THE POWER OF THE BLACK MADONNA
By Carminha Levy
This paper starts with a dream, a GREAT DREAM which the tribe's Shaman must tell his people.
Ten years ago, in 1981, after my Shamanic initiation with Michael Harner in Esalen, California, I went through a serious health problem returning to Brazil. I had a brain vascular accident (aneurism) and faced death and dismembering in a real concretization of Shamanic initiation. My life hung by a thread, and going into surgery I had only 1% possibility of coming out unharmed and 10% of surviving. I had my Dream under these terrible circumstances.
In Rome, in the Vatican Square, my husband and I were in a black carriage, pulled by black horses - the carriage of death. Suddenly, in the middle of the square I see four lions, all free, and one of them was black. I was surprised to see the lions, and people walking by freely in the square. My husband said there was no danger, it being only necessary that everybody respected each other. We were going to a Mass that a cousin of mine had celebrated as thanksgiving. The Mass was officiated by the Pope in an amphitheater and there were many people around praying. The Pope then becomes José de Anchieta, a Brazil in saint who was a priest and a poet at the time of the Colonization. The Mass is a poem written on the sand which was in the amphitheater. Each word he wrote became a purple rosebud. When he finished, the Mass-poem is shaped like a fan, and Anchieta, like a magic trick with a wand, opens all the roses. The audience praying at the Mass is simply marveled and one can hear an "oh" of surprise and awe and incredibility. And I tell my husband: "This is my cousin, always spectacular!" Obviously, I survived this surgery without sequels, with absolute control of my body and mind. But my life started again as the life of a newborn, and I needed some months to rehabilitate myself. During all this time, an image never left my mind: the Black Lion, never seen before.
Since my Great Prophetic Dream which predicted my healing, until today the Black Lion reveals the secrets of the Black Madonna, our Great Mother, to whom he belongs. He comes to me teaching me through dreams, experiences with my patients, Shamanic study groups and my own experience of miraculous cure. He teaches me the powerful healing strength of the Black Madonna and guides me to Her, for he is one of Her sacred animals.
Who is the Black Madonna?
She is our Mother Earth, the Female Principle, our Primordial Mother, symbol of Wisdom and integration and resolution of the opposites.
As a perpetuation of the powerful goddesses of the ancient times, she returns with the sacred characteristics of the Virgin Mary. Metaphorically Virgin, but not in the Patriarchal meaning, for she does not belong to any man, but to all men. She provides life. Men as fruits of the earth come from her and to her we all return, to Mother Nature, to the Goddess-Mother.
Hers is the Holy Ghost - the female part of God, sacred fire which rises from the bottom of the earth. Macroscopically following Kundalini's winding path of fire, he goes through the earth's body coming out transformed into the Holy Ghost.
The story of the Black Madonna has the quality of the profound mysteries. It has therefore a heretical secret which cannot be revealed in writing, but only transmitted by the oral tradition, a privilege of the initiated. From what can be revealed through writing, we have the historical registry which sends us to the worship of Mother Earth, the Great Mother, the Goddess.
"Darkness precedes light and she is mother" (inscription in the altar of the Salerno Cathedral in Italy). The first wisdom was dark and feminine, eternal womb which in the religious African tradition of Candomblé is represented by the female ancestral power Iyá-mi-Osorongá (my mother Osorongá). This eternal uterus, amorphous matter, the earth's womb, is symbolized by the igbá (cabaça) - the bowl which is the whole, the content and the container. The bowl contains one bird - Atiorô, which represents simultaneously the power of pregnancy and the procreated element. Iyá-mi is the lady of the bird children, and is so powerful that her name cannot be mentioned lest these little children are destroyed. The ambivalence of her power shows in the myth which tells that when the Iya-mi-Eleye, the bird-women who founded the World, arrived here, they spread themselves on seven trees representing the seven types of different activities. On three of these trees they worked for the good, on three others they worked for evil, and on the seventh tree they worked both for good and for evil. Our Great Mother, Iya-mi, the Supporter of the World, contains in herself also the Terrible Mother, but is primordially an integrating symbol, able of using her power in the resolution of all the opposites.
Sublime queen of this ancestral female power, she reigns until our days, especially in Brazil and in Africa, OXUM, the most prominent of the Iyás, in a living cult to the great mothers. Orixá of all the waters, rivers, falls, streams and even the sea (in the Yorubá country), Oxum is the genitor by excellence, and at the same time, Supreme Ancestral Mother linked to procreation and also patroness of pregnancy. "She protects the foetuses and cares for them after birth until they have accumulated the knowledge which allows them to speak. "The cure of the children belongs to her and Oxum should not be anybody's enemy." - From a Yorubá text. Oxum is represented in some narrations as a mythical fish, for the fish are considered her children. The scales of Oxum's body symbolize these children. Like the fish, the birds personify her. These are represented by the feathers. "Her body of fish or of a huge mythical bird is covered by scales or feathers, parts of the maternal body, capable of separating from her, symbol of fertility and procreation". - Juana Elbein dos Santos.
In the Egyptian and Greek religions the soul is represented by the bird who always followed the Goddess Mothers and which follows the Black Madonna like the Holy Ghost follows Mary.
The most ancient manifestations of the cult to Mother Earth date back to Pre-historical times. One of the manifestations which arrived to us is a small figure, "La Polichinelle". She was brought to light by a worker near the caverns of Grimaldi. The profile shows a sharp projection of buttocks, breast and belly. The justly famous Venus of Sespugne has a tailpiece scored with vertical lines that resemble tail feathers (Pyrenees, France). In Ur there is another archaic registry of the cult to the Goddess Mother, a small statue in which she is shown with her divine son, both with a snake head.
She shows up in Sumeria as the super popular Inanna with a double personality: in the morning she is the valuable "Lady of the Battles", goddess of the heroes, and in the evening she be comes the goddess of fertility, of the pleasures of love. She fertilizes the grains, the earth and the man. She does not be long to one man only, but to several. Her priestesses are the "sacred prostitutes" who, like the virgins who do not belong to any man, metaphorically they do not belong to any because they belong to all. They have a multiple womb which belongs to all men, for theirs is the womb of the goddess Inanna - Mother Earth - which they will become. The cult to Inanna had in the sexual act its main practice, because it re-established the original androgyny through the sacred prostitution.
We see Mother Earth be worshiped as Ishtar in Babylonia, and later as Isis in Egypt, and as Astarte among the Hebrews. In Frigia she appears as Cybele (Diana of the nine fires, indicating fertility.
As a Greek goddess she receives the name of Rea, Gaia or Demeter, always goddess, profound, mysterious and dark. Her Roman equivalents are Tellus, Ceres and Maia.
Still in Egypt Mother Earth appears as Neith, the oldest and wisest of the goddesses. Protector of the dead and of the war, she was head of the practical arts. She is the night sky which bends over the earth, forming with her hands and feet the gates of Life and Death. The first-born androgynous is a virgin who fertilized herself, bringing the life she produced to all the worlds.
The Celtic goddess Mother Earth is Annis (or Anu) and her cult reaches Europe.
However, where the cult to Mother Earth(our Black Madonna) is most developed was in the Aegean-Cretean culture, where the Goddess Mother was originally venerated in caves, and whose priests were women. She is the Lady of the Beasts, of the mountains and of the birds. The serpents and the animals of the lower world and the wild ones were sacred to her, and the dove was in its crown as the Holy Ghost is in Mary's. She is the animal mother always with bare breasts, and nurses the Zeus child like a goat, pig or cow. As indicated by the fur clothing and the priestesses' clothing always with bare breasts, her cult dates back to the Stone Age. In the middle of the great cult to fertility in Crete is the bull, the double axe (or labris), the Minotaur and the Labyrinth.
The bull is the male instrument which fertilizes and at the same time is the victim of fertility, as demonstrated by his sacrifice which until today is found in the bull-fights.
The goddess of Crete - Demeter of the Greeks, is the lady of the lower world, of the bottom of the earth and of death. Her earthly womb is the womb of death, as it is also the center of fertility from where life sprouts. To enter the labyrinth means entering this womb to face death and from where, like a grain of wheat, one comes out gloriously reborn.
The Goddess Mothers in the Christian World
With the beginning of the Christian Era declines the cult to the deities of all the Olympuses. The cult to Mother Earth also suffers this same decline and starts being clandestine. To our times come only the echoes of some cults, such as the mysteries of Eleusis, in which Demeter and Persephone were worshiped. Artemisia in Ephesus reigned undisturbed for a good while. Not even Paul, the Apostle, was able to prevent its worship. She was also Diana (Hecate in the Roman world), the goddess of the wood and the golden bough, being this a characteristic of hers and of the Black Madonnas, which were many times found in trees.
The three great goddesses of the East, Isis, Cybele and Di ana of Ephesus, which were represented as being black, established themselves in the East before the Romanization.
In the Celtic world the adoration of the three goddesses (Deae Matres) and of the horse goddess Epona flourishes among the druids and goes on under the Roman domain.
At the Mediterranean seaside, from Antibes and Barcelona until the Galicia area the cult to the three goddesses developed, and nowadays that is where one can find the highest concentration of Black Madonnas.
It is usually a consensus that the first images of the Black Madonna and her divine son were representations of Isis and Horus. In the last centuries of the Roman rule, the East welcomed Isis and Cybele (which in the 3rd century became the highest deity of Lyon, capital of the three Galias) as the great universal goddesses. Isis reigned in Paris at this time, until she was Christianly replaced by Saint Genevieve, her present patroness. The Meroginies worshiped Cybele as Diana of the nine fires (of fertility). In 679 Dagobert II, the Saint Meroginy established the cult to "the one which today receives the name of Our Lady and who is our Eternal Isis". Her name as Black Madonna was Our Lady of the Light.
Until the 4th century one can perceive the religious feeling based on the Great Universal Mother and her soft characteristics of love, forgiveness and welcome. The Christian church, however, established after Constantin gives the privilege and demands from its followers the growth of a blind faith which emphasizes the challenging and strict masculinity of its martyrs. The sublime and subtle qualities of the feminine are rejected and a period of darkness and clandestinity befalls the cult of the matriarch goddesses, providers of life, pleasure and happiness. Patriarchism starts exerting its morbid and cruel face.
The female principle outlines an emerging movement during the Gothic Renaissance. In France, in the 12th century, there is a religious and knightly order surrounded by mysteries. The Order of the Priorate of Our Lady of Sion. It is passionately interested in the cult of the Goddess Mothers, now already in the Christianised figure of the Black Madonna. Her most important historical contribution was an amazing precedent in the struggle for the equal rights of women.
The Black Madonna became consistently present after the Crusades. Especially the Knight Templars, who brought to their countries small statues of black Virgins which were considered exotic pagan representations. The great celebration of the Knight Templars was Pentecost, day of the Holy Ghost and, as we have seen, the Dove belongs to Mother Earth as the Holy Ghost belongs to Mary.
Pentecost was also the great Arthurian celebration of the Holy Grail, object of the sacred search which appears at this time.
The Knight Templars became part of history as the Grail's guardians. The Holy Grail protected the earth, nourished it and granted it fertility, powers similar to those of the Mother Earth and the Black Madonna.
The female principle is revealed in the Grail, as was also the cult to the worship of Love practiced by the Troubadours through their total dedication to the Lady.
The 14th century, however, sets the end of the flourishing of this femininity with the first fires of the Inquisition, which burned for 500 years. This great fire burns and defames the Knight Templars and heads the "witch hunting", in an attempt to eliminate the female principle of pleasure, freedom and peace of Mother Earth.
The witches' pyres were only extinguished at the Age of Reason. Although they apparently did not correspond to the ideal of the Age of Reason, the small Black Madonna appeared as a symbol of a Formidable Strength, older and more powerful than any king or Pope.
They are a source of elementary and uncontrollable source of life as is freedom. They have their own spirit and wisdom: they did not submit themselves to any nationalist organization or law. The return of the female part of God lifts popular enthusiasm and mankind experiences the sacred directly through the apparitions of the Virgin of Lourdes and of the La Salete in the 19th century.
Parallel to these religious phenomena of the apparition of the Virgin (in the 20th century in Fatima), there is a sociological phenomenon which shocked the world. The sexual revolution, the emancipation of women by means of equal rights and duties and birth control. In the cult of Inanna we saw that sacred prostitution was the act which re-established the original androgyny. This cult returns in the 12th century, presenting Magdalene as the "repentant prostitute". Later on, she and Saint Mary the Egyptian are venerated as Black Madonnas. This need to reconcile sexuality and religion, as in the beginning of the cult to the Mother Earth Goddess became the greatest legacy of the Black Ma donna and grants her the power of integrating the opposites. Her return to the first level of collective consciousness assumes the fall of patriarchal rigidity. Tolerantly regarding the search for the pleasure of life, of happiness and the care for the subtle female qualities, it deceives the male hypocritical laws. Politically, it is in favor of freedom and dignity of the people. Its most important function is to be able to join Justice and Charity, qualities by which the Black Madonnas are venerated by mankind. Like the Holy Ghost, the female part of God, she is the consolation of the Afflicted, and she appears mysteriously where the people suffer more and need more support, as proved by these apparitions:
Intended to be the patroness of her people in the 11th century, she appears as Our Lady of the Black Forest, where there is today Einsiedeln Abbey.
Our Lady Underground also appears at this time in an ancient sacred druid place in Chartres.
The Montserrat Black Madonna was discovered among rocks, by shepherds in Barcelona, and the Black Madonna of Prates, in the Pyrenes is, like Artemis, found in a tree.
The Lady of Guadelupe, the Black Madonna of all Spains, including Mexico, is found by a cowboy after having spent 600 years buried in an iron coffin.
The Virgin of Copacabana, patroness of Bolivia, is found by fishermen after they have been miraculously saved from a storm in the Titicaca Lake.
In Brazil, in 1717, a fisherman finds a Black Madonna in the Paraiba River in Sao Paulo - Our Lady Aparecida, patroness of Brazil, and venerated today in the city which has her name. She is a small and beautiful black female figure supporting herself on a crescent moon. Says the legend that when she was discovered, this tiny figure becomes extremely heavy, preventing the fisherman to take her away from the place where originally was made a small sentry-house for her. Today there is a sanctuary city with Basilicas, numerous churches and the whole infra-structure of a city that has already welcomed the Pope, and which all year round receives pilgrims from the whole country in a great happy and colorful religious celebration.
And, in the Afro-Brazil in tradition, the Black Madonna is our Orixá Oxum, Great Mother, patroness of pregnancy and of babies, of the Rivers and of the Seas, of Gold, of Honey, of Laughter, of Beauty, of Seduction, of Shrewdness and Wisdom, our Supreme Ancestral Mother: Iyami-Akoko.
The Black Madonna's entourage: the Black Lion and the gifts of the Holy Ghost.
The light of the inside of the Earth is bright and condensed, as black as a black hole. This is the light of the Holy Ghost. The sacred black animals, as the black lion which announced my cure and guided me in this work, come from this condensed energy from the inside of the Earth and belong to the entourage of the Black Madonna. As they retain this concentrated light, they possess the unique, extraordinary power of fighting against the black forces of Black Magic. These animals, which have the gift of the Holy Ghost of destroying black magic, are the sacred counterparts of the black.
Everything in the Universe has two parts: one positive and one negative. The black of the sacred animals is the positive counterpart of the black. Therefore, the sacred black animals have the energetic quality which grants them the right to work with the power of white magic but within the vibration of black magic, being thus able to reach it and destroy it.
It is a sign of black magic when serious and repetitive illnesses cannot be cured normally. In many cases this is caused by past lives black magic, which must be removed through Shamanic energy.
For the Shaman to work with the power of the sacred black animals deriving from the Black Madonna's Divine Power, a psycho- spiritual development is necessary. This comes to the Shaman as a golden animal - as for example Artemis' Golden Deer or the Golden Fleece - or as a non-winged animal which appears with wings, like a lion or horse with wings, as Pegasus. This means that our Ego is developed enough to vibrate in the same wave length of such powerful strength, and implies a high level of spiritual development, acquired through many past lives lived as a Shaman.
To work with the power of the Black Madonna it is absolutely necessary that four powers be harmonized:
One Power Animal that every Shaman has.
One black sacred animal - which normally is not black, as the lion.
One golden animal.
One winged animal.
Some people have other Shamanic "tools", such as an emerald Hermes caduceus or another specific symbol, very personal, which will be used in this work about the Black Madonna.
By worshiping the Black Madonna we are receiving the gifts of the Holy Ghost who, it should be reminded, are clear-sightedness, polyglottism, "clairaudience", inspired teachings and the expulsion of evil spirits (black magic). With these gifts, from the Inanna Goddess to the Holy Virgin, the Black Madonna comes to us as a symbol of the integration/resolution of the opposites.
And her secret and her power is the transmutation of our internal moon (soul) into our internal sun (spirit) in an eternal alchemy.
- The Cult of the Black Virgin, Ean Begg, Oxon, England, 1985.
- History of the Origin of Consciousness, Erich Neuman, Munich, Germany, 1968.
- At the Table of the Grail, John Matthews, Penguin Books Ltd, 1987.
- Christian Land, Ken Carey, Kenneth X Carey, 1985.
- Lady of the Beasts, Buffie Johnson, Harper & Row, San Francisco
- The Fire of Creation, J.J. Van Der Leenw
- The Nagos and Death, Juana Elbein dos Santos, PhD Thesis at the Sorbonne University, France, Vozes, 1977.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
CARMINHA LEVY is an educator, clinical psychologist of Jungian orientation and art-therapist. Mrs. Levy has been dedicating herself since 1981 to the spreading of Shamanism in Brazil with Michael Harner's technique, with whom she made the following courses: The Shamanic Journey, Powerr and Healing, and Two-Week Advanced Course in Shamanism and Shamanic Healing, both at the Esalen Institute, Big Sur - California, USA. Also at the Esalen Institute, she was a pupil of Stanislav Grof, with whom she had a Transpersonal Therapy course.
Presently, Mrs Levy dedicates herself to spreading the Afro-Brazil in Shamanism abroad.
In the spring of 1990, Mrs Levy founded the Paz Geia Institute of Shamanic Research, whose objective is the study, research and disclosing of the Indian-Afro-Brazil in and South American Shamanism.
Mrs. Levy is also a member of The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, based in Norwalk, Connecticut, USA.