On International Women’s Day: Honoring Our Lady the Black Madonna

In honor of International Women’s Day, I would like to share with you all a piece I wrote and delivered at the “Sacred Mass in Honor of the Dark Mother” during Pantheacon this year as a Sister of the Order of the Black Madonna. The Order of the Black Madonna honors the Holy Dark Mother in all Her forms ancient and new, and we reach out to Her in this time of trouble and hope, of fire and revolution as the old ways die and new ways are born. We pray that all beings come into the light of love, compassion, and wild joy at being human and alive and together and free. We pray and we believe and we act as one. May all beings be blessed. May all beings be free.

“Salve Regina coelitum, O Maria! Sors unica terrigenum, O Maria!” For almost a thousand years, that refrain has rung through cathedrals across Europe and later Asia and the Americas, calling out to Her, imploring Her aid, Her mercy, Her intervention. Perhaps you’ve heard it? Or maybe you’re too young to remember those words. Maybe you’ve heard these: “Hail, holy queen, enthroned above! Oh, Maria. Hail, mother of mercy and of love! Oh, Maria. Triumph, all ye Cherubim. Sing with us, ye Seraphim! Heaven and earth resound the hymn: salve, salve, salve Regina!”

The Black Madonna has heard those words over and over in all Her forms and incarnations, even up to this very day: Our Lady of Czestochova, Divine Patroness of Poland and perhaps the most famous Black Madonna in the world, actually went on a world tour last year and was viewed by thousands of pilgrims here in California alone. No doubt She was regaled with a verse or two of the thousand-year-old Salve Regina. People come to Her from every corner of the world with prayers and their fervent beliefs, and She hears them all.

She is the Our Lady of Miracles who alone remained standing and whole when a chapel built by the worshipful hands of slaves (because nobody else would do it) collapsed around Her and all the other statues in that chapel were shattered. Their faith lifted Her up, and in return Her love brought believers from all over to their little town to worship Her and receive Her grace. She is Our Lady of the Immaculate Heart, the purest source of love there is, and considered by a highly patriarchal church to be not only directly linked to the divine Sacred Heart of Christ, but to be divine Herself, in that way. Love responds to love, venerates love, reverberates love; and therefore when She loves Her son as we love our children, our families, our beloveds, our friends and neighbors; and Her son loves her back, that constant back and forth flow of Divine love confers divinity on all who share in it. She is Our Lady of Sorrows because She was human and She knows what sorrow is. She knows what we suffer when we risk loving and reaching out to others, when we have children or when we don’t, when we offer our hearts and are rebuffed, when we fight our neighbors and break each other and mow each other down in our blind human fury. She knows and has been there, watching from the front row while Her son was murdered to prove a point—how many black mothers today can relate with Her, can She relate with, on that score? Too FUCKING many. She is Our Lady of Good Counsel, a beautiful miraculous vision that appeared in Italy back in the days when miraculous visions were much more common, and people believed in the ready availability of the Divine Presence much more than they do today—popes, artists, and kings visited Her then, crowned Her, worshipped Her, and sought Her counsel and wisdom. She is the Our Lady the Black Madonna, mother of slaves, mother of the dark ones, mother of the marginalized and forgotten ones—great goddess from ancient whispering religions who wears a new face for new times but who is the same old, old Mother, the same Crone Wisdom, the same sacred fire of passion and inspiration that inspired and blessed revolutions in Poland and slave revolts in Haiti, and who hides many MANY ancient and powerful gods under Her wide and flowing skirts. Mitochondrial Eve. Astarte. Ishtar. Inana. Kali. Lilith. Isis. Ala. Coatlicue. Gaia. Diana of Ephesus. Mary Magdalene. La Santa Muerte. Our Lady of Czestochova. We pray to you. We sing to you. Even today, as songs rise up that glorify murder and madness, if you listen you can hear the reverberation of Her worship gently lifting us up:

And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me.
Shine on until tomorrow,
Let it be.

I wake up to the sound of music,
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom,
Let it be.

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