Happy Full Moon in Gemini!
TODAY IS A GREAT DAY to take a moment and reflect on how far you’ve come since the New Moon in Gemini that occurred on June 4th of this year. As the New Moon is a time of rest and reflection and of making plans, the Full Moon is a time of completion and of taking stock of all that you’ve accomplished. How much has your life changed since June? How much of it was conscious? How much of it was subtle or unconscious? Gemini, in particular, rules communication and information collection. What have you learned in the last six months? How have you applied it? How have communication issues resolved (or not) since the New Moon in Gemini?
It’s become quite a trend for New Age goddesses to worship the moon. While I think a return of devotion to the natural world is wonderful, because there has been a huge disruption (thousands of years) between the ancient ways and the 21st century social-media driven ways in which we are trying to return to the ancient ways, I’ve noticed a lot of romantic and, frankly, incorrect, notions about the moon floating around.
Now, I am no expert. BUT I am a scholar and a journalist first, and a woo-woo second. I tend to ask questions and ask “why” a lot. I don’t jump into ceremonies, rituals or the bandwagon without asking these questions. More importantly, I have been trained to not only ask myself and others questions, but to ask questions of the elements, deities and natural forces with whom we are desiring communion. Communion, after all, means a co-creation of meaning. It’s not a one-sided process.
That said, here are some misconceptions about the moon, and the Full Moon in particular, that I have noticed. Again, this is my point of view. You’re welcome to disagree. But I think it’s important to at least have these ideas and differing concepts presented and considered. Remember, scholar and journalist over here *points at self,* which means I’m also a skeptic.
The Full Moon is Masculine
The period from when the first sliver of moonlight begins to show in the sky after a New Moon, until the Full Moon begins to shrink, is a masculine phase. The moon is waxing, growing. It’s a time of action, of focusing energies outward and of striving and achieving. The Moon is reflecting the light of the Sun. It’s important to remember that the Moon does not have her own light.
What age has most of the world been in these last 2,000+ years? The age of the Son (Sun) of God. The age of the God of Light. The age of enLIGHTenment. The dawn of electricity. The New Age of Love and Light.
Light. Light. Light. is Masculine. Masculine. Masculine.
And that is a wonderful thing. We’ve gone through this age for a reason. BUT. When New Age goddesses worship, honor, or otherwise show devotion to the Full Moon, they aren’t really showing devotion to the quintessential divine feminine energy that they may think they are. They are literally worshiping the reflection of a masculine energy, not even the direct masculine energy. And this is just fine, save for the fact that they are doing one thing while thinking that they are doing another.
So. If you want to show respect or reverence for the Moon and for the quintessential divine feminine energy, what should you do instead?
The New Moon is Feminine
The New Moon, the dark moon, the moon you cannot see, is actually feminine. It’s also the phase of the moon where spirits and other energies are at their strongest. It’s difficult to worship something you can’t see. It’s difficult to post captivating social-media pictures of darkness. It’s difficult to try to engage in spiritual ritual at the New Moon and be faced with evidence that the spiritual world is real, with thoughts, motives and actions of its own, and not just a psychological state of being. It’s difficult to engage in spiritual ritual at the New Moon and be faced with the fact that real spiritual practice and engagement requires responsibility. It requires learning how to properly protect yourself and your space. It requires learning how to properly cleanse and clear yourself, your space and your spiritual objects (not under the light of a full moon or a dark moon). It requires learning how to ask nature and the elements if it’s okay to do X or Y and it requires being willing to hear and accept a “No.” It requires acknowledging that the spiritual world does not exist solely to love, support and serve you. It requires acknowledging that some Earth and natural spiritual energies are horrible. Horrendous. Ugly. Pure Evil with a capital “E.” It requires acknowledging that spiritual work and spiritual practice, real spiritual work and practice, is dangerous. It requires acknowledging that spiritual work means tiptoeing the line between life and death. It requires acknowledging that there are no guarantees that you won’t be pushed across that line before you want to be or before you’re ready.
It requires radical responsibility.
Just as you would expect from a Divine Mother.
The Full Moon Is A Tipping Point
The Full Moon is a tipping point between the masculine and the feminine. We linger at the top of our achievements and success before slowly rolling into a phase of rest, reflection and directing our energies inward.
The Full Moon is also a metaphor. Just as the Full Moon has always reflected the sun’s light, for too long, we women have tricked, forced or limited to only reflecting masculine power and energy. Even “feminine” forms of spirituality have reflected masculine ideals and behavior. Sure, perhaps we’ve also diffused this masculine energy, we’ve helped to bring more of a balance, we’ve worked to join masculine with the feminine. But all of those efforts still revolve around a masculine source. It still isn’t in balance.
We Are At A Tipping Point
That is what the new age is really acknowledging. To tip over to the other side, to tip the scales into balance, we need to re-learn to not be afraid of the dark. To navigate by the stars. We need to embrace the darkness. We need to explore it.
In love and darkness,
image 1 & 2: MysticMamma
image 3: unknown
ONE OF THE THINGS I love about October/November, is that the Dark Goddess becomes so evident. She has literally been whitewashed by modern society and we fear her more than we embrace her.
It’s part of my life’s mission to change this.
And at this time of year? The Dark Goddess rules. Think Demeter, roaming the earth and mourning her daughter Persephone’s descent into the Underworld. Think about the Autumn season of your menstrual cycle (PMS season) and the destruction, rage and clarity that comes with that time. Think about the pseudo-death your body goes through to give birth to another life during labor.
All of this belongs to the Dark Goddess.
And so today I just want to go over a few of the most prevalent images of this time of year and tell you how it is evidence of the Dark Goddess. She goes by many, many, names: Kali, The Black Madonna, Isis, Inanna, Mary Magdalene, Artemis . . . Guadalupe.
One of the reasons black cats are considered unlucky and are also a symbol of Halloween is because black cats also belong to the Dark Goddess. The Norse goddess Freyja, is an aspect of the Dark Goddess and her chariot is traditionally pulled by thirteen black cats. Incidentally, Freyja is also the name sake for Friday (Freyja’s Day). Are light bulbs going off yet? Black Cats. 13. Friday. Dark Goddess.
Freyja is also goddess of the afterlife, sex, fertility and beauty. All beautiful and destructively powerful, feminine, things that you won’t catch the whitewashed Mother Mary of any Catholic church touching.
Witches also belong to the Dark Goddess. Like virgin, a witch originally was just a self-knowledgeable woman who held her own, could likely heal, and kept close ties to the earth. The term began to condemn women to death and was assigned to ugly old women who had nothing else going for them but an obsession on power/beauty/trickery.
On one end of the spectrum, you have “virgin” which used to mean a woman who was her own woman. She didn’t belong or answer to a man. Now that word is used to keep young women in check and to control their power and sexuality. On the other end of the spectrum you have “witch” which also used to mean that a woman was in her own power. She may be married now, but she knows things. She is needed by her community. But now that word is used to keep old women in check and to control their power and sexuality, by taking it away, just like it has been taken away from “virgins.”
So. Where does that leave the mother? We’ve demonized and marginalized the maidens and the crones, but what of the mothers?
I can talk about this at great length (and soon, I will), but one way the aspect of the Divine Feminine (and us women) that is associated with the mother has been demonized is in the commercialization of this time of year. Halloween, Day of the Dead (less so, but still), Thanksgiving, Christmas. All of these holy-days have their roots in honoring life and death. In honoring our ancestors, that is, the mothers who have come before us. Instead, death, and the Dark Goddess, has been completely removed from this time of year and from motherhood. And let me tell you, I die and am reborn daily as a mother.
Marigolds and Sweet Breads
For those of you who celebrate Day of the Dead, or who are interested in celebrating it, one of the main symbols associated with Day of the Dead is the Mexican Marigold, a round golden flower. It symbolizes grief and rebirth but it’s also the flower of Our Lady of Guadalupe, known as the Black Madonna of the Americas (a Dark Goddess). Our Lady of Guadalupe is actually the Aztec earth goddess, Tonantzin. She appeared to Juan Diego on the ruins of the temple to Tonantzin and was appropriated into the Spanish Catholic church as Guadalupe. Marigolds also belong to Tonantzin. Leaving Marigolds on altars and grave sites is not only an act of remembrance for departed loved ones, but also an act of honor for the earth goddess/mother earth and a gift of gratitude for taking the bodies of our loved ones.
It’s tradition during Samhain to offer the poor soul cakes in exchange for prayers for our departed loved ones, and during Day of the Dead, pan de muertos (bread for the dead) is left on altars as an offering for departed loved ones.
In ancient Greece, as well as other ancient cultures, it was tradition for little cakes, often in the shape of breasts, to be left at the temple of Aphrodite, goddess of love. It is believed that this custom is one of the origins of today’s wedding cake. I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to suppose that the tradition of soul cakes and pan de muertos are similar offerings for the goddess of death and rebirth– the Dark Goddess and Aphrodite’s opposite. Where Aphrodite rules falling in love and Spring, the Dark Goddess rules sex (remember, orgasms are called “A little death” in French), death and Autumn.
I for one, am making soul cakes to hand out this Halloween and I’ll be leaving some out for my ancestors and for Costa Rica’s Black Madonna/Dark Goddess. If you’re fortunate enough to have a Mexican bakery (panaderia) nearby, you can effortlessly stock up on pan de muertos (it is delicious!) or with a little patience– it requires yeast and waiting for the bread to rise– you can make your own.
So, this coming week in the midst of all of spooks and jack-o-lanterns, take a moment to breathe in the Dark Goddess. Take a moment to honor your own Dark Feminine. You know her well, you’ve just been taught to push her away or wonder at what was “wrong” with you. Spread marigolds like rose petals and leave offerings of sweet cakes and bread– and don’t forget to eat a little of it yourself!
If you’re interested in learning more about the Dark Goddess in the 21st century, stay tuned. I’ve got something amazing up my sleeve for the new year.
And don’t forget to check out the other parts of the Your Guide To The Thinning Of The Veil series!
Happy New Moon in Scorpio!
It’s an early morning in 1635. The weather is light and sunny with an impeding sense of rain. This new land, they’re calling it Costa Rica, has been under Spanish rule for just over 100 years. The grandmothers and grandfathers still remember the stories of their own grandmothers and grandfathers– stories of peace and freedom. Simplicity.
With the Spanish has come new diseases, new structures called cities and something called “religion.” The indigenous Costa Ricans aren’t used to living in such close quarters or in houses designed to stay put and not move with the seasons. They’re also not used to mandatory worship of a small pale statue inside a dark and musty building. The statue looks like he is suffering, his arms spread out and nailed down. His side slashed open. What is this strange ceremony that worships death and destruction while proclaiming everlasting life?
Death. Destruction. Life. To the indigenous Costa Ricans, this sounds a lot like the birthing process.
Costa Rica itself is in a time of upheaval, adaptation and the birthing of a new world.
And every birth needs a Mother.
Juana is 8, maybe 10 years old and her mother has sent her into the forest to gather firewood. Her family has recently moved to a big gathering place called a city. They call the city Cartago. Her parents have found it easier to trade for supplies and this thing called money if they are nearer to the Spanish colonizers who need labor and supplies and who seem just as befuddled by this new way of living as the indigenous are.
As Juana is gathering firewood she looks up and notices a small stone carving sitting on top of a rock by the stream. The carving looks just like a doll to Juana. A villager must have been sitting idly by the stream and carved this stone, she thought. She took it home and put it in a safe place so her little brother couldn’t take it from her.
The next morning, Juana is back at the stream, gathering firewood, when she sees another stone doll like the first one. How lucky! Now she has two dolls. She takes the stone doll home and puts it in her safe place with the other doll . . . and discovers that the other doll is missing! She looks down at the new doll and realizes that it is the same doll. Okay. Her brother must be playing tricks on her. This time she takes the doll and locks it in a chest, and hangs the key around her neck.
On the third morning, Juana goes back to the stream to gather firewood but this time she’s keeping her attention focused on the bushes around her. She wants to catch her brother before he can play another trick on her. But then she sees something that stops her dead in her tracks. She quickly reaches up and feels the cord that is carrying the key around her neck. The key is still there. So how . . .?
The stone doll is back on the rock.
This sounds like one of those “witchcraft” things the man in the black robe has warned them all about. She doesn’t want to get in trouble so she grabs the doll and takes it to the black robed man.
The priest half listens to the girl’s story about this small carved stone and locks it in his desk drawer before going about his business. But later, he remembers the doll and goes to his desk to examine it.
The doll is gone.
Curious, he goes to the stream just outside the city and sure enough, there is the doll, by the stream just as the little girl claimed. Something curious was happening indeed. The priest called for other members of the clergy to come see the doll and the stream. He asked Juana to come and tell her story. The churchmen concluded that the doll, an image of the Madonna, wanted to stay by the stream. That this stream was Holy and needed to be protected. Plans for a basilica were began.
This is the story of Costa Rica’s Black Madonna, the Virgin of The Angels, affectionately called La Negrita. And her story, although remarkable, isn’t a new one. Nor was it an unfamiliar story to the Spanish priest who took the “doll” from Juana.
To Be Continued . . .
There are an estimated 600 Black Madonnas around the world, give or take a few. Some of the more famous Black Madonnas include Our Lady of Montserrat in Spain; Our Lady of the Underground in Chartes, France; Our Lady of Częstochowa, Poland; Our Lady of Einsiedeln, Switzerland; and Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico, who is also known as The Black Madonna of the Americas.
I, of course, have a fondness for the lesser-known Black Madonna of Costa Rica, Our Lady of the Angels, affectionately called La Negrita or “Little Dark One.”
There are a lot of socio-political reasons for the Black Madonna to appear where and how she has appeared in the world– I’ll be covering those reasons in a future post. First, I’d like to talk about the Black Madonna as . . . well, black. Many people try to sweep her skin color under the rug, excusing her color as candle smoke stains, reminding us that Mary was a Palestinian Jewess and was very likely a dark-skinned woman or shrugging it off with a “She is because she is.”
In 2014, the powers-that-be at the famous Chartes Cathedral, France, literally whitewashed one of their three Black Madonnas: Our Lady of The Pillar. The uproar that ensued is proof that there is more power behind Her blackness than the Church would have you believe.
But we humans look for meaning in everything. It’s part of our social wiring and it’s one of the big reasons we’ve evolved as far as we have. We cannot not communicate. (Thank you B.A. and M.A. in Communication.) So when there’s a mysterious black woman at the head of a Church that has traditionally empowered white people and cruelly subjected those with darker skin? You just know there must be more to the story.
History is even full of examples of attempts by the Church to literally whitewash a Black Madonna, (most recently at Chartes Cathedral in 2014), and the subsequent fervent, passionate uproar that ensues from her followers. After all, if her blackness really doesn’t matter than neither should her whiteness.
But it does matter. It matters a great deal.
I’ve been researching Black Madonnas for close to a decade now, and while I feel that understanding the Black Madonna will be a lifelong quest, below are a few of the theories I support about her blackness. Some of the theories I like more than others but I think they are all correct on some level. Not every theory applies to every Black Madonna either. In future posts I will be exploring some of these theories and connecting them to specific Black Madonnas with more depth.
8 Theories on Why The Black Madonna is Black
1. Yes, Mary was likely a dark-skinned woman and it follows that icons/images of her should also be dark.
2. The Black Madonna is a syncretic icon that has absorbed the local pagan earth goddess. Wherever she is, so too is the earth goddess.
3. The Black Madonna is an appropriated image of Isis and Osiris.
4. Divine Wisdom is black– she is Sophia, the vessel of Divine Wisdom.
5. Chaos and creation are black.
6. She represents the parts of the Divine Feminine that have literally been whitewashed by the Church: She has dominion of death, creation, sexuality, rebirth– all of which are “black.”
7. She is dark and fertile like the earth and like the womb.
8. She represents non-Anglo cultures and believers, the underdog, the minority, the multi-racial person/relationship, major inter and intracultural shifts in history, the colonized, etc.
Do you have any experiences with the Black Madonna? What does she mean or represent to you? Tell us in the comments!
Lead image source: KasiaKonieczka
Inset image source: NYBooks.com
Icons of the Black Madonna can be found all over the world. From tiny hilltop communities to famous cathedrals. She is a cult that cannot be denied or exorcised.
She is everything white-washed out of Mother Mary and She is Everything.
Dark. Earthy. Sexual. Mysterious. Dangerous. Death. Beauty. Fierce. Firm. She is dark with the chaos from which all life emerges; dark with the night that gives birth to The Light.
Queen of Heaven, Keeper of Universal Knowledge. She is the Earth Goddess of nostalgia.
Kali. Isis. Ishtar. Cybele. Guadalupe. Xochiquetzal. Kuan Yin. Diana. Artemis.
She embodies the pure potential of Creation– before it is created.
In my dream I am walking towards a church that is housed in a cave. Inside, there is a pile of boulders with a small spring bubbling up and trickling down over the rocks.
I am in the House of the Mother and I have come to see Her.
I have heard that the statue at this particular church is interesting because unlike most statues of the Madonna, this statue doesn’t have the infant Jesus in her arms– instead she is still pregnant with his possibility.
It is said that every pilgrim sees something different when they look at her pregnant belly. Something Divine. Something Holy. Something Mysterious.
I walk over to the wet pile of boulders, making out her silhouette perched on the very top rock. As I walk around the rocks, trying to get a better view of her protruding belly, I gasp.
There is a mirror. When I look at her pregnant belly I see Me. Divine. Holy. Mysterious. Her Daughter.
I was naturally very excited when I discovered that the Patroness of Costa Rica is a Black Madonna: La Virgen de Los Angeles (The Virgin of the Angels), or “La Negrita” they affectionately call her. Little Dark One.
On August 2, 1635, a little stone statue was discovered on a pile of boulders, in a stream, by a young indigenous girl. Because the stone looked like a carved doll, the girl took it home with her. The next morning the statue was gone but was rediscovered back in the stream, on the boulders. The girl took the statue to her local priest, told him the story, and he locked the statue in a box (so the story goes). Yet, once again, the statue was found back in the stream, on the boulders. The local village received the message, loud and clear, and built a shrine around Her and her stream.
Later, the Catholic church tried to build a church nearby and dedicate it to La Negrita. However, the church was destroyed 3 or 4 times by natural disasters before they took the hint and (successfully) built the church around the original stream and boulders.
Today, The Virgin rests on a gold and jeweled-studded platform inside the beautiful Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles in Cartago. And, quite naturally, the spring has been the site of many miracles and is a popular destination for those in search of Holy Water (me).
Of course, back in 1635 the little indigenous girl and her townspeople could probably remember the name of the ancient Earth Goddess of this land now called Costa Rica. When the girl found the statue mysteriously returned to the stream, did she gasp and fall to her knees, exclaiming the Mother’s name? Did she anoint herself in the cool waters flowing under the Mother’s feet? Did the Mother appear in her dreams with guidance and counsel? Did she invoke the Mother as she lay on mattress about to give birth to her own motherhood?
I like to think so.
Image of La Negrita. Credit: La Nacion Newspaper