Teresa Romero, 5, of Yuba City sits next to a shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Isidore Catholic Church Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011 in Yuba City, Calif. December 12 marks the feast day of the Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of the Americas who appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico City in 1531.
1. Who is “Our Lady” and why is she important?
The Blessed Mother is a sacred force. She is known throughout the world by thousands of names. In the West, we may know her as Holy Mother, Seat of Wisdom, She Who is Clothed with the Sun, Virgo Maria.
The story of the Virgin of Guadalupe showcases one of the most stunning visitations by Our Lady in the world.The story, as it has been passed down, is that she appeared nearly 500 years ago to a beaten down, poor, enslaved Nahua (Aztec) Indian. His indigenous name was Cuauhtlatoatzin, Speaking Eagle, and he was one of the surviving medicine people. In his culture, the eagle sees into two worlds as messenger between holy sky people and people of earth.
After the Conquest of Mejico, during ongoing cultural upheavals and wars, Cuauhtlatoatzin’s name became Juan Diego. One day he, then an old man, passed the ancient hill sacred to Nahua peoples- where the temple to Tonanzin, the Goddess of the Nahua had been torn down by forced labor of the native people. Suddenly on the hill appeared an arresting woman in a gown of roses and mantle of stars. She spoke these heartening words that we, as Guadalupaños/as hold close in our hearts as La esperanza, ultimate hope for all things: “Have you forgotten? I am your mother. You are under my protection.”
Cuauhtlatoatzin and his people needed protection, they craved their Holy Mother. But, as the elders in our families remind us, La Señora de Guadalupe is also known by many names, including most prominently by the beloved name La Conquista. This means, Our Lady Who Conquers all Hearts. She is also patroness of those who have been hurt, Our Lady of the Conquered. Although to many she represents the Virgin Mary of Christianity, to others, she represents the feminine divine in all, the female incarnation of holiness.
Because she appeared not to highest of high, richest, most powerful, most intellectual, but rather to an native healer who called himself ‘but a little rope, a tiny leaf’ compared to her magnitude… for us who are old believers, this compassionate fire of her ever merciful love catches on our deadwood and we begin to burn brighter in our lives. Our Lady seems to often come to those of us who are in some way, too, frayed little ropes, tiny leaves blown about. Thus, she is known too, as Reweaver of the Unraveled. Calm Center of the Storm.
2. Why did you decide to write a book about her?
Untie the Strong Woman
contains many stories of souls who were blown about. It tells about many of us striving to re-center daily in the compassion of the Great Woman, La Morena, Black Madonna, La Lupita, Amma, Mami, Nuestra Madre, Our Mother. We live in a world wherein some choose not to pursue the iconic holy. And, yet, many of us choose to pursue Blessed Mother in particular, as our exemplar.
Though some parts of the culture ridicule the holy, some ‘pay to degrade the soul,’ and some say the sacred is the exclusive province only of the self-appointed few, I see it is time to take courage and say aloud now that Holy Mother is still deeply wanted, and needed, by many souls. Despite all naysaying attempts to obliterate her, measure her, confine her, demean those who love follow her–despite all this, ancient Holy Mother of Mercy keeps appearing to us daily. She brings us compassion, wisdom, blessing beyond mere human means. Sometimes she appears, yes, in full sight, full hearing, fullest heart knowing, sometimes saving lives, at others delivering a message that brings true peace to those in prisons of many kinds.
3. How does Our Lady differ from other sacred women?
I’ve written over these four decades about The Wild Woman, The Wise Woman and now The Holy Woman. I believe they are one and the same under the beautiful name, mother. If there is one thing that stands out about men and women who strive to walk with Holy Mother, no matter what name they know her by, ancient or modern… it is that when asked who she is, most inevitably say softly and with great love some version of, “Ella es mi Madre, She is my Mother.” May it be so for all in need.
Sarah A. Miller
A young girl dressed as the Virgin Mary holds still as she rides on a float up North Broadway Street in Tyle, Texasr during the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parade Sunday evening, Dec. 11, 2011. December 12 marks the feastday of the Virgin Mary, or Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of the Americas who appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico City in 1531.
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized scholar, award-winning poet, diplomate senior Jungian psychoanalyst, and cantadora (keeper of the old stories in the Latina tradition). She is the author of the bestselling book Women Who Run with the Wolves (Ballantine 1992, 1995), which sold over a million copies, and the multi-volume audio series The Dangerous Old Woman (Sounds True, 2010, 2011). Untie the Strong Woman (November 2011) is her most recent book. Visit her Web site.