The Black Madonna and the Divine Feminine

Yesterday I shared my experience at the Sophia Institute speaking on “Wisdom, Love, Grace” which necessarily had me speaking to the Divine Feminine whose most prominent title is Wisdom. 

“Our Lady of Ferguson and All Those Killed by Gun Violence” Icon by Mark Doox, commissioned by the Rev. Dr. Mark Bozzuti-Jones for Trinity Church Wall Street. Published with permission.

During the Q&A session after my talk, one woman spoke up and said that she was Jewish and that she has had many dreams of late and visits from the Black Madonna.  She wondered what was going on.

I can assure everyone that lots of people have been having visitations from the Black Madonna in our lifetimes.  Just recently I was approached by Christena Cleveland, an African American psychologist and theologian, who is writing a book entitled: God Is a Black Woman.  She has made pilgrimages to the Black Madonna shrines in southern France and has had powerful experiences there that she recalls in her book. 

The Black Madonna, after all, is 1) female and 2) black.  Thus she stands for the return of the divine feminine and also for the rise of the wisdom of people of color everywhere, and for the origins of the human race in Africa. 

“Black Madonna 1” Painting by Arabella Proffer on Flickr.

I will never forget that in our YELLAWE program for inner city high schoolers in Oakland, one day I was telling the story of how all humans came from Africa and a 14 year old black boy shouted: “Are you telling me that Adam and Eve were black?  No one ever told me that before.  I never heard about that.”

There are lots of things that patriarchy has not taught us about; and that white culture has not taught us about; and that the churches, both black and white, have not taught us about.  So the Black Madonna is returning and we all ought to be paying attention about the messages she is sharing with us.

See Matthew Fox, “The Green Man and the Black Madonna: Sacred Marriage of Nature,” in Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. 231-244.

See also: Matthew Fox, “The Return of the Black Madonna: A Sign of Our Times or How the Black Madonna Is Shaking Us Up for the Twenty-First Century” on

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: “Black Madonna” Postal Stamp, Haiti. Image by jovike is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Queries for Contemplation

Is it striking to you that Jewish people as well as many others, Christian and not Christian, are encountering the Black Madonna today?  What do you think that is all about?  Are we listening?

Recommended Reading

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

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.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

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11 thoughts on “The Black Madonna and the Divine Feminine”

  1. Avatar

    I welcome Matthew’s mention of the fundamental connection between the Black Madonna and the Green Man. I am grateful that Matthew introduced me to the Green Man several months ago. I have been reading Michael Pollen’s book The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye-View of the World in which Pollen explores the coevolutionary relationship between plants and humans. Pollen’s description of the legendary American, Johnny Chapman ‘Appleseed’, reminds me of the archetype of “The Green Man”, something I have noted in my marginalia.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Gwen, I too “welcome Matthew’s mention of the fundamental connection between the Black Madonna and the Green Man!” I believe that he is one of the few voices that have drawn attention to the their connection.

  2. Avatar

    The Black Madonna:
    When I was 22 years old – just out of college – I was living and working in Europe for the CIA. The year was 1952, only a few years after World War II. I was living in Germany where the Holocaust occurred and I was assigned to duties that brought me face-to-face with that terrible reality. At first, I could not believe my good fortune; I was young, I had a great job with un-limited career possibilities, making a good salary, and having fun living and working with a lot of other young people who, like me, were grabbing for the ring of success and luxuriating in the exciting world of being with in-the-know professionals on the world stage. I thought I had it all – a golden boy of the Western World.

    But in a very short time, I began to struggle with moral issues which were far beyond my ability to deal with.
    I was born and raised a Catholic, but my Catholic education had not prepared me for dealing with issues, for instance, like the enormity of the Holocaust (How did a nation schooled in the principles of Christianity come to do such a thing? – and the amoral stance of contemporary democratic institutions (My work with the CIA forced me to become aware of such amorality as practiced by contemporary States). It was in this state of mind and with this inward struggle with my conscious, that in September of 1952 I made a trip to Spain with some friends.

    While we were in Barcelona we went to visit the Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat. I must admit that I was not a good Catholic at this time. I went to Church more or less as a habit with little or no real devotion. But since I had never been to a monastery I thought it would be fun. We learned on arrival that this monastery was famous for the Shrine of The Black Madonna. The parish church of my youth had statues of saints and images of the Virgin in every available corner. But even as a child I had no interest in them. So when we first visited the Shrine of the Black Madonna, I looked at it with no particular interest; it was just another statue. But as I looked at it, the above mentioned turmoil was within me.

    It was only over time that I came to realize that something unexplainable happened to me during this visit. It changed the entire course of my life. And I have never been able to explain it even to myself. Tim Cronley

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Tim, We appreciate you sharing your story with us, and being where you were I can see how it would raise some profound moral issues with you. St. Thomas Aquinas, near the end of his life had an experience that was “something unexplainable” that happened to him–something that could not be put into words. And you say, “It was only over time that I came to realize that something unexplainable happened to me during this visit. It changed the entire course of my life. And I have never been able to explain it even to myself.” I think in both St. Thomas’ case and yours you were both having mystical experiences which are often beyond words.

    2. Avatar

      Thank you Tony: I first learned the full details of the Holocaust when I was in my late 20’s. I was staggered in much the same way as you that this mindless communal slaughter could happen in a Christian country. Twenty years later I visited the Shrine of the Black Madonna in Czestochowa. Because the church was crowded the tour guide brought me and my husband right into the sanctuary during the Mass. At one point the Polish parishioners began singing a hymn. Their singing reminded me of hearing Polish songs sung by my relatives at our Christmas dinners when I was a child. When I turned around to look at the singers I was so moved by the passion of their singing and the adoration on their faces that I started to sob, and couldn’t stop. The guide took me gently by the hand and led me out of the Shrine. When we came out I saw an elderly Polish man who looked exactly like my deceased grandfather, walking cane included. Much later when I opened the book about the Shrine which I bought there, I opened at a page mentioning a Polish artist named Nowakowicz. My maiden name is Nowak.

  3. Avatar

    There is more good going on than we can see, and in it, in Divine LOVE, we are far richer than we know. }:- a.m.

    Hoofnote: I find it delightful that William Paul Young envisioned God (Father) as a black woman in his book written for his children.

    1. Avatar

      Patrick, he did so in “The Shack” also and I will never forget the impact of the movie showing a black woman in the kitchen as God and then later when the main character’s needs changed, as a man.

  4. Avatar

    Thank you for the stunningly gorgeous pictures of, and your deep words about, the Black Madonna. To me, she is a much more powerful and meaningful figure than the customary Virgin Mary. The whole concept of blackness as infinite depth is exciting. The watchwords from decades ago, “Black is Beautiful”, need to be revived. Of course, black and white are complementary — white reflects all colors, black absorbs all colors. Both represent unity IMO.

  5. Avatar

    Thank you Matthew for your profound meditation on the archetype of the Black Madonna. I agree that as Carl Jung said an archetype can begin appearing to humanity when it is needed, and Matthew intuits some of the many ways we need her mysterious Love and Wisdom in our inner and outer lives on Earth and in the Cosmos….

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