She Who Crushes the Serpent is rather a heavy name for Our Lady of Guadalupe [OLG for short], wouldn’t you agree?
Another name for OLG is Woman of the Apocalypse. Ay yi yi, which is worse?
These appellations are based on the chapter 12 of the last book of the Bible, Revelation.
“A great portent [sign] appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth.” Right after this is where the “ancient serpent” enters in and things get super creepy. To be honest, Revelation is my least favorite book in the Bible, mainly because I don’t understand it. I am not sure I want to.
Last night, I dreamt of the pyramids of the Sun and the Moon in Teotihuacan and the ball playing court of Chichen Itza, both in Mexico. I have been several times to the pyramids in Teotihuacan, climbing to the tops of both. The first time was the scariest. The space at the top is smaller than you’d think for all their bloody sacrifices, if you can imagine that some days 20,000 souls were sacrificed. Thing 1 reminded me that she thought the Aztecs decapitated their victims and just let their heads roll off the sides. I think she is right but I must have suppressed all the facts. I do remember that I made a brother-in-law haul a painting of a humble shack out of the official pyramid gift shop for about a mile. I bought him some Coronas in a cave restaurant (La Gruta) as payment for his efforts. (It hangs next to a print by Joaquin Sorolla in my laundry room).
The ball playing court in Chichen Itza was the original Quidditch court. Rather than playing for house points, however, to the Mayans it was blood sport. According to several sources, the captain of the losing team offered his head for decapitation in a ritualistic ceremony. Losing your head was considered an honor.
I almost lost my head on the top of the Kukulcan pyramid in Chichen Itza. On top of the pyramid sits a temple, leaving a small ledge around which visitors can scoot. Dedicated to Kukulcan, the Snake God, my stomach rose to meet my mouth when I looked over the edge of the pyramid. Woogies. I slid down the steep “stairs” of the pyramid, holding on to a handy rope “rail”. Twice a year, during the equinox, the shape of a snake is cast by the shadows on the side of the north face of the pyramid. Descending the pyramid, the wavy shape eventually joins the head of the snake sculpted in stone. (Watch this video for a fuller demonstration). Then the Snake God slithers off and heads for a sacred well where he theoretically feasts on, you guessed it, the bodies of young virgins and other precious objects. At least in former times.
For OLG, standing on the moon signifies her being the vehicle through which death, darkness, and grief were overcome.
All conquerors like to stand over the conquered, both literally and figuratively. For example, the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven sits directly on top of the most important Aztecan pyramid of the area. Architectural burial, in other words. Built on a former lake, the Cathedral sinks a bit more each year. If memory serves, the altar is at the high point, sloping towards the door.
We used to take visitors to the top of the Best Western Majestic Hotel for chilaquiles and huevos de la bandera. Overlooking the cathedral and Zocalo, we drank cafe con leche and plotted our course of action. For a small fee, canaries in cages pecked out a paper fortune and handed el papelito in its beak to the children. So much more entertaining than a balloon!
For these 40 days, I am standing on principle and keeping my head, even if it is just barely above water. My memory has truly faded and this is a real loss … What else have I forgotten or conveniently suppressed, my brain winnowing out the relevant from the frivolous or unimportant? For I had honestly forgotten that pyramid was dedicated to the Snake God until I was fact checking. So glad that memory was originally sifted out.
In the end, time is the victor and to the victor go the spoils. She Who Crushes the Serpent is my hero.
Herewith concludes Day 11. I am way over my word limit – tomorrow will be short!