Archives For Our Lady of Guadalupe

If the power of divinity was to be measured in the number of adherents, in the number of times they are invoked, in the number of images, statues, and icons depicting them, then Mary would be the most powerful of goddesses. The Christian Theotokos (“the one who gives birth to God”) has become ubiquitous, ecumenical, and multi-religious; an object of veneration for staunchly conservative Catholics,  jaded post-modernists, indigenous peoples in Mexico, and Vodouisants alike. In her new book “Full of Grace: Encountering Mary in Faith, Art, and Life” author Judith Dupre takes us on a journey through the art, history, and traditions that surround Mary, dedicating an early chapter to the connections between Mary and pre-Christian pagan goddesses.

“While Mary’s role in salvation can be detected in writings before the Council of Ephesus, the title Theotokos is from Isis, who had been called both the “Mother of the God” and the “Great Virgin.” Isis’s popularity, in fact, peaked in the eastern Mediterranean just as Christianity began to spread. When Mary replaced Isis in popular devotion, she also assimilated her symbols, an appropriation that can be observed frequently in the formation of Christian iconography. The familiar description of Mary from the first-century Book of Revelation as a woman who is “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars,” correlates closely to a second-century description of Isis, who emerges from the sea, her ringlets crowned with a diadem, on her forehead a moonlike disc, and wearing a mantle scattered with stars and a full moon that radiated flames of fire. (This is also how Our Lady of Guadalupe would appear, centuries later and half a world away, on Juan Diego’s cloak.)”

Far from being a dry academic tome, the book is filled with quotations, poetry, art, and a travelogue of visits to Mary shrines and places of sightings. Dupre counts herself as a devotee to Mary, and credits Our Lady of Guadalupe (and image of Mary long thought to be a Christianized version of the Aztec moon goddess Tonantzin) with saving the life of her son.

“I’d like to think of it as a book of hours, providing different glimpses of Mary that can be contemplated, savored, in light of a number of life circumstances that we often have little choice but to accept. Most of all, I wanted to make Mary real because that’s how I’ve experienced her in my own life, not as a distant figure from the past but as a loving mother and a living example of empowered womanhood. In these times, which are difficult for so many, Mary models an ideal way to live—faithfully, with grace and radical acceptance of what is and what cannot be changed. She has responded with such wit to my many prayers that I can’t help but think she also has a good sense of humor. So I think she’d appreciate Full of Grace—after all, what other book on Mary quotes Woody Allen, provides a recipe for Italian pepper biscuits, and tells you where to get your hair done in Palestine? Mary is real in every way!”

With the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe fast approaching, not to mention Christmas, this is a perfect time for Pagans to consider the place of Mary in our world today, and how the veneration of her many aspects and images represents the divine feminine for billions.

Top Story: Is eclecticism and syncretism part of America’s religious DNA? A recent survey by the Pew Forum seems to suggest just that. While America is dominated by various forms of Christian belief, many adherents also partake in different religious practices and subscribe to various beliefs outside the theological boundaries of their faith.

“In total, upwards of six-in-ten adults (65%) express belief in or report having experience with at least one of these diverse supernatural phenomena (belief in reincarnation, belief in spiritual energy located in physical things, belief in yoga as spiritual practice, belief in the “evil eye,” belief in astrology, having been in touch with the dead, consulting a psychic, or experiencing a ghostly encounter). This includes roughly one-quarter of the population (23%) who report having only one of these beliefs or experiences. More than four-in-ten people (43%) answer two or more of these items affirmatively, including 25% who answer two or three of these items affirmatively and nearly one-in-five (18%) who answer yes to four or more. Roughly one-third of the public (35%) answers no to all eight items.”

This increasing trend of heterodoxy undermines the idea that the Religious Right, and other vanguards of religious orthodoxy, have much sway outside their main base of support. When nearly a quarter of America Christians say they believe trees possess spiritual energy, I’m far more convinced we’ll see a post-Christian culture than some sort of Family-style conservative Christian coup in the years to come. This transition may upset some, but I suspect that most Pagans, especially the eclectic and syncretic, will feel right at home.

In Other News: Pagans seem to be the ultimate test of how “open” your local city council’s opening invocations are. When a government body is accused of engaging in primarily sectarian prayer, as is the case in Bakersfield California, they usually point out that the invocation slot is welcome to any faith tradition that wants a turn. But as Americans United senior policy analyst Rob Boston points out, that openness often grinds to a halt when a Wiccan signs up.

“When communities try to set up a totally open forum for prayers, “what usually happens is that sooner or later someone comes along from a religion that is unpopular or misunderstood” — such as a Wiccan or Pagan — “and the conservative Christians throw a fit,” he said in an e-mail.”

Councilmember Jacquie Sullivan says Bakersfield is ready to pass the Pagan test, stating that “it would be their turn”. Did you hear that Bakersfield Pagans? Time to step up! They are ready. It’s your turn! Whether the “include a Wiccan” gambit would help them in a lawsuit is still an open question.

In Toronto, a con-artist who bilked a woman out of tens-of-thousands of dollars isn’t just up on charges of fraud, but also on charges of pretending to be a witch.

Det. Constable Jones says it’s rare to charge someone under Section 365, but the circumstances of this case fit. “It’s a historical quirk,” says Alan Young, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School. Some sections of the Canadian criminal code reflect offences that were more prevalent centuries ago. When the code was enacted in 1892, witchcraft per se was no longer a punishable offence, he says, but lawmakers wanted to ensure witchcraft wasn’t used as a cover for fraud. Section 365 states that any one who fraudulently pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, or enchantment or who “undertakes, for a consideration, to tell fortunes … is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.” “It’s not really about occult activity,” Prof. Young says. “It’s about defrauding people.”

One would assume that a real Witch would be immune from such charges. One would also hope that this near-forgotten law won’t be abused in a crusade against honest psychic practitioners, as they have been in America.

The Daily Grail features an excerpted essay from Greg Taylor that is very close to my heart, the history of occult practices in rock music.

“There is a vast amount of related material we could cover: from the influence of the occult upon Norwegian Black Metal, to Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson’s interest in Aleister Crowley, which has recently resulted in a feature film. Or perhaps even The Mars Volta’s use of an Ouija Board in the creation of their 2008 album The Bedlam in Goliath (considering the mayhem that allegedly resulted, perhaps they should have listened to David Bowie’s advice…). But, ultimately, rock music is about transcending the intellect, and just losing yourself in a maelstrom of sound and feeling.”

That essay, and others, is from Darklore volume 2, available now from Amazon.com. Also, in a somewhat related note, Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth’s “Thee Psychick Bible” (a project initiated by Industrial music pioneer Genesis P-Orridge) has been re-released in an updated, expanded, corrected edition. Perfect gifts for the occult music-lover in your family, and if all this talk of occult and Pagan music has you wanting to listen to some, why not check out my weekly podcast?

In a final note, the Houston Chronicle looks at the massive December pilgrimages in Mexico, with many traveling to the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe (her feast day is on Saturday), located on a former pagan shrine. While nearly a million travel to gain the blessings of the “goddess of Mexico”, the local priests want you to know that there is no trace of pre-Christianity left in the rites and traditions surrounding this popular saint.

“Arriving by bus, car or bicycle, the faithful first stop at the artesian stream springing from the roots of a huge and ancient cypress tree. They don crowns made of fresh flowers and leave petitions to God hanging from the fence posts, wash in or drink from the spring and dance before the statue in a small chapel … When their dance is finished, the pilgrims ride a few miles down the mountainside to the village of Chalma itself, where they walk through a gantlet of vendors and restaurants to arrive at the church. There they attend Mass, get blessed by priests and leave petitions or letters of thanks to God hanging on walls. “It is 100 percent Catholic,” Manzanares said of the pilgrimage, “based in Catholic belief for the Catholic faithful.” Chalma’s shrine was erected by Spanish friars in the 1530s conquest in a cave that the Aztecs once worshipped as the dwelling of Ozteatl, a god represented by a large man-sized black boulder they believed had healing powers. The friars destroyed the stone, according to some accounts, and a Christ statue appeared in its place.”

Catholic perhaps, but grown from “pagan” soil and tradition. Whether Guadalupe is “100% Catholic” or a Christianized version of the Aztec moon goddess Tonantzin, she is still the most-venerated goddess/saint in the Americas, and neither Catholic nor Pagan should take that lightly.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

The Goddess of Mexico

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 12, 2006 — 4 Comments

“…the Virgin of Guadalupe is the rubber band that binds this disparate nation into a whole. She is the common denominator of this land, it is she giving Mexicans a sense of Nationalism, and Patriotism. Their brotherhood comes from the strength of intense faith rooted in indigenous attributes, images, symbols, magic and myth. The focus of this intense faith revolves around Our Lady, La Virgen Maria de Guadalupe, the mother of God who appeared in Mexico in 1531.”Judy King

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is said that on this day the Mother of God appeared to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (the first indigenous American saint in the Catholic Church) at the Hill of Tepeyac and told him to build an abbey. Since then, Our Lady of Guadalupe has become the “Empress of the Americas” and her feast day is one of the largest religious celebrations in the world, millions gather at the place of her appearance do devotions, pray, and celebrate their goddess.


Etching of St. Juan Diego by Jose Guadalupe Posada.

No doubt some devout Catholics may object to my use of the term “goddess”, but many believe that Our Lady of Guadalupe is merely a Christianized version of the Aztec moon goddess Tonantzin. This view is shared by scholars, curanderos/eras, and even Franciscan missionary to the Aztecs Bernardino de Sahagun who was concerned over how the natives called the virgin the by the goddess’s name. The abbey that was built for Our Lady of Guadalupe (now the Basilica of Guadalupe) sits on the former site of Tonantzin’s pyramid.

“Her appearance was seen as a sign of acceptance, telling the newly-converted Christians how to worship her in her own way; a fusion of the two cultures.”Andy Anderson

“[I]t is important to remember the semiotic richness of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexican/Catholic culture, productive of both religious and nationalist meanings. In her syncretic fusion of the Catholic Virgin Mother and the preconquest fertility deity Tonantzin, Guadalupe signifies the racial construction of Mexican national identity as the mestizo or hybrid product of the sexual union of Indian woman and male Spaniard.”Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano

But perhaps the most telling evidence is how Our Lady of Guadalupe dominates the religious psyche of Mexico and its many peoples. A vision and figure more stirring than the male redeemer of Christianity or his faceless father.

“A nation hit by historic catastrophes, such as the one occurred to the indigenous in the 16th Century – the weapons, the persecution of their culture as a Diabolic thing, the slavery, the hard labor and epidemics -, begins the great heroic feat of survival. It invents, with a prodigious recover of its collective culture, a way of saving the past, the millenary, the persecuted, the forbidden, through a new form, accepted by the new religion. It invents a mother, a goddess, a place in the Universe, a promise of redemption, a hopes and love system: behind the saint, the idol; under the Christian temple, the pyramid; behind the gentleness of the Child Virgin, the radical strength of the antique millenary mothers. Not in vain, during the indigenous oppression centuries, and precisely in the places where people suffer the most, several helping Virgins and Christs began to appear, in Chiapas or in Tlaxcala, in what today we know the State of Hidalgo or Mexico.”Jose Joaquin Blanco

“The Mexican people, after more than two centuries of experiments, have faith only in the Virgin of Guadalupe and the National Lottery”Octavio Paz

So today I give all honor to the patron goddess of Mexico, the moon goddess who survived to help her people and bind a nation together. Certainly she is the goddess who receives the most praise and devotion in the Americas.