The Black Madonna: A Resource for Our Troubled Times

Later today I have the privilege of joining Alessandra Belloni in leading a zoom workshop on “Gifts of the Black Madonna for the New Year.” 

Healing Journeys of the Black Madonna by Alessandra Belloni

Alessandra, who comes from southern Italy and is currently artist-in-residence at St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City, has been a practitioner and teacher of the Italian tradition of the Black Madonna for 27 years and is author of the excellent book, Healing Journeys with the Black Madonna: Chants, Music, and Sacred Practices of the Great Goddess. 

I was honored when Alessandra invited me to write the Foreword to that book and have written about the Black Madonna also in my book on moving beyond toxic masculinity called The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors To Awaken the Sacred Masculine.

I also celebrate the exciting work of Christena Cleveland, PhD called God Is a Black Woman whose expertise is with the Black Madonna of France (which is where I first experienced her, as well).

God Is a Black Woman, by Christena Cleveland.

It was a revelation for her to experience the divinity of a black woman pretty much buried in a Christianity that taught her only of a “whitemalegod” who was “up there” and distant from the sufferings and heartbreak of the human condition.

When Christena, who was a professor at Duke University Divinity School, first discovered the Black Madonna, she chose to experience her and took a 400-mile pilgrimage through hill and dale in France to encounter her at 18 different shrines, most of them over 1000 years old. 

Mary and Infant Jesus, closer view, Eglise Saint-François, Annecy. Photo by John Samuel on Wikimedia Commons.

She reminds us how Joan of Arc had a special devotion to the Black Madonna of Moulins and prayed to her before she went to battle on behalf of the dignity of peasants and other oppressed peoples in the year 1429.

Christena observes that just as the white slaveholders didn’t want the enslaved African people to see themselves in Christ the Liberator, whitemalegod doesn’t want us to encounter ourselves in the Divine. But black women are well represented by the Black Madonna.  

To be continued.

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.

And Fox, Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the Unnameable God, pp. 92f.

Banner image: “Black Madonna in the crypt of Notre-Dame de Myans sanctuary, Savoie, France.” Wikimedia Commons

Queries for Contemplation

Have you had experiences, dreams, visitations or teachers of the Black Madonna in your life? What do you think she is here to teach us today?

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

Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God …Including the Unnameable God

Too often, notions of God have been used as a means to control and to promote a narrow worldview. In Naming the Unnameable, renowned theologian and author Matthew Fox ignites our imaginations by offering a colorful range of Divine Names gathered from scientists and poets and mystics past and present, inviting us to always begin where true spirituality begins: from experience.
“This book is timely, important and admirably brief; it is also open ended—there are always more names to come, and none can exhaust God’s nature.” -Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, author of Science Set Free and The Presence of the Past

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5 thoughts on “The Black Madonna: A Resource for Our Troubled Times”

  1. Avatar

    How do you paint the formless, shapeless, without limit, Divine consciousness which is the Madonna herself? What is the colour of her soul itself? Why do we contemplate the Madonna as an artifact versus a living presence? — BB.

  2. Avatar

    I have had experiences, dreams, and visitations of the presence that I later realize can also be named the Black Madonna. I have named the presence as another, not any name that other people can recognize. Maybe everyone has a private world where these universal forces visit, but they come to us quite personally with other names. Recently, after some meditation with Prince and his live performance of “Purple Rain” in Syracuse in 1985, on stage in glittering purple cape and white electric guitar…I realize – oh wow, the Black Madonna came to us as a pop icon!

    Prince said: “When there’s blood in the sky… red and blue = purple. Purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/God guide you through the purple rain.”

    His explanation for the meaning of his song reminds me of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (Letter 73) when Shug is talking Celie to about the purple field.

    So in essence the Black Madonna has taught me and teaches me the most crucial lesson of my life: how to remain intact in soul and body (soul in body/body in soul) as my world or the world tries to destroy the love.

    1. Avatar

      Beautiful Hannah! Thank you. You added another dimension to Matthew’s meditation. I didn’t know that about Purple Rain. I am always struck with awe and passion when the Sacred Spirit of Life rouses my heart to a joyful reunion with love and awakens my awareness of how precious Life is through these daily meditations, prayer, yoga, music, dance, food, animals, nature, and others expressing themselves with passion and so on and on. My heart is dedicated to this nameless Living Presence with so many names and my deepest desire is to be an instrument of this peace and love while walking through the purple rain.

  3. Avatar

    I feel the DIVINE FEMININE of all Beautiful Colors is with-in All of Us, including Sacred Mother Earth and all Her creatures and graceful abundance, in our Sacred multidimensional-multiverse LOVING DIVERSE EVOLVING ONENESS COSMOS… She is Our DIVINE LOVE~WISDOM~BEAUTIFUL COCREATOR ETERNALLY PRESENT… I experience Her as Beloved Sophia…

  4. Avatar

    When you explore the spiritual and psychological meanings associated with the color black itself, along with the Maddonna image as well; you gain insight as to the archetypal energetic influences linked to the mystery of the Black Maddonna, and the influence of this arising within the collective consciousness of humanity; inparticularly relevant to the reawakening and reclaiming of the Divine Feminine that is unfolding, evolving and emerging during these challenges times.

    As you intuitively, imaginatively and creatively converge with this spiritual reality with the Black Maddonna’s archetypal essence and presence, you will be offered many of Her benevolent blessings.

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