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Black Madonna  (18 of 19)
Alchemical Vessel / Ritual Art Piece
by Marilyn Strong

The image on the front of the piece when it is closed is a depiction of the Rose Cross taken from Summum bonum, by Robert Fludd, 1629. Fludd was a Paracelsian physician and alchemist. The phrase in Latin says, "The rose gives honey to the bee." What is stamped on the inside left panel when the piece is open is a stanza from one of my favorite Antonio Machado poems, called "Last Night as I Lay Sleeping:"
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt-marvelous error!-
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.
There is a secret compartment in the heart box on the right panel when the piece is open (on which is written "Mysterium Coniunctionis") that holds the ashes from a personal burning ritual.

This piece was created in response to a painful experience that I have been invoking healing around for the past two years. This summer while I was working on it, I received a call from a friend of mine who had been reading a novel that kept bringing her to tears, and while she was reading it, she kept thinking of me and how much I would enjoy this book that was about the Black Madonna, among other things. When I asked her the name of the book, she said it is called "The Secret Life of Bees." ( I highly recommend it, by the way.) That, plus the fact that we had two different couples visit from out of town this summer who brought honey and honeycomb as gifts, told me that synchronicity was in play.

I do not normally create physical art like this, but have found it's creation to be very healing. I am grateful for Jerry's consultation and help on the more difficult parts of the process, such as soldering. I often feel the bees literally buzzing in my heart chakra, reassuring me that if I ask, and hold the tension of the opposites in humility, my failures are being transformed into something sweet for the world, or at least for my own soul's growth, and healing may come.

This is the full Machado poem, translated by Robert Bly from the book Risking Everything:
Last Night as I Lay Sleeping by Antonio Machado
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt-marvelous error!-
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me?
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt-marvelous error!-
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt-marvelous error!-
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept
I dreamt-marvelous error!-
that it was god I had
here inside my heart.
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