The video [bottom of page] is a glimpse into my current collection of breastfeeding baby Jesus images - paintings, statues, carvings, etc. We have about a hundred of them here in our Birth and Babies library that I've collected from around the world, but you can view 3 minutes worth in this clip. Somehow in my addiction to education I ended up with degrees in Human Health and Development (emphasis on birth and breastfeeding), Human Sexuality, and Religion. Mix those degrees, and you simply must study the subject of a breastfeeding baby Jesus at some point [as well as the fact that a Jewish-born Jesus was regularly depicted with what we would today call intact genitalia... but I'll save that for a later post].
Images of Mary breastfeeding Jesus were once ubiquitous in churches around the world. But eventually in North America, as the artificial feeding of babies became more popular, and the plastic bottle replaced the breast, our nipplephobia got the best of us and these sacred images all but disappeared from churches and art galleries in North America.
The first image in the collection is a mosaic made up of breastfeeding Jesus images. I'll highlight a few others here as well. I'd love to take you on an online 'tour' of all the images and stories behind them...but I still have my own mothering duties to perform for the day, so that will have to wait.
If you have an additional breastfeeding Mary image to share, I would love to add it to our collection.
This is just one of my favorites. Maybe because Mary is riding a donkey while breastfeeding Jesus. No hands! That takes some mighty fine balance. I'm not sure if I could accomplish the same. ;)
If you note during the song (video below), this image comes up with the words "heaven's perfect lamb." The image is one that is carved into the bottom of wooden pews at a church in South America. It is Mary nursing the perfect lamb coming down from Heaven.
This breastfeeding image is an Egyptian pantheon carving of the goddess, Isis and her son, Horan, that had the face of Mary carved into it by Christians who moved into the area, and then scratched out again centuries later.
This is the oldest known depiction of Mary and Jesus. It was found on the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome. Jesus is nursing at Mary's breast.
In this painting Mary is about to nurse Jesus, and Saint Bernard prays asking her to “Show that you are a human mother" ~ Monstra te esse matrem. It was readily accepted that Jesus was divine at this point in history, what needed to be 'proven' was that he was also human. This comes up in a lot of the art surrounding Jesus and Mary -- that he was not only divine, but also needed her milk for substance and that she was a 'regular' mother as any other. In this image, Mary responds to St. Bernard's prayer by squirting milk into his mouth. This painting is often called, "The Miracle of Lactation" and several images of this story exist.
The following is another example:
The following is another example:
Breastmilk was seen as healing (which it is!) and miraculous in nature (which it also is!). In this painting (La Virgen dando su leche a las almas del purgatorio) by Pedro Machua, Jesus is at one breast while Mary feeds the souls in purgatory with her other breast. Those who drank her milk are redeemed and ascend into heaven.
I would love to have this nativity.
Anyone good with wood?
This statue is located above the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem ~ one of the many stops I plan to make on my lactivist pilgrimage around the world.
Jesus must have been at that easily-distracted age here ;)
Jesus as a red head?! And super pale skin...
I've always found it interesting how he is portrayed according to the norms within the culture that he is depicted within. I guess that is one beauty of art -- it can take form for the purposes that it needs to serve.
Imagine if we posted photos like this on Facebook! Not only breastfeeding our babes, but showing nipple AND momma's milk. And here we thought we were living in an 'emancipated' time...
Another favorite of mine
The following video is set to one of my favorite Christmas songs, "Mary, Did You Know?"