September 26, 2006

Self-Revelation and the Black Angel

“One's destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things”.—Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch, Henry Miller

Yes, yes, I KNOW all about Henry Miller. The quote from his autobiographical book fits today’s blog post.

Gentle Reader, I told you I was taking a 4-day blog break because I was traveling with a couple of friends. If you are a current or former resident of Iowa City, Iowa, you may have already guessed our destination when you saw the Black Angel.

To me, the best travel is when you learn something about yourself in relation to your fellow travelers or your destination. It may be a positive or a negative self-realization.

I made the trip to Iowa City from St Paul, MN, with 2 female friends. One is my New Age friend, she of the “safety rock” from my 5 Things Meme, the other is a self-described “recovering” Catholic--meaning she was raised Catholic but blames the faith for her problems and does not practice anymore.

I suspect that both of them are very anti-Catholic but they make an effort to restrain themselves in my presence. Occasionally, the cracks show.

This is one of the few times since my reversion that I have traveled with non-relatives. I did not hide my faith, nor did I openly evangelize the entire time. I just stove to be a quiet witness. I sought out a local church, St. Wenceslaus, and attended the Anticipatory Mass on Saturday. I sensed my 2 friends were not entirely comfortable with my decision to take time-out to go to Mass but they did not say anything to my face.

Nevertheless, I’m still going to have to go to Confession this week. All was not perfect. I fell into some old habits of sin. I’m still wondering how I made it as long as I did without the relief of the Sacrament of Confession.

My revelation for this trip came about during our visit to the Black Angel. The Black Angel is a well-known monument in Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City, Iowa. It is not a strictly Catholic cemetery, though there were some obviously Catholic monuments. It appears to be a non-sectarian burial ground.

The Black Angel monument is very striking and it is worth a trip.

Both of my friends are New Age people. One is stronger then the other, but they are both “believers”.

There are all kinds of legends and superstitions about the Black Angel. Some of them are: she turns blacker on Halloween, a non-virgin will die if they touch her, she was originally white etc.

I knew right away that all the legends were just bunk. The monument was obviously bronze that oxidized with exposure to the elements. The oxidation turned the bronze black. You can still see spots of bronze here and there. Obviously, she was never white. I got no “vibe”. I did not see any “ghosts”. Whether one is a virgin or not and you touch the Black Angel or not, eventually, you are going to die. I touched her and I’m obviously still here.

However, it astonished me how earnestly my two New Age buddies wanted to believe the legends and superstitions. One insisted it was a white stone that turned black. The other insisted it was “ominous” that she was facing the ground and not skyward. I live near a cemetery and I can tell you that monuments are frequently looking down towards the grave. One insisted it was “strange” that one wing was curled in. I said it was a protective thing. The idea of the monument, to me, is that the Angel is protecting and watching over the deceased. I can only hope and pray that I have an Angel looking over me after I die.

I realized how much of the New Age “religion” is taking ordinary events and straining to assign some magical and/or evil interpretation.

I learned something about myself because, in the past, I probably would’ve bought all of the Black Angel superstitions at face value. After the visit, I would have consulted my Tarot deck for enlightenment.

While my two friends stood around and scared themselves I placidly crossed myself and prayed for the souls of the deceased. I also cleared off a beer can and trash that some dope had left at the base of the Black Angel. If nothing else, can we at least show respect for the dead, rather then disrespecting them by littering their gravesites? And slandering them after death with legends and lies? There are actual people buried under the monument.

My friends left the cemetery agitated and remained so for a time afterwards. I realized they had no where to go. When you are a New Ager what “deity” should you invoke for protection and comfort? There is no clear choice. When I was a New Age practitioner, I spent a lot of time reading what God or Goddess is responsible for what situation and when is it proper to invoke them. New Age is a hodgepodge of deities from various religious practices. Let’s see: Bast, Celestine, Mother Earth, Kuan Kung, Satyanarayana? Which one should you invoke? Or all of them just to be safe? For me, now, the choice was clear: God. Period.

Oh, other then being forced to endure hours of “smooth jazz” in the car, no divas made an appearance!


Blogger Ray from MN said...

When I was "away" from the Church for 23 years, I did a lot of New Age things, but most of them were more along the line of meditation and interior seeking.

But from your description, I can see how someone who might subscribe to "Mother Earth/Gaia" beliefs might have to spend a good deal of their life pondering about natural events and objects and where they might fit into a theological structure that still is in the process of development. And whether they might be a threat or not.

Welcome back, Cathy. Curiously, most people around here go North for vacations to watch the leaves turn or enjoy the lakes abd streams. Iowa?

September 26, 2006 5:43 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Ray: Don't start those MN-IA jokes now! :-) Iowa is a lovely state and Iowa City is a nice town. The leaves were turning down there already-especially the maples.

September 26, 2006 7:22 PM  
Blogger Angela Messenger said...

Cathy - this is a great post!

September 28, 2006 12:32 AM  

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