switzerland's black queen

Our Dear Lady of Einsiedeln
Our Dear Lady of the Hermits
Our Dear Lady of the Dark Forest

In the Dark Forest of northern Switzerland, situated inside the Lady Chapel of Einsiedeln’s monastery, is a dark mother.

The official word is the Einsiedeln Black Madonna became black over the years from dust and the soot of the candles, oil lamps, and incense, that later the hands and face were painted black.

The still popular cult of wonder-working images is not only reactionary and non-scriptural, it also evokes memories of awkward subjects best left in obscurity like the pre-Christian origins of much in Christianity, the history of the Templars, Catharism, and other heresies, and secrets concerning the Merovinginian dynasty. So, blackness in statues of the Virgin tends to be ignored and, where admitted, is attributed to the effects of candle smoke, burial, immersion or fashion’s passing whim. The contention, then, of the Catholic Church is that most such statues were not originally intended to be black, and only became so by accident later.” ....”If the presumed polychrome faces and hands of the Virgin and Child have been blackened by the elements however, why has their polychrome clothing not been similarly discolored? Secondly, why has a similar process not occurred in the case of other venerated images (where smoky candles were also burned nearby)?
— The Cult of the Black Virgin, Ean Begg

The chapel where the Lady resides was constructed after Christ appeared in a dream to St. Meinrand, a monk who had come to the forest seeking solitude.  The original was torn down in 1798 by the French troops that had occupied Switzerland and was reconstructed from 1815 - 1817 in the neoclassical style.

The miraculous image of the Black Madonna stands in front of an aureole from which rays emanate. Mary and the baby Jesus wear magnificent embroidered clothes, which are changed according to the liturgy. The clothes cover everything except their face and hands. On their heads they wear crowns. 

In her left arm, the Madonna holds the Christ child, in his hand, the Christ child holds a black bird, allegedly eluding to an apocryphal story in which Jesus as a young child resurrected a dead bird.


Birds robed in black do not give up their secrets easily. They love to watch us marvel over their messages. Black birds demand our commitment to learning their wisdom, and do not reveal their meanings unless they are convinced we’ve devoted ourselves completely to the path of understanding (both dark and light sides of) energy.
— Avia, What's Your Sign

But legend states that one day St. Meinard rescued two ravens that were being attacked by hawks.

The ravens became the monk’s allies for the remainder of his life.

When two thieves come to rob St. Meinard in 861, he knows their intentions, but offers them hospitality then requests that when they kill him, they light a candle at his feet and one at his head. They do so, then immediately realize they have killed a saint and flee. They are followed by the ravens who squawk to alert the townspeople. The robbers are arrested.

Here we have another example of the significance of dreams in the story of the Black Madonna, as well as a connection to black birds (the crow), and nature herself.

Are you beginning to feel her feminine ways? 

Her intuitive being?

Her interconnectedness to all creation?

The Black Madonna meets us in the domain of the subconscious. She speaks to us through nudges and feelings, loyalty and compassion, the way the worlds moves.

Before there was the Christ Child, there was the Mother. 

She is the gateway, the doorway.

She points to the path. She holds him up for us.

This, he says.

This is the new way.

Again and again in the stories of the Black Virgin, a statue is found in a forest or a bush, or discovered when ploughing animals refuse to pass a certain spot. The statue is taken to the parish church, only to return miraculously by night to her own place, where a chapel is then built in her honor. Almost invariably her cult is associated with natural phenomena, especially healing waters or striking geographical features. The Romans had taken over and adapted many of the sacred sites of the Celtic world, which the Christians were later, in their turn, to sanctify, but the spirit of the place remains Celtic, and still whispers something of its origins through the cult associated with it.
— The Cult of the Black Virgin, Ean Begg

The statue was damaged during the French Revolutionary occupation. When we was returned in 1799, the Black Madonna had been restored to her original whiteness. This caused such an uproar the restorer had to darken her again. At first, he compromised by darkening the skin but leaving some color in the eyes, on the cheeks, and on the lips. The people protested until he painted the whole face black. 

The Dark Madonna is is speaking to us and we hear her.

We know her.

On some level, we understand.


For Your Journal

Close your eyes and imagine you have gone into the forest seeking solitude. You kneel by the healing waters of a flowing creek. You cup the water in your hands and drink. You lie back in the grass and watch the trees move against the blue sky. 

What do you find here?

What is the message nature has for you?

What does the Dark Madonna say to you?

What is her message for the world?


Come share your thoughts in Creating With the Sacred Feminine.