Virtual Pilgrimage of the Black Madonna

The Black Madonna Goddess

Several weeks ago, I began taking a virtual pilgrimage of The Black Madonna with Dr. Christena Cleveland.  The course is with Shift Network and advertised as a Virtual Pilgrimage, and is entitled Embody Your Sacred Wholeness Through The Black Madonna.   After having a dream about the Black Madonna last year, I told a friend about this dream.  This friend encouraged me to read Christena’s work. I devoured the book.  This course built upon that book. Additionally it would be a virtual pilgrimage, and therefore it intrigued me.  I had to take the course.  

As I read Dr. Cleveland’s book last year, I began visiting Black Madonnas.  The book served as my pilgrimage reading accompaniment. Iit gave me a different perspective on how to view these beloved statues.  I had seen Black Madonnas before, but never truly understood their significance.  From my perspective, I thought the Black Madonnas were simply another version of Mary. I assumed they were made from materials that were found in the area, such as volcanic rock.  I didn’t comprehend the significance of what they entailed until reading this book.

Black Marys Virtual Pilgrimage

As I embarked on this virtual pilgrimage with Christena, we collectively explore seven different Black Madonnas.  There are an average of sixty of us on these zoom calls weekly.  Each class we  dissect the historic background, images, and hear of Christena’s personal pilgrimage to visit these Black Madonnas.  When she wrote the book, she embarked on a four hundred mile walking pilgrimage in France to uncover multiple versions of Her.

Dr. Cleveland gives the Black Madonnas various names such as She Who Cherishes Our Hot Mess or She Whose Thick Thighs Save Lives.  What she realized in her pilgrimage journey, is that the locals would also give the Black Madonnas names as well.  It’s part of the process.  People come to Her with their problems, seeking resolve, and they lovingly name Her. Since then, Christena has made other pilgrimages to France, and other parts of the world devoting her life to what the Black Madonna represents.  

Me and The Black Madonna

As someone who is multiracial and brought up Catholic, I did feel as if God was this other entity unreachable from me.  He was external, loving, judgmental, but didn’t look like me.  I viewed him as Christena did “fatherskygod.”  Over my spiritual awakening process and my exposure to other faces of God and religion, I began to feel included in God’s warmth, more particularly the goddess.  It’s interesting that I now have returned to another aspect of Catholicism.  The Black Madonna.  I could relate to her, she looks like me, is inclusive of me, and is accessible.  The work of Christena serves as a reminder of the various ways we can include the Black Madonna in our daily lives through our questions, our longing for acceptance, compassion, and simply wanting to be seen and heard.  She is there for us.

I am only halfway through the course, and this summer am embarking on a group pilgrimage to see several Black Madonnas in Italy.  This journey will incorporate dance, sacred song, and pilgrimage.  It combines numerous aspects that I love, and I cannot wait to see how She will continue to show up in my life.  

“At Her magical spring, She redefines the concept of healing.  She doesn’t promise to eradicate our need (so we can then fit into whitemalegod’s concept of who’s valuable).  Instead, She offers to heal our relationship to our body.  She reconnects our head and body so we can know how we feel and what we need, begin to ask people for what we need, and start to bild communiteis based on meeting need rather than scoffing at it.”-God is a Black Woman, Dr. Christena Cleveland

To find out about Dr. Christena Cleveland’s programs, check out her website . To locate a Black Madonna in your area go here  Want to learn more about preparing for pilgrimage?  Go to my previous blog post here

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