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Journey into the Heart of the Great Mother

She is calling me and always has. She has been my intuitive guide and steady support, holding me in her one infinite embrace of love whenever I needed it the most. I must have felt her presence when I was a little girl growing up in Switzerland. My mother came from a traditional Italian family and hence dragged me to mass on most Sundays. Being the good little girl that I was then, I felt obliged to join her until my early adolescence. However, as a child I could not relate to the words I heard during mass. The rituals felt somewhat sterile, lacking vitality. For some reasons, I felt much more drawn to the statue of Mother Mary. I remember that I would often look up at her in awe and wonderment. Wrapped in her turquoise mantle and adorned with her crown of golden stars, she exuded a loving, soothing energy. Her open arms seemed to extend all the way to where I was standing. I was mesmerized by her sublime beauty and mysterious presence without knowing why…

Many years later, when I occasionally celebrated the numerous manifestations of the Goddess/great Mother across cultures in ritual with a group of sisters and eagerly read every book I came across on the Sacred Feminine, I eventually realized that Mother Mary’s symbols connect her to the lineage of the powerful pre-Christian goddesses. Inanna/Ishtar of ancient Babylonia, for example, was also affiliated with celestial bodies and called “Lady of the Zodiac” and “Queen of Heaven” – a title later attributed to Mother Mary in the 1950’s when her Assumption became official church doctrine. Although Mother Mary is not considered on par with the Trinity in official Christianity and is certainly not viewed as a Goddess in her own right, she still shares many of her functions, themes and symbols with pagan goddesses. A little-known medieval French statue of Mother Mary, the so-called “Vierge Ouvrante,” shows her as the great Mother of the Universe who contains the Trinity within her Being. In this function, she assumes the role of the great cosmic Mother who brings forth all of life… In her life-affirming function, she is also venerated as a great healer. Especially the shrines of the Black Madonna – often located in raw nature in grottos and near springs – are renowned for their miraculous healings. The Black Madonna and many dark-skinned goddesses across cultures embody the potent healing energies of Mother Earth and fertility. Of course, the Sunday sermons of my childhood and early adulthood never included any references to the Earth. I only came to understand the multi-layered meaning and deeper symbolism of the Black Madonna many years later.

About eight years ago I received a great healing from the Dark Mother At that time I was visiting Ammachi – a Holy Mother from India also known as the “Hugging Saint” and “Mother of Immortal Bliss” – at her ashram near my home in the San Francisco Bay Area. I had also visited Amma two days before and had handed her an image of the Black Madonna of Einsiedeln –a well-known pilgrimage site in my native Switzerland – when I approached her to receive my hug. On tbe back of the card I had written a note to Amma in which I had expressed that for me she and the Black Madonna were in essence the same… Amma grew up Kerala in Southern India, and her skin is very dark. When I returned to Amma’s ashram two days later, I felt called to sign up for an acupuncture treatment by one of her healers. As I was lying on my couch waiting for my session, a beautiful young African American woman opened the door and asked to see the acupuncturist. She wanted to thank her for a healing session she had experienced the day before. After her conversation with Amma’s acupuncturist, the young African American woman decided to stay and sat down next to the mattress on which I was lying, my body covered with needles. Suddenly something extraordinary happened. She began to intone a humming sound, gently at first. Eventually her humming intensified, growing into a powerful crescendo. And then she suddenly stopped the humming and began to chant the “Ave Maria” in its original Latin language. As a child and young woman, I had heard the Ave Maria many times in Italian churches. The hauntingly beautiful voice of this young African American woman brought back ancient childhood memories. The sound of her voice reverberated in every cell of my body. I was flooded with emotions, and my body was shaking. It felt like a major initiation, a rite of passage that opened the door into a more empowered version of my adult woman self. It was as if the floodgates opened up in my heart. I began to cry and couldn’t stop crying… These were tears of profound release of whatever I needed to let go of in that space of no time beyond thoughts and words. They were also tears of profound gratitude for the healing of my heart received on that day. Later I learned from Amma’s acupuncturist that this young African American woman who had blessed me with her beautiful voice during my session was a new rising star in the opera scene. I had been given this amazing healing gift by the dark-skinned Mother!

Since I’ve had that experience, I have become much more attuned to the energies of the Mother. I trust her guidance and surrender to her profound wisdom, even in the most challenging circumstances. The Mother guides us through the crucible of the “dark night journey of the soul,” allowing us to come face to face with our worst fears and self-doubts. As painful as these birth pangs may be, they precede transformation and allow us to evolve psychologically and spiritually. We need to remember that even the fierceness of the Dark Mother is ultimately always rooted in the Supreme Truth and the power of infinite love.

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Isabella Price

One of the preeminent scholars of women’s spirituality today, Isabella Price is a professor of Spirituality and Comparative Religion at John F. Kennedy University in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has taught at many other educational institutions, including the California College of the Arts. Price is the author of the “One Truth, Many Paths” book series on the world’s wisdom traditions, which includes Goddess Power, Jesus Christ: The Love and Wisdom of a First-Century Mystic and In the Beginning: Creation Myths Across Cultures. She holds an MA in the humanities from the University of Zurich, Switzerland. A certified SQ21 Spiritual Intelligence coach, Price also teaches meditation to veterans suffering from PTSD and other community members. For more information, please visit her website at: www.onetruth-manypaths.com

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