As this is also a space for my personal explorations, this post will be somewhat intimate.I was raised in a psychologically and spiritually restrictive environment. Even though I was endlessly curious and loved to read, my musings and mental aerobics could only go as far as my spiritual upbringing allowed. It took years and distance to break free and detach myself from that mentality. In all honesty, it also took a lot of heartbreak and disillusionment, and strength. When I decided to pick up the baton again and start exploring spirituality and spiritual modes of thinking, it was with an extremely critical and derisive eye. Always doubting, questioning, denying. I still question too much. As I have gone about this roundabout journey of finding answers to my spiritual questions, I seem, as of recently, to have landed back on a doorstep I thought I would never touch.
In searching for my myths, for the narratives that speak of my culture, I have landed on an exploration of Catholicism and its folkloric manifestations, specifically Caribbean and Spanish. I hold on to my trepidation as I retrace my steps and attempt to reach out towards my ancestors. See, when I broke free from my upbringing I wanted to get to the core, to the essence of what connects me to this planet, to all the beings in this planet. I wanted to step outside of monist modalities, outside of linear master narratives, and find the source, reconnect ancestrally, if you will. I even venture to admit that I have decided on a cultural and environmental mythic structure that resonates with my core. Now how did I end up looking at the saints and Catholicism as well? As I am sure many know, throughout the colonization of the Americas heavy “synchretization” was involved, gods and ancestors took on the form of saints so as to disguise the continual worship of the older religions. This is true in Santería, Vodou, and Candomblé, among others. There was an enmeshment that occurred that added a rich complexity and nuance to the observance of the Saints.
I don’t want to get too involved in this topic, as this is my personal experience and narrative at the end of the day, but as I explore the saints now I find myself understanding what all this means. They are ancestors, ones which I can form bonds and relationships with, and explore further spiritual complexities that are perhaps out of my singular reach. They (I say they as a general term) can be protectors, guides, aides, and communicators, helping me tap into concepts and ideas. This is somewhat bizarre for me, to grasp these concepts, because I was raised to look disdainfully and disapprovingly at saints, at idols, at anything outside of the trinity. Even though my grandmother had a huge altar of saints in her kitchen, which she attended to religiously, but my mother never let me enter that world. I never understood how all this worked, and now it seems like I am beginning to grasp the intricacies.
I am merely reading and learning at this stage, but I feel this huge sense of having come full circle. Funnily enough, I started this whole search for my culture, for my identity because I have always felt like an island sailing lonely in a vast sea, with no concrete sense of belonging. Am I Caribbean? Am I Spanish? Am I black? Am I American or Hispanic? I know a lot of these classifications are pointless, the essence of it all is that I am a human being, but truly a part of me longed for some sort of culturally ancestral identification. As I grew in my spiritual education I came to a standstill when I felt the call, the push, to find that connection. I needed to know where I came from. This whole search has led me here, to the folkloric manifestations of Catholicism, or “folk Catholicism,” if you will. I peak into this big archive of history, and I am at a loss for words, unbelieving but finding a sense of having arrived at my goal. I keep playing with my cards as I read on Saint Cyprian and Saint Justina of Antioch, thinking of transformations and the many ways to seek knowledge and connection. Suffice it to say that one never stops evolving and growing, and as I continue in my spiritual search, I remember to keep my mind open and my disposition ready.
My next post will end the journey of the suit of cups, as new paths open and lead to deeper oceans.