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.