Many miraculous Madonna statues were found in a Hawthorn. The tree is also called May Thorn or May tree, because it blossoms around May 1, the Celtic festival of Beltane. May Day has very deep roots, even in the prehistoric past, and is a purely pre-Christian festival. In Christianity, May became Mary’s month. Mary replaced the ancient life giving Earth Goddess. May 1 was the resurrection of nature after her death in winter, the beginning of summer, and the Hawthorn’s white flowers reflect this return of life. It is in this sense that we should understand the symbolism of the Hawthorn in many legends.
The most important miracle at Avioth was the resurrection of stillborn infants, the time needed to get baptized. If not baptized, their soul couldn’t go to heaven. This ‘rule’ was an ‘invention’ of the Church Fathers like St. Augustine, based on a dubious interpretation of a text in the bible. The Madonna performing this miracle brings to mind goddesses like Isis, Cybele, Kali and Hella, who were goddesses of the underworld among other things (the word ‘hell’ is derived from Hella). The miracle of Avioth echoes the descent in the underworld and the rebirth, found in many pre-Christian myths and esoteric teachings.
Not all stillborn babies came back to life of course. Jean Delhotel describes 22 eye witnessed ‘resurrection’ miracles between 1642 and 1668; another author, Jacquemin, 122 between 1656 and 1673. As early as 1557, these rituals were forbidden by the bishop of Langres. The synod held at Lyon in 1557 condemned the practice as ‘superstitious’. Both without success: women continued to bring their stillborn babies to Avioth, and the priests continued to baptize them if signs of life were detected. Eventually, in 1786, the bishop of Trier forbade the priests to baptize stillborn babies there on penalty of suspension. But baptisms in secret can’t be excluded.
(The Sun, March 3, 2011): A baby girl who was born dead miraculously survived after doctors froze her for three days. Stillborn Ella Anderson bled to death in the womb. She was revived 25 minutes after her birth, but she had suffered oxygen starvation and medics feared she could still die or be left with crippling brain damage. They whisked her to Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, where a pioneering cooling technique was used. It works by slowing down the metabolism of the brain, enabling it to repair itself. After 72 hours her body heat was slowly raised by half a degree at a time. After 11 days she was allowed home, and nine months later Ella has amazed doctors with her progress.
(Sky News HD): A stillborn baby that "came back to life" after spending hours in a refrigerator at a hospital morgue has died. The little girl was delivered 23 weeks into her mother's pregnancy, weighing only 610 grams. Faiza Magdoub had arrived at the Western Galilee hospital in Nahariya, Israel, complaining of severe pains and haemorrhage. Discovering that the baby had no pulse, doctors were forced to abort her mother's pregnancy.The palm-sized infant was pronounced dead before being taken to the morgue, where she spent at least five hours in the refrigerated storage unit. But when Faiza asked to see her child one last time before burial, she noticed her move. "We unwrapped her and felt she was moving," said the 26-year-old. "We didn't believe it at first. Then she began holding my mother's hand, and then we saw her open her mouth." The baby's father Ali Majdub continued: "When I came to the morgue to collect her, her body was wrapped up. Then my wife asked to see her again. When I got there, we realized she was moving." The child was being cared for at the hospital's neo-natal intensive care unit - but the hospital later announced that she had died.
(Express, August 27, 2010): A premature baby declared dead by doctors was brought back to life by his mother’s caresses and whispered words of love. Jamie Ogg was born nearly three months early with his twin sister Emily and weighed just 2.2lb. Emily was alive. But doctors at the birth told his parents that Jamie had died after they had spent 20 minutes battling to get him breathing. Then the “miracle” happened. As the grieving couple, Kate and David, cuddled their “lost” son, saying their fond goodbyes, he started showing signs of life. After two hours of cuddles and kissing he then began to breath regularly and was given drops of breast milk from his mother’s finger.
What to think about Avioth’s ‘resurrection’ miracles? The above examples show that the life force in beings is indeed very strong. And that doctors can make mistakes when declaring someone dead. A miracle is often thought of as a perceptible interruption of the laws of nature by divine intervention. If the above ‘modern’ examples would have happened in a religious context, they would have been ‘genuine’ miracles. It’s easy to dismiss all the witnesses at Avioth as superstitious. As far as I’m concerned, things happened there which could be interpreted as ‘signs of life’. It certainly shows that the ‘humble common people’ had more faith than the church officials.
Avioth, The Devil and Green Man by Night (photos Anne Brown)