Colorful Catholicism for Goddess-Lovers, and for Those in Need of a Lover

5 Jun

Mexican Catholicism is a gloriously pagan affair. If I were Catholic, this would absolutely be my style. It’s Goddess-centered (ahem, I mean Virgin Mary-centered), and way more elaborately ritualistic than a typical Catholic mass in the U.S.

I already liked Catholicism for all its saint-loving, saints being like special lesser deities just to help you out with random parts of your life. But in Mexico the interpretation of saints’ jobs is even better. For example, when I mention a Saint Anthony, who I know as the Patron Saint of Lost Things (this is who I always call on for lost documents, lost keys, etc., although I’m not a practicing Catholic), everyone laughs at me, assuming I’m talking about the saint you call on to find yourself a boyfriend or husband. You have to turn an image of him upside down if you are a single lady looking for a man (I haven’t seen any specifications on whether or not it can help single ladies find a girlfriend, but it’s very specific that he’s a saint for solteras, so I guess he won’t help attached women find an extra lover, nor men looking for a partner.)

Don’t worry, though, fellas, because there’s also a local recourse if you are having trouble finding a woman partner. Halfway up the mountain, between Rio Grande and Juquila, lies the small town of San Marcos Zacatepec. Right there off the main road you can make your pilgrimage to the Piedra Mujer (Stone Woman). Go in, say a prayer (some put it in writing as well), light a candle, and you’re golden. Once you have your partner, you go back and give thanks with an offering (money to maintain the sanctuary, and a thank-you note if you want.) All in a day’s work in the world of Mexican Catholicism.

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a close-up of the “Stone Woman”- if this ain’t a tribute to the Goddess then I don’t know what it is

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The sanctuary of the Piedra Mujer

And it doesn’t end with the saints. I love that nobody’s walking around with those WWJD bracelets, because for the most part, people aren’t all that into Jesus. The majority of the love, prayers, tokens of adoration, and clothing accessories are for Mary. People have images and invocations of the Virgin Mary all over the place, all the time. I’ve seen a whole group with painted t-shirts of grafitti-style Virgin Mary. Cars sometimes have lettering on the windshield reading “Gift from the Virgin.” There are Virgin Mary bracelets, necklaces, rearview mirror ornaments, dashboard ornaments, car hood ornaments, wallet-size cards, statues for the home, dolls, and tattoos. There’s more tourism that goes to visit the Virgin Mary who supposedly appeared in Juquila than there is tourism to the beach here in Puerto. The devotion is impressive.

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one common image of the Virgin of Juquila

Juquila isn’t the only spot where the Virgin Mary has been sighted in Mexico. Nor is it just a spot to pray. No, it’s way more pagan-style than that; you perform a whole ritual when you go to ask for something. You make a clay figure that represents what you are asking for from the Virgin (for example, a car if you are hoping to save up to buy a car). You make a promise to the Virgin. You spread some dirt on your face. Some people bathe in the water near the cave where she was spotted. People fill up their plastic bottles with that same holy water. It’s a very serious affair. People don’t ask for stuff without expecting to work for it, but it’s a way to get extra help, an extra blessing when you’re trying to do or acquire something big. There are folks who wouldn’t dream of starting some big undertaking without a visit to the Virgin first. Often it involves a promise to the Virgin; making the pilgrimage by foot or on your knees next year, or cutting off your beautiful braid, or some other kind of sacrifice.

Rituals in general are of great cultural importance. When you die here, people aren’t worrying about who’s going to give the moving speech at the funeral. Instead everyone comes together to cook food for the people who will come every night in a nine-day long ritual of prayer and incense. It culminates in the ninth evening being an all-night prayer vigil, followed by everyone going to the cemetery in the morning to leave the cross and say some more prayers.

There are other religions here, but Catholicism is the big majority rule, and it’s totally ingrained into the culture whether you’re a practitioner or not. Mexico is technically secular, but for all intents and purposes it’s still an officially Catholic country. For example, I just went to the grand opening of a new (completely secular) business, and half of it centered around a blessing by a priest. And the Church has some serious, major power that I sadly don’t see them using for justice around here. They’re typically more concerned with whether you’re married via the Catholic Church and whether men should have earrings or not than all the malnourished people in this rampantly corrupt state. (According to folks I know who go to mass and listen to these exciting sermons and otherwise participate- I don’t have first-hand experience with mass here, sorry. I do know that Conan and I can’t be anyone’s official Godparents here because we’re only legally, civilly married, not religiously.)

Catholic Church aside, though, I adore Mexican Catholicism for the way it honors and continues to revere it’s pre-Colombian roots, without even acknowledging that this could possibly not be Pope-approved, all this assembling clay figures, for example. Here, this is what Catholicism is, period- pagan symbols, goddess figures and all. If I could just get over the whole institution of it, all the priests that act like they‘re God, and even this radical Pope still telling women not to protect themselves with condoms and birth control- if I could just get past that part, I would have found a religious home in this fabulously expressive, colorful Mexican Catholicism. I might still get one of those graffiti-style lettered shirts, anyway, if I could get one of the Piedra Mujer instead of the Virgin Mary. I’m going to look into it.

Peace and respect, folks, to all the religious in whatever religion and the non-religious, too. Until next time.

 

2 Responses to “Colorful Catholicism for Goddess-Lovers, and for Those in Need of a Lover”

  1. juliainman June 5, 2016 at 3:25 pm #

    Loved this blog – as always. Saw something in a St. Augustine shop that made me laugh out loud. Thought it might amuse you too… It was a magnetic dress-up-figure called “What Would Jesus Wear?” Yes, you could dress up the Lord in different outfits. Almost bought it, but it wasn’t cheap, sadly. Still laughing. Miss you much!

    • exiletomexico June 6, 2016 at 8:17 am #

      That does sound pretty fabulous.
      Missing you, too! Hugs.

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