The Black Madonna of the Mercado. MSA Annex, Tucson, AZ. (Photo by author)
A Feast for the Snake and Wolf Mothers
Once upon a time, there was a portal that opened up between worlds. By today’s accounting, the events transpired 491 years ago. By other measures, it’s difficult to know what happened when. It might have been yesterday.
Stories came to be told about what occurred. The stories were whittled down by vigilant editors who ensured only the most palatable of retellings. All the names were changed. Names were, after all, the most dangerous of all words. Names could hide truths that came with scaly skins and furry faces, yellowed eyes, forked tongues and musky odors. Names could spark memories.
So it was that only the most pleasing of all the names were to be codified in books, preached from pulpits and plazas. Only the prettiest paintings commissioned for gilded altars.
But late at night, by the glow of the embers, there were those who uttered stories they dared not repeat by the light of day.
“Today when I sang the verses to the one they call Guadalupe, I heard the howl of a wolf behind me and the rushing currents of a river. Every hair on my body stood on end.”
“Today when I recited the words to the one they call María, the earth began to rattle beneath my feet. Then from every direction, I heard the sound of a thousand rattlesnakes. My heart pounded in my chest like a drum.”
“Today when I lit the candle before the one whose name we do not really know, I heard a voice tell me to go to the river where the priests take the cows to drink. The voice instructed me to dig at the place of the mirrored rock. The voice said: ‘They have buried us there, finding us too displeasing to their senses.’”
“Will you come with me?”
“It will have to be under the cloak of night.”
“By the light of the stars and the waning moon.”
“We do not know who we will find, but the voice assures me she will be there.”