Today we are seeing a steadily increasing interest in the mysterious and potent Black Madonnas. Her various incarnations (also called Dark Virgins or Dark Madonnas) can be found in many areas of the world in the form of paintings, sculptures and carvings. Their presence is becoming more and more a part of our modern society through books, art, music and scholarship. Specific Black Madonnas are already familiar in today's world, whether the general public realizes it or not. The late Pope John Paul II had a deep and well-publicized devotion to Our Lady of Czestochowa, a Black Madonna of great signficance in Poland. Even more widespread is the worldwide devotion shown to Our Lady of Guadalupe of Mexico, often considered a Black Madonna, as well as Our Lady of Aparecida, the patron of Brazil.

There are over 500 shrines to the Black Madonna throughout the world, with over 300 in Europe alone. Additional shrines are found in a variety of countries, including Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico and, yes, the United States (Missouri and Pennsylvania, for example). Many of these mother-and-child figures date from the 11th through the 15th centuries, though some are even older. A large number of these mysterious figures are found in churches and cathedrals; others are located in museums, libraries and private collections. Black Madonnas can be painted sculptures, carved in wood (ebony, for example) or seen in paintings and murals. (These images should not be confused with traditional art that simply depicts the Virgin Mary with African skintones and features.)

Theories abound, both within and outside of the established church, as to the meaning of the darkness of these figures of quiet beauty. It should be noted that "black" can be somewhat of a misnomer for some of these Madonnas; not all are literally black, but are, instead, varying shades of "dark". Some have been repainted, but upon inspection, it has been determined that the original paint was, indeed, intentionally black.

The origins and artists of many of the Black Madonnas are now lost in time. We do know that widespread devotion to these powerful depictions of the Madonna was documented, expecially in the 11th and 12th centuries. We also now know that the shrines to the Black Madonnas are most always located in places of great power - areas where the earth radiates out its most potent energies. (Understand, we are speaking here of completely natural energies; forces within the earth that are neither created or controlled by human beings, but are simply part of the makeup of our planet.)

Just who is the Black Madonna? To begin with, her presence within churches and cathedrals obviously point to Mary and the Christ Child. This is further clarified by the fact that many, if not all, of the cathedrals which house a Black Madonna were built in honor of and in dedication to Mary, Mother of God/Christ. As for her darkness, some scholars point to a correlation in Biblical scripture, citing Song of Solomon 1:5 which speaks of the woman as "black, but comely". Of course, we should not overlook the obvious, as well. It is highly likely that Mary, given her ethnic roots and place of origin, was, indeed, dark-skinned.

The Black Madonnas can also be interpreted as a progression of the honoring and devotion to the Divine in feminine form. Since Christ, the central figure wihtin Christianity, is male, then it was to Mary that the early CHurch turned to in order to find a "representative" of the feminine half of Divinity. This may or may not have been a conscious act; perhaps it was more of a natural draw towards what was found missing in the Church.

It should also be noted that some of the Black Madonnas, notably those in some areas of France, are, by long-standing tradition, directly linked to Mary Magdalene.

Since so much of the history of the Black Madonnas is lost, it is perhaps best to move beyond labels and look toward their message for our modern world. Given the annual increase of visitors to these shrines worldwide, these Madonnas clearly are
speaking to a growing number of us, and, what's more, many of us are listening.

Our society, or at least much of it, has grown to associate the color black with negativity or that which is to be feared. However, in the past, this was not so. For example, black was associated with fertility and growth: the most fertile soil is the blackest. It is also good for us to remember that black, rather than being the absence of color, contains all colors. Looking at it from this vantage point, we can see the Black Madonna as being a symbol of inclusion. She is a guide and comforter for all peoples, regardless of color or race. Psychologically speaking, darkness can represent that which is unknown to the conscious; in other words, what lies within that is waiting to be born. Often these latent gifts involve the feminine qualities, including intuition, emotions and relationship. (Remember: "feminine" does not necessarily mean
female; both women and men have feminine and masculine qualities, reflecting the intended balance we are now struggling as a society to restore.)

The Black Madonnas are, in fact, symbols of transformation. They invite us to look within - into the dark, unexplored places within ourselves, while assuring us that we need not go it alone. The Black Madonnas can aid us in discovering the gifts within our own soul and then assist us in bringing them out and
into the Light. We are, therefore, transformed into more spritiual beings, into our true selves.

The Black Madonnas, as diverse in appearance as they may be, are re-emerging as a collective source of guidance, creativity and strength. They are powerful symbols for healing, transformation and diversity. They remind us of the many gifts and deep importance of returning the Sacred Feminine to her rightful place beside and in concert with the Sacred Masculine.

The Black Madonnas are powerful reminders of the help that is available to us all. In her we find a patient guide, a fierce protectress and an ever-present comforter. The Black Madonnas are beautiful and potent images of sacred power, re-emerging in our challenging times bearing much-needed gifts - and
filled with all the colors of the rainbow.

Author's Bio: 

Our company, Love, Joy & Peace Creations, creates a variety of
items meant to enhance a person's spiritual life, regardless of
the particular path they choose to follow. Our website features
a selection of items inspired by the Black Madonnas,including Joy's published overview, "The Mystery of the Black Madonnas," as well as prayer/meditation aids and labyrinth items. Visit us at