The Secret Life of Bees, an enigma acquainted with the book is why the Black Madonna of Breznichar in Bohemia is used as opposed to a white Virgin Mary.
With the story taking place in the racist south of 1964 it would be reasonable to assume that a black Mary wouldn’t be common, or readily accepted; however she still occupies a large area of the women’s lives. For the Boatwright’s, the Daughters of Mary, and quickly for Lily and Rosaleen, the black Virgin Mary is placed in the book as a source of strength, and maternal comfort. The most obvious symbolism of the Black Madonna of Breznichar in Bohemia is that it is featured in the novel to give the characters a religious strength.
In the story of ‘Our Lady of Chains’ August tells how the statue was such an inspiration to the slaves, and how “Our Lady filled their hearts with fearlessness… And if it ever grew weak, they would only have to touch her heart again,” (109-110). ‘Our Lady of Chains’, another Divine black figure in the book besides the Madonna of Breznichar, does that same thing for all of the women. Along with ‘Our Lady’ the Bohemian Black Madonna has the same effect on the Daughters of Mary, because it showed them that “what’s divine can come in dark skin.
You see, everybody needs a God who looks like them,” (141). In the real world however, there is no such thing as the Black Madonna of Breznichar in Bohemia. The historical region of Bohemia was located in the same area as modern Poland, and Poland is home to a well known Black Madonna, Our Lady of Czestochowa, who shares many similarities with the Madonna of Breznichar in Bohemia. These similarities, including features and elements of the pictures, strongly suggest that the Madonna of Breznichar in Bohemia is based on Our Lady of Czestochowa.
Our Lady of Czestochowa is well known for her ‘miracle working’, mostly involving scaring away foreign invaders and assisting small groups of defenders in defeating powerful armies (Similar to Lily, Rosaleen, the Boatwrights, and the Daughters of Mary gaining the strength to convince an angry T-Ray to leave Lily with them? ). The Black Madonna is also historically known to have been at the foundation of rebellions and revolutions, and leading to freedom; which can again be connected to Lily leaving and becoming free of her father. However the Black Madonna of Breznichar in Bohemia also has another role.
Another component of the Bohemian Madonna’s role is her place as a ‘mother of thousands’. In a reflection on The Secret Life of Bees by the author, Sue Monk Kidd said that the Black Virgin Mary existed in the novel to be a symbol of comfort. She also planned for Lily to have a coming home to herself, and a discovery of a mother within to take place with the help of a divine female presence, the Black Mary. Along with the strong connections between the Mary and a mother-like role to the characters, in a religious perspective she is of course a symbol of motherhood, and giving life.
In general, the Virgin Mary is known for giving birth to Christ. There is also another connection concerning the Black Mary, which is that she is the ancient earth-goddess that was altered for use in Christianity. Many other goddesses were pictured as black, most importantly Ceres the Roman goddess of agricultural fertility. Keeping in mind the theory that the Black Madonna is an ancient earth-goddess, agriculturally the best fertile soil is characterized by a black color. The blacker the soil, the more becoming it is for farming. Good farming leads to more food, which keeps humans alive. Summing it up, the black earth gives life.
This is another strong connection to a life giving maternal role. There’s also another spiritual connection to the comfort brought by the presence of Our Lady of Czestochowa. This connection regards the hidden meaning of the colors present in the images of the Mother; first is the blue-green background, which symbolizes hope. Foremost, the brown skin color is more important, subtly indicating the human element as well as the long history seen by the Madonna. With all of these characteristics related to the Black Virgin Mary, it is clear why Kidd would create this divine figure to inspire her cast of characters.
The insurgence nurtured in the history of Black Madonna created the perfect symbol to guide Lily in her search for a home and a connection to both her literal mother, as well as the mother within herself. Works Cited Duricy, Michael P. “Black Madonnas: Our Lady of Czestochowa. ” Black Madonnas. The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute. , 26 March 2008. Web. 13 March 2011. ;http://campus. udayton. edu/mary/meditations/olczest. html. ; Jozwik, Ziemowit. A Treasury of Europe. Europe and Me Magazine. N. p. 4 January 2010. Web. 13 March 2011. ; http://www. europeandme. eu/8heart/455-the-black-madonna; Kidd, Sue Monk.
Secret Life of Bees- The Black Madonna in the Novel. Sue Monk Kidd. LUX Interactive, LLC. , n. d. Web. 13 March 2011. ;http://www. suemonkkidd. com/Reflections. aspx? t=b;i=34; Duricy, Michael P. Black Madonnas. The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute, 6 October 2009. Web. 13 March 2011. ;http://campus. udayton. edu/mary/meditations/blackmdn. html; Cahoy, Nate. Comparing Madonnas. The Black Madonnas. PB Works. n. d. Web. 13 March 2011. ;http://nrcslob. pbworks. com/w/page/4469613/Comparing-Madonnas; Our Lady of CzestochowaBlack Madonna of Breznichar in Bohemia