Mont Saint Michel, Normandy/Brittany border, France
We awake at 5am to the cataclysmic sound of smashing glass. We are sleeping, it turns out, right above the garbage, recycling, and kitchen area in a one road medieval village on the world famous Mont Saint Michel. The collection of all restaurant glass and refuse from the island happens right beneath our requested “quiet room.” Quiet rooms in France can be very hard to come by, but this one is the pièce de résistance.
This horrific sound goes on for an hour and a half and just when it ends, four middle aged, burley and very good looking refuse collectors in handsome dark blue wool nautical jackets come bounding down the narrow, cobble stone street, yelling back and forth to each other, completely oblivious to all the guests in the many hotels along the street.
It is now 6:30am. Now the forklift operators drive their machines to our window, hurling paper supplies for the restaurant below us and for the other nearby establishments! This continues until 8am when busses bearing hundreds of visitors begin discharging their fares, all eager to see the UNESCO world heritage site.
Grumpy from the 5th night of 4-5 hours sleep, I rouse Robert who is quite hard of hearing and can sleep through WWIII.
“Hurry,” I say, after a quick breakfast, “let’s climb the mountain of stone steps to see the Abbey before lots of people get there.”
Hundreds of near-vertical stone steps take us up there. Europeans don’t worry about things like climbing. In America, there would have to be an elevator. But here, all over Europe, everyone is expected to be able to climb endless stairs. People are not overweight here like they are in the United States. Maybe it’s all the stairs.
In the visitor center, I go up to the lone man at the far end of the counter. There are no other visitors there yet. They have just opened the doors and will be selling tickets to walk around the Abby, which is the upper part of the Mont. I ask him if we can visit the Madonna Sur la Terre. We have done some research and know that there is a very old Black Madonna here, beneath the later Catholic Monastery, from Pagan and maybe druidic times, maybe back to 12th C.
He says, confirming our research, “That will not be possible.”
Aha! There is one! Now I ask him again, “But we have heard that there are tours that we can join to see her.”
Oh, no, he tells me in French, “you must sign up way in advance on the web, and those tours do not happen very often. It will not be possible today.” Classic French reply to any question, I’ve learned.
My suspicions are now confirmed that there is something of great importance concealed here and I’m getting excited. I look around and see a woman has appeared, 50 feet away, at the other end of the long counter. I instinctively go down and start speaking French to her. She looks at me blankly. Then I have an inspiration and begin speaking Spanish to her.
“La Madre Oscura está baja tierra?” The dark mother is underground here?.
She sits up and begins to speak to me in Spanish. In my high school Spanish and Engish, I explain about Lucia. “Mi professora tiene noventa uños y sends me here.
(My 90 year old professor sends me here.)
“He estudiado durante años a la Madre Oscura,” I add, hoping she will grant us access to this mystery. I’ve been studying the Black Madonna for years.”
She gets up and says, “follow me.”
We follow the Spanish-speaking woman out of reception in a secret sort of way.
“Follow me,” she says again, nervously.
Down below the room into sunken chambers, down and down many stone steps around corners looking round almost as if to see if we are being followed, down and down. She starts telling us in Spanish/French/English that this chamber we now enter is muy sagrada (very sacred) and mostly inaccessible to visitors as she keeps motioning us to follow her.
We come to a locked medieval door. She pulls out an ancient looking iron key and opens the door, we enter and she pulls it shut. It is very dark and I have to take off my glasses to see enough to walk without missing a step here and there. It’s musty and smells like the smell down below Chartres. Old and moldy, and I’m super allergic to mold, but I keep going, even though I can hardly breathe.
We come into a room and she stops us, motioning to stop and be silent. She puts her hand over her heart and says MUY SAGRADA. In Spanish she tells us, the feminine and the masculine, pointing to the feminine alter on the left which is dimly lit, and the masculine alter on the right each in their own alcove, beautifully and dimly lit.
She explains again using three languages, that Michael the archangel protects the soul with his sword. He protects but no mata, he does not kill. He balances the female and the male and shows the middle. The sacred middle, just like Angeles Arrien used to talk about the great, formidable middle.
“Michael protects the soul,” she says, “and from this place of balance, you can then ascend to the next world.” This is a place of ascension.
Then, she sees my name Miranda on my card, which I have given her and says she is from Barcelona. I tell her we have been to Montserrat and she gets really excited. She tells she has spent much time in devotion there, and has seen two UFOs in the sky above the Dark Mother there. That it is a very special place. She and I acknowledge that we are sisters and that the sacredness of this place must be protected. She says it is VERY SECRET…what she has shown us, and that it must be protected and kept hidden.
Then two men of obvious self-importance enter the subterranean sanctuary and she quickly whisks us out of the room, motioning for us to be silent. She says they must not hear what we are talking about.
Her name is Mariela (a variation of Mary). She has clearly risked her job to take us down there to see those altars. She says, hugging me, that she is a devotee of the Divine Feminine and that we are sisters. We part and she hurries back to her station, selling tickets to the upper Catholic Monastery tour. Those ticket holders will never see what we have just experienced. This has been a deeply moving experience and we are still overcome by the depth and magic of it all. The whole thing is like something out of a movie, full of mystery, emotion, and spirit.