Order of the Black Madonna

The Order of the Black Madonna is a contemplative and service-oriented holy society devoted to the Great Dark Mother.

Feast of Our Lady of Montvergine

This piece was contributed by Soeur Marie Verité

Today as we celebrate the igniting of the sacred fires of Candlemas, as we seek within ourselves for that which is our deepest inspiration and hope, in Italy and around the world devotees of the Madonna of Montevergine prepare for a festival honoring Her and Her place in their lives which begins this weekend. They will sing and dance up and down Her holy mountainside which used to be, and perhaps still is, the home of a temple to the great mother goddess Cybele. They will play tambourines and sing songs to Our Lady of Montevergine, and floats will be drawn up by to the monastery where Her icon lives by oxen or horse-drawn carts as they have been at this time of year for hundreds of years.

The Madonna of Montevergine is an icon thought to have been painted by St. Luke as a hodegetria, the “One Who Points the Way” to salvation, and in the painting we see the Madonna with the Christ child on her lap. She is pointing to him to indicate that faith in him is the way to salvation. But the people of Italy and around the world look to Her as well, and have developed a love and reverence for her as their “Madonna Bruna,” their “Mamma Schiavona,” their slave mother, because of Her dark skin. They thought that because She had brown skin instead of white, She must be the protectress of those with equally dark skin, and that’s how She came to be associated with the slave or servant classes. They reach out to Her as their own, who understands hard work and sweat and tears, what it means to be marginalized and persecuted. She is not an icon of the wealthy or the privileged, the “white” class. She belongs to those who know what it’s like to work for a living, to be looked down at, to be pushed aside or thought to be somehow “less than.” 

She is beloved of the sexually marginalized because of the story of Her saving two gay men in the thirteenth century who had been beaten and run out of town, driven up onto the mountainside to die of exposure to the cold and the harsh elements. The sun shone down on them unexpectedly and helped them get to safety and find warmth, which they then celebrated by having sex on the spot. Or so the story goes. The celebration of human sexuality in all its forms is part of what makes Our Lady of Montevergine special, and perhaps what hearkens back to the rites and rituals of Cybele that used to happen on that very mountainside: the sacred union, the refusal to see human sexuality as something sinful or as something that needs to be hidden in dark places. Her festival is sometimes seen as a time to celebrate the joyful rites of spring, which you can imagine many of the monks of the monastery at Montevergine occasionally getting a little wiggy about. They are monks and have chosen the path of sacred celibacy, after all.

But still they come, christians and pagans alike, to do their rites and make their offerings to the Holy Mother in their own holy way. 

Her festival today includes music, dancing, and all forms of celebration: pilgrims sing and dance up and down the mountainside to celebrate Her. But it might also be said that they celebrate the coming spring and the welling up of potential, the coming of new life, which is a miracle after the hard winter. And it’s a miracle for everyone. The Black Madonna, Our Lady of Montevergine, Mamma Schiavona, smiles on us all after all our work, our struggles. She lifts up those who have been left behind, and brings them into the comfort of hope for a new beginning for everyone.

Feast of Our Lady of Candelaria

This piece is contributed by Soeur Marie Courage

All the watching hosts of Heaven know that hard times plague the race of men who, in their suffering, have forgotten to laugh with joy at the gift of Life.

Deep at the bottom of the ocean, in the womb of creation, the Mother's song rises and creates being from nothingness. A conscious choice is made, and the sea births Her holy treasure.

You sway in the waves, cascading toward shore, and when you touch the sand, your fluidity takes form. No longer water, you become wood, and root your love in the land of your arrival. At the sea's edge, you record the song of the Mother upon your feet, to remember your mission, the waves lapping and frothing about you.

EAFM IPNINI FMEAREI

The bottom of the ocean is the place of eternal patience, and so you wait. For men to come. For time to pass. For humanity to welcome love's readiness. You hold your child to you tenderly, for He is hope, and you rock Him in your wisdom, singing a lullaby.

EVPMIRNA ENVPMTI EPNMPIR VRVIVINRN APVI MERI PIVNIAN NTRHN

Darkness descends, and in the warm night you almost feel as if you were back at the bottom of the sea, singing with your sisters. But no. That time is over. You know what you must do. You take a single green candle from the folds of your robe, and ignite it with a whisper. Come.

ETIEPESEPMERI

Here they are just now, two goat herds. Rough men with random thoughts. Humans tend to resist the unfamiliar, and upon seeing you, rather than dropping to their knees in reverence at the soft light of your amazing grace, they react with violence. One raises a stone, the other a knife. They advance with fear and malice.

You move a hand, gently, as if waving. As if writing. As in a caress.

LPVRINENIPEPNEIFANT

The first man's eyes widen in terror. His arm, still clutching the rock, is frozen in an uncomfortable paralysis. The second man is mute with fear. He cannot stop it. He cannot help it. He slices into himself with his knife. Away, like two jackals, they run howling along the beach.

Sometimes it takes a small act of war to wage peace. 

And you wait some more, rocking your babe, who coos at you and looks up at the stars. They encircle your head in a crown of light, as each crashing wave now begins to chant your names. Shh. Shh. Shh. They are secret. They are thousand.

The men come back, crying and bleeding, cowering behind another man who risks nothing but bold eyes. They hang back while he inspects you, the diamonds in your eyes twinkling dangerously as you meet him with steady regard. He orders the men to come and lift you, to carry you back to his village. Aghast, trembling, they approach. One reaches to cautiously grasp you about the waist with the only good arm he has left. Miraculously, his paralyzed arm loosens instantly.

NARMPRLMOTARE

The second man reaches to support you at your back, bleeding on your gown from his knife wound. The blood seeps into your wood, staining it rich. The gash on his arm glistens for a moment, then sears closed and scarless as he yelps with surprise.

NBIMEI ANNEIPERFMIVIFVE

Fully healed and whole once more, NOW THEY BOW WITH REVERENCE. 

Knowing Mother, you teach from the place of profound Mystery. You know the secrets of human-rearing, and you apply them to the children these men have become. Your Yes will only mean something to the race of men if you give them your No first. Otherwise, they will treat your Yes carelessly, dishonoring themselves with casual entitlement. The sea has taught you well.

They enshrine you, call you Mother. Of course.

They venerate you and give you gifts. Silly. You want only their humility. But it makes them feel good to do it, so you turn away nothing.

They give themselves to you in utter trust, weeping, and you devour their surrender. Hungrily.

Another day will come, a day of guns and cannons and crosses. But that is not today. Today you are The Goddess. Today you are The Dark Mother. Today you sparkle black from your Shrine and call me to come. Today is a good day. I'll bring you fishes, gasping in the nets I wove till my own hands bled with roughness. That will be my gift.

To the Queen of Time and Space, I bow down. To She of Vastness, I bow again. 

The Order of the Black Madonna is a project of the Mt Shasta Goddess Temple.