Friday, November 25, 2005

Penetrating to the Depths

Penetrating to the Depths

Cathedral of the Black Madonna: The Druids and the Mysteries of Chartres by Jean Markale is an easily readable short history of one of the nearly undocumented nemetonic centres of the Pre-Christian Western European Celtic Civilisation.

First of all, this is a truly illuminating book. Markale first begins with a personal narrative of his own relationship to The Beauce and the surrounding countryside of Chartres. He leads through exemplary skill, as a reader one is able to follow his inferences and silences through a carefully constructed presentation of facts and reasoned conjecture. He then proceeds to describe in detail almost all that is historically known, questioned, and pondered about the Black Madonna of Chartres, the works of art and symbolism of the stained glass monuments, and the structural architectural elements present in the cathedral itself.

Startling in example, he details that the windows of the cathedral and the artworks which adorn it once represented some of the sole instructive materials for many of the faithful; a folk history required in pre-literate Europe. Thus pilgrimage takes on an even more practical element. Markale ties the possible bridges between the Virgina Paritura, once believed to have been set in a cavern found deep beneath the cathedral, to the Pre-Christian, thus Druidic beliefs in a perpetual virgin, and the Christian veneration of the Virgin Mary, bringing into the world a perpetual son of god.

He illustrates with strong parallels the transitionary representation of the virgins of this cathedral over a long history and its significance to the Christian Marian Cult. Markale suggests that the idolatry of much of Europe may not have been entirely unacceptable to Christian evangelists and conversion of purpose appears possible in the eary years of Christian growth.

Especially, his central arguments include that Druidic conceptions of polytheism may have actually masked a completely monotheistic faith; and that even the Christians themselves were perhaps appropriating the idols of Ancient Thebes for example, effectively adapting their appearances and transplanting them in foreign lands through successive waves of dominion, wars, and migrations. This is certainly possible, as the Roman scribes detailed the Gaulish invasions of Rome and Greece by Brennus and 150,000 infantrymen; all bent on pillage.

Markale details the Madonna of the Underground, the Madonna of the Pillar and The Well of Strength and their combined significance to Christian history in Western Europe along with the less documented history of the cathedral crypts and their significance to what is known of the Carnutes and Druidic traditions. He references many ancient texts, mostly Roman accounts of Celtic gods and goddesses, and aligns the belief systems of both Pre-Druidic and Pre-Christian beliefs with known folk mythology, such as Birgit, Apollo/Mac Oc, etc. and makes many controversial comments and conclusions.

His most surprising assertion is that the Druids themselves may have had an appropriate foreshadowing or coincidental revelation of Christianity itself; hundreds of years before their Christianization the Druids were already preparing for the birth of one God over all other gods through the miracle of a perpetual virgin, and that Minerva and Bo'ann already were representative of a Christian-aligned virgin. Markale also raises the interesting observation that the liturgical rites of Druidic and Christian traditions serve some of the same sociological purposes.

Markale really covers a lot of fascinating territory in this book, and his description of the importance of the Virgin Mary as the greatest arbitor of amelioration of the belief systems of evangelized peoples of Christianity certainly stands as a monument to his communicative ability on the topic.

I look forward to reading a few others of his numerous books on various associated topics.

No comments: