Today, December 12, altars to Guadalupe grace thousands of home throughout the Americas. Originally manifesting Mexico, her presence has spread south and North through both continents and today, while continuing as patron saint to Mexico, she is also the patroness of North and South America.
One of Guadalupe’s distinguishing features is her beautiful brown skin, leaving no doubt that the Mother of God was bestowing her particular blessing on the indigenous populations of the Americas and placing these daughters and sons under her special care.
Mothers tend to show up when and where they are most needed and Guadalupe appeared n a very time dark time indeed. Waves of pestilence, rivaling Europe’s Black Death, had decimated native populations with smallpox and measles, sweeping ahead of the conquistadorian forces bent on domination, rapine and riches until few warriors were left to resist them. The conquerors, led by a misogynist, racist priesthood intent on forcing conversion and well-equipped with the plans and implements to carry it out, were destroying temples and sacred sites in order to eradicate the old gods.
Into this time of suffering and sorrow, the spirt of divine femininity chose to appear on the hill called Tepeyac sacred to Tonantzin (a word meaning Sacred Mother in her native language Nahuatl).
According to the accepted story, Tonantzin appeared to a Nahua man, Juan Diego, and asked him to approach the reigning Bishop of the new Spanish order and tell him to build her a church on Tepeyac hill. Juan Diego demurred, but she reappeared twice again insisting that he do her bidding. Finally, she gave him proof of her legitimacy in a way the Spaniards would accept. Filling his poncho with Spanish roses, she sent him to the Bishop. When Juan Diego opened his poncho to display the flowers they dropped to the floor reveling an image of the goddess ingrained in the woven fibers of the cloth. The Bishop immediately Christened her the Virgin of Guadalupe after the Spanish Black Madonna revered by Cortez. Thus she entered the annals of Catholic sainthood.
Tepeyac became a pilgrimage site almost immediately. Hundreds of people began flocking to the site as news of her appearances spread. The bishop built a basilica there and within ten years the population had peacefully followed their goddess into Catholicism where they amalgamated old practices with the new while priests turned a blind eye to their persistent rituals and beliefs out of expediency and to boost the number of converts.
In this way, Tonantzin became Guadalupe and saved her people from the scourge of Inquisition, cutting short their suffering and allowing peace to be restored. Her ability to shapeshift resembles the shamanic practices common to indigenous peoples around the globe. In like manner, the goddess Brigid became Ireland’s patron Saint, helping a her people make a safer transition into the culture of an enemy they could not defeat and allowing them to maintain their association with nature and the land to which they belonged.
As devotion to Guadalupe continues to persist and increase, she has appeared in many guises, entering the healing work of curanderas and the political agendas of revolutionaries. She is rapidly becoming a symbol of empowered womanhood as young women take her as an ally into their fight for recognition in traditionally machismo cultures. Above all Guadalupe continues to comfort those who suffer. Like those other goddesses of compassion- Brigid, the Virgin Mary and Kwan Yin she understands loss, mourns and shares the sorrows of her people.
In my own spiritual practice, Guadalupe has blessed me with her presence. She led me into a collaboration with fellow poet Kathryn Smith, which grew into a powerfully rewarding friendship. Together we wrote, produced and acted in the two-woman play, A Rose in Winter, which unfolds the history behind Guadalupe’s appearance, tells Juan Diego’s story and explores the many guises Guadalupe wears. We feel blessed to have honored her with our work and richly rewarded for the effort and time we put into it.
Our dearest wish is to see it produced by young Chicana women who understand the power of story and the necessity to recreate the myths that sustain and nourish the spirits of Lupe’s daughters. May she continue to bless us all on this her beautiful feast day.
She died as she lived, in service to her country, hanging on as long as she could, after a lifetime of exemplary service, to oppose the current threat to American democracy. This is a picture of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a little girl. Maria Popova posted it this morning in Brain Pickings. What an amazing person she turned out to be.
The first thing I noticed was her eyes, bright, shiny, intelligent, joyful. They didn’t change or weary as she grew except to become more wise. Look at her hands, one assertive, one modest and private. This is a child who already understands that balance and decorum can live compatibly with conviction. Behind her is a patch of green things growing, a metaphor for the fruitful life she would grow into.
Some adults go through life haunted by a troubled unhappy child companion who saps one’s energy until their troubles are acknowledged and addressed. We the people lose an enormous amount of talent and ability to poverty, cruelty, prejudice and disease. How many Ruth’s have we lost to our detriment?
Looking at Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s radiant companion, the child who walked beside her, I rejoice in the mother and father who taught Ruth to value herself and her independence; who protected the inner private child and encouraged the outer one to step out. We see in her the adult we could all be. It depends on luck and love, that’s true. But Ms. Ginsberg proved beyond doubt that it is possible, necessary and righteous to choose.
The girl in this picture expects me to opt for kindness, honesty and intelligence, all day every day, both in small barely discernable moments, and in tremendous instances of import. That expectation is her real legacy. Doable and demanding, exciting and rewarding it lies within the grasp of each pair of hands, each steadfast heart.
We go in different directions down the imperturbable street. The street that doesn’t care, will never care about our souls- having none of its own to mind. Is the street dangerous? Oh yeah, especially lethal if you start to care what a street might think – if street thinks. But you will never know, until the blade between your ribs hits an artery, or a voice in your head starts dictating how you should or should not make love, with who and where
Shopfronts don’t tell, though a twitching curtain on the fourth floor might drop a hint. You wouldn’t dare play poker with this street. It’ll call your bluff. Best walk briskly from that rendezvous, geniality written across your face, but not that give-away grin that tells the world you got something they didn’t. Always, look straight ahead and don’t catch anyone’s eye.
Hanging on my studio walls are three collages dear to my heart. The triptych represents the three aspects of theGreat Goddess, representing the three traditional phases of womanhood – maiden, mother, crone. It’s a fine thing for an artist to create something that expresses exactly how they feel. These kind of pieces don’t have to say everything about the subject, or all that the artist feels. They just have to ring true to the truth behind the idea, the poem or art work that somehow opens the gate to Rumi’s field…
Out beyond idea of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about. ~Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī
The amazing archetype of a powerful divine feminine has its home deep in the collective unconscious of humanity as is shown in hundreds of incredibly ancient artifacts dating back through thousands and thousands of years.
Venus of Hohle Fels
The three aspects of the Goddess also signify the seasons of spring, summer and winter. At the time in which I created them, I had no knowledge of the fabulous fourth phase, corresponding to autumn, that a woman enters after menopause. It is an amazing period of freedom, courage and creativity – the penultimate blessing nature bestows as a reward for the work of living and becoming wiser. Women haven’t yet settled on a name for this phrase – some call it Queen. It’s still barely being written about or talked about, but more and more she’s showing up in movies and TV – the wise older woman, not yet ancient, vital to her core. She is why I wrote my novel Magdalene A.D. – to exemplify the abilities and possibilities of this autumnal stage.
I’ve written poems to two of these collages. I created this set a long time ago, when I was still in the mother phase. Their corresponding poems carry the same deep sense of satisfaction for me that the art work does. Now that I’m becoming Crone, I’ll be able to write a poem to complete my triptych. Meanwhile, Grace at d’Verse Poet’s Pub has announced OpenLinkNight and because summer is fast upon us, I give you:
I must have been about nine the first time I visited New York City. We lived in Washington DC and Nana, my world -travelling grandmother, just back from Egypt, was laying over in New York on her way home. My family of four drove up to New York for a flying visit. Nana was my version of Auntie Mame– playful, smart, eccentric, and interested in me! I still have my gold charm bracelet with its tiny pyramid and sphinx. She gave the best presents ever.
First stop the Empire State Building. I remember the long ride up. We had to change elevators to reach the windy observation deck. Daddy held his hat, Mom clutched her head scarf, but I let the wind whip my hair around. My dad had told us all about the workers who built the tower without safety ropes –lots of them were Indians because their courage and sense of balance let them work great heights. I longed to see one.
Piet Mondrian left New York a couple of years before I got there. His Broadway Boogie Woogie looks like the birds-eye view of Manhattan he might also have seen from the top of Empire State Building. Tiny squares represent cars, bigger blocks are skyscrapers. The the white spaces are anonymous blocks of lower ordinary buildings. Best of all he captures the vibrancy of those city streets. His painting stirs the same excited anticipation within me that I still feel every time I visit New York.