Nicholas Roerich Estate Museum in Izvara
Nicholas Roerich
Estate Museum
in Izvara


The Great Mother

From the most ancient days, women have worn a wreath upon their heads. With this wreath they are said to have pronounced the most sacred incantations. Is it not the wreath of unity? And this blessed unity, is it not the highest responsibility and beautiful mission of womanhood? From women one may hear that we must seek disarmament not in warships and guns, but in our spirits. And from where can the young generation hear its first caress of unification? Only from mother. To both East and West, the image of the Great Mother— womanhood, is the bridge of ultimate unification.

Raj-Rajesvari—All-powerful Mother. To you, the Hindu of yesterday and to-day sings his song. To you, the women bring their golden flowers and at your feet they lay the fruits for benediction, carrying them back to their hearths. And glorifying your image, they immerse it in the waters, lest an impure breath should touch the Beauty of the World. To you, Mother, is dedicated the site on the Great White Mountain, which has never been surmounted. Because when the hour of extreme need strikes, there you will stand, and you will lift up your Hand for the salvation of the world. And encircled by all whirlwinds and all light, you will stand like a pillar of space, summoning all the forces of the far-off worlds!

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Devastated are the ancient temples. The columns are cleft. And shells have pierced the stone walls.

At Goa the Portuguese ships landed long ago. Upon the high prows of the caravels, the images of the Madonna glittered with gold, and in her Great Name, cannon balls were fired into the ancient sanctuaries. By Portuguese cannon-balls the pillars of Elephanta were shattered! All for “La Virgin de los Conquistadores!”

In Sevilla, in the Alcazar, there is an old painting by Alexandro Fernandes, which bears this very title. In the upper part of the painting, in the radiance of the celestial light of clouds, stands the Holy Virgin with a benign smile, and under Her broad mantle is sheltered a host of conquerors. Below, there is a turbulent sea, covered by galleons, ready to sail far off to new soils. Perhaps these are the very ships which will destroy the sanctuary of Elephanta! And with a benign smile the compassionate Virgin regards the conquerors, as if She Herself rose with them to destroy alien acquisitions. This is no longer the threatening warning of Elijah the prophet, nor the Archangel Michael, the constant warrior. But She Herself, the Peaceful, is raised in the folk-consciousness for battle as if it befitted the Mother of the World to concern Herself with the deeds of human slaughter.

My friend is indignant. He says, “Look! This painting is certainly frank! In it is apparent the entire psychology of Europe. Look at the conceit! They make ready to lay siege to foreign treasure troves and to the Mother of God they ascribe protection for their deeds! Now compare how different is the mood of the East, where the benevolent Kwan Yin covers the children with her garment, defending them from danger and violence.”

Another friend present defends the psychology of Europe, and also refers to certain paintings as true documents of the psychology of each era. He recalls how in paintings of Zurbaran or Holbein, the Holy Virgin covers all who come to Her with Her veil. Referring to the images of the East he recalls fearful horned idams, adorned with frightful attributes. He recalls the dance of Durga upon human bodies and upon necklaces made from skulls.

But the exponent of the East does not concede. He points out that in these images there is nothing of a personal element and that the seemingly frightful attributes are the symbols of the unbridled elements, and only by knowing their power may man understand that he can conquer them. The lover of the East pointed out how the elements of terror have been used everywhere, and that flames no less terrifying, nor horns less demoniac, were represented in the Hells of the frescoes of Orcana in Florence. All the horrors of the brush of Bosch or the austere Grunwald rival the elemental images of the East.

The devotee of the East cited the so-called Tourfan Madonna as being in his opinion an evolution of the Goddess Marichi, who after being a cruel devouress of children gradually evolved into their solicitous guardian, becoming the spiritual comrade of Kuvera, god of fortune and wealth. Recalling these benevolent evolutions and high aspirations, one may mention a custom still existing in the East. Lamas ascend a high mountain and, for the salvation of unknown travelers, scatter small images of horses which are carried far off by the winds. In this action lies a sense of benevolence and renunciation.

To this, the answer made to the lover of the East was that Procopius the Righteous, in self-renunciation, averted the stone-cloud from his native city and, on the high banks of the Dvina, always prayed for the unknown travelers. And it was also pointed out that in the West many saints like Procopius renounced their high worldly position for the good of the world.

In these deeds and in these orisons “for the unknown, for the unsung, for the unstoried” lies the same great principle of anonymity, and the realization of the transitori-ness of incarnation which also is so attractive in the East.

The lover of the East stressed the fact that this principle of anonymity, or renunciation of one’s temporary title, this inception of benevolent disinterested giving, has been carried to a much broader and higher level in the East. In this regard he reminded us that the art works of the East were almost never signed because the gift of the heart never needs its accompanying note. In response, however, his opponent recalled that all Byzantine, old Italian and old Netherland primitives, Russian ikons and other primitives were also unsigned, and that the beginning of personal signatures appeared much later.

The talk turned to the symbols of omnipotence and omniscience, and it was again evident that the identical symbols have passed through the most varied manifestations. The conversation continued, because life afforded inexhaustible examples. In answer to each indication from the East, an example from the West was brought forward. One recalled the white ceramic horses which, up to the present time, stand in circles in the fields of Southern India, and upon which, it is related, women in their astral bodies take their flights. In answer to this was placed forward the images of Valkyries and even the contemporary projection of astral bodies. It was then recalled touchingly how the women of India each day adorn the thresholds of their homes with some different design, the design of well-being and happiness; but at the same time it was remembered that the women of the West embroidered their many designs for the salvation of those dear to their hearts.

One recalled the great Krishna, benevolent shepherd, and involuntarily compared him with the ancient image of the Slav, Lel, a shepherd resembling in every way his Hindu prototype. One recalled the songs in honor of Krishna and the Gopis and compared them with the songs of Lel, and the choral dances of the Slavs. One recalled the Hindu woman on the Ganges and her torches of salvation for her family. And they were compared to the wreaths cast on the river during the celebration of the Trinity—a custom dear to all Aryan Slavs.

Remembering the conjurations and evocations of the sorcerers of the Malabar coast one could not overlook the very same rites of the Siberian Shamans, the Finnish witches, the clairvoyants of Scotland and the red-skinned sorcerers.

Neither the separation of oceans nor continents had affected the essence of the folk conception of the forces of nature. One recalled the necromancy of Tibet and compared it with the black mass of France and the Satanists of Crete…

Museum Address: 188414, Izvara Village, Volosovo District, Leningrad Region, Russia.
Phones: +7-813-73-73-273 (group tours); Phone/Fax +7-813-73-73-298 (general)
Museum Director: Cherkasova Olga Anatolievna E-mail: