Part of the contribution of Christena Cleveland in her book God Is a Black Woman is to invite a new appraisal of that archetype within her own community.

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

What the Black Madonna stands for is what MLK Jr. stood for: Justice in the face of injustice; attention to the anawim, those without a voice; love, not hatred; peace, not war; forgiveness, not retribution.  An  appreciation of darkness and blackness.  And so much more.

Several years ago, I was invited to Morehouse University, King’s alma mater and burial place of Howard Thurman, to give a lecture on the Black Madonna.

The Black Madonna represents the cosmos—all wisdom figures do—and much of the cosmos we know is very dark.  Learning today that 95% of all matter in our universe is “dark matter” or “dark energy,” that creativity and dark holes go together, is a reminder of the creative power of darkness.

“Mother Africa.” Street art image by Keizer Keizer on Flickr.

“The ground of the soul is dark,” comments Meister Eckhart.  Thus darkness is about depth and the Black Madonna invites us down to our deeper selves, our truer and deepest selves.  

Also, she invites us to explore that “underground river” where the God/goddess dwells.

She also represents Mother Africa from which we all derive.  She is our origins therefore, the origin of homo sapiens, all of us.  And knowing her gives us perspective, we all come from the same Source. 

Black Madonna and Infant Jesus, Eglise Saint-François, Annecy. Wikimedia Commons.

She represents grief, for she suffers with the poor and “little ones” without a voice.  In her guise as the “Brown Madonna” or Our Lady of Guadalupe, she sides with the indigenous ones, having appeared to a teen-aged indigenous man and spoke to him in his indigenous language ten years after his culture was invaded and decimated by European invaders. 

She also represents Celebration, Joy and Gratitude.  The bell on her headdress represents her call for institutions and individuals to Wake Up and feel the joy and the grief of living, and get on with healing and celebrating our existence.


Adapted from 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, Confessions: The Making of a Postdenominational Priest, p. 356.

And Fox, “Foreword: The Return of the Archetype in Times of Need,” in Alessandra Belloni, Healing Journeys with the Black Madonna: Chants, Music, and Sacred Practices of the Great Goddess, pp. ix-xviii.

Banner Image: “Aqui Estamos” (Here We Are) – Mural seen in the Pilsen area of Chicago. Artist not known. Photo by Terence Faircloth on Flickr.


Queries for Contemplation

What does the return of the Black Madonna in our times mean to you?


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

Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (Revised/Updated Edition)

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.
“The unfolding story of this irrepressible spiritual revolutionary enlivens the mind and emboldens the heart — must reading for anyone interested in courage, creativity, and the future of religion.”
—Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self


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3 thoughts on “The Black Madonna and MLK Jr.’s Holiday”

  1. Avatar

    The ‘Black Madonna’ has never gone away. Our awareness of the breadth of this royal, humble and immaculate Saint may have waned or never been in our sightlines until now. Awareness and awakening at any time is beneficial and should be welcomed by us. Contemplation of the ‘Black Madonna’ opens to us the breadth of diversity, inclusiveness and unity of ‘Life’ itself. — BB.

  2. Avatar

    The return of the Black Madonna to me means another another manifestation/incarnation/Grace of the Spirit of Divine Feminine with Her Divine Love~Wisdom~Truth~Peace~Justice~Healing~Creativity~Beauty~Joy~Compassion… within and among Us, especially Sacred Mother Earth with all Her creatures and graceful abundance, and within All Our multidimensional~multiverse evolving CO-CREATIVE COSMOS in LOVING DIVERSE ONENESS in the Sacred Process of the ETERNAL PRESENT MOMENT… COSMIC CHRIST CONSCIOUSNESS….

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