St. Irenaeus (b.
ca. A.D. 130) wrote about the Incarnation of Christ in the 22nd chapter
of the third book of his Adversus
Haereses. The chapter concludes with these lines:
the genealogy with the Lord, carried it back to Adam, indicating that
it was He who regenerated them into the Gospel of life, and not they
Him. And thus also it was that the knot of Eve's disobedience was
loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast
through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.
The devotion to Our Lady as one who "unties knots" has its deep origins
in this truth. Eve, the mother of all born, sinned and tempted her
husband to do likewise, thereby bringing about the fall of man; Mary,
the mother of all re-born, said yes to bringing the Christ into the
world, thereby bringing about, through her Son, our redemption. What
Eve knotted up, Mary loosens.
The devotion has its proximate origins in the early 17th century, when
Wolfgang Langenmantel -- a German of noble birth -- and his wife,
experiencing hardships in their marriage. Herr Langenmantel would pay
visits to Father Jakob Rem to seek advice and counseling. During these
times, he and Father would ask the Virgin's prayers, and on their last
visit together, on September 28, 1615, something strange happened: Herr
Langenmantel gave to the priest the ribbon that was used to bind his
wife's and his hands together during their wedding ceremony. The ribbon
was snarled, but Father held it up toward a painting of Our Lady of the
Snows and prayed that she would "untie the knots" that had found a
place in the couple's marriage. The ribbon untangled. And the
Langenmantels' marriage was healed.
In honor of this miracle, their grandson, who'd become a priest and
canon lawyer, commissioned the painter
Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner to make a painting of Our Lady as the
one who "unties knots." Since 1700, it hangs in the church of St. Peter
am Perlach in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany, and pilgrims
--- and, especially, those experiencing marital problems -- flock to
The painting depicts the Virgin surrounded by angels and standing on a
serpent, as foretold in Genesis 3:15:
I will put
enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she
shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
In her hands, she holds a knotted ribbon which she patiently
untangles. Underneath, Herr Langenmantel is shown walking toward a
monastery, guided by the Archangel
In English, Our Lady in this style is known as "Untier of
Knots," "Undoer of Knots," "Mary who Unties the Knots". In Italian,
she's known as "Maria che Scioglie i Nodi"; in French, "Marie qui
défait les Nœuds," in Spanish, "María Desatanudos" or "María,
Desatadora de Nudos"; in German, "Maria Knotenlöserin"; and in Polish,
"Maria Rozwiazujaca Wezly." But whatever the language used to ask for
the Blessed Virgin's assistance, she is always there, as your Mother,
to help you "untie
the knots" in your life -- the problems that harrass and trouble you,
the sins that hold you back, the addictions that plague you.
Because the devotion was local for so long and has only become popular
on a worldwide scale relatively recently, I don't have very old,
traditional prayers related to it. But I offer what I have, as given by
parish priests: a prayer (below), and a novena which incorporates that
prayer, the Act of Contrition, a
meditation, and the
Rosary. You can
download the novena in pdf format (9 pages): Novena to Our Lady, Untier of
Prayer to Mary, Undoer of Knots
Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to
the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve
your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and
immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes
upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life. You know very
well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots.
Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the
lives of His children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life.
No one, not even the evil one himself, can take it away from your
precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone.
Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with your Son and
my Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot (mention your intentions). I beg you
undo it for the glory of God, once and for all, you are my hope. O
my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification
of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution and with Christ
the freedom from my chains. Hear my plea. Keep me, guide me, protect
me, O safe refuge! Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me. Amen.