Madonna in Ticino: Finding The Divine Feminine in Switzerland

I grew up associating the name of
Madonna with a rock star. But when I moved to Ticino, the Italian speaking part
of Switzerland
where palms grow, the Madonna became the Mother. She looks serenely out of
stone shrines, the size of large play houses that stand guard along the roads
every few kilometers. Some of these date to the sixteen and seventeen hundreds.
Farmers paint her face on stone barns, and villagers place statues of her in
niches carved out in stone walls. In one remote valley across a river a shrine
stands on top of a rock the size of a two storey building. Other shrines pop up
on isolated hiking trails often near perpetual fountains. Often she holds the
divine child but sometimes she stands alone.

Mother’s presence is constant here and the energy of loving protection she
embodies still prompts women and men to light candles at her feet before
setting off on a trip or when a new baby is expected. While in America her
image in public places might be the object of some political debate about
religious freedoms, here she is offered up to the open mind and heart as a gentle
reminder that sooner or later we too must give birth to and nurture the divine
child within us. The Mother, or La Madre as
they call her here, brings a gentle reminder of the need to protect the
child-Self as it grows and matures into a full-fledged spiritual being.

            In Locarno on a steep stone
path up to La Madonna del Sasso Monastery a larger-than-life sculpture of a gilded
Madonna stands alone on an enormous, frightful dragon. Her face beams with
perfect equanimity and she seems totally unaffected by the huge beast which writhes
and gnashes its dreadful teeth beneath her feet. No fear enters her heart as
she seems to walk on unscathed and in perfect peace.

            Imagine the
power of this image. The Mother, the embodiment of unconditional love,
softness, compassion, beauty, elegance, grace and all of the feminine
qualities, is powerful enough to quash the demons – both inner and outer. The
demon might represent the out of balance masculine qualities unleashed in the
world – aggression, greed, envy, excessive activity and consuming, selfishness,
hatred and all of those things that separate us from the divine Self. We
sometimes may worry that without force, as man knows it, the feminine goddess
will not prevail. If she could speak words of wisdom this Mother might say, “Soft
does not mean weak. Your strength is in your gentle touch, soft eyes and an
open heart. They will triumph.”

Bio: Debra Moffitt-Leslie

Debra Moffitt-Leslie’s book, "Awake in the World: Spiritual
Practices for Challenging Times" will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide
in 2011.  Read more at  Her essays and articles appear
in publications around the world and focus on drawing attention to the
spiritual in a mostly material-minded world.  She’s on the faculty for The
Sophia Institute and gives workshops in the U.S.
and Europe.


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