Friday, August 04, 2006

Artist Alter of Intention : (20) Our Lady of Guadalupe

In my mind, Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most beautiful representations of the divine female in Hispanic devotional art. The story behind her appearance is legend. "Juan Diego, a widowed convert to Roman Catholicism, was on his way to "attend to divine things" when, upon passing the hill of Tepeyac, the sky became bright and he heard "singing on top of the hill, like the songs of various precious birds". He stopped, wondering if he was in "Xochitlalpan", "a preconquest Nahuatl expression for heaven or a place of bliss". At the end of the song, as he stood looking toward the top of the hill, he heard a woman calling him from there. At the top of the hill he saw a young lady whose "clothes were like the sun". He prostrated himself in front of her, and she asked him where he was going. He replied that he was going to her "home" of Mexico-Tlatelolco to hear the sermons of the friars there. The woman then identified herself as "the eternally consummate virgin Saint Mary, mother of the very true deity, God, the giver of life, the creator of people, the ever present, the lord of heaven and earth." She then asked Juan Diego to relate to the Bishop her wish for a temple to be built on the very spot, where she would attend to the "weeping and sorrows" of "you and all the people of this land, and of the various peoples who love me", "in order to remedy and heal all their various afflictions, miseries, and torments." The Virgin is said to have asked Juan Diego to pick Castillian Roses from the top of Tepeyac hill, and to gather them in his tilma (cloak) to present to the bishop as proof of Her miraculous presence. (Castilian roses were not common in Mexico in 1531, and certainly not in the dead of winter.) When Juan Diego opened his cloak to show the roses to the Bishop, it is said that both men were astonished to see the image of the Virgin emblazoned on its cactus fabric."
This is a tiny Hispanic sculpture is meant to be left as a devotional when addressing her and asking for her help in some way. Like Frida Kahlo, the Virgin of Guadalupe has always inspired me by her beauty; she always finds a place on my alter and always will.

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