Ave Maria, Magna Mater

If I were a bible-thumping, conspiracy-mongering Protestant, I’d have every reason to think that our local Marian traditions are nothing but veiled heathen attempts to endorse the idolatrous worship of Magna Mater. And who could blame me?

  • Riotous music involving cymbals and drums? Check.
  • Ecstatic street dancing until you drop? Check.
  • Effeminate dancers leading the parade? Check.
  • Divine motherly figure as object of worship? Absolutely.
  • Ritual castration? Well, none yet, but who knows?

Fortunately, I am not and have never have been a Protestant of that sort, so I couldn’t care less if our townsfolk truly worshipped the Phrygian Great Mother. In fact, I think that would be super.

As you know, I was raised in a deeply-but-loosely Catholic town — I say ‘deeply’ because we’re suckers for tradition and ‘loosely’ because nobody cares if you have buddhas in your home, too — and it has been this open, syncretic Catholicism that eventually led me to the older, less clandestine paganism of my ancestors. Indeed, the pagan persists.

Nobody knows why karakol (the processional dance in the videos below) is particular to our province or why it is the way that it is. Is it indigenous? Is it colonial? Both? Outside academics, nobody really cares. Heck, I’ve seen Protestants sway their hips to it more than once. Mary: 1. Biblical fundamentalism: 0.

So anyway, as promised previously, I present this year’s karakol for our pillar-perched patrona —

Here, the Lady leaves Her dwelling to dance in a sea of devotion waiting outside.

Not forgetting, the Lady’s ecstatic train of worshippers. Their hips don’t lie.

I think the main highlight of this year’s karakol is that, for the first time in for ever, the women-folk were invited to carry the Lady on their backs: let no man say that the daughters of our city are unable to carry their city’s mother.

Also, this year was the longest I’ve been to. We started noon and ended at 9! No corner of the city is left un-blessed by the Lady’s dancing, even if it takes the whole day.

The tradition of karakol is a well-loved one and I only pray that it survives and flourishes in the next hundred years.


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