Monday, January 4, 2010

El Santo Nino de Atocha ( The Holy Child of Atocha )

El Santo Nino de Atocha
The Holy Child of Atocha
created in 2000

Feast Day: 1 January
Patron of those unjustly imprisoned, protector of travelers and rescuer of people in danger

According to legend, a child dressed as a pilgrim of the day, carrying a basket of fruit and a staff with a water gourd attached, visited the Christian prisoners of the Spanish city of Atocha during the Muslim occupation of the Iberian Peninsula (711-1492). Answering the prayers of loved ones, this child, Christ, took provisions to the prisoners who were forbidden to receive acts of mercy except from children. Miraculously after giving food and water to all of the prisoners, his basket and gourd were still full.
The Holy Child of Atocha is traditionally depicted in the pilgrim's robe and cape, brimmed hat with plume and St. James shell, and sandals. In one of his hands he holds a basket of flowers and in the other the pilgrim's staff with gourd. Usually the child is represented seated in an armed chair flanked by vases of flowers and is shown wearing shackles on his feet.
In my adaptation, the Holy Child is here to help Leonard Peltier who is imprisoned in the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. For this job, he wears the traditional garb except exchanging his sandals for Lakota moccasins. The Holy Child carried a painted rawhide container. His staff represents a sundance pole with claws attached to use during the offering. Cloth pendants are tied to the botton of the staff honoring the four directions. The staff also suggests a ghost dance pole.
Behind the prison bars hang prayer ties filled with tobacco, feathers, and a Ghost Dance shirt. (Birds are regarded as bearers of messages between the spirit world and a man. They also act as protectors from injury. Feathers act as wings enabling dancers to escape the dying world below.)
Lying on the prison floor is a bundle with pebbles and a bullet casing attached. Pebbles are a powerful symbol in one of Leonard's dreams. I found the pebbles , bullet casing, feathers and porcupine quill in South Dakota.
Hanging on the wall is an image of the prison on an old postcard. Across it are Leonard's prison number. Below this to the right is an old calling card with the words, "Think of Me".
Lakota words, "Mitakuye Oyasin" translates "All my relations." "He Leads the People," "Gwarth-ee-las," and "Tate Wikawa" ( "Wind Chases the Sun") are all additional names for Leonard. The other writings on the wall were taken from Leonard's book "Prison Writings."

Significant dates:
12 September 1944 Leonard's birth date
29 December 1890 Wounded Knee massacre
26 June 1975 Incident at Jumping Bull compound
6 February 1976 Leonard was arrested
1 June 1977 Sentence date
Year 2041 Scheduled release date

Please read "Prison Writings, My Life is my Sundance" by Leonard Peltier, edited by Harvey Arden.

Keep in mind that I wrote these words in the year 2000. Leonard Peltier is no longer incarcerated in Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth, KS. He is in another facility in another state.

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