It was in the winter of 1531 that a 57-year-old Juan Diego heard strange music coming from the once sacred hill of Tepeyac. He walked up the hill and was greeted by a woman of his own Aztec heritage.
She introduced herself as Mary, Mother of God. She told him that she wanted him to build a church on top of the hill, and urged him to speak to the Bishop. Juan left and demanded that he is greeted by the Bishop of the New Church of Tenochtitlan, Juan de Zumarraga.
The Bishop was understandably sceptical, and asked for more proof, a sign, maybe, that she truly was the Holy Mary, Mother of God. Eagerly, he ran back to the hill and prayed to the Virgin Mary that she would appear again to him once more. She did appear, this time she told him, (in his language, Nahwatl) that her name was Coatlaxopeuh.
She showed him a garden of roses, which do not bloom in winter, a miracle by any means.
She told him to collect them up and show the Bishop the rose buds, she even helped him arrange the roses in his tilma, his modest cloak.
When he arrived at the New Church, he blurted out her name, the Bishop, due to nahwatl pronunciation, heard Guadalupe. Juan emptied his tilma of roses, letting them spill across the floor, but the Bishop did not fall to his knees in disbelief because of unseasonable rose buds, but the imprinted image of Our Lady Guadalupe on his tilma. A church was built on the sacred hill of Tepeyac. Eight million descendants of the Aztecs converted to Catholicism.
The tilma is still held, after all this time, in the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It is made of cactus fibres and in 500 years it still hasn’t disintegrated. No paint was used. The eyes of the image reflect those of the clergy and those of Aztec heritage. Even more fascinating is that the star constellations on her dress are exactly what you would have seen if you were in Mexico in 1531.
But, Our Lady has another identity.
She is Coatlicue, ‘Skirt of Serpents.’
She is Tonantzin, ‘Our Mother.’
She is Cozcamiyawh, ‘Corn Tasselled Necklace.’
She is Cihuacoatl, ‘Snake Woman.’
And, she is also Coatlalopeuh, ‘She who has Dominion over the Snakes.’
Earth Goddess, Mother Most High. Patron of Serpents. Pachamama.
In the Image, you can see that her cloak is midnight blue, and adorned with stars. Coatlicue’s son Huitzilpochtli created the stars from his dead brothers. She stands on a dark crescent moon, held by a child. Coatlicue’s son created the moon from his sisters severed head. Behind her, shines the rays of the sun, Coatlicue’s son is the God of the Sun. She wears a black sash around her waist. Coatlicue wore a black sash around her waist as did many Aztec woman during pregnancy and childbirth. Her tunic even shows the sinewy lines of the image of Coatlicue.
I love the Holy Virgin Mary, and I also love Coatlicue, the primordial Goddess of all things wet, dark and tangled. That is why Our Lady Guadalupe is so special to me.
Elders tell us that she has been holding the Divine Feminine energy within her heart, until such a time that the decedents of the Mexica set aside the beliefs imposed upon them by the Spaniards, and bring forth into the light of the sun, the ancestral teachings, and the restoration of woman’s place of honour in the community.
This speaks volumes to me, not just for the feminist principles, but for bringing Her back. Bringing back the Divine Feminine within our culture and community and spirituality. It means acknowledging the presence of the female face of God as Mother, Divine Creator and nourisher of All, as pure creational potential and the feminine energy of flow and movement.
Already the ancient teachings of the Americas have been brought forth into the light, we shaman and mesa carriers have these teachings, I have these teachings within me, and I willingly share them with you if you choose to show up.
All religions have a hidden, or not-so-hidden, female face of God; you just have to search for Her. The best place to search for her, is within your own hearts.
Embrace her, for She will embrace you, and She will give you back your power and your grace that She has been lovingly holding for you.
The twelfth of December is The Feast of Our Lady Guadalupe, light a candle for her, embrace her, for she carries within her womb, your gold.
Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat. Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.
Did you know Santa Clause has his own day? The sixth of December is the Feast of Saint Nicholas. He was a Christian Saint and a Greek Bishop of Myra. He was known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker, and has since been used as the model for our modern-day Father Christmas, Old St Nick, Santa Clause. He has many names, he is also known as the Holly King, the Green Man, The shaman, and even Odin.
He rewards the good and well-behaved children of Christendom with gifts and trinkets and sweet delights on Christ’s Mass Eve.
But, did you know, just like me and thee, he has a shadow too? What would Jolly Ole Father Christmas’s shadow look like? What could possibly be a contrasting image of Santa?
Are you sitting comfortably? Are the lights on nice and bright? Are your loved ones near? Then I shall tell you.
He has no shiny, buckled, black boots that crunch through the snow, but cloven hooves that clip and clop.
No red coat dons this man, but a tangled mass of dark fur.
He does not wear a red hat, (and if he did, it would probably be the foulest blood red) instead, two great, goat horns curl and twist.
Does he say “Ho, Ho, Ho?” Oh no, no, no, he couldn’t possibly, not with those fangs and that long, red tongue.
What about a sack full of toys? I hear you ask, he carries a sack, or sometimes a basket, over his shoulder, but it doesn’t contain toys, only the naughtiest of children.
He holds, not the reigns of a beautiful sleigh, but chains that attach him to the devil.
On the fifth of December, the part goat, part demon Krampus punishes the naughty children, whipping them with his ruten branches, or gifting coal instead of toys. Ruten bundles instead of sweet nectarines. On The eve of The Feast of Saint Nicholas, he gifts an early Christmas present to those who have been exceptionally good. But, God help ye merry children if you have been very, very bad. If you have been wicked, then he will take you away, leaving a log of wood in your image behind while you are taken to his lair. Maybe he will make you work for him, or maybe he will devour you, or maybe he will drown you the fiery pits of hell.
For me, the Krampus the naughty side of this season, Christmas in all its gory glory. It is the time that the birth of the Holy Sun of God is born, in many ancient paths, not just Christian. And as wholesome and holy as this season is, there is a sombre side to this season too. There is loneliness and bitter sweet memories, there is greed and over indulgence. There is consumerism and debt, there is chocolate, alcohol and burning loins. Families argue and fight, office parties end in the walk of shame and guilt, and the streets are littered with drunks wearing sexy Santa outfits (or are they the slaves of Krampus?).
As Advent begins, Saint Nick sits on one shoulder, and Krampus sits on the other, whispering sweet nothings in our ears.
I have a soft spot for the Krampus, he has been commercialised into a jolly and slightly satanical Christmas figure, and there is a growing number of people within the anti-Christmas community, who use the bar-humbuginess of Krampusnacht to celebrate something slightly less Holy.
Once, I accidentally celebrated Krampusnacht with my son. He was ill during the last week of November and as he was feeling better and as he had been exceptionally good all week, we decided to gift him an early Christmas present on the night of the fifth of December. Later that night, I found out it was Krampusnacht.
So, to all my kith and kin, have a cheeky chocolate, or a snifter of rum, watch an X rated movie or simply snuggle up with your Shnookums or your Snugglybum.
Like everything in life, it’s about balance and moderation, holding the two polarities of life in balance in each hand, so you can be the stillness in the centre.
Be both the bright and the dark, the light and the shadow, the oak and the holly, the Santa and Krampus.
Merry Krampusnacht to you all, and to all a good night!
Shamanism has been a passion and an inspiration for me for many years now.