Trespassing, Holy Dirt and Baby Jesus’ Shoes

I love to trespass. I have so few vices left that my punk rock soul needs something disobedient.  “You don’t drink, don’t smoke…what do you do?” {Had to get a little Adam Ant up in here}. I am actually a fairly modest person in everyday life, despite the wild and intense work I create. I need outlets for pushing the boundaries of my courage and fierceness. There is something about a forbidden place, a place that is imposing, boarded up, abandoned that peaks my interest. What will be in there, who might have passed that way, and what did they leave behind.

I have been exploring deserted places since I was a child. I grew up in a family of artist, adventurers, scavengers; young parents who brought their curious child along on their borderland journeys.  We would scale down beached barges, take photographs with graffiti strewn barns, crawl in the windows of decommissioned army housing to see what we might find. My father particularly loves to collect funky-old-cool things with character and personality. The addition he built onto his 30-year-old artists studio in Fremont used doors and windows salvaged from 40 years before.

Yesterday I drove to my beloved Chimayo, The Lourdes on North America. A cherished pilgrimage site and sanctuary to the Tierra Bendita, Sacred Soil, that is said to bring miraculous healing. This land is also sacred to the Tewa Indians.

I came to offer the first printing of my Oracle of Initiation deck, the divine work that has emerged on this New Mexico land, of this land, through dancing with the Holy Dirt. The Oracle deck really is devotional cards, born out of great reverence for the Earth, Ancestors, and the power of the unseen Guides and Guardians. They are dedicated to the mystery of our emerging expansion, the dream-time, the power of stepping between the veils to claim your true essence.

They are also an acknowledgment of the power of faith; of viewing your challenges and trials from a spiritual perspective. The belief that our struggles and complexities are actually the tempering process forming us into sacred vessels capable of carrying our true gifts. One of the core inspirations for the deck is the old religious cards of Mary, Jesus and the Saints. I did not grow up Catholic, but I have always been deeply drawn to the symbolism and iconography of that faith. I have died and gone to heaven living in a place where you constantly see the  homemade imagery and crafts of a very earthy and sincere love for the divine.

My wish was to offer some of the images from the deck in a holy and sacrificial way to this sacred site. I was on pilgrimage to honor the incredible work that had channeled through me. As I entered the grounds from the lower parking lot, I placed 4 of the cards onto the chain-link fence adorned with rustic little twig and rope crosses.  The most Mother Mary-like images chose to be represented:  36. Trust; 46. Reliance; 56. Dedication; and 64. Sanctified. I was so focused on placing the cards firmly on the fence that I had not noticed a companion nearby. The horse spirits brought me back to the land in a powerful and potent way. They are one of the main guardians of the Oracle deck, and honored guides on my earthwalk. As I was fussing with the cards I heard out of the corner of my consciousness a subtle, yet familiar whinny.  I looked up to see a large, furry, four-legged equine friend. I had never seen it there before, so I brought the cards over for an inspection. They obviously needed some sacred horse markings, because the animal grabbed them in its mouth and drug two of them over the fence. I was both surprised and thrilled. I felt the offering had been accepted; slimy grass-flecked horse saliva is a great honor. I retrieved them from under the fence and continued on. Quite an auspicious beginning; thank you beloved horse being for consecrating the Oracle.

As I placed the cards on different altars throughout the property, I was amazed at how naturally they blended in with all of the rosaries, crosses and devotional candles. I had accomplished my goal of making a deck that referenced the dedication and commitment of those traditions without being tied to the dogma of those beliefs.

I carried the cards around this beautiful old church and eventually brought them into El Pocito, The Well. The Myth is that around 1810 a devout Spanish Friar saw a light emerging from one of the surrounding hillsides by the Santa Cruz River. With his bare hands he dug down into the earth and found the crucifix that graces the main altar of the church now. The local parish in Santa Cruz tried 3 times to take the cross away from its original location to their church, and three times the cross disappeared and returned to the initial hole. So they left the cross in Chimayo, building a church around this crucifix and the well of sacred soil that is said to have miraculous healing properties.

In the room adjoining El Pocito, there are crutches left as signs of the sanctified soil’s power to transform infirmities. I had always noticed the lines of baby shoes, but had never read the story of Santo Nino de Atocha. Santo Nino represents Baby Jesus as he cared for persecuted Christians in Spain. He is said to watch over prisoners, bringing them bread and water to survive. He carries a basket filled with flowers and food, and a walking stick with a water gourd attached. The baby shoes are to replace the ones he wears out during his travels supporting those in need. I was really taken with this humble notion of the servant being so active that he needs a constant supply of new footwear. Santo Nino is also one of the Catholicized version of the African deity Eshu, guardian of the crossroads.

So, back to trespassing. There was an abandoned house I had always wanted to photograph and explore, and today was the day. I decided to circumnavigate the property, seeing if there were any interesting things in the back. Bingo-the side door was open. I always ask permission before entering vacant dwellings. They are so filled with disembodied Spirits that you must be sure you will be energetically safe.

When I was traveling around the American West visiting horse people, I had an amazing trespassing experience in the old mining town of Wallace, ID. I found an old Victorian home that looked as if it had not been occupied since the 1940’s or 50’s. The peeling wallpapers and layers of paint patinas were glorious. When I went upstairs, the back bedroom was completely intact. It was so eerie, I could feel the old woman who lived there. You have to be careful about what has taken up residence in these deserted places. You are entering a sacred temple, and the lives of the past occupants are still present. It serves you to be quiet, respectful and alert.

So I asked if I was safe, and got the go-ahead. The rooms were strewn with piles of little faded boxes and cartons from the1950’s. There were also cases of the left over religious candles from the altars in the church. The boxes were all from baby shoes. Hmmmm. I continued around the back and found a really interested tableau through an open window. I was initially not going to go in, there are houses directly behind this one and I didn’t want to be yelled at. As I walked away, I realized I needed to climb in. So off I went, and my curiosity was richly rewarded. Those gentle little intuitive voices will bring you some very interesting adventures.

Part of the reason I go into these deserted places is because they are portals. They are crossroads; liminal spaces where the divine and the mundane meet; truly alternate realities. There are potent forces that gather where the heavens and earth merge, and what might you create there? New Mexico itself is one big magical multi-cultural land of enchantment and mystery.  It has revealed itself to me on occasion.

As I clamored in, more graffiti, abandoned chairs, and the torn white sailcloth ceiling cover dangling from the rafters. The torn white fabric revealed a pristine wooden viga ceiling. The ceiling looked brand new. I found this juxtaposition interesting. The seafoam green adobe structure was disintegrating, graffiti tags and lewd saying were everywhere, and here was this perfectly preserved ceiling. Might the illusion of this decaying edifice be shrouding a holy shrine?

I rounded the corner into another room, and what I saw stopped me dead in my tracks.

The entire room was completely covered in hundreds of pairs of baby shoes, infants clothing and faded statues of saints.   This is one of those acid-trip moments; Am I really here, did I dream this, is it real? Am I real? How in the world did these little offerings get into this abandoned building? The divine can be hidden in the most interesting places, reveling itself on its own terms.

As I surveyed the room I could not believe what I was seeing. There were boxes and baskets filled with hundreds of little time-warped children’s shoe packaging.  To the left was a built-in wooden cabinet styled as if it was the most precious layette awaiting the newborn’s arrival.

A beckoning stairwell dominated the room, light streaming down from the broken out windows. I was literally astonished by this secret shrine. At the top of the stairs was a glorious statue of the grace-filled servant Santo Nino joyfully watching over this sacred space. Santo Nino, Eshu, guardians of travelers, the crossroads, they were holding court over this hallowed ground.

These are the same mysteries and devotions I am searching for by creating The Oracle of Initiation deck; myth, magical & allegory; the hidden treasures of the unknown; entering the temple of your fears and finding glowing Saints and Guardians; exploring new vistas and navigating unrecognized worlds. You will need dedication and courage to investigate your own neglected places, to open those locked doors, to decipher the unconscious graffiti of your psyche.  What great beauty, joy and magic awaits if you step through the threshold into the unknown? And how will you trust that your worn out shoes will be always be reverently replaced?

And remember…only 3 more days of the amazing pricing on the 88 limited Edition Oracle of Initiation decks…only $88 bucks-wow….


  5 comments for “Trespassing, Holy Dirt and Baby Jesus’ Shoes

  1. mwsteele
    February 14, 2010 at 12:37 am

    it felt like that to me too, unfolding, i did not know what coming next, i was just being led by delight and curiosity. And for the record, these longer posts take me forever to write…lets hope they become a book someday so my Capricorn feels like the time was worth it. loving yah, m


  2. mwsteele
    February 14, 2010 at 12:35 am

    blown open darling….itinerant minstrel….has an interesting ring to it…love and light sista’


  3. MK Barr
    February 13, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    What wonderful insights and I feel like I was in a reality novel…is there such a thing? Truly a great posting and way more than a blog entry. Thank you Melissa!


  4. February 13, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    It is a magical story, taking place in a blessed place…. And it takes a shamanistic person to witness these things, and then bring the story to others, like the itinerant minstrel… journeying to the unknown, or less traveled places….. Many people would consider it to be too haunting to enter an abode so abandoned. What treasures can lie within! And is your heart space just HUGE now??


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