Just over a year ago, I began a journey in painting called The Black Madonna Pilgrimage. This study was centered around the indigenous images of the Black Madonna, inspired by her legends throughout the world, teachings about her, and music dedicated to her. Stories and her traditions throughout the world were part of the curriculum, having been passed from generation to generation, some hidden in mystery and others changed in history.
For 33 days we held a container through an online circle listening for her message to each of us. Our paintings expressed the unfolding of our relationship with the Black Madonna in a process of discovery. We explored the symbols of her image throughout the world, and were guided on a sacred pilgrimage of the heart as we heard her voice within us.
Sue Monk Kidd wrote of a Black Madonna her in book, The Secret Life of Bees, as well as her memoir, Traveling with Pomegranates. It was a journey in seeking the Divine Feminine for each of us as well.
As I began this painting of Mary, a churning of turmoil and violence arrived in our city of Charlottesville, VA. I wrote these words on my canvas as I listened to headlines of racial strife and civil unrest erupting in the streets of the small college town where I listen to music on Fridays, eat lunch with colleagues on the Downtown Mall, and raised my children.
As the day progressed, the chaos increased, and I tearfully painted 19 prayers in red for the people who were injured in the clash of white nationalists and counter protesters on the streets of this historical place I’ve called home for many years. More trauma and an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence” ensued as the hours passed, and the progress of the painting captured my impressions of the happenings that day.
I was not a brave person in so many ways. I was not prepared to be present in a situation of that magnitude. My heart went out to the people much more valorous than I, who showed up and were witness to what was happening. My activism was expressed on my canvas, in the brush strokes that held the prayers for those who came to represent their beliefs and values, as well as those whose hearts were filled with anger and rage.
In reading and research, I found words by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author and activist: The Black Mother lights the treasure forward from the dark… dark that others might call chaos…
And further, to strengthen ourselves to push back in ways within our reach…
…that Our People, Our Nations on Earth Be Not Divided, Rather Be United.
So I continued to paint. Symbols of my spiritual journey, a line in connection to Infinite Wisdom, marks representing the Divine Feminine, and more prayers. Processing what was happening in our town, our country, our future.
I painted more prayers in white for healing, love and compassion, and the grace to be able live in diverse harmony. And one, in reverence to the memory of Heather Heyer, who lost her life in the chaos.
The days and weeks passed. I would paint for hours on some days and other days, my painting languished. I would look at the strokes and feel a sense of loss, of change.
This method of painting I’ve studied is called Intentional Creativity®, developed and taught by my teacher and mentor, Shiloh Sophia. There are many steps associated in this process, each layer a representation of the conversation between spirit and mind, painting and writing.
As I write words on the canvas or in my journal, I listen to what comes up in my thoughts, and then I use paint, color and brush strokes to represent what I have pondered. It is a dance between Divine Intelligence through my consciousness to the brush onto the painting. A process of being mindful, listening to what shows up, and paying attention to the brush as it moves through me onto the canvas.
The next impression I received was a medicine wheel. A symbol in ancient cultures of balance and harmony. Contemporary representations of the medicine wheel emphasize the quest for harmony and balance, both within ourselves and with all communities and creatures on earth. The wheel also symbolizes a graphic reminder that change is inevitable, that development is a life process, and completing a circle of wholeness is a goal worthy of our attention. It seemed to be an answer to the many prayers and intentions that I had painted onto this canvas. For myself and for our community.
And then the shape of the Madonna wanted to appear. I saw her image filling the circle and began to make the sacred marks that would bring her into presence.
I’ve painted faces over the past few years, learning to shape the nose, brows, lips, neck, hair, and eyes, and her lines began to take form. More than that, her expression began to develop as I worked. It was a surprise and I was curious as the color and lines revealed her presence. The medicine wheel became a circle of light illuminating her from behind. Her spirit became more apparent as I progressed.
And she began to come to life.
I typically don’t paint images in a realistic way, my interpretations tend to be more abstract and symbolic. But she wanted her expression to represent the sadness, the pain the Charlottesville community experienced in August of 2017 and the aftermath of changes that followed.
She wanted to be a composite of color and light, symbolic of diversity and connection. A blue eyed woman of color. My intention was to be mindful of the strength she embodied, her vulnerability in this madness, and the pain that has continued to divide people from fear, long held beliefs, and the misuse of power.
Blue was also revealed to be the color she wanted for her garment. I researched and found that the color blue represents freedom, intuition, imagination, expansiveness, inspiration, and sensitivity as well as the meanings of depth, trust, loyalty, sincerity, wisdom, confidence, stability, faith, heaven, and intelligence.
She was making her presence and intent in protecting the people Charlottesville with wisdom and loyalty in response to the negative media surrounding the events that happened.
Her message was also telling me that she wanted to hold all the people, ones were injured, as well as ones who spread violence and separation, those who were harmed, the ones who stayed home, and especially, the woman and men who died. And I listened to her voice, painted all who came, with differing intentions, who she holds in her embrace.
We are woven out of the fabric of Her robes,
and she embroiders us like millions of fibers of light
and glowing threads into the stars on her cloak.
We are always intertwined, and She gives birth to our true spiritual essence.
Our Black Madonna, Protector of Charlottesville
If you are interested in purchasing a print of the Black Madonna of Charlottesville, please fill out the form below and more information will be emailed to you.
A portion of the cost of each print will be donated to local support of our Charlottesville community TBD.
Update September 2018: A gracious thank you to Marianne Williamson for sharing this painting on Instagram.