Revolution. Others too may stand unnoticed in shadowy corners of small churches and chapels, as they have done for hundreds of years, loved by the local worshippers and without any need to be rediscovered.

As the indigenous goddess worship evolved in Europe, statues of dark skinned Middle Eastern goddesses such as Inanna, Astarte, Artemis and Cybele were introduced to the European continent by Phoenician traders from 1550BC to about 300BCE. The Phoenicians came from the coastal regions of modern day Lebanon, Syria and Israel and were highly influential culturally. Indeed their phonetic alphabet is believed to be the forerunner of most modern alphabets. The Roman invasion of Gaul (France) and other parts of Europe also encouraged worship of these goddesses, to flourish.

The cult of Isis was the dominant religion of the Mediterranean during late Roman times, and had spread into Roman-occupied lands, including Gaul. Many Isis statues cradling her infant son Horus on her lap passed straight into Christianity as churches were created over the temples.

As late as 550 CE, Isis still had a temple in Soissons, just north of Paris and the Middle Eastern goddesses co-existed with the Celtic Gallic deities.

The Greco-Roman Mother Goddess Cybele and Artemis/Diana of Ephesus, both dark skinned fertility goddesses were still worshipped in France and the Mediterranean coast from Antibes to Barcelona during the later centuries of the Roman Empire. Cybele was during the 3rd century the supreme deity of the town of Lyon that was capital of a vast area of South-eastern France, a region where many Black Madonnas are found. Marseilles was devoted to Artemis.

During the Middle Ages, the Crusaders returned from the Middle East, bringing goddess statues and some such as the mystical Knights Templar, many of whom who were wiped out as heretics,were involved in promoting the cult of the Black Madonna and her association with Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene was the alter ego of the Mary virgin birth. The Merovingians identified the Black Madonna as Mary Magdalene. Through the bloodline of Mary Magdalene, the Merovingians claimed to be the rightful Kings of France, with descent from Christ’s son by Mary Magdalene, the infant depicted in her arms in the Black Madonna statues. Some legends say she married Christ at the wedding at Cana where he turned water into wine.

The Goddess beneath the Earth

Photo: St. Quentin-la-Chabanne (La Creuse (23) France): Notre Dame de Sous-Terre situated in the crypt. 17th centuryreplacing the original that was destroyed by the Protestants.

Further evidence of the Black Madonna’s pagan and nature worshipping origins is the fact that Black Madonnas were frequently discovered hidden in trees or caves in France and Spain as late as the seventeenth century. Legends grew up that suggested these dark wood statues had magical powers that called the chosen finders to hiding places sometimes deep in undergrowth. Of course there were priests who perhaps were sympathetic to the old ways who may have known that a pagan goddess statue was kept in a particular cave and brought out for worship in the old nature religions that are still practiced in woodlands and groves worldwide today.

At a particular time when the local religious climate was amenable to combining paganism and Catholicism, some priests may have persuaded simple peasants they had discovered one of the Black Madonna figures in its hidden natural place and so this was a way of introducing the pre Christian statue into the mainstream religion. In churches today, Black Madonna statues may by coincidence or design, be kept in a crypt or subterranean part of a church or cathedral near a sacred spring or well.


Our Lady of the Trees

Many Madonnas found locally are made out of local wood, as with the linden wood Madonna of Altötting in Bavaria. In Altötting the tiny chapel is described as womb like, windowless and painted black, with the walls studded with gold and silver images and ornaments. Her shrine is surrounded by thousands of ex voto or stone tablets expressing thanks for blessings received. Some date back to the 13th century and range from healing when all hope was lost to the safe return of a traveller and crutches were also left as proof of healing.

The site of the Altötting chapel was sacred in pre Christian times and the linden tree was revered by pre Christian peoples. The Black Madonna is the oldest Christian site in Bavaria, dating back to 680 CE and the Linden Madonna was placed there. In 907CE the town was ransacked by the Hungarians and only the chapel and statue survived. The present Black Madonna dates from 1300.The ancient linden tree stood next to the chapel, but in 1674 was cut down to make room for a basilica to enclose the chapel, but it was never completed. Centuries later a new linden tree was planted. A number of miracles have been attributed to the linden tree Madonna. In 1489 when a three year old boy drowned in a local stream and her mother took her dead child to the Virgin statue, the child was revived. Not long afterwards it was reported that a farmer’s six year old son fell off a horse drawn grain-wagon and was crushed beneath the wheels. The family asked for help from the Virgin and the boy was restored to full health. The unbroken Mother tradition associated with the tree has transferred comfortably to the people who visit the Madonna and many thousands of tourists flock to the site, so making her a valuable resource to the church which may outweigh any doubts about tree worship.


The Protective Virgins

Photo: In October 2007, the BM pictured above, was decapitated by vandals. She was in the Notre Dame de Marceille just outside of Limoux, near Carcassonne. This photo was taken exactly one year before.

Just as the Black Madonnas became cult worship for many pilgrims, so hatred of them was also very great; especially among those who consider them an affront to the sexless conventional Mary, or fear their darkness, since darkness is quite mistakenly popularly associated with evil.

Over the centuries a number have not just been destroyed but mutilated and decapitated. But the Black Madonna, like her pagan predecessors in nature who incorporates both the creative and destructive aspects of the earth, may fight back.

A fascinating story comes from Evaux-les-Bains in the Creuse area of France; a town famed for its hot springs and was made a spa town by the Romans. This Madonna is mentioned by Ean Begg in an older version of the book, though I have not as yet been able to find other references to this event. It describes how only the head of the statue was preserved after the statue was mutilated at the Revolution and thrown into a well. Of the four profaners soon after the event, one (according to popular legend) cut his throat; One died falling from a rock; one who boasted of breaking the statue’s jaw had his tongue cut out and one was struck by lightning.

In another church, Notre Dame de la Roche, near Mayres in the Puy de Dome, the 14th century black virgin holding a naked crowned child, was apparently stolen at the end of the 18th century, but brought misfortune on the family of thieves.


Defending her children


Even more graphically, Our Lady of Rocamadour, 100 miles north of Toulouse in France, who was reputed to bring dead babies back to life long enough so they could be baptised and so their souls go to heaven, took revenge on the attackers of three of her faithful pilgrims. It is told how in the 12thcentury, three pilgrims were robbed and guided on impassable ways they might have perished. They called out to the lady and she took away the sight and paralysed the hands of the robbers. But the pilgrims asked Mary to restore them and so she did. A bell on the ceiling of the Madonna chapel rings when she saves someone who calls on her for example sailors at sea as a sign she has saved them and they would make pilgrimages to thank her.

The original Rocamadour site was dedicated to Cybele and to later to Venus, the Roman love and fertility goddesses. This Madonna is one of a number attributed to St Luke but the present statue is 9th - 12th century.

But it is the painting of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, Poland that is credited with the most magical powers to protect Poland from attack and is revered by Polish people throughout the world. It is a painting of the Madonna and Christ Child which legend states was originally painted by St. Luke the Evangelist, on a table top from a table built by Jesus.

The picture itself has been damaged in battle and again the Virgin took her revenge. In 1430 in the town of Czestochowa, in Poland where the painting was kept in a specially created monastery church, Hussites overran the monastery and one of the invaders slashed at the painting twice with his sword. One of the robbers drew his sword, struck the image and inflicted two deep gashes. While preparing to inflict a third gash, he fell to the ground and writhed in agony until his death. The two slashes on the cheek of the Blessed Virgin, together with a cut on her throat in an earlier attack, have always reappeared though many attempts have been made to repair them.

In 1655, Poland was overrun by the forces of the Swedish King Charles X, The monks defended the portrait against a forty day siege and, it was said, as a result of the Madonna’s intervention, Poland was able to drive out the invaders.

In 1920, the Russian army gathered the banks of the Vistula River, threatening Warsaw. The image of the Madonna was seen in the clouds over the city. The Russian troops withdrew.
Our Lady of the Snows, who takes her name from an apparent natural phenomena miracle

Like any good mother, our Lady of the Snows, the Black Virgin of Aurillac, the Cantal region of the Auvergne in France, defended her children with her life. The first Black Madonna in Aurillac was brought back from the Crusades by one of the local feudal lords. Yet though her body was destroyed by the Huguenots, it is believed she helped defeat them. On August 5th, 1581, the enemy were camped ready to storm the town by night. But the Black Madonna is credited with lighting up the sky as bright as the sun and so the cockerels began crowing. The noise and the light woke the people and the Black Madonna was seen at the chapel door holding Baby Jesus. She then sent a huge snowstorm to drive back the enemy. Freak electrical lighting? Hail? Whatever the effect the people were inspired to rally and defeat the enemy. Earth goddesses are traditionally said to have great power over the weather.


The Druids’ Black Madonna

Chartres Cathedral near Paris, home of the magnificent 11-coil labyrinth that is 40 foot (approximately 12 metres) in circumference, itself a mother goddess symbol, is home to two Black Madonnas. The pagan earth religion is never very far from the surface of this magnificent Gothic cathedral. Chartres Cathedral, built on a former Neolithic burial mound, was known to the Gauls as Carnutes and was according to Julius Caesar, the central annual meeting place for the Druids and Druidesses of Gaul and beyond.

Above the South door at Chartres Cathedral are sculpted oak twigs and tree spirits. Oak leaves are also entwined around the Black Virgin of the Pillar a statue who stands in the main church and it is believed that the wouivre, the ancient female earth power rises up through her from the well.

The Black Madonna of the crypt, Notre Dame sous terre (Our Lady Underground) made of pear wood, with her crown of Druidic oak leaves, was one of the major prayer and offering shrines on the mediaeval labyrinth pilgrimage. She is apparently a replica of an old Black Madonna, destroyed during the French Revolution when the statue was actually burned on an execution pyre during the Revolution. But this destroyed statue was itself an 11th or 12th century statue and there are earlier references to a small black image, of pagan origin, the Virgin whom it was predicted by the Druids would give birth to a saviour. What has happened to this is not known. Even today you can walk as pilgrims have for hundreds of years through the crypt past the Druidic healing well, through the centre of the labyrinth to the place in the east where the sun strikes a nail in the paving on the Summer Solstice. This is another ancient spot that has been Christianised, perhaps once the site of a monolith, a single stone aligned to the Midsummer sunrise, in both cases representing the birth into light. The Virgin Mary’s veil she wore to give birth is also kept here, so making it even more of a female fertility site, as it may have been for thousands of years albeit under a different goddess name.

Sick pilgrims would through the centuries sleep in the crypt, the womb of the mother and as they emerged, reborn, well again it was hoped and here nuns cared for them.


The 11-coil labyrinth shown here is situated in the nave of Chartres Cathedral, said to be the finest Gothic cathedral in Europe.


The Healing Madonnas of the leys, the Black Virgin of Montserrat

Great powers of healing are associated with Black Madonna statues. One explanation is that the statues conduct the powerful earth energies associated with Ley lines along which many Madonna sites are found. Montserrat near Barcelona in Spain, like Chartres is on a Ley line. Ley lines are hypothesized as invisible psychic energy tracks beneath the earth along which people from ancient times built their temples and shrines.

Their purpose was so that they might connect with a power beyond themselves that in earlier times was associated with the power of Mother Earth. The small wooden Virgin of Montserrat called La Moreneta (the Dark Maiden) is a statue of the Virgin Mary and infant Christ that is venerated at the Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery in the Montserrat mountain near Barcelona in Catalonia. The original statue is attributed to St. Luke, brought to Montserrat; it has been suggested by St. Peter in AD 50.

Centuries later, the statue was probably hidden from invaders, in nearby Santa Cova (now the Holy Grotto) and rediscovered in the late 9th century by shepherd children among rocks. They saw bright lights and heard singing coming from a cave in the mountain. Stories abound of how a Black Madonna chooses its own site and will either return there mysteriously if moved or become so heavy it is immovable Legend has it that the Benedictine monks could not move the statue from its Holy Grotto to construct their monastery, choosing to instead build close to the grotto. The Benedictines are said to be the last religious order to have knowledge of ley energies and to build their abbeys and monasteries along them. The present statue is carbon dated to the 12th century. On September 11, 1844, Pope Leo XIII declared this high profile virgin of Montserrat patroness of Catalonia.

Photo: Black Madonna in the Notre Dame de Marceille just outside of Limoux, near Carcassonne



Another Black Madonna who insisted on returning to her own site again associated with ley energies is the Black Madonna of Limoux, south of Carcassone in France, The church at Limoux is called the Notre Dame de Marceille and as with Montserrat the Madonna was found in the earth like the Montserrat Madonna.

It is told, though not accurately dated that a ploughman digging a filed on the slopes of Marcellan found his ox would not go forward whatever he tried. The ploughman started to dig and found the wooden smiling Madonna, brown and dark. He took the statue home but the next morning it had disappeared and was back in the place he found it. This happened three times and when the local monks heard they built a chapel there. Other Madonnas prove too heavy to move no matter how hard people try if they are in the right place. Our Lady of Oropa, the northern Italian region of Piemonte was brought to Italy by St. Eusebius (martyred in 371 A.D.) and placed in a cave that was a pre-Christian site sacred to Apollo and various goddesses. She had been found buried under ruins in Jerusalem. When more than a thousand years later a group of monks tried to move her to a new location, the three foot tall statue became so heavy the monks had to return her to her cave and she felt light again.


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