If you want to be spiritual, ask uncomfortable questions,’ Goddess News, Spiritual Blog, Divine Feminine,
Dr Joanna Kujawa
My last blog was published on 12 January, which was a while ago yet feels like a century or two ago, as so many things have changed in the world since then. It is interesting to look back and, with hindsight, I can look at the events of the past two and a half months with more understanding. I admit, in an unusual personal confession, that over the last few months I had been struggling with how things have been unfolding — not necessarily in my personal life, which has not changed much except for some personal challenges (nothing unusual really), but in how I saw the whole world. We seemed to be rushing towards the precipice, performing our duties like automatons while destroying nature, the stress levels in people’s lives (especially professional ones) were mounting to unbelievable highs, and only a very few, select people seemed to believe that they were living the lives they were meant to live. The rest of us were just making the best of what was in front of us — and all of this being done with an incredible, intensified speed and strangeness.
So, in a very uncharacteristic manner, on two consecutive weekends I experienced something which probably could be described as an existential breakdown — something I could not explain. At the same time, of course, we had to pack up our new house (after we had moved to Queensland from Melbourne) and find another place to live, all in a rather tense situation. Then, just as I was about to leave for Bali to present a paper at a conference, I became sick with what appeared to be a bad sinus infection, except that it lasted over four weeks and had some unfamiliar symptoms. Needless to say, the conference did not happen (although I did present the paper online). I called the coronavirus helpline after a bout of a suffocating cough one night, but because I had not travelled I did not qualify for the test. So, as for many people, I am sure, the time was building up to the strangeness that we are experiencing now.
In the stillness of this new reality I have been observing a cosmic battle taking place within my own awareness — between the academic and the seeker, the soul and the ego, the writer and the traveller. Two things have become clear to me: one is that I do not want to return to the ‘normality’ of my past life, and the other is that I still enjoy being a spiritual detective.
So I will continue here the intricate dance between myth, legend, imagination and the search for truth — which should also have some factual grounding. This is what detective work is: the search for truth. But as I write these words, after a period of intense soul searching in the time of coronavirus, I note that the truth is often obfuscated, hidden in shadows and edited out from the collective ‘official’ memory. This is especially significant in goddess studies and needs to be rectified. These are times in which all the veils are coming off and this goddess corner is a big part of my journey.
Only two days ago I felt well enough to return to my writing ‘Exploring the Goddesses of Secret Knowledge’, which I hope to publish on my website within a few weeks. This will be part three of my book in progress, with part two titled ‘Exploring the Goddesses of Eros’ https://www.joannakujawa.com/exploring-goddessess-of-eros/. Like part two, part three is intended as a combination of some extended versions of my blogs on the topic plus new material. And as I was doing additional research for the sections on Margaret Starbird and her book Woman with the Alabaster Jar, I came across some interesting ideas and material which I will share in this blog. Just as a reminder, Starbird started with the idea that Mary Magdalene was the wedded wife of Jesus and had a little girl (called Sarah in one tradition and Tamar in another) with him, and that after Jesus’ crucifixion Mary went first to Alexandria (something I explore in depth in my blogs and videos) and then moved to Southern France. Starbird also traces, through the study of art, mythology and medieval literature, the worship of Mary Magdalene as the mother of Jesus’ child, a belief prevalent in parts of Southern France (around Saint-Baume), including the movement of the Cathars (so-called heretics) who were killed off in the Albigensian crusades of the mid-13th century (for more detail please check https://www.joannakujawa.com/mary-magdalene-the-heretics-kings-and-lovers/).
After the fall of the Cathars, mysterious Black Madonnas began appearing all over Europe, then later in the rest of the world. According to Starbird and many alternative scholars who followed her ideas, these Black Madonnas represented a shadow Madonna, that is, Mary Magdalene and her child.
This idea has been developed further by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln in their book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. They claim that Mary Magdalene and her child were connected to the beginning of the first French royal dynasty, the Merovingians (countless books have been written about this idea, which has a great following among alternative researchers and adventurers). So, after this little recap, I decided to explore two now-famous portrayals of the Dark Madonna, since she is considered in alternative circles as the shadow Madonna, or the real Madonna and Jesus’ wife, in this particular tradition (ideas with which I admittedly sympathise but do not always agree). One portrayal is that of the sculpture of the Black Madonna of Chartres and the other is of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa (Poland).
The Black Madonna of Chartres in France is the first I would like to discuss because she is probably the most well known (although definitely not the only) Black Madonna in Western Europe. When I decided to research her I did not know I would be stepping into a minefield of controversy. Like many stunningly beautiful Gothic cathedrals, the building of the cathedral in Chartres began at the end of the 12th century and ended in the 13th century — the building was finished around 1225 AD. Around the same time, a wooden sculpture of a Madonna was brought to a church known as the Notre Dame de Pilar. Nothing is known of the original appearance of the Madonna (including her skin colour) because in 1508 this sculpture was replaced by a replica. Throughout the centuries, however, the Madonna was remembered as black. Indeed, many books have been written about the Black Madonna of Chartres, including perhaps the most knowledgeable and well researched by Jean Markale, Cathedral of the Black Madonna: the Druids and the Mysteries of Chartres, in which Markale argues that the Black Madonna of Chartres relates to the Celtic black goddess Suleiva, on whose temple the cathedral had been built.
So when in 2012 a controversial renovation of the Madonna was commissioned to clean the smoke and oil which had accumulated over 500 years on the statue, many were surprised when the restored statue turned out to be white. The renovators claim that it is the statue’s original colour. This created great outrage at the time among many art critics, including the New York Times’ Martin Filler, as well as among both traditional Catholic and New Age pilgrims.
Notwithstanding this controversy, which can only be solved by testimony from a 13th-century witness (and thus is an impossible feat), many forget that in Chartres there is another statue of the Black Madonna, mostly unnoticed, known as ‘Notre Dame de Sous Terre’. This statue is also a replica of an older version of itself that was burned in 1789 during the French Revolution. This second Black Madonna — Notre Dame de Sous Terre — translates from the French as ‘The Madonna of the Underground or ‘from underground’ ’. The statue is made of dark wood. It is not known what was the intention of the artist whether the desire to portray her as the shadow Madonna (and thus Mary Magdalene) or was it just a choice of wood or any other reason. In the modest opinion of this spiritual detective Madonna sounds much more like the Madonna of Starbird’s theory: Mary Magdalene as the mother of Jesus’ child, a ‘shadow’ Madonna or a Madonna in hiding.
The second Black Madonna that I would like to discuss here in reference to Starbird’s theory is the Black Madonna of Czestochowa in Poland. It is a little-known fact that the painting of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa has for centuries been the most worshipped holy image in Poland, and she is actually the deity most worshipped by Polish Catholics. She is even referred to as the ‘Queen of Poland’ or ‘Our Lady of Czestochowa’. Quite a bit is known about the painting itself. It certainly represents the Black Madonna, as it was painted in the Byzantine Empire in Constantinople some time between the sixth and ninth centuries. The painting was then moved to the city of Belz in Western Ukraine in the 13thcentury and then on to Poland in the 14th century (in 1348, to be exact). An interesting detail of this particular depiction of the Black Madonna is that she wears robes with fleur-de-lis painted on them, which represents the French royalty. The question comes to mind here: how did a Byzantine Black Madonna in Poland come to be associated with French royalty? On the other hand, there are several possible explanations for the origin of the fleur-de-lis. One is associated with the 5th-century Frankish Merovingian king Childeric I. (As I write this update, I am in contact with a Polish art historian who has a PhD specialising in medieval art to clarify the issue of the dating of the fleur-de-lis on the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. I hope to have a possible answer by the time Exploring the Goddesses of Secret Knowledge is published on my website.)
This is of interest only because of the connection that the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, plus a long list of many other alternative researchers, have made between Mary Magdalene and the rise of the Merovingian dynasty. Two questions to consider here are: Does the symbol of the fleur-de-lis really originate with Childeric I? And when was it actually painted on the Madonna? We know that the icon was restored and repainted in 1430 after the followers of Protestant reformer John Hus damaged it. I do not know the answer to either of these two questions, except to say that Childeric’s lands were located in northern France, while the story of Mary Magdalene in France is associated with the south of the country and the region near Saint-Baume. There is also a more than 400-year gap between the possible arrival of Mary Magdalene in southern France and the beginning of the Merovingian dynasty. Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln’s book does provide a hypothesis and a geographical and historical outline as to how this could be possible. For those interested, I refer you back to their book.
Although their work is an engaging read, I personally do not give Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln’s work much credence. Not necessarily because it is incorrect but because I am not interested in this version of the story.
I am much more inclined to give credit to Margaret Starbird’s conclusions, which are based on her interpretations of the biblical research she conducted as well as on her research in medieval symbolism. This is fascinating information and all in support of the idea of Mary Magdalene as the rightful bride of Jesus.
Having written this, I am not invalidating what other, alternative researchers have done. I am speaking here about a personal preference, as my focus is on archetypes.
From the archetypical point of view, I do not see much value in substituting one mother archetype (Mother Mary/Virgin Mary) with another (Mary Magdalene as the mother of Jesus’ child). I am also not a royalist and do not care much about the possible claims of the Merovingian kings which could enhance their status. But I know that many alternative researchers are interested in this and I hope that these case studies of the two Black Madonnas will help them and readers interested in that interpretation of Mary Magdalene.
Personally, I am more interested in the possibility of Mary Magdalene as the bearer of secret knowledge rather than as the bearer of a secret child — an idea which you will be able to explore with me once I publish part three of my book on my website as Exploring the Goddesses of Secret Knowledge.
In the meantime, I invite you to check either my blog https://www.joannakujawa.com/in-the-footsteps-of-mary-magdalene-alexandria/ or my video on the subject https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wb1SfMvff4E.
I hope you enjoy this little update and that in the weeks to come I will publish Exploring the Goddesses of Secret Knowledge and be able to share it with you.
As usual, I would love to engage with you via comments.
Dr Joanna Kujawa