This 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
In 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
I 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
December 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
Last 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
Twenty years ago today, the Black Madonna lifted her veil and allowed me to “see” her for the first time. One might say it was a chance encounter but the details suggest otherwise. Continue reading