Sunday, February 11, 2018

Day Nine of Art Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes

Photograph taken by myself during procession at Lourdes

Visionary or apparitional culture is no static force, a cultural 'given' that people can join as members.
It is dynamic, responding to contemporary political, social and religious realities
and shaping those realities, and is also shaped
by the individuals who identify themselves as Marian devotees
and visionaries.
Visionary culture is a confluence of Catholic devotions, symbols,
and traditions of innovative responses to modern
contexts of negotiations among social, religious and interpersonal
forces of the interactions of apparitions believers
and apparition doubters and of the loving
and guiding influence of Our Lady, who for believers is imminently present.
Visionary culture is a worldview, a palette of practices, an understanding
of the cosmos, a palette on which individuals paint
the stories of their lives.
              Extract from Out Lady of Emmitsburg by Jill Krebs

Photographs taken by myself during procession at Lourdes

'I realized that all the powers of the Mothers, of Tara, Durga, Kali are in Mary.
She has Tara's sublime tenderness;
Durga's inaccessible silent calm force;
the grandeur and terribilta of Kali.
But Mary is also a woman,
a poor woman
and a human mother.

In her the full path of the sacred feminine is lived.
In her we have a complete image of the Divine Mother,
an image at once transcendent and immanent,
other-worldly and this-wordly,
at once mystical and political and practical.

In Mary the Divine Mother comes to earth and lives on earth
and lives, the passionate, strong, serious,
simple and transforming life that shows us all how to live.
 Mary is the bridge between heaven and earth,
between the human and the divine worlds,
between human and divine justice."
Andrew Harvey in The Return of the Mother

Mary statue in my garden in Durbanville South Africa

A blessed feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes to you

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Day Eight of Art Novena of Our Lady of Lourdes

Small bottles filled with water from the spring at Lourdes

'At the grotto I fell in line with the other pilgrims, waiting my turn to touch the walls of the cave and its dripping water.  The atmosphere was light and joyful, although many stood and kneeled deep in prayer.  As I approached the statue of Our Lady where She appeared to St Bernadette, I could feel an
intensification of the energy, a slight vibration and a humming sound.  The closer I came, the louder the sound became.  The sound was over and above the sound of the rushing waters.
As I put my hand out to touch the dripping water and I raised my eyes, 
a column of light was visible to me,
shimmering and dancing.
My first impression was that it is a giant candle, but then my logical mind
realised that this is not possible.
The only way I can describe it is 'a flame of living organic light' :
Her Divine Presence made manifest in this world,
visible to my eyes.

And overwhelming and immense feelings which I am at a loss to name.
A feeling of such incredible fullness and completeness which has stayed with me ever since.

A hundred thousand harps take you
like wings and sweep you up out of silence.
And your primitive wind is blowing
the fragrance of your marvelous power
to every being and to every creature in need.
- Rainer Maria Rilke

This is an extract of my very first blog post about my first visit to Lourdes.

Shrine of the Mary and Michael leylines that meet
at the White and Red Springs in Glastonbury

Water has always been the sacred energy of the feminine.

When one follows the leylines in the earth, the Mary line
curves and spirals around wells and you will find
cathedral and churches built on the power points of the Michael
lines (as they are known in the UK)
The feminine has always been worshipped at wells
and it is quite noticeable what an important role the well
plays in Judeo-Christianity and its stories and they
usually involve a woman..

From the very first days, miraculous cures have been granted at Lourdes to many who drank or bathed in the spring that Bernadette discovered at the Lady’s prompting. The Catholic Church is extremely slow and meticulous about acknowledging the validity of a cure and so most of the cures claimed there are never officially recognized. Even so, there are dozens of totally recognized cures that have happened at Lourdes that have been documented by the Church and the medical profession. The first healings happened almost immediately in 1858 and continue until the present day. 

This healing is brought to us on many, many levels.

A picture taken by myself of the Grotto and the spring
and the pyramid of candles

Water has the power to drown us or to quench our thirst.
We know Mary as the loving nurturing mother and also
as the Mater Dolorosa, the grieving mourning mother,
dressed in black, mourning the loss of her son.

In Lourdes you will see hundreds of pilgrims carrying large
containers of water from the sacred spring home every day.
We bring tiny bottles of the healing waters home with us.
Mary is called a Vessel of Spirit, a Vessel of Honour and here in
Lourdes she is the Vessel of the Sacred Waters.

Mary as Alchemical Vessel

In alchemy the vessel is the container in which the
various ingredients are mixed and transformed by each other.
It was believed that the alchemists were looking for
a way to turn lead into gold, but this is a metaphorical
journey of transforming darkness into light.  Or of
finding joy and peace amidst sorrow and hardship as we live
in a world of radical opposites and many challenges.

Mary is the vessel for the divine incarnated in herself as 
the Immaculate Conception and in
giving birth to her Son
and then as all of us.  

water containers at Lourdes

She is also the spiritual vessel in which
opposites combine.  As we are tested and challenged, like Bernadette,
we have the choice to obey the instructions of the voice of the Lady
that no-one else sees or to listen to the incredulous villagers and
Cure.  As we follow the calling of our heart, we are led to dig where
no-one else thought to look and we will uncover a spring that will
feed and nourish thousands.


Friday, February 9, 2018

Day Seven of the Art novena of Lady of Lourdes

The Sacred Heart of Mary shrine with Lady of Lourdes

The Sacred Tasks

Today Bernadette and her story is famous and she is
regaled for her vision, her faith, her commitment and the
wondrous gifts that she brought back to our world
from her meetings with Mary of Lourdes.

But this was not the case in her lifetime.
She was the only one who saw the visions
of the Radiant Lady. 
No-one else believed her.
She was ridiculed and thought to be insane.

Her mother forbade her to go back to the
grotto after being told about the visions.
But Bernadette persisted.
and she obeyed the Radiant Lady and took her
messages back to the village and the local priest.
She was taken in for psychiatric evaluation;
she was arrested by the police
and she was vilified by the villagers.

The Rose Queen shrine

In many fairy tales and myths as well, the young
heroine has to overcome certain tasks until
the ultimate challenge has been completed.
The ultimate challenge for Bernadette was when 
Magnificent Mary of Lourdes told her to dig
for water in a bone dry patch of land where
there had never been water before.
And Bernadette started to dig with her hands
and nothing appeared.  The villagers
shook their heads at her and walked away.
But she persisted and kept on digging away
with her hands in the dirt.

'On Feb. 25 Bernadette began by praying, then she pushed aside the branches of the wild rose bush and went to kiss the ground under the rock again. She came down the slope and fell into ecstasy. She got up as if confused and started for the Gave. She stopped abruptly, looked behind her, as if hearing instructions from the rock, and made a sign of assent. This time she walked towards the grotto, not toward the Gave. She went a little way and looked around, confused. She raised her head as if to question the Lady; then she resolutely bent down and began to scratch at the earth. The little hollow she scratched out immediately filled with water. She waited a moment, then drank of it and washed her face with it. She took a blade of grass growing in the soil and put it into her mouth. When she returned to her place of prayer, her face was smeared with muddy water and a cry went up from the crowd: "Bernadette has lost her mind!" 

Most of the crowd began to leave, disillusioned and sure the ecstasies were nothing but hallucinations. She herself remained in prayer almost another hour, serene and radiant as usual. Those who remained with her and who accompanied her afterward testified that she was as ordinary as ever and fully in control of her faculties. They asked her to explain her behavior. She said, "While I was in prayer, the Lady said to me in a friendly but serious voice, 'Go, drink and wash in the fountain.' As I did not know where this fountain was, and as I did not think the matter was important, I went towards the Gave. The Lady called me back and signed to me with her finger to go under the grotto to the left; I obeyed, but I did not see any water. Not knowing where to get it from, I scratched the earth and the water came. I let it get a little clear of the mud; then I drank and washed."

As in fairy tales Bernadette surrendered her
fear, her free will and herself to the visions
and the presence of the supernatural.
As the innocent heroine of the story
she acted in hope and belief in the

The appearance of the Lady in White at Lourdes
and the miracles that she brought to the world, has the ability to
transform your world.

Novena for day seven

Magnificent Mary may I remain open
to the impossible
May I remember not to ignore the very subtle
messages of Spirit;
and may I undertake each task as the sacred task that it is
Ave Maria


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Day Six of Art Novena of Our Lady of Lourdes

Fire and Light

Fire and light are both powerful  symbols and alchemical agents
of transformation
and they play an important role in myth,
fairy tale and religious stories and rites.

I took this picture during a full moon on the Nativity of Mary
at the light procession at the sanctuary of Lourdes
In the story of Bernadette and the Soubirous family we
learn that Bernadette's father, a miller by craft and trade,
had fallen on hard times and the family had lost everything.
To earn money he undertook to dispose of waste materials from
the local hospital.  He took the bloodied and putrid bandages
in a small wooden wagon and set off
to the grotto of Massabielles where he built a big fire

'There arises an evil-smelling pyramid of
blood-soaked cotton, pus-stained bandages,
and filthy linen rags...quickly he tosses his box
of matches to set the heap on fire...The horrid
combustible pyramid flares up on the instant...
this strange sacrificial pyre, whose smoke, graciously
accepted by Heaven, rises in a straight line.
extract from The Song of Bernadette

a vestal virgin in Rome

A shrine of Bernadette Soubirous with the
candles of Lourdes

Fire is of great importance to us.  We use it to
cook our food and to keep warm in winter.
The hearth and its fire has always been a symbol
of the divine presence of the Deity who
provides and supplies us with what we need.
The candle is also seen as the flame of the Soul.
Those with mystical sight can see the flame that
is alit on the crown of the awakened ones.

The crown on top of the basilica of Our Lady of Lourdes

One can see the halo of a burning flame with the naked eye
and holy ones and awakened ones are often
drawn with similar halos.

Even though we understand how fire is created, it remains
a mystical ocurrence with miraculous abilities.
Similarly, as prana is ignited in the body (spontaneously
or through spiritual practice) and involuntary and
unexpected changes take place in both the mind, the body
and the heart, it is a wondrous mystical occurrence.
As inner sight develops and extra sensory perception
and a vast peace eventually settles in your being,
one feels drawn to make these events manifest in ritual
and practise.

Since ancient days a candle was kept alit in the temples and cities
as an offering to the heavens and as a sign of the unwavering spirit.
This is still the practise at Lourdes and also at Kildare where
the Brigidine nuns keep the flame lit.

The candles at the sanctuary of Lourdes are
kept burning 27 hours a day

Novena for Day Six
Radiant Mary, shine radiantly upon me.
Bright Lady who illuminates my inner darkness
Yours is the incorruptible fire;
As it is clean, it cleanses; as it is pure, it purifies.

Taken in my garden in the most eastern corner
at dawn


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Day Five of Art Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes

Pilgrims shrine made by myself
The French Madonna

Initiation into priestesshood by the Lady

One of the three fairy tale groups*
is 'The Abundance-giving women in the Other World'.
In these fairy tales the 'goddess-heroine' initiates
a young girl into priestesshood.

St Bernadette shrine
The story line of these type of fairy tales follow the
following outline :
The young girl leaves her family, as well as ordinary time
and place and then enters the Otherworld - which she does so either
through travel or visions.
In the Otherworld she meets the goddess whom
initiates her, turning her into an ordained priestess
and then grants her with gifts to take back to the world.
When the young girl or princess returns to the world
she is no longer the same innocent.
She returns with a deeper knowledge and with
the gifts of vision and compassion amongst other things,
which was granted to her.

This is the basic structure of this type of fairy tale
and we can see how the story of Bernadette and
Our Lady of Lourdes fit into this archetype.
Bernadette's story also has many other elements in common with
classic myth and fairy tale and we will explore those
in the upcoming days.  I am thinking of the challenges that Bernadette faced
and the sacred tasks (as in the case of the myth of Psyche)
that she has to complete.

Some of the young girls who were initiated into
the priestesshood of the sacred feminine

The grotto of Massabielles was known to be sacred to the
goddess Persephone in Roman times.  The sacred feminine
has manifested in these grounds through the ages
and today Our Lady of Lourdes, the Immaculate Conception,
fills this valley and its rocks and waters with
a sacred feminine presence..
This is a mystical understanding that not everyone is open to
and especially in religious circles there are many
disagreements on what exactly is taking place here.
But for million of pilgrims (religious and non-religious)
the supernatural and loving presence at Lourdes
is undeniable. 

Bernadette stepped into priestesshood of the sacred feminine
and returned to the world with unwavering faith in the
miraculous and the manifest presence of the deity in this world.
Through Bernadette's initiation into priestesshood
of belief and faith in the supernatural and miracles,
thousands of people are daily entering
the Otherworld at Lourdes.
A world where miracles do take place
and where healings take place daily.

Light procession at Lourdes

Novena for Day Five

I open myself to your presence, o Great Mother;
I commit myself to your priestesshood of miracle thinking
and the practise of faith in the extraordinary.
I am willing for my eyes and heart to be broken open
by your divine and blinding presence;
as I priestess your love and compassion in the world.


Bibliography references :  Gottner-Abendroth, Heide - The Goddess and her Heros

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Day Four of Art Novena of Lourdes 2018

The Shining Lady of Lourdes
VII Vessels in Mysteries of Mary tarot deck

Gifts from the Sleeping Woman

'First Bernadette feels a brief quivering pang of terror,
next a steady fear.  But this is no familiar, no fear that
propels one to jump up and run away.  Later this fear melts into 
still another feeling of which this child Bernadette has no idea
and can find no name.  One might call it comforting
or consolation.  But until this instant Bernadette
never knew that she was in need of being comforted.
For she is really not at all aware of the hardness of her life ....
This is naked reality accepted as a matter of course.
But moment by moment now she is more deeply
swathed in this consolation which has no name,
which is a hot flood of compassion.....
But the self of this child is now so cleft asunder,
so open to the universe and so at one therewith,
that the utter sweetness of this compassion
penetrates her shivering body to the very points
of her young breasts.'
extract from The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel

Bernadette saw the shimmering young lady appear
in the grotto near Cachot 18 times.  These visions
paralysed her and put her into a deep trance state
which changed her irrevocably.

The sleeping princess and the sleeping saint are both
themes in archetypal stories seen in fairy tales and religion.

We see these for instance, in the stories of Snow White
and Sleeping Beauty and the story of St Terese and St Bernadette

The spinning wheel of Sleeping Beauty
Mysteries of Mary Tarot Deck

The young girl enters the Underworld in order to
return with the greatest gift to the world :
the gift of compassion for self, for all living creatures
and for life itself.

Novena for Day Four 

I enter the Underworld as you pull me into your embrace, 
in every waking moment of living.
Contemplating on your Presence in the world,
opens me up to the poignant beauty and suffering
of all life in order and my  heart breaks open
over and over, over flowing with compassion.  
As my rigid mind dissolves in your
presence, all boundaries between myself and all living creatures
and the earth disappears and we are all one.

blessed be

Monday, February 5, 2018

Day Three of the Art Novena of Lady of Lourdes

Mysteries of Mary Tarot Deck
The young girl Mary with spindle

The Young Girl

In the fairy tale, the ancient faith survived -
          Kurt Seligmann

In many a fairy tale the protagonist is a young girl.
Think of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstilskin and
Snow White.  Sometimes she is a princess and at
other times she is a poor servant girl.  But the focus
in the fairy tale is always on the young girl, the mother and
step mother and the fairy godmother or the thirteenth fairy
or some interaction with a supernatural Blessing Lady.

The miraculous story of Lourdes is as much about
Bernadette Soubirous as it is about the Lady and the gift
of the healing waters.
The young Bernadette is the daughter of a poor family.

As in the Handless Maiden, Bernadette is the daughter
of a miller

The Miller's Daughter in the Mysteries of Mary Tarot Deck

We do not know that much about her parents
 but we know that she spends her
time in the forest
collecting wood for kindling the fire.
Her story shares these elements of the fairy tale
with Cinderella, the Young Goose girl and Hansel and Gretel
as you can see.

Bernadette also looks after the family's few sheep,  She
is a shepherdess of a tiny flock of sheep, similar to the
tradition of the  Divine Feminine and Blessed Mary
as the Divine Shepherdess of the Earth and
her creatures.

La Divina Pastora - the Divine Shepherdess

The young girl Bernadette grew up poor
and almost destitute.  She lived in an old broken down
room of what used to be a prison, in squalor. 
She had to scavenge for food on the 
rubbish heap of the village.  

In ordinary time Bernadette was poor, she had no status and she
was a girl in the ashes, scavenging to help keep her family
alive and warm.

The Holy Servant and Handmaiden shrine from the
Mysteries of Mary tarot deck
VIII of Roses (pentacles)
The fairy tale of Cinderella

Novena for day three :
Holy servant and handmaiden are ancient titles for
holy ones or Light Bringers.  In the esoteric
Christian Bride chamber mysteries, the holy servant
is the bride of the Christ.  
Today, in my heart I declare I am Thy Handmaiden,
o Blessed Mother of the World.
I look upon the ordinary tasks of this world as the work
which will open my eyes to the wonders behind the veil.

Amulets of Mary, Lady of Lourdes
at The French Madonna at

be blessed