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

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

Missing My Mother

Backyard shrineI guess it is inevitable that I should miss my mother, the person who birthed me into this world, as my birthday draws near. Although we are exquisitely connected for all time, I miss her presence in my life at this time. Paraphrasing a phrase that I read in a book about motherhood: “Mother is the first place I knew.” Continue reading