A Cruz y Espada

5 07 2010

More on las Morismas de Bracho. This half hour film shows more footage of the 10,000+ person mock battle in Zacatecas, Mexico to commemorate the victory of the Christians at the Battle of Lepanto. This is often performed in honor of St. John the Baptist. In Spanish without subtitles (sorry).





On two headed statues

5 07 2010


Notes on the sacred and profane

Above: Las Morismas de Bracho – Mexican Catholics having too much fun

It is public knowledge that in the town of Villar, now uninhabited, there lived a girl who had one body and two heads with complete faces, and that one spoke or sang and the other replied, and as proof of the truth of this they saw and it was public knowledge that in the chapel of Saint Dominic there was a statue of a body with two heads carved from wood, and it was there a remembrance of that remarkable phenomenon among other holy images of wood that about twenty years ago [from 1578] more or less, were taken out by permission of the Church, because it was indecent for it to be there, and afterwards the statue was lost.

-found in William Christian’s Local Religion in Sixteenth Century Spain

Is the Catholic Church finished?

Such was the question that a commenter echoed on Commonweal. In that thread, the answers from various commenters are quite informative. These people aren’t exactly the ones to give predetermined, curt answers.
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On the margins of theology – X

24 06 2010

The Horseman of Divine Providence (Conclusion)

Pues bien: la iglesia, como institución, está en el mismo caso. Yo le pediría que no trataran de institucionalizar a Malverde; es un santón y un héroe del pueblo; no traten de arrebatárselo de las manos; la realidad es que está allí, la gente lo quiere, le tiene y lo más maravilloso es que hace milagros.

(The Church, as an institution, is in the same boat. I would ask that they try not to institutionalize Malverde. He is folk saint and a hero of the people, they should not try to take him from them. The reality is that he is around, the people like him, they keep him, and most marvelous thing of all is that he works miracles.)

These are the words Óscar Liera puts on the lips of a doctor in his play, El Jinete de la Divina Providencia. The subject of the 1980’s Mexican play is a fictional ecclesiastical investigation of the miracles of Jesus Malverde, the deceased bandit who works miracles from beyond the grave. In this special ten part series regarding the prevalence of “popular Catholicism” in many societies, I thought it a good quote to tie many ideas together. Here, there is not so much a stark opposition between institution and spontaneity, high and low religiosity, but a juxtaposition of what emerges in the life of believers and the rules imposed from above. In other words, we speak here not of an exclusive situation, but of a complementary one. That which is in the margins of religiosity is just as important as officially sanctioned doctrine and praxis, though it is not necessarily superior to it.
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On the margins of theology -IX

10 06 2010

Notes on holy criminals and sacred banditry

…et nos quidem iuste nam digna factis recipimus hic vero nihil mali gessit et dicebat ad Iesum Domine memento mei cum veneris in regnum tuum et dixit illi Iesus amen dico tibi hodie mecum eris in paradiso

Above is a video about a French man executed in Chile. Unlike some other examples of the veneration of executed figures in the Catholic world, the murderer Emile Dubois showed no signs of repentance when he was executed in early 20th century Valparaiso, Chile. Another example, a little more recent, also in Chile, was that of the “Jackal of Nahueltoro” , who was executed for the crime of killing a woman and her daughter in cold blood. Though showing real signs of reform, he was executed in accordance with the death sentence handed down to him. In the latter case, at least, people felt that the man’s crime was a product of the corrupt social order where education and opportunity for self-improvement were not offered to the man until it was too late. With Dubois, however, not only was he a cold-hearted murder, but he refused to repent at the gallows, rebuffing the priest by saying: “I will confess to God Himself, not one of His representatives”.
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A very characteristic music post

23 05 2010




Salvia Divinorum

18 05 2010

image credit

There are a number of common names for S. divinorum and nearly all are related to the plant’s association with the Virgin Mary. It is known to the Mazatecs as ska Maria Pastora, the leaf or herb of Mary, the Shepherdess. The name is usually shortened to ska Maria or ska Pastora and the sage is also known by a number of Spanish names including hojas de Maria, hojas de la Pastora, hierba (yerba) Maria or la Maria. The Mazatecs believe this Salvia to be an incarnation of the Virgin Mary, and care is taken to avoid trampling on or damaging it when picking the leaves, which are used both for curing and in divination.

via Lonely Goth





Chuy Malverde, la Flaquita, y San Juditas

4 05 2010

Finally found the recent article in National Geographic on the the relationship between the “new saints” and the escalating drug violence in Mexico. It is by Mexican journalist, Alma Guillermoprieto. I wrote about a presentation that she gave last year at U.C. Berkeley concerning the same topic, which was informative but a little simplistic in terms of the origins of the “new cults”. Fortunately, her most recent article is a bit more balanced, with fascinating field work done around Mexico City. She also focuses on the increasingly important role of St. Jude in the Mexican religious consciousness as the patron of hopeless causes. I recommend the article highly.

And now, for a random narco-corrido:





La Isla de las Muñecas

21 04 2010

One of the odder sites in the area of Mexico City, in the floating gardens of Xochimilco, this is the former habitation of a man who collected dolls to defend himself from the ghost of a small girl who had drowned there. It has now been converted into a tourist spot, because Mexicans like to hustle like that…

Anyway, the most interesting part of the video above is around the four minute mark when the caretaker describes the “Miraculous Doll” that people bring gifts for in exchange for favors and miracles. She apparently has a following.

As we have written before, such fetishism was not uncommon in much of the Catholic world, as sacred wells, holy dirt, and other phenomena attest.





Traditional faith healing in the Catholic world

18 04 2010

Above, the opening of a film that you can watch on-line concerning a curandero and bone-setter in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Sorry, no subtitles.

The second set of videos I found was on a newsite in Lake Charles, LA, regarding Cajun traiteurs. AG’s great-grandfather was a Creole traiteur, according to my father-in-law. This is the first extended video I have seen on-line concerning this practice:

Unveiling the mystery of traiteurs

Profile of a traiteur: Helene Boudreaux

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Faith and violence

23 03 2010

I listened to a recent NPR story about whether the Bible is more violent than the Koran. I am not going to throw my hat in the ring regarding that question. But this did make me wonder why, particularly among contemporary people in the developed world, violence and religion are seen as no longer going together, as if violence is no longer a part of people’s daily lives.

It also strikes me as odd that certain folks are surprised that many criminals are still religious, even the really bad ones. I was reading a recent USA Today story about the cult to Jesus Malverde in Mexico, and he seems to get dubbed the “patron saint of the narcos” on both sides of the border, as if all the drug smugglers only venerate him since they feel that they have “crossed over to the dark side” and can’t ask any other heavenly intercessor for a favor. I would speculate that these people do not “theologize” along such Manichean lines, and they are just as likely to have a medal of St. Jude around their neck as they are one of Jesus Malverde or Santa Muerte. Such dichotomies between official religion and what people actually do seem only to comfort a certain sector of the self-proclaimed literati. I never take them seriously.