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.


Donald Engstrom-Reese said...

No, you are not alone. The Queer Mysteries have not only survived, but as you well know, have grown and are flourishing in the emerging Cultures of Beauty, Balance and Delight.

I love you with my flesh and blood, spirit and mind, heart and soul.

Anonymous said...

Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Mary.

gypsy-heart said...

Why wouldn't you visit there!

Once again...I found this interesting, informative, and with a touch of humor.

I always learn new things here. I didn't know that about roses and lilies (two among my favorite flowers).

Thank you for sharing your world through your beautiful words and images!

Beverly said...

Hey Greg, what an insightful post. How lovely it truly is to feel the spirit of love everywhere, fragrant among the roses, the Goddess touching all and reminding us she sees us in our true light, with endless love. Thank you for sharing and also for blessing my little corner! )O(

winterbuck said...

Dear heart, what a wonderful, article, actually.

The shrine is also one of my favorite places--the lovely naked blonde warrior-Christ-in-Glory-Pantokrator in the Upper Church--the young,virile, beardless Shepherd over the jeweled tabernacle at the back of the crypt; the primalness of the chained crown of Our Lady of Bisrica; the warm maternity of Maria Kralice Mira...the lovely sea-side feeling of the Irish chapel fountain...

But Mary...Gerard Manley Hopkins says it best in May Magnificat--but I will try...she is still human in the view of the Orthodox and the Catholics...but she fulfills the promise of Psalms: "They shall be as gods." She is godlike in her power to hear the prayers of millions of people all at once and act on them. She who was created contained the Creator of all within her. She shows us the supreme dignity of "the human person" in her rational dialog with G-d's angel: "How can this be, seeing that I have not known man?" Only then does she give her consent and fiat. Later, at Cana, she rebukes her son: "They have no wine." And he performs his first miracle.

She reveals the feminine face of

And then there are rosaries...I know the prayer you speak of asking to be delivered from the fires of hell--it is bad poetry and doesn't fit. And many Catholic children are taught only the basic prayers and the mysteries. I prefer the "Memorare:"

"Remember, most Blessed Virgin Mary, that none who fled to thy protection, sought thine aid, or asked thine intercession went away unaided, secure in this hope...'

Then there is her litany:

Tower of gold,
Tower of ivory,
Gate of heaven,
Star of the sea,
Morning star...

And her "beads" are often the last mute prayer when people are beyond the power of speech and just hold them.

What a beautiful thing to see this enormous mystery through your eyes and heart.