Going Under

76178373_2390937751034287_6325974652157952000_n.jpg

 

In Abiquiu New Mexico I walked down to the river and Bosque (wetland) communing with trees, leaving in the dark and returning before dawn every morning. Red Willow River is a tributary of the Rio Grande. I didn’t need to see; my feet knew the path by heart, so I was free to let my other senses take precedence. Listening to the sound of my feet, the first bird song, I moved into a still place, while first light gathered itself around me like a luminous cloak under the cottonwood trees. On my return the curves of the river and the dazzling painted sky held my rapt attention  … I didn’t realize for a long time that this daily meander was actually a walking meditation that helped stabilize me in a place that I loved but could not call home.

 

In the mystical magical twilight, if the conditions were right, I witnessed the mist rise over the river and whenever this happened it seemed to me that I ‘sensed’ a figure emerging from that cloud… this apparent apparition never ceased to pull me into her ‘field’. The woman was always weeping and I called her La Llorona, believing that she wept for the Earth, my precious Earth, because her animals and trees and plants were dying. Extinction was concrete reality, a daily occurrence. Cultural denial made it impossible for me to share my grief, but here, with La Llorona, I was witnessed and free to mourn…

 

The story of La Llorona is told throughout the Southwest and when I first heard it I knew it was a lie.

 

(see my blog for my interpretation of the legend sarawrightnature.woodpress.com)

 

According to the Spaniards, La Llorona was a young woman who was supposed to have murdered her children in a fit of rage because her lover abandoned her. She could be heard weeping at the river at night, searching for the dead children she abandoned. She was reputed to be a threat to any child left alone at night.

 

Recently I learned that the real story of La Llorona had historical beginnings that began about ten years before the Spanish conquest as omens experienced by the Indigenous Mexica (Aztecs).

 

The earliest texts that mention La Llorona are located in the twelve books of the Florentine Codex. The first books were written in 1577 but can be dated earlier. Book twelve was originally written in the Nahuatl language in 1755 and here Native elders stated that ten years prior to the arrival of the Spaniards the Mexica began to witness a series of omens. The prophecies signaled the arrival of the Spaniards and the downfall of Tenochtitlan. In the texts a woman is heard crying and screaming at night crying “my children, we now have to leave… where shall I take you… or more ominously, my beloved children I am going to leave you now.” Two of these books indicate that the woman crying at night was the goddess Cihuacoatl whose name means “Serpent Woman”. In two texts the woman has a head of a woman with horns and develops a serpent’s body. After the conquest of Mexico one book makes the terrifying assertion that the goddess ate a child in her crib. The twisted version of the story of La Llarona as it is still told today also began after the Spanish conquest.

 

That La LLorona is a compassionate grieving Mother goddess figure seemed obvious to me when I first heard the Spanish rendition. I immediately thought of Our Lady of Sorrows, the Catholic Mary figure who is also a goddess. Guadalupe also came to mind.*

 

My personal experiences with La Llorona have moved this goddess beyond the original story. It is absolutely real to me that today this figure still appears out of the waters and is mourning the slaughtered trees, plants, animals, – the other children of the Earth (I have experienced her presence here in Maine by my brook).

 

There is a Pueblo belief that the Rio Grande and its tributaries is guarded by a Horned Serpent, Avanyu, whose petroglyphs and pictographs adorn canyon walls and rock outcroppings in the area. This Serpent of the Waters is intimately associated with rains and each spring the Pueblos hold a Snake Dance to call down the waters from the Cloud People.

 

Living in Abiquiu brought me face to face with what happens in severe drought. Desertification is occurring; the Cottonwoods and many other plants are dying. It was/is a terrifying reality to witness firsthand the ravages of a land that has already caught Fire. Avanyu seems to have withdrawn ‘his’ protection. He is considered to be a male figure to the Pueblo people and others but I see Avanyu as the Serpent Goddess, once again stripped of her female powers. These powers include precognition/ second sight and are experienced through the body through dreaming or through our senses even if they appear as ‘thought’.

 

Mythologically, the serpent has been consistently associated with the Life Force, the body – ie. embodiment.  Creation and Destruction. Christianity turned the serpent into the “evil” one who, of course was female and whose body was the source of shame and misery.

 

I conclude with a dream I had last November when Avanyu, as a GIANT python type snake appeared in the Rio Grande. This serpent was so enormous that all the river water disappeared underneath it and it was coming towards us radiating all the colors of the rainbow – its body was pulsing with intensity. In the dream I was terrified and then struck dumb with fear recognizing that some new unknown Collective threat was coming … Covid was on its way.

 

*Guadalupe or Tonantzin/multi-valenced Earth goddess  originally belonging to Aztec people first appeared on a hill outside of Mexico city ten years after the Spanish Conquest of the Mexica in 1531. She was brown skinned. The top priority of the time was to convert the Natuatl speaking Indigenous peoples to Christianity. Although the church attempted to Christianize her Guadalupe remains to this day a goddess belonging to the people. She is invoked as a power of social justice, for her compassion and strength, and as an image of Motherhood. I don’t think it’s coincidence that she first appeared to the native people after they had been conquered….and that according to some sources she has a serpent aspect.  As Cihuacoatl Tonantzin/Guadalupe is Serpent Woman. Creator and Destroyer.

 

Guadalupe’s Night

14.jpg

Guadalupe’s Feast day is today December 12th. For years I yearned to be physically closer to where Guadalupe first appeared on that snowy December day outside of Mexico City in the 1500’s. This year I am living in a house that contains a niche outside the back door with a (whitened) Guadalupe surrounded by her Castilian roses. At the Pueblo in Abiquiu a Mass was celebrated in her honor yesterday. Did you know that she once wore a crown? When I light the ruby candle on my altar…I await her coming, or not.

I came to Abiquiu in part to move closer to you Guadalupe, behaving as if distance really matters. If you chose, I believe you could incarnate out of the fire that I just lit in your honor…I long to feel your presence inside this small Mexican adobe house, one you would probably approve of…but perhaps you have more important work to do. Just know that I will be waiting.

The sky will bow low in Guadalupe’s honor during this night… and some stars will fall to earth as meteor showers. A light wind ruffles the chimes. The waxing moon will be full tomorrow…

I think of Guadalupe standing on a crescent moon alone, no babe in her arms. An angel holds her aloft. Doesn’t anyone notice that she is different from the others? She is the only one of the Virgin- one unto herself – Marian goddesses to stand alone, even if she is still depicted in her sister Mary’s robes. Her skin is like chocolate, smooth and creamy, a Lady of Light who rose out of the Earth on Tonantzn’s hill. A spring erupted out of the ground to announce her coming.

Oh Lady of the Darkest Nights,

take flight and comfort those who need you…and know that I shall never forget the story of your coming. An image of you is emblazoned in my heart.

Tonight, I honor you as Lady of the Mountains, the Desert, the Forest, the Animals, the Plants Lady of the life bringing Waters. You are not a Mother. You were born of the Earth and Water and embody both, the twin female powers.

IMG_0421.JPG

Sculpture created by artist Armando Lopez

.

Mother Daughter Betrayal

,

400px-Black_Madonna.jpg

(1)

 Today is my mother’s birthday and although she has been dead for more than a decade I still think of her almost every day. At the time of her death I had not seen her for twelve years. Not by choice. After my father’s sudden demise my mother chose my children, her two adult grandsons to be her protectors, and dismissed me from her life, permanently.

When she died, my mother divided her assets evenly between my children and me, forcing her only daughter to live beneath the poverty level for the remainder of her life.

The final betrayal.

At the time of her death I was teaching Women’s Studies at the University.

(2)

 As a child I adored my very distant mother and did everything I could to please her, including becoming a second mother to my baby brother at four years old. I remember tenderly holding him and giving him his bottles.

Is that why I became so devoted to the divine image of Mary, Queen of Heaven the moment I was exposed to her at the convent garden that I secretly visited each day on my way home from kindergarten?

Three years later my parents went to Europe for a year leaving me in the care of my great aunts. “Baba Anna” allowed me to stay with my very devout Catholic grandmother for two days (the only time I was ever allowed to stay with my father’s mother – my mother disliked Italian Catholics, though she married one named Mario). My very Italian grandmother told me stories about Mary…

When my parents returned from Europe my mother brought me a silver plated triptych of Mary holding Jesus.

Astonished, I decided my mother must have magical powers.

(3)

 I adored Mary just as I adored my mother but Mary, unlike my mother, was always loving and kind…

I feared my mother’s wrath but it was her sphinx –like Silences that paralyzed me, turning me to stone. Medusa, she often called herself in jest.

When I first saw an image of Medusa with writhing snakes in her hair and a demonic look on her face the figure terrified me.

My mother introduced me to this frightening goddess by naming her, by her fear of snakes, and through her actions.

 (4)

 As an adolescent I discovered Mary Magdalene and because my childhood image of Mary as “virgin”* was at odds with my passionate nature, I turned to the “fallen woman” to find an image of myself.

I chose the “dark goddess” and split away from light without understanding what I had done.

My mother judged me harshly but no more harshly than I judged myself. As soon as I could, I married and moved to an island off the coast of Maine.

 (5)

 My first son was born in December two years after I graduated from college. From the beginning he was a difficult baby that had tantrums and screamed for hours – unless I held and nursed him.

My brother killed himself.

Every time I looked at the Botticelli image of the Madonna and child that I had placed on the mantle I wept.

Guilt and Shame dominated my mothering years isolating me and leaving little room for self – development.

I gave up the two Mary’s, god, and Christianity shutting the last door on Hope.

 (6)

 My relationship with my mother remained one –sided with me (desperately) trying to keep the door open between us because I needed her so.

After my brother’s suicide, she turned towards her grandchildren. And I was only too willing to give them to my mother whenever she asked, because I wanted to please her.

Some years she didn’t speak to me at all for reasons she never explained. In between her silences, I would discover that we planted the same flowers…

 (7)

 When my children left home Mary came back into my life. I found comfort in her presence as the Mater Dolorosa and began going to church again.

I also began a quest to seek the Black Madonna and found the first image of her in Italy, my father’s country of origin.

Open conflict now characterized my relationship with my mother who I began to see as a flawed human being.

I blamed my mother for my brother’s death and her abandonment of me. I judged her as harshly as she had judged me. I saw her through the eyes of Athena, the goddess that sprung from Zeus’s neck. (such an unnatural birth) Now what I feared the most was becoming like her…

As Fate would have it Medusa came to life in me as the raging unwanted daughter… I was forced to live through the same pattern that my mother did and to witness the slaying.

I left the church to become a ritual artist. Nature became my Muse.

 (8)

 Years passed. When my mother died I felt relief before the night closed in.

Gradually, painfully, and with great resentment, I learned to hold my mother accountable for her betrayals, and to separate my experience of reality from hers. As I sorted the seeds I learned to deal with my rage by containing it but not denying my feelings; I also discovered the power of humility (My mother had not been a good mother to either of her children but neither had I for the opposite reasons).

 (9)

 My mother’s greatest flaw as a parent and a person was that of entitlement. She lived her life as queen or goddess, “above” the fray, believing that she was better than others and believed that others should serve her. I lived my life below believing I was inherently flawed and therefore not qualified to be much more than a servant. Together, my mother’s life and mine comprise one whole. A sense of entitlement does not guarantee happiness any more than becoming a servant to others does.

 (10)

 I discovered Guadalupe “the Goddess of the Americas.” The Indigenous Guadalupe appeared to an Indian peasant and asked that a church be built on the same hill where Tonantzin, an ancient earth goddess first resided. The request was granted, and it is said that a spring appeared at the site. Many miracles occurred here.

 (11)

I came to the realization that my mother and I both suffered deeply.

Equally.

We both lost children.

Tragically, my mother and I were never able to see each other as two women who had lost access to their female roots, women who chose betrayal of one another out of pain and lack of awareness.

 (12)

 Recently, when I researched the Greek Medusa for an article I need to write, I discovered that she was one of three sisters –the only one that was mortal. In one version this unfortunate Greek goddess born of Earth and Water was a priestess to the goddess of war, Athena. After Medusa was raped by Poseidon, she lost her “virgin” status and was forced to leave Athena’s temple. Athena cursed Medusa, turning her into a monster whose rage turned anyone that looked at her to stone. She also banished Medusa to a desolate island. Later, Perseus killed Medusa, severing her head from her body (and from her female “roots” of earth and water). Perseus then gave her head to Athena who put Medusa’s face on her shield using it to turn others to stone. I was shocked to learn that Medusa was a victim of woman betrayal by a goddess that was often associated with wisdom…

 (13)

 Today, I choose forgiveness, for the mother who birthed me, and for myself.

Today, I choose Earth and Water as the elements that support me.

Today I see myself as a compassionate woman with integrity, one who continues to develop deeper insight as she ages, weaving darkness and light into one multicultural braid.

Today I acknowledge my mother as a woman who may or may not have been capable of loving her only daughter …

IMG_2537.jpg

Today I give thanks for Guadalupe’s light, the light that shines during the darkest days of December, the month my mother was born.

Working Notes:

* The word virgin requires explanation. Patriarchy associates the word virgin with sexual purity because of its need to control women through their sexuality. Feminists know that the word virgin means that a woman is self-contained and whole – one unto herself.

The first picture of the Black Madonna is European. There are hundreds of Black Madonnas in Europe especially in Italy, France Germany and Spain. There is also a startlingly similar Black Madonna here in the Catholic church of Santo Tomas at the  Abiquiu Pueblo. The last picture depicts a “whitened” Guadalupe  who occupies a niche outside my back door. I notice that many Catholic churches whiten their Guadalupe who is an Indios goddess.

This year in my personal life I have experienced three betrayals by women that left me stunned – dumbfounded. As I searched for commonalities between the three I suddenly had an insight. All three of these women suffer from entitlement. It wasn’t until I made this connection that I realized that a sense of entitlement was the primary issue that created the imbalance that doomed the relationship between my mother and me. It’s important to note that entitlement can be well hidden. It is prudent to pay attention to the difference between what a woman says and what she does.  Entitlement guarantees that the woman in question will NOT attempt to work out differences and will block any attempt on your part to do so, probably by blaming you.

Mothers and daughters seem to have a particularly difficult time with betrayal. There are a number of reasons that women betray besides believing they are better than other women. Perhaps envy is the most common. But many women are also male -identified, by which I mean that these women privilege men over women. These women choose “power over” others as a way of being in the world. Patriarchy as a system of power over/dominance supports women who betray for obvious reasons. Women who are severed from their female roots are more vulnerable and more easily controlled… We can’t begin to change this behavior until we see it. My hope is that my mother -daughter story might help other women re-examine the way they treat each other.

Hecate’s Moon

 

IMG_0421.JPG

Lupita, Guadalupe –

Your agave points of light glow in grave darkness.

 

Hecate’s Moon is Red.

The Raven slices the sky into shards.

The River catches shivering stars.

 

We remember the First Mother…

Patiently, painfully,

we return the parts to the Whole.

 

See the Wolf who hides behind the Tree?

Welcome him in.

Only then can we begin…

 

Lupita, Guadalupe –

Your agave points of light glow in grave darkness.

 

Photo credits: I took this photograph when visiting the studio of artist Armando – Adrian Lopez whose work in mixed media produced this vision of Guadalupe.

Working notes…

Guadalupe is the Native “Mother of the Americas” – not the Virgin Mary as often suggested but an ancient Earth goddess. She is dark skinned and an Indian. Curiously, Lupita is the diminutive form of Guadalupe. Lupe means wolf. I was surprised to learn that the name Guadalupe means river of black stones or valley of the wolf. I was intrigued by the inclusion of both dark and light (wild and tame) in Guadalupe’s naming. She is a goddess of wholeness whose light continues to shine in a broken patriarchal culture.

Hecate’s moon is the last moon of the year according to some earth based traditions, and here I aspect her as the goddess who ushers in the dark months ahead in the northern hemisphere and the return to chaos.