Writing in The Cult of the Black Virgin, Ean Begg states that
"The still popular cult of wonder-working images is not only reactionary and non-scriptural, it also evokes memories of awkward subjects best left in obscurity like the pre-Christian origins of much in Christianity, the history of the Templars, Catharism, and other heresies, and secrets concerning the Merovinginian dynasty. So, blackness in statues of the Virgin tends to be ignored and, where admitted, is attributed to the effects of candle smoke, burial, immersion or fashion's passing whim. The contention, then, of the Catholic Church is that most such statues were not originally intended to be black, and only became so by accident later." ...."If the presumed polychrome faces and hands of the Virgin and Child have been blackened by the elements however, why has their polychrome clothing not been similarly discolored? Secondly, why has a similar process not occurred in the case of other venerated images (where smoky candles were also burned nearby)?"
Begg just ticks down the list as provided in HBHG, it's too bad he felt the need to filter everything through Baigent and Leigh to get attention for his own work.
Mary Lee Nolan, a leading scholar of European pilgrimage has noted that more than 10% of the European shrines where Black Virgins are venerated are known to have been centers of worship in pre-Christian times. Echoing this fact, other scholars see in Black Virgin veneration a continuation of pre-Christian worship of such pagan goddesses as Isis, Diana of Ephesus, Artemis, Cybele, and the Celtic deity Hecate (it is interesting to note in this regard that the great Egyptian goddess, Isis, is often shown as a nursing mother with the infant Horus god at her breast; in this image lies the origins of the Madonna and Child image).
This is EXACTLY what I'm talking about - "Isis" (who was never black in either her traditional Egyptian nor amalgamated Hellenic likenesses), "Diana of Ephesus", "Artemis" (see "Diana"), "Cybele", "Hecate" (CELTIC? On what planet?) - every single "inspiration" has to be an import in order to appeal to modern tastes, as though the indigenous western Europeans had no goddesses of their own.
Lending still more support to the pre-Christian origin of the Black Madonnas, Begg writes that"The profound psychological need to reconcile sexuality and religion"
"Again and again in the stories of the Black Virgin, a statue is found in a forest or a bush, or discovered when ploughing animals refuse to pass a certain spot. The statue is taken to the parish church, only to return miraculously by night to her own place, where a chapel is then built in her honor. Almost invariably her cult is associated with natural phenomena, especially healing waters or striking geographical features. The Romans had taken over and adapted many of the sacred sites of the Celtic world, which the Christians were later, in their turn, to sanctify, but the spirit of the place remains Celtic, and still whispers something of its origins through the cult associated with it."
It is evident from a serious study of these matters that the patriarchal Roman church in its effort to exterminate the ancient and immensely popular goddess cults had only succeeded in driving them underground. In contemporary Europe the veneration of the feminine principle and her sacred sites is once again gaining power. As Begg interprets it,
"The return of the Black Virgin to the forefront of collective consciousness has coincided with the profound psychological need to reconcile sexuality and religion."
- there's the hook for Margaret Starbird's crowd (whose Woman With The Alabaster Jar
Begg acknowledges). Isis, Diana, Cybele, Hecate (!), a new archetype for a people that Starbird and Begg assume (mistakenly) didn't have any of their own.