The Goddess is alive & well in New Mexico, and being honored this Christmas Eve. NEW SITE
I just returned, and my feet have almost thawed out, from attending the Procession of the Virgin at Taos Pueblo on Christmas Eve. As you may know the Native tribes practice a combination of Catholic and their own historical, largely nature-based, religious traditions. Every year on Christmas Eve the Taos Pueblo celebrate Mass and bring the statue of the Virgin Mary out on a litter and parade her around the village and then return her to the church till next year. It is an amazing & beautiful spectacle.
The events begin in the late afternoon when the non-Native townsfolk and tourists begin gathering around the central courtyard of the pueblo. The Taos villagers have shoveled the walkways in preparation for the Procession and have built many large bonfires of cut and split piñon and juniper around the courtyard. As the sun sets, the bells of San Geronimo church ring to signal the beginning of the Christmas Eve mass, and the bonfires are lit. The temperatures this year were around 20 degrees so the bonfires are very welcome as the visitors wait for the Procession to begin.
As we wait, the billowing black smoke adds an ethereal element to the sunset and incipient festivities. We wait patiently outside the church for events to unfold on the schedule of the Taos Pueblo people. Finally the church doors swing open and Native children and parents flow out into the night, followed by the Virgin, carried on a litter by four pueblo women, and sheltered from the night sky by a white fabric awning supported on four poles by four Native men. She is stiff but beautiful and regal, with dark hair and dressed in lace.
The Procession begins with a series of rifle shots into the air from the group of men out front. I don’t know why. Next come 4 men with stick-bundle torches 8 feet tall or more. Behind them are a dozen or so children, dressed in their finery, shaking their rattles and dancing a way out in front of the Virgin and the Procession and then dancing their way back to her. And then, the one we’ve been waiting for, the Blessed Virgin carried and protected by her faithful entourage. She goes by so quickly! Behind Mary come the Priest and the congregation singing a hymn to her. It is in Spanish, which I don’t understand well, but I believe I heard “Oh Madre Mia.”
The whole procession is past us too quickly, and then we fall in behind as they proceed to loop through the courtyard. The entire way is lined with worshipers and observers. The gunshots continue throughout. The light from the bonfires illuminates the faces of the participants in the early evening dark. The billowing black smoke from the fires adds a surreal element. On the path back to the church, the front of the church is completely lit up and forms the perfect backdrop for the Virgin as she is carried back to the church.
Mary means so much to many people here in New Mexico - Catholics of all races, and hangers on like me. She’s not part of the Holy Trinity, but she’s the one people talk to, the one they pray to. Her likeness graces many homes in the form of painted tiles embedded in courtyard & home walls. If she’s not a Goddess, then who is she? To me she seems to be the approachable side, the feminine side, of the Christian God patriarchy. She is gentle and comforting, and not interested in judging. She’s the kind of God(dess) that I can feel comfortable with! Thank you, Mary, for giving us Jesus and being part of our lives.
Merry Christmas & Feliz Navidad everyone!
To me she seems to define New Mexico almost as much as our Zia sun symbol.