Assumption of Mary

Madonna Rising: Rosa Mystica

The Rose has long been the symbol of divine wisdom and Chartres cathedral with its 3 sublime rose windows is a hymn to Mary as the throne of wisdom. Chartres Cathedral was built as a temple for the Queen of Heaven. This final rebuilding was dedicated to the risen Mary as her dwelling place on Earth. It is also a grail, the container of mysteries.

From ancient times, the rose has been associated with the great goddesses of the ancient world. The Rose is one of the oldest symbols of the wisdom tradition and of the divine wisdom and holy spirit radiating love to our world from the divine ground. The Rose came to symbolize not only the holy spirit but the awakened soul reunited with the divine ground. Mary was known in the middle ages at the time of the building of Chartres Cathedral as the Rosa Mystica. The rose represents the radiant presence of the holy spirit who fills the whole cathedral.

Mary as the divine feminine is the rose, the lily and also the tree of life from which all who turn to her can draw sustenance, an image that evokes the Shekinah and even further back, that of Isis as the tree of life, giving sustenance. Wherever the association is made between love and divinity, between beauty and harmony and divinity, between compassion and divinity, there stands the image of Mary representing the qualities of the divine feminine.

Through this virtual intensive we will journey deeply into the heart of Chartres during the Feast of the Assumption of Mary (August 15) which honors the Church doctrine, enunciated by the Pope in 1950, that Mary was assumed directly into heaven upon her death and now presides as the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven, a title held by Goddesses, Isis and Inanna. The much needed resurgence of the feminine archetype and the restoration and recovery of the feminine aspect of the divine in order to bring back wholeness and balance to the human psyche is the key to understanding the Feast of the Assumption which Carl Jung believed marks the most important development in Christian theology in the last 2000 years.

The Black Madonna

On the Day of the Assumption, a statue of the Black Madonna is carried through the streets of Chartres before being placed in front of the statue of the Assumption of Mary, where she is kept for one week and then hidden away till the following year.

Parading the Black Madonna in this way recalls the way the Druids in ancient times brought her out of the grotto underneath the granite promontory upon which the cathedral today stands. They honored Mother Earth and the cycles of the seasons through the Black Madonna.

In this sacred space you can deeply explore the nature and scope of the dark feminine as manifested in the Black Madonna. The dark feminine in all her aspects has been revered since ancient times. She was refracted through the great goddesses of antiquity such as Innana and Isis, Kali and Quan Yin. There are over 300 statues and sacred sites in Europe alone dedicated to the Black Madonna, the most famous and revered of which is at Rocamadour in France. One of the critical issues we will explore is how the Black Madonna is present today in world affairs and personal transformation. She has historically been present during times of turbulence and upheaval when a culture or civilization is dying and something profound and redemptive is being born. The metamorphosis from the old to the new is uniquely the domain of the Black Madonna, which is why she is so actively present in our lives today. A profound aspect of the Black Madonna is the manner in which she challenges our understanding of what it means to be feminine.

Mary Magdalene

Mary of Magda is the other Mary of Chartres. As a wisdom keeper and “the woman who knew the All” (her epitaph), there is a hidden alliance between her and the Black Madonna. We will explore her sacred lineage and her teachings, contemplate images and statues of her in the cathedral, and prepare ourselves for the pilgrimage to the south of France where Mary is believed to have lived and taught when she came to France with her the children she had with Jesus and others who had been part of the early Christian community.


This program is designed as an initiation into the Way of the Rose. Our intention is to heed the call of the Divine Feminine to see her around us and become her in our very cells so we can live in harmony with each other and with the Earth and all of the Earth community. We will integrate head, heart and body through wisdom teachings, song, dance and theater, and immersion in the imagery and symbolism of the cathedral.

The week will be a balance of:
Wisdom teachings on the Assumption; The Way of the Rose; Mother Mary as the incarnation of the Divine Feminine; the Black Madonna; the lineage and teachings of Mary Magdalene; the Shekinah, St. Anne, and Chartres Cathedral as a grail and container of mysteries.

Embodiment practices that bring us into heart presence and open a door for us to become the wisdom teachings we explore, through sacred dance and theater, and sharing circles.

A virtual journey in Chartres Cathedral consisting of an exploration of the references to Mother Mary and the Assumption, Mary Magdalene, the Black Madonna and the crypt, the labyrinth and the rose windows.


  • Kayleen Asbo, PhD, composer, poet, cultural historian and spiritual director will present a talk on The Rose Line of Memory: St. Anne and the Veneration of the Grandmothers.
  • Anne Baring, PhD (Hons), author and co-author of 7 books will present talks on Mother Mary as the incarnation of the Divine Feminine; The Way of the Rose; the Shekinah; and the lineage and teachings of Mary Magdalene.
  • Ruth Cunningham, classically trained musician, sound healer and founding member of the Anonymous 4 will create soundscapes.
  • Andrew Harvey, PhD (Hons), scholar, mystic and author of more than 30 books will share his understanding of the Assumption, and the Black Madonna.
  • Peggy Rubin, Shakespearian actor and master of sacred ritual and group theatre, will guide us into the enactment of the mysteries we explore and share her deep insights into the nature of the Black Madonna and how to use the transformational energy of the feminine for personal growth and group harmony.
  • Banafsheh Sayyad, MFA, MA, sacred dancer, choreographer, founder of Dance of Oneness®, and Creative Director at Ubiquity University will guide us to embody the wisdom teachings we explore during our week via embodiment practices and sacred dance.

Daily Schedule 

Thursday, August 13 

  • A Feast for the Eyes and the Ears:  Live music by Ruth Cunningham accompanied with footage from Chartres Cathedral
  • Opening Ritual with all the faculty and participants
  • Presentation on The Shekinah by Anne Baring
  • Sharing and discussion circle
  • Introduction to the sacred embodiment, dance and theater practices of the week led by Peggy Rubin and Banafsheh Sayyad

Friday, August 14

  • A Feast for the Eyes and the Ears: Live music by Ruth Cunningham accompanied with representations of The Two Marys in Chartres Cathedral
  • Presentation on The Two Marys of Chartres by Anne Baring
  • Sharing and discussion circle
  • Embodying the qualities of the Two Marys: Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene – movement practice led by Banafsheh Sayyad

Saturday, August 15

  • A Feast for the Eyes and the Ears: Live music by Ruth Cunningham accompanied with representations of The Assumption in Chartres Cathedral as well as footage of the procession of the Black Madonna in Chartres
  • Presentation on The Assumption by Andrew Harvey
  • Sharing and discussion circle
  • Celebrating Our Lady: The Feminine Rising – dance practice led by Banafsheh Sayyad

Sunday, August 16

  • A Feast for the Eyes and the Ears: Live music by Ruth Cunningham accompanied with footage of the Black Madonna in Chartres Cathedral
  • Presentation on The Black Madonna by Andrew Harvey
  • Sharing and discussion circle
  • Reflections on the Black Madonna – sacred theater practice led by Peggy Rubin

Monday, August 17

  • A Feast for the Eyes and the Ears: Live music by Ruth Cunningham accompanied with footage of Chartres Cathedral
  • Presentation on The Rose Line of Memory: St. Anne and the Veneration of the Grandmothers by Kayleen Asbo
  • Sharing and discussion circle
  • The Relationship of Mothers and Daughters – sacred theater practice led by Peggy Rubin

Tuesday, August 18

  • A Feast for the Eyes and the Ears: Live music by Ruth Cunningham accompanied with footage of the Rose Windows in Chartres Cathedral
  • Presentation on Rosa Mystica: The Sacred Nature of the Rose by Anne Baring
  • Sharing and discussion circle
  • Rosa Mystica – dance practice led by Banafsheh Sayyad

Wednesday, August 19

  • A Feast for the Eyes and the Ears: Live music by Ruth Cunningham accompanied with footage of the labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral
  • Summary of the week
  • Closing Ceremony led by Peggy Rubin

Required Reading (if taking course for academic credit)
1) Anne Baring, The Dream of the Cosmos
2) Jill Geoffrin, Visions of Mary
3) Jehanne de Quillan, Gospel of the Beloved Companion

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