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.


Eventful Octobers

It seems like Octobers are almost always eventful, and usually involving the Mothers.

The beginning of the month was especially blessed with the welcoming of a new member to our household pantheon, Nossa Senhora de Fátima:

A gift from a friend from far away makes Herself comfy in Her new home.

I’m not quite sure yet which godly power is behind the Lady of Fatima, but something tells me that she’s older than the biblical Mary. This stunning statue of the Lady comes from Galina who was kind enough to send it over as a gift. Here She is, bathing in bukhoor incense, a traditional gesture of hospitality in the Arab world.

Shortly after, our town fiesta happened, which is always a blessing of joy to our people, Catholic or otherwise:

Nana Pilar

It is always an honour for any man or woman to carry Her, our loving town patron of many years. She was exceedingly beautiful this year, our dearest Mother of wild dances.

[I will be posting a couple of videos later in the week.]

The Queen is finally home after an entire afternoon and evening on the streets. Truly, a Dancing Queen.

Here She is again, home after an entire afternoon and evening on the streets. Truly, a Dancing Queen.

Another festival honouring a divine mother followed right after as we celebrated the Maha Navratri in our home:

God is a woman, a fearsome mother. Jai Mata Di! Shubh #Durga #Navratri!

As the new moon of Ashvin rose, we welcomed Durga into our homes once again. Jai Maa!


Of course, no Navratri is complete without a visit to the local mandir. She was especially beautiful this year in bright crimson.


The other gods were just as beautiful in their new clothes.


We are a relatively small temple, but the place is full of stout hearts. It’s always nice to be in a sea of devotees.


Shiva’s coat was especially fab. (No living tigers were harmed in the making of the coat.)

Come late October, I revamped the house shrine:


Our Agathos Daimon now sits comfortably between the Holy Child of Atocha (dubbed ‘Baby Hermes’) and Ganesha, the ‘Hermes of Hindustan’.

And, of course, never a month without the customary thanksgiving dinner:


Of all the things we owe the Gods, this is but a small feast. This feast was dedicated not only for a month full of events, but also for our dear friend, Sannion.

Another eventful October, indeed, and by the looks of it, next year will be just as busy with the twin Great Mother festivals coming right after the other. Hail, the Spirits of October! Hail, the Two Mothers! Hail and hail again!

To the Great Mother of Wild Dances

Sorry for the delay, it’s been a very busy October so far. (Well, actually, it hasn’t been un-busy for me since Wep Ronpet!) But, yes, we did dance to two great mother goddesses the past week (well, technically, one goddess and one saint, but you get what I mean).

Whether you see these two ladies as different forms of one ‘Goddess of ten thousand names’ or two distinct personalities (one divine and the other human, or both divine!) isn’t important. The non-Catholics who couldn’t help but dance to the Señora’s brass band didn’t seem to mind their religion’s prohibitions against deifying the mother of Christ nor did the Sikhs at the Hindu temple hesitate to join their polytheistic brethren in celebration despite their staunch monotheism. I suppose all is fair in fiestas and pujas. After all, who can resist the rattle and the drum, and swaying hips in praise of the ‘Great Mother’, Durga or Mary be her name?

¡Viva Señora del Pilar! Jai Durga Mata!

PS: As these things are better seen than read, I uploaded a few clips over at my YouTube channel. Although watching them doesn’t compare to actually being there, I hope you can still enjoy what I could afford to capture!

¡Viva! Jai!

Dancing for the Great Mother

Two very exciting things happening today and tomorrow:

The annual karakol (ritual street dance) for my city‘s Patron, la Nuestra Señora del Pilar …


Our Lady of the Pillar, Protector of Imus
Source: cfcfflcavite.webs.com/dioceseofimus

Source: flickr.com/photos/44877083@N05/

Our Lady of the Pillar, Lady of Zaragoza, Zamboanga, and Imus
Source: flickr.com/photos/44877083@N05/

… And the eighth night of the Maha Navratri where the Great Goddess is celebrated as Shri Durga Devi, Slayer of Mahishasura.


She with the strength of a thousand lions


Slayer of Mahishasura

Hail to these two great goddesses! Hail Great Mother! Ave Magna Mater! Jai Mata Di!