For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Black Madonna

The motorcycle black madonna/Two-wheeled gypsy queen... BOB DYLAN Gates of Eden from Bringing It All Back Home

I married Isis on the fifth day of May/But I could not hold on to her very long... BOB DYLAN Isis from Desire

I mentioned yesterday the Black Madonna of Le Puy. A few words about the cult of the Black Madonna or the Black Virgin. Some statues and paintings depict the Virgin Mary with dark or black skin and are found throughout Europe, Africa and the Americas. Within the Catholic parts of Europe 400 - 500 of these representations exist, usually in the form of wooden (occasionally stone) statues or picture icons (often Byzantine in style). A large number of these, close on 200, are to be found in France, particularly southern France.

For many years scholars have argued about the significance of the black skin on the European Black Madonnas. In some cases the wood has simply darkened over time or become blackened with smoke or candle soot. But in most cases the field lies wide open for supposition and interpretation. There is no doubt that Black Virgins are venerated in a special way and have passionate devotees. They are associated with healing, fertility, miracles. Some believe they are a Christian form of the Egyptian goddess Isis; others have discovered links with the Templars, the Cathars and even Mary Magdalene. There is a very seductive theory that a Black Virgin represents a kind of divine feminine principle, a pagan earth goddess wedded to the black earth, a powerful female sexuality which the medieval Church authorities tried to suppress.

2 books I can recommend on this fascinating subject are Ean Begg's The Cult Of The Black Virgin (1985) and Lynn Picknett's Mary Magdalene: Christianity's Hidden Goddess (2003).

2 comments:

am said...

Thank you for drawing a connection between the Black Madonna and Isis. And for the book recommendations. I can see that this is going to be a fertile journey.

The Solitary Walker said...

"The only thing I knew how to do/Was to keep on keepin' on like a bird that flew..."