Black Madonna Workshop with Katie Player and Nic Phillips. September 19, 2015

As promised, I’m giving an entire post over to the “Faces of the Black Madonna workshop.” Here is the official statement from the event:

Nic's Triptych - Three paintings of his interpretation of the Black Madonna
Nic’s Triptych – Three paintings of his interpretation of the Black Madonna

Glastonbury artist and author Nic Phillips (Nic Phillips Sacred Art) and Priestess  of Avalon and Sacred Dramatist Katie Player share a long standing fascination with Black Madonnas, and have come together to provide a day of exploration into Her sacred mysteries.

In the morning we will be discussing her various incarnations through the centuries and posing the questions: Why is she black? Which ancient goddesses may have influenced her appearance? What message is she trying to give us? We will look at her ancient roots, through to the medieval icon phase and her cult in Western Europe, up to her depictions in the modern world and veneration in cultures such as Haitian Vodou where she is syncretised with the fierce and protective mother spirit, Erzulie Dantor.

Other parts of the day will include sacred movement and a simple ceremony to connect with Her. We will be making an altar to the Black Goddess together and invite everyone attending to bring an item of relevance to add to the altar. In the afternoon there will be a session to create your own Black Madonna icon on wood using collage pictures of Her, gold leaf, and more.

This one-day workshop is £50, 50% payable on booking, the balance due by Saturday 12th September 2015. Please email nicholasphillips365@hotmail.com for a booking form or for any further info.

The Avalon Centre, 1 King St, Glastonbury Sat 19th September. Please arrive from 9:30 for a 10am start. Ceremony closes at 4:30.

Katie Player and Nic Phillips
Katie Player and Nic Phillips

After a week of downpours starting on the day of my arrival, September 15, Saturday dawned clear, warm, and welcoming beautiful. I made my way just a few blocks from my humble abode to the very welcoming Avalon Centre. Katie and Nic were there to welcome us all into the space that they had already set up. A nice cup of Earl Grey tea and hugs was a great way to get started. Moving past the galley kitchen with a wonderful long dining/working table and some 16 chairs, I came to a door and then a lovely living room-esque space with comfy couches, suck-you-in chairs, and fortunately, some rather more sturdy straight-back chairs replete with cushions. There were already a few participants sitting and enjoying both their tea and each other’s company, so I introduced myself and chose a cushioned chair to settle into.

To the left of the living area is a large meeting room; I’m going to guess 25’ x 40’ in dimensions. It has a hardwood floor and open ceiling so that it feels very large, but, simultaneously, intimate. On the left wall are massive glass sliding doors that open onto a small garden with benches and chairs available for relaxing and chatting.

At the head of the meeting room, Katie and Nic had set up a beautiful altar for the day full of images of the Black Madonna from around the world. There is also a projection screen where Nic had a slide show of photographs so all of us who were participating could see the images that he was discussing in his narration. I truly enjoyed seeing all of the representations of the Black Madonna [the Dark Mother Goddess] in her many forms.

Workshop Opening Altar
Workshop Opening Altar

The Dark Mother comes in many forms around the world as well. From Cerridwen to Kali and Bast to Tiamat, SHE is the one who rules the night, the underworld, the bottom of the sea. SHE leads souls to the other side and defends HER children. As mentioned above by Nic and Katie, Erzulie Dantor is the Haitian Voodoo Loa [Goddess], the breaker of chains. Here is another depiction of HER.

Photo Source: Mystic Voodoo http://www.mysticvoodoo.com/home.htm

Erzulie Dantor
Erzulie Dantor

According to Marcel Gomes [Sweden: Swing, Swing, Swing – May 6, 2011], Erzulie Dantor

…is the Voodoo goddess of love, romance, art, jealousy, passion, & sex. Erzulie Dantor is the patron loa of lesbian women, fierce protector of women experiencing domestic violence and patron loa of New Orleans. Beauty, love, and sensuality are her Creations. Emotions are what link her to the endless reservoir of universal creativity. Erzulie Dantor offers to you protection and possibilities beyond the imagination. Erzulie Dantor is a mulatto woman who is often portrayed as the Black Madonna, or the Roman Catholic “Saint Barbara Africana”. She has tribal scars on her cheek, and is considered heterosexual because she has children, but she is also the patron loa of lesbian women. Thus, she loves women fiercely, and will defend them to the death. She loves knives and is considered the protector of newly consecrated Voodoo priests and priestesses, as well as of women and children who are victims of domestic violence, and women who have been betrayed by a lover. She is highly respected and much feared due to her Woman Power. https://marcelgomessweden.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/erzulie-voodoo-goddess-of-love/

Woman Power. It is an endless speculation as to why Woman Power is so feared. That was a part of this workshop: to embrace the power.

Beyond Katie, Nic, and myself, the participants of the workshop were: Julie, Kaff, Molly, Justin, Elinor, Mary, and Carolyn. As always, this turned out to be the perfect number of people as we could chat and get to know one another while we moved effortlessly through Katie and Nic’s beautiful day. Nic’s excellent scholarship introduced us to:

*Our Lady of Guadalupe – Maybe the Aztec Goddess, Tonantzin http://www.theyucatantimes.com/2014/12/our-lady-of-guadalupe-or-tonantzin/

Guadalupe and Tonantzin
Guadalupe and Tonantzin

*The Bride in the Song of Solomon says “I am Black and Beautiful.” She also berates herself due her dark skin which she akins to the hard fieldwork that has been her lot.
http://biblehub.com/songs/1-5.htm

*Isis and/or Artemis as a correlate to the Christian Black Madonna

Artemis of Ephesia
Artemis of Ephesus

*Mary Magdalene in the south of France, especially at Notre Dame de Ravis where there is a statue of Sara La Kali who is claimed to be the child of the Magdalene and Jesus, among other things. The Romani claim to be descendants Sara La Kali.          http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/0/28211422

Sara La Kali
Sara La Kali

*Santa Muerta who is venerated during Day of the Dead in Mexico. She is the subject of much controversy, as shown here in Huffington Post in 2013: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/r-andrew-chesnut/death-to-santa-muerte-the-vatican-vs-the-skeleton-saint_b_3291499.html

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - MAY 27: A figurine of Santa Muerte (Saint Death) seen in a temple in the historical center of Mexico City, Mexico, on May 27, 2011. The religious cult of Santa Muerte, a syncretic fusion of Aztec death worship rituals and Catholic beliefs, has rapidly expanded. In the past decades, original Santa Muerte's followers (such as prostitutes, pickpockets and drug traffickers) have merged with thousands of ordinary Mexican Catholics. Although the Catholic Church considers the cult as devil worshipping, on the first day of every month, crowds of Santa Muerte's devotees fill the streets of Tepito. Holding skeletal figurines, they pray for power healing, protection and make petitions to ?La Santísima Muerte?. (Photo by Jan Sochor/Latincontent/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – MAY 27: A figurine of Santa Muerte (Saint Death) seen in a temple in the historical center of Mexico City, Mexico, on May 27, 2011. The religious cult of Santa Muerte, a syncretic fusion of Aztec death worship rituals and Catholic beliefs, has rapidly expanded. In the past decades, original Santa Muerte’s followers (such as prostitutes, pickpockets and drug traffickers) have merged with thousands of ordinary Mexican Catholics. Although the Catholic Church considers the cult as devil worshipping, on the first day of every month, crowds of Santa Muerte’s devotees fill the streets of Tepito. Holding skeletal figurines, they pray for power healing, protection and make petitions to ?La Santísima Muerte?. (Photo by Jan Sochor/Latincontent/Getty Images)

*Einsiedeln, Switzerland: Notre Dame Sous Terre [Our lady of the Dark Wood]. This statue is a pilgrimage destination for the Swiss as well as people from all over Europe.

Black Madonna at Einsiedeln, Switzerland
Black Madonna at Einsiedeln, Switzerland

This Black Madonna is carved of dark wood and is painted black. Nic and Katie speculate that the association, Our Lady of the Dark Wood, could be due to HER make-up or to an actual forest. And, here is a great article from 2002 discussing the nature of the Black Madonna as Dark Goddess. Our Lady of the Dark Forest: The Black Madonna of Einsiedeln  Originally printed in the May – June 2002 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: McCormick, Karen. “Our Lady of the Dark Forest: The Black Madonna of Einsiedeln.” Quest 90.3 (MAY – JUNE 2002)

*Our Lady of Walsingham, Walsingham, Norfolk, UK. Why SHE is considered a Black Madonna, I have yet to discover. Katie has suggested that we take a road trip to visit her while I am here. That sounds like a great idea. In the meantime, HER picture:

Walsingham Black Madonnas
Walsingham Black Madonnas

And, a history of HERSELF.

http://www.rcsouthwark.co.uk/walsingham_history.html

*Our Lady of Chartres, Our Lady from Under the Earth (Notre-Dame-De-Sous-Terre), Chartres, France. The website interfaithmary.net has this explanation for HER in Chartres [where there are two Black Madonnas]

For millennia Chartres was the main pilgrimage site in France. With its ancient Pre- Christian roots, its Druidic Black Madonna, its relic of the Veil of the Virgin , not to mention the power of its cathedral, Chartres drew pilgrims from all over Europe. Much has been written about the magical, alchemical power of the cathedral to bless, purify, and transform visitors, but this is not the place for that discussion. Suffice it to say that the Lady of Chartres is a trinity of sorts who finds expression in the cathedral as a whole, which bears her name Notre-Dame de Chartres, and in the three main depictions of the Madonna on three levels of the church:
1. in the crypt, the Black Madonna Our Lady from Under the Earth, guardian of the underworld;
2. in the cathedral, the Black Madonna Our Lady of the Pillar, guardian of this world;
3. in the most famous window of Chartres, Our Lady of the Beautiful Window, crowned and wrapped in her blue mantel as the Queen of Heaven. http://www.interfaithmary.net/pages/Chartres.htm

There is a lot of detail in this explanation. Please go check it out.

Chartres, France - Notre Dame Sous Terre
Chartres, France – Notre Dame Sous Terre
Chartres Black Madonna
Chartres Black Madonna

*Our Lady of Czestochowa, Czestochowa, Poland. This Black Madonna happens to be Katie’s first encounter when a child of an Icon that was black skinned. Katie has joined the project, The Seduction of Avalon, so I hope she will relate her story herself. HER picture:

Our Lady of Czestochowska
Our Lady of Czestochowska

And, where you can read about the Black Madonna with the slashes on her cheek. http://www.piercedhearts.org/treasures/shrines/czestochowa.htm

*There are so many other stories and images, Goddesses and Madonnas that fit the bill of the Black Madonna. Here is a Sir Gawain tale from the Arthurian legends:
http://www.storiestogrowby.com/stories/gawain_rag_body.html
And, I encourage everyone to check out my friend Lydia Rule’s Black Madonna Banners and explanations, as well as the rest of Lydia’s fabulous work. She painted all of the images that you see on this website.

http://www.lydiaruyle.com/blackmadonnaspage1.html

Now, let me go beyond the scholarship and describe the spiritual aspects of the workshop.

In two separate movement sessions, Katie provided music, space, scarves, and inspiration for all of us to move our bodies and meditate upon the wonderful idea of the Black Madonna, the Dark Mother, in our own lives and in the world. Everyone got up and took a scarf with which to play. The music for each session was 3 pieces from around the world. A few were familiar, a few were strange and foreign and enchanting. As I danced with the others in the group, I felt as though all time was slipping away and that only those in that room existed on this plane of existence. We were swept up into each song, each entirely different from the last. Katie’s sensibility in movement ritual was clearly evident and we came back to our seats from each session rather floating in air. Extraordinary.

In the afternoon, after we gathered our own lunch from around Glastonbury, we were invited to make our own personal Icons to take home. Here is a picture of mine:

It was such a pleasure to all sit around that big table cutting pictures from the hundreds that Nic had found and printed out to decoupage onto our icon boards he had provided for us. We laughed, painted, glued, dripped, and glittered our way through the afternoon. Everyone’s Icon was as individual as we all are. Even when some people picked the same pictures, each Icon was completely different. Beautiful, too. Here are pictures of the event.

Christina's Black Madonna Icon
Christina’s Black Madonna Icon

The last piece was a beautiful meditation and a gift of Apache tears stones from Katie and Nic. Katie led us deep into Mother Earth to a cave where the magnificent Dark Mother dwells. Each of us were on our own when we got there so all of our experiences were quite different. This will have to remain within the group as the information was sometimes intimate and very personal.

The participants
The participants
Black Madonna workshop altar with our icons
Black Madonna workshop altar with our icons

As for me, I had a dream the following night.

DREAM

The dream shook me awake with fear.

I know SHE was standing beside the bed that was not the bed that I lay upon. I had been standing and waiting for something or someone in the dream before. SHE suddenly – but more quiet than nightfall – came by my side and put her hand on my left shoulder. SHE swept HER hand down my arm to deposit something into my left hand.

I remember the deep attraction, an actual physical pulling toward something or someone that was beyond the side of the “bed.” SHE moved away from me staying on the left and I could see HER. Black haired and nut brown skin, I don’t recall her clothing at all. I couldn’t say whether she had anything on her body. Just Black hair and nut brown skin and eyes which were closed from far away. My etheric body began to turn sideways on the “bed.”

Suddenly – silently – she was again behind my left shoulder. I neither saw nor heard her move from one spot to another. Again, she put her hand on my shoulder and drew it down to my elbow. SHE gripped me hard, so I was in just enough pain to turn my head directly toward HER. Then –

HER eyes opened and I could do nothing but stare into the Space of Space, the Void of the Void, the place where all begins and ends.

I awakened when and only when SHE shut her eyes. As I awakened, I was sure that I was off of the bed and in mid-air. My etheric body struggled back to the sleeping form and when we re-merged, Tamaria and Christina, we, I mean “I,” further struggled with the bedding to find nothing amiss. I was laying just as I’d fallen asleep; solidly in the bed. It was 3:30 am.

2 thoughts on “Black Madonna Workshop with Katie Player and Nic Phillips. September 19, 2015

  1. From: Nic Phillips – Hi Christina and thank you for your kind words about our workshop. I’m glad you’ve been able to find further information online! I’ve been ill this week so not made further progress with the essay but it is on its way! I feel I should point out that one of your sources on Erzulie Dantor isn’t entirely correct in that it equates the Loa with Goddesses. My friend and practicing voudouisante Sophia Caballos de Misterio recently wrote this piece to point out common misconceptions such as this. Unfortunately we didn’t get to talk about Dantor as much as I’d have liked (weekend workshop next time!) but hopefully this article and the rest of her blog will help give your readers more insight into the tradition.
    http://www.sirenabotanica.com/#!Erzulie-Zili-Fanm-Ezili-Frequent-misconceptions-about-Freda-Dantor-and-other-Lwa/c564/55eebf530cf28ffc7ef3fe1b

    Liked by 1 person

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