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mixing some catholicism into anito

I know I’ve mentioned this in passing, but I’ve decided to mix in a little Catholicism into my exploration/whatever of anito. I have a few reasons for this. First is that I have about zero connection to anyone who could teach me about how Tagalog practices. Second, I’m not even sure there are any people who have deep knowledge about Tagalog anito. Third, it is reasonably established that some of our indigenous practices ended up in Catholicism, what is known as ‘folk catholicism’. Fourth, knowing this I can look towards some of what I learned growing up Catholic and integrate with anito – which would recognize both the past of my people and our current circumstances. Fifth, because I believe that trying to perfectly replicate the past isn’t a great way to ensure a vibrant future for a people, I’ve become increasingly more interested in modern, syncretist notions of culture. In other words: folk catholicism isn’t less ‘authentic’ than ‘pure’ anito. We did anito for hundreds of years and we’ve done catholicism for hundreds of years. Both are part of our history.

One of the things I find… well, lacking in the pagan (or whatever you want to call it) discussions I’ve seen is that two types of practice appear to get the most focus: spirit work and magic. This is great and all, but without being able to learn from an elder (defined as anyone knowledgeable to transmit the traditions), I hesistate to engage in these kinds of things. Both can be dangerous and I’d rather not open that window without guidance.

But this presents a problem for someone like me. Is there anything else to anito beyond spirit work and magic? I think so. I guess the sort of thing I’m really talking about is more… lay practice as opposed to being a babaylan. Because the reality of these sorts of things is that not everyone is meant to be babaylan, some of us are just people who want to engage anito as an everyday person.

What I usually see around, though, is mainly discussions about more active (?) approaches to pagan stuff rather than more passive stuff. Active isn’t really the right word, but I’m having trouble thinking of the right word. The difference I’m really talking about is like this: some people can (and wish to) invoke or directly communicate with a spirit/deity/god but some of us just want to make an offering at the appropriate time to show reverence and respect.

As mentioned above, because I don’t have access to anyone really to talk about this sort of thing (even the people I do know who are interested in this tend to pursue the more active practices), I’m turning towards Catholicism. Fortunately, unlike trying to research pre-colonial tagalog religion, there is a bunch of research on folk catholicism in the philippines. So I’m going to look into some of that and figure out what I want to do.

In the meantime, there are a few things that I’ve already identified that I’m going to see about integrating into my practice.

I’m going to try and celebrate the Sto. Nino festival/celebration/whatever. This is actually one festival that I was in Manila for and with my family, so it kind of holds a special meaning for me but its also the only festival day that I have direct knowledge of. Having gone to catholic school, I know for a fact that mainstream catholicism doesn’t have a Santo Nino de Cebu celebration. So now I have at least one festival day that I can celebrate as I experienced it in the home lands. Of course, I’ll have to adapt to my current context since it won’t be possible to perfectly replicate it here.

There’s one tagalog saint, Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, who I’ll try to integrate into my stuff. One thing I’m interested in seeing is if I can get one of those saint icon pendants to wear around my neck. I know in anito there’s a general need for protection in terms of spirits and such. I figure this is a good way to get some without having to dabble directly in magic or spirits. I have faith that Saint Ruiz will help me out.

Next is the rosary… Prayer beads are not unique to catholicism (I don’t even think we/they invented it). But this one gives me a set of prayers and such to go along with it. In incorporating some catholic traditions into anito, one of the things I’m not interested in doing is interacting with god/jesus. Well, ok, maybe jesus is ok but not the god. Since I generally think that the catholic worship of Mary is idolatrous, I figure I’m good there. I’m also considering whether or not I’ll consider Mary and Lakapati to be the ‘same’ just with different names. Especially since Lakapati’s body gives a good explanation for a single parent birth.

Last is lighting candles for the dead and for prayers. I remember this being one of the things I actually liked about going to church, getting to light a candle in prayers and for the dead. So this is definitely something I’m going to incorporate a great deal more into what I do.

This is about it, so far. I might (whenever I get an alter properly set up), try to get some statues and whatever. I’ll also add or substract based on further research.