December 12th is coming up and is the day specially devoted to Tonantzin the goddess renamed as The Lady of Guadalupe by the Spaniards. Here is a behind the scenes look at the famous incident of the one I always regard as the Lady Sophia.
An extremely famous and much loved appearance of the Lady who is always called the Virgin Mary, unless she appears in India, Tibet, China or Greece, is the Lady of Guadalupe. Millions of Mexicans give the left-brained divided Christian world a wonderful example of what unconditional devotion and sincere worship really mean, with regard to this Lady, who is obviously regarded as way up in the goddess category by many of her devotees.
They illustrate perfectly the spiritual axiom of Gurumayi, a great Siddha yogini, who said, “In your faith the Supreme Being dwells.” She had been tremendously impressed by the childlike innocence of the devotion of the Mexicans to the Lady, great examples of ‘God is Love.’
The Lady of Guadalupe brings comfort and joy to her devotees, answers their prayers, and is a great example of the many thousands of years old, universal concept of a Mother Goddess: compassionate, caring, and always available, like an ideal, but omniscient human mother.
Her full story is surprising and worth knowing and contemplating. It connects so many dots for the spiritually inclined, and actually starts in Europe in the year 711.
In that year Don Rodrigo, the Visigothic King of Spain was defeated by the Saracens, and the Arabs added Spain to their current collection of post-Muhammad conquests. The banners of their formidable armies carried the star and crescent.
The star is derived from the 8 year journey of Venus in the sky. Her path traces out a five pointed star, a fact well known to the Sumerian and Babylonian astronomers thousands of years ago. Venus as the morning star is symbolic of activity and initiative and so appeared on the flags of the Islamic nations. The Westerners in contrast, have taken over her lover, Mars, the god of war, and his star is on their military vehicles.
A famous Black Virgin, said to have been hand carved by Saint Luke had been presented to the town of Seville by Pope Gregory the Great. It, or She was kidnapped by some of Rodrigo’s knights to save her from possible destruction.
The concept of religious tolerance has always been totally absent from the mindset of the Catholic Church and they just knew that the Muslims would do what Catholics would do in the same situation, i.e. destroy the ‘opposing’ religion and its buildings.
The Muslims did not do so. Complete tolerance for Jews and Christians was the rule. Muhammad had ordered tolerance of all Abraham derived religions based on the Book. Civilization, architecture, science and art in Spain under the Muslims became a wonder of Europe. Maimonides the wonderful Jewish rabbi wrote his spiritual commentaries in Spain under the protection of a Moslem ruler. The center of the Eastern Orthodox Christian world was in Istanbul at the Hagia Sophia cathedral. This was in the midst of an Islamic culture.
If you find this surprising just congratulate Messrs Bush and Cheney on the great brainwashing job they have done in convincing you that all Muslims are terrorists and that the barbarians destroying building thousands of years old in Iraq are the good guys.
When King Ferdinand and his queen Isabel retook Spain from the Moslems the first thing they did in 1492 was to throw out any Jews and gypsies who wouldn’t convert. By doing this they ensured that Spain became, and remained an intellectual backwater among European nations. This method of dealing with non-Catholics continued the historical norm of the religion in suppressing thought and literacy. Remember that Jews are about 2% of the world’s population and have nearly 20% of the Nobel prizes.
The aforementioned knights then reverently enclosed the sacred statue of the Black Virgin in an iron box and buried it near a town called Guadalupe in the area of Spain called Extremadura, right up against the border with Portugal.
About 600 years later, in 1326 a shepherd named Gil was roaming around the fields of Guadalupe when the Lady appeared to him and suggested that he dug where he was standing. The valued statue was recovered and placed in the Church of the monastery of La Vergen de Guadalupe, Our Lady of Silence, Patroness of Extremadura and All the Spains.
Black Virgins are particularly sacred in many parts of Catholic Europe. France has over three hundred and Spain had 57 last time I checked. The blackness is to do with the color that INCLUDES all colors, universality. It has nothing to do with skin colors of various races.
The Swiss are totally Caucasian but their most famous shrine is the Black Madonna of Einstedeln, about whom Jung and his followers have written a great deal. One famous Black Madonna at Czestochowa is the religious symbol of Poland. Another was the inspiration for the eternal feminine in Goethe’s Faust. Ignatius Loyola gave his sword to the Black Madonna of Montserrat in Spain and then went off to found the Jesuits.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux who founded the Knights Templar was presented to a Black Virgin as a baby and the story says that she expressed three drops of milk for him. He preached over 300 sermons about the Song of Solomon where she says, “I am black but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem.”
Quispel, the great religious psychologist and expert on the Black Virgin as an archetype says that she is currently the ONLY truly living symbol in the Christian Church…God as Mother.
OK, back to Guadalupe. The point of this little historical segue and Douglas type comments is that the shrine of the Lady of Guadalupe was the favorite shrine of King Ferdinand II of Spain, and his Queen Isabel in the years around 1492. These were the pair who financed the Spanish conquest of the New World.
Extremadura was the province from which came many of the conquistadores, including Hernan Cortes, and the monastery in Guadalupe was a Franciscan monastery. Some of the monks, including the one who became Bishop of Mexico, Zumarago, were among the dozen or so Franciscans sent to Mexico to convert the pagan Indians, after Cortes had subdued them. Conquistadores and Bishop were all devotees of a dark skinned Virgin Mary.
In 1519 the conquistador Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico with a few hundred men, guns, horses, and a pale skin relative to that of the Indians.
Mexico at that time was ruled by the Aztecs who had conquered all the local Indians. They had a legend that their fair faced god Quetzalcoatl had left the land in the 12th century. There was a well known prophecy that he would return in the year that in the Aztec calendar was called One Reed. This happened to be 1519 and the Indians welcomed Cortes as the returning Quetzalcoatl and took him at once to see their ruler Montezuma.
In that year, before Cortes arrived, the Aztec priests had noted several bad omens concerning their civilization. A comet had seemed to hang in the sky for months and the totemic owls had been hooting their message, interpreted as doom, also for months.
So when Cortes got some Indian allies and attacked the numerically far superior Aztecs, they expected to lose. So they did. He had firearms and horses, both new items to the Aztecs and in two years his little army had pretty much destroyed the Aztec civilization, which incidentally was far superior, except in fire power, to the Spanish civilization, as was the case in much of South America too.
The city of Tenochtitlan, which gave birth to Mexico City, was a beautiful place with about 300,000 inhabitants. Some of the Spanish soldiers apparently asked if they were dreaming when they saw the city of wide streets and full of flowers. The Aztecs were vastly superior to the other Indians in all the arts and sciences.
There was one problem. They worshipped the Sun through the god Huitzilopochtli who had the disadvantage that he could only be kept alive by human sacrifices. The Aztecs made war on all the surrounding tribes, not to conquer their space or possessions, but to take prisoners suitable for sacrifice. They did not destroy the religions of any of the people they fought but incorporated them into the Aztec system.
The great Temple of Tenochtitlan was dedicated in 1487 and estimates vary from 20,000 to 80,000 of the number of people sacrificed in the four days of ceremonies involving blood letting.
As war continued to give the Aztecs continuous successes the priesthood elevated more and more male gods to places of importance. The motherly, compassionate female gods were spun into monsters by the religious hierarchy to serve their blood lust and craving for power over life and death. The Catholic priests did the same with the wise women of Europe who were tortured and burned by the thousands as witches. Male based religions seem to have a tendency towards ill treatment of women.
When the Spaniards saw the horrific statues of the bloodthirsty gods and the beautifully built racks holding up to 100,000 skulls, they categorized the whole religion as satanic and destroyed all the places of worship they could find, without regard to the god or goddess they were dedicated to. The discovery of hundreds of prisoners being well fed and cared for, being fattened like domestic animals ready for the sacrifice didn’t make them feel better about the Aztec faith either.
The Spaniards however didn’t treat the Indians much better than the Aztecs had. They considered themselves superior in every way and even wondered if the people they treated so brutally had souls, like the Christian Spaniards.
That little, well documented summary is all the actual history we need before hearing the Guadalupe story that the Catholic Church has made famous all over the world. With minor variations it goes as follows.
The Spaniards had forbidden the Indians to practice their religion, so they had to go underground to do it. The brutality of the Spaniards did not give the Indians any incentive to convert to the Catholicism of their conquerors and very few did.
One of these, according to the story, was a Nahuatl Indian with mystic tendencies named Cuauhtlatoatzin. In 1525 he converted to Catholicism and received a baptismal name that the Spaniards could pronounce: Juan Diego. Several other members of his family followed his example, including an elderly uncle who became Juan Bernardino.
On December 9th 1531 Juan Diego was walking the 14 miles from his village of Cuauhtitlan to the Catholic Tlaltelolco parish in Mexico City, where he went to Mass. To do this he passed the hill named Tepeyacac, which held the ruins of a destroyed temple of the corn goddess Tonantzin, a compassionate and loving Mother figure, opposed to the bloodshed of the Aztec male gods.
He heard birds singing and saw what he considered to be a noble woman of an Indian race. She spoke to him in the Nahuatl language and told him to go to see the bishop Zumarago and to tell the bishop to build an abbey for her on that very hill. She told Juan that she was the mother of God, and the compassionate mother of all the suffering people.
He managed to get into the presence of the bishop who didn’t believe what Juan said. So Juan returned to the beautiful lady and suggested that she sent someone more important than a Nahuatl Indian. She told him that it was his job alone, and added that it was the ever-virgin, holy Mary, Mother of God asking the bishop to do this.
Once again he got through to the bishop who demanded some physical proof that the message was true before he could commit to building an abbey on that hill. Juan told the lady the story and she told him to come to see her next day and he would be given proof.
Then his life became even more complicated. In the evening his uncle Juan Bernardino became very ill and it was pretty clear he was on his way out. As a Catholic he needed a confessor quickly and asked Juan to get a priest from Tlaltelolco to hear his confession. Juan started out just before dawn and thinking to avoid being delayed by the lady, and so being too late with the priest, he went around the other side of the hill.
To his chagrin the lady was waiting for him. He explained his haste. She told him not to worry about his uncle since she would heal him immediately. Juan’s more immediate task was to go to the top of the hill and gather the unusual flowers he would find there and bring them back to her.
Full of faith, although it was winter and normally there were no flowers, he did as he was told and found many flowers blooming, including Spanish roses. He gathered them in his tilma, his peasant cloak, and brought them to the lady.
She picked them up a couple of times and put them back in his cloak. “Now go to see the bishop. Give him my message again and do not open your cloak until you are in his presence.”
And so it happened. When Juan opened his cloak in front of the bishop and several witnesses, the out of season Mexican flowers fell out, including Spanish roses missed by the bishop who was very fond of them at home. And on his cloak was imprinted the image of the Lady of Tepyacac.
Everyone fell on their knees and apologized, and then went quickly with Juan to see the site where the abbey was to be built. Then Juan told the bishop about his uncle and said he had to go see him.
The bishop and the group followed Juan and found his uncle in perfect health and feeling fine. The uncle told the bishop that he too had been visited by the Lady and that She told him the name by which She was to be called.
Now you have seen a few of the Indian words. The Spaniards found the language pretty impenetrable, and the Indians couldn’t get their tongues round the Spanish either. Scholars have given two names that Juan Bernardino may have said, and the favored one is Lady of Coatlaxopeuh. This means “She who crushes the serpent.” And the last couple of syllables sound like the Spanish “...uape.”
The serpent is an Aztec religious symbol that represents a demand for human sacrifice. The figure on the cloak was standing on a crescent moon and a serpent. In 1566, thirty five years after the event, the Catholic Church, ignoring the Lady’s request, named the apparition as Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
It may not now be a coincidence to you that the bishop Zumarago came from a Guadalupe in Spain with a similar legend of an apparition of the Virgin to a lower class person.
The tilma was hung in the church and thousands came to see it. The Indians immediately related to the story. She was obviously an incarnation of their own Mother Goddess Tonantzin. She had spoken to an Indian, not to a Spaniard, in their native language and had a dark brown Indian type face. She was wearing a black belt, the custom for pregnant Indian ladies, and there was Aztec type symbolism in the image. The hill was sacred to their own Lady long before the Spaniards arrived.
History says that whatever the source of the sacred cloak, the Franciscans were overwhelmed with requests for baptism. Over ten million Indians converted in nine years.
The image had many features similar to Virgin Mary conventions and the Spaniards too could relate to it. It seems that some of them realized that maybe their own Virgin loved the Indians too and maybe they had better stop treating them worse than dogs. Matters improved.
That’s the Catholic story, and a very good story too. It was obviously very effective in turning a possible revolt of the cruelly oppressed peasants into a cooperative venture.
Based on a common religious belief that what science can’t yet explain must be God, the Catholic accounts tell how science has not been able to explain the image. A cloak made of the usual cactus fiber would fall to pieces in about twenty years. Juan’s cloak hung on the wall, without protection, for 116 years before being put under cover.
The Lady’s image is famous all over Mexico. It is on the wheel hubs of cars, painted on walls, on candle holders and lunch boxes. She is one of the family and dearly loved and venerated, NOT feared because of punishments that she gives the disobedient. She is what is missing in the psychology of a Church dominated by male celibates and based on the pattern of government of the Roman Empire.
The Church says in its pamphlets that scientists have been unable to identify the coloring agents on the cloak, and that there were no traces of preliminary sketches or sizing on the coarse material. Some reports have spoken of investigations that show images of one or two people in the irises of the eyes. They were thought to be Juan and the Bishop.
The Basilica of Guadalupe, where the tilma is displayed is a place of pilgrimage for about twelve million devout people every year.
Coming closer to our own time, Pope John Paul II was very keen on producing saints. He made record numbers of them during his reign as Pontiff. He, like the previously mentioned Gurumayi was tremendously impressed with the fervent and innocent devotion of the Mexican Catholics, and began the very popular process of making Juan Diego a saint. He had already been beatified in 1987 and the requisite miracles had been reported. He would be the second Mexican saint if the effort succeeded.
Now we must deal with a few things that are not in the Catholic stories. As a start, the Abbott Guillermo Shulenburg served for years as the curator of the Basilica of Guadalupe. When he heard that the sanctification of Juan Diego was under way he wrote a five page letter to the Vatican pointing out that there was no valid documentary evidence at all for the actual existence of Juan Diego.
That could be a serious hindrance in the matter he thought. He did not want the Holy Father to be validating a cult figure, no matter how popular or how much income it provided the Church. He said that Juan Diego was symbolic and that the image on the tilma was a painting, not a supernaturally imposed impression.
I shall just insert here that there is no valid documentary evidence for the actual existence of Jesus either, but it hasn’t stopped the formation of a religion around the teachings.
The earliest written reference to Juan dates from 1648 in a publication by a Mexico City priest about Our Lady of Guadalupe. A Nahuatl publication in 1649 referred to a previous source that has never been found. In spite of his protests the process went through and on July 31, 2002 the Pope declared Juan Diego to be a saint.
Skeptics believe that such reports so long after the alleged events were just an effort on the part of Catholic missionaries to get indigenous converts. Historically there was a formal investigation of the tilma in 1556. The investigators reported that the image was painted by an Aztec artist known as Marcos. The artist Marcos Cipac de Aquino was indeed quite well known at the time.
Examinations not mentioned in the Church brochures have reported that the image was painted on the cloth. Infrared photographs show that the hands at least have been modified, and that sketch lines are apparent in the folds of the robe, showing that the figure was roughed out by an artist before being painted.
Very close up photography shows that the pigment in some places is so thick that the texture of the cloth has been hidden. The vertical seam of the cloak is the place where cracks and flaking of paint are obvious.
Joe Nickell of the Skeptical Inquirer reports that portrait artist Glenn Taylor notes that the Virgin’s hair parting is off center and that the irises have outlines, often present in paintings but not in real life. And she shows evidence that these outlines were done with a brush.
It looks as if the original was by a talented artist and the image was worked over by one with less talent. Nickell also points out that in 2002 the Spanish language magazine Proceso reported the results of a secret study of the tilma. The art restoration expert José Sol Rosales examined the tilma in 1982 using a stereomicroscope. He found that the tilma was not just plain cactus fiber but was a mixture of hemp and linen and cactus fiber.
The original Levi jeans were made of hemp fiber and were pretty much indestructible. That’s why they were popular amongst the gold miners.
This tough cloth had been prepared with a brush coat of calcium sulfate, widely used as a white primer. The image had been painted in distemper and the colors used were identified as black from pine soot, white, blue, green, earth colors, some reds, including carmine and gold. Rosales stated that the image was not supernaturally created but was made by an artist using the materials and methods of the 16th century.
Recent scholarship in this millennium shows that the image was painted soon after the Spanish conquest but that the Juan Diego legend may date from the following century.
This sort of evidence will have no more effect on the devotion offered to the Lady of Guadalupe than scientific facts have on the dogmatic assertions of the creationists. Historical truth is one thing and Mythological truth is another, and often MUCH more important.
When push comes to shove it is indeed very unlikely that the well-established Jesus is an historical figure either. There are two sentences in Tacitus and Josephus, both pretty obvious forgeries, like the epistles to Timothy and Titus. When a story is repeated from birth on for centuries, and when dissenting voices are forcibly, even fatally silenced, it’s not too difficult for a story to become so established that anyone saying otherwise is considered a freak.
Most Christians, I am sure, have never once considered the possibility that Jesus was not an historical figure. When you could be burned alive just for saying that the Earth was a sphere, and not flat, it’s obvious that those who knew from birth that the Earth was flat would look at you with pity. Then you would be reported to the authorities.
Yet most of us believed the tales we were told about Father Christmas. When we stopped believing in them our world didn’t come to an end. We still enjoyed giving presents to people. The fable wasn’t necessary for our natural generosity to manifest. These stories, religious fables and man made dogmas are not necessary for people to live moral ethical and spiritual lives.
Here I have mentioned two of the major legends of our time, and of the Catholic religion: Jesus and Juan. Historically it is more than likely that both are fictions, for which there was a good reason perceived at the time by those in power.
But the devotional energy poured into the inner realms of the psyche from these two legends has created their own energy centers which are now independent of the stories.
The same thing happened to the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis. The thousands of years of devotional energy focused on her has produced an entity, an egregore that can be accessed by anyone who is willing to believe in the possibility of contacting the goddess and sincerely offer her worship. The currently thriving Fellowship of Isis is evidence of that.
Historical accuracy is irrelevant to mythological and archetypal realities. Any of the old gods or goddesses can be revived by a very few ardent devotees knocking at the energy aggregate assembled over the years in the inner realms of the human psyche.
Odin is alive and kicking in Iceland as the chief god of one of the two national religions and also among the Asatru brethren in this country and Europe. All of these deities come from the same source, although they may have thousands of different names in differing languages.
And this includes Mary as God, not as the mother of the Son of God. Treating Mary as a Goddess opens the floodgates that the Catholic patriarchal tyranny of celibate males has been trying to keep closed for centuries. Try it and see the difference. She is totally awesome to serious devotees of the Lady.
I just mention that the name Sophia can be used in any ceremonies of magick or religion and is the only name that I know of thatworks in all egregores. I therefore tend to treat all and any appearances of the Lady who has appeared recently as Demeter in Greece and Tara in Tibet and Kwan Yin in China as being Sophia in the form most agreeable to the local psyches. Remember the saying of the divine Lallita, another version of Sophia:
“Who I really am, a cosmic consciousness so vast that I can hold trillions of universes in the palm of my hand, is beyond the human mind to understand. Therefore, imagine me in any form that appeals to you and in that very form I promise to come to you.”
As a post script I would just like to point out that I receive a catalog from Monastery Icons regularly. The most recent one had a fine icon of St. Juan Diego opening his cloak to reveal the Lady and the roses. A statue has been erected to Juan in the Basilica.
The Indians and Mexicans and myself were surprised to see that it is pale skinned and with a beard. These were not characteristics of the indigenous peoples. Maybe in a thousand years or so there will be a widely accepted story of how that miracle happened.
Little Bernadette had a similar thing happen to her, and the Virgin she saw. The pretty young girl with the sweet smile whom she saw at Lourdes was transformed by the sculptor into the standard miserable looking woman of around thirty years of age. Artistic convention is a hard thing to change.
But as we know from TV…the picture usually prevails over the words. But sound exists as a method of worship, as well as vision.
Chanting the name of a God or Goddess is a world wide activity. Sometimes I join my Indian friends in their temple and we chant Kali Durge or Jaya Jaya Shiva Shambo in call and response fashion for an hour or so and everyone goes up tone and feels wonderful.
I have taught people how to do this in meditation using the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, a prayer that energizes and cleans out debris in the chakras, a fine piece of magick in the language that Jesus…Yeheshuah would have spoken.
The translations of the scriptures from the Greek into any other language are like proof reading the Warsaw or Beijing telephone directories in comparison to the original language.
The spiritual reason is obvious, what you think is what you see, and what you see is what you get. The name expressed rhythmically connects you to the spiritual energy of the deity. And it doesn’t matter which deity. They are all fundamentally connected.
The physiological reason is not so obvious. It has been found by investigating the Benedictine monks scientifically that as long as they chanted for six hours a day they could do well on three hours sleep. The basic reason behind this phenomenon is that when you chant or sing you take short breaths in and long breaths out. The in-breath energizes the sympathetic nervous system and the out-breath energizes the parasympathetic nervous system.
It is the parasympathetic that lowers blood pressure, relaxes tense muscles and brings about a feeling of well-being, and a meditative state. This is why even a boring morning in church listening to a guilt trip about your amazing sin collection can be made worth while IF the congregation joins enthusiastically in singing favorite hymns. The preacher may take the credit for the high feelings of the flock, but it’s more likely due to their parasympathetic nervous systems and their breathing patterns during the singing.
There is a Communion of Sophia on Hawaii with which I am connected through the healing modality Dar’ Shem and common modes of worship of a functional goddess. For those people I suggested and put together extra verses of many other goddesses, all verses having the same syllable pattern, but ending with Sophia, their goddess who contains all goddesses. Here are the verses I composed for them.
Use the same idea and custom-make your own chants using hymn tunes or rock music, whatever. Praise is praise and does you nothing but good. I often use the hymn tunes and old songs of my youth when making new chants. As General Boothe said when the usual negators complained about the popular tunes used in the joyful singing of his Salvation Army folks, "Why should the devil have all the good tunes?"
Below is an example of how I modified a well-known chant to place emphasis where I wanted to place emphasis. Sophia is the Goddess of Wisdom and was the name of the Holy Spirit for the first followers of the teachings of Jesus. The word for Spirit is feminine in Hebrew, masculine in Latin and neutral in Greek, which was one way used by translators to take away the original, feminine aspect of the Holy Spirit in later Church politics.
They translated everything into Latin or Greek, and the feminine aspect of God disappeared in the grammar of the language. Sneaky, but clever. People are limited in what they can think by the language they use. Some thoughts cannot be articulated in some languages, there are no words.
Many readers will know the lovely chant on the "Wings of Song" CD by Robert Gass.
"We belong to the Goddess, and to Her we shall return
Like a drop of rain, flowing to the ocean..."
Chorus: "Isis Astarte Diana
Hecate Demeter Kali, Inanna..."
Here are the extra verses I cobbled together for the Sophia devotees in
Hawaii. Feel free to use them if you want or do your own thing with your own
tune and your own deities.
"Isis Astarte Diana
Hecate Demeter Kali, Sophia..."
"Danu Rhiannon Athena
Hathor Minerva Shakti, Sophia..."
"Lilith Uzume Yemaya
Lakshmi Ostara Pele, Sophia..."
"Venus Blodeuwedd Hestia
Cerridwen Shekinah Freya, Sophia..."
If there is a goddess here you don't know, do a little research. You might
find someone you really like. All have been worshiped for centuries in one
place or another, and most of them still are, somewhere, by somebody or bodies.
Remember Dion Fortune’s dictum… All the goddesses are one Goddess, and all the gods are one God, and there is one initiator.
This was the voice of experience, not dogma. You can’t go wrong whichever you use. All are paths up the same mountain and those of us who travel any of those paths get nearer and nearer to the others as we approach the summit. The example of the Mexicans and the Lady of Guadalupe will show you how best to approach your divine Mother, no matter what name you give her.
Blessings of Sophia on your head, no matter the form of her that appeals to you.