Honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe/Tonantzin on Dec. 12th
Here’s the short version of what happened to Juan Diego in 1531 and how Our Lady of Guadalupe came to be from the Catholic Online website:
“For the third time, Juan Diego is ushered in to see the Bishop. The skeptical cleric has waited for two days to see what sign Our Lady has for him. Juan opens his tilma, letting the roses cascade to the floor. But more than the roses, both men are astonished to see what is painted on his humble tilma - an exquisite image of Our Lady.
In the image, she stands as she appeared, a native princess with high cheekbones. Her head is bowed and her hands are folded in prayer to God. On her blue cloak, the stars are arranged as they appeared in the morning darkness at the hour of her first apparition.
Under her feet, is a great crescent moon, a symbol of the old Aztec religion. The message is clear, she is more powerful than the Aztec gods, yet she herself is not God.
At the same time Our Lady is appearing to Juan Diego, and directing him to cut the flowers on Tepeyac Hill, she also appears to his uncle, Juan Bernadino who believes he is about to die. As soon as she appears, the fever stops and Juan Bernadino feels well again. She tells Juan Bernadino, she wants to be known as "Santa Maria, de Guadalupe."
So, let’s look at the wording above: “She is more powerful than the Aztec gods, yet she herself is not God.” No, she’s not. She’s Goddess. More specifically, Tonantzin, the “great mother,” as her name means in the Nahuatl language. Ancient Aztecs list cornflowers as her sacred blossom, but of course, when the Spanish came, suddenly her favorite flower was the Rose of Castile, a type of rose that is native to Spain, not Mexico.
I’ll let the ethnographers sort all this out; to me Guadalupe—now considered the patroness of all the Americas—is Tonantzin and vice versa. All of the energy and love that Mexicans and other Americans have poured into her image and name over hundreds of years have made her real. Yet she was already real; she was Goddess and her holiday was Dec. 12th, which, depending on which version you read, was either the second or the first date in which she appeared to Juan Diego, and so it became her feast day in the Catholic church…might as well be, right, since the day was already sacred to the Goddess.
Guadalupe gets around. I was surprised and pleased to see a statue of her in Notre Dame in Paris. In New Orleans, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and Shrine of St. Jude is one of the “voodoo churches” in the city, primarily because a statue of St. Expedite resides there. But Guadalupe is honored in the Vodou tradition too, and in Santeria and in modern Goddess religion. Why is this important to us? Because observing her day unites many faiths and versions of faiths. To some she is one aspect of Goddess, to others she is one version of the Mother of Jesus, and to others she is a symbol of Mexican indigeno pride.
As any Southern Californian like me knows, she is most often invoked for protection. But she is often called upon for financial blessings, miracles—because of her healing Juan Diego’s uncle from an illness that was usually fatal—and interestingly enough, to conquer fear. Vodou and Santeria practitioners also call upon her to break jinxes or protect against them. In Goddess religion she is revered as the Great Mother, and she can aid all mothers with their needs or stand in for the loving mother that perhaps you never had. Some who practice an Afro/Latin tradition as well as Catholicism see her as an aspect of Yemaya, the great mother goddess of the Yoruba, or as one of the aspects of Erzulie, the Haitian goddess.
Many people just call on her when they are at the end of their rope and don’t know whether to tie a knot in it and hang on or turn that knot into a noose and end the pain once and for all. No doubt about it: Guadalupe/Tonantzin says “Hang in there, there’s cake and ponche in the kitchen. You can’t go now. We’d have to return your Christmas presents and pay the restocking fee!”
So on Dec. 12th I will be burning a rose-scented candle with her image on it. I’ll anoint the pre-scented candle with a little real rose oil and sprinkle around some dried rosebuds (usually labeled “Rosas de Castillo” in Hispanic grocery stores.) I’ll cry and write petitions and place them under the candle along with those of anyone who would like me to place their petitions there. I might place a Native wild rose or if I can’t find one an American Beauty rose in a vase to represent my First Nations heritage (that is what indigenous people are called in Canada, where my indigenous heritage comes from.) Lady of the Americas. Oh, Goddess, do we ever need you now!
You can read about how Tonantzin “became” Guadalupe in a couple of the articles below, and you can find any number of discussions of this hybrid deity.
Barnett, Ronald A. “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Tonantzin or the Virgin Mary?” http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/2614-our-lady-of-guadalupe-tonantzin-or-the-virgin-mary
Catholic Online, http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=456
Mexicolore: The Virgin of Guadalupe and Tonantzin, http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/gods/virgin-of-guadalupe