Spirit Beings – Guadalupe

Guadalupe Queen of Mexico

Also known as: The Virgin of Guadalupe; La Guadalupana

Origin: Mexico

Feast: 12 December

Stones: Rose Quartz, Garnet, Celestite, Emerald and Ruby in Zoisite

The distinctive image of Guadalupe appears everywhere in Mexico, including tattooed on skin. She appears in the most sacred of imagery and as kitsch. She is the Queen of Mexico and Latin America. In recent years, her influence has spread over the world. She is among the most beloved and revered manifestations of the Virgin Mary and possibly the most famous of all Marian Apparitions. Guadalupe evokes profound passions and fighting words:

• Many are shocked and highly offended at the suggestion that she might be anyone other than an apparition of Mary, Mother of Christ.

• Others are entirely convinced that she was originally an indigenous goddess who tolerates the guise of Mary in order to maintain influence and contact with devotees.

• Still others perceive her as a bridge between European Catholicism and indigenous Mexican spirituality. She is considered the glue that holds Mexico’s disparate roots and influences together.

In the famous story, Guadalupe appeared to a “humble Indian” named Juan Diego on 9 December 1531 as he was passing Tepeyac Hill. She spoke to him in Nahuatl, language of the Aztecs, directing him to advise Spanish Church authorities that she wished to have an abbey built on Tepeyac and dedicated to her. Needless to say, the Spanish did not initially take Juan Diego seriously. The Lady appeared to Juan Diego four times demanding her shrine. Eventually the Spanish bishop requested a miracle to prove his assertion. The Lady directed Juan Diego to gather flowers from the hillside and bring them to the bishop. Although it was winter, he discovered unusual flowers growing. He gathered them in his agave-fiber tilma , an indigenous cloak, and carried them to the bishop, who recognized them as gorgeous, fragrant Castilian roses, which had miraculously appeared out of season and out of place. Even more miraculously, the image of the woman that Juan Diego had witnessed was now emblazoned on the tilma. Centuries later, that image remains. The tilma is housed in the Basilica of Guadalupe on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City. The Church officially sanctions that miracle. The Apparition received the abbey that she had requested. It is now considered the most sacred place in Mexico and the subject of the greatest pilgrimage in the Western Hemisphere. There is more to this story than first meets the eye. Juan Diego (1474–30 May 1548) was not just a “humble Indian.” His original name before baptism had been Cuauhtlatoatzin meaning “He Who Speaks Like an Eagle.” Little is known about him, but his name indicates influence and status. Some suggest that he was a shaman or priest before conversion to Christianity.

Time Line: Hernan Cortes arrived in Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City, in 1519 Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego in 1531 .

The apparition appeared to Juan Diego four times on Tepeyac Hill ordering that a church be constructed for her right there. Tepeyac was the site of the Great Temple of Coatlique and considered a place of incredible power. Those who consider Guadalupe to be truly an Aztec goddess usually suggest Coatlique as the top contender for her true identity, although other goddesses are also suggested, including Cihua-coatl. (See also: Coatlique; Cihuacoatl .) The Apparition appeared a fifth time to Juan Diego’s uncle, Juan Bernardino, who was deathly ill with smallpox, an ailment that had just been introduced to Mexico and thus defied local healers. She spoke with him and healed him, telling Juan Bernardino to pass on her true name so that everyone could know and use it. He told Church officials that her name was Tecuauhtlacuepeuh. They understood this as “Guadalupe,” but it may have different meanings in Nahuatl:

• She Who Crushed the Snake’s Head

• She Who Comes Flying from the Region of Light Like a Fiery Eagle

• She Who Banishes Those Who Ate Us

The Spanish may have heard “Guadalupe” because it sounds similar but also because many were already devotees of the Black Madonna of Guadalupe in Extremadura, the Spanish province from whence many of the conquistadors including Cortes derived. They may initially have expected to honor the Black Madonna from Spain, but the Apparition of Tepeyac Hill quickly asserted her own strong personality. She was revolutionary because she manifested in the guise of an Indian woman. Her image on the tilma made that very clear. (Although Guadalupe is visualized as a brown-skinned Madonna, she is not usually classified among the Black Madonnas.) She physically resembled the new community of Indian Christians. The immediate result of the apparition and the miraculous image on the tilma was mass conversion of Indians to Catholicism. Miracles associated with Guadalupe included healings and resurrections. A healing spring appeared at the site where Juan Diego met the Lady. Miracles were performed for Indians, Spanish, and Mestizos alike.

Scientific analysis indicates there was some later embellishment of the tilma ( the golden rays, moon, and the angel at Guadalupe’s feet, the most European part of the image ), but the main portion of the image remains inexplicable and cannot be satisfactorily explained. Allegedly no signs of human creation exist. The blue pigment of the cloak is apparently some natural pigment that cannot be reproduced or identified. Furthermore, the cloak is woven from maguey (woven agave fibers), which has a life expectancy of about ten years before it disintegrates. The sheer continued existence of the tilma may in itself be a miracle.

Veneration of Guadalupe was not without controversy, and controversy still remains. No written record of the Apparitions or of Guadalupe as we know her today exists prior to the mid-seventeenth century. Before 1648, all surviving documents attack veneration and pilgrimages associated with Tepeyac. New-Agers and Neo-Pagans were not the first to suggest that Guadalupe was really a Pagan goddess in disguise. Spanish Church officials suspected the same. Fray Bernardino de Sahagun wrote, “It is clear that in their hearts the common people who go there on their pilgrimages are moved only by their ancient religion.” However, by the eighteenth century, she was the official matron saint of Mexico. She was the heroine of the Mexican Revolution associated with the fight for independence from Spain. She remains an emblem of national identity. Guadalupism is the name given the popular veneration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Guadalupe is invoked for every possible miracle and all kinds of help.

Miracle of the Roses – Our Lady of Guadalupe

Blessed Mary gave Juan Diego a sign to bring to the bishop. She instructed him to go to the top of the hill and to cut all the roses he found blooming and to place them in his cloak. He listened to Blessed Mary but was doubtful he would find any roses because the area was rocky and never produced any vegetation.

To his amazement, Juan Diego found a bountiful collection of fragrant roses when he reached the top. He gathered them in his cloak (tilma) and brought them to Mary. She rearranged the roses in his tilma and instructed him to take them to the bishop as the sign he requested. She stressed the importance of keeping his cloak closed and to not show anyone but the bishop what he carried.

Juan Diego carefully traveled with the roses and when he eagerly appeared before the bishop, he opened his tilma and released the many roses. The bishop stood in astonishment, not because of the roses, but because before him appeared a colorful image of Blessed Mary on the fabric of Juan Diego’s cloak.

It was the exact image of the Blessed Mary Juan Diego encountered on the hill of Tepeyac. Both the bishop and Juan Diego were awe-struck at this miracle. With great reverence and deep faith, the bishop finally believed the woman to be Blessed Mary.

Iconography: The image of Mexican Guadalupe is of a young, brown-skinned Indian woman dressed in Indian clothing (as opposed to the European clothing most Madonnas wear). Her mantle is not the traditional blue of a European Madonna but teal (blue-green); a color that in Aztec cosmology symbolizes abundance and prosperity. She does not physically resemble the Black Madonna of Guadalupe whose statue portrays a mother and child. Mexican Guadalupe stands alone and is pregnant. The image is subtle; you might not realize she was pregnant. The traditional Aztec black maternity band around her waist is the clue. Sacred site: Her Basilica on Tepeyac Hill; however, countless shrines, churches, and home altars are dedicated to her, too.

Offerings: Candles, fruit, flowers, musical performances, pilgrimage

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