Christmas Eve in the Tropics – The Goddess Re-membered

Merida drawing by Judith ShsawChristmas Eve, 2011 and I was sipping coffee in an outdoor cafe in Merida, Mexico, sweat dripping down my neck. The Grand Plaza, across the street, shimmers in the tropical sun, framed by the arches and columns of the Portal.  I see birds, wings fluttering like a string of pearls flung out through the trees of the Plaza. Huge old laurel and palm trees, trunks and branches reaching for the sky, offer soft green protection from the heat of the midday sun.   No white Christmas here.

Nuestra Senora del Carmen, Merida Church bell towerThe city bustles around this little oasis in final preparations for Christmas.  A single butterfly, golden spark in the sunlight, flits among the chaos of the Centro. Street vendors hawk their wares as cars and buses rumble by.  Church bells ring, calling her children to remember the teachings of the church on this Eve of Christ’s birth.

Virgin icon, itzimna church merida mexicoguadalupe painting merida mexicoAll of Mexico is full of churches where the faithful flock to pray to their God.  Solace is found in the the words, the rituals, and the icons within. One of the major sources of solace for many Mexicans comes from the Goddess in the form of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and other Christian female saints.  Of course the people don’t think of Her as the Goddess but she is adored in much the same way.

our lady of yucatan madonna statue merida mexicoIn the main church on the Plaza Grande, The Catedral del San Idelfonso, there is a very powerful statue of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Yucatan.  I’m never completely alone as I sit in front of Her and say my prayers for love, balance and peace.

She inspires me to paint my version of Her image. I call Her Our Lady of Heaven and Earth.

Our Lady of Heaven and Earth, painting by Judith Shaw

izamal church altar mexicoIn two colonial towns close to Merida, Izamal and Valladolid, the adoration of the Virgin is evident.

Izamal Madonna icon mexicoHer statue lives on these churches’ main altar by day and is carried in procession every night to a special room where She rests.

Valladolid church at night

Luck was with me one evening as I sat drawing in front of the church in Valladolid.

procession with virgin icon valladolid mexico All of a sudden I heard singing and then saw the procession of people carrying the statue of the Virgin from her day home to her night home.

procession with virgin icon valladolid mexico

Izamal church madonna sanctuarymadonna dress izamal mexicoIn In Izamal I was able to see the room she sleeps in and another room with dresses She has worn in the past.

unity christ merida mexicoOf course there are also statues and paintings of Jesus in his ministry and on the cross.  A very large statue of Jesus on the Cross, called Unity Christ is found on the altar of the main Cathedral in Merida. It symbolizes an understanding and unity between the Spanish and the Maya after the caste war, a Mayan uprising in the late 1800’s.

christ on cross valladolid mexicoStanding in front of another statue of Jesus on the cross, I had an unusual thought.  Perhaps it was the influence of the Mayan stones, from which the Yucatan churches are built, but I felt strongly that we are at the end of an age. Jesus both symbolizes and came to change this Age of Sacrifice and Suffering. It just took a few thousand years longer than expected.

bell shaped madonnaThis 5000 plus year old age of man’s rule by force, centuries and centuries of rape and pillage, of destruction of the Mother’s shrines, of Her body, of Her children, is now at an end.  Also ending is the belief in original sin and the inherent worthlessness of the human being.  We are waking up to the reality of God/dess manifesting through us; that our thoughts and consciousness create our reality.  Christ told his disciples that if they had faith as much as a grain of mustard seed, they could move a mountain.  His ministry revitalized the teachings of the ancient world, calling on the power of love and consciousness to change the world.

our lady socorro icon valladolid mexicoFor thousands of years the assault on the Mother has increased and it appeared that the insanity of worshiping Death over Life had won.  But over the last half century or so, more and more people have heard Her call.  Painters give Her form; writers tell Her stories; musicians sing Her songs; dancers dance Her dance.  Bit by bit the Goddess is re-membered.

And in practical ways of the world this remembrance is seen.  The Green Movement seeks new technologies which mimic Her natural ways.  Even within the hustle bustle of our modern cities, urban professionals grow gardens and raise bees and chickens, remembering once again the cycle of the seasons and the rhythm of the Earth.

Yemaya Heals by Judith ShawI have been blessed to follow the road of painting Her image – as woman, as nature, as that first form which emanates from the unknown.

Leaving behind the soothing dimness of the church, I emerge into the golden sunlight of late afternoon, acutely aware of the transformations that have taken place in this ancient land and of the transformations yet to come.

Valladolid church angelPerhaps we’ve finally arrived at a time when the human family can believe in our inner beauty, power and love.  Perhaps the Goddess is reborn, the age of sacrifice is over, and the beauty of this physical life will once again be celebrated.  Life is a constant cycle, a spiraling cycle of birth, death and renewal.  Even the cycles die and are reborn.  The Mayans say we are once again at the point where one long cycle dies to be reborn on yet another turn of the spiral.  I feel the truth of this transformation deep in my bones, deep in my cells, deep in my heart.

valladolid church angel 2


2 responses to “Christmas Eve in the Tropics – The Goddess Re-membered

  1. What wonderful pictures of “Our Lady”!
    Judith, you really have captured the best of these religious figures.

  2. Thanks Judy. It snowed here last night – beautiful but cold – missing Merida.

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