My friend Fran is participating in the "A Virgin a Day" meme, and today she posted a picture of Artemis of the Ephesians. Now Fran saw the ancient statue in Turkey (where Ephesus is located), but I saw this one in Naples:
I like to think of her as the "missing link" between paganism and Christianity in Italy. Can you see how a culture who worshipped this figure above (her hands, feet, and face were replaced in bronze in the late Nineteenth Century, so I'm not sure if they were originally black), could easily adopt and adapt to a figure like the one following?
Actually the Lady above is in Einsiedeln, Switzerland -- but in the foothills of the Alps, the countries kind of run together, with no cultural boundaries at all. It's "mountain culture," rather than identifiably Swiss or French or German or Italian. Or how about this one, below? She is across the border and in the Alpine foothills on the other side, in Oropa, Italy:
It seems to me that these dark, feminine figures have more in common than they are different. On the Artemis figure, her headdress, arms, and skirt are lined with figures of humans and animals -- how radically different is that from those black Virgins, carrying the Christ Child? At the very least, these black madonnas must have seemed like familiar figures to a goddess-worshipping Italian culture.
And speaking of my friend Fran, here's another amazing thing that has happened this week. In her post a week or so ago, she mentioned my blog. Well, someone who was reading her blog just happens to live in my town! Out of the blue I got an email from this person, and we had lunch, and now I have a new friend! I have a "Mary friend" right here in this town. We're both passionate about the Virgin Mary (mine in the guise of my beloved black madonna, of course) -- and we have lots and lots and lots of other things in common! I wish you could have seen us at lunch, talking about a million miles an hour, with so much to share. So thanks to a friend way out west, I have a new friend here on the Cumberland Plateau! What fun! More than fun -- there's delight and joy in finding a new person to share with, in this bible-belt community where they mostly only pay attention to the Virgin Mary at Christmas, then they put her away for another year. Thanks, Fran.
One of the best things about friends is what we share with one another, and how we grow and are inspired by knowing one another. I would not have this new friend Donna if it weren't for my friend Fran. And now I have someone to share Mary with, but also spirituality, and art-making, and life here in this part of the world. Can you tell I'm thrilled? Thanks, Fran! Thanks, Donna, for following up and writing to me, and thanks to the both of you for bringing me again into blogland for a visit and inspiration.