|Queen of Heaven|
I grew up going to a main line reformed church during the 1970s. At my church, there were women who were elders and deacons. Sadly, it wasn’t until I had graduated from college did I realize that women could be ordained as a minister in my denomination (note: twenty years after this was allowed). I thought this was great; I could finally hear a feminine view point of God. But talking with other women there seemed to be a push back. Many felt ministers should be a men’s only field. God was a man of course.
|Queen of Heaven|
I confess I have coveted my Catholic friends who have Mary. She was someone I could relate to. Looking at her statue, Mary was approachable in a motherly and nurturing kind of way. Her arms were always open ready for you to come and get a big hug. God on the other hand, seemed standoffish ready to smite and punish. Sure he was presented as a loving father, but if you’re having cramps and cramps were taught to be a part of God’s punishment for Eve’s sin – a girl is less likely to ask God to help cope. Mary on the other hand – she gets it. Mary gets it when your heart is broken over a boy who said he was in love with you and was dating someone else. Mary gets it when you found out that the guys were getting more money at the same low paying job. Mary gets it when you walked through your high school hallway and are called nasty sexually oriented names or are called (fill in the blank). Mary has walked in my shoes as a woman.
I’m not saying that my church didn’t present women heroes of the Bible. Yes, I learned about Deborah, Esther and Ruth. I learned about the Marys, Lydia and Pricilla in the New Testament and the many nameless women who were someone’s mother or seen at (Name the place). Yes there was the Holy Spirit – that seemed to be genderless and having some feminine characteristics. But, for me, I always felt the Holy Spirit was sort felt slapped on at the Doxology after the Father, Son as an after thought.
I needed the feminine in my spiritual approach.
One of the influential books I read about women, theology and politics was The Serpent and the Goddess: Women, Religion, and Power in Celtic Ireland by Mary Condren. What made this book so powerful for me was Condren’s historical descriptions of how ancient women’s symbols were eliminated or reduced to handmaidens. I learned how Ireland changed with the introduction of Christianity. It took less than five centuries to dismantle women from religion and politics. “Finally, in the twelfth century, the Abbess of Kildare, who up till then had played a huge symbolic role in Irish culture, was raped by the soldiers of Dermot MacMurrough, and that symbolically and practically put an end to that lineage” (Lawless, Andrew, Interview Mary Condren).
|Black Madonna, Rocmadoar France|
As Christianity was introduced throughout Europe it followed the Roman tradition by renaming the local Goddess as Mary. The Goddess now disguised as Mary was able to maintain her residence (i.e., established shrine or temple). However, most often her local temple was destroyed and a new church was built directly on the site all in order to further cloak the truth. The new priests incorporated her prayers into their services. Thus the Goddess was able to maintain her traditions she was accustomed to despite her new veneer.
There are numerous examples of how this occurred. Mary was declared the Mother of God by the seventh century Christian Council of Ephesus. Ephesus was home to the great temple for Diana. This title is Diana’s. In Southern Italy and Southern France Isis was worshiped. Following the introduction of Christianity, Isis became the Black Madonna.
During the reformation, the protestants considered Mary’s statues as graven images – breaking the second commandment (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” Exodus). The reformed churches agreed that Christ had a virgin birth through Mary – but to call her the Mother of God went too far. Many statues and Marion art were destroyed during this time.
The reformers didn’t stop with Mary. Women were also called into question. There was a continual debate as to if women were really human beings. Poor Eve, the first woman blamed for the original sin and for mankind punishment of leaving Eden and having to work. Women were held guilty by just being a woman. Any bad occurrence or misfortune was blamed on a woman. Many women were burnt to death.
Understanding the church’s history and the treatment of women makes it hard to stay. Still I work for restoring the feminine - there's a great need for someone like the Queen of Heaven to be reintroduced – the balance still missing from the church. Mary the Goddess in disguise.
Mary’s I have visited.
Mary Shrine, Carrey, Ohio
Mother Cabrini Shrine, Denver Colorado
Blessed Virgin Mother Statue, Cologne, Germany
Virgin Mary Statue, Mission of San Xavier, Tucson, Arizona