Bella Madre, Stella Madre

Sophia Wisdom by Lydia Ruyle

Sophia Wisdom by Lydia Ruyle

The other night

with the Moon’s light

veiled in her dark

monthly seclusion


the wilderness Sky revealed

a dome of dazzling stars

so vast

I gasped with delight,

a familiar memory

of kinship.


Around the rim where sky touches earth,

in every direction,

lightning danced in soft spreads of light

messengers of potent possibility.


With her dark spaciousness

this Star Mother

tells me that

She will hold my troubles.


“Offer it up,” She says,

just as my birth/earth Mother used to say

when my childhood sorrows felt too much to bear.

“Offer it up!”


Dedicated to my Bella Madre, Lena Pearl, who returned to her celestial home on March 26, 2014, and to my friend Lydia Ruyle, who left this world on March 26, 2016.Lydia & Mary Beth

Praise-Poem to the Black Madonna of Loreto

Madonna di Loreto








She is the Our Lady of the Tree, Rock, Sea and Cave

Beloved Mother of Wisdom, You are Black and Beautiful!

She is the Madonna of Fire and Water

Beloved Mother of Wisdom, You are Black and Beautiful!

She is the Madonna of High Places, and of places deep within the earth.

Beloved Mother of Wisdom, You are Black and Beautiful!

She reminds us of cycles of the seasons, honoring the above and below and the passages in between

Beloved Mother of Wisdom, You are Black and Beautiful!

She is the Throne, the Seat of our Wisdom

Beloved Mother of Wisdom, You are Black and Beautiful!

She reminds us of the Earth as Source, of Female as source, Goddess as source. She blesses us with her holy blood and sanctifies our own blood.

Beloved Mother of Wisdom, You are Black and Beautiful!

She helps us find the Black Madonna within us all.

Beloved Mother of Wisdom, You are Black and Beautiful

She is fierce to protect us, compassionate to hold us and hear our prayers.

Beloved Mother of Wisdom, You are Black and Beautiful!

She is Queen and Virgin, one unto herself. She is inviolate. She is rising up.

Beloved Mother of Wisdom, You are Black and Beautiful!

She unites opposites. She brings balance.

Beloved Mother of Wisdom, You are Black and Beautiful!

She is the face of our First Mother, our Oldest Mother, our African Mother. She reminds us that we are all Sisters, Brothers.

Beloved Mother of Wisdom, You are Black and Beautiful!

She is Mother, Mother of All, Mother of All that is.

Beloved Mother of Wisdom, You are Black and Beautiful!

The inspiration for the call-and-response form of this praise-poem is the Litany of Loreto, an ancient song of praise and petition said in procession to the highly venerated Black Madonna of Loreto, near Ancona, Italy. She is considered to be the protector of Italy, and is celebrated on December 10.

The phrase “You are black and beautiful, my friend” is engraved above where the Black Madonna of Montevergine in Avellino used to hang.

Tree of Wonder, Tree of Life

 Of all the sites in Crete that beckoned, it was the thousand-year-old Sacred Myrtle Tree that I most looked forward to visiting. I had first read about it in 1995, in Carol Christ’s Odyssey to the Goddess.* Carol described the Panagia Myrtià, the All Holy Myrtle, as a place of veneration, tended by the local nun’s, and extremely sacred. At that time, I was about to begin my own odyssey over the months and years to come, first encountering the Black Madonna while doing genealogy research in Italy, and then returning to Italy to delve deeply into my ancestral heritage. Now, here I was in 2015, twenty years later, gathered at the base of the Sacred Tree with Carol Christ and a group of women as part of a Goddess Pilgrimage. Tears came to my eyes as Carol read the story of her first visit to the Tree, the very story that had called to me long ago. We do not know who our stories reach when they go out into the world. Continue reading

Dreams of the Black Madonna

Our Lady of the SnowsThis summer I received a postcard from a friend in Italy portraying the Madonna in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the major church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Far more than a just a beautiful image, this Black Madonna has been attributed with miraculous and awesome power. Her titles “Our Lady of the Snows” and “Salvation of the Roman People” offer clues of her power over the weather and her ability to protect a whole community.

According to the legendary fourth century origins of the church, still celebrated today, the Virgin Mary caused snow to fall in August in Rome (a highly unlikely weather phenomenon) so that she could designate where she wanted her church to be built. She appeared to a couple and to the pope in a dream telling of the snowfall. She came to be known as Santa Maria della Neve, Our Lady of the Snows. On August 5, white flower petals are released from the church to celebrate the event and to simulate the miraculous snowfall. Continue reading

Epiphany on the Tyrrhenian Sea

SchiavoneaIn 1995, I took a sabbatical from my job to do genealogical research in Italy. My journey started with a pilgrimage to Goddess sites in southern Italy with a small group of women, led by archaeologist Frances Bernstein. I had been going to Italy for 20 years. But it had never occurred to me that among all the ruins and hidden in the churches and in nature were places once sacred to women and men who honored female divinities.

Here was common ground of my blood ancestry and my spiritual heritage. This land, consecrated by being at the crossroads of my passions, became holy ground for me. Continue reading

Those Perfect Words

Heart Image

May Love Be At the Center of All Choices       Shiloh Sophia 2008

A dream foretold my Mother’s death. We all knew her months were numbered. Her heart was no longer functioning well, and although she was still able to live in her home, thanks to visits from my sister, Marlene, three times a day, Mom was weak. The last few months had been rocky with several trips to the emergency room.

In my dream, Mom was in a car parked in front of my childhood home. She was in the driver’s seat and the back door was open for me to get in. She turned around to tell me something but her voice was weak, and I couldn’t understand what she said. The scene then shifted from our quiet tree-lined street to the middle of a busy intersection, our car stopped in several lanes of heavy traffic. But, when the cars in front of us began to move, Mom pressed hard on the pedal and lurched backward! I closed my eyes, anticipating several lanes of traffic coming at us from either side. . . it seemed impossible that we would survive. Continue reading

Moonbeams of Mystery

moon-1109746_960_720FWI am standing under the light of the full moon near the apple tree in the backyard of my home. Suddenly the light of the moonbeam begins to lift me up, off the ground, towards the moon. I awake, frightened, my heart beating fast.

I have never forgotten this childhood dream. As a young girl, I did not yet know that I had a lunar legacy in my cultural history. In years to come, I came to understand the power of the cycle of the moon: the potency reflected in its darkness and the manifestation of that potential energy in its fullness fourteen days later. Continue reading

Queen of Peace

Madonna di LoretoDecember is the darkest month here in the northern hemisphere, a time of going within to access the dark maternal matrix of creation. On liturgical calendars throughout Italy, December 10 is the date dedicated to the Black Madonna of Loreto. The sanctuary of Loreto in Ancona, Le Marche, is a major pilgrimage site of Europe with millions of visitors a year. Considered to be the protector of Italy, the Madonna of Loreto is a highly revered and well-known. Sibyls and prophets adorn the outside of the marble enclosure of the Santa Casa, or Holy House, in which her image is venerated. As one enters the small shrine within the large church, there is a feeling of intimacy and accumulated devotion. Continue reading

“Come Home with Me!”

CarmelaLast Friday a good friend died. Carmela Moser was the first person I met in 1980 when I set out to find my father’s relatives in Trentino, Italy. I was on a bus, clearly a traveler with my backpack, headed to the little village of Faida di Pinè, where my grandfather was born. Not many foreigners, and probably never any Americans, rode this bus. The woman on the bus was curious. “I’m searching for my relatives,” I explained in my best Italian. When she learned my cognome was Moser, she said, “Io sono Moser! Vieni a casa con me!” “I am a Moser! Come home with me.” Continue reading