Monday, June 14, 2010

Our Lady of the Earth

Our Lady of the Earth
photograph taken by E. G. Schempf
mixed media, beadwork

Our Lady of the Earth
Patroness of world's highest mountain peaks
Feast Day 29 May

The Inka conquered the Andean people in the fourteenth century.

The Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro and his army conquered the Inka Empire in 1532. This conquest brought Spanish priests and missionaries along with their faith and the image of Virgin Mary to Peru.

A group of native born artists in Cuzco rebelled against the Spanish guild system, establishing an independent art guild in 1688. This guild was known as the School of Cuzco. It was the first indigenous organization of artists in the New World. The Cuzco artists blended European traditions with local beliefs and imagery.

In paintings and sculptures, the image of the Virgin Mary took on the attributes of Pachamama, Earth Mother. Her outer garment became a triangular form representing a mountain.

The Andean people realized that veneration of the mountains and earth along with the maintenance of earth's landscape were essential to their existence.

On the other side of the planet the Buddhist Sherpas of Nepal also respect their landscape as being sacred. The mountains are the sacred abode of deities and the protectors.

In 1953 on the 29th of May, Edmund Hillary of New Zealand along with Tenzing Norgay, a local Sherpa, conquered the summit of Mt. Everest. "Well George, we knocked the bastard off!" were Hilary's words to a fellow teammate after descending. The British Queen Elizabeth II later knights Hillary. With the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary's ascent of Mt. Everest, I decided that this interpretation of the Virgin Mary would be rendered in the Cuzco School style. She would quietly remind us to protect mother earth.

As transient stewards of this earth, its landscape and environment, we must constantly protect and venerate.

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