The statues known as Black Madonnas are a particular type of statue of Mary, the Mother of God. Usually measuring about 3 feet in height, they were carved from a single piece of lightweight wood which rendered them easy to carry in processions, reminiscent of the processions for the Goddess. Many of these statues were painted, the ones in black being associated with the greatest number of miracles. There is a striking resemblance between the images of these statues and the images of Byzantine icons of the Holy Mother, notably the look of compassion that is found in many.

The usual story related about the origins of the Black Madonnas is that they were found by chance in a natural setting, eg, a cave or near a river. The story usually goes that when the statue was removed and placed into a church that it escaped and returned repeatedly to where it was found originally. In the end the church tended to be built on the site where the Black Madonna was found.

Folklore usually told that these statues were not carved by human hands, having instead being created by natural forces, which then embued them with the elemental energies of life and death. The Black Madonnas are a concrete expression of the divine which the individual person can literally reach out and touch. In this way they are a continuation of the ultimate meaning of the Goddess statues and thus have their roots in them. Indeed for many of the statues it is impossible to say whether they were originally Mary or a Goddess. It is likely that many of them were pagan in origin and then ‘borrowed’ later by Christian churches.

There has been much debate over the years about why and how the Black Madonnas were black, whether they had always been so or whether they became that way later as time wreaked its ravages upon them. But no consensus of opinion has yet been made thereby leaving open the possibility that the blackness of Black Madonnas stand for the life giving properties of the fertile earth symbolized in the Goddess.

Perhaps if we follow the trail of the Black Madonna she might take us to some surprising places, places beyond the boundaries that tradition has attempted to encase her in, and in the very process of overcoming her captors, she may teach us also how to be whole and free again.

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