Is A 15 Year Old Boy Stronger Than A Woman Archetypal Rites of Passage in Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima

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Archetypal Rites of Passage in Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima

U Bless me, Ultima Rudolfo Anaya tells a classic coming-of-age story by interweaving the symbolism of the ancient world, especially nature archetypes, with the ritual traditions of the Catholic Church in a New Mexico village near the end of World War II. These symbols connect with each other with such historical power that together they give depth to a story that becomes not only Antonio Mares’s story of growing up in the Southwest in 1944, but a story that reaches back to the beginning of time and becomes a universal archetypal motif for humanity.

Sun and Moon

Although all the characters contribute to the cohesiveness of the novel, the story belongs to Antonio, who is seven years old when the story begins, and to Ultima, the curandera who was present at Antonio’s birth and has now come to live with his family. in her remaining years. While Antonio, or Tony, has two older sisters at home, he also has three brothers who served their country overseas at war and are returning home. Tony’s father is Marez, a man whose tradition clings to the land, the llana, a large grassy plain, almost treeless, where a man can ride a horse and enjoy the companionship of his wandering friends, seeking freedom in this open country. His wife is Luna, a family of farmers who love the rich soil by the river, the roots and the tradition of living by the cycles of the moon. The sun and the moon have come together, but is it a holy marriage of heaven and earth?

The influence of the feminine principle

Tony’s father wants him to follow the path of Marez, but his mother prays every day that Tony will become a farmer-priest and continue the path set by the Luna family. His mother, María Luna, embodies the feminine principle associated with her name, holding onto the power of cyclical time, and her source of strength comes from the lunar Queen of Heaven, the Virgin de Guadalupe, before whose statue she kneels every day. The Mother of God is the Goddess of the Moon, the weaver and spinner of the threads of fate, and Mary prays to her for the fate of her son in the Catholic Church. It is no coincidence that St. Anthony is the patron saint of the poor, because Maria Luna prays that the fate of her son Toni be worthy of a saint, a priest worthy of all praise. The matriarchal influence surrounding Tony becomes even stronger when Ultima arrives.

Rethinking the matriarchal world

Antonio develops a bond with Ultima the moment she walks into their house, addressing her by her first name rather than respectfully Grande, and his mother scolds him for this violation. But Ultima recognizes this connection between them and takes Tony with her every day to gather plants and herbs to use in her treatments. He learns from her as she gently addresses the plants she picks up, explaining why she has to pull their roots out of the ground. She teaches him that all nature has a spiritual life, a presence. As Tony thrives in this matriarchal world of his mother, Virgin de Guadalupe, and Ultima, he begins to question his mother’s spiritual beliefs as well as Ultima’s, torn between which is the one true belief, and then discovers the spiritual presence of a golden carp from his friend Samuel .

Golden carp

It is bad luck to catch large carp that are washed downstream by the summer floods. Like the great fish that fight upstream to regain their abode and not be trapped, Tony fights for his own evolution of spirit. Samuel tells Tony a story about an ancient god who loved the people of earth so much that he turned them into carp instead of killing them for their sins. As the story unfolds to parallel his own Catholicism, he learns that a god who loved people turned himself into a fish, a golden carp, so he could care for his people. Tony is confused about who is right – God, Virgo or the golden carp.

Ultima, Curandera

As Tony witnesses Ultima healing his family with her magical cures, he wonders if she too is stronger than the church and her saints. When Maria’s brother Lucas suddenly becomes very ill, fearing that one of Tenoria Trementine’s daughters has cursed him for stumbling upon her sorcery, the family asks Ultima to use her power as a curandera to heal him. Medicine and the Catholic Church were not successful. They accept Ultima’s condition: When one tampers with fate, a chain of events is set in motion over which they have no control. They must be ready to accept this reality. They do so and the grandfather pays Ultima $40 in silver-silver, once again typifying the lunar feminine principle, to heal his son Lucas.

Good is stronger than evil

Ultima’s requests for supplies and quiet are met, but she also needs Tony’s help because, she says, his name is Juan-John as in St. John and John the Baptist – whose name means mercy from God. Tony watches her rituals, bathing her dying uncle, burning incense, sipping herbal potions, and waiting long hours. He knows he is in the midst of evil, but he is not afraid. Ultima calms her fears: “Good is always stronger than evil. The smallest bit of good can stand against all the forces of evil in the world and will emerge victorious.” Tony will reinforce the good she can do because God gives it to him, a concept that is consistent with his Catholicism.

Before Ultima forces the medicine down Lucas’s throat, she molds three dolls from her magical oils and fresh black clay. She puts them on and lets Lucas breathe on them, then dips three needles in oil and sticks them into the dolls. Tony doesn’t fully understand what Ultima has done until later when two of Trementa’s daughters die. He is bewildered by her power, which seems to be one with God’s, yet greater.

Narcissus, Dionysian Life and Death

Tony’s friend Samuel tells Cic about the golden carp. When Samuel and his father go to herd the sheep, Cico takes Tony to see the arrival of the golden carp, but on the way they stop at the house of Narcissus, a Dionysian figure who gets drunk in the spring and plants at night in the moonlight. When he’s away and two boys enter his hidden garden, Tony understands what Cico means when he says, “The garden is like Narcissus – he’s drunk.” Tony is amazed at the fertility of this moonlit garden, but in fear or perhaps superstition he will not receive the boon.

Narciso tries to warn Ultima of Tenorio’s intention to kill her in retaliation for the supposed curse she placed on his dying second daughter. Tony, returning home in the snow from rehearsal for the school Christmas pageant, secretly follows him. When Tony’s brother Andrew can’t tear himself away from Rosa’s house of disrepute to help, the aging Narciso must go on his own, and Tony continues to follow. Tenorio shoots Narcissus, who lies dying under a juniper tree. Although Tony is confused about his role in the Catholic Church, he crosses himself over Narcissa and accepts his confession, acting like the priest his family expects him to become. Succumbing to pneumonia, Tony dreams of the omnipresence of evil in his village as everything in it dies a violent death and is burned, while a golden carp devours everything and shines like a new sun.

The Void: Where is God?

Now it’s time for Tony to study his catechism with the other boys at church in preparation for his first communion, but he still wonders if the golden carp is more powerful than the God of his Catholic church. He wonders whether the Virgin or the golden carp rules in the absence of God. On Easter Sunday, as Tony picks up a wafer for the first time, he prays for answers to his question: why is there evil, death and torture? He feels only emptiness. He thinks, “The God I so eagerly sought was not there,” and later confides in his teacher that growing up is not easy. He tells her, “Ultima says that a man’s destiny must unfold like a flower.”

Tony again witnesses Ultima’s healing powers as she performs rituals to remove the curse from Tony’s father’s friend Tellez. That night, Tony had not yet received any communication from God. He asks what exactly is God’s power? Cico tells him that he has to choose between the god of the church and the golden carp. As they watch the majesty of the god-like carp swimming in the stream, they decide that their friend Florence, who could not receive communion because he would not confess his non-existent sins, has earned the right to witness the golden carp for himself. However, when they go to find him, they discover that he drowned in a swimming accident under the Blue Lake.

Tony dreams again, and in that dream everything he believes in dies – even Ultima and the golden carp. Distraught, he was sent to his uncles in Los Puerto to learn about farming. Before she leaves, Ultima says, “Life is filled with sorrow when a boy grows up to be a man.” Tony asks his father if a new religion can be created. Tony’s father Gabriel Marez explains to his son that understanding does not come from God. It comes from experiencing life and it takes a lifetime to gain this understanding. He understands Tony’s confusion about religion and healing, in particular, and tells him that Ultima has no fear because “she has sympathy for people, so complete that she can touch their souls and heal them.” Tony is stronger that summer than anything that happened to him.

Ultima and the Owl: Antony’s Blessing

But Tenori’s second daughter dies and in his madness he first tries to kill Toni, who escapes, then goes to Guadalupe to find and kill Ultima. Instead Tenorio shoots the owl and, as he points the gun at Tony, Pedro, who is Tony’s uncle, kills him with his gun. Ultima, whose life is connected with the life of the owl, dies. She whispers to Tony that like an owl, she “winged her way to a new place, a new time.” Before he dies, he asks for her blessing. “Her hand touched my forehead and her last words were: ‘I bless you in the name of all that is good and strong and beautiful, Antonio. Love life, and if despair enters your heart, seek me in the evening when the wind is gentle and the owls sing in hills. I will be with you…”

Tony buries the owl under a juniper tree in the moonlight, the symbol of his mother’s family. He covers the owl with the land of llano, the home and symbol of his father. Regardless of whether Tony has the maturity to understand the totality of the blessings and evils that accompany his rites of passage, he has been deeply moved by the feminine archetypes of the moon, the three fates, the river and the fish, the owl and the spruce, and the cyclical changes around him so that he will to recall with greater understanding and wisdom Ultima’s advice as he grows into man: “Take life’s experiences and build strength from them, not weakness.”

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