The ego of a man blinds him to the all encompassing power of the woman. He thinks he’s powerful, but never stops to wonder what sustains and generates the power. Like a fist who thinks it’s strong, when in truth all its force comes from the mind and body that directs it.
There emerged out of the rain drains of Zacamil and San Antonio the muchachos, the guerrilla fighters fighting against a right wing military dictatorship, in a last thrust attempting to secure a victory for the people. Tania emerged with them, a communications radio on her back and a rifle in her arms.
Unlikely soldier, she lived with love and laughter in her heart, peaceful and gentle. Yet her gentle, loving soul was infused with an indomitable sense of justice, of heroic ferocity that compelled her to “do something” and to “be active” in the cause of historical change. She died shortly after like many other. A bullet in her head and one in her leg, along with scrapes and abrasions on her legs, suggested a capture, the dragging across the asphalt, and the execution on her knees. It is useless to wonder what her last thoughts were, how she died, and what she did in the last hours of her life; but everyone who knew her believes that she died as she lived, valiantly and heroically. The only thing
I know is what happened three months before she died, the last time I saw her.
It was the first time I could come back to El Salvador after my exile. For the first time since 1985 I was able to travel, no longer constrained by my asylum. A big empty gulf in my heart was being filled up with the green, the heat, the songs of birds, and the hugs of my loving friends and family. But when I went looking for Tania she wasn’t there. She was gone, underground. A university activist, her partner had been captured and disappeared. He didn’t show up to his rendezvous with Tania. She knew her days were counted, that she was now marked. One of those synchronicities that the hand of God writes when developing our destinies put Rodney, Tania’s brother and another of my close friends, back from Germany on his first visit back to El Salvador. He brought me to Tania, to the security house where she hid before going for training in the jungle. We talked a talk worth decades in three hours. We both seemed to know this was our last visit, that she would not survive. There was a moment, silent and pregnant with dreaded knowing, when we looked into the truth of that meeting. I proposed that we promised to meet again in a year, grasping for hope that a promise would turn the tide. This is when this picture was taken, just at that moment, and the Angel of Death to her left blessed her impending passage.
Three months later I got the news. Her memory flooded my waking moments. I remember the first time I saw her, we were both 13. We had both just arrived at Ciudad Satelite, a new urban development for middle class families. She was the eldest of her family, always guiding and defending those weaker than her. Competitive, she challenged me to a race and we arrived together. I ran as fast as I could, and so did she. We remained friends since then. We then sat down to talk about everything and nothing, and she told me then of a fantasy where she is in an accident, unable to move her legs, and with this challenge she would apply the force of her will power and attempt to walk; mind over matter, she felt the force of her Will and imagined a way to move, to go, to do against the heavy forces of dead matter. I couldn’t help to think of this daydream of hers, to conquer matter, to overcome the weight of nature, and to awaken her will. Now, she is dead, and one year later—nine months after she was killed—I saw her in my dream. We walked and we talked. She told me she was still trying to come through, to be, to do, to fulfill. I told her what had happened, and guided her into the clear light of the Sun Absolute, her true nature.
Since then, her name has inspired many. Aside from everyone she touched with her compassion, courage and truth, Tania’s life has inspired non-profit organisms, legislative and advocacy efforts for women, and even the minister of education of El Salvador declared her debt of gratitude to her.
Tania, I see your will and force, eternal friend, trying from the center of your will to move and do even through the minor inconvenience of death. I can say that you are lodged not only in my memory, but also in the very foundation of what I love and value, of that which is the essence of my actions. Your valor impregnated my blood as much as your laughter has marked all my joys.
The Moon illuminates for us the passage through the dreamlands, unveiling the ascension from the dark realm of subconscious shadows to the silver-light vistas of the supra-conscious mind.
From deep within the dormant caverns hidden within the flesh emerge the light-seeking voyager, the soul-seed whose divine origin is buried and forgotten in our passage through organic existence.
The Queen of Heaven is the High Priestess who guards the sacred chalice of wisdom and shows us, through the passages of the moonlight over the face of the dreamlands, the way to the solar consciousness. As the moon transforms her face from the New to the Full, so does the soul of the voyager transforms from the dark to the light, from the unconscious dreams of the night to the silver light waters of heaven–which is the radiant consciousness resulting from the marriage of the Sun with the Moon.
From before the birth of civilizations, dreaming women have been merging with the vast terrain of the Dreaming, and channeling through that contact the feminine powers of the universe.
Through the advanced techniques of the Dream Circle, we have been guided to build a dream altar to receive and hold the light of the conscious dreaming, the astral voice of the Queen of Heaven as she awakens the seed of consciousness within us.
This dream altar is a private, portable dream circle, a sacred devotional practice of the Other Self as you walk this glorious path of awakening.
This altar invokes and holds the mystical powers of the Queen of Heaven and of the subconscious. It is an open channel evident and palpable to all who are present. This altar can travel with us, and we can use it in our personal ritual work, in our devotional practices, in our divination, and as a portal for astral voyages and past life retrieval.
More than anything, this altar connects us to the hidden treasures and eternal power of the mystic ocean that permeates the universe and extends infinitely beyond the limits of creation. It is a direct access to wisdom and empowerment for everyone who uses it.
To all the women who are posting “me too”:
I stand with you.
I wanted to say, “me too.”
But it is not the same.
Yes, I too have been a target.
As a child, I could have said “me too.”
Instead, I wanted to be strong.
Pretend it never happened.
Explain it didn’t affect me.
Insist I was strong.
Still, I won’t say “me too.”
As a child I could have.
But I never had to live with it.
My life was not inundated with it,
day after day.
The emotional overwhelm of a couple of years
has been the every breath of so many
of my sisters, my mothers, my friends, my daughters, my lovers.
I felt I’d drown once.
As impotent as I felt then,
it can’t compare.
You battle each moment,
not only to overcome.
I can’t say, “me too.”
I can say, “I stand with you.”
I will fight at your side,
against this toxin that pretends
this is normal and expected.
With you, I say no more
to this false masculinity,
out there in the world
and in here, in this old mind.
I stand with you.
I will fight at your side.
The night before, I had come back from the fair with a bright blue ballon. The helium inside, I was told, was lighter than air and that made the balloon always want to elevate itself. I wondered how far it would go, if I wasn’t holding it down. I was thinking of finding out the next day, to let it go to heaven and see if it would find a resting place, or if it would keep going forever until it reached the stars.
Early in the morning, the routine noises of the house started as planned. First, my aunt Juanita got up to prepare breakfast. I heard all the familiar noises that come from her room and the kitchen, as it happens every morning. Normally, I woke up first, but I’d stay in bed looking at the ceiling and the sun beams that made dust particles dance to the noises outside. Usually, when my aunt got up to prepare breakfast, my little brother, Carlitos, would wake up and follow her into the kitchen. She would sit him on the counter from where, groggily sucking his thumb and twirling his hair with his other hand, he would watch her prepare the food in our old gas oven. That day, however, he stayed in bed for some reason. Later, he would tell me that someone told him to stay in bed sleeping longer. He thought it had been me, or perhaps some woman; the identity of the voice wasn’t clear, but he followed the advice and stayed in bed with my other brothers, my mom, and me.
I was looking at my ballon, now a little deflated. It was no longer resting on the ceiling. It was hanging low, now. What had happened to the gas inside? Why didn’t it make the balloon go up to the sky anymore? What made it happy to just float in the middle of the room? No, it didn’t seem happy. It seemed to just had given up; a blue balloon unable to go up to meet the greater blue sphere of the sky. It was not happy, it was resigned. Maybe I should have done it yesterday, let it go when I got the idea. But I liked feeling the pull from it. It was the first helium balloon I had ever seen in person. Before this, I had only seen them in cartoons. Now, I had one in my hand, in real life. It was really blue and it really floated. I had now a piece of fantasy in my hands, a fantasy I had assumed was only possible in television. This small sphere of blue in my hands had a gentle and steady pull to the sky. It wanted to fly up, just like I wanted to glide up to the heart of the sky. To be precise, it was not the flying that my balloon and I wanted. It was the being home, where the heart of me and the heart of sky are one and the same. Secretly, I wanted to see this little piece of heaven make it there. But I also wanted to feel that magical, gentle pull on my hand a while longer. It made me feel like I was floating a little. Its aspiration met mine, and if a television fantasy was now in my hands, perhaps the secret fantasy of my heart could also become real with this ballon.
This morning, however, it was just a blue ballon floating midway between the floor and the ceiling, and my thoughts contemplating the nature of hellium and gases. My mom woke up, asking me if I smelled gas. I couldn’t smell it, but I told her that perhaps it was the gas that had escaped from the balloon. I was seeing in my mind’s eye the subtle currents of gas fostering through tiny, tiny pores in the ballon. If the gas was lighter than air, then it was perhaps thinner and could pass through microscopic holes the air could not fit through.
Before I could speak this thought to my mother, a loud explosion shook the brick walls of the house. My mother ran out, I followed her. I saw Carlitos sitting up as I ran past him after my mom. Outside the master bedroom, a living room and a family room ended in a door to the right. This door led to the kitchen, which was a small enclosed room to the left, the bathroom in front of the door, and the patio and servant’s room to the right. This door to the back of the house was open now. Pedrito, an older second cousin staying with us was coming out to investigate the explosion. My mother was running towards the back door, screaming “Juanita! Juanita!” And from the frame of the door that led to the back of the house where the kitchen was was emerging a huge ball of fire, with the figure of a woman inside, shrieking and holding her arms out in a torturous plead for help and the end of unimaginable suffering.
My mother was aiming to embrace her, to smother the fire with her own body. Pedrito was moving to intercept my mother, to keep her from getting enflamed too. In a frozen moment of time, all three were heading towards each other. My aunt tripped, saving the other two from her fate when the flames started to subside after she fell and rolled.
Someone had left the kitchen’s gas tank open, and the brick walls of the tiny kitchen room had been holding the gas inside, waiting for a match to strike. I didn’t know then that these were different gases, I only thought that the gas was taking my balloon to the sky and my aunt to a fiery death.
She didn’t die, however. My aunt was a single mom with two daughters. Ever since she was a little girl, her face had some kind of damage that made her mouth be on one side, and not centered like for most people. As a young woman, she saw in this a deformity that would forever impede her finding a partner. She told me once, long after this fire, that she went once to see a brujo, to ask for magic to release her of this deformity. Doctors couldn’t do anything at the time, and the brujo from Usulutan said he had the power to do that, but if he did, my aunt would never be happy. He said that it was better to stay with her face as it was. My aunt reluctantly agreed.
This day, however, and many more to follow were far from any happiness she hoped for her life. The recovery was more painful than anything I could imagine. She had burnt 85% of her skin. When I visited her, she would tell me of the treatment. They had to hang her body on straps, and several times a day a nurse would come in to scrub her body from the burnt and dead skin, until it was all raw flesh. Then, an antiseptic cream would be applied that brought the burning sensation all over, only slower and steadier this time. She would scream each time, of course, because there was nothing else she could do.
The images of that morning are unforgettable, of course. And the lessons of gasses that take blue spheres to heaven or small sparks to fiery explosions are still being assimilated. But the most decisive and everlasting impression was the whisper in my brother’s ear of an intelligence that guides our destiny, and the ferreous tenacity of spirit of my aunt, who showed the mettle of one who endures all and everything. To aspire to the heart of heaven is a good thing, but to make of that aspiration one that survives everything and continues to seek to the heights is indispensable. It is the proper act of a spirit that will never deflate to lie resigned in mediocrity, but will continue to seek––with arms extended through the fiery storm––the proper place of the soul in the silent center of the heart.
My tia Juanita endured. Survived everything. She is now in her 80’s, beautiful and alert, full of curiosity, laughter and kindness. Unknown to most people that know her, she is part of a group of healers in her church dedicated to this service, and her gift of healing is powerful, as is the light that radiates from her beautiful and happy face.
It is said somewhere that he mother spider, when the hunting has not gone well even after building the perfect tapestry of a thick, sturdy, heavy and sticky cobweb, she still manages to feed her children. They wait, somewhere unseen and protected. She walks towards the center. She lays down. She wraps herself up with her own string. Once she is completely covered, the way she would bind a fly, she taps on her web. She taps a signal designed to tell the children that there is game. The tinny little children come running. They need to feed this night or they won’t survive. They come to the mother and they begin to devour her, not knowing it is their mother. Thinking it is just an insect, just another nurturing bundle, they open her up. They go inside her belly and eat her from the inside out, devouring her completely.
Her sacrifice allows the children to grow into adulthood, to live one more night so they can go and hunt. So they can go and have other little children who would devour their mother.
Mama spider. Mama spider.
Weaving and forming. Teaching and feeding.
Out of your bowels we ate.
Out of your spirit we grew;
to hunt one more day,
So was the spirit of my mother, even when I did not see her.
From the depth of her corpse, I grew and came out.
The ladies of fate always seemed to be weaving a strange web around my mother: strange happenings, magical, astonishing and weird. A teacher in a school for poor children, she took it upon herself to help a child who reminded her of my younger brother. She didn’t know why she felt compelled to take him under her wing, to buy him a pair of shoes, to bring groceries to his mother. It was pure compassion, or motherly love springing from unknown currents in her soul. She wanted to take care of him and protect him. She brought this little boy to play with us. We took an instant liking to him. I took him outside to play soccer, to meet my friends, to talk, to be one of us. With his confused eyes full of wonderment and restrained joy, this boy joined us for a moment in our lives. A few months later he disappeared from our lives. He became a ghost, a shadow, a memory––like so many people in El Salvador, never knowing why, where, or when they went.
Years later, my father was in exile. Death squads came after him, and he managed to escape. One day, my mother was coming out of the school for rich kids where she was also teaching (she always worked at a rich school for the money, and at a poor school for the government pension). She was about to get into her car, when two cars with tinted windows blocked her in front and behind, and men with dark glasses came to her with even darker motives. They told her, “Ma’am, you’re coming with us.”
Those simple words filled her spine with a chill. She knew what was coming next. She knew. She could almost experience the ride in the back of their car. She could almost feel the boots on her face. She could predict the raping and the flame. She knew the cutting of the nipples. She knew the breaking of the teeth. She knew of the brutal interrogation of “Where is he?,” “What else do you know?,” and “Where are the others?” She knew the longing for death. She knew it was all coming to an end. She knew what followed. That time line was flowing right in front of her, and she was just about to be carried away in its current.
Her body paralyzed, she couldn’t move. It was just the coldness of certain death for her. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t react.
She only could say, “Me?”
“Yes ma’am, you’re coming with us now.”
Once again she repeated, “Me?” and the “Come with us” was the only answer, with a hand grabbing her by one arm, leading her to a sequence of events that were long ago written, and nothing at this moment––nothing, no one––could come to her rescue.
She was in that space where we found ourselves so many times in that jungle, when reality had become so hard, so heavy, that no escape is possible. No light, no hope, no brilliance seemed to exist, just the pulling into heavy hardness. This was the harshness of reality. And here she was, knowing that all she could do now was to follow this thread.
At this moment, at this exact moment, the driver of the car in front comes out. Dark glasses. From some remote whisper of awareness, she felt she recognized him. One day, a year or two before this, she went to the house of the little boy she had taken under her nurturing love–because he looked like my brother perhaps, or compelled by unknown oceanic depths. She had come to see the mother of the little boy that day, a year or two ago. She brought the child’s mother some food, shoes, shirts, love and compassion. When she was leaving, the father was approaching the house. The father of the illegitimate boy, in a suit and dark glasses said to her “Ma’am, I know what you’ve been doing for my son and I want to thank you for everything. For the love you’ve given him.” It was a brief encounter. She left. He went. And here he was now, again, same dark glasses and suit, driving a car for men of money and death, looking at the woman that was about to die under torture. There he was, telling the other men: “That’s not her. We’ve got the wrong one. Lets go.”
They left, and the specter of death vanished, and the lightness of being filled the flesh of my mother; tears coming out, of pain and joy; but more than anything, tears for having recognized the silver and red threads of the tapestry being woven by fortune.
And, as she tells the tale, the magic of the Kindly Ladies becomes entrenched in our consciousness, and our words. And so the mother spider weaves a thread. A chance meeting one day, a voice heard another day… moving… changing… Creating a knot here, a thread there. And so it went, this tapestry of light. My mother, always silent; always absent; always inside her cocoon of happenings; always surrounding us as we devoured her. Always giving. Always threading. Whispering. Silent. But providing the legs and the thread and the moving.
She was youthful and strong, as her name implies. Her big smile and thick glasses seemed to radiate her mirth all over the lecture hall in our philosophy class. Bright and curious was her intellect, and from the first day of our college days we became part of a small but tight group of friends. Those were the times of fascination with Marx, Jung, Benedetti, and Ramakrishna; the times of walking about in sandals and native cotton shirts; the times of basketball hoops on Saturday morning; the times of beer and a slice of pizza; the times of listening to Silvio Rodriguez when listening to Silvio would get you killed. Those were the times of hope.
We had an intrinsic and thus unspoken trust in our integrity; and surrounded by war and torture, we acted as if we believed the times were changing. We saw the world and history as if we were sure any day now it was going to reflect what we felt in our bones ought to be.
Perhaps drunk with that idealism, she one day pulled Guillermo and me to the side. She did one thing you should never, ever do. She told us of her role in the rebellion. Yes, we were all on the same side, in mind and spirit. But to actually tell someone you were an active agent, that you were connected and knew people and took action, was a death wish. It was to rely too much on the loyalty of those who had not taken an oath. It was to rely on their presence of mind, their integrity, and their ability to keep silence. It was to risk your life to loose lips, fear, torture, and changes of heart.
“I’m putting my life in your hands by telling you this,” she told us. So I did the one thing you should never, ever do if it is not absolutely necessary. I told her what I could never tell anyone, not even friends, family, teachers, or lovers. I told her of my involvement, so that my life would also be in her hands.
It never crossed my mind that she would betray me, or I her. Neither ever thought Guillermo would ever do anything to put anyone else at risk either.
We never did. What I didn’t suspect was the depth of her nobility.
After, came the time of deep peril, and the years of exile. A gulf of time and experiences later, after not seeing any of them for years, I was sitting with Guillermo with pizza and beer between us. He told me then of the time, after I had seemed to dissolve into the obscure exile outside, when he was walking the streets of San Salvador with her and another poet of the old gang. I could only imagine the laughter, the heartfelt joviality in every intellectual reference, the reminiscence and satire about all things current. I imagined in his account more of what I had missed for so long, until the army barricade stopped all. Then came the usual yet dreadful “show me your papers” and “what are you doing here?” and “where do you live?” Maybe they expected to be let go with just remnants of the brutal chill in their hearts, or perhaps they expected to be allowed to leave without a watch or a wallet.
But this time the servants of the oppressors wanted more. My male friends were made to sit on the sidewalk, machine guns pointing at them by men with cold in their eyes. She was taken behind the bushes, and the soldiers took turns raping her. His face was full of tears as he recalled the moment, and his impotence was a cold blade still lodged in his heart. They were both sitting, unable to do anything but cry as they heard one hijueputa after another violate our gentle friend, who had lived so happily for the good of others.
When they were done, they decided not to kill her, or any of them. They left them there, on the sidewalk, with their laughter and curious intellect forgotten. She approached them from the back. She saw them in tears of frustration, rage, and impotence. She knelt beside them and held them both, next to her bosom, and consoled them.
“She consoled us!”
And seeing that scene in my minds eye I became awestruck by the force of her, whose love and force are so whole and all pervading that even across time and space continues to heal this heart of mine of all the rage, impotence, and despair.
I still cry. I still rage. Over this and many other things, I cry and rage. But I no longer despair because I always now feel the eternal embrace of Her, who nameless and formless has all names and all forms, and who one day took the form of my brave friend, whose name I swore once not to reveal, to console the hearts of the impotent men who were forced to watch the horror of man over the beauty of the Beloved.