Monday 23rd April 2012
We’re a small group of 4 women, Carly, Monika, Margaret and myself who meet (mostly) every alternate Saturday afternoon to study the Black Madonna. We started on ‘The Black Madonna’ by Fred Gustafson on the 8th Jan this year. We read from the book and discuss what we have read. Prior to starting this, we last year had read and studied ‘The Mystery of the Coniunctio: Alchemical Image of Individuation’ by Edward F. Edinger – a now deceased American Jungian Analyst. Rich pickings indeed. Inter alia, the significance of the opposites was much highlighted by using alchemical symbology – the philosopher’s task in extracting gold from base metal.
We decided on ‘The Black Madonna’ for various reasons. Monika has been interested in Lilith for many years. Her many paintings and etchings are about Lilith and her darkness and her relevance for today’s woman in that she represents the Dark Feminine, that aspect of ourselves with which we need to be in touch for individual and collective healing. Many of her paintings are large scale and very powerful oils showing Lilith’s darkness and all her attendant serpents with an understanding of the symbol of the serpent. I have written about Lilith and she is close to my heart. For Carly and Margaret, Lilith exerts her fascination. We thought we would start with the Black Madonna and try to determine her spiritual significance for us today and to see if we could link Lilith and the Black Madonna and learn more about the dark feminine.
There are indeed links … firstly, they are both archetypal figures, yet not that much is known about them. As some of you may know, Lilith, according to the Midrash, was the first wife of Adam in the Garden of Eden, who was expelled for her refusal to submit or be obedient to Adam. She does arise again (as the serpent) and presents her sister Eve with the apple which Eve took – and we know the consequences of that. But a positive and real way of viewing that is that she and Adam, though forced out of the Garden for their transgression, moved from unconsciousness towards consciousness into the real world, albeit one of duality, choice and free will. Heavy but necessary responsibilities.
Ean Begg, in his book, The Cult of the Black Virgin, finds that there about 400 Black Madonnas around the world and writes about the thousands of pilgrims who visit her shrine in Einsiedeln, Switzerland. These pilgrims find that their souls are in some way touched. To quote from Gustafson’s book in the introduction ‘…by an aspect of the feminine embodied by her yet not normally acknowledged. This darker aspect of the feminine has throughout history been both feared and sought after, both hated and admired…that seem to imagistically express their dark side of the feminine in a creative transformational manner for both the individual and the collective’.
I write about the dark feminine in my essay on Lilith in my book and the necessity of being in touch with those aspects for our wholeness, never wholly achieved perhaps; but each little bit of understanding of the dark feminine within each of us, man and woman, brings us closer to wholeness and healing, individually and collectively. The Black Madonna has her counterpart in Kali of India, Isis of Egypt, the Greek goddesses eg Artemis, Aphrodite, Demeter and Persephone and many others. These matriarchal myths had Mother Nature as their Supreme Goddess, and were replaced by worship of the monotheistic sun god Apollo who assumed ascent as the matriarchal goddesses began their descent.
The dark aspect of the Mother archetype needs recognition and integration – her light and dark polarities, her wildness and her conformity, her saint and sinner aspects, her giving and taking, the nurturing and the murderous aspects of her, her manic and depressive sides … For too long now we have been too one-sided about living … the forest and its darkness, the wilderness and all its shadows need exploring …
I could write more but this is enough for now.