Sacred Shadows: The Significance of Black Madonnas

By Jude Morton.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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The powerful symbolism of the Black Madonna is not a new language. It had its beginnings in the 12th century. Black Madonnas began to appear pervasively in western Europe during the 12th–14th centuries, coinciding with the rise of overt hierarchical control in the western Church and the suppression of residual practises honouring feminine aspects of deity. There are still hundreds of such images in existence and they attract enduring cults of devotion. This phenomenon touches not only upon religious and artistic issues, but is also of interest to the disciplines of anthropology, social studies, history and politics. The circumstances which nourished the proliferation of medieval Black Madonnas have evolved but not disappeared. We can identify links between the influence of Black Madonnas and such diverse subjects as political resistance movements and radical philosophy. The qualities which human cultures have historically marginalized–the dignity and power of women, the sacrality of the earth and the human body, respect for the “other”-were given sanctuary in the manifestation of Black Madonnas. Today, the increasing desire for integration of the sacred feminine into religious understanding has given rise to renewed interest in Black Madonnas. What can we learn from these mysterious and persistent images?

Keywords: Black Madonna, Black Virgin, Sacred Feminine, Mary, Mariology, Shadow, Archetype, Marginalization

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.103-112. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 380.063KB).

Jude Morton

Independent Scholar, Lafayette, CA, USA

Jude Morton is a professional software analyst and self-taught scholar. She writes essays on subjects relating to contemporary contemplative practises, Black Madonnas, Jungian psychology, and personal memoir. She was a presenter at the 46th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in 2011. She is an Oblate (lay associate) of New Camaldoli Hermitage, Big Sur, CA, and a lifelong student of Process-Oriented Psychology. Jude is a Canadian who continues to travel extensively and globally in her professional life as a business analyst. She is a fan of Renaissance polyphony and traditional choral music.