The History of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Wishing you all a most Blessed Our Lady of Guadalupe Day!!! Today is the anniversary of Her appearance to the Aztec peasant Juan Diego (now St. Juan Diego). Juan Diego was walking in the mountains on his way to Mass (he had converted to Catholicism six years before) when he heard a strange & beautiful music emanating from the top of a nearby hill. Tepayac Hill was long held sacred by the Aztecs & they associated it with the home of their earth goddess, Tonantzin, mother of the gods whose holy day was always celebrated by  the Aztecs near the winter solstice. Tonantzin’s temple had stood on this hill, it’s stairs long stained with the blood of war captives who had been sacrificed to Her. Torn down by the Spaniards in their massive effort to destroy all that was indigenous, now only the hill remained. Juan Diego would have been aware of the significance of this hill so I figure he went to check out this music thinking  the goddess Tonantzin may be putting in an appearance, but what he saw was not Her, but another Lady of Light, the beloved Virgin Mary.

What’s interesting about this is several things, the two that  immediately come to mind is that the Virgin Mary chose for Her appearance a spot already regarded as holy by the natives, plus it was a spot of tremendous violence and torture. Secondly, there was Her appearance, which as Juan Diego would shortly describe Her, matched the appearance of native Aztec (Nahuatl) women in color and facial features. So, the Virgin of Guadalupe is an apparition of color. This fact very seldom receives any mention.

When Juan Diego reached the music he heard a woman calling to him. “Juantzin, Juan Diegotzin.” The English translation is something like”Dear Little Juan,” & this would be the manner in which a Nahuatl woman would speak to a beloved child. As Juan Diego reached the top of the hill he saw a beautiful young lady who could not have been older than fourteen standing within bright light. He dropped to his knees. The entire hill shone with Her brilliance and the entire scene was overwhelming to Juan Diego. He thought this was Tonantzin, but as She spoke, She made no reference to the Aztec earth goddess. Instead, She identified Herself and Her request thusly:

“Know my son, my much beloved, that I am the  ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God who is the Author of life, the Creator  of all things, the Lord of heaven and earth, present everywhere. And it is my wish that here, there be raised to me a temple in which, as a loving mother to thee and those like thee, I shall show my tender clemency and the compassion I feel for the natives and for those who love and seek me, for all who implore my protection, who call on me in their labors and afflictions: and in which I shall hear their weeping and their supplications that I may give them consolation and relief. That my will may have its effect, thou must go to the city of Mexico and to the palace of the bishop who resides there, to tell him that I have sent thee and that I wish a temple to be raised to me in this place. Thou shalt report what thou hast seen and heard, and be assured that I will repay what thou dost for me in the charge I give thee: for I will make thee great and renowned. Now thou hast heard, son, my wish. Go in peace. . . employ all of the strength thou art able” (Catholicism dot org article, which discusses the Virgin of Guadalupe in full, but please keep in mind this is from a strongly Catholic point of view: http://catholicism.org/brmichael-guadalupe.html).

Juan Diego immediately agreed to go speak to the Bishop of Mexico. Upon his arrival he was ridiculed and mocked. Discouraged, Juan Diego reluctantly left the bishop’s palace and headed back home knowing he must find a way to convince the bishop that he spoke the truth.

The following week Juan Diego was once again walking through the mountains on his way to Mass. He again walked near Tepayac Hill and once again he saw the young lady. When she asked Juan Diego what had transpired, he told her. She told Juan Diego to return to the Bishop to relay Her request. He did so and although the Bishop did not think he was experiencing a hallucination and did see some lady, he still did not believe she was the Virgin Mary and sent Juan Diego away a second time.

It was the dead of winter in Mexico. Plants were not in bloom, and when Juan Diego saw the Virgin a third time she told him to go to the top of the hill where he would find many flowers in bloom. She instructed him to wrap some of the flowers in his tilma, a simple cloak made from woven cactus. This was common clothing for the indigenous people at the time. When he reached the summit of the hill, Juan Diego was amazed to see the ground covered in various blooming flowers, one of which was the Castilian Rose. The rose is sacred to the Holy Mother, as it is to numerous manifestations of the Goddess.

Upon returning to the Virgin with his tilma now full of flowers, She further instructed Juan Diego not to open the cloak until he was in the presence of the bishop once again. Knowing that roses do not bloom in winter, Juan Diego had renewed faith and knew that now the bishop would have no choice but to believe him and build a church to the Virgin Mary on that very hill where Tonantzin’s bloody temple had once stood.

When Juan Diego went before the bishop a third time, he was only granted the audience because a member of the bishop’s staff saw a flower within Juan Diego’s tilma. He attempted to snatch it away, but Juan Diego stopped him. He now had physical evidence in his possession and the bishop was told.

Juan Diego knew he had a bouquet of roses wrapped within his tilma, but as he unfurled his tilma in front of the bishop and his staff he was as stunned and amazed as everyone else in the room.

Not only did the roses fall out of JuanDiego’s cloak, but now they had multiplied. Rose petals fell across the floor, but that was not the only miracle.

As they all looked down at the tilma in amazement the once plain cloth was now decorated with what seemed to be a painting of the Virgin Mary Herself, in full color and dressed in the cloak and colors She wore when she appeared to Juan Diego on Tepayac Hill. The face was identical to the face of the young woman as seen by Juan Diego.

The bishop immediately ordered a church to be built in honor of the Virgin Mary who would be known in that area as the Virgin of Guadalupe. She is the patron saint of Mexico and no saint in Mexico or the Americas is revered more than She.

To this very day Juan Diego’s tilma is on display in the cathedral that now sits on the summit of Tepayac Hill. The tilma, made from simple cactus strands, never should have lasted beyond 20 years. To this day it is still in a pristine state and even miraculously survived an attempt to blow it up. Pilgrims from all over the world come to visit the shrine every year with visitors numbering at least 20 million a year.

My dad visited the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1981. He had had several surgeries on both wrists and elbows for carpel tunnel syndrome, but still had so many problems that he could barely hold a glass to his lips without having to worry he could drop it. The doctors had done all they could and he was told he would have to deal with that condition for the remainder of his life. My dad was 45 at the time.

My dad always took great delight in telling the story of the Virgin of

Guadalupe every December 12th. It was a very special day in my house and this was how it always was because Dad had always been devoted to the Virgin Mary, long before he made the pilgrimage to Her shrine in the hope of a miraculous cure to his condition. We would light a candle to the Virgin of Guadalupe and everyone was allowed to open one present,which became known as our Virgin Mary present. My dad was uneducated and had been a laborer his entire work life. If he didn’t have full control of his hands and arms there would be no other way he could make a living to support his family. He knew this and was making the pilgrimage with tremendous faith,but also out of great desperation.

After his 1981 pilgrimage to the shrine my dad had his own little chapter to add to the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe.The way he told it was like this:

He went to the cathedral and like many others traveled the final 3 miles on his knees, 1 mile for the Father, 1 mile for the Son, and 1 mile for the Holy Ghost. All the while he prayed for a healing from the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Upon finally reaching the cathedral there were hundreds of people already inside so Dad had to wait quite a while to be able to reach the shrine in which the miraculous tilma of Juan Diego was now housed. As Dad knelt before the tilma to say one final prayer he felt a soft hand on his left shoulder. At this point of his recounting Dad would always cry.

Dad would tell us he knew better than to turn around. No one was that close to be able to touch him. He knew that was no ordinary hand. Then he heard a voice of a young woman. Dad said her voice sounded melodious, almost like music, but the musical notes formed words. The voice said, “Betito, mi nino, no te precupes.”

Dad’s name had been Roberto, Beto for short. If he had been a baby he would have been called Betito, or “Little Beto.” As with Juan Diego, the Virgin Mary had addressed my dad as if he was a beloved child of Hers, which of course we all are no matter our religion or spiritual beliefs. The phrase translates as, “My little Beto, my son, do not worry.”

Dad mentally thanked the Virgin of Guadalupe and just knew he had been healed. When he stood up he had no pain.

From that day forward my dad’s hands, wrists, and forearms never swelled up again. He had full range of motion again and never suffered any additional pain, which mystified his doctors with whom Dad was quick to share his experience. They all agreed that Dad’s situation was indeed a miracle and could be explained in no other way.

My family’s connection to that tilma was not yet over. Fast forward now to me as an adult living in Corpus Christi, Texas. Note that Corpus Christi translates as, “Body of Christ.” I am not particularly religious. I practice Wicca, but was raised Catholic. I also was never particularly close to the Virgin Mary, despite my father’s great devotion to Her. A photo of the tilma of Juan Diego was on tour and had come to the church in downtown Corpus Christi.

I don’t know what prompted me to go see the life-size photograph of the tilma. I think at first it was just curiosity. The original had somehow channeled healing energy that head healed my dad, after all. At the time I suffered from night blindness. I had very poor vision at night to the point that I couldn’t see well enough to drive, even on well lit roads with the headlights on.

I arrived at the church at around 5 PM and as I sat there praying in front of the photo I fell asleep. I am not the type to drift of and I don’t even take naps because when I do I always wake up with a headache. When I woke it was around 8 PM and a woman was telling me the church was about to close for the night.

When I walked out and realized it was pitch black outside I had a little panic attack. How was I going to be able to see to drive home? I thought about calling my husband to come pick me up and we’d come for my car the next day, but I was worried what could happen to my car overnight so I decided to risk it and just drive very slowly.

I drove all the way home mystified that I could see perfectly fine! The night blindness seemed to be gone and my vision was sharp, highly detailed, even on the few unlit roads I had to take in order to reach my house!

Ever since then I have not had one single instance of night blindness and I can drive at any time of day or night without having sight issues.

A miraculous cure? I tend to think so, although it was not one I had asked for at the time, but I still appreciate it to this day.

The Virgin Mary was to work another miracle for me, which I have blogged about previously. To summarize, my family went on a Mediterranean cruise in 2012 that began with 2 days of free time in Rome. Our hotel was a few blocks from the Basilica of Mary and for some strange reason my father-in-law, who is a born again Southern Baptist, was very anxious to visit the Basilica. I had a 39 year chronic knee condition and both of them were so badly swollen that I had next to no ability to flex them. Making the 3 block walk to the Basilica about killed me, and then I saw the stairs I’d have to climb to go inside.

In a strange way I knew that I was meant to go inside and that I had to inside NOW. Not tomorrow when my knees felt better from the 7 hour plane ride from Texas to Rome, but NOW. I felt compelled, I guess in a way just as my father-in-law felt compelled for whatever reasons.

My daughter had to help me up the many stairs to get inside the Basilica. Once inside I immediately asked someone where Mary’s shrine was located. I didn’t want to waste any painful steps walking around looking for it. I knew an image of Her was housed here that was purportedly painted by St. Luke while the Virgin Mary was still living(although I have since learned that is not the case).

I found the shrine and despite the tremendous pain it caused me, I knelt in front of it and prayed to the Virgin Mary for a miracle. I asked Her to please fix my knees JUST FOR THE TRIP. I knew the condition was chronic and I explained that once I returned home I didn’t care what happened, but to please allow me to enjoy the trip without any pain and I would be always grateful to Her for that favor.

I then stood up.

As I did so I realized when I straightened my knees they didn’t hurt. This surprised me, but the biggest surprise was when I looked down at my knees. Previously, both had been swollen to the size of softballs.Suddenly, they were normal size and looked like they had never had any problems whatsoever! I took a step toward my daughter, who walked forward to offer me her arm, then another, then I motioned for her to stop as I took a third step.Then I began to stomp on the hard marble floor as I said repeatedly, “there’s no pain! There’s no pain!” Then I began to say I had been healed. Others heard me. Soon there was a small crowd in front of Mary’s shrine sending up their own prayers to Her.

I often wonder how many miracles She handed out that day.

As for me, my knees didn’t bother me for the duration of the trip. I walked, climbed, jumped, and scampered all over the Mediterranean without any pain whatsoever. Upon returning home I figured, OK,here it comes. The pain and swelling will come back because I had only asked to be healed for the duration of the trip.

The healing took place on June 27, 2012. Today is December 12, 2018.

I have not experienced any additional pain or swelling in either knee since then, except for the aftermath of having smashed my left knee on the door of a kitchen cabinet last August, which –coincidentally or not – occurred on August 15th, the feast day of the Assumption of Mary. I think in a weird way it was just a reminder from Her that she could give and She could also take away. I hadn’t been paying her much attention for the 2 years prior and I think perhaps She was disappointed in me,so She sent me that important reminder, and I’ve returned to giving Her thanks daily for having cured my knees. It did take a year for that knee to heal from the injury, but it’s fine now and the other is none the worse for wear, all raise and gratitude to the Holy Mother.

For further information on Juan Diego’s tilma and additional miracles of the painted image that Science still cannot explain today, please visit for further information of the miracle of her eyes: https://www.sancta.org/eyes.html.

Regarding the iconography (symbolism) of the painted image on the tilma visit: http://www.virginmotherofguadalupe.com/our-lady

-of-guadalupe-image/message-symbols, which is a fascinating read.

Deck Review: The Gaian Tarot

Gaian Tarot boxThe Gaian Tarot may end up being your go-to tarot deck if you are interested in goddess and earth-based spirituality or if photo realistic art impresses you. Using colored pencils, Joanna Powell Colbert brings women of color, amazing animals, and gorgeous natural settings to life in her beautiful Gaian Tarot. Originally self-published, The Gaian Tarot has been mass-published by Llewellyn (now out of print) and most recently by Schiffer Books.

I own Joanna’s self-published edition as well as the Schiffer edition. I was not fortunate enough to obtain a copy of the Llewellyn edition, but I was very happy with the self-published edition, which is printed with vibrant soy inks & despite its large size shuffles like a dream. The Schiffer edition varies from the self-published edition in that each card was given a blue border that surrounds the original white border. Card titles appear against the white border that originally served as the border of the self-published edition.

What I really appreciate about The Gaian Tarot, in addition to its themes, is how the art Gaian Tarot - Hermitspills across the border. You will see little elements that spill across the border. A plant, have of a fish’s body, leaves, part of the moon, fruit, vegetables, and so on. This gives the images a vibrancy and life that you don’t really see in most decks. It gives the impression of the images moving or of their energy spilling forth, especially when the cards are laid out in a spread. It’s a very interesting effect that I wish more artists would make use of, but perhaps that will become more commonplace in the future.

The Gaian Tarot comes housed in Schiffer’s very sturdy hinged box with magnetic closure lid that measures 6 x 9″. I love Schiffer’s boxes. The magnetic closure allows for the deck to be stored standing up on its end as if it were a book. It will not fall open on the shelf (at least none of mine have ever done that). It takes up very little room on a bookshelf or inside your tarot cabinet, as the case may be. As a person with around 300 decks I really appreciate this.

Gaian Tarot - FoolThe cards are large so those of you with smaller hands may have difficulty rifle-shuffling them. The cards measure 4 x 5 3/4″ and the deck is 1 1/4″ thick.  Due to their size and the laminate they are difficult to shuffle. I do not recommend rifle shuffling this deck. The card stock is sturdy and has a nice laminate making it easy to spread the cards out face down on a table and shuffle them by simply moving them around instead of rifle-shuffling them. The deck has a silver gilded edge that looks lovely with the blue border on the face of the cards and the blue in the background of the card backs. 184-

Colors are rich and vibrant. Although created with colored pencils, most of the images look painted. The art  of Joanna Powell Colbert is truly lovely. The Gaian Tarot is on one of those decks that is a feast for the eyes. I enjoy simply looking at the images, though the deck itself provides me with insightful and accurate readings on a regular basis. It is one of my go-to decks; and, with such a huge collection on-hand, that says a lot for The Gaian Tarot.

The accompanying 184-page paperback guidebook is very well written and beautifully Gaian Tarot guidebookdesigned by the design team at Schiffer Books. The Gaian Tarot guidebook2seconds on the major arcana, four suits, and spreads are color coded along the upper right-hand edge of the book so you can easily flip to any particular section. All card images are in full color, but the image size is only 1 7/8″ high; otherwise, this would be a great guidebook for studying the deck. Card meanings for the major arcana consist of a narrative description of the scene depicted on the card, the meaning of the card should it appear in a reading, the “shadow” interpretation (in other words, reversed), themes, symbols on the card and their meanings, an affirmation, but the most useful section of each card’s interpretation in my opinion are the journaling prompts.

If you journal with your tarot decks as I do, you will really love the guidebook for The Gaian Tarot. Each card of the major arcana is accompanied by ten journaling prompts, on average. The prompts are connected to the meaning of the card. The journaling prompts help the reader to gain a deeper perspective of the card and can really be used with any deck, not just The Gaian Tarot. Here are the journaling prompts for a card that frightens many people: Death ~

  • What is ending or needs to end in my life?
  • How might this ending be a blessing in disguise?
  • In what way may pruning back the dead wood or unnecessary in my life bring about a new vitality?
  • What are my beliefs about death?
  • Am I prepared for my own death?
  • Do I have a will and other necessary end-of-life documents in place?
  • What kind of end-of-life care do I want to have?
  • What do I want done with my remains after I die?
  • How do I honor that which has ended in my life?
  • How do I remember my Beloved Dead?
  • What kind of healing does Death offer me?
  • What kind of healing can I offer the earth through the example of Death? (The Gaian Tarot guidebook: 55-56)

As you can see, each of these prompts are not only thought-provoking, but Joanna Powell Colbert brings up some very important issues we all need to get taken care of before the inevitable occurs.

The cards of the minor arcana are grouped according to their number. Each number opens with a list of general themes that apply to that number and several short paragraphs that provide additional elaboration upon the themes of each number. As with the major arcana cards of The Gaian Tarot, the interpretation of each minor arcana card includes a narrative description of the image, the upright meaning, the reversed, meaning, and affirmation. Minor arcana cards do not include journaling prompts.

 

The Gaian Tarot guidebook concludes with a chapter on card spreads entitled, “Working with the Cards.” Joanna Powell Colbert showcases several of her tarot colleagues in this section of the book by including their contributions for a number of the spreads. Spread titles include: James Wells’ Helpful All-Purpose spread (4 cards), Joanna’s New Moon spread (5 cards), Joanna’s New Moon spread # 2 (9 cards), Beth Owl Daughter’s Predict Your Future By Creating It spread (6 cards), Joanna’s Seeking Clarity spread (10 cards), Joanna’s New Year spread (7 cards), Joanna’s “Elder of Fire/Whispers of the Ancestors spread (5 cards), Carolyn Cushing’s Soul Practices with The Gaian Tarot: Path, Practice, & Posture spread (3 cards) followed by her Aligning with the Earth spread (7 cards), and James Wells’ Gaian spread (4 cards). The guidebook ends with a half page of end notes and a 2-page bibliography.

The Gaian Tarot is softly feminine. The overall energy of the deck is quite calming and Gaian Tarot - Sunsoothing. I can approach this deck with a question about a matter I find upsetting, but as the reading unfolds I fall under the deck’s calming spell and suddenly the problem doesn’t seem to loom so large. I find this deck to have healing energy. So much can go into a card via the intention of the artist. I have not asked Joanna Powell Colbert if she intended this deck to impart calming, healing energy to those who use it, but I’m willing to bet that was part of her intention behind her creation of the images. I can certainly feel it every time I work with The Gaian Tarot.

Anyone who works closely with the Goddess and earth-centered spirituality, who loves animals, has respect for other life forms with whom we share this planet, will love The Gaian Tarot.

Wishing you many blessings!

~ Nefer Khepri, PhD., R. M-T.

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Full DisclosureI received a copy of this deck from the publisher to consider it for review. I only review those decks and books that I find personally useful and feel would be of interest to my followers.

The Avalonian Oracle

avalonian-oracle-boxHow I absolutely love the stories of King Arthur, his knights of the round table, & the gods, goddesses, & magical beings associated with those stories. I have been to England & climbed to the top of Glastonbury Tor, which I still consider to be one of the highlights of my life. I was understandably excited when I heard news of The Avalonian Oracle being published by Schiffer Books. The complete title of this deck is, The Avalonian Oracle: Spiritual Wisdom From the Holy Isle. The 128-page paperback guidebook is written by Jhenah Telyndru with artwork by Emily Brunner. The deck comes housed in the 6 x 9 x 1 1/2″ hinge-lidded magnetic closure box that is pretty much standard now for Schiffer decks. The deck can be stored on its end so the footprint in a bookshelf is very small.

The Avalonian Oracle is a 46-card oracle deck with a twist. There are seven “suits,” avalonian-oracle-2which are referred to as “Cycles.” The guidebook is organized so that the cards belonging to each cycle are discussed in each chapter, which results in the guidebook containing seven chapters of card meanings and interpretations. The other two chapters consist of an introduction and the guidebook concludes with a chapter devoted to eight card spreads and a few concluding paragraphs with suggestions as to how to use the cards as a magical tool.

The introduction in most guidebooks is basically a “how to use this deck” chapter, but that is not the case for The Avalonian Oracle. The chapter is important and should not be glossed over in order to get to the meat of the book. The introduction lists the names of the cards in each “cycle” and by their titles and brief explanation of the “cycle” this gives you a good overview of the overall feel and vibration for each cycle of the deck. The introduction is also an excellent reference point to use as you do readings with the deck. The cycles are not indicated on the cards, but you can easily discover to which cycle they belong if you refer to the introductory pages. That will then tell you in which chapter you can find each card’s meaning.

The cards themselves build upon the concept of the spiritual journey and include such avalonian-oracle-1beings one would expect to encounter when taking a spiritual journey that is of a Celtic nature. Cycle One (5 cards, referred to as Seeds) focuses on your journey to Avalon and the various stages that comprise that part of your journey. Cycle Two (5 cards, referred to as Stations) is about the stages of healing we encounter. Cycle Three (5 cards) depict the goddesses you may encounter on your journey (Rhiannon, Ceridwen, Blodeuwedd, Arianrhod, & Branwen). Cycle Four includes a card for each moon of the year (13 cards for 13 lunar cycles) . Cycle Five (9 cards) is entitled the Nine Morgens who are important ancestresses. Cycle Six (3 cards) represent the 3 realms of the universe as the Celts saw them. Cycle Seven (6 cards) represent the forces that make up the Avalonian cosmology. When doing a reading it is important to note from which cycle your cards originate because knowing that will add a deeper meaning to your readings.

The information included for each card varies from Cycle to Cycle. For example, the cards of Cycles 1 – 3 include with their card interpretations a card description, keywords, quest, divinatory meaning, and affirmation. This same information is included for the cards of Cycle 4 (the 13 Moons of Avalon), but a brief explanation of the particular herb associated with each of these cards opens the card interpretations. The final card of the deck, The Silver Wheel, includes an herbal association as well as a brief discussion of the mythology of the Silver Wheel. Otherwise, all other cards follow the descriptive outline of card description, keywords, quest, divinatory meaning, and affirmation.

The cards measure 3 3/8″ x 5 1/4″. They are well laminated with a glossy finish. Card avalonian-oracle-3backs are completely reversible although the guidebook does not provide reversed card meanings. The cards are are of sturdy, yet flexible card stock that makes them easy to shuffle. They have a blue border with silver detailing. The herb, plant, animal totem, symbol, or spirit associated with each card is depicted within the card image itself and also in isolation as an additional feature of the card in the lower left or right-hand corner of each card.

The Avalonian Oracle provides very deep readings. I recommend that when using this deck you leave your reading out for a while so you can ponder it. I have gained many fresh insights into various situations simply by leaving the reading out so I can look it over as I walk past it throughout the day. If you have an affinity to the Celtic pantheon, culture, or the Goddess in general, you will really enjoy this deck.

Blessings!

~ Nefer Khepri, PhD., R. M-T.

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Full Disclosure: I received this deck from the publisher in order to consider it for review. I only review those decks that are of interest to me & which I feel would also be of interest to my followers.