Art by Hannah Shapero
The Alchemical Madonna is a portrait of a real woman with her daughter, but I have added in many mythical symbols. The Green Lion and the Black Dragon which are at the sides of the throne are symbols of the material with which the alchemist works. The throne has the symbols of the planet Saturn and the Moon on it, as well as a "Green Man" face (on the top frieze) symbolizing the power of the earthly Plant World, which is also used in Alchemy. The yellow ribbons hanging from a rod behind the throne commemorate the Gulf War of 1991, as this picture was painted during the days of this conflict.
The mystery of the Divine is not complete without representation of the feminine mystery. Whether one calls her Wisdom from the Book of Wisdom from the Catholic Bible also known as one of the books of the Apocrypha, or whether one sees the image of the Lady as one of paganism or one that is of Goddess, or the Sophia as a figure of Wisdom, feminine mystery permeates so many religions and this includes both Gnosticism and Christian Mysticism.
In Greek Orthodox icons we see the Sophia as a woman who represents Wisdom with her daughters, Hope, Faith, and Charity (Love). In the picture of the Alchemical Madonna we see the Mother figure with the child and we also see symbols from alchemy. In the city of Orlando the Shrine to Mother Mary the Saint of Christianity is dedicated as the "Queen of the Universe" Shrine.
For some groups the Lady is another title completely. Other groups mix symbologies and take from different traditions. The Christo Pagan order known as the Ordo Arcanorum Gradalis basically takes from Judeo Christian traditions as well as Arthurian myth and paganism, Wicca in particular as the order was originally called Grail Craft Wicca in the seventies. Mary is perhaps seen more as Goddess then as the more traditional saint in the Catholic Church, she is sometimes called first among saints.
Saint Catherine Laboure reflected upon Mary in her visions as the "Queen of the Angels" when she said that in part of her vision Mary stated " Seek the light of the angels."
The popular author and Third Degree Wiccan Highpriestess Silver Raven Wolf comments on Mary as the Queen of the Angels in her book "Angels: Companions in Magic". She addresses her in prayers and in magic and indeed considers her the feminine side of the matching powers of Lord and Lady. In the book "The Tarot: History, Mystery and Lore by Cynthia Giles we see that "The Gnostic interpretation of Christianity also differed from orthodoxy in referring to God as both Father and Mother ( women were equal participants in Gnostic religion)."
In the Catholic Church there are sometimes groups that are considered to worship Mary with such a level of reverence that it approaches heresy from within, these groups are sometimes referred to as being a part of the Cult of Mary. However the power of Mother Mary in the Roman Catholic Church is seen through many Marian organizations, through monks and nuns and various orders as well as lay organizations such as the Legion of Mary and others.
While the imagery of Mary and Sophia can be separated as can all of these images, this quick survey serves to point out the many different points of view that are seen about the feminine mystique within Christian Mysticism and Gnosticism. This of course barely touches the surface. However many are surprised at the level of interest in some many splinter sects, religions and various organizations. Without going into the patriarchy vs matriarchy issue the power of such symbols as the Madonna is undeniable.
The Alchemical Madonna pictured here goes into a great deal of depth in capturing this special power as well as the special power of the child, while including other symbols from alchemy and the planets. Even modern day symbols such as the yellow ribbons from the Desert Storm war. It is amazing how symbologies are woven into art which reflects so much about our culture.
It reflects our beliefs and values and much more. The belief in the feminine principle is reflected in so many cultures and religions and certainly not forgotten in Christianity or Gnosticism.
"At morn, at noon, at twilight dim
Lady thou hast heard my hymn:
In joy and woe, in good and ill,
Goddess, Mother, be with me still,
When the hours flew brightly by
And not a cloud obscured the sky,
My soul lest it should truant be,
Thy grace did guide to thine and thee.
Now, when storms of fate o'ercast
Darken my present and my past,
Let my future radiant shine
With sweet hope of thee and thine.
Edgar Allen Poe
Webpage and content Copyright©2002 Gnostic Cross Magazine.