Offerenda, La Labrada Ceremony

The Church during the mass for La Labrada.

The Church during the mass for La Labrada.

The Virgin of the Nativity
The Virgin of the Nativity in the Church dressed in Tradition Huatla women’s costume.

Dearest Friends,

I am filled with deep gratitude for the abundant generosity that you displayed with your contributions to Grandmother Julieta’s compromiso, as they call it in Oaxaca, her promise of responsibility. We raised $1805 dollars to help Grandmother Julieta, she was thrilled; THANK YOU, THANK YOU! A big shout out to The Center for Sacred Studies latest project, The Fountain www.thefountaincss.org for the very generous contribution of $400.00. And for those of you who missed the opportunity of the offering, there will be another, I found out that this is a Three Year Commitment on Julieta’s part!

I went to visit Grandmother Julieta on February 7 for the delivery of Our Ofrenda. After visiting for a bit, Grandmother Julieta led me downstairs into her temple where we made a little ceremony in front of the large altar. She held the money up and dedicated the Ofrenda to God and the Saints for the work, and she said prayers thanking various Saints. I then slowly spoke every one’s name on our List, more prayers were said and “We” were all blessed; she had me place the List with our names on her altar.

Later that evening it was very sweet to witness her daughter in law shortening the new dress especially made in purple and white for the Festivities for the Senor de las Tres Caidas. Jasmine her youngest daughter colored the roots of her hair black and her son David, brought out various pairs of her shoes to choose which pair to wear so he could polish them up.

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The procession moving past the Market place and through the streets.

On February 8, the La Labrada part of this celebration began early with a 7:00 AM mass*; and continued with a procession out of the church, led by Grandmother Julieta carrying a smoking sahumerio, copal incense burner, the Mayordomo carrying the cross wrapped in a white cloth and his wife, also carrying a incense burner smoking with copal**. Fireworks were set off and a large procession of men and women followed, the women carrying lit candles and flowers, and the band played while going through the village to the Mayordomo’s home followed by the firework “pros”.

The Welcoming banner for La Labrada de Cera.
The Welcoming banner for La Labrada de Cera.
The Altar at La Labrada de Cera Ceremony at the Mayodomo's home
The Altar at La Labrada de Cera Ceremony at the Mayodomo’s home

We entered the home through a beautiful arch made with cane and calla lilies where a magnificent altar* was the centerpiece and upon which the Mayordomo placed the cross he had been carrying through the streets of Huatla; prayers were said to welcome the beloved Saint and to bless the ceremony of La Labrada, the making of the special pure bees wax candles. Next the Mayordomo, his wife and Grandmother Julieta led a procession filled with copal smoke to clear the energy throughout the home and included the dining area set up outside in the street; upstairs and downstairs into the food preparation area, the indoor dining area and the workplace where the candles were being made with the hot beeswax. The melted wax was poured on them one by one while hanging from a large round hoop*.

The altar was a place of great activity, the soft sounds from profound heartfelt prayers* (most of them spoken out loud) and was a place to “gathering energy” from the Saints represented, there was sometimes kissing and touching of the Saints and the sacred images such that were part of the procession. In addition all of these activities were combined together for “limpias”, or energetic clearings and healings using the smoke from the copal incense, as well as bringing in energy emanating from the altar using the fresh cut laurel (bay) leaves to touch the sacred images and then to brush oneself off with the laurel leaves from head to toe. If one did not feel confident to perform this “limpia” for oneself there was always a very willing woman in the Hermanda group, (Grandmother Julieta’s group) to help out. They tirelessly gave the limpias all day and into the evening. Additionally, all day long, men came carrying completed candles where they were hung from nails all along the walls of the main room* with the altar; there were two sizes of candles, ½ kilo and ¼ kilo both of pure beeswax. It was a very busy day; the ceremony commitments ended around dusk for Grandmother Julieta and we walked back to her home.

The next day February 8, activities for La Labrada started a little later for the Hermanda’s group, beginning with a 10:00 A.M. mass at the church. I found it very interesting that the priest was Mazatec and gave his sermon first in Spanish, and then in the Mazatec language. Mazatec is the first language for just about all of the areas older inhabitants. It is unusual in Oaxaca’s village churches for the priest to speak the native language.

Grandmother Julieta clearing the energy with copal smoke around the candle making, La Labrada
Grandmother Julieta clearing the energy with copal smoke around the candle making, La Labrada
Pouring hot bees wax onto the candles
Pouring hot bees wax onto the candles

We walked from the church back to the Mayordomo’s home where the La Labrada ceremony was still going on; food preparation, feasting and candle making was still in progress. It was as if they waiting for Grandmother Julieta to arrive and “open the altar” again, she lit a “special” candle with her large candle and got the copal incense burning. All of the 22-mayodomo couples gathered around for prayers. Then couple by couple, they came up for their limpia’s with the copal, prayers and fresh laurel leaves were used to brush off each woman and man head to toe; after Grandmother Julieta had performed this ceremony with several couples she called in some of her other Hermanda’s to take over this function. As the day before, completed candles were hung, and the walls of the room were beginning to be covered with the candles. People came by to pay their respect to the visiting Saint, El Senor de los Tres Caidas, receive a Limpia, and enjoy the feast food and company of other villagers.

Grandmother Julieta and Marcia about to enjoy the feast at La Labrada ceremony.
Grandmother Julieta and Marcia about to enjoy the feast at La Labrada ceremony.
Praying in front of the Altar.
Praying in front of the Altar.

 

Grandmother Julieta in her new Ceremonial dress with bundles of Laurel Leaves.
Grandmother Julieta in her new Ceremonial dress with bundles of Laurel Leaves.

In conclusion I am very impressed with the devotion to the community in Huatla de Jimenez as shown by the dedication to the Saints and the myriad of obligations that are entailed in caring for them. The traditions of reciprocity, and the obligations of the sacrifices of work, time and money by so many people working together and cooperating are impressive to say the least. The feeling of spiritual commitment, a nurturing of the body with delicious food, a dedication to nurture the energetic body with the copal, prayers and Limpias and the making of the pure bees wax candles that represent the entry into the light (as I heard the Mayordomo say in his opening prayer) are all part of indigenous Mazatec Culture. The celebration will continue with the actual Feast Days of The Senor De Los Tres Caidas on February 23 and 24 at the home of Grandmother Julieta Casimiro. Thank you once again for your contribution and becoming part of the great celebration of community.

  • Marcia Lucas

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