As a protestant and particularly as a literalist evangelical, I know that part of reformation history is that the reformers infused their theology with iconiclastic prejudices and Biblical strictures governing practice. This led to the stripping away of the Virgin Mary Cultus from the practice of Protestant Christianity. The Virgin Mary Cultus continues to be viewed by protestant Biblicists as a foray into grievous idolatry.
Imagine my shock to read the esoterics, who insist that "the Vatican" did everything it could to suppress the sacred feminine. Evangelicals with the same sentiments as myself walk into Roman Catholic Cathedrals and are dismayed and heart-broken at the statues (idols) and images before which Catholics kneel. Mary with the crown of heaven. Mary with her sacred heart exposed. Mary raising her hand in benediction.
The Catholics suppress the sacred feminine? You have got to be kidding! The deification of Mary the Mother of Jesus (also known as Mother of God, and, not yet dogmatized, as “Mary Co-Redeemer”) is several steps too far down a path that departs from the Christian walk as instructed by the Bible.
Mary the mother of Jesus was exalted, claim the esoterics, in order to distract attention away from Mary Magdalene. Many of the “Madonnas” are actually Mary Magdalene holding the child of Jesus. This is a bizaare interpretation of Christian faith and art history, rooted solely in the connection that many early pictures of Mary show her wearing black, and black is the color worn by the high priests of Isis, which, esoterics will tell you, Mary Magdalene most certainly was herself (Gardner, p.102ff).
What actually took place, is that people heard the story of the gospel and latched on to its characters. Mary the mother of Jesus is a major character in the first two chapters of Luke, and occasionally appears in the other gospels. In John she is given a couple things to do and say while Jesus is an adult, including, watching him die. The people of the Church took those few references, recalled that the angel called her the “most blessed among women,” and venerated Mary. They built legends around her, painted her image, engraved it from stone, prayed to these images, and began to have visions, no longer of angels or of the Christ, but of Mary the Mother of God.
It is part of God's creation that we in our human nature have a visceral attraction to the feminine. The Roman Catholic Church suppressed none of it. Rather, the attraction to the feminine swayed the practice of both the Latin and Greek communions, and the cult of Mary the Mother of God took on theological language and liturgical order.
Not until the Reformation did the correction occur. It is not that the reformers besmirched Mary - they simply allowed themselves to say of Mary what the Bible states: That she was indeed the most blessed of all women, that she was in fact a virgin when she conceived Jesus, that she as with all other people in the world needed the forgiveness of sins that Jesus purchased on the cross.
The conclusion will be that the Reformation churches are the ones that degraded the feminine. No. The Reformation churches attempted to move away from what it felt was the idolatry in Catholic practice, and return to the Bible as the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct. In fact, the Bible has plenty to say about the sacred feminine (See "The Sacred Feminine and the Bible"). Returning to the Bible is one important reason why Protestant churches once again began to ordain women as ministers.