The Lady of Guadalupe

Growing up Catholic, we were taught about the Trinity of God. The first part was Jesus, usually exemplified as the ‘baby’ Jesus; sweet, loving and innocent. So full of love, he gave up his life for me. I remember thinking to myself: I don’t remember asking for a sacrifice.. even so, how is there something out there tabulating my sins? Next was God the Father, the one who saw me when ‘no one’ was looking. The very same wrathful and punishing God whom destroyed the world with floods, banished humans from the Garden at Eden, and basically the disciplinarian of the spiritual relationship. This God frightened me. The final aspect of God was the easiest to imagine as a child, the Holy Spirit. This intangible and somewhat abstract piece of the God puzzle was ecstatic, it visited the saints, sex with the Virgin Mary, and when physically manifested it appears as a white dove, descending upon the chosen. The Spirit was sometimes revealed as Gnosis, divine intelligence, dreams and blessings. I imagined it as a dove, flying out from a ray of sunshine on a dark day. It gave me hope and I loved this God.
Our church was built in the Gothic revival style of the late Victorian period:  complete with flying buttresses, highly stylized vaulted ceilings, a gilded altar containing the host box with huge beeswax candles and seasonal accoutrement. In the corner, juxtaposed to the confessional booths, was an alcove with the Virgin Mary, standing on a snake and hands in prayer position. There was always candles burning below her feet, patrons asking Her to pray for them. We sat next to the Madonna in the pews quite often and I prayed to Her, secretly. I remember my grandmother having a grotto in her southern California backyard. Even though I never really saw my grandmother there praying, I did what I thought we were supposed to do: I placed flowers at her feet and prayed.
I was on a quest for this feminine divine, or ‘Goddess’ as I called it. I wasn’t sure what She looked like or how I would know who She was, but I knew it wouldn’t look in any way like a man. As a teenager, I tried to eradicate any form of spirituality resembling Christianity or Catholicism. I claimed myself Pagan Witch: the rebellious daughter of forests and waterways, the one who ran with deer and made magicks. But Mother Mary was a presence which stayed throughout my life in some form or another, usually hovering over my head and making psychics wonder how I am not Cathlolic. For a while, I was beginning to think perhaps it was my own ties as a thought-form from my youth, ones I perhaps hadn't fully let go of. It wasn't until a culmination of omens that I knew She was trying to speak to me, and there was a lesson to be learned.
I used to have a student job at the library of the University I attended, specifically in the Juvenile/Curriculum sections (among everything else on the top floor). One day whilst shelving, a book about Juan Diego popped off the cart; he was an indigenous man the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to on an ancient hill near Mexico City. I stopped to read this story and thought how wonderful it must have been to see and talk with Her. All the stories I read about Marian sightings, She always delivers messages not really engaging as She did with this simple man. However, Juan Diego was in the end charged with passing on a message to the local diocese: She wanted a chapel built where the apparition took place. As proof of this encounter, the Lady of Guadalupe filled his arms and shirt (held out like an apron) with roses. As he was questioned in disbelief at the mission, Diego unfurled the roses to reveal an image of the Virgin Mary, but in a very indigenous style.
Original Picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe (also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe) shown in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in México City. The Catholic Church considers the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe imprinted on the cloak of Juan Diego as a picture of supernatural origin.
Original Picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe (also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe) shown in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in México City. The Catholic Church considers the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe imprinted on the cloak of Juan Diego as a picture of supernatural origin.
The next day we had a surprise guest speaker in my 'Women in Religions' class. She was a friend of our professor and spoke about Our Lady of Guadalupe, making connections between Her appearance and the sacred site in which She revealed Herself. Making Her desire known for a chapel to be built, on the same location in Tepeyac as the ruins of another sacred site originally belonging to a pre-Colombian Mother Goddess, Tonantzin (a title meaning 'Our Reverend Mother'). The similarities between this older Mother Goddess and the 15th century Virgin Mary were expressed in the miraculous image. Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe is a 'Black Madonna', meaning Her skin is not the anglicized white most are used to seeing. Her hands are in prayer whilst wearing a blue starry robe, standing on a crescent moon. Juan Diego was added to the bottom, appearing to 'hold up' or unfurl the icon and reveal the Mother as new and improved. Her message to me, appearing over and over, bittersweet as the chocolate of Her land:
It does not matter whether She is Our Lady of Guadalupe or Tonantzin: She is a New World Goddess. As Mother to all cultures and races, She has come out of a melting pot. The Americas are a culmination of so many different people; indigenous, by birth, built on the beauty and love for the soil beneath our feet. She cares not if you are Pagan, Catholic, Hindu...all are welcome in those outstretched arms of unconditional love. She is the soil with Her dark skin, the starry heavens a mantle for Nuit, the crescent beneath Her feet chthonic...She is Mother, to all. There are no coincidences and still I hold a special place of honor for Her, as a genus locci elevated... how could I not? There are literally shrines  all over my neighborhood.
“Am I not here, I, who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more?”