Goddess Traditions of the Sea: Malac and Carmen

“We forget that the soul has its own ancestors.”-James Hillman. What are the goddess traditions of the sea?

Spanish Goddess of the Sea

Earlier this week I went to the celebration of Virgin del Carmen in Rincon de La Victoria.  Every year on July 16th, along the Spanish coast, fishing villages will pay homage to Virgin del Carmen as homage for her protection and offering of abundance to them.  The Virgin del Carmen is the Patron Saint of the Sea. She is one aspect of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.  I am not sure how many variations of Mary there are, but in Spain there seems to be many.  Just as there are an abundance of saints or goddesses we can pray to for our various issues, there are a multitude of Marys.  But what is most interesting is this tradition of fisherman giving offerings to Mary in the sea annually, is that this happened pre-Catholic times. 

Phoenician Goddess

Historically, this tradition was also carried out to the Phoenician goddess Malac, where Malaga gets it’s name from.  Another name for her is Noctiluca. She is Goddess of the moon, night and fertility.  The city I was in, held caves found from the paleolithic area.  In Cueva del Tesoro, you will find an altar to Noctiluca . Offerings and sacrifices occurred here.  It’s been said that a procession occurred during those days, where devotees took an image of her to the sea annually, as a form of good luck for the fisherman. 

 I read an article about this prior to visiting the caves several months ago. To read more about that experience click here  https://amodernpilgrimage.com/treasure-cave-malaga/. Additionally, one of my Spanish professors last week informed me of the fact that this tradition of honoring Virgin del Carmen was pre-Christian.  When I inquired about books about Malac to discover more, she said there were few if any books, but primarily oral tradition.

On the evening of the festivities, I watched as these men dressed in sailor outfits walked barefoot from the local church to the sea, carrying the heavyweight statue of Mary.  A group of over thirty men lifted her on their shoulders, and walked in unison. It was reminiscent of Semana Santa. These ingredients are a religious statue, crowd of people, repetitive drum beat, and a hypnotic trance like state that was induced.  Crowds gathered on the beach wearing bikinis and swim trunks versus their church attire.   Women placed offerings of flowers onto the boat before she arrived. Both sides of the boat contained images of Virgin del Carmen and the evil eye.  The steer of the ship ws a serpent like figure.  What was most unique about this was that the mood was not somber, but celebratory.  

Viva Guapa

They chanted “Viva Viva Viva Guapa Guapa Guapa.”  Translated this chant equates with Long Live Beauty.  This seems to be a chant one would do for a goddess, rather the Mother of God.  I have never seen people interact and honor Mary in this energetic way before. 

Both sides of my family are Catholic, and our masses are somber. People are compliant for a monotone call and response. There was an ecstatic nature in the air. Everyone tried to get as close to the statue as possible, as if she was a living breathing entity to bless us.  Police staff and volunteers gently encouraged the crowds to make space for the sailor dressed men carrying the heavy statue.  People pushed and pulled on the sand, while numerous others waited on their paddleboards and boats in the Meditteranean Sea.  As she finally floated by them, they splashed her with joy and glee, as children do.  I sent my friend video footage of this event. Her response was, “it looks more like spring break than a religious celebration.” And she was right, there was a different vibe. 

The Goddess Traditions of the Sea

The goddess traditions of the sea carried out in this format have happened for hundreds of years. Although the face of who we are revering may appear different, she stands for essentially the same thing.  A protective female figure who watches over her people, brings them abundance (in this case fish), and appreciates the offerings made to her. 

 Being present at this event, I couldn’t help but feel as if we were part of a river current, the grooves of where the river flows and moves to have been on this path for years. I felt pulled by both Virgin del Carmen and Malac.  We may not be able to verbalize why something moves us in these situations: the tradition, community, fanfare, music, or trance like state.  I know this blog may not do justice to this night or ritual. “To reach truth that one cannot be argued out of is to escape from the linguistically expressible to the ineffable. Only the ineffable—what is not describable at all—cannot be described differently.” 
― Rorty Richard

Another article about her written in Spanish is below: https://eastofmalaga.net/2015/06/22/have-you-met-malagas-sensational-phoenician-goddess/


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