the second century there are several reports about a movement, named collyridians
by its opponents. The members of this movement worshipped Mother Mary
as goddess. The name collyridians was given to them, because of their
practice of offering cakes. A practice that is already reported in Jeremiah
for the jewish worshippers of the Queen of Heaven. Although tracks are
lost of this movement, the second name that had been conferred on that
people "philomarianites" (lovers of Mary) has been used again
and again over the centuries by catholic church officials, for those worshipping
Mary as goddess. Unfortunately they condemned such tendencies and looked
upon them as errors of mislead individuals or sects.
In this thesis I shall prove, that there have been genuine traditions
in which Mary was looked upon and worshipped as the supreme being, the
Great Goddess. I am using the name philomarianites for this traditions
since it is established and not offensive. The philomarianite traditions
operated as secretly as necessary and as openly as possible. Due to the
last fact, it is possible to find its traces up to this days. I hope,
that by bringing these tradition to the light of the day, it will be eventually
accepted that Christianity has its own ancient goddess tradition.. Like
in Hinduism, where the goddess tradition has been accepted by the orthodoxy
as a valid tradition, this might happen in christianity too, one day.
None of my sources are canonical, like the scriptures of the bible, or
the texts of the church fathers. I am setting out for an independent tradition,
that has its own sources, although defiantly christian. Limiting the christian
traditions to the bible only, is historically ignorant, is cutting of
many of our spiritual roots and is supporting religious fundamentalism.
In this connection it is interesting to know, that Martin Luther, one
of the propagators of the bible-only tradition changed the bible himself.
HE threw a few books out of the bible. For example the maccabaeans, because
he didn´t liked that they connected the roman empire with Israel.
That didn´t fit in his anti-rome campaign. Jesus did not wrote a
book, nor told anybody to do so. But there have been people over the centuries
and millenniums, that were inspired for different reasons to write down
their experiences and their understandings of the divine. It is now time
to overcome the prejudice, that the texts of the bible are more sacred
or more reliable than other sources of the christian traditions. I am
including art as a valid source, specially because our ancestors were
illiterate by majority.
MARY IN LEGENDS
& MIRACLE STORIES
Religious legends, told and retold have been a major source of spiritual
information for the majority of people through the ages. This is true
for all religions. Differences can be found mainly in the way religious
officials dealt with them. The highest rank legends are enjoying in Hinduism,
where they are collected in numerous puranas and are the most populace
part of the hindu scriptures. In the Christian traditions legends are
no longer broadly available. Even the most famous collection „legende
aureae“ which once was a standard book is nowadays known only to
persons with a special interest. What to say of the less official legends,
that were told among the common folks. Although a lot of this material
has been lost for ever, there are some written collections existing. From
these I have chosen my examples to show, how Mary is being described as
a sovereign goddess.
LEGEND OF THE
PRIEST WHO ONLY
READS MASS FOR MARY
came across two versions of this legend, one very short, the other more
elaborated. But the story is the same:
There was a priest, who was not very learned. But a great devotee of Mother
Mary. Therefore he read every day the mass for Mary. This was reported
to the bishop, who became very angry, since such an exclusive worship
of Mother Mary was forbidden. He threw the priest out of his job and such
taking from him his honors and his income. In the night the Queen of Heaven
appeared before that bishop, asking him why he had done this to her devotee.
In one version she is even threatening the bishop with the loss of his
title and his life. The bishop repented, gave back the job to the priest
and became himself a devotee of Mary.
Exclusive worship of Mother Mary had always been rejected by the Catholic
church (at that time the only official church in western and central Europe).
Therefore the bishop of the legend did his duty by punishing the priest
and eliminating him from the church services. The Queen of Heaven on the
other side didn´t cared for the church´s dogmas, but stood
by her devotee and made sure, that he got back his honors and his income.
The message of this legend is clear:
The Queen of Heaven is more powerful than the church
2. Mother Mary takes care of her devotees
3. Exclusive worship of the Divine Mother is beneficial
4. A warning to the opponents of Mary worship: they might get in
trouble if they are harassing her devotees
In this legend Mary is acting as a sovereign goddess, taking care of her
devotee and once again establishing her worship. To the listener it becomes
obvious. That the humblest devotee of Mary is spiritually on a much higher
rank than a bishop, holding the highest position in church hierarchy.
In this way Mother Mary is established as the supreme goddess.
LEGEND OF SINNERS
& CRIMINALS SAVED
rule of the church over the people was mainly based on fear. It was very
easy to go to hell. Not only criminal acts but also sex and overeating
or not exactly believing in the church-teachings made one a victim of
the devil. One had to confess, pay and obey the church otherwise there
was no chance. But there was Mother Mary, not caring about the church´s
conditions for salvation, she saved everybody, even the worst criminals,
if they only did a little service to her. Since there are a number of
legends on this topic I am citing only one completely, giving shortcuts
There was once a robber, who besides his evil deeds was a devotee of Mary.
Once he was caught in the act and sentenced to death by hanging. A gallow
was erected, the rope tied around the robber´s neck and the ladder
taken away. It seemed, that it was over now with the robber. But Mary,
the merciful decided to set an example. It should be known, that everybody
should love and worship her with complete soul. She lifted the robber,
holding him in balance, so that the rope couldn´t do him any harm.
In this way she rewarded him for his devotion. After three days, the people
who had hanged the robber returned. They saw the unbelievable: The robber
hadn´t died but was alive and spoke, as if he was quite comfortable
up there at the gallow. One of then cut the rope and the „hanged
man“ stood before them , like one who hasn´t experienced the
least harm. They asked him to tell them how it was possible that he survived
the hanging. He said: „I will tell you where my help came from.
When the ladder was pulled away and I had lost all hope, I saw the most
beautiful woman an eye ever saw. She took care of me. She lifted me and
held me with her strength, so that the rope couldn´t cut my throat.
Time didn´t became boring to me, since I felt great joy seeing Our
Lady. She said to me:“ Just see in which way your are being rewarded
for your great devotion to me. I am standing by you. Because you have
chanted the Ave Maria to me so often, you are receiving it´s fruit
on this gallow.“ When the people had heard, that Mary had come to
the rescue of the robber and saved him from death, they were very glad
and let him go. He changed his life. The merciful Mother Mary was loved
by him, from than on, so much that he much more often than before kneeled
down and chanted the Ave Maria.
In this way Our Lady helps all that are worshipping her. Praise to the
Queen of Heaven.
this legend a robber is saved from death by Mother Mary, thanks to his
great devotion for her. The message of the legend is: If Mary is saving
even her robber devotee, what should an ordinary devotee of the heavenly
Queen be afraid of ? In this legend specially the chanting of Ave Maria
is mentioned. This reminds of the power to destroy bad karma, that is
reported for the mantras in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Often this
mantras include the names of goddesses and gods. It might be interesting
in this regard, that the most powerful mantra in the tantric tradition
„hrim“ includes elements of the blessed name "Maria".
No wonder, that there is a legend of Mary that is also in the bhagavat
purana of Vishnu-Hinduism:
A monk (a brahmana) is falling of the path of piety and is living
an evil life. But he still is worshipping Mary (chanting the name of vishnu).
Eventually he dies and the devils (the servants of the lord of the underworld)
are appearing to take him for his punishment. Than angels and Mother Mary
(the servants of Vishnu) are coming and demanding this soul too. There
is a discussion between the two parties and it becomes clear that the
worship of Mary (the chanting of the name of vishnu) has outbalanced all
the evil deeds. Finally the monk (brahmana) is given another span to his
lifetime. He is henceforth living the good life, entering the sphere of
Our Lady (vishnu) at the time of his final death.
There are other legends too dealing with the item of Mary saving sinners
and criminals only because they showed some devotion to her. Some are
describing, how the pious deeds and the sins are being weighed against
each other and how Mary is manipulating the pair of scales in flavor of
her devotees. In this way she manifests her superiority to the laws of
karma, being the law giving goddess herself.
GODDESS MARY IN
During the greater part of Christian history the majority of people were
illiterate. Therefore, besides legends and prayers learned by heart, art
was of major importance to communicate religious ideas. There are several
examples how pictures have been used by philomarianites to express and
propagate their belief in the supreme goddess Mary.
In Aix-on-provence in southern France is such an example. The painting
by the artist Nicolas Froment is dated back to the year 1476. It depicts
one of the most important scenes of Judeo-christian history: The call
of Moses. The bible describes, how Moses had a vision of god speaking
to him from a thorn bush, that was burning, without being burned. This
is a crucial point in history. By accepting the order given by god at
that time Moses started the mosaian tradition, that later became the Judeo-christian
one. The bible doesn´t tells more about the godhead speaking from
the thorn bush. Our artist did so, by placing Mother Mary in that thorn
bush. She, the picture is telling since centuries is truly the godhead
in whom Christianity had it´s origin. Not only, that she gave birth
to Jesus, but she also called Moses to become the founder of Judaism.
In the Russian tradition exists a Mandala-like icon with Mother Mary in
the centre, that is named, "the ever burning thorn bush."
THE CHOIR OF THE ANGELS
The dutch painter Glergten tot Sint Jans (1460/65 – 1495) created
the picture Glorification of Mary, now in Den Haag in the Netherlands.
The artist is using a different theme to present the onlookers Mary as
the supreme being. In Christian mythology, the angels are grouped in nine
choirs. They are again classified in three triades of three choirs each.
It is imagined that the angels are circling around the godhead like the
planets around the sun. The differences between the three triades of angels
id the distance between them and the godhead. The inner triade, being
the closer to the supreme, is of a very high frequency, having no contact
to matter whatsoever. He medium triade, having a greater distance to the
divine centre, is in contact with matter on a subtle level. The outer
triade finally is directly in contact with the material world, but still
circling around the supreme. The artist, beautifully puts the three triades
into a picture: The inner triade with bodies shining as if they were made
from pure light, the medium triade, still shining, but with more concrete
forms and finally the outer triade in a dark surrounding, using musical
instruments to praise the godhead. That far the painting is completely
in accordance to orthodox Christian ideas. What makes it so wonderful
is she, who is given the place of the supreme: Mother Mary. She is the
godhead! Around her the angelic triades are circling. The message is obvious
to the pious onlookers.
OF THE MANTLE OF PROTECTION
mantle of protection is one of the most popular themes in Christian Goddess
art. It has it`s forerunners in the roman-teutonic-celtic cult of the
three matrones, three Mother goddesses, who had been depicting giving
protection to women and children under their mantle.
In the 14th century the picture of Mary with the mantle od protection
became very popular. Under her mantle there is complete equality. The
pope, the emperor, queens and bishops are kneeling side by side with the
common folks. Salvation is granted to all that are assembled under her
mantle. In a popular song to Mary it says: „Dein Mantel ist sehr
weit und breit. Er deckt die ganze Christenheit. Er deckt die weite, weite
Welt, ist aller Zuflucht und Gezelt.“ (Your mantle is very wide
and broad. It covers the whole Christendom. It covers the wide, wide world,
is everybody´s refuge and tent.) Mary is described in this song,
as a universal Goddess, not only taking care of Christianity, but of everybody
on the wide earth..
There are some pictures, showing godfather attacking people with arrows,
but Mary is giving them shelter under her mantle, repelling the attack.
Such she is proving her superiority.
The same idea is transported in a legend from the Krishnamyth of India:
„Someday little Krishna sees how the adults are making big preparations.
He is being told, that a great sacrifice is being arranged for Indra (the
indian equivalent to roman Jupiter or greek Zeus). Krishna objects: Why
should Indra be worshipped? It would be much more appropriate to worship
the Goddess manifested as the Govardhana hill. The Govardhana hill supplies
the village with all it´s needs. Springs with fresh water are running
down the hill. There pasture grounds for the cattle, trees with delicious
fruits, healing herbs etc. Krishna convinces the adults to dedicate the
offering meant for Indra to the Hillgoddess. Indra becomes very angry
and attacks the village with thunderbolts and heavy rains. But miraculously
the Govardhana hill is lifting from the ground and thus creating a gigantic
shelter for the village people and their animals. They are happy and save.
This legend uses the same metaphor as the above described philomarianite
picture. The patriarchal godfather is humbled and the superiority of the
worship of the Goddess is being established. The difference in the nature
of the Goddess and the patriarchal god is well illustrated in this story:
On the one side the nurturing and protecting Mother, on the other side
an angry and revengeful warrior god.
The council of Trient (1545-1563) banned the protection mantle pictures,
because they are giving Mary a god-like status. That means the council-members
were quite aware of the philomarianite traditions but condemned them.
Fortunately many pictures survived the ban. I know at least four Protectionmantle-madonnas,
that were created in the 20th century and they are all from the southern
black forest area. Fore sure there are many more in other places. The
fact that there are pictures depicting Mother Mary as supreme Goddess
is an obvious proof, that there was a tradition too, that worshipped the
one depicted in those pictures.
Mary in the art is a broad field, were future researchers will be able
to make many more important discoveries. I only filled a nutshell to support
my thesis: There is an old tradition, worshipping Mother Mary as the supreme