Gyadalupe seems to be Nahuati for "Woman who crushes the serpent's head."

Monday, 12/12/11

Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron feast of all the Americas. Every year we hear its story. In 1531 Juan Diego, a simple Nahuati Indian, was hastening into town for medicine or for a priest for his uncle when he was confronted by a beautiful woman who told him to tell the bishop to build a grand church on this site.

The bishop, perhaps to get rid of him, told him to go back and ask for a sign. Juan again met with the woman, and she told him to gather roses into his poncho. The season for roses was long past, but turning, Juan saw an out of season bush blooming gloriously. He gathered its buds in his pancho, then hurried back to show them to the bishop.

When he unrolled his bundle the bishop and those with him saw the colorful image of a lady standing above a new moon, crushing a serpent under her feet. (The painting on the pancho of rough burlap does not seem to be a trick.)

Perhaps you know the story better than I do. I had always wondered what the name Guadalupe meant. (As a Spanish non-speaker I took a very wild guess at it’s meaning “River of Wolves.") Anyway, I just saw a fair explanation. In Juan Diego’s native Nahuati branch of  Aztecs it would mean “The lady who crushes the snake.” That would refer back to Chapter Three of Genesis where we read that God would put enmity between the serpent and the woman, and she would crush the serpent's head.

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