September 8 is considered the birthday of the Blessed Mother by the Catholic Church. As a result, throughout Sicily this weekend, there are festivals to celebrate the Madonna. It’s not clear why this date was officially chosen as such; however, because this time of the agricultural year is traditionally a major harvest season, for centuries there have been festivals held to thank the Mother Earth for having provided so much abundance–hence, the plethora of feasts to recognize the Blessed Mother, the Christian representation of our Mother Earth.
Pictured is my statuette of the Madonna Nera/the Black Madonna of Tindari. She is considered a Black Madonna by a cult of devotees who recognize the great mother as a fertile, sensual goddess descending from a number of female deities: the earth goddess Cybele from Anatolia, the Greek/Roman goddess of love Aphrodite/Venus, the ancient Greek goddess of fertility Demeter and her daughter Persephone, and the prominent ancient Egyptian goddess Isis. There are black Madonnas venerated throughout Europe who often mysteriously arrived from the East. We even have one in North America, Our Lady of Guadalupe (but not everyone will tell you she’s considered a black Madonna!).
Look at the earth in your fields. When you turn the soil, it is dark brown, indicating a fertile landscape for our crops. The fertile, sensual mother is represented as a dark, altruistic mother goddess with child like the Madonna Nera of Tindari. An agricultural society has reason to celebrate a sensual, fertile mother because she sustains our lives.