Black Madonnas

Artist's Statement for the portfolio, Portraits of the Black Madonna—The Hidden Stream My approach to the Black Madonnas is from the perspective of Jungian psychology. Central to this discipline is the concept of the "collective unconscious" which consists of archaic archetypal images inherent in the human mind, rather than being acquired during one's personal life. According to Carl G. Jung, the "Mother Archetype" is dual in nature. The positive, light aspect is life-giving, nourishing, and associated with birth. The negative, dark side is hidden, destructive, and associated with death and the unconscious. Paradoxically, the unconscious is the source of creative transformation into consciousness and psychic wholeness. The icons of the Black Madonna represent the dark side of the Mother Archetype, including her transformational power. Why is she black? Some theories explain her blackness as due to aging, to having been made of dark wood, to having been buried in the earth, and/or to having been darkened by candle smoke—in other words, accidentally blackened. I believe she is intentionally black in order to express a profound longing. Black is the symbol of the earth and the Earth Goddesses. Black earth is rich and indicates fertility. Earth is symbolically the mother giving birth to all life and then eventually reclaiming it for herself. Black Madonnas are often buried or hidden in caves where they are found by shepherds and peasants. In 431 AD, the Council of Ephesus, declared Mary to be the Mother of God, in part to deter heresy. Many previously banned pagan shrines were re-dedicated to her. The Black Madonnas perpetuate the pre-Christian symbolic blackness of the goddesses such as Kali of India, Isis of Egypt, Inanna/Lilith of Sumerian, Artemis of Ephesus, and Cybele of Asia Minor. Kali means black. In Hinduism, Shakti, the feminine side of the absolute, is both creative and destructive. As mother, she gives life and destroys it. Kali is the dark side of Shakti, but also gives vital energy and regeneration to life. Isis, like Kali, is also the creator mother and the destroyer, and is usually depicted holding her son Horus. Isis is the Queen of the Night and mistress of the underworld. Her husband Osiris is murdered but is regenerated by the Wisdom of Isis in the form of Horus, who represents a new Consciousness. The Black Madonna/Infant Jesus has obvious parallels to Isis/Horus. This portfolio consists of photographs of statues of Mary in which her face and hands are generally black or dark. These statues are found in churches, chapels, shrines, or crypts. They are generally seated, holding the Infant Jesus in a position of "majesty," or Seat of Wisdom, reminiscent of Isis and Horus. Her gaze is direct and her countenance is severe and commanding, as befitting the "Queen of Heaven." The Infant Jesus is often strangely adult in appearance. Her robes are colorful (predominately white, red, or blue) with gold fringe. The colors may be associated with alchemy and its emphasis on transformation from ignorance to Wisdom. The first stage in alchemical transformation (The Blackening) occurs when the impurity of primal matter is burned in order to be enlightened (The Whitening). "The Reddening" indicates the final perfection of matter leading to the Philosopher's Stone or Tincture and eventually changes to gold (union of the opposites). Changes in color (life spirit) are a visible sign that transformation is taking place within matter. Bibliography Baigent, Michael, Leigh, Richard, Lincoln, Henry. Holy Blood, Holy Grail. New York: Dell Publishing, 1983. Begg, Ean. The Cult of the Black Virgin. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1996. Myth and Today's Consciousness. London: Coventure, Ltd., 1984. Benko, Stephen. The Virgin Goddess. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 1997. Churton, Tobias. The Gnostics. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1997. Edinger, Edward F. The Mystery of the Coniunctio—Alchemical Image of Individuation.Toronto: Inner City Books, 1994. Fordham, Frieda. An Introduction to Jung's Psychology. New York: Viking Penguin, 1985. Gilchrist, Cherry. The Elements of Alchemy. Rockport, MA: Element, Inc., 1991. Gustafson, Fred. The Black Madonna. Boston: Sigo Press, 1990. Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Gospels. New York: Random House, Inc., 1989.

La Moreneta, the Virgin of Montserrat (Barcelona, Spain)
La Moreneta (copy), Cathedral of Tarragona, Spain
Black Madonna (copy) Notre Dame du Puy Cathedral (Le Puy, France)
Black Madonna of Rocamadour
Black Madonna at St. Ursula Chapel (Pézenas, France)
Black Madonna at St. Jean de Bebian Cathedral (Pézenas, France)
Black Madonna of the Notre Dame de Mende (France)
Black Madonna,  Church of St. Guiraud (France)
Black Madonna of Notre Dame de Pradelles (France)
Sara, the Egyptian
No images in this folder