Corn Mother and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Bring Home the Sacred Masculine
Corn Mother and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and Son
In early August 2023, our little family of three began to go a bit stir-crazy. It had been a dry and hot summer. The monsoons only briefly visited this year, and their absence left an agitated crackle in the air around us. We needed a break. On a whim, we decided to take a weekend trip to Tubac, a small town just off the banks of the Santa Cruz River, about 40 minutes south of Tucson.
Our trip to Tubac had a deeper purpose to it. All summer, my husband, Matthew, had been searching high and low in Tucson for a statue honoring the Sacred Masculine. Goddesses and Madres of varying persuasions fill our home, and for some time, Matthew had been voicing his desire for a little balance. In Tucson, he’d found the usual statues of St. Francis, San José, San Antonio, Jesus, and Judas Tadeo. But they didn’t call to him. He kept insisting on something more unusual. Our friends Sandra and Kresta reminded us that the art-loving village of Tubac was a good place to look. We decided to get out of town and make a quest of it.
While I was packing our bags for our trip, I felt Corn Mother in her basket on my altar. I knew she wanted to come. I packed her up with a bag of cornmeal. There was an old Titan II Missile site just off the highway at the Tubac exit. The site was now on private land. Would the weekend possibly include a pilgrimage to this site? Would we be knocking on a stranger’s front door asking to see the remains of the Cold War in their backyard? I had no idea. I decided not to raise the possibility to Matthew just yet. I’d take my cues from Corn Mother and see how the weekend played out.
When we arrived in Tubac, our four-year-old daughter was completely undone by the car ride. We plied her with snacks and everything we could think of to help ease her into the weekend getaway. As the minutes passed, however, her anxiety increased and she started wailing. It was a few hours before we’d be able to check into the house we’d rented for the night. The wind blew hot and dry. The air was dusty and suffocating. Now what?
We decided to stretch our legs and at least walk around Tubac. Maybe we could manage to sneak into some shops and begin our search for the statue of the Sacred Masculine.
Matthew parked the car on the main drag, and I instinctively grabbed Corn Mother’s basket as we were exiting the car.
Tired and trying to keep things simple, Matthew sighed: “Are you really going to be carrying around your basket everywhere?”
It was a reasonable question, especially since I was also shouldering a heavy bag of supplies for our cranky toddler.
Before I could respond, our daughter butted in, waving her chunky index finger at us:
“Corn Mother cannot stay alone in the car!”
The matter was settled. She was coming.
We walked up and down the village roads, going into quaint shops that were filled with all kinds of ceramics, woodwork, leather crafts, and blown glass from artisans in Mexico. My daughter perked up with the novelty of it all. It was a feast for the senses. As we crossed the threshold of each shop, I breathed in slowly, my body recognizing the smells that reminded me of childhood—crossing the border and shopping with my mom or journeying down to Guadalajara to see my grandparents and wandering the markets.
With more buoyancy in our bodies, we set about looking for the Sacred Masculine. Again we found the usual saints with the typical representations. None of them called to Matthew. We asked the shopkeepers for recommendations of other vendors, and we wove a path back and forth across the village center, searching.
Finally, we returned to a shop we’d already been to once that day. Matthew wanted to revisit something he’d seen there. I was tired and wandered aimlessly around the displays. My senses were saturated. I felt like I had taken in absolutely every item in the shop.
Then all of a sudden, I felt chills travel down my legs. My body knew before my mind did. I caught a glimpse of something near the back wall where Matthew was considering the statue of a yellow angel. Tucked away, practically blending into the woodwork, I saw her. I felt her gaze.
I could sense Corn Mother, in her basket, suddenly abuzz, like she was elbowing me with impatience.
“THERE! Right there!” she seemed to say.
There was no mistaking her. Brown robes. Brown scapular. Our Lady of Mount Carmel fashioned from clay—the Mama from a world across the ocean, where she resided in the form of a mountain whose layers of dirt held the remnants of half a million years of human evolution. She was also the Mountain Mama whose body knew the cycling horrors of scorching violence that repeated generation after generation across her earthen surface. It was all there.
This particular version of the Mountain Mother was clearly fashioned in a Mexican style. She was a lovely morena, just like Tonantzin Guadalupe, but this Madre stood with her feet planted on the blue and green sphere of the Earth. I’d never seen a Lady of Mt. Carmel like this. She pulled at my yearnings because my Mexican Catholic family were devotees of hers, ever since my mom’s sister had taken vows as a Carmelite nun and then died as a novice when she was only 26 years old.
I whispered to Corn Mother: “What’s going on? I’m NOT supposed to be buying more Ladies on this trip. This trip is about Matthew’s Sacred Masculine.”
But my body coursed with electricity, and every cell in my being knew I would be leaving the store with this Madre. I walked over to the shopkeeper, dreading this dilemma. How much was she?
“Ay, La Virgencita del Carmen. Con todas las manitas quebradas.”
I followed the woman back to the Lady. In all my excitement, I hadn’t noticed. Her left hand had broken off and was inelegantly glued back onto her wrist at a freakishly incorrect angle. The shopkeeper then reached for a figurine to the left of the Lady.
“Aquí está su pobre hijo.”
It was the Lady’s son. He was missing both of his hands, which the shopkeeper then retrieved for me. One of his hands was glued to a miniature brown scapular that was dangling from the Lady’s arm. The other hand had been placed inside the Lady’s crown for safekeeping. He would be needing a little help to be restored, the shopkeeper commented.
I felt Corn Mother whisper to me.
“Here is your Sacred Masculine.”
I exhaled slowly. I felt her words in my heart.
“¿De dónde viene la Virgencita?” I asked the shopkeeper.
“Viene de Guadalajara,” she answered.
My eyes filled with tears. Of all the places for this Lady to come from. This is where my mom’s family was from, where my Carmelite aunt died and is now buried alongside my grandparents.
It was decided.
Ten minutes later, I stood there with Corn Mother in her basket in my right hand and La Virgen del Carmen wrapped up in thick layers of newspaper in a bag in my left hand. Matthew rolled his eyes at me and shook his head good-naturedly. I unfurled the story for him with all the incontrovertible reasons for the Lady to be coming home with us. I promised him we would find what he was looking for too. I quietly implored the Madres for their assistance.
That night, our daughter was restless and scared. There was little sleep for any of us, and we all emerged the next morning grouchy and poorly motivated to resume the search for Matthew’s statue.
We decided instead to head to the trail by the Santa Cruz River. We hiked along the path for a bit and found an entry point where we could access the water. In Tubac, the Santa Cruz River is still actively flowing and sustains a lush riparian ecosystem. All manner of creatures have been coming here for millennia to enjoy the generous fertility of the elements in this place. The Hohokam and Sobaipuri O’odham made their homes here—hunting, gathering, growing squash, beans, maize, and cotton. For over a century, Apache warriors staved off the ravenous full-blown invasion of civilization here.
I had brought Corn Mother with us on the hike, and all three of us offered cornmeal to the land. My daughter delighted in the muddy riverbanks and went about gathering treasures to place in Corn Mother’s basket. I felt us all being revitalized, and my heart swelled with gratitude for the continued flow of this river and the dance of the cottonwoods, their green headdresses swaying high over the valley.
With a renewed burst of energy, we returned to the town center, and all of a sudden, Matthew knew which statue he wanted. He led us back to the shop where I’d found Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and he went straight toward the yellow angel perched against the back wall where I’d found the Lady. The Angel appeared neither masculine nor feminine but rather a fluid expression of all genders and none. I busied our daughter while Matthew spoke to the same shopkeeper. Before I knew it, they were wrapping the Angel, and I heard Matthew ask:
“Where is the Angel from?”
“Guadalajara,” the woman responded. I gasped. Of course.
We packed up the car and headed north on the highway home. On our way, I looked to the side of the highway as we passed two different former missile sites in the area. I visualized these places in the Earth where massive silos had housed weapons that held the capacity to destroy worlds many times over.
“Another day,” I told myself.
I marveled at all the passengers in our car—me, my husband and our daughter with Corn Mother, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, her Son, and the Angel who had completed our quest. I knew there would be more to their stories, but it was enough for now.
Our daughter slept soundly all the way home.
Somewhere in the world
Selu is always singing.*
*From Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother’s Wisdom by Marilou Awiakta