I have been blessed to engage with the Black Madonna over many decades. A new book on her appeared this week called God is a Black Woman by Christena Cleveland, PhD.* The Black Madonna chose well when she picked Christena Cleveland to tell her story. This page-turner of a book will prove to be a classic on this too often-ignored spiritual archetype.
The author brings the Black Madonna alive and relates her to the issues of racism and patriarchy that so haunts our times. With artistry and scholarship, she shares her experience with the Black Madonna. Her imagination, perseverance and athleticism come through in hiking 400+ miles, climbing mountains, daring wild storms, traversing forests, and seeking out tiny French villages to pray at Black Madonna shrines in obscure places.
Cleveland is candid and courageous in telling her story as a child wounded by parental and religious abuse and as a black woman in contemporary America and academia who found herself liberated from the whitemalegod of slavery and patriarchy by the Black Madonna. And above all, for her deep spirituality in sharing her prayerful moments with the Black Madonna and her intuition to interpret the messages exchanged.
Thanks to Cleveland, the Black Madonna stands up and sings anew in these pages and comes to life.
Though neither black, nor a woman, I too had to leave America to discover the Black Madonna for the first time in France over fifty years ago. Cleveland’s study, by bringing the American experience of a black woman and theologian and seeker to the Black Madonna lineage, breaks valuable new ground in the history of that lineage, a history that antedates Christianity but was also spread broadly in the Christian diaspora.
This book reveals why the Black Madonna is returning so forcefully today when racism, sexism, patriarchy and denial of those in need, have become signs of our times. In these pages, the Black Madonna shouts Good News and Good Work for those who have the ears to hear. All of us, women and men alike, people of color and Caucasians, Christians and other-than-Christians, young and old, are invited to listen and respond with heart and action.
See Christena Cleveland, God is a Black Woman (NY: HarperCollins 2022).
See also Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men, pp. 231-244.
And Matthew Fox, “Foreward: The Return of the Archetype in Times of Need,” in Alessandra Belloni, Healing Journeys with the Black Madonna, pp. ix-xviii.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Urban Black Madonna, Kensington Market, Toronto. Photo by Eric Parker on Flickr.
Queries for Contemplation
How does the archetype and experience of the Black Madonna speak to you today? How do you see her speaking to our culture and its needs today as well?
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