Star of the Sea
Another classic title for the Virgin Mary is
There are also some ancient Christian hymns from the eighth to the eleventh centuries that used this title to describe Mary, such as “Ave Maria Stella” and “Alma Redemptoris Mater.”
One of the Scriptural verses that is sometimes used to explain this term comes from a story in 1 Kings 18:41–45. In this passage, a small cloud appears above the sea. The cloud is interpreted as a hopeful sign to people suffering through a drought. Seeing the cloud, they know the rains will come and the drought will end. This Biblical image is almost a perfect reversal of other events connected to the title Stella Maris, specifically the image of Mary helping those who are trapped at sea during a storm — here, she gives hope of rain instead of stopping the storm. Mary is often viewed as a person who gives hope to the hopeless and help to those who are in despair.
The connection between Mary and stars may also relate to the appearance of the star of Bethlehem, which guided the Magi to the baby Jesus.
The star imagery that is associated with the Virgin Mary has multiple dimensions. A six-pointed star is a reminder that Mary is from the line of David (as the Star of David has six points). Mary is also associated with the qualities assigned to stars — most specifically the use of stars for navigation. Stars lead you to your destination, and allow you to always know in what direction you are heading, guiding followers to the truth.
The association between Mary and stars gave birth to much imagery of the Virgin Mary as a protector of sailors. Many sailors have prayed to the Virgin Mary and felt that she miraculously protected them. In one legendary tale (which reflects some anti-Muslim bias, unfortunately), three men were on a boat, and a storm rose up. Two of the sailors cried out to Mary to protect them — these men were Christians. The other man, who was a Muslim, cried out to Allah for safety and then began to chastise the other sailors of crying out to Mary instead of Allah. As he scolded them, a great wave rose up and tossed him into the sea while the other two survived.
The image of Mary as “Star of the Sea” is also closely connected to some pagan-goddess imagery, particularly that of Isis, who came from the sea and was able to preserve seafarers. The parallels between the Virgin Mary and Isis have been especially significant because Isis had a sacrificial child (see Chapter 19 for more information about Mary and the goddess Isis).
The image of storm-tossed sailors calling out to the Virgin Mary for assistance can be understood metaphorically as well — the world itself is a stormy sea that is difficult to navigate and dangerous. As Saint Bernard said: