Is there really a historical likelihood of a connection to the history of that painting, in their slave-descended geneology: to some Gypsy, Roma or Polish source. Through enslavement of European gypsies, or Roma, and other immigration patterns, yes. Having the picture could also be simply a Roman Catholic painting picked at random from a magazine. But consider a more interesting alternative.
The Boatwright slave-descended family in the film-book has elements of many cultures in it. Look at their location, at a crossroads of slavery and immigration patterns of other groups.Consider the number of surrounding ethnic groups making their way in the South and moving toward Appalachia and elsewhere since colonial times, their heritage may include Gypsies, or Roma, and ultimately groups now known as Melungeons. The Melungeons share proud elements of several cultures, a blend over centuries of Black slave, Gypsy slave, Native American, others, with a local variation as in the film. See Gypsies, Roma, Romani, Melungeons: Parse for American Roma. Explore with us.
Traditions in support.
There is a specific tradition that connects at least some of the Gypsy slave history in America, for example, some Gypsies brought to South Carolina as slaves; with other Gypsy persecution, and their worship of Sara-La-Kali, Patron Saint of the downtrodden. She is not the same as the Roman Catholic Saint Sarah. The role of a female intermediary, is common in Christianity and African religions as well. A common link, that survives. The Black Madonna, and Sara-La-Kali in intermediary role. Representing the dark-skinned heritage, more likely in the Middle East, than the white-outed.
1. The Black Madonna from Medieval Poland
There is an image of a Black Madonna used on the book cover, "The Secret Life of Bees," see ://www.imdb.com/title/tt0416212/. The book is by Sue Monk Kidd..
This is the Black Madonna from Jasna Gora Monastery, Czestochowa, Poland. Here is our photo of a copy at Gdansk. This Black Madonna is seen throughout Poland, and no photographs were permitted at Jasna Gora itself. Find it in an Images search also.
Black Madonna, copy in Gdansk Cathedral, Poland (original at Czestochowa) - used on the honey jars, see book cover
Black Madonnas are found throughout Europe, each with its own history of miracles, battles, how it came to be. See varieties of the Polish Black Madonnas at Poland Road Ways, Black Madonna, Jasna Gora, Wroclaw, Gdansk. For an overview of the kinds and nature of the true, historic Black Madonnas, see "Black Madonnas" by Michael C. Duricy, at ://campus.udayton.edu/mary/meditations/blackmdn.html; and the site's follow-up at://campus.udayton.edu/mary/resources/blackm/blackm.html/.
There are several lines of thought about Black Madonnas: One tradition of Black Madonnas dates from the Middle Ages and earlier, some claiming 2d Century - one supposedly made by Luke, even. This early tradition with the dark skin is represented by the one shown on the book cover, whether in painting or sculptural form. Some have been shown to have darkened only from fire or exposure, but others have no such explanation, and appear intentionally dark. Mary had dark skin, is the message.
Another tradition is contemporarily cultural to the times. The artist or sculptor reproduces ethnic features on the Madonna to appeal to a particular group, to show universality or similarity..
The film substitutes a modern face and style and pose, for the classic and real painting in Czestochowa. It removes a significant mystery from the story. The effect is to diminish the level of culture to which the Boatwright family had been exposed. And ignores the general distribution of Black Madonna images in the world.
How did the Polish Czestochowa Black Madonna end up in South Carolina, in a slave-descended family.
But with the Black Madonna already central to the story, do look at other Polish and Gypsy connections, as roots.
The story is that Sara-La-Kali, or Sara the Black, was a black companion to Mary the Mother of J, long term. She accompanied Mary the Mother and Mary Magdalene, says tradition, to France after the crucifixion. Sara is said to have guided the ship through a storm.
Tradition says that Sara-La-Kali came from Egypt, staying with Mary after the sojourn to escape Herod, or from India perhaps (less likely - the deity "Kali" is very different there). Perhaps she is the unnamed third woman at the tomb. See overview of Sara-La-Kali as patron saint, at ://www.geocities.com/~patrin/stsm01.htm/. The Catholic Church deflected interest in Sara-La-Kali by sainting another "Sara" as Saint Sara, but the older tradition remains strong despite them.
The connection here: is of course, speculative, but the pieces fit. The good works of Sara-La-Kali in France have made her the Patron Saint of the Gypsies or Roma.
Current worship of Sara-La-Kali.
See where the Marys and Sara La Kali are supposed to have landed in France, see the Gypsy rituals at the Church at Saintes Maries de la Mar at the mouth of the Rhone River, Ile de la Camargue, France. Videos at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teFo0t0jDU0; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB4cwZ9Au0Y&NR=1/. See photos of the church and the festival at ://www.geocities.com/~patrin/stsmaries.htm/
This is an important person in those traditions. Would traditions honoring her in Europe carry over here, to enhance the role of a Black female figure, whether goddess or not.
And how would a French tradition get to Poland? Why connect it to a Black Madonna.
We suggest it because there are paintings connecting the two already, in location, at Gdansk, Poland. The Black Madonna from Czestochowa is displayed in Gdansk, in the same Gdansk cathedral as this next painting - but this one has symbolic and other differences. It does not look like merely another 'Black Madonna.'
Look. Here, in glorious gown, here is a painting in the same cathedral in Gdansk as the Black Madonna. See the similar framing. - but it does not look like a Madonna. No baby. And there is a crescent form beneath. That crescent depicts the Roma or Rom or Gypsies, and Sara-La-Kali is patron saint of the Gypsies, the Roma, the Rom.
Black Madonna, or is it Sara La Kali, Gdansk, Poland
Why would this golden garbed figure be Gypsy?
She herself, as Sara-La-Kali, may not be herself, as Gypsies apparently did not migrate from India uncil centuries later.
But her role as servant, serving, aid and succor, unrecognized, invisible, is like them. No land of her own. A Traveler. Did these elements of the story play a part in Sara-La-Kali becoming the Gypsy patron saint. More choices: The crescent can even signify the horns of Mithra. See where the symbolism and the absence of the baby can lead to that conclusion, at Bogomilia, Sara the Black or Sara La Kali. Those of you with more information, can you translate, can you help here.
3. The American Slave South:
The Wooden Inspirational Figure in the Parlor
African slave religious roots include goddesses. Start on African history and events at Fordham University's History Sourcebook, at ://www.fordham.edu/halsall/africa/africasbook.html/ Find religious issues at the NationMaster Encyclopedia, at http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/African-Traditional-Religion/.
But other religious backgrounds had an influence as well. Gypsy or Roma culture and religion. And those of any other group out of the white mainstream in the South.
England and Scotland shipped Gypsies as slaves to Virginia and the Caribbean in the 17th and 18th Centuries, other countries sent Gypsy slaves here to other places, see the Patrin Web Journal at http://www.geocities.com/~Patrin/slavery.htm. In the South and elsewhere were undocumented immigrants - those who are not on the roles of Ellis Island, or ship lists, for example. Some were Gypsies or Roma, collected from Europe and dropped off often at places like the South Carolina coast often to be enslaved here, if not already slaves. See the Patrin and Burke sites.
Check history. There has been far more cultural diversity in our land, and since colonial times., than we, most of us, imagined - or see.
- Free Moors and Turks. For example, read of the Free Moors and Turks who were specifically brought over and then sold into slavery here. See "The Never-Ending Road American Roma (Gypsies), Travellers and "Others," at ://sciway3.net/clark/freemoors/. .
- "The Never Ending Road." It is likely from that site's information, and others, that Roma or Gypsy populations were indeed, if not forcibly intermingled as slaves, particularly in the South Carolina coastal areas, or connected by necessity as outcast persons.
For a known mix in our country, see "Origins of the Melungeon-Appalachian Subculture," by Henry Robert Burke, at://www.coax.net/people/lwf/HRB_MEL.HTM/ The idea is the blend of African slave, Native American, Black, Gypsy, Moor, - do not miss that site. It focuses on Appalachia and north to Ohio. Good heavens - it says that some Rom accompanied Columbus on his second voyage. They were in Virginia in the Colonial period. Others were enslaved, and it says that the same proportion of Rom were exterminated by the WWII Nazis as were the Jews.
Meet the Melungeons -
The Melungeons are a blend of ancient cultures, that may help explain this particular question, something about the Boatwrights in the movie, and whose broad range of people you may not have noticed.
- By way of update in 2012, DNA testing has narrowed the reality to the union of sub-Saharan African men and women of central or northern European roots: see http://news.yahoo.com/dna-study-seeks-origin-appalachias-melungeons-201144041.html .
- Will DNA satisfy those who research the Melungeons? There have been wide variations in theories, and I will keep them here for reference.
- The Roma, or Romany: are they included in the DNA of women of central or northern European roots?
See "Origins of the Appalachian-Melungeon Subculture: A More Plausible Explanation for the Origin of Melungeons," by Henry Burke at ://www.coax.net/people/lwf/HRB_MEL.HTM/. and "A Possible End to the Mystery of the Melungeons," at ://www.melungeons.com/articles/mysteryBurke.htm/ Read about them in "Patrin," a Roma Journal, article "The Black Dutch, German Gypsies, or Chicanere, and Their Relation to the Melungeons," by Linda Griggs at ://www.geocities.com/~patrin/melungeon.htm/
With a landing point at the South Carolina coast, see "The Never-Ending Road American Roma (Gypsies), Travellers and "Others," at ://sciway3.net/clark/freemoors/, this makes sense. Start there, many end up in Appalachia.
June and August Boatwright, are you interested?