Mary—displaying numerous Great Goddess imagery— she stands on crescent moon wrapped in snake eating apple, surrounded by stars
The Return of the Goddess
Mary, Mother of Jesus, is symbolically the Great Mother Goddess in the mythic tradition, in whose body lives God the father, her son. There is a beautiful triptych from 15th century France that shows two different images. When open, we see that inside her body lives Yahweh—god-the-father— an old white dude with a long white beard, and the son. Both are resting in the lap of Mary. But, when the tryptic is closed, the literal picture is her, alone, and the eye is drawn to the crack down the center through which the symbolic depths were disclosed. Still, Mary is the unrecognized Mother Goddess of the Christian tradition.
She appears very rarely in the gospels, yet, within 500 years, a pantheon of images envelop her till she assumes the presence and stature of all the goddesses before her— Cybele, Aphrodite, Demeter, Astarte, Isis, Inanna, Ishtar. Like them, she is both virgin and mother, she gives birth to a half human-half divine child who dies and is reborn. Jesus, like Attis, Persephone, Adonis, Osiris, Tammus and Dumuzi, descends into the underworld where regeneration has always taken place, and his ascent and resurrection is understood to redeem all beings from the limitation of mortality and time, just like all the earlier myths of Zoe and Bios.
Jesus is Bios—the son, born from Zoe, the mother. He suffers dismemberment in time and is then restored to the source. It is so similar to the tale of Isis and Osiris, so close to a sacred marriage of the two, which always signifies transformation.
This is the continuing story of the human imagination, explaining the world.
Mary's cult reached it's height in the middle ages and early renaissance 11th-15th centuries. Now, we have Mary as the second Eve. Death came through Eve; life comes through Mary. She was not conceived immaculately, but was, by her son, made immaculate due to her perfect obedience to god's will.
In 1950, a petition was signed, by 8 million people, proclaiming her the Queen of Heaven. She is notably not Queen of Earth. She had effectively been Queen of the Underworld for many centuries in her capacity to intervene with her son for the souls of the dead. There is a fundamental contradiction, because though she is worshipped as the goddess figures of old, she does not bring forth the world from the inexhaustible source that is herself, which is the original symbolic meaning of "virgin", and she is not, in herself, divine. Only her son is, and he must return to his father, leaving his mother neither here nor there. She never offers an image of the whole of nature in all its manifest and unmanifest mystery, and, she is divine only by virtue of being set apart from the laws of nature within which humanity is held. She cannot serve as Zoe, since nature is still under the death sentence of Eve.
An image is archetypal because we see it continually turning up in different cultures and at different times—we see a pattern. History modifies the archetype, and the archetype shapes history. The feminine principle has been de-sacralised for 2,000 years, and consequently any union of feminine and masculine is unthinkable in orthodox religion. So, the terms of the polarity, "masculine" and " feminine", are out of balance from the start. But, thinking of the collective psyche of humanity, Jung said that “if the unconscious of the group has become distorted, then the unconscious will intentionally compensate for this by insisting on an opposing point of view in order to restore the balance. In art, for the most part, Jesus is either a new born infant, or he is dead. Is this unconscious correction?
She brings forth a child virginally, not vaginally. The reinstatement of the feminine principle falls apart because only part of the principle is acknowledged, and so the split is perpetuated, or worse, enshrined. Mary's virginity is a paradox and absurd, as she is both human mother and virgin, together. Archetypal and human dimensions are confused—virgin is only for goddesses, and not for human mothers. She is denied both the title of Goddess, and the complete humanity of woman.
We need a counterbalancing impulse to reassert in new form, the feminine values that have been so distorted. We have the Feminist Movement, The New Age, the environmental movement, modern Paganism & Gaia consciousness, we can even see it in Democratic Socialism—these values are all feminine in the archetypal sense that they are the values of Immanence— known through feeling, loving, & imaginative involvement. Gnostic knowledge that comes from relationship with the thing known.
Mythic patterns of Mary's myth— All over the world, people have participated in a religious ritual at the winter solstice. This change of state in bleak mid-winter of the sun's turning back to earth was experienced as the rebirth of the sun and commemorated as the birthday of the sun god, the luminous divine child.
These divine sons all had magical births, were born at midnight, hidden in the depths of the earth, in the reeds, in a cave, in a manger. The birth of Jesus was on Dec 25th, the Winter Solstice as reckoned by the Julian calendar. The Christmas tree is the Tree of Life, or the World Tree, and the silver star at the top is the mythic pole star of Inanna, Isis, & Aphrodite, accompanying all divine births throughout the Near East.
Mary is Goddess of the Moon with her crescent moon, star and blue robe, like Inanna and Isis. She does not marry her son, but she mourns his loss in the three days between crucifixion and resurrection— the 3 days represent the dark moon. Jesus' life is cut off at the end of the old year, as in the Neolithic era when god was cut down like the corn. The cross he hangs on is the Tree of Life in its dying phase before rebirth. Trees have often given mythic birth to gods, and then the gods were seen embodied in the tree's rising sap and ever renewing phases of its growth. Mary's lament for her son echoes the lament of Inanna for Dummuzi, Ishtar for Tammuz, Isis for Osiris, Aphrodite for Adonis, Demeter for Persephone, and Cybele for Attis, but unlike these Bronze Age goddesses, Mary did not initiate the ritual sacrifice of her son. All the art of pieta, her holding his dead body, is a mother goddess image. For millennia, death had become comprehensible through the image of the Mother. Hers’ is an image of consolation and compassion in the shape of the one who gave humanity birth.
The image of the Sacred Marriage between god and goddess isn't possible in orthodox Christianity, where Mary was a human woman and The Great Father God ruled alone, supreme in heaven. However, the urge towards a union of masculine and feminine principles expressed in some of the excluded Gnostic texts the idea that Jesus loved, and even married, the woman who carried the sacred vessel, Mary Magdelene.
Mary Magdelene--she of the temple tower" is associated with prostitution. But her name suggests the role of a temple priestess of the goddess religion for whom sex was a sacred ritual, as with Inanna. It seems the extreme idea of virgin motherhood of a human woman needed to be counterbalanced by another extreme idea. Both virgin and whore are cast in wholly sexual terms, and the difference is only how they serve men. But, the mythic tradition is still visible in the timeless images in which the story is clothed.
The Black Madonna—In the 12th and 13th centuries, it seemed as though the soul of humanity was impregnated once more with a vision of the marvelous in art, cathedrals, and myth, expressions of an urgent need to recover the lost experience of wholeness and so the oneness and unity of life. The symbol of the Black Virgin returns us to Cybele of the black stone, and Isis, Demeter, and Artemis, who were imaged as Black. The Shekhenah hides inside a black robe, like the veil of Isis, and there are suddenly, black Madonnas everywhere. Black is the color of mystery, of space, and the color associated with wisdom, as the dark phase of the lunar cycle where light gestates in the womb. The black virgin is an image with her son of a light shining in the darkness.
The shrines of the Black Virgin were the most venerated in Europe. These sites were often in caves, crypts, or marked by a sacred well, tree or stone, which belonged to the mythology of Isis or Cybele or Minerva, the Roman Athena. Some were "revealed" to the community by an ox or a bull as it ploughed a field, and these became Mary. The people worshipped Mary as they had always worshipped the goddess, and these Black Virgins are the key to the tremendous surge of cathedral and abbey building. Notre Dame means the Mother symbolized Sophia, the image of the secret wisdom tradition, hiding from zealous church doctrine and the burning times.
The image of the Black Virgin is about the invisible dimension hidden within the outward form of nature, which brings it into being, informs and guides it, or contains it, as a mother and her child. The child she holds is life itself to which eternally she gives birth. She is Zoe holding Bios.
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