Odyssey of the 8th Fire is the true tale
of an epic pilgrimage for the Earth
across North America

by people of all colors and faiths.

  - A creative non-fiction book in online evolution - ◊
© - 2007 by Steven McFadden

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Odyssey of the 8th Fire,
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"The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it."

- Rebecca Solnit

Day 147  - Thursday, November 16, 1995 – About half the Sunbow pilgrims got out on the road to walk west along old Route 66, and the other half moved base camp to Santa Rosa, New Mexico—a place with a complex spiritual heritage, like so many of the places our walk has encountered.

Paleo-Indian tribes hunted wooly mammoth and bison in this area at least 10,000 years ago and later settled the region. Pueblo peoples from further west also hunted here. In more recent times, the Plains Indians (Comanche, Apache, Ute, and others) were forced into the region because of the expanding range of European invaders. In the late 1800s, "Billy the Kid" often visited Santa Rosa and may well have cooled off in the Blue Hole before riding into town.

The city where the Sunbow walkers have come to camp began as a substantial Spanish rancho in 1865, and was then called Aqua Negro Chiquita (Little Black Water). Around 1890, the place took on its current name, Santa Rosa, to honor a chapel built by early settler, Don Celso Baco.

Some accounts say Baco named the chapel for his mother, Rosa, and some say he named it after Saint Rose of Lima (Peru), who lived a devoted spiritual life of severe, sustained, self-willed penance to atone for what she regarded as her sins, and the sins of the world.

She was noted for wearing at all times a metal-spiked crown set upon her head and concealed by roses; around her waist she wore a heavily weighted iron chain. For many years she slept on a bed constructed of broken glass, stone, potsherds, and thorns, to remind her constantly of the suffering of Christ for the sake of the whole world, no exceptions.


Virgin de Guadalupe

A few accounts suggest that Baco’s Santa Rosa chapel was named for Our Lady of Guadalupe, who was undoubtedly a central figure for the Catholic Spanish colonizers who claimed possession of this area. Guadalupe certainly remains an important figure in New Mexico, across the U.S. southwest, and in Mexico, where she is reputed to have made dramatic apparitions in the years after the Conquistadors came charging onto the scene.

According to Catholic tradition, the Virgin de Guadalupe appeared four times to an Indian named Juan Diego on a small hill called Tepeyec in the district now known as the Tlaxcala in Mexico City. She is said to have miraculously caused roses to bloom in winter, and to have impressed her image on Diego’s tilma (cloak), an image now reproduced in thousands of artistic iterations.

For Catholics in many of the Spanish-speaking nations of the Americas, this is the holiest ground in the hemisphere. But the Tepeyec hill was regarded as holy long before the invasion of the Conquistadors.

For hundreds of years native peoples recognized Tepeyec a place consecrated to Tonantzin, the earth and fertility goddess, whom they referred to as Our Lady Mother. Atop Tepeyec, the Mexica peoples had built a pyramid to Tonantzin.

When Hernan Cortez and his invading army reached Tenochtitlan, the capital now known as Mexico City, Emperor Moctezuma II received them at Tonantzin's temple on the crest of Tepeyec. He was soon betrayed and slain. Eventually, the invading troops tore down the statue of the native goddess of motherhood, and replaced it with a statue of their goddess, the Virgin Mary. A few years later, Juan Diego is said to have had his miraculous visitations, and Virgin Mary at that time to cause the roses to bloom. The new goddess proved to be a convenient and effective vehicle for converting the natives to the new religious system

Virgin Mary is purported to have told Juan Diego she wanted a temple built to her on the site. In response, the Basilica de Guadalupe was built on the exact spot where the pyramid of Tonantzin once stood. To this ancient sacred site honoring the feminine aspect of divinity, pilgrims still come by the thousands


The Blue Hole - Sacred site of deep, clear waters in the desert of New Mexico.

The area around Santa Rosa, New Mexico also has pronounced feminine attributes, as expressed in the many natural lakes—a nurturing rarity in this high desert region. The lakes are sinkholes in the limestone bedrock of the area, sinkholes that over the eons have filled with clear, cool water. The most famous of these lakes is the Blue Hole, where the cerulean waters form a lake over 81 feet deep.

The Blue Hole is a natural and hospitable oasis in an otherwise parched landscape. Situated among mesas in a part of the Earth where the vast, rolling sweep of the Great Plains meets the ongoing spiritually intense upthrust of the Rocky Mountains. Stretching north from New Mexico into Canada, the Rockies stand as one great, powerful spine for Turtle-Island, with crucial life currents of energy flowing from pole to pole.

Over the millennia this Blue Hole oasis at the junction of mountains and plains has been visited and inhabited by dinosaurs, native peoples, Spanish conquistadors, Wild West outlaws, camera-toting tourists, and thousands of scuba divers.

Today the Blue Hole was also visited by the Sunbow 5 walkers, who camped not far away, and soon journeyed to the shimmering waters to make ceremony and offerings, as they have done at every sacred site along the route.


Polly MacNichol awakens slowly inside the octagonal Army surplus tent we acquired a week ago.  Author photo.


Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden

Read Day 148 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire

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Odyssey of the 8th Fire Copyright © 2006-2008 by Steven McFadden