Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Making of a Goddess

(Disclaimer: I am not disclosing the name of the subject of this post in order to protect my own identity. I hope you'll understand. For anyone who would like more information, you may e-mail me at intotheheartofthebeast(at)hotmail(dot)com.)

What do the locals do in your area when they really, really want something to happen (or not happen, as the case may be)?

In my specific corner of the world, most people bow their heads and pray to Jesus. But there is someone else inching in on the lamentations of the suffering and destitute, and she is... not a deity. Yet. In fact, she was a living, breathing, flesh-covered mortal just a little over a century ago. She had (has) a name--a couple of them--as well as an occupation and a fair share of scandal.

Now, however, it is not uncommon to hear someone--even someone of an otherwise Abrahamic faith--petitioning this revered dead for aid. Young women whose love is unrequited and women about to give birth are the most common contributors. They place pennies atop the gravestone at this revered dead's feet and drape strings of beads over the arms of the cross at her head, for she can certainly empathize with their plight. In life, the story goes that she was abandoned by her lover upon his discovery of her pregnancy. The baby of this illicit affair was stillborn, and his mother did not live through his birth.

I realize that this is not an entirely unique situation. Visitors to the tomb of Marie Laveau, for example, will draw a triple "X" sign there in the hopes of being granted a wish by the ensconced Voodoo priestess. The difference--and a significant one, I think--is that Ms. Laveau was attributed with certain occult powers while still living. The jump to asking her to continue her work beyond the grave is not such a stretch. Our local lady, however, does not carry this distinction. At most, those she associated with in life may have been of an ethnic group that is sometimes said to have mystical powers. She, however, did not share their ethnicity. It is somewhat of a mystery how this young woman came to have such a claim to fame. What was it about her that warranted such attention? What is it about her that still calls to us even now?

Sometimes I wonder about the future of this revered dead. I wonder if, a hundred years from now, women will still be gifting her their coins and baubles in return for her blessing. Perhaps a thousand years from now she will have reached a status similar to the Cailleach, whom I feel very deeply walked in the flesh many, many years ago. Will the popularity of the internet and the ease with which we can now gain access to historical information prevent this deification? I pay careful attention to the various threads of our lady's legend and how they have evolved and grown since her death, and I wonder if and how her myth will continue to change over time.

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