Friday, September 20, 2013

The Days of the Cyprians, Fourth Offering

Continued from The Days of the Cyprians, Third Offering

A Quimbanda working with São Cipriano, performed and photographed by Madame Nadia
Between the candles can be seen a vial of the oil (made by Wolf & Goat),
 traditionally used to enliven the images and tools of São Cipriano within the cult,
and his ponto riscado drawn as the field of working.

The Days of the Cyprians
Fourth Offering
(continued from Third Offering)

While popular devotion has waned in the urban terreiros and tendas of Quimbanda (as have most of the Quimbanda Saints- Catherine, Francis, Anthony, perhaps in favor of a "purer" African practice), São Cipriano is deeply entrenched within the cult's history. As one time head of the Line of Souls, and for a time the African Line, as different Umbanda and Quimbanda houses reorganized the spirit hierarchy, Cyprian's role changed and adapted as his followers needed. Sometimes still visibly a Saint, sometimes becoming an Exu (Gato Preto), sometimes informing other spirits, like the preto velho Pai Cipriano – Cyprian is truly a complex figure. For a more detailed examination of this, look to Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold's Saint Cyprian & the Sorcerous Transmutation.

While in popular Catholicism, bonds with certain Saints form in less formal ways, in lineages (both familial and ritual) that have certain devotional practices to specific saints, a formal ingress into a Saint's cult may be desired. Rooted in the practice of novenas of devotion to petition a saint for intercession, Frisvold presents a working to secure the patronage of the mighty Saint Cyprian:

___________________
A Ritual for making St. Cyprian your Patron 
This procedure involves a nine day dedication for installing the saint. Obtain an image of him, be it a figurine or picture. You should also have at your disposal red and black cord, two white candles and one black together with St. Cyprian oil that must have been prepared beforehand. The working must be done at midnight every day, starting on a Friday at the waxing moon, ensuring that the full moon is overseeing the completion of the work. You will use as a nightly prayer the following:
Salvé!
Most Holy St. Cyprian
I beseech you as my Patron
May you work upon me and keep me steady
May you lend me your powers
As I take you on as teacher, tutor and Tatá
Bless my house and my life
As you close up the minds and mouth of my enemies
Make my eyes double in vision
As my adversaries will be doubly blind
Great One, Blessed One
Most Holy St. Cyprian
I beseech you as my Patron
I beg and pray
Heed my call

Amen! 
While the prayer is said, anoint a one foot length of the cords (both red and black) with the oil and tie it to the effigy or picture with three knots. On the ninth night you will make sure that the image is reflected in the full moon and with prayers bathe the image or picture in oil and red wine adding the last strand of cord. Then place leaves of Acacia and Laurel between the cords.  
Watch carefully during this period. If parts of cat, toad, snake or bat come to you in some way, these need to be placed in pouches of black cloth and tied to the effigy or picture with black cord. These can also be added over time as the relationship matures. 
This being done St. Cyprian is given water, bread, black beans and red wine as you burn incense of frankincense and myrrh before him. 
(from Exu & the Quimbanda of Night and Fireby Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, Scarlet Imprint, 2012)  
___________________

Ponto Riscado of
Saint Cyprian Quimbandeiro
The ritual actions themselves are not unlike many other saint devotionals- a battery of prayer over many days, draping of a Saint in offerings or items to be blessed. This last practice, whether using cord, herbs, cloth, jewelry, rosaries- is in effect binding the Saint to you, and you to the Saint.

It is the particular flavor of Saint Cyprian however that is revealed in the animal mysteries (a hint of the metamorphic skin-leaping he is said to teach), the use of acacia and bay laurel (both powerful necromantic herbs and themselves representatives of the Saints Cyprian and Justina, respectively), and in the food offerings (black beans are a favorite food of the Caveiras, the Skull-weilding and Skull-faced legions of Quimbanda).

But beyond all this- it is the oil that is the carrier of his unique grace and axé. Frisvold gives the recipe for this oil in the same passage in 'Exu':

___________________
St. Cyprian Oil

Olive oil
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium
Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
A pinch of bone dust
A pinch of sulphur
A pinch of goat horn filings
A pinch of copper filings
Pine or Cedar resin 

In addition you need to remove the Book of Revelation from the bible, draw his ponto on each page, leave a black candle on it and wait until it has burned down. You will then burn the pages and add to the oil. Once made, this oil should rest with the image for seven days with a seven-day candle prior to use, or with Exu Meia Noite. (ibid)
___________________ 

Oh, this oil. Blood of the Saints, Strength of  Martyrs – Liquid Cyprian. There is a benefit to making oils correctly and knowing where everything comes from, sourcing and taking pride in the process itself. Harvesting the plants in the name of Saint Cyprian while making offerings to the Land and angel of each plant; invoking the same angels as the oil is made and prayed over; ritual bathing, fasting and prayers to the Saint while preparing to make the oil and while gathering ingredients; the process itself should be indulged and celebrated, further engaging the spirit of this work.

The use of these specific plants as well hints at the nature of this oil- wormwood is long attested in necromantic works since ancient times, dog's mercury is a bluing plant- a hint of the sacred axé of indigo of Candomblé and Quimbanda as well as maintaining its own unique properties, and pennyroyal- like most mints, sacred to the Bom Povo of Quimbanda.

Of note too is the use of bone dust here- while any bone dust will connect the menstrum to the land of the Dead, choosing well can really allow this oil to do its job. Human skull is most prized, if possible at least one male and one female - or increments of 3, 7, 9, and 21 skull powders. Powdered bone of cat (especially black), bat, toad, and snake are all of benefit.

Truly the oil itself is a cauldron of the transfigurative powers of Cyprian himself. Having put this before Meia Noite as directed to there be worked upon and crossed by his axé as mentor to the Saint, and then using it to wash idols and images of the Saint – it is one of my favorite oils. It flows with the grace and axé of this sorcerous ally and Mestre.

San Cipriano, ruega por nosotros...

___________________



For any who may be interested, the Oil of Saint Cyprian is available for purchase from Wolf & Goat, to the benefit of any with a special devotion or need to petition the Saint.





Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Days of the Cyprians, Second Offering



The Days of the Cyprians
Second Offering
(continued from First Offering)

Within the varied prayers ascribed to Saint Cyprian of Antioch in the various books attributed to him, one of the standout prayers from the Portuguese versions is the Cabra Preta- or Black Goat. It is a form of amarre- or love binding. It is found in the prayer books of many divergent Brazilian religious and spiritist denominations in similar form. Here is a particular favorite: 

Oração da Cabra Preta 
Tem uma cabra preta comendo no campo verde. Dela mando tirar o leite e faço três pães. Mando um para o Satanás, outro para Caifás e outro para o Cão-Coxo que não me fica atrás. Santa Justina em campo verde andasse, a Cabra Preta encontrasse, do leite três pães tirasse e mandasse para Ferrabrás, Satanás e o Cãe Coxo que não fica atrás. Minha Santa Justina, vós como tão poderosa, o Cão quero que mande comigo para falar, que me dê (dizer a pretensão) e nada venha perturbar e se tiver de ser três coisas, quero ver o galo cantar, cachorro ladrar e gato miar neste momento. Valei0me as Sete Cabras Pretas e os seis milheiros de Diabos, valei-me os Três Reis do Oriente, valei-me as Três Almas, os Três Sinos Salomão, pois quero que o Diabo Coxo venha falar à Santa Justina, que há de mandar, já, já e já. Amém! (from Catimbó: Magia do Nordeste, by José Ribeiro, Pallas Publishers, 1991; p. 49)
A translation courtesy of good friends Nicholaj and Katy:
There’s a black goat eating in the green field. I order to take from it milk and make three loaves. I send one to Satan, another to Caiaphas and the other for the Limping Dog, that is never far behind. If St. Justina would walk on the green field, and meet the Black Goat, she would, from the milk, make three loaves and send to Ferrabrás, Satan and the Limping Dog, that is never far behind. My St. Justina, powerful as you are, I want you to send me the Dog to talk with me, that he would give me (state your intent) and that he would not bring trouble to me, and if there must be three things, I want to hear the cock singing, the dog barking and the cat meowing at this moment. May the Seven Black Goats and the six thousands devils help me, May the Three Kings of the Orient help me, May the Three Souls help me, and also the Three Bells of Solomon, because I want the Limping Dog to speak with St. Justina, who will be commanded, now, now and now. Amen! 


So identified with this prayer (and its variants) is Cyprian that sometimes he is called by the same name, as is the book itself. Alternatively he is Exu Gato Preto, Black Cat Exu, in a thinly veiled mask of the Saint within some houses of Quimbanda. This too has its origins in a working ascribed to the Ciprianillo:

The Work of the Black Cat Bone  
This work must be done on the half moon or even better on the night of Holy Friday. Go to a river, making sure that you are alone, and fill an iron cauldron with water from the river. Make sure that the moon is reflected in the water, then add seeds and twigs of willow and lilies to the water and make a fire of willow and other lunar woods. When the water is boiling put the black cat into the water alive and boil it until the meat is loosened from its bones. Then take a linen cloth upon which the ponto of Exu Meia Noite has been drawn and strain the bones through it. You can now attain the bone of power or the bone of invisibility. The bone of invisibility is found by placing each bone in turn in your mouth as you look into a mirror; when your image fades or blurs the correct bone is in your mouth and will be taken for safekeeping and proper use. To gain the bone of power you need to throw all the bones into the water whilst singing the ponto of Exu Mea Noite having a black candle lit at your back and observe closely, as one bone will go against the current. Seize this bone and wrap it in the cloth and do not let it leave your sight for three days and nights, because in these days and nights Exu Meia Noite will come to try and take the bone away from you. Whatever you do, do not lose the bone, it must be kept as your sign of triumph. This being done, Exu Meia Noite will grant you the powers to direct his legions. (from Exu & the Quimbanda of Night and Fire, by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, Scarlet Imprint, 2012; p. 219)
Quimbanda's Pomba Gira Maria Padilha herself is said to have learned her magic from a copy of the Ciprianillo given to her by the Witch of Evora, her mentor. Interesting too that Cyprian is considered a student of the great Exu Meia Noite, and the workings of the Ciprianillo are felt to echo the force and influence of this particular Exu. While the Black Cat Bone and the Prayer of the Black Goat are notorious stand outs, there are thousands of prayers and workings attributed to the Saint's Book. Another example Frisvold gives us reads:
How to make a pact with a demon and create a little devil 
Write on virgin paper in your own blood:  I, with the blood from my little finger, write this to Lucifer, so that he will do everything I want in life, and if this does not happen, I will no longer belong to him – then sign your name. 
Write the same words on a black hen’s egg which has been fertilised by a black cock. Puncture a hole in the egg and let a drop of blood from the little finger of your right hand drop into it. Wrap the egg in cotton and black silk together with silver dust and place it under the black hen. From this egg will be born a little devil which should be kept inside a silver box with silver powder. Every Saturday feed the box blood from the little finger on your right hand so the little devil can drink the blood and grow strong. As the little devil grows in the blood bond with you, so will your magical abilities grow stronger and stronger. (ibid, p. 220)


What is certain is that Cyprian of Antioch exudes a particular mystique, an old world sorcerous practice given new life in the Americas. He is not a typical saint; he is truly a worker of both hands. In some areas, public devotion would carry with it a stigma of malefica and brujeria- which of course furthers his reputation, and increases divergent traditions of observation. As with the left-handed petitioning of any saint, what a saint protects the devout from is also what they can be used to attack and send. In this case, Saint Cyprian is as good at throwing curses as breaking them, healing as well as cursing, blessing as well as damning. In this way he is the model spirit ally and model sorcerer- for his devotees must make their own measure of morality and ethic.

Here too, I am reminded of the old fable of the man hiking through the woods who encounters a snake. The man recoils, but the snake calls out to him- pleads with him to carry him to the far end of the forest where the man is headed. The man is cautious and asks the snake to promise not to bite him. The snake concedes. After hours of walking and conversing, the man reaches the edge of the forest, puts the snake down carefully. Immediately the snake bites him, and as the poison takes the man's life he asks the snake why he did this when he promised not to do so- the snakes reply: "You knew what I was when you picked me up."

I am not interested in this as a simple beware the Saint, beware the occult, beware Magic interpretation. Rather- I am interested in the choice to engage the snake. The man could have said no. The man could have thrown the snake far away from him upon reaching the edge of the forest. Dropping our guard is not bravery. Vigilance is required in any sorcerous path. Any devotional path. We renew our commitments daily, hourly, with every breath. (Thus, a yearly a novena...)

Saint Cyprian makes the choice possible; the strength of each sorcerer, each bruja, each curandero, a product of their own merit alone.  There are no allegations scapegoated upon an outside figure. Here too is a hint of the Mexican tradition of the three skulls of Cyprian- or the asking of Cyprian to be one's patron in Quimbanda- we are the product of our own Work. We may be influenced by many angels and demons along the way, but it is our choice that reflexively blesses and curses.

San Cipriano, ruega por nosotros...


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Days of the Cyprians, First Offering




The Feast of the Carthaginian has passed, and with it, the days of the Saints Cyprian begin. The period between September 16th, the Feast of Saint Cyprian of Carthage, and September 26th, the Feasts of the Saints Cyprian and Justina of Antioch- are referred to commonly as 'los dias de los Ciprianos'. As there are nine days between (the 17th through the 25th), it is traditional at this time for those who are devotees of Saint Cyprian of Antioch to offer a novena, a nine-day battery of prayer to their patron. While many conflate the two Cyprians (even Church historians), for the devoted the Carthaginian is merely a "marker" feast day - in Mexican streams, his day is important culturally as Independence Day- and esoterically as the start of the Cyprian festivities that culminate on the 26th.

The story of the Antioch Cyprian is related as early as the 4th century- that a pagan magician (Cyprian) sent demons after a Christian virgin (Justina) and after she was able to fend off the demons with the sign of the cross several times, Cyprian converts to Christianity. Rising in the ranks from deacon to priest to bishop, Cyprian is at once Christian cleric and knowledgeable sorcerer (for can we ever truly forget where we have been?)- and Justina in turn becomes head of a convent. Under Diocletian they were tortured, including being boiled in a cauldron- a common depiction of the two saints- and ultimately beheaded. The same fate befell Cyprian's chief student, named by some as Theoctistus, another bishop. Unburied for six days, the bodies were then taken by sailors to Rome, where they were interred first on the estate of the noblewoman Rufina, and later interred in the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine, also in Rome.

As the unofficial patron saint of necromancers, sorcerers, witchcraft, and the occult, Saint Cyprian of Antioch receives much veneration in the New World, in large part due to the historical popularity of his cult -and the channeled Book(s) of Saint Cyprian- in the Iberian Peninsula, whose countries provided much of the colonizing force of the Americas. Many lineages of sorcery in Mexico trace their ancestry (whether in fact or symbolically) to 16 families that came in the early days of colonization. These were marrano families by tradition, and many retained practices from the Middle East while first guising as devout Jews, then by forced conversion to Catholicism, a multi-cultured melange of sorecerous tradition came to the New World.  It is said each of these families has a copy of the original Book of Cyprian, containing record of the Saint's magic and how to perform it. Fantastical as these stories are, there are similar versions of this told by divergent groups- often citing different families as having been in Mexico, Peru and Brazil. The 'fact' of these stories is less interesting to me than the perpetuation of them.

All over the Iberian colonies, different versions of this book- called the Ciprianillo, the Book of Saint Cyprian, the Treasure of Sorcerers- appear, and each claims similar mythic origin, usually at the hands of a devout religious clergyman who 'received' the book in a vision from the Antioch Cyprian himself, and less commonly, as the preservation of some of the pages of one of the original New World copies. There exist, for example, different color books - Green, Red, Black, Silver, Gold - offering different specialties of magic for the reader. The workings tend to be of an older flavor, and similar in character and utility as other popular Grimoires. It is still possible to find copies of other grimoires like the Keys of Solomon bound as the Ciprianillo.

The importance of the Saint in Mexican curanderismo and brujeria is well noted. He has a strong place in the Peruvian Shamanic Mesa tradition, and his cult is just as strong in Brazil where he shows up in full magical vigor in Quimbanda as well as Umbanda and its derivations. Folk Catholicism, while far from unified, appeals to him as San Deshacedor, the Great Saint Curse-Breaker, and the candles and prayers to Cyprian follow similar patterns of asking for the unbinding of all those afflicted by maledictions, sorcery and 'possessed of evil'. Popular tradition ascribes him the colors purple (the bishopric standard), red, and indigo; and the number 9 and less commonly 8 or 13.

In honor of these Days of the Cyprians, while I offer my personal novena to the great Saint, I will post a prayer or working each day for this Saint who is so important in so many of our lives. These are not meant to substitute for a novena proper, but I do hope they show the variety and richness of the traditions of the Antiochian Cyprian.

The Days of the Cyprians
First Offering

This prayer is commonly found as a general appeal for those afflicted by malefic magic, and for those tempted by the dark arts themselves. 

 San Cipriano, suplico
que aquellos que estén ligados con hechizos, +
embrujos, +
y poseidos del maligno, +
les desateis, +
les desembrujeis, +
para que el lobo rabioso no tenga dominio sobre ellos. +
 San Cipriano, ruego preservarme de todos los maleficios, +
arterías, perfidias de Lucifer; cuidad la vista y el pensamiento mio, +
sean llenos de confunsión los que atentan contra mi vida, +
que mis enemigos sean confundidos y alejados, +
mantenedme triunfante sobre ellos eternamente. +
 Así Sea.


Saint Cyprian of Antioch, I beseech you + 
that those who are bound by maledictions, + 
sorcery, + 
and possessed of evil, + 
that you unbind them, + 
that you untie them, + 
so that the rabid wolf not have dominion over them. + 
Saint Cyprian, I pray preserve me from all evil intents, + 
arts, + and deeds; + guard my vision and my thoughts; + 
may they be full of confusion those who attempt against my life, + 
may my enemies be confused and driven away, + 
keep me triumphant over them eternally. + 

Amen.


Offer 9 Our Fathers, and 1 Glory Be.

I found the above prayer in several internet forums and blogs online, as well as on a candle in a botanica here in New York. The first is the commonly found prayer in Spanish/Castellano, the latter a common translation found on the internet. If anyone knows the original source, please let me know. Similar in vein is this prayer to Cyprian, translated from an Italian Spanish prayer card, and strikingly similar to many Spanish prayer cards.


Glorious Martyr,
Saint Cyprian of Antioch,
who by Divine Grace converted to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ,
you who possessed the highest secrets of Magic,
build now a refuge for me against my enemies and their evil deeds.
For the merit that you obtained before God, Creator of heaven and earth,
cancel out all evil spirits, products of hate,
the spells that hardened hearts have cast or will come to cast
against my person and against my home.
With the permission of the All Powerful God,
answer my prayer and come to my assistance,
through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen.


Offer 3 Our Fathers, 2 Hail Marys, and 1 Credo.


In the days to come I will post more prayers and workings from different sources. May the good name of Saint Cyprian be spread, may his Grace keep the devout free from toil and strife, and through his intercession may we come to know our purpose and find the power to manifest it.

San Cipriano, ruega por nosotros...




Saturday, April 6, 2013

María Sabina, ruega por nosotros...


A formidable Mazatec healer and now folk-saint of Psilocibina, María Sabina is a complex figure. The deception of Wasson to gain access to the saint-children that would for him be an avenue to the Divine, was for her a corruption of their use as purgative medicine. Reading through her chants in Estrada's María Sabina: Her Life and Chants, I am amazed over and over again at the profound wisdom and soul-wrenching, resonating truth in her and her niece's words. In the session of July 1970 in the house Celerino Cerqueda, María Sabina and her niece, María Aurora, go back and forth, offering a flowing stream of prayer in Mazatec and pidgin Spanish, translated by Eloina Estrada de González and into English by Henry Munn. Consider this passage that occurs when María Aurora is aware if anyone is listening they may mistake what they are doing for witchcraft:

María Sabina
The path of the tracks of your hands, 
and the path of the tracks of your feet, says

María Aurora
It's sap and dew, says
If anyone is pursuing us, says
If anyone is in back of us, says
If anyone is criticizing us, says
If anyone is spying on us, says
It's certain, says
It's true, says
We're going to play music, says
We're going to thunder, says
That is the work of Saint Peter beneath the water, says
We're going to shout, says
We're going to whistle, says
Along the path of your hands, along the path of your wrists, says
Along the path of life, the path of well-being, says
There is no problem, says
There is no difficulty, says

María Sabina
We're not trying to do harm to anybody

María Aurora
Clean Christian, says
Well-prepared Christian, says
...
There is no resentment says
There is no difficulty, says
It's a matter of life and well-being, says
With sap and dew, says

María Sabina
The path of the tracks of the hands, the path of the tracks of the heels, 
the path of the tracks of the hands, the path of the tracks of the feet

María Aurora
If anybody wants to hex us, says
If anybody wants to tell lies, says
It will become garbage, it will become dust, says
It will become whirlwind, it will become wind, says
It's certain, says
It's true, says
It's not a matter of evil, says
It's not a matter of doing harm, says
It's only a matter of well-being and life, says
With sap, with dew, says

María Sabina
I am a sap woman, a dew woman, says
I am a fresh woman, a woman of clarity, says
I am a woman of light, a woman of the day, says
I am a woman who looks into the insides of things, says
I am a woman who investigates, says
Holy Father, says
Holy Father, says
I am a Saint Peter woman, says
I am a Saint Paul woman, says
I am a saint woman, says
I am a spirit woman, says
A woman of good words, of good words, good breath and good saliva, says
It's certain, says
It's true, says
That is your clock, says
That is your communion wafer, says
That is your number, says
One and only Father
Father of sap, Father of the dew, says
Father of freshness, Father of clarity, says
Holy Father, says
I am the child of Mary, the child of Saint Joseph, says
I am a child of the Candelaria, says
It is certain, says
It is true, says
...

For María Sabina, "the path of the tracks of the hands, the paths of the tracks of the feet" is what one does, where one goes. Saint Peter and Saint Paul are strongly represented in the chants - Rothenberg informs they are tobacco, the patrons of medicine itself - and the prayers to them are quite beautiful later in the same session:

María Aurora
Like Saint Peter and Saint Paul
They are the ones who have powerful eyes, powerful is their will, 
powerful their faces, powerful their day

The two women together
As he made it, as he designed it, as he found it
As he made it, as he designed it

María Aurora
Saint Peter, Saint Paul
As he appeared in the night, in the darkness, above the great expanse of the waters, 
above the expanse of the divine sea; He came forth Lord, he came forth sacred
Saint Peter, he is the one with powerful eyes, 
powerful is his will, powerful his face, powerful his day
He is the one whose will shines, he is the one who thunders, 
he is the one who sounds forth
Saint Peter, Saint Paul

And they are also called "Our Ustandi beneath the water, Our Ustandi beneath the sea" in the session of July 21-22, 1956 recorded by Wasson. Rothenberg is not helpful enough here. He says it is a name she gives to Saint Peter and Saint Paul, but what does it mean? She says:

I am an Ustandi woman beneath the waters, says
I am an Ustandi woman beneath the sea, says

which clearly parallels the same structure. I find this mystery and foundation of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the pair, as tobacco truly intriguing.

The sap and dew are referring to the saint-children, the flesh of God ("your communion wafer"), what we know as psilocibina. Commonly referred to by the nahuatl name, teonanacatl ("the flesh of the god[s]"), there is a commonly perceived connection between psilocybin and the Holy Sacrament among Mexican indigenous populations. It is a Mazatec belief that Christ, while carrying his cross, walked through the mountains. Where his blood fell, the saint-children arose; through the blood of Christ, we become the Saints, we become as gods. But in the worldview of María Sabina the saint-children were solely for the purpose of purgative healing. 

"..from the moment the foreigners arrived to search for God, the saint children lost their purity. They lost their force; the foreigners spoiled them. From now on they won't be any good. There's no remedy for it." -María Sabina

Although Wasson was looking for a mystic experience that was counter to María Sabina's use of the saint-children, perhaps there was an illness after all. I bow to María Sabina, and I ponder: perhaps we are ill? Other indigenous beliefs speak of illness as deficit: if you are poor, you have an illness of poverty, for example. Is our disconnect from the Divine-as-immanent not symptomatic of illness? But perhaps it is the framing of the question - Wasson deceived by lying, expressing uncertainty about his son's whereabouts. This was enough for him to receive her help with the 'Little-One-Who-Springs-Forth', but a general search for God was not in Sabina's eyes. If he described his desire to find God not as curiosity but as concern that he felt disconnected, off-centre, and out of alignment with the world he lived in - is it recognition of our symptoms rather than idle-curiousity that changes the quest? Perhaps it is that when we have an illness, we seek to be well - whatever the cure is - and we don't go to the healer knowing what our cure is ahead of time. If knowledge of God is the remedy for your illness, this will come, but we must be open to the possibility that there are other things the mushrooms have to show us... Hmmm. It is said "They always give you what you need"....

Psilocybe mexicana
photo taken by Alan Rockefeller.
If the saint-children are now spoiled, I can only imagine their potency under the care and administration of the curandero/as who dedicated their lives to working with them on behalf of healing their community.  Is grace diminished the more it is used? Is the don? Is magic? Is ashé? I know there is no (one) answer - I ask these questions for pondering myself and with others of like-ponderance... 

Sabina was ultimately more than a healer, more than a spirit-worker. Rothenberg names three classes of magicians in Mazatec culture: Sorcerers, who by night are shape-shifters whose works are often malevolent (akin to nagualismo); Curers, who use massage, prepared herbal medicines and spirit invocation; and Wise Ones, who vow no evil and use no potions, but are workers of the saint-children, Psilocybe mexicana.

The assumption of saint, saintess, folk-saint and natural powers - this is the word as pure magic. Citing lineage, citing authority, conjuring your Power, I am simultaneously humbled and lifted-up by her chants. While the mushroom medicine was hers to hold and indeed her focus for these chants, for me, her words speak of an intense relationship with her God in intimate and immanent form; her words are inspiring beyond their original intention and meaning - and for this, I am thankful her words were recorded.

María Sabina
Holy Father
You my Father
And you Mother who art in the house of heaven
You, Christ, my Father
We are going to cure, we are going to cure with herbs
That is what our budding children, our sprouting children are for,
that is the work of our flower with sap, our flower of the dew,
That is the work of the lordly one with the vibrant wings, 
the sacred one with vibrant wings
That is what our hummingbird children are for
That is what our hummingbird is for
That is what the lordly one with the vibrant wings is for
That is what the sacred one with the vibrant wings is for
It is the same as the Mountain of Medicine, the Mountain of Herbs
Fresh herbs
Herbs of clarity
Medicinal herbs
Sacred herbs
I bring with me thirteen doctors beneath the water
I bring with me thirteen doctors beneath the sea
They are children who resound, 
children torn up from the ground,
Holy Father,
You Saint
You Saintess
Ah Jesus Christ
You Saint
Dew woman, says
Fresh woman
Woman of clarity, says
Woman who prays to heaven
Moon woman,
Woman of the day, says
With all the saints, says
With all the saintesses, says
...
With as many saints, as many saintesses as there are
Now we bow ourselves down before you, speaking with humility 
beneath your shadow, speaking with clarity, says
We speak with tenderness, we speak with clarity, says
We speak with humility, we speak with offshoots, says
We speak with freshness, we speak with clarity, says
Fresh are our words, fresh our breath, fresh our saliva
Words are medicine
Medicine is the breath
Clean saliva, well-prepared saliva
Illumination of life, 
Illumination from on high, says
Illumination of the sap
Illumination of the dew
Holy Father
God the Father
God the Holy Spirit
Lord Saint Peter
Lord Saint Paul
....
Mother Patroness
You heart of Jesus
Jesus Christ
I have your staff of support, your staff of the dew
I have your good clean Bishop
I have paper
I have my Book
I am known in the house of Heaven
You know me my Mother,
God, my Father, knows me
Jesus Christ you will always, always reign in the house of heaven
Jesus
Heavenly Mother
I bring your medicinal herbs in my hands,
I always have your sacred herbs in my hands
There is no problem, there is nothing bad in what I have in my hands
It is freshness and clarity
Life and well-being
That is what I ask for, for buds and offshoots, Jesus Christ
Days of life are what I ask you for, Jesus Christ
Mother Patroness
Jesus
My Mother Mary
Jesus
I go along the path of the tracks of your palms, 
I go along the paths of the tracks of your hands
I am going there, I am arriving there
If it is a matter of evil, if it is a matter of anything salted, 
if it is a matter of resentment and rancor
If it is a matter of garbage, if it is a matter of dust, 
if it is a matter of whirlwind, if it is a matter of wind
That is the work of the saint, saint, saint, saint, saint, saint, saints
That is the work of the wain, saintess, saint, saintess, saint, saintess, saint, saint, saintess, saint, saintess...

Maria Sabina, by Rosenfeldtown




Sunday, March 31, 2013

Exu Ganga • Exu Mulambo

Ponto Riscado of Exu Ganga

Quimbanda is a tricky beast. It has become increasingly popular to use Exus and Pomba Giras in Western Occultism as spirits-for-hire as one would use the Goetic retinue of spirits, and it seems there are even strange hybrid systems used by people who have never learned the system from a traditional house, but rather from scant information in books. At its simplest, Quimbanda is a pseudo-religious Kongolese derived system which centers around spirit contact, possession and pragmatic work, and the spirits mainly used are known as Exu (if male) and Pomba Gira (if female), and are also addressed, quite literally, as the Devil and his wife. It incorporates a healthy dose of European Demonology and Witchcraft, as well as many indigenous beliefs and styles of working. It is a cult of brutal honesty that writhes in the consciousness of its initiates. There is a reputation of it being low-life black magic (a reputation that has also become somewhat romanticized), but, also, it is a system that when embraced fully can make one confront their own shadow and through upright character and being steadfast, illuminate it. We must become masters of ourselves and our spirits, or, we will become slave to our baser nature and the spirits both.

Beyond the normal confusion of misequating Exu of Quimbanda with Eshu of Orisha, and the normal bickering of who does Quimbanda better in the various houses, what is held in common are the Exus and Pomba Giras themselves. Every house may have slightly different interpretations, but these spirits are alive and well in Brazil. They can be tested, and will test in return. 

Let me be clear - I am initiated in Quimbanda, I have seen how different traditional houses work, in tandem with Candomblé and Umbanda, and as its own system. My Quimbanda house is de raiz, and works with Exu and Pomba Gira as their own entities without attaching orixá or the Law of Umbanda. Several of us in the house are initated to various forms of orisha worship and other ATR's, but Quimbanda is worked on its own terms. Again, Exu of Quimbanda is NOT Eshu the orisha. Or Legba for that matter. (See Santeria Church of the Orishas' excellent post for more detailed differentiation). But ultimately, Exus and Pomba Giras have their own agenda, and just as their nature is truly mercurial, the cult manifests in equally mercurial ways - as my Tatá says, "There are as many Quimbandas as there are Exus." But this was supposed to just be a quick intro that allowed me to then discuss a specific Exu, so...

I have had many conversations recently about a particular Exu known as Exu Ganga, or Exu Mulambo. He is a much misunderstood Exu - I say this because I have come to greatly respect his ability and steadfastness. His name, Ganga, is a reference to being a healer (nganga: healer-diviner-priest in kikongo). As an epithet in Quimbanda though, 'Ganga' is used to describe dozens of Exus and Pomba Giras, all speaking of their healing power and ability to affect change in the lives of those who come to them. So what makes this particular Exu singularly 'Ganga'? For me, it speaks of his great power to return both body and place to balance and equilibrium.

A traditional depiction of Exu Mulambo in plaster.
He lacks his traditional attributes here, but this is
 perhaps the most widely available statue of this Exu.
Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold's excellent Exu & the Quimbanda of Night and Fire describes him as a cemetery Exu, who can cause great disruption, has a wide array of talents, and is good for bringing about death as well as great works of healing, especially those of a terminal condition. His colors are black, grey, and red, and he often manifests with the smell of rotting flesh. He is tied into the mysteries of the Pomba Gira known as Maria Mulambo. He is dressed in rags and his attributes are a trident and a skull. He can also be found at dumpsters, and most notably for me "can be called upon to expel negativity and dross from workings and from complicated situations that need a solution".

Here is the key. What I have come to appreciate about him is that he is a true abukenke. Okay, so this is a borrowed term from Lucumí (and ultimately, Yoruba), and after all that talk that Exu Quimbanda is not Eshu Orishá, bear with me here. Abukenke, I have been told, means something like "he who makes himself a hunchback" - i.e. carries a heavy load, and is a term applied to warrior orishas that take the ebbo/sacrifice out to its proper place in nature to be discarded. It is most often heard applied to Eshu-Elegba, but is said to apply to Elegba, Ogún, and Ochosí equally. They have the ashé to not let the ebbo contaminate them while disposing of it, ashé that extends to their omo. It is a gift not to be overlooked. As a child of Obatalá, I greatly appreciate the role of abukenke in Ocha. But back to Quimbanda (are you still with me?) - Ganga is the perfect abukenke; he has the ability to be surrounded by trash as not become it. He is, in fact, that force in the cemetery that allows the body to decompose, to rot, and ultimately to become one with the land. He takes the decay and rot and brings it to the greater absorbing force, the land itself. He makes the poison of death neutral through his particular axé. He is less of a warrior and more a huge preserver of balance and equilibrium. He is a healer for this reason - he can find the disease and neutralize it. He is especially strong in terminal diseases, such as cancer, and life-long diseases such as HIV/AIDS. He helps the body return to a natural state of health. What a fantastic force.

In Nicholaj's equally valuable Pomba Gira and the Quimbanda of Mbumba Nzila, he gives instructions for accessing the axé of Exu Ganga through a stone in such a manner that it can then be put by one's front entrance as a stabilizing force of equilibrium, allowing that-which-needs-to-go-out and that-which-needs-to-come-in to take their proper places. It is worth saying that Nicholaj does not call this an assentamento, nor is it one - such spirit vessels are the province of Tatá and Yayá Quimbanda. It is however, a wonderful way to both 1) utilize the powers of Exu Ganga and Pomba Gira Ganga Mulambo (a qualidade of Maria Mulambo) for the benefit of your workings and house, and 2) start to understand the unique axé of this particular Exu.

Truly, although most mentioned as being of the Kingdom of the Cemetery and the Lyre, Ganga walks in all Kingdoms. His force is truly greatly needed in the world. There is no need to pretend he is anything other than what he is. His magic is astounding, and he is a true alley for the Quimbandeiro. The people of the trash, the people of decay, the people of balance... Salve Exu Ganga! Salve o bem povo de Quimbanda! 

Ponto Riscado of Exu Ganga for attack & defense.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Las Doce Verdades del Mundo, Part II

Continued from Part I


-The Truths-


Although I previously list the Truths in ascending order (citing Trotter and Chavira), I have chosen to list individual explorations of each of the truths in descending order, both out of honor to the way I was taught, and personal preference. For me, understanding the meaning behind the truths and having visuals to go along with each truth as it is said increases the power of the prayer, and if done for a cleansing, the effectiveness of the limpia. I will not claim to be definitive, rather, this entry in all its parts is an exploration of a prayer I have come to love, and will remain that - an open exploration. Some truths are more easily recognizable due to their origin stories in Scripture, others take some knowledge of Roman Catholicism, and sometimes specifically of that practiced in Spain. So, here we go.... 



+Twelve+

las doce apóstoles que acompanaron a nuestro Señor en la cruz
the twelve apostles that accompanied our Lord on the cross

The Last Supper, in the traditional New Mexican retablo form, from the website of Charles Carillo

The Twelve Apostles, the original disciples of Christ, are invoked as the twelfth truth. The Castillian version reads:

La doce son los doce Apóstoles que acompañaron a Jesucristo desde su predicación, hasta su muerte de Cruz en el calvario.

The twelve are twelve Apostles that accompanied Jesus Christ from his preaching until his death on the Cross at Calvary.

The original twelve apostles are traditionally listed as:
+ Simon, who was called Peter +
+Andrew, brother of Peter+
+James, son of Zebedee+
+John, James' brother, the Beloved+
+Philip+
+Bartholomew+
+Thomas+
+Matthew+
+James, son of Alphaeus+
+Judas Thaddeus, brother (or son) of James+
+Simon Kananaios, who was called the Zealot+
+Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus+
These were the primary male members of Jesus' fledgling church. It is through them that the gospel tradition and the Church take authority. While women also played an important role in Jesus' ministry, I will leave this beyond the scope of this particular entry (apologies to the Magdalena).

The apostles are listed in the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, in a list. In the Gospel of John, we do find mention of "the twelve", but never in a list - and there is a Nathanael, often conflated with Bartholomew. 

After Judas Iscariot's betrayal and suicide, a hole was created. Acts 1:15-26 clearly offers Matthias as the replacement for Judas through nomination and the casting of lots (not Paul as is often stated). The Castillian version clearly references the apostles who accompanied Jesus until his death, which was also a requirement for Matthias' nomination. So it really is uncertain as to which Apostle we include, Judas Iscariot or Matthias. More on this in a bit though... 

That there are twelve should not be ignored, as we have instant reference to the twelve tribes of Israel (excluding Levi), and by extension, to the twelve zodiacal constellations, the twelve jewels on the breastplate of the High Priest of the Temple, the twelve Foundation Stones of the Wall of the City of God.

Levi, the Thirteenth Tribe has a special place - in that it is the priestly class, and is awarded the Center of the Four Camps, guarding the Tabernacle, in Numbers 2. This parallel to Jesus should be noted - Jesus is the the new Covenant, gathering his twelve disciples around him as the twelve tribes gathered around the Ark.

The tribes are named for their patriarchs, the twelve sons of Jacob, also called Israel. There is a given association between the apostles with the tribes in Matthew 19:28:

Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Mather's Twelve Tribes
with zodiacal correspondences,
commencing with Leo.
Halevi's Twelve Tribes
with zodiacal correspondences,
commencing with Aries.
There are a great many debates about these associations, and none are 'definitive' as none are canonical.  It is, perhaps, modern occultists that have sought these associations in a more definitive (and publicly available) manner, like those listed by MacGregor Mathers and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

Mathers, as pointed out by David Godwin, sought to arrange the tribes by placing the Four Camps mentioned in Numbers 2 in correspondence with the four fixed signs of the Zodiac, not the cardinal. This makes Judah affiliated with Leo, the fixed fire sign in the East, as opposed to Aries, which is cardinal.

Other modern writers have sought to keep the same order of the tribes from Numbers 2, but assigning Judah to Aries and take the order sequentially forward in this manner, such as Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi's list from Kaballah and Exodus.

There appears to be no universally accepted correspondence between the Apostles, Tribes, and the Zodiac, but many speculations. Different schools (rabbinical, esoteric Christian and modern occult) all have differing opinions on this. For our purposes, it is most worth just noting that the correspondences are possible and to illustrate a few that are commonly encountered.
Skinner's correspondences between
Zodiac and the Twelve Apostles, from
The Complete Magician's Tables.
The order presented by Stephen Skinner in his The Complete Magician's Tables lists the Apostles in a pseudo-canonical order and the zodiacal correspondences are then matched. Crowley's 777 preserves the Evangelists as associated with fixed signs, but the other apostles "...are too indefinite." 

In fact, it is David Godwin in his Godwin's Cabalistic Encyclopedia, unfortunately with un-cited reasons or sources, that we do find correspondences between Apostle, Tribe and Zodiac sign, under each entry for the Zodiac (along with many other useful correspondences such as the Angel and Archangel of each sign). I will cite here those I have found most applicable with regards to a pragmatic curanderismo frame: Tribe, Apostle, Zodiac sign, Scent, Color. 

Zodiacal correspondences with Apostle, Tribe of Israel, Scent and Color
from Godwin's Cabalistic Encyclopedia.

What is difficult for me in this specific arrangement is the loss of the Evangelists with their traditional zodiacal associations, but I'll explore that more when we get to the Fourth Truth.

There is also some basis to separate the role of the Evangelists from their roles as disciples/apostles. The Bad Teinach Altarpiece, as described by Adam McLean, gives an example of this, showing the symbols of the evangelists as separate from the Twelve figures that surround Christ that at once represent the zodiac, apostles, and the Tribes. I do like the linking of woods to these twelve, which is found uniquely in this altarpiece. Although the woods are not specifically attached in McLean's article, and I do not read German (and so cannot read Ernst Harnischfeger's Mystic im Barock : Das Weltbild der Teinacher Lehrtafel for more information), the woods listed are: Laurel, Cypress, Willow, Fig, Cedar, Fir, Olive, Apple, Pomegranate, Almond, Palm, Oak. I see much application in woods associated with the Twelve as well, in limpias, cleaning with these woods, on corresponding feast days if possible, all in time, born from further investigation, and application. Onward and upwards!

There is a figural cause to compare zodiac and the apostles when we place Jesus as the Sun itself, the physical expression of Divine Light, born at Winter Solstice, who must pass through the mazzaroth, or signs of the zodiac, twelve stations that give quality to the passage of the Sun through the year. 

There are more contemporary listings of Apostles with Zodiac signs based on their personalities as given in Scripture and compared to the interpretations in modern astrology, as illustrated by Tiara Starr:
  • Aries is associated with Simon Peter, the first Pope, rash, stubborn and natural leaders
  • Taurus is associated with Simon, often associated with wealth and possessions
  • Gemini is associated with James, eloquent and multiple identifications
  • Cancer is associated with Andrew, with his strong loyalty and concern for others
  • Leo is associated with John, the Beloved, prolific and a natural leader, strong in conviction
  • Virgo is associated with Philip, the thinker, analytical and enquiring
  • Libra is associated with Bartholomew/Nathanael, persuasive, blunt and at times overbearing
  • Scorpio is associated with Thomas, doubtful and suspicious but steadfast and loyal once convinced
  • Sagittarius is associated with James, the first martyr of the Twelve, a leader through faith and loyalty
  • Capricorn is associated with Matthew, respectful of authority, tradition, and hardworking
  • Aquarius is associated with Thaddeus, questioning and curious
  • Pisces is associated with Judas Iscariot, shy, withdrawn, and ultimately overwhelmed
It should be noted that my summary of Tiara Starr's associations are indeed summaries and are not meant to be summaries of the signs themselves. Again, I am left wanting as the orthodox associations of the Evangelists with the fixed signs is so strong for me. But I'm stubborn and rash. A Peter. I mean Aries. There is a need for a greater context here, that I think associations like Tiara Starr's and Skinner's and the like are exploring. Twelve is not four. Never can be.

Ultimately, what the twelfth truth exposes is a context; it shows the expanse of the ministry of the Word Incarnate, that we are not alone. It places our own paths in a context, and describes the journey of the soul itself. We have friends in those of like-mind and like-faith, and although the seeds of deception are always there (Judas is an Apostle, after all), when we approach life through this greater context we see the growth and potential in every tragedy. It is through the fires of rectification that the subtle is separated from the gross; it is through assuming our place that we find community. I will never be able to control what happens to me in life, but I can control my reaction. Accept our reality, and act accordingly. There is power in what we see in front of us, just as the Apostles saw and knew the Christ.  We must know what we are looking at to recognize it - and here, we find the same emphasis - perspective. This is the assumption of true power to me, and an exemplary lesson I find in this truth.

Further Resources for the Apostles, Twelve Tribes and Astrology:


+Eleven+

St. Ursula protecting the
11,000 Virgins with her Cloak,
by The Master of the Legend
of Saint Barbara, c. late 15th century

las once mil vírgenes
the eleven thousand virgins

The Eleventh Truth, the eleven thousand virgins, references the 'Golden Legend' of Saint Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins. The fuller version of the same line is: 

'La once son las once mil vírgenes que asisten al trono de la Beatísima Trinidad.'
The eleven are the eleven thousand virgins that attend the throne of the Most Blessed Trinity. 


Saint Ursula lived in either the 3rd or 4th century (although some say the 5th or the 7th), the daughter of the Romano-British King Dionitus of southwest Britain. She set sail with 11,000 handmaidens to visit her husband-to-be in Armorica, a province in nearby Gaul. A great storm carried her boat (assuming more than one with 11,000 handmaidens) to the port of Armorica in one night. She decided before marriage she would undergo a pilgrimage that would take her around all of Europe. Upon reaching Rome, she persuaded a Pope Cyriacus and a prominent bishop to join her and her handmaidens in their journey. (Strangely, there is no Pope Cyriacus, so we can assume that this is a local variant or misinterpretation of a particular Pontiff's papal name - it derives from the Greek "of the Lord".) In a cruel twist of fate Ursula and her companions, upon reaching Cologne, found the Huns attacking the city. Saint Ursula was fatally shot with an arrow, and her 11,000 handmaidens were summarily beheaded (by axe according to British tradition), all dying as virgin martyrs.


Versions of her story are both prolific and varied. The definitive source is the inscription found in the choir of the Church of St. Ursula in Cologne, which reads:

DIVINIS FLAMMEIS VISIONIB. FREQVENTER 
ADMONIT. ET VIRTVTIS MAGNÆ MAI 
IESTATIS MARTYRII CAELESTIVM VIRGIN 
IMMINENTIVM EX PARTIB. ORIENTIS 
EXSIBITVS PRO VOTO CLEMATIVS V. C. DE 
PROPRIO IN LOCO SVO HANC BASILICA 
VOTO QVOD DEBEBAT A FVNDAMENTIS 
RESTITVIT SI QVIS AVTEM SVPER TANTAM 
MAIIESTATEM HVIIVS BASILICÆ VBI SANC 
TAE VIRGINES PRO NOMINE. XPI. SAN 
GVINEM SVVM FVDERVNT CORPVS ALICVIIVS 
DEPOSVERIT EXCEPTIS VIRCINIB. SCIAT SE 
SEMPITERNIS TARTARI IGNIB. PVNIENDVM

This text is vague, and although it is felt the first part of the inscription (the first eight lines up to 'RESTITVIT') is from the fifth century, the latter section appears to be from the ninth. It speaks of no specific number of virgins nor of the time of their demise, but that Clematis received visions of traveling to that spot and building a church to the martyred virgins. In subsequent accounts, the virgins number as few as two and as many as 11,000. 

What is certain is that there was a tradition of virgin martyrs in Cologne by the 5th century. The most popular account is given by James of Voragine as related in his 'Golden Legend', and his 13th century retelling of the story repeats the assertion first found in the 9th century that there were 11,000 virgins. Some have proposed that it is because of a misreading of the name 'Undecimillia' or 'Ximillia' as the numeral 11,000. Or an abbreviated XI. M. V. interpreted as 'Eleven Thousand Virgins' when it could be 'Eleven Martyred Virgins.' One ninth century account describes the discovery of the relics of young virgin martyrs, one of whom were 11 years old (undecimilia), misinterpreted in subsequent relations as undicimila, i.e. 11,000. Another proposal is the confusion of cum militibus ("with soldiers") with cum millibus ("with thousands"). James of Voragine seems to unify all the accounts by giving Ursula ten companions, and each of them, Ursula included, had one thousand handmaidens in attendance.


In the twelfth century, numerous remains were found at Cologne and were cut up and distributed across Europe as relics, believed to be the remains of the holy 11,000. Later investigation shows that some were the remains of men and boys, and it is felt that it may have been a forgotten burial ground. 

A modern theory purports that Ursula is a memory or masque of the Teutonic goddess Freyja, who under the name Horsel (note the similarity with Ursula), welcomed the souls of dead maidens. Ursula itself means 'little she-bear.'

So despite popular acclaim, it is because of these considerations and discrepancies that Saint Ursula and the 11,000 have received a marked lack of support by latter hagiographers and church officials (including removal from the official calendar at Vatican II), but her cult was (and is) highly popular amongst the people. Hildegard of Bingen composed numerous chants in their honor. A personal favorite chant in Ursula's honor  is Hildegard's 'O rubor sanguinis' (O Ruby Blood):

O rubor sanguinis,
qui de excelso illo fluxisti,
quod divinitas tetigit,
tu flos es,
quem hiems de flatu serpentis
num quam lesit.

O ruby blood
which flowed from on high
where divinity touched.
You are a flower
that the winter of the serpent's breath
can never injure.


A beautiful rendition of this by Anonymous 4 of this same Antiphon can be heard here.


Regardless of the historical reality of Ursula and the 11,000, they remain an inspiration and testament of faith to many. Martyrs automatically receive the blessings of sainthood, and are 'with God'. This means that the 11,000 and Saint Ursula are able to petition on our behalf, to bend the ear of God should we pray for their intercession and aide. The patronage of the 11,000 extends especially to those under siege, and there are many accounts in Mexico and the Caribbean of special petitions to Ursula and the Virgins in the many periods of tumultuous conflict from competing European crowns for territory. 

The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church
- Tertullian, 2nd Century Church Father

It is here I find the true power of this truth - it is for the martyrs who knew the love of God so strongly that their faith is unshaken, even unto death. These martyrs inspire others to live a life of faith. It is by our actions, by living our faith, not describing it, that we bear witness to the glory of God. For healers, this is a powerful reminder - it is part of the don, the gift of healing, that you do exercise it. It is part of your destiny, your makeup, that you heal people. Through the curandero, people come to know the power of God. In doing what we are destined we participate in God, building a Church far better than any building of brick and stone, and truly helping others on their path by walking our own.

It is worth noting an alternate given for the number eleven, which I have only found in the medieval Latin version, which reads: 


Undecim stellae a Josepho visae
The eleven stars seen by Joseph

This refers to the passage in Genesis 37, where Joseph recounts a dream he had where the Sun, the Moon and 11 stars bowed down to him. Jacob (Israel), his father, interpreted the dream, asking "Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” 

Illustration by Owen Jones from
"The History of Joseph and His Brethren", Day & Son, 1869
Joseph's relating of his dreams to his brothers incensed them to the point of selling him off. Were his dreams for him alone? Is this a warning to speak guardedly about our insights? Surely there is a naïveté about Joseph's retelling of his dreams, but his innocence is part of his character - he must go through his destined trials and tribulations to save Israel in the future from starvation. Hardships to save Israel? Sounds familiar.

Many have interpreted this dream not only as a reference to the Israelites coming to Egypt to survive the famine of Canaan, but also as a messianic reference. In fact, Joseph's life and trials are often paralleled with the Messiah. Perhaps then, it is no coincidence that Jesus was the adopted son of another Joseph? Certainly the Essene belief was such that the historical Jesus was a son of Joseph, and that the second coming would be a Messiah who was the son of David. Two messiah figures, twain in nature.

The Virgin of Guadalupe:
the 'Woman clothed with the Sun'
of Revelation 12?
It is also worth saying that for many bible scholars, this particular dream of Joseph is linked to the passage in Chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation that describes the 'woman clothed with the sun'. The passage alludes that it is the Messiah she is about to birth, under threat of being consumed by the seven headed, ten horned Red Dragon. Here the twelve stars (as Joseph is now amongst his brothers), Sun, and Moon all show obeisance to the woman, who is to give birth to a child "who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron", itself a reference to Psalms 2:9, indicated this child is the Messiah. She is the land and people of Israel herself, personified, crying out in pain, echoing the tumult that both surrounds the period of Jesus' birth, as well as the great hardships to come that will birth the return of the Messiah. Many have also drawn parallel between the Guadalupana and the same verse. It is not a stretch, visibly.

I do like to ponder how this particular truth could be meditated upon - certainly not to endorse the hubristic embrace of self-importance, but perhaps to remember that it is always the power of Christ that is the true owner of this reverence and power. Whether for you this is the literal historical figure of Christ or an alignment with the light of Christ in a gnostic interpretation, or other varied interpretations, is of no matter. I believe with the stars of Joseph there is both a call to the assumption of power, the power of God, as well as the embrace of humility before the Throne as well. It is a witness to our trials and to our faith in the supremacy and promise of Messianic salvation, whether through surrender to it or incorporation and self-empowerment within it. Joseph never attributed his power to dream or to interpret to himself, but rather, always to God. (Genesis 40:8)

Further Resources for Saint Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins:

for The Eleven Stars and Dreams of Joseph:


Continued in Part III