Our Lady of Guadalupe

Tomorrow is her feast day, a national religious holiday in Mexico. It commemorates the day in 1531, when a lowly peasant named Juan Diego, climbed the hill at Tepeyac, north of Mexico City, where the sacred pyramid to the Aztec lunar mother goddess, Tonantzin or Tonan, once stood. There, Juan Diego met a young, dark-skinned woman who speaking to him in his own native language, Nahuatl, requested that a chapel be built upon that site. Diego took her message to the local Catholic bishop, who refused to believe his story without proof. Diego went back to the site where the woman told him to gather roses to bring back in her honor, which he thought would be impossible to find in the desert in December. But when he turned around, much to his surprise, he found a bush of roses in full bloom and gathered as many as he could in his cloak and returned to the bishop. As he opened his cloak, the roses fell out in a profusion of color, and an image of the lady appeared on the fabric of his cloak, convincing the church father that she was an apparition of the Virgin Mary.

There were some in the indigenous tribes and villages of Mexico who believed she was, in fact, the goddess Tonan, who had returned to help her people after being conquered by the Spanish, whose mission was to convert them all to Catholicism. But many came to see her as the blessed Mary of the Americas, who, no matter what name you give her, watches over her people. But as we know, Mary has her roots in the ancient mother goddesses that exist in all cultures. I like to think that she is powerful enough to live on through the patriarchal structure that has prevailed even today. You can see her as a Catholic religious figure and the mother of Jesus, or you can see her as an ancient mother goddess who represents fertility, and the bounty of the earth. It doesn't matter for her meaning is deeply embedded in her image, and in our collective unconscious, in our very DNA.

She is also known as "Mother of Maguey," as she stands in the middle of a maguey, or agave plant, which appears to be rays of light or spiny leaves. The plant has medicinal and healing properties and its juice is known as "virgin milk." Her blue-green mantle of stars is symbolic of the divine Aztec couple, Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl and her place amongst the stars. Her belt is said to indicate her pregnancy with the divine child. She stands upon a crescent moon, reminding us of her origins as an ancient lunar goddess.

Even her appellation of Our Lady of Guadalupe harkens back to her indigenous origins. It is said that the name Guadalupe came from one of two similar sounding words in the Nahuatl language, which did not contain the letters "g" and "d," so could not have been Guadalupe originally. One similar-sounding Nahuatl word meant, "She whose origins were in the rocky summit," alluding to the ancient goddess, Tonan, and the other from a similar-sounding word that meant, "She who banishes those who devour us," again referring to the return of Tonan as protector of her newly-conquered people. To the Spanish conquerors, she was a useful icon to gain converts from the native people who once revered Tonan and had a system of understanding the world through the Aztec iconography and mythos. While the Christian churches were built on the very ruins of the Aztec temples, the pagan beliefs and practices were not so easily demolished, and the goddess triumphed.

So when we look at the beautiful black Madonna of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we can see her through time as an enduring image of the divine feminine. It is ironic that even as she stands as a national symbol of Mexico, where pilgrimages to Tepeyac hill occur every year, women are banned from approaching the sacred relic on display behind the altar at the cathedral of Guadalupe. The patriarchy endures for now, but the goddess lives on. Light a candle for Her on December 12 as we bring in the return of the light that the Winter Solstice promises on December 22.

In honor of Our Lady, I am again including information about how to order your own goddess rosary from Jennifer Mantle, who is happy to put together a custom order for you with the goddess and beads of your choice.

There are many more styles of rosaries and pendants available than are shown in her Etsy store, so just let her know what you have in mind and she will work with you. Jennifer wrote her master's thesis on "Reclaiming the Rosary in Her Name," in which she maintains that "The mythology of the rosary is decidedly Marian," that indicates a "recovery of the goddess" and a way to connect to our own divine feminine. This is reflected in the beauty of the feminine form of the goddess pendant and the roundness of the beads. These rosaries can be used like prayer beads or worn as necklaces or both! Here is the link to Adore Her Designs: http://www.AdoreHerDesigns.etsy.com/