Over the past century France has acquired the veneer of a rather secular country. But deep in the veins of the rural places there is a quiet yet undeniable veneration of the land, and with it an ancient connection to the Mother of Them All.
Those latecomers, the Christians, often built female deity shrines on the sites of Roman female deity shrines; they in turn often built theirs on Druidic earth goddess sites. Some say there is a magnetic energy in these places.
August 15th 2014. Here on the hilltop it was the Feast day of the Blessed Mother. A hot and silent afternoon. I was working in a parcel of Cabernet Sauvignons; a slow process of hand pruning to allow more air and sunlight to reach the grapes.
Down a row, I saw one. She was sitting quietly in the shade of a vine, eyes closed. A young girl about the age of 11, wearing a rose colored neck kerchief. Then another. And another. Then suddenly, a vapor of young girls emerged from the rows like a cloud of rose-kerchiefed butterflies.
The girls circled me and chattered. They were on a pilgrimage (by all-terrain bike) to an ancient worship site of the Blessed Mother south of here. Their guide explained their mission that day was to make an exchange with someone they met by chance. Sadly I had nothing to offer but my secateurs. The girls suggested they would gladly take my dog. Their guide suggested a cluster of grapes – after all, they had just been discussing the Holy Mother’s request at Cana – could Jesus please turn some water into wine for a wedding party that had gone dry.
In return for the cluster of grapes, which they cradled tenderly in a helmet, they gave me a rosary they had made themselves. They mounted their bikes waving as if we were very old friends, and shouted that they would ask the Mother to bless our harvest. The dog and I watched their pink cloud disappear.
I set back to work. If it weren’t for the miniature chapelet, I would have thought I’d dreamt the whole thing.
Notre-Dame de Verdelais