Sunday, January 07, 2007

Guadalupe Revisited


Last month, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I wrote a short piece on why that particular image of Mother Mary was special to me. There was much more I would have written, mostly to lay to rest the claims of this image by some radical feminists as a "goddess" figure (not to mention other comments of mine that were... well, grossly misinterpreted). For example, her prominence in front of the image of the sun would imply pre-eminence, as if to supplant that diety. In addition, her hands folded in prayer and head bowed as in supplication to a Higher Authority. Also, if you look closely, she is crushing the serpent's head with her heel, as foretold in Revelations. The serpent was a diety of the Aztecs, from whose live and bloody sacrifices the commonfolk were liberated, following their conversion to Christianity.

At the time this was written, Julie D of Happy Catholic provided a more detailed analysis of the image. It is very worthy of study.

In many parts of the world, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary has supplanted the attention given to goddess images, including in Mexico. Nevertheless, in other parts of Latin America, as well as the Caribbean, there persists among the working classes a strange mix of folk religion, one that weaves together both Christian and aboriginal images and practices.

Meanwhile, here in the more "civilized" part of the world -- Raleigh, North Carolina, to be exact -- the goddess archetype has taken on a strange new twist: "A North Carolina artist intrigued by the public obsession with celebrity has found herself feeding that obsession with a painting of actress Angelina Jolie as the Virgin Mary hovering over a Wal-Mart check-out line."

Oh yes, you really have to see it to believe it. (I considered illustrating it here, and then I thought... NAHHH!)

The artist, 43-year-old Kate Kretz, describes the process of creating this piece, both at her website, as well as her weblog. I honestly do not believe she meant to offend anyone, as this endeavor appears to be driven more by militant naivete than pure malevolence. Sometimes when people see an institution or a phenomenon as big as Catholicism is -- one-sixth of the world population, one-fifth of the USA population -- they foolishly presume it to be fair game. In so doing, it never occurs to them that there may be more to that phenomenon than a mere collection of venerated images, a plaything for their vain attempt at kitsch. There may be a belief in something greater than themselves.

This is more introspection than some people can handle. And more respect for what is not understood than some people can muster.


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