The Mother Mary and the Moon

Michael Sittow, Assumption of Mary-1500. National Gallery of Art. US Public Domain via wikimedia

This 15th Century painting of the assumption of Mary into heaven is quite lovely. Notice that Mary rises from her tomb on a crescent moon. The moon image is also associated with the earth mother.  Carl Jung says, “The Earth Mother is always chthonic and is occasionally related to the moon.” (Carl Jung, CW 9i, para. 312) This relationship between the moon and the mother is preserved in this image of the Virgin.

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Icon of Sophia from St George Church in Vologda- 16th century. US public domiain via wikimedia
Icon of Sophia from St George Church in Vologda- 16th century. US public domiain via wikimedia

Sophia (Greek Σοφíα), means ‘wisdom.’ [1]  Sophia is the Goddess of Wisdom.  As Goddess of Wisdom, Sophia is a guiding archetype in the transformations of consciousness. What follows is a description of the image by Engelina Smirnova:

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Mary as Earth Covered by the Blue Tent of the Sky

Tintoretto, 1573, Mary with the child, adored by the Evangelists Mark and Luke, US Public Domain
Tintoretto, 1573, Mary with the child, adored by the Evangelists Mark and Luke, US Public Domain

In the image above, we see Mary with Child. She wears the celestial cloak. Carl Jung speaks to the archetypal significance of this:

“Blue is the color of Mary’s celestial cloak; she is the earth covered by the blue tent of the sky…”

Mary is earth covered by Sky. She is Queen of Heaven. She is “Mother of God” (p. 87). Jung continues:

“According to the dogma she is only beata, divine. Moreover, she represents the earth, which is also the body and its darkness. That is the reason why she, the all-merciful, has the power of attorney to plead for all sinners, but also why, despite her privileged position (it is not possible for the angels to sin), she has a relationship with the Trinity which is rationally not comprehensible, since it is so close and yet so distant.”

Jung understands that it is Mary’s relation to the earth and body that gives her the power to redeem. As related to earth, Jung also relates the mother image to the matrix, the vessel. Jung says:

“As the matrix, the vessel, the earth, she can be interpreted allegorically as the rotundum, is characterized by the four cardinal points.”


  1. The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche (Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 8) by C. G.-  p. 87

Mater Dei/ Mother of God

Our Lady of Vladimir (12th century), the holy protectress of Russia, now in the Tretyakov Gallery. US Public Domain via Wikimedia
Vladimir Mother of God- painted in 1130 in Constantinople. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

In the above image, we see the Theotokos of Vladimir, an image of the mother of God with the Christ child. The icon is a version of Eleusa (tenderness): the Christ child snuggles up to his mother’s cheek [1]. The image is surrounded by a golden light, expressing divine illumination. Carl Jung tells us that presence of Mary betokens the sacred quaternity. Jung says:

“The old philosophers of nature represented the Trinity, inasmuch as it was “imaginata in natura”, as the… “spiritus,” or volatilia,” viz., water, air and fire” (Carl Jung, 1938, p. 76)

The holy trinity is the father, son, and the holy spirit. Beyond the holy trinity there lies a fourth archetype: wholeness is unified through knowledge of the Divine Mother. The Quaternary adds a fourth aspect to the Trinity. In spiritual symbolism, the fourth aspect is represented by the divine mother. Jung adds:

“The fourth constituent on the other hand was the earth or the body. They symbolized the latter by the Virgin. In this way they added the feminine element to their physical Trinity, producing thereby the quaternary or the circulus quadratus…. The medieval philosophers of nature undoubtedly meant earth and woman by the fourth element… The quaternity in modern dreams is a product of the unconscious… the unconscious is often personified by the anima, a female figure. Apparently the symbol of the quaternity issues from her. She would be the matrix of the quaternity, a Mater Dei, just as the earth was understood to be the mother of God.” ” (ibid)



  1. Wikipedia on Theotokos of Vladimir
  2. Carl Gustav Jung, Psychology and Religion- 1938

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