Today under the full moon I’ll be walking and praying from the pyramids of Teotihuacan through Mexico City towards the heart of the city, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
This 30-mile, 11 hour pilgrimage marks my new year, a release of the old and stepping into the new.
For me, the goddess mother divine does not belong to any religion and is open to all… so what are your prayers for yourself or others?
From my first pilgrimage in 2015:
Words are still a bit of a challenge after my pilgrimage yesterday to the Basilica, but here is a brief sketch that I hope shines a bit of the luminosity of the journey.
Before I left for my pilgrimage from Teotihuacan to the Basilica to honor the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe I’d asked my friend Emily, who has walked this pilgrimage twice before, for suggestions. She told me: pack light and carry an image of Guadalupe. She’ll help you. And so, against common sense (carry something for 9 hours?) I took the large image of Our Lady of Guadalupe off the wall of Emily’s bedroom. Sometimes I carried her like a child. Sometimes she rode on my back, my scarf tying her snug against me. And sometimes she carried me.
Fifteen minutes into the journey I turned around and waved at to the gigantic Pyramid of the Sun growing smaller in the distance, and imagined connecting the smaller Pyramid of the Moon to my womb as I walked. My calling: to bridge the pyramid of the moon and the sacred mountain of Tepeyac and to surrender and bring the Mother more deeply into my heart. I also carried around 200 prayers sent from all over the world: Pray for my family. Pray for my children. Pray for North Korea. Pray for the people of South Africa. Pray for humanity.
My own prayers began strongly: I said the rosary over and over again. I sang to the Goddess in her many forms: Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali. I held my mala and chanted “Om Shanti”.” As I walked the last steps to the Basilica in my emptiness and exhaustion my prayer simplified, stripped to the core: “Gracias a mi madre. Gracias a mi Madre. Gracias a mi Madre.”
For the first three hours we walked along the railroad tracks towards Mexico City. Sometimes on the small dirt paths beside the tracks, sometimes on roads through little towns, sometimes walking the rocky path between the endless metal rails when there was no other option. A rancher on his horse shouted his blessings to us. Shepherds nodded as we walked by. We walked through unplowed fields, between cactus and brush, under freeways. At times villagers on their way to school or the grocery school briefly walked with us, peregrinos (pilgrims) for a few blocks.
And then we turned left and headed into the city. And it was here that I started to feel the pull.
On the edges of Mexico City, after three hours or so of being one distinct group, we merged with and then passed another group of peregrines dressed in neon green shirts with the image of Guadalupe. As our two groups mixed I had a vision of the millions of people all across Mexico at that moment, all walking towards the heart of the Mother. We were individual cells coming back home to be replenished, oxygenated, loved, and sent back out again. The tiny venules at the extremities merged into larger veins as we got closer. Soon our group was engulfed by hundreds of other peregrinos, and then the hundreds became thousands.
And we were not alone in our walk. I was so touched by the staggering amount of people standing like rocks in the midst of the flow, passing out provisions: bottles of water, steaming tamales, bags of juice, ham and cheese sandwiches, whole and cut oranges, sweet coffee, and an abundance of candy. Here was mutual service in action: we were walking to Guadalupe not just for ourselves but for everyone, and She surely blessed each person supporting Her peregrinos.
What had started off as a small dirt trail now became a freeway of cars and people. Sometimes there were sidewalks that we crowded on, but mostly we walked shoulder to shoulder next to cars, cyclists, and semis.
As it grew dark and our group slowed down due to the sheer number of people I suddenly felt my heart connect to Tepeyac. It was the heart of the mountain where Guadalupe first introduced herself to Juan Diego that we were being magnetized to. As I felt the apu (spirit) of the mountain my heart flowered into a profound silence and peace. The noise of Mexico surrounded me on all sides, but the dark silent sweetness of Tepeyac inside of me was a galaxy.
As I started to enter the Basilica, pressed up intimately against strangers as we moved inch by inch forward, I had a moment of panic when I lost sight of the banner of our group. The large white banner with a picture of Guadalupe had been my safety and talisman for hours, where my impromptu family congregated as we literally sometimes jogged towards the Basilica. Which way to turn to find my group? I was caught in a narrow maze of vendors saturated with people. I prayed for guidance of which direction to choose. And then I was birthed free of the shops and onto the grounds of the Sacred. There was the banner, and familiar faces.
As we moved through the crowd and then stood in front of the main Church I knew it was time to let go of my tribe and follow the pull I was feeling. I plunged into the unknown, letting go of my identification with my little group, and became part of the whole of humanity. I felt untethered, free, empty. I let the ocean of people and spirit and movement carry me.
Right into the arms of the Sufis.
They were so out of place next to one of the many ancient churches with their tall felt hats and white flowing cotton, but so perfect. I inched closer and closer until I was in the outer circle of ecstasy. Music, movement, prayer, song going around and round. I merged with this group as they spun prayers and flung them into the sky. I cast the prayers I had been carrying into the middle of the vortex.
And then I knew it was time to leave. I walked without thought and straight into my group, said goodbye, and then started the walk by myself to my hotel off Calzadero de Guadalupe. Incredible to be walking in Mexico City as a single female, at midnight, surrounded by people, totally safe and held in the arms of the Mother.
The next morning I walked back up the avenue to the Basilica to revel in the sacred jumble of people, cultures, and prayer. Fifty or so separate Aztec groups were scattered in the huge main plaza surrounded by churches, where they burned copal, prayed to the four directions, the old gods, and to Guadalupe, drumming and dancing and rattling, feathers and colors and bare skin. Inside the main cathedral mass was stoically proceeding, complete with a huge choir in red and white pressed gowns and much formality on the stage. On the edges outside of the pews families sat on the floor having picnics and taking selfies while others waited in line for their turn at confession.
Everywhere people carried statues and pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe. To understand the magnitude: Three million people came to the Basilica yesterday to be blessed by Our Lady of Guadalupe, 7 million so far this week. People had their photo taken in front of huge plastic Guadalupe statues. People wept, praying openly to the Mother. The best I can say is that the Basilica was like a mashup between the joy of pre-concert parking lot at a Grateful Dead show, Disneyland, a Christmas light show, a pagan full moon ceremony, and Church. Mexicans know how to bring a party to their deepest praying.
I completed my pilgrimage at the top of Tepeyac hill, sitting on the floor in my favorite little church to Guadalupe, letting the rosary pour through me.
There is so much more to write. But a few last things that I love:
The true name of the Virgin of Guadalupe, first spoken in Nahuatl (and then misinterpreted) is Tecuauhtlaceupeuh: She who Comes Flying from the Region of Light Like an Eagle of Fire.
She is the embodiment of ancient Goddess of Mexico: Coatlique, or Tonantzin.
Here is a share from the Tonantzin Society of Mexico:
”Here, even the atheists are Guadalupanos…. One cannot understand Mexico without Our Lady of Guadalupe. It’s impossible.”
“It has to do with spirituality. Spirituality is above religion. Religion, at least institutional religion has separated us: Catholics from Jews, Jews from Protestants; it separates us… spirituality unites us. And I believe that Our Lady of Guadalupe unites us.”
“All of us are fruits of one Mother: Tonantzin, Pachamama, Gaia, Mother Earth.”
Huey Tonantzin Tlalli Coatlicue. Ipalnemoani.
For All Our Relations.
May we dissolve the separation, remember we are all cells in the body of Great Mother, and surrender to being drawn back into Her heart and out again, to become Her heart in physical form.