The Sacred Marriage of the Green Man and the Black Madonna

The Green Man honors our relationship to other Earth creatures and the plant world in particular.  The Green Man is a spiritual warrior standing up for and defending Mother Earth and her creatures.  He also represents the heart chakra, the greening power of compassion, since the color of the heart chakra is green.  And he represents holy sexuality, our renewed powers of generativity in all their diverse and manifold manifestations.  A tree has roots in the Earth but its leaves and branches reach for the heavens so it connects Father Sky and Mother Earth.

But does the Green Man return alone?  Does he find a mate?  Does a feminine companion also emerge who might make a good marriage, a bonding of equals, friends for life?  I propose that the return of the Black Madonna represents such a partner, such a consort.  Why?

The Green Man supports the Madonna and Child in this corbel in the choir of Exeter Cathedral. Photo: Clive Hicks, in The Green Man: The Archetype of our Oneness with the Earth by William Anderson. Used with permission.

The last time the Black Madonna emerged in force in Western culture was at the very time that the Green Man arrived—the twelfth century, the “only renaissance that worked in the West” (according to Chenu) when the goddess emerged and society reinvented itself.  In ages past the Black Madonna not only took root in France but in many cultures.  She is found all over Europe—in Sicily, Spain, Switzerland, France,  Poland, The Czech Republic—as well as in Turkey, Africa, and the Soviet Union.

A Black Madonna consorting with a Green Man makes for a colorful courtship.  The green and the black; the bright and the dark; the motherly solitude of blackness and the fecund potency of greenness marrying.  Imagine that!  A Sacred Marriage indeed: The Defender of Mother Earth marrying the Origin of Our Species.

What other meanings does a marriage of the green and the black have?  Darkness depicts depth, and the Green Man, as all living things, shoots its roots into the darkness from which it derives its nourishment and sustenance.  Without the black, green withers and dies.  It must live connected to the depths in order to survive.  Green needs black. 

The Divine Feminine and the Sacred Masculine do not stand alone.  They join together in a Sacred Marriage of the best of the masculine and the feminine.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men, pp. 231, 243
Composite banner image: (L)”The Green Man,” center of a dish by Alan Caiger-Smith; photo by Clive Hicks, detail of the cover of The Green Man: The Archetype of our Oneness with the Earth by William Anderson. (R) “Black Madonna,” by Arden Mason, detail of the cover of Healing Journeys with the Black Madonna: Chants, Music, and Sacred Practices of the Great Goddess by Alessandra Belloni. Images used with permission.

Art as Meditation

Sit for a moment, envisioning a wedding between the Green Man and Black Madonna. Draw a picture of the marriage, then meditate on what that would mean for us and the world.

  • How is this Sacred Marriage happening in you personally?
  • How can you take that into your work world and your decision making as a citizen?

Recommended Reading

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.

The mysteries of the Black Madonna can be traced to pre-Christian times, to the ancient devotion to Isis, the Earth Goddess, and the African Mother, to the era when God was not only female but also black. Sacred sites of the Black Madonna are still revered in Italy, and, as author Alessandra Belloni reveals, the shamanic healing traditions of the Black Madonna are still alive today and just as powerful as they were millennia ago. 

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5 thoughts on “The Sacred Marriage of the Green Man and the Black Madonna”

  1. Avatar

    In 2017, at the Highland Games in Flagstaff, Arizona, my partner David and I heard Kenneth McIntosh, M. Div. talk about what he believes the origin of the Green Man to be. It’s a fascinating story that does not conflict with what Matthew says here. So, later that year, prior to a retreat on Holy Isle in Scotland, David and I scoured every church we visited in England and Scotland, looking for the the ancient symbol. We discovered more than one carved into the choir stalls plus at least one on the wall of the cathedral in St. Albans and found others elsewhere. This year, when I went to Erfurt, Germany, I found one in the Predigerkirche where we were experiencing and studying Meister Eckhart with Matthew. I have a photo of it and wish I could post it here.

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Michele,
      That is an impressive series of connections to the Green Man, crossing time and continents. Could it be that it is he who is earching for you?

      We’d love to see the photo that you took at Erfurt. Can you attach it to an email and send it with your post to Phila at We’ll see if we can find a way to attach it to your post!
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the DM Team

  2. Avatar

    I also see the Black Madonna as the Dark Womb where the life of Greenman quickens and is born as the Christ.
    As a mother myself I like to celebrate the Black Madonna on Candlemas as life quickens in the dark earth and signs of greening emerge. This year the Black Madonna feels very powerful epecially with the fire at Notra Dame Catherdral.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Peggy,
      Thank you for sharing how you conceive(!!) and celebrate the sacred fertility of the Black Madonna in your life. Your sense of the Greenman being born out of her dark womb and becoming Christ reminds me of the way the Rhineland mystics (Christian) described divinity in the 14th century. For them, the Holy Trinity was enfolding within the Godhead, which was the womb of the universe. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were birthed through her. – as well as the rest of Creation. When several traditions describe the sacred with similar images, there is something universal about what they share. May all your Black Madonna celebrations take you deeper and deeper.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

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