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There are many icons of Mary that show black faces and hands. In France, these are called Vierge Noires--Black Virgins. Elsewhere, may be called Black Madonnas or the "other Mary." Jung called her Isis, while others claim she is the symbolic remains of a prehistoric worship of the Earth Mother. She is generally connected with Cybele, Diana, Isis, and Venus, as well as with Kali, Inanna, and Lilith. Historically she is connected with the Crusades, the Islamic occupation of Spain, the Conquistadors, as well as the Merovingians and Knights Templars, who viewed her as Mary Magdalene.

Why are more than five hundred of the world's Madonna images black or dark? Why is so little known about them? Black Virgins--a resurfacing of the powerful pagan goddesses of sexuality, the underworld, and earth wisdom--they are symbols of power and majesty, the other side of the traditional Madonna's virginity or tender maternity. They personify the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant in a quest for lost feminine wisdom and the search for soul.

Ean Begg's fascinating book investigates the pagan origins of the phenomenon as well as the heretical Gnostic-Christian underground stream that flowed west with the cult of Mary Magdalene and resurfaced in Catharism at the time of the Crusades, especially with the Templars.

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