St. Anne Grandmother of Jesus The Chapel of St Louie at Île Saint-Louis, Paris
There is category of iconic statues in France called Les Bonne Mere, The Good Mothers. These particular statues caught my eye because they looked like they came from the Fairy Realm finding their way into the backdoor of the Catholic Church. Maybe it was the Spirit of the Wood coming through. The way they were carved gave them that expression of a Good Fairy Godmother. Maybe it was the enchantment of the old European forest, the places where fairytales were born, pixies played and abandoned castles still stood over grown by climbing ivy, littered with wildflowers and sweet smelling herbs that escaped their garden long ago.
But when I came across Les Bonne Mere it stirred something deep in my Heart of Magic. That goodness that is still in the world. A place where prayers are very close to good wishes which rise on the Wings of Angels and are freely distributed to those who were open to such Graces.
Bonne Mere at Notre Dame Marthuret, Rion
The Good Mothers were different then other iconic art you might find in the Church of France. Some maybe are holding a distaff for spinning flax that was held out like a magic wand rather then the scepter of the Queen of Heaven. You might remember Flax Spinning was something you could find in fairytales. Sleeping Beauty’s finger was pricked on a spinning wheel, or the task of the princess having to turn straw into gold. A flax distaff was a common household item of the day . It was used for holding the flax in place as a woman would spin it into thread. Little pieces of flax often were given as an offering to leave at Sacred Caves, Springs and Wells dedicated to the Goddess.
Notre Dame Les Ange in Pignans
Notre Dame Les Ange our Lady of the Angels is found in the high mountains of Provence. The interesting thing about visiting this Sacred Sites was before we went into the church there was a small plaques outside that said; Sainte Nymphe was martyred on this very spot. The plaque went on to say that St Nymphe had been a companion of Mary Magdalene. Nymphe comes from the root word Nymph a fairy spirit of the woods. But on further investigation, St Nympha was supposed to be a Virgin from Palermo, Sicily. She fled to Northern Italy after an invasion from the Goths in the 5th century and died in Tuscany.
This Church also had megalith standing stone that was underneath the main altar of the chapel. There are older legends of Italy and France that speak of the Goddess walking with a standing stone as her spindle and where they dropped is where the standing stones are today.
One of my favorite chapels I visited in France was in a small village that sold wild chestnut ice cream. The village of Collobrieres has a little chapel. When you walk inside, it is like entering the center of a wild flower. The walls were painted like the stamens of flowers. The Virgin at the altar look more like a Fairy Queen of the fields then the Virgin Mary. The colors of the church were pale like delicate petals of a flowers opening. It is one of my most memorial place I visited in Provence. The door of the church was wide open welcoming the summer breeze that invisibly commune with the Holy Mother.
Notre Dame of Laghet
The smiling Notre Dame of Laghet I would consider La Bonne Mere. She is found in the crypt of the cathedral. When I sat in front of her I had the most wonderful vision. Wildflowers of the field came up through the ground bearing the Medieval names of Our Lady Flowers
bonette de pretre “Priest hat” monkshood
Rose Notre Dame ” Our Lady’s Rose” Althea rose
bonne femme, “Good Woman” columbine
sabots de Notre Dame “Our Lady’s Shoes” bird foot trefoil
succor de la Virge “Marie Virgin Mary’s Help” Buttercup
Then a clematis vine climbed through the earth and intwined itself around my legs. This vine was known as chevaux de la Virgin “The Hair of the Virgin”. One flower after another came into my minds eye and when the vision was all over “I heard paint me with all my flowers”. And when I returned home I did.
There was a tradition between the 12th and 15th centuries that dedicated over 600 flowers to the Virgin Mary. This was a time when most people did not know how to read. They work close to the Earth growing their food. Since they could not read the written word the stories of Christ and Mary were woven into the legends of flowers. I had studied this tradition for several years since I was working with gardening and wildcrafting herbs. One spring day in the California hills during a time when 50 or more different types of wildflowers were in bloom, I had a mega expereince. I knew many of the names of the flowers dedicated to Mary and I searched through my mind each flowers name, Mary’s eyes chicory, Mary needles, cranesbill, Lady’s fern maiden hair fern, Lady’s bedstraw cleavers, Our Ladies Candle mullein. My mind raced through naming one flower after another. All of a sudden the entire field of flowers was staring back at me and it was the very body of the Virgin Mary. What a moment ! She was in everything the whole Earth was alive and she was a part of all of it.
Note: The Nature of archetypes is that they speak differently to each person because we all have different doorways of experiences we need to walk through. This is just my doorway and how it is expressed through me.