I've been reading Black Madonnas: Feminism, Religion and Politics in Italy and it is interesting and I am not finished but I reached a point where the author was talking about black and the goddess and ancient civilizations and the soil and I well I had to stop because it irritated me that after 5 chapters that not once had the author mentioned anything about one of the significant theories regarding Black Madonnas - the possibility that these Madonnas are associated with a historical remembrance of Mary Magdalen's escaped to Europe with her female child. Ms Birnbaum has apparently started with an assumption and began weaving Italian tendencies (which I believe do stem from a connection to our ancient more balanced God/Goddess past) but it in a bit of a wild and reaching way. I'm not saying that she is all wrong. But I don't think her basic starting premise of ancient earth goddesses from Africa, India, etc are the primary reason behind all Black Madonnas.
Reading Black Madonnas by Lucia Chaivalo Birnbaum made me think about another book I'd seen and now have just completely finished reading, one by Margaret Starbird. "Woman with the Alabaster Jar". I think this woman has captured the truth. If you read or saw the DaVinci Code you know what she's talking about. BUT she is a Christian and where she ended up isn't where she started. She had to fight her way to the truth. She has a section on Tarot Cards (and an expanded book on Tarot that I have not read) that is the absolutely bar none BEST explanation for how Tarot came about. There are links to the pagan past in the existence of the Black Madonnas, but the pagan past is not the primary reason for black madonnas.
In 1989 I went to France and visited a lot of paleolithic sites including Lascaux and Les Eyzies, my primary reason for going. But while there I also visited Rocamadour and was drawn while there to light a candle at the Black Madonna shrine asking specifically to be reunited with the man who is now my husband. This was before I "found" Stregheria. After reading Margaret Starbird's book it seems I couldn't have asked for a better intercessor than the Black Madonna, who is not the Virgin Mary but Mary Magdalen, Jesus' lost bride. What I like about this book is that the author didn't start with a premise and fit the facts around it (like Birnbaum), she actually started looking for ways to reject a premise only to have many things weave together in a such a way that she had to end up where she did.
I've also read a biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine, a woman who was incredibly ahead of her time. Eleanor was from that part of France that had a strong link to the feminine and females with more power than anyone else anywhere in Europe at the time. Starbird's book provides a historical background for why things where like they were in this part of France and the history all fits together quite nicely.
I'm going to go back and finish Birnbaum's book, but I don't think that I will put it on my recommended reading list. Starbird, on the other hand, even with her essentially Christian bent, is VERY aligned with our prophecies. If Christians start thinking like she does we may have to place and addendum on Aradia's Words Concerning Christianity.