Monday, September 26, 2011
"I salute you, Black Virgin, each day that I see you and that I live."
----chant in honor of the Black Virgin of Biarritz
She’s here and there all across Europe. There are many explanations of what brings her shining black face to the West. Is she Isis come out of Roman North Africa? The religion of Isis was widespread in the later days of the Empire and it was carried by the army into the new northern territories. Many European Isis shrines are sited at ancient holy sites, by sacred wells and springs, all of which once belonged to Brigit, the Celtic Triple Goddess. It’s perhaps a case of one religion supplanting another, and then, in its turn, being supplanted by the militant tide of Christianity. So, instead of Isis carrying her son Horus, these dark ladies were viewed as an African Mary carrying her son Jesus.
An alternate explanation may be that today’s Black Madonna is yesterday’s Goddess of the Dark Moon. After all, in the old religions, the Triple Goddess who ruled the earth was symbolized by the moon, and the moon has phases. New Moon represented the maiden, Full Moon, the Mother, while the Dark of the Moon represented the Crone, the original version of a divinity which was “three in one and one in three.”
Southern Italy was colonized early on by Greeks, named by them Magna Graecia. Intermarrying with the Etruscan people, they worshipped the Goddess, Demeter, or Cybele—the earth mother who regenerates every spring—in their temples. Sometimes, this lady is known as “The Ancient Spider.” This goddess weaves and spins, as do the Fates, and many powerful goddesses in many different traditions, from Athena to. She also possesses her devotees with the bite of her creature, the tarantula, and then frees them in a restorative dance which is sacred to her, and which still survives: Tarantella.
In later societies where men ruled, women were deprived of all rights and of their ancient sacred status as givers of life. Then Tarantella provided a form of emotional release for the frustrated, depressed and frequently abused “lesser sex.” Perhaps this explains its survival and practice into the present.
In Puglia, in the Basque region of Biarritz, in Barcelona, in France,in Calabria, and in Montserrat in Spain, all ancient bastions of the Roman empire, Black Virgins are still found. Their festivals are devoutly celebrated, for each Virgin has been the object of veneration, longing and pilgrimage for well over a thousand years.
“I come a long way to salute you, Maria. I come to ask for a miracle, and I won’t leave until you grant it to me. Perform this miracle, Maria! Perform it out of your mercy.” –Canto della Madonna Di Montserrato as sung by Alessandra Belloni in her CD, Dance of the Ancient Spider.