Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Work It, Mary
Yesterday, I went to one of my favorite sacred sites in Washington - the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at the Catholic University of America.
Some readers might be wondering, "What the hell is a Queer Witch Priestess doing at a Catholic church?"
First off, it's an absolutely beautiful place, full of '50s-era high art all done in mosaic. Many of the images are not only gorgeous, but full of interesting iconography, including a world's creation that features dinosaurs. Just amazing!
Secondly, I'm big on the Virgin Mother (in fact, right now, I'm listening to Antonio Vivaldi's Vespri per l'Assunzione di Maria Vergine, Vespers for the Assumption of the Virgin Mary - a beautiful piece).
While the Catholic church has certainl caused a whole mess of problems in this world, the sustained veneration of Mary has left goddess worship open to a great many people. From what I hear from various humanoid Mysterious Ones (Juno and Cybele included) is that Mary, the woman, was approahced by various female Mysterious Ones and asked to hold their place in the world until the time was right for them to return more fully to people's hearts and minds (Westerners and those affected by Christian conversion, in particular.) Mary graciously took on this role after her death and continues holding this space to this day. It's my understanding that this is starting to shift and as Cybele said to me yesterday, once this part of Mary's job is done, that gal gets a long-ass vacation.
The National Shrine has chapels all down the sides of the church depicting the different Marys from around the world - Latvia, Korea, Poland (featuring a gorgeous Black Madonna), Guadalupe, etc. They're all so beautiful and the iconography is delightfully pagan. So many of the images depict her surrounded by a very yonic burst of energy. Roses (major goddess flower) and lilies (often associated with the lovely Juno) are frequently part of the art depicting Mary.
The rosary was being prayed while I was there yesterday, and I found myself irritated at some of the prayers, which focus on being saved from hell and being sinners, etc., etc. Yet then I saw Mary sending loving energy to all of the congregants' hearts, energy of healing and deep compassion. She knows that they aren't sinners and hopeless fuck-ups. Through this incredible compassion, she continues to hope that they will come to see themselves as she does - with great love and possibility.
It was an incredible inspiration, and I sat in a pew, quietly singing an Italian song to the Black Madonna (Cybele, in pre-Christian times), adding energy from my own heart to the prayers for healing and love.
Afterwards, I went to Mary's garden, a beautiful respite behind the cathedral and played my Black Madonna drum, working the rhythm of Cybele, a deep, Mother Goddess beat. Mary was there and smiled warmly as a straight couple lolled on each other under a tree - the man prone with his head in the woman's lap as she stroked his hair. The sun was setting, casting golden rays over the scene, and I thought, again, that a Queer Priestess was sending blessings of a Goddess on the love between men and women.
In fact, there were a couple of images in the church that made me wonder about Queer folks' continued work with various female Mysterious Ones. The first was outside and pictured a very, square-jawed "woman" playing a tambourine (on the right - click on the photo to enlarge). Notice that the hair is loose - the very thing condemned by "St." Paul as being the sign of a wanton woman and/or men who were in service to goddesses. The Galli, priestesses of Cybele, played the drum and loosened their hair during wild rituals.
While staring at this image, I heard the Virgin Mother say to me, "See? You're everywhere."
I don't know that the artists intended any of this, but like any good piece of art, we bring ourselves and our experiences to it, seeing our own lives and attributes reflected back to us in ways that resonate with us. I hope I'm not the only Queer one out there to feel this incredible love and hope that our ecstatic gifts have survived vicious persecution and have had the blessing of Mary and so many of the Mysterious Ones.
Blessings of Mary (who as I hear it, was thrilled when a straight university student couple were engaged in a killer blow job on the steps of the cathedral - she wasn't as thrilled when they were caught, however) on all of us.