I knew nothing about the Black Madonna until October 2005, when my journey through the Dark Night and a series of synchronicities led me to her, literally, in France (I've written about this crucial meeting in previous blog posts).
Up until Autumn 2005, I had no context for the series of initiations I was in the midst of, and initiation without context or guides is sheer confusion.
What's feared is hidden, and what's powerful is hoarded, and both are true relative to the Black Madonna. She is Christianity's largely unknown Dark Goddess, drawn from much older pre-Christian traditions. She has come to symbolize what's hidden or marginalized, whether through suppression or oppression.
But just because we don't know about her doesn't mean her influence isn't present in our lives. As I learned, she was present. As I came to learn, hers was a profoundly dynamic and transformative influence, even ruthless as she separates us from false identities and attachments.
This is like Kali, the powerful Goddess of the Hindu pantheon who is shown holding a severed head and a bloody sword, with her foot on a lifeless body and wearing a skirt of skulls. Positively terrifying, right?
Well, it is terrifying, and horrifying, particularly without a clue of what's really wanting to happen when we experience Life's initiations without the wisdom-rich stories of the Black Goddess, or Black Virgin.
Kali, in her terrifying depiction, is the slayer of illusion, of false belief, the fake identity, the power-giveaways that keep us from living fully as we truly are. We wear all sorts of masks and armors in order to be accepted, to be loved, and to be invulnerable.
If you're on the transformation path, these masks and armors are all 'bulls-eye' targets. The masks are shattered, the false beliefs dissolved, and the armor is cracked open. It's about liberation of heart and soul, ultimately.
It is the quintessential 'trial by fire', with the fire burning away the dross to expose the Love that we, at our hearts, are.
Similarly, the Black Madonna -- the name and face that came to me to teach me through initiation -- wants to liberate our hearts and our minds so we can more fully and joyfully be ourselves, without the masks and heart-freezing armor.
She is our Initiatrix into the Mysteries of life and our own true nature; it is she who teaches us to dance through, rather than fear, uncertainty and the cycles of life, death, and regeneration. Her names are as varied as cultures: Kali, Pele, Black Madonna, Hecate, the initiated Persephone, Sophia...the list goes on.
The poet, author, and scholar Robert Graves (The White Goddess, etc.) wrote that in earlier times, 'black' and 'dark' was synonymous with 'wise' So Black Goddess was the wise Feminine. As a fear-centered culture spread, 'black' and 'dark' became associated with 'evil', as did anything else that wasn't understood.
The Black Madonna, as any fiery, initiating transformation Goddess, is really about wholeness as well as wisdom, and so she is an energy and consciousness that leads us on a path of recognizing the wholeness we already are, beneath the layers of fear and false belief that we're perpetually flawed 'sinners'. And through that path, we find our wisdom.
As a culture, we're being called to recognize wholeness, and we're called to wisdom, and this is the sacred ground of the Black Madonna, Sophia, by any of her names. And so as a culture we're experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul, an initiation of grand scale.
Remember that what's being birthed is wholeness and wisdom -- that we're able to bring the fullness of our hearts into life.
For those of you who've felt the call, or find yourself on the initiatory path, I've written other entries here at Sophia's Children about my experiences with the Black Madonna, and Sophia; and I'll be writing more.
And my friend Kim Gould and I will be sharing more about the 'Masks' and 'Descent & Initiation' (and Emergence & Integration!) cycles -- and the Black Madonna and others -- in our upcoming "Reclaim your Feminine Mojo & Express it in the World" tele- and eBook series. (Note: the response to our first Summer tele-series was so positive that we're scheduling another one.)
Blessings on the Way,
Image: Painting of Our Lady of Częstochowska, the Black Madonna favored by the late Pope John Paul II, and used as a symbol of liberation by Lech Walesa and the Solidarity Movement.