The Tale of the Two Black Madonnas

If you want to be spiritual, ask uncomfortable questions,’ Goddess News, Spiritual Blog, Divine Feminine,

Dr Joanna Kujawa

Spiritual Detective

Goddess News

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’ 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

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).

Notre Dame de Sous Terre

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 Black Madonna of Czestochowa

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 or my video on the subject

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.

Much love,

Dr Joanna Kujawa

Goddess News

©Joanna Kujawa

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13 Responses to The Tale of the Two Black Madonnas

  1. Ian Robinson says:

    Another enthralling exposé Sundari! Thank you for some really fascinating insights.

  2. Yvonne Beveridge says:

    Hi Joanna , If you read ” Anna Grandmother of Jesus ” and the Sequel ” Anna the Voice of the Magdalenes , ” By Claire Heartsong and Catherine Ann Clemett , all of your questions will be answered ,I pray that this will give you the peace that you seek ,as a seeker of truth .Love and Light Yvonne .

    • sundari says:

      Thank you Yvonne, for your comment. I will check the books you have mentioned.
      Sending Love,
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News

  3. Hello Sundari Joanna,

    Thank you for inviting us back into your discussion, this time about the dear subject of Mary Magdalene and the Black Madonna. There is a book that you should consider in your research written by the esoteric scientist Dr. Robert Powell entitled “The Mystery, Biography & Destiny of Mary Magdalene: Sister of Lazarus John, and Spiritual Sister of Jesus.” Powell spent many years in France translating esoteric works from French to English. Perhaps the most well-known being “Mediations on the Tarot,” written by anonymous. The book is now recognized as the work of esoteric scholar Valentin Tomberg, a younger protégé of Rudolf Steiner, who was ostracized from the Anthroposophical Society as it purged all things feminine. Not unlike to the fate of the Cathars without the abject suffering and gore.

    St. Maries-de-la-Mer in Provencal Occitan is legend to be the landing point of the three Maries of Magdalene, Salome and Clopas. In another account (inspired by esoteric research) the boat was committed to the sea and cast adrift from Palestine, carrying Magdalene, Martha (Magdalene’s sister), Marcella (maid servant to Martha), and Sara (Egyptian maidservant of Magdalene), along with three men Lazarus (John), Maximin, and Sidonius. According to Powell, Lazarus was known as John after his resurrection, becoming a priest in the new faith and author of the Gospel bearing his name.

    Lazarus-John and his sisters Mary Magdalene and Martha were sacred family to Jesus. Within the esoteric community (inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s and Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich’s understanding of the Akashic records) Magdalene is consider the reincarnation of King Solomon. Scripture suggests this may have been the case when Jesus states that “Wisdom” is vindicated by her deeds. This begs to ask the question, “Who is wisdom and what was her deed?”

    “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at this glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and of sinners!’ But wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” Matthew 11:19

    As I read this, it is apparent that Jesus was grossly underestimated. He was a curiosity of His time and is still poorly understood. Today, there appears to be a large contingent of the world violently separating itself from Wisdom, which is the essence of His teaching.

    Wisdom is a principle of the Divine feminine and it flows between polarities, or in this case genders. In the Gnostic text, the Gospel of Phillip, the Apostles ask Jesus why He loves Magdalene more than them. He answers that She has sight while all the others are blind.

    “As for the Wisdom who is called “the barren,” she is the mother of the angels. And the companion of the […] Mary Magdalene. […] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples […]. They said to him “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Savior answered and said to them,”Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness.”

    It is said that Wisdom is barren and the mother of the angels. This appears to be in reference to Magdalene. Furthermore, it was Magdalene who recognized Jesus as the true King, and if it were not for her deed of anointing Him, there would have been no one living upon the earth that could have recognized him as such. Along with His baptism, this act was instrumental within the timeline of His mission, which could have ended in obscurity without Magdalene’s insight.

    I would go so far as to say that Magdalene was the consort of Jesus, meaning that there was a sexual dynamic which clearly existed. The energetic exchange between their polarities was the essence of Their practice and the essential core of Their work. Even from a distance, these two souls were entangled and were channeling energies in the archetype of Christ-Sophia, which can also be equated with the Hieros Gamos.

    The Black Madonna, as the shadow principle of Magdalene is interesting. Perhaps an echo of a more primordial feminine principle that is continuously manifesting into being. Your statement,

    “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.”

    resonates well with my experience. I have always seen Her the same way, as having the capacity of a divine goddess that cannot find any grounding to share her gifts with this world. It was only through love in union with the man we know as Jesus that the circuit was completed, allowing the cosmic archetypes to manifest into our earth’s existence.

    With an optimal consort, we all have the potential to do this very same thing, of channeling spiritual Wisdom into the earth. The Cathars came to know the mysteries love and this divine union—and this was the reason why a genocide was unleashed against them.

    It was a horrific experience that many old souls still carry deep within them even to this day. I think that in many ways, a form of existentialism is birthed through this experience.


    Paul P.

    • sundari says:

      Hi Paul,
      Thank you for your insightful comment and the suggestion of the new source to explore. This is a very exciting possibility because although I find the story of Mary Magdalene in France fascinating, I could never fully relate to the stories and questioned the verity of their sources. Often, I associated this version of the story with Mary Magdalene’s motherhood and the Merovingian line and I was not too interested in either. But I always had a soft spot for the Cathars and I could not explain why. Once, I heard a modern recording of Cathar songs and I could not stop listening to it transported to another realm of imagination and perception. And this was despite the fact that what I had learned as a postgraduate student of Medieval Studies was a strange combination of beliefs that Cathars supposedly held. It is only once I got interested in alternative studies that I discovered the Magdalene connection. So the fascination was always there and I am glad that the book you recommend addresses some of my questions. I respect Steiner so I will definitely read a book by his protege. My main source of inspiration for Mary Magdalene are the Gnostic Gospels about which I wrote in my past blogs and that is why I did not mention it here, trying to deal with the French episode. And, finally, I am also deeply interested in what you call ‘channeling spiritual Wisdom into the earth’ and thus in the story of Sophia and Christ and the story Mary Magdalene and his earthly incarnation as Yeshua/Jesus. Like you, I think He was completely misunderstood and turned into a grotesque figure – for the purpose that I can only call an obfuscation of truth that could liberate us. Once again, I always appreciate your insight which brings Light to this blog.
      Much Love,
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News

  4. Pippa Richardson says:

    Thank you for another fascinating piece. Thank you for the reference to Jean Markale’s book.I found Chartres a powerful place when I visited. You mention the Cathars – I too have felt very drawn to their story, particularly through the books of the late Arthur Guirdham. See his ‘ The Cathars and Reincarnation’ and some other works. He came to realise he was part of a group of souls, killed during the Cathar persecution, who had reincarnated in 20th century SW England. Their far memories awakened in fragmentary fashion ( as far memories tend to do) and he wrote further books as he gained more knowledge. His books inspired me to learn more about the Cathars, I feel a definite affinity with their beliefs.

    • sundari says:

      Thank you, Pippa, for your comment. I have also been always fascinated by and drawn to Cathars even when I did not understand their spiritual importance – as this came later for me. I think the spirit of the movement is haunting us all and we try to recover the truth beyond what was presented to us by historical sources which I do not longer feel tell us the whole truth. Thank you for the recommendation as you know I love to connect the historical with the intuitive. Truly fascinating.
      Much Love,
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News

      • Pippa Richardson says:

        I appreciate your response, Joanna. Guirdham was an interesting man, a Consultant Psychiatrist ( not normally a profession known to pay attention to intuition or spiritual seekers) during his working life. He was clearly highly intuitive and/or psychic himself, and he recognised these qualities in patients and people he encountered. He wrote a number of books about the past lives recalled, chief amongst them being his life as a Cathar. It helps to be an intuitive and or psychic to read them because such people will appreciate the fragmentary and sometimes confusing way in which far memory emerges. Thank you for your continuing dedication to the Goddess in all Her many forms.

  5. Richard Neftin says:

    My understanding, minute though it is, aligns with the idea of a Shadow Goddess that lives in our depths of soul as She is oppressed by outside forces. She must physically emerge, or be forgotten by that same (outside) world. She will continue to show Herself (all of our Inner Maryams & Marys) in Her many forms, disguised perhaps in ways our ordinary sight can manage or from out of our depths in abstracted ways No matter Her name and origins). Thanks for your insight, Joanna,and keep on keeping on the good work.

    • sundari says:

      Thank you, Richard, and I love your understanding. In a way, this is also my understanding as the Goddess which is a part in all of us – both women and men – and everything in the Universe, has been repressed and therefore is a shadow. So I agree, that whatever Her name she is a shadow goddess and has roots in many ancient traditions which I explored in other blogs and continue to explore. I think that the reason why I focus a lot on Mary Magdalene is that she comes from my original tradition and I felt that she has been especially pushed to the side and demeaned. Also, I am fascinated by the qualities which were assigned to her or which she represents. So this is just my personal preference and focus. Also, like you, I want Her to re-emerge or even emerge for the first time in our psyche and collective consciousness. I also want Her to emerge on Her own terms without the institutional power, whatever they are, misrepresent Her as they did in the past. But you are right, at the end, whatever Her name is, she is the Shadow Goddess unless acknowledged and the best way to acknowledge Her is within our own being. At least, is a start.
      Thank you for your meaningful comment which is much appreciated,
      Sending Love,
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News

  6. Laura MJ says:

    I resonate with hidden wisdom having more interest than a hidden child (although I believe Mary Magdalene and Jesus did have a child together).

    I am not a scholar this life, but as I’ve progressed on my spiritual journey, deeply held beliefs, (truths of my soul of you will) have surfaced. At first when they emerge they challenge a currently held belief, and then with time a new belief replaces the old.

    I feel the black Madonna is about the Divine Feminine Sophia having been “in hiding”, cloaked from the world (the universe?) and those who wished to destroy her. I see the statue that was once black, being restored to its original white color as a sign from the heavens – the Divine Feminine is about to step back into the light. A reveal so to say.

    This is not to say the Divine Feminine ever left, nay she has been working hard from the shadows. The Divine Feminine is forever grounded in the light. But perhaps the divine feminine concealed her light to learn the ways of the dark – what better way to defeat the dark than to learn the ways of the dark? I believe the black Madonna statues reflect the Divine Feminine concealing herself among the dark to await the time to once again emerge.

    An unscholarly, no book to support, feeling/belief from my soul.

    Thank you for the work you do. I appreciate you and the wisdom you so freely share.

    • sundari says:

      Thank you, Laura, for your beautiful and insightful comment. I love your interpretation of the Black Madonna becoming white as a symbol or ‘a sign from the heavens – the Divine Feminine is about to step back into the light’. Very beautifully put and in line with mystical order of things. Thank you for that as I did not think of it in this way. Very symbolic and very revealing. Like you, too, believe that Mary Magdalene had a child with Jesus but I do not believe that it was her primary role. And, like you, I believe that she represents Sophia in Jesus life. I wrote about it in other blogs and will elaborate on it more in the ‘Goddesses of Secret Knowledge.’ It perhaps also true that the Divine Feminine was hidden in the shadows for a good reason and now slowly and gradually reveals Herself to us. These are beautiful and profound insights and I am grateful that you have shared them with me.
      Much Love,
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News

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