From the second century there are several reports about a movement, named collyridians by its opponents. The members of this movement worshipped Mother Mary as goddess. The name collyridians was given to them, because of their practice of offering cakes. A practice that is already reported in Jeremiah for the jewish worshippers of the Queen of Heaven. Although tracks are lost of this movement, the second name that had been conferred on that people "philomarianites" (lovers of Mary) has been used again and again over the centuries by catholic church officials, for those worshipping Mary as goddess. Unfortunately they condemned such tendencies and looked upon them as errors of mislead individuals or sects.

In this thesis I shall prove, that there have been genuine traditions in which Mary was looked upon and worshipped as the supreme being, the Great Goddess. I am using the name philomarianites for this traditions since it is established and not offensive. The philomarianite traditions operated as secretly as necessary and as openly as possible. Due to the last fact, it is possible to find its traces up to this days. I hope, that by bringing these tradition to the light of the day, it will be eventually accepted that Christianity has its own ancient goddess tradition.. Like in Hinduism, where the goddess tradition has been accepted by the orthodoxy as a valid tradition, this might happen in christianity too, one day.

None of my sources are canonical, like the scriptures of the bible, or the texts of the church fathers. I am setting out for an independent tradition, that has its own sources, although defiantly christian. Limiting the christian traditions to the bible only, is historically ignorant, is cutting of many of our spiritual roots and is supporting religious fundamentalism. In this connection it is interesting to know, that Martin Luther, one of the propagators of the bible-only tradition changed the bible himself. HE threw a few books out of the bible. For example the maccabaeans, because he didn´t liked that they connected the roman empire with Israel. That didn´t fit in his anti-rome campaign. Jesus did not wrote a book, nor told anybody to do so. But there have been people over the centuries and millenniums, that were inspired for different reasons to write down their experiences and their understandings of the divine. It is now time to overcome the prejudice, that the texts of the bible are more sacred or more reliable than other sources of the christian traditions. I am including art as a valid source, specially because our ancestors were illiterate by majority.




Religious legends, told and retold have been a major source of spiritual information for the majority of people through the ages. This is true for all religions. Differences can be found mainly in the way religious officials dealt with them. The highest rank legends are enjoying in Hinduism, where they are collected in numerous puranas and are the most populace part of the hindu scriptures. In the Christian traditions legends are no longer broadly available. Even the most famous collection „legende aureae“ which once was a standard book is nowadays known only to persons with a special interest. What to say of the less official legends, that were told among the common folks. Although a lot of this material has been lost for ever, there are some written collections existing. From these I have chosen my examples to show, how Mary is being described as a sovereign goddess.





I came across two versions of this legend, one very short, the other more elaborated. But the story is the same:

There was a priest, who was not very learned. But a great devotee of Mother Mary. Therefore he read every day the mass for Mary. This was reported to the bishop, who became very angry, since such an exclusive worship of Mother Mary was forbidden. He threw the priest out of his job and such taking from him his honors and his income. In the night the Queen of Heaven appeared before that bishop, asking him why he had done this to her devotee. In one version she is even threatening the bishop with the loss of his title and his life. The bishop repented, gave back the job to the priest and became himself a devotee of Mary.

Exclusive worship of Mother Mary had always been rejected by the Catholic church (at that time the only official church in western and central Europe). Therefore the bishop of the legend did his duty by punishing the priest and eliminating him from the church services. The Queen of Heaven on the other side didn´t cared for the church´s dogmas, but stood by her devotee and made sure, that he got back his honors and his income.

The message of this legend is clear:


1. The Queen of Heaven is more powerful than the church

2. Mother Mary takes care of her devotees

3. Exclusive worship of the Divine Mother is beneficial

4. A warning to the opponents of Mary worship: they might get in trouble if they are harassing her devotees

In this legend Mary is acting as a sovereign goddess, taking care of her devotee and once again establishing her worship. To the listener it becomes obvious. That the humblest devotee of Mary is spiritually on a much higher rank than a bishop, holding the highest position in church hierarchy. In this way Mother Mary is established as the supreme goddess.





The rule of the church over the people was mainly based on fear. It was very easy to go to hell. Not only criminal acts but also sex and overeating or not exactly believing in the church-teachings made one a victim of the devil. One had to confess, pay and obey the church otherwise there was no chance. But there was Mother Mary, not caring about the church´s conditions for salvation, she saved everybody, even the worst criminals, if they only did a little service to her. Since there are a number of legends on this topic I am citing only one completely, giving shortcuts of others.

There was once a robber, who besides his evil deeds was a devotee of Mary. Once he was caught in the act and sentenced to death by hanging. A gallow was erected, the rope tied around the robber´s neck and the ladder taken away. It seemed, that it was over now with the robber. But Mary, the merciful decided to set an example. It should be known, that everybody should love and worship her with complete soul. She lifted the robber, holding him in balance, so that the rope couldn´t do him any harm. In this way she rewarded him for his devotion. After three days, the people who had hanged the robber returned. They saw the unbelievable: The robber hadn´t died but was alive and spoke, as if he was quite comfortable up there at the gallow. One of then cut the rope and the „hanged man“ stood before them , like one who hasn´t experienced the least harm. They asked him to tell them how it was possible that he survived the hanging. He said: „I will tell you where my help came from. When the ladder was pulled away and I had lost all hope, I saw the most beautiful woman an eye ever saw. She took care of me. She lifted me and held me with her strength, so that the rope couldn´t cut my throat. Time didn´t became boring to me, since I felt great joy seeing Our Lady. She said to me:“ Just see in which way your are being rewarded for your great devotion to me. I am standing by you. Because you have chanted the Ave Maria to me so often, you are receiving it´s fruit on this gallow.“ When the people had heard, that Mary had come to the rescue of the robber and saved him from death, they were very glad and let him go. He changed his life. The merciful Mother Mary was loved by him, from than on, so much that he much more often than before kneeled down and chanted the Ave Maria.


In this way Our Lady helps all that are worshipping her. Praise to the Queen of Heaven.


In this legend a robber is saved from death by Mother Mary, thanks to his great devotion for her. The message of the legend is: If Mary is saving even her robber devotee, what should an ordinary devotee of the heavenly Queen be afraid of ? In this legend specially the chanting of Ave Maria is mentioned. This reminds of the power to destroy bad karma, that is reported for the mantras in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Often this mantras include the names of goddesses and gods. It might be interesting in this regard, that the most powerful mantra in the tantric tradition „hrim“ includes elements of the blessed name "Maria". No wonder, that there is a legend of Mary that is also in the bhagavat purana of Vishnu-Hinduism:

A monk (a brahmana) is falling of the path of piety and is living an evil life. But he still is worshipping Mary (chanting the name of vishnu). Eventually he dies and the devils (the servants of the lord of the underworld) are appearing to take him for his punishment. Than angels and Mother Mary (the servants of Vishnu) are coming and demanding this soul too. There is a discussion between the two parties and it becomes clear that the worship of Mary (the chanting of the name of vishnu) has outbalanced all the evil deeds. Finally the monk (brahmana) is given another span to his lifetime. He is henceforth living the good life, entering the sphere of Our Lady (vishnu) at the time of his final death.

There are other legends too dealing with the item of Mary saving sinners and criminals only because they showed some devotion to her. Some are describing, how the pious deeds and the sins are being weighed against each other and how Mary is manipulating the pair of scales in flavor of her devotees. In this way she manifests her superiority to the laws of karma, being the law giving goddess herself.


During the greater part of Christian history the majority of people were illiterate. Therefore, besides legends and prayers learned by heart, art was of major importance to communicate religious ideas. There are several examples how pictures have been used by philomarianites to express and propagate their belief in the supreme goddess Mary.




In Aix-on-provence in southern France is such an example. The painting by the artist Nicolas Froment is dated back to the year 1476. It depicts one of the most important scenes of Judeo-christian history: The call of Moses. The bible describes, how Moses had a vision of god speaking to him from a thorn bush, that was burning, without being burned. This is a crucial point in history. By accepting the order given by god at that time Moses started the mosaian tradition, that later became the Judeo-christian one. The bible doesn´t tells more about the godhead speaking from the thorn bush. Our artist did so, by placing Mother Mary in that thorn bush. She, the picture is telling since centuries is truly the godhead in whom Christianity had it´s origin. Not only, that she gave birth to Jesus, but she also called Moses to become the founder of Judaism. In the Russian tradition exists a Mandala-like icon with Mother Mary in the centre, that is named, "the ever burning thorn bush."



The dutch painter Glergten tot Sint Jans (1460/65 – 1495) created the picture Glorification of Mary, now in Den Haag in the Netherlands.

The artist is using a different theme to present the onlookers Mary as the supreme being. In Christian mythology, the angels are grouped in nine choirs. They are again classified in three triades of three choirs each. It is imagined that the angels are circling around the godhead like the planets around the sun. The differences between the three triades of angels id the distance between them and the godhead. The inner triade, being the closer to the supreme, is of a very high frequency, having no contact to matter whatsoever. He medium triade, having a greater distance to the divine centre, is in contact with matter on a subtle level. The outer triade finally is directly in contact with the material world, but still circling around the supreme. The artist, beautifully puts the three triades into a picture: The inner triade with bodies shining as if they were made from pure light, the medium triade, still shining, but with more concrete forms and finally the outer triade in a dark surrounding, using musical instruments to praise the godhead. That far the painting is completely in accordance to orthodox Christian ideas. What makes it so wonderful is she, who is given the place of the supreme: Mother Mary. She is the godhead! Around her the angelic triades are circling. The message is obvious to the pious onlookers.



The mantle of protection is one of the most popular themes in Christian Goddess art. It has it`s forerunners in the roman-teutonic-celtic cult of the three matrones, three Mother goddesses, who had been depicting giving protection to women and children under their mantle.

In the 14th century the picture of Mary with the mantle od protection became very popular. Under her mantle there is complete equality. The pope, the emperor, queens and bishops are kneeling side by side with the common folks. Salvation is granted to all that are assembled under her mantle. In a popular song to Mary it says: „Dein Mantel ist sehr weit und breit. Er deckt die ganze Christenheit. Er deckt die weite, weite Welt, ist aller Zuflucht und Gezelt.“ (Your mantle is very wide and broad. It covers the whole Christendom. It covers the wide, wide world, is everybody´s refuge and tent.) Mary is described in this song, as a universal Goddess, not only taking care of Christianity, but of everybody on the wide earth..

There are some pictures, showing godfather attacking people with arrows, but Mary is giving them shelter under her mantle, repelling the attack. Such she is proving her superiority.

The same idea is transported in a legend from the Krishnamyth of India: „Someday little Krishna sees how the adults are making big preparations. He is being told, that a great sacrifice is being arranged for Indra (the indian equivalent to roman Jupiter or greek Zeus). Krishna objects: Why should Indra be worshipped? It would be much more appropriate to worship the Goddess manifested as the Govardhana hill. The Govardhana hill supplies the village with all it´s needs. Springs with fresh water are running down the hill. There pasture grounds for the cattle, trees with delicious fruits, healing herbs etc. Krishna convinces the adults to dedicate the offering meant for Indra to the Hillgoddess. Indra becomes very angry and attacks the village with thunderbolts and heavy rains. But miraculously the Govardhana hill is lifting from the ground and thus creating a gigantic shelter for the village people and their animals. They are happy and save. This legend uses the same metaphor as the above described philomarianite picture. The patriarchal godfather is humbled and the superiority of the worship of the Goddess is being established. The difference in the nature of the Goddess and the patriarchal god is well illustrated in this story: On the one side the nurturing and protecting Mother, on the other side an angry and revengeful warrior god.

The council of Trient (1545-1563) banned the protection mantle pictures, because they are giving Mary a god-like status. That means the council-members were quite aware of the philomarianite traditions but condemned them. Fortunately many pictures survived the ban. I know at least four Protectionmantle-madonnas, that were created in the 20th century and they are all from the southern black forest area. Fore sure there are many more in other places. The fact that there are pictures depicting Mother Mary as supreme Goddess is an obvious proof, that there was a tradition too, that worshipped the one depicted in those pictures.

Mary in the art is a broad field, were future researchers will be able to make many more important discoveries. I only filled a nutshell to support my thesis: There is an old tradition, worshipping Mother Mary as the supreme Goddess.



© 2004 - 2006 RASA VON WERDER