Courting the Ancient Feminine Part II: Paris

I had done an Internet search before we left to see if there were any Black Madonna statues in Paris, being familiar with the Black Madonnas that can be found around France and Northern Spain. There was one, in Notre Dame de Bonne Délivrance, in a wealthy suburb just northwest of Paris proper. I made my intentions to visit the Black Madonna in Paris, on this honeymoon trip to Europe.  And so it was.


After two full days of walking our legs off visiting museums, catacombs and basillicas, I was to take the last morning to myself, for long Metro ride to Neuilly-sur-Siene to visit the Black Madonna of de Bonne Délivrance.

The morning was dark—from black thunder clouds that boomed and crashed outside the large French window of our postage-stamp-sized room, facing an inner courtyard.  Thunder, lightening, and then tropical-style pouring rain.

I could have bagged it, but I donned my dark pink rain jacket, armed with my husband’s iPhone (with address bookmarked in Google Maps), and to his dismay, marched out into the pouring rain.

I only had to go half a block, to the Metro station.

A quick 20 minutes later, I was at my stop. Emerging from the Metro, I followed the iPhone blinking blue dot along the streets of a very nice, well-kept and friendly-feeling neighborhood.

The storm had cleared and the sun was shining.

With ease, I found my destination — the Chateau de Neuilly, behind whose gates the chapel was housed. The large, black iron gate was open. I followed the signs for the Chapel de Bonne Délivrance, around the corner, along a well-kept gravel path. And there it was.

Inside the small chapel, it was cool and quiet. A nun, black as night, was gently moving around the alter, putting away accoutrements from the 11:00 am Monday morning mass, which I apparently had just missed. Two women were sitting silently in the pews.

And behind the alter was the Black Madonna, graceful in her flowing robes, with the child Jesus on her flung out hip.

I walked reverently up the side isle, standing behind a pillar, and took a couple of photos. Then sat in a middle pew and felt inside myself—what kind of feeling did I have here in this place?

Actually, immediately upon entering the space, I felt a very quiet gentleness. Walking near her, I was struck very strongly with the energy of utter and complete purity and innocence. The gentle sweetness of a young girl child. 

I was quite taken off guard. My idea of the Black Madonna was a strong and mysterious energy, something powerful yet hidden.

I sat on a pew in front of her and wondered at how long it had been since I had felt that unscathed sweetness in myself, that untainted purity of heart.

A long time.

I soaked it in and soaked it in, intending to have my bones remember it.

An elderly white nun, hunched over but walking briskly, motored to the back of the chapel and I could hear her carrying on a conversation with a patron, in musical and hushed French tones that echoed and reverberated soothingly throughout the space.

Within a half hour or so, the chapel was closing, as the sweet black nun told me in accented English, with the kindest of smiles.

I retraced the steps of my journey with a great peace in my heart. Here was an aspect of the Feminine that I had completely forgotten about, that perhaps I did not take seriously, because it wasn’t ‘strong.’ Yet in truth, there was an incredible strength, I discovered, in the purity of Her innocence.

You may notice that the photo I took of this Black Madonna is NOT the same statue as the Black Madonna in the blog where I’d found her first. Similar, but not the same. Another mystery never to be solved.

Courting the Ancient Feminine Part I: Greece


I recently was in Greece, on a honeymoon trip. We stayed for one night in a hotel near Athens that was (ostensibly) near the airport and (famously) near the ruins of an ancient Sanctuary of Artemis. I was pleased that I would have the time and opportunity to check out an ancient Greek temple. (I didn’t check out Wikipedia before I left, which would have been a good idea! )

Upon our arrival at the swank but deserted hotel near Athens, the lovely concierge told me that unfortunately, the Sanctuary of Artemis was closed for renovation, but the museum of the temple was open.

The next morning, when I had planned on visiting the temple, it was raining a light rain. I could have bagged it, but decided to go anyway. It was in walking distance and I was able to borrow a nice pink umbrella from the front desk, where the lovely concierge gave me directions to the temple, even though I couldn’t get in.

It was a beautiful walk, down a winding country road, in a light rain.

I followed the concierge’s walking directions until, around one bend, I could see a grove of larger trees that struck me as the place. A interpretive sign on the side of the road . . . in English, no less, let me know that this area was a wetlands, and sported a nice basic trail map. With that, I had enough information, and  so took a left, on a wet and grassy trail that seemed to lead toward the grove of trees.

Indeed it soon did.

I found myself on the back side of the sanctuary grounds, with a rather permanent-looking chain link fence between me and the ruins. (I’m sure these renovation projects take years . . . )

I’d had a small premonition about what happened next.

Neat stacks of plastic-wrapped and numbered stone blocks, and a large pile of cement bags stood at the far end of the fence. I saw a workman moving the cement bags.

By now it had stopped raining, and the sun had come out.

I walked along the fenceline (took a photo) and the man saw me. Obviously I was very interested in the structure . . . he beckoned me over, opened a heavy iron gate at the very back, and let me in. He led me a little way toward the structure near the large trees, saying in broken English (better than my Greek) that I could only go "to here because of camera". Security camera.

I paid attention to what I felt in this place. From some inside place, this is what I  sensed the place might have said to me:

“I am here. It matters to me not whether I’m being renovated. It matters to me not if you come visit me. I am about my own business.”

A strong, almost imperious Feminine energy. I liked this Artemis.

Artemis was bathing in the woods when the hunter Actaeon stumbled across her, thus seeing her naked. He stopped and stared, amazed at her ravishing beauty. Discovering she had been seen, Artemis became angry and forbade Actaeon to speak. If he tried to speak, he would be changed into a stag, she warned. Upon hearing the call of his hunting party, he called out to them . . . and was immediately changed into a stag. He fled into the woods. Stopping briefly at a pond, Actaeon saw his reflection and moaned in fear, moments before the hounds of his own hunting party sprang upon him and tore him to pieces, as he raised his eyes to Mount Olympus.”  —Wikipedia, with my edits.