I've always loved the idea of "compost". When I became a gardener, I was delighted by the daily visit to the compost heap, the alchemical magic of watching it gradually become fertile soil, coveted by renegade watermelon seeds that sprouted at it's outskirts, and mice that nibbled at it's warm, smelly, decomposing wealth.
I ran across the idea of "energetic compost" today in a recent article by Sig Lonegren, a spiritualist minister and geomancer who lives in England. I myself have seen "fairy rings" that marked places of geomantic energy when I lived in the Northeast.........I love his description of how he turned to Mother Earth to help him with "psychic compost". Reading his thoughts about "compost", I had to pull out and re-read one of my own articles as well, about the "Black Madonna" - to me, these ideas are intimately intertwined.
"I would like to suggest an approach that employs some geomantic magic (for dealing with fear and negativity). Crossings of underground veins of primary water are very yin. I see them like a psychic vacuum cleaner that sucks energy into the Earth. It helps things to fall apart, to decompose. Yes, there are some beneficial things that can happen by spending time over places like this. For example, it's a great place to put your compost pile. But mostly, it is deleterious to human health. It shrinks your aura when you spend time over such places, and helps you get a number of different degenerative dis-eases - like cancer, arthritis, auto-immune diseases and difficulty in sleeping.
But these yin centres are great places to get rid of stuff that is no longer useful to you. I learned this in the early eighties when another geomancer moved in to my area and began writing me rather provocative unpleasant letters. One day, I had had enough, so I took his letter to a place on my lawn where there was a crossing of veins of primary water, and Mother Nature had made it clear by leaving a small circle of English Daisies. As I lit the letter, I asked Her to take this negativity and use it as compost for the new. I just didn't want this negative energy in my life any more. (He never wrote again.) Six months later, someone asked me about this guy and what had been irritating me, and I couldn't remember! I still can't."
The Black Madonna
"Older yet, and Lovelier Far, this Mystery
and I will not forget."
In 2005, during a residency on the 150 acres of IPark, the land spoke to me, and I had time and space to speak back, to engage in a conversation, and my own " Black Madonna" arose from that numinous time.
Many suggest that the Madonna with Child originated in images of Isis with her child Horus (the reborn Sun God). Isis was a significant religious figure in the later days of Rome, and continued to be worshipped in the early days of Christianity. In general, when Isis arrived in Rome she adopted Roman dress and complexion, and was sometimes merged with other deities, such as Venus. The images of Isis that survived the fall of Rome were perhaps the origin of later "Virgin and Child" icons - temples devoted to Isis continued well into the third century. "Paris" derives from the name of Isis ("par Isis")
Whether originally derived from Isis or not, most of these images are connected in place and myth to healing springs, power sites, and holy caves. I believe The Black Madonna is also the ancient Earth Mother, metamorphosed in the form of Mary, and yet not entirely disguised. She is black like the Earth is black, fertile (often shown pregnant) like the Earth is fertile, dark because she is embodied and immanent, as nature is embodied and immanent.
I did not realize until recently that there are many pilgrimages in Europe to Black Madonnas. A significant pilgrimage route is the one that concludes at the Cathedral of Santiago at Compostella, the endpoint of "The Camino", the long traditional pilgrimage still made by thousands today across Spain.
Pilgrimage routes to Compostela
"From this compost -- life and light will emerge. When the pilgrims came to the Cathedral at Compostella they were being 'composted' in a sense. After emergence from the dark confines of the cathedral and the spirit -- they were ready to flower, they were ready to return home with their spirits lightened."
~~ Jay Weidner
In the Middle Ages when the majority of the Black Madonna statues were created there was still a strong undercurrent and mingling of the old ways. Black Madonnas were discovered hidden in trees in France as late as the seventeenth century, suggesting these were representations of pagan goddesses who were still worshipped in groves. Black Madonnas are also found close to caves (the womb/tomb of the Earth Mother). In churches the statues were sometimes kept in a subterranean part of a church, or near a sacred spring or well.
"Again and again a statue is found in a forest or a bush or discovered when ploughing animals refuse to pass a certain spot. The statue is taken to the parish church, only to return miraculously by night to her own place, where a chapel is then built in her honour. Almost invariably associated with natural phenomena, especially healing waters or striking geographical features" Ean Begg
So why am I writing all of this? Well, because it's important to know that the ancient "Journey to the Earth Mother", which exists in all cultures and times, intimately connected to long ago "pagan" sacred sites, sacred sites that probably always had an intrinsic geomantic power.... never ended. It just transformed again. The pilgrimage is a human pilgrimage, an impulse that is made, ultimately, throughout many cultures and times.
Procession to the Black Madonna, Poland
Sig Lonegren, SunnyBank 9 Bove Town Glastonbury, Somerset BA6 8JE England, www.geomancy.org
The Cult of the Black Virgin (1985) by Ean Begg;
Miraculous Images of Our Lady (1993) by Joan Carroll Cruz;
The Virgin Goddess: Studies in the Pagan and Christian Roots of Mariology (1993) by Stephen Benko.Martin Gray: Sacred Sites (www.sacredsites.com)
Jay Weidner, (www.jayweidner.com)
James Swan, Sacred Sites, (www.jamesswan.com)