The People’s Saints
July 8, 2010 4 Comments
Two days ago was Frida Kahlo‘s birthday–Saint Frida Kahlo.
How many times have you heard a pagan say, “The Christians stole everything from the pagans”? This is, of course, a ridiculous statement: Any religious practice is “stolen”; there is no “pure” form of any religious tradition that is free from syncretism. AND, truth be told, often the exact opposite of this statement is more (un)reasonable–take Wiccan magic circles, for example, “stolen” from the Christians, flat out. Besides, since Roman Catholicism is really just ancient Roman religion with a little extra baby-Jee thrown in, then really they haven’t stolen anything and… well…… you get the idea. The whole rhetoric is nonsense and round-about.
BUT, in response, I always say (sarcastically), “Well, why don’t we just steal it all back, then?” Unlike those of us swimming around in the pseudo-religious clusterfuck known as paganism, Christians have got traditions, depth, values, intensely moving art and phenomenal liturgy. We’ve got a bunch of 13 year olds drawing pentacles in their bedrooms with bread knives, or (at our best!) a few yearly gatherings that act more like religiously-themed Temporary Autonomous Zones rather than full-time religious communities.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are problems with Christianity–but find me a group of people who don’t have problems, I say! And I’ve got my theological differences with Christians, and problems with historical events, but again–that doesn’t make Christians any different than, oh, everybody else on the planet, including pagans. Despite the rampant anti-Christian bigotry (indeed, unbridled, sickening B.I.G.O.T.R.Y.) that permeates paganism, I still think that it is useful for us to look at some Christian traditions and contemplate what use they might have for us.
And I look at Catholicism and see a beautiful and active culture of ancestor reverence that, frankly, I think the pagans should go ahead and appropriate. I’m talking about the Saints. I’m saying that we should start making pagan saints. I’m saying that we should stop trying to live paganism and just do it, today, now, using the stuff of our lives now.
Who says that the Catholic Church has sole the sole right to officially recognize individuals for their achievements, their beauty and passion, their remarkable lives, after their deaths? Sure, the Pope probably thinks so, but fuck him. Those who worship Santissima Muerte don’t seem to care, nor those who worship any number of unofficial saints. So, why should we?
Sure, I’m only calling them “Saints” because that is a word that has a lot of power for me–it ALREADY has meaning as a title. Sure, my obsession with folk-catholicism is obviously shining through here in its full glory. But GODDAMNIT I’m going to keep on sainting folks and putting images of them on my altars and praying to them because they’re WICKED AWESOME. I’m saying we should raise hell for the Glorious Dead.
Glorious Dead like Frida Kahlo.
Kahlo’s eyes pierce me like the arrows that pierced St. Sebastian. Her paintings rattle my bones. The story of her pain and passion wells up within me, making the blood throb in my ears and at the tips of my fingers and toes. Hers is a righteous existence, one martyred by life. SHE is glorious in heaven.
As a young, aspiring writer and poet, as one who dares call myself an artist, I lay down and contemplate Her Holy Visage and tremble. In her I see Life and Death, Beauty and Butchery. I see in her the Queen of Heaven, Venus the Dancing Star. Her rouge-tinted face reminds me of Ezili Freda, the Sorrowful, Luxurious Lady.
SO, I will call her Saint Frida, and hang her image alongside those of the Gods and Goddesses I revere. I will beatify others and call them Saint Sappho of Lesbos–Saint of Lovers and Lyricism, Saint Harriet Tubman–Saint of Freedom and of Revolution, Saint Johnny Cash–Saint of Those Imprisoned, of Fire and Straining Voices. I will call them the People’s Saints, Our Dear Departed Exemplars, The Host of Heaven’s Delight.
And I encourage you to do the same. Whom do you revere?