Embracing the Darkness

It has been such a long and arduous road these past few years. Living in America in the age of Trump is both a constant horror, and an exponential unveiling of ugly truths. Not one, but countless calls to Justice have dotted this landscape since 2016, but none so great as the one we are witnessing now.

Black Lives Matter.

More than that, Black Lives are ESSENTIAL.

I could write pages extolling the evils of institutional racism. I could write pages of praise and support for all the work done by Black Americans in the pursuit of their civil rights and a recognition of their suffering, both past and present. But there is no shortage of this work widely available, researched, written, and committed by people far more qualified to speak of it than myself, a middle-aged white woman of privilege.

What I can speak of is my own tiny facet of the great vision, which aims to embody the Sacred in visual form.

Pursuing a life of sacred service is a journey that expands in all directions, only coming to a close when we leave this earth. It is a cyclical path of learning, understanding, accepting, and embracing all of the richness that life affords us, in joy and in pain. In truth, pain is a lens through which joy can become crystalline and revelatory; it is the contrast of deep emotion that allows for such a measure of profound experience. We collectively exist at the fulcrum of this spectrum, its extremes blazing indelible marks on us as we navigate this tumultuous period of uprising. I hope that my work incorporates these marks of the spirit, giving inspiration in times of trouble.

At the beginning of 2020, I began a yearlong devotional project to illustrate the 13 Goddesses honored in the mandala of the Mount Shasta Goddess Temple (MSGT). At first I thought I would execute each piece in the month of that Goddess, but as the pandemic was gaining its hold on the world in late February all plans for the sequence of my work for the year dissolved.

I released my need to control the pace and sequence of the project, and followed the Goddess who came to me when I was ready.

I began working on the Black Madonna in mid-May, before the murder of George Floyd and the uprising which has emerged in its wake. She came through me clearly and deliberately, just as the priestesses of the Mount Shasta Goddess Temple were preparing for June, her month of honor in the temple. Working on/with the Madonna during this time was an anchor for my soul as fires and protests raged in cities across the country and abroad. The city I live in, Vallejo, was one of the hardest hit in Northern California, with organized looting and riots by criminal instigators staining the peaceful protests and provoking excessive police action, curfews, and another killing by police. I laid awake multiple nights, shuddering from the circling helicopters, sirens, and horns that characterized that first week of June. During the day I would retreat from social media and the news and sink into the Black Madonna, giving her my keenest focus and attention. As she was nearing completion, I realized she needed to be more than a devotional work for the Temple. She would bring awareness and support to a real world organization providing support to Black women.

Priestess Yeshe and I decided to offer prints of our Madonna of Black Butte as a fundraiser through the Temple to benefit Black Mamas Matter Alliance, a Black women-led organization supporting the maternal health, rights and justice for Black mothers. The Black Madonna is the Mother of all…even though she has often lain hidden in the shadows of history. It’s time for those shadows—all of our shadows—to come into the light.

From the MSGT:

She is vast, timeless, fierce, and benevolent. She is non-local and ever-present. She is the balm for all suffering, the relief for obsessions and addictions, the matron of those who have been sexually marginalized and wounded, the mother of the oppressed, arbiter of justice, and the symbol for the deep, wise, feminine power that has been denigrated and treated as hidden/forbidden within more traditional religious contexts.

Through August 1, 2020 all proceeds from prints of the Madonna of Black Butte will go to Black Mamas Matter Alliance.

It is my sincerest hope that this work will generate a ripple of positive change in this world, as we navigate the final eradication of racism: in body, mind, and spirit.

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