Goddesses, the Virgin Mary, and the Black Madonna

A Black Madonna statue

Ever heard of the Black Madonna? It’s a depiction of the Virgin Mary with dark or brown skin rather than white. Though these suspicious black statues come directly from Christianity, Catholic Christianity to be precise, to my understanding, it’s roots are pagan, and the symbolism is there.

Before Christianity took over, people worshiped many gods, and there were a lot to choose from. Among the variety of deities were goddesses of earth, fertility, and agriculture, such as Isis of Egypt, Artemis of Ephesus, Diana of Rome, Ceres and Demeter of Greece, and Cybele of Phrygia. When Christianity took over, the temples to these goddesses were taken over and replaced with Christian establishments, and the goddess statues airbrushed to resemble the Virgin.

A key characteristic of Black Madonnas is obviously their dark or brown skin. The skin seems to be the color of the fertile earth, very suited for agriculture or the soil. It is also said that the images of the Black Madonnas originate with images of the goddess Isis holding baby Horus, which in turn echo an African archetypal mother figure.

Isis and baby Horus

Some say, and I may agree, that the Black Madonna in some way represents female power and sexuality, as opposed to the white Virgin Mary, who represents the more docile qualities of purity and obedience (especially obedience to “God”). And as we all know, female sexuality was not tolerated in the Christian world. But then, that makes me think, how are there Black Madonnas in Catholic churches?

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3 responses to “Goddesses, the Virgin Mary, and the Black Madonna

  1. That top figure is a bronze of the ‘white’ Virgin Mary. Were it not, the European features, i.e. nose would be Arabic or African.

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