The festival began Friday at sun
down with a candlelight procession carrying the la Virgen's palanquin
from the small chapel, Capilla, to the meetinghouse, Casa del Pueblo,
where Her altar is placed. With a candle in one hand and prayer bundle
in the other, I presented my offering to le Virgen and placed your
prayers on Her altar.
Throughout the night until dawn people approached the glowing altar of
la Virgen, with prayer candles or multiples of in hand, photographs,
notes, milagros, flowers and most often a kiss to her varnished
portrait. All night we prayed recounting the nine catholic mysteries
and Novena of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Between Novina sets we sang songs
(all in Spanish) and the Danzantes (18 men dancers) danced a poetic
melody of sorts, falling into a rhythm winding and unwinding with the
dance to the tune of a scratchy fiddle. Each set of dance told a
historical piece of the story about Juan Diego and his experience with
la Virgen and the bishop. At 1:00 am we were served a ceremonial supper
of fresh baked bread and beef stew in the Casa de Comida by the
last set of dance ended around 4:30am followed by a couple pf prayers
and a few more songs. I retrieved the bundle of prayers before le
Virgen's palanquin was carried in procession to "Our Lady of Guadalupe"
church. At 7:00 am or thereabouts, the pilgrimage began to the top
Tortugas Mountain (a 4 mile walk maybe). This year I met an 80-year-old
man named Nando. He and his two daughters sat next to me during the all
night prayer ritual and walked along side of me part of the way up
Tortugas. His daughter Sandy told me that Nando's been making this
pilgrimage annually for 55 years, ever since her sister contracted polio
as a child. Her sister survived the disease. I was deeply touched as I
watched Sandy help her father, rosary in hand, up the steep and rocky
trail, which I have witnessed some people to walk barefoot. Sandy too
had her stories and treks up the mountain of years past and shared
intimately about her family's sorrows, joys, offerings and promises.
They travel from California each year.
At the summit of Tortugas, Kristine, Nancy, Lisa and I set up our little
camp for the day and made a campfire. In the background we could hear
the traditional mass being spoken through the speakers, there were too
many people to see anything. After mass we selected Yucca roots and
stalks from the recently gathered mounds to make our Quiotoes (walking
- prayer staffs). Kris gathered clusters of dried flowers and creosle
branches from the surrounding landscape, Nancy brought ribbon, and I
brought the knife and scissors. We sat around our little campfire,
sharing stories, laughing, crying, munching on burritos, nuts and fruits
as we prayerfully cut, peeled, shred tied and wrapped pieces of plant
and root together to create our prayer staffs. Throughout the day and
even the day following, a number of people inquired about the red
satchel that dangled from the bow at the top of my Quiotoes. The trek
down the mountain began around 4:30pm (dusk) back to the Casa. Walking
down the mountain, the Quiotoes of peoples danced in the twilight sky,
transporting me into a time that is not of this time. Midway down, a
great bon fire raged from the dry shrub and twigs gathered by wandering
pilgrims as they trekked up and down the mountain earlier in the day. I
asked the Capitan permission to leave the line and throw the prayer
bundle into the fire to transcend them. He gently placed his arm through
mine and escorted me to the blazing fire. With a prayer I offered the
bundle of prayers and offerings to the heavens. I tossed the prayer
bundle high into the flames; an air draft caught the bundle and your
prayers soared high with flames and sparks into the sky!
Tortugas - Turtle: In Native American teachings, the turtle is the
oldest symbol for planet Earth. It is the personification of goddess
energy, and the eternal Mother from which our lives evolve. *Red -
renews life; protection and movement; success and triumph
Blue corn - blessing, growth, health, and life
Sage - offering and honoring the spirit, prayer, purification
Milagros - Hearts, bird, angel, feet, hands, eyes, mouth, man, woman,
child, lungs and a rose. Hummingbird - ancient legend tells us that the
hummingbird was the courier of prayer to the heavens. My cat provided me
with the hummingbird feathers, that's another story for another time.
Messages from the Mothers
by Rev. Melinda McClain
Images of female divinity are often images of mothers. Mothers impart
pearls of wisdom that echo through many religious traditions.
Kali and Our Lady of Guadalupe having Tea
Clean your room.
Mothers of Wisdom insist that we care for the Earth and its
creatures. She has provided us with a beautiful home and expects us
to take care of it.
only the Mothers were in charge of negotiating disputes in the
international arena, perhaps peace would be more within our grasp.
All children are
Mother can choose between her children. Each one is precious and
irreplaceable. Her wisdom leads us to love everyone without
If you continue
to behave this way, there will be trouble.
Our Wise Mothers know that our actions have consequences. For
example, if we continue to fight with our playmates, we will
eventually become friendless.
Take care of the
child that is hurting first.
Fierce and brave Mothers run to the aid of any child who is injured or
in trouble. She practices compassion without any thought or
Divine Mothers, like earthly ones, expect our attention and love.
Mothers require our contact and truthfulness, not because we need to
earn her love, but because when we disappear she worries.
Hymn to the Divine Mother Craving
Here is a hymn to draw us closer to her.
I do not know either the mystical word or the mystical diagram, nor do I
know the songs of praise to thee, nor how to welcome thee, nor how to
meditate on thee, . . . nor how to inform thee of my distress. But this
much I know, O Mother, that to take refuge in thee is to destroy all my
– Longing for Darkness, pg. 59
The Very Short Sutra
Meeting of the Buddha and the Goddess
Thus I have made up:
Once the Buddha was
walking along the forest path
In the Oak Grove at Ojai, walking without arriving anywhere
Or having any thought of arriving or not arriving
And lotuses shining with the morning dew
Miraculously appeared under every step
Soft as silk beneath the toes of the Buddha
When suddenly, out of
the turquoise sky,
Dancing in front of his half shut inward looking eyes,
Shimmering like a rainbow or a spider's web
Transparent as the dew on a lotus flower,
-The Goddess appeared quivering
Like a hummingbird in the air before him
She, for she surely
was a she
As the Buddha could clearly see
With his eye of discriminating awareness
Was mostly red in color
Though when the light shifted
She flashed like a rainbow.
She was naked except
For the usual flower ornaments
Her long blue hair was deep blue,
Her two eyes fathomless pits of space
And her third eye a bloodshot
Ring of fire.
The Buddha folded his
And greeted the Goddess thus:
'O Goddess, why are you blocking my path.
Before I saw you I was happily going nowhere.
Now I'm not sure where to go."
"You can go around me," said the Goddess,
Twirling on her heels like a bird darting away,
But just a little way away,
"Or you can come after me.
This is my forest too,
You can't pretend I'm not here."
With that the Buddha
Supple as a snake
Solid as a rock
Beneath a Bo tree that sprang
Full leaved to shade him.
"Perhaps we should have a chat," he said.
"After years of arduous practice
At the time of the morning star
I penetrated reality, and now .. "
"Not so fast, Buddha.
I am reality."
The earth stood still,
The oceans paused,
The wind listened
- a thousand arhats, bodhisattvas, & dakinis
Magically appeared to hear
What would happen in the conversation.
"I know I take my life in my hand," said the Buddha
"But I am known as the Fearless One
- so here goes."
And he & the Goddess
Without further words
Light rays like sunbeams
So bright that even
Sariputra, the All Seeing One,
Had to turn away.
And then they exchanged
And there was a great silence as vast as the universe
That contains everything
And then they exchanged bodies
And the Buddha arose
As the Goddess
And the Goddess
Arose as the Buddha
And so on back & forth
For a hundred thousand kalpas.
If you meet the Buddha
You meet the Goddess,
If you meet the Goddess
You meet the Buddha.
Not only that. This:
The Buddha is the Goddess,
The Goddess is the Buddha.
And not only that. This:
The Buddha is emptiness
The Goddess is bliss.
And that is what
And what-not you are
So here comes the
mantra of the Goddess & the Buddha,
the unsurpassed non-dual mantra.
Just to say this mantra, just to hear this mantra once, just to hear
one word of this mantra once makes everything the way it truly is: OK.
sutra was written by the much beloved Buddhist practitioner and author
Rick Fields, (now deceased), and sent to China Galland by Elizabeth