The Virgin of Guadalupe & the Memorae Prayer
(As presented by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés)

The Virgin of Guadalupe

...the Mother I most often carry with me everywhere is the woodswoman La Nuestra Senora, Our Lady Guadalupe, she whose mantle is fashioned of moss from the north side of trees at sunset, she who has star shards caught in her wild silver hair. Her gown is soft, coarse-woven cloth with the thorns and weed seeds and petals of wild roses caught in it.

She has dirty hands from growing things earthy, and from her day and night work alongside her hard-working sons and daughters, their children, their elders, all.


She is ever in motion.
If there is emotion, she is there.
If there is commotion, she is there.
If there is elation, she is there.
Impatience, she is there.
Fatigue, she is there.
Fear, unrest, sorrow,
Beauty, inspiration,
She is there.

And she is demure in a sense, yes, but different from those who would fade her essence into an anemia: Yes, she is demure as in demurring, that is, refusing to be contained and made small. And she is calm, yes, but not without will to rise again and again. Instead, yes, she is calm as the mighty ocean is calm as it moves in enormous troughs and pinnacles, its huge waves like a heartbeat: easy, intentional, muscular.

And she is pure, yes, but not as in never going dark, never having doubt, never taking a wrong turn for a time, but rather pure, yes, as a gemstone is cut into a hundred sparkling facets — that kind of pure, meaning gem-cut by travail, adventure, and challenge — and yet fully without a streak of dead glass in any facet. ... (pp. 17-18)

The Memorae

Very often I am asked how a soul just coming to truly be with Our Lady might think about Maria, Nuestra Madre Grande. I say:


The exotic locale is not necessary to apprehend her. She is
found in a shard of glass, in a broken curb, in a hurt heart, and
in any soul knowing or unknowing, yet crazy in love with the
mysteries, with the divine spark, the creative fire — and not
quite so in love with mundane and petty challenges only.

Think of her not in the ways you've been told/sold.
Rather, seek her with your own eyes without blinders
and your own heart without shutters.
Look low instead of high.
Look right under your nose.
She comes in many guises and disguises.
Hidden, right out in the open.
And you will know her immediately by her immaculate
and undivided heart for humanity.

This is the Guadalupe I think you know of, or sense, or want to know, or are very close to for years now. Our Lady is joy-centric and sorrow-mending. She is one who is present in every way. In so understanding one's own pull to the Holy Woman, thus do we untie the Strong Woman.

Here, please allow me to pray strength into your hands and heart — and inspiration and daring — and fire — to lift the Great Woman away from whichever Lilliputians have tied her down into more manageable form.

No matter which dissertation or diminution she has been tied down by, she is greater than any Lilliputian mind by far. (p. 21)


We have been handed down a prayer, an ancient prayer that so remarkably continues to resonate with human sensibilities over literally millennia of time and places and peoples. Unlike faddish speech, this prayer carries such understanding of the deeper needs of the soul, this prayer is so without scorn for human frailties and foibles, so generous with warm embrace to all, that it can never go out of fashion. I trust that warrior souls will continue to keep it alive for thousands and thousands of years more.

This prayer is a cry to Blessed Mother during any time when arrows of harm fly toward us, at her, at the teachings and actions of eternal Love that we follow and literally strive to enact in this world. We who were taught this beautiful prayer in childhood know it as our signal with all our hearts to Holy Mother that we are fleeing from great danger, and that as we fly toward her, we believe that our cry to be protected and given aid — by human and by otherworldly means — will be heard.

As children, we understood that once we gave this mortal cry we could, in full confidence, expect that spiritual and human aid would somehow come to us to staunch our bleeding, mend up our frightened hearts, stalwartly protect us in palpable ways, and stand between us and the unjust.


I have practically prayed the paint off the walls during times of greatest travails and sufferings in my life — and in service of the lives of others who struggle so, persons known to me, and complete strangers whom I sense somewhere in the world are pleading for succor and strength. The older I become, the more I sense, the less I speak, the more I pray — in ever so many ways.

Yet, I will not mislead you. Despite the fact that aid always, always, always came from stabat mater, "the mother who will never abandon her post," despite Our Mother ever standing with us to help us and "to help us help " the poor and those kicked to the side of the road, despite the fact that spiritual aid came to us to help us protect the true beauties and regal bearing of nature, of our souls, of the beautiful boons of our corporeal world — sometimes actual humans failed us. Their help, their giving of unequivocal protection, did not arrive with substance. Instead of being witnesses and helpers, they turned away, or else offered as remedy nothing more than dust. ...

Yet, though humans fail one another sometimes still, nonetheless, the cry of this prayer pours out into the universe, calling for full consciousness and full effect for those injured. The belief underlying this prayer is that if one is of esperanza y fe, hope and faith, true expectation that good will come, and if we pray this prayer, cry this cry, plead this pleading regardless (not as pathetic cringing creatures, but as those who thunder after injustice), then there will be effect, and in good ways by and from other human beings. Even though the call is a cry for succor from the Mother, as much it is also a sincere cry that all persons surrounding be pierced awake, too.


In Old Latin, this prayer is meant to break the heart . . . open. It's a cry for help, praise of our Mother exemplar: act of faith that we can remain alive in the mundane world and in the mystery, both. The prayer calls all to awaken to acting like, thinking like, loving like Holy Mother does — with fullest awareness, fullest anticipation, far fuller insight, far more full will to act to help the soul, in as brilliant and effective human proportion as we can muster. To have far less coldness, far more warmth toward self and others, far more insight, far less blindness to what truly matters to heaven. The prayer is called the Memorare, and it means Remember! It goes like this:


Remember, 0 most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known
that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought
thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly
to thee, 0 Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before
thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. 0 Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

This word Memorare, chosen as the first word in the first line of the prayer, doesn't mean turn back and make some vapid recall, be of fluffy sentiment. It's not a weak effort to remember. No, this Memorare means Remember! Wake up! It is a command from the soul to remember who you are and what powers have been born into you; that you are the son, the daughter, of Blessed Mother. This Memorare is a demand to call upon she who would give her life for a child; she who teaches, helps, intercedes for the child-spirit; she who clearly calls those who have the ears to hear and the eyes to see the child's need and gifts, and the child's travails — and the interventions needed in the child's behalf, as soon as possible, from powers greater in both the human and angelic forms and for the long term. Both.

Even as the Great Woman wears "the shirt of arrows" slammed onto her by the ridiculing, the scorning, the opprobrium of the overculture for her relentless stance in protecting all the vulnerable souls of the earth — she continues nonetheless to shelter and to intercede for the spirit of the child in all souls, of any age.

She cannot be harmed. What she stands for cannot be harmed. What her divine Child's teachings are, cannot be harmed. It is a stye in the eye of those who think they must move against one or the other in order to protect her. She needs no protection. She is eternal.

Who needs protection, who will ever need protection and justice, are the souls of her earthly, vulnerable children, regardless of their number of years lived. The Great Woman's own Child said it free and clear: Whatever you do to the least of us, you do to Me.

In this way, the Mother who wears "the shirt of arrows" teaches us that all souls belong under the armor of her starry mantle, cradled beside her precious Little Child. She takes on the protection of all.

So, despite human failings, our own and/or others', we continue to chant the Memorare so that all — the sighted and the semi-sighted and the not-yet-sighted, the hearing and the not hearing, the heartful and the not heartless perhaps but rather more accurately the not-yet-heartful — will all be aided in ways that can support them, and us, to be made whole again. All are understood as worthy of understanding and mercy. With Blessed Mother, no one is left out.


Here also is the prayer in old-style Latin:


Memorare, 0 piissima Virgo Maria, non esse auditum a saeculo,
quemquam ad tua currentern praesidia, tua implorantem
auxilia, tua petentern suffragia, esse derelictum. Ego tali
animatus confidentia, ad te, Virgo Virginum, Mater, curro,
ad te venio, coram te gemens peccator assisto. Noli, Mater
Verbi, verba mea despicere; sed audi propitia et exaudi.

Memorare, in Latin, means not just to vaguely remember, but to know her by heart, to call out by heart, to center oneself in remembering the spirit of the human child and the Mater Magna ... by heart.

This is not a cry to Blessed Mother to remember us, but a dictate to ourselves that we remember her — her invincibility, her steadfastness for us, her protective warrior qualities toward children, toward the souls in any of us who say we follow her in mind, idea, and deed ... she being and having proven herself day in and day out as the ultimate protectress of those who have no guardian against intrusions, scorn, harms, and exploitations.

"Remember!" means we strive to be like her, for she has only these extreme purposes in life: to guard and accompany and stand by and stand with the Divinity Child, and those on earth who are also her children, no matter how old, no matter how young. She remains as listening heart, trusted advisor, healing balm, holder of the just standards of the soul, ever acting as protectress of those assailed.

In Latin, this prayer calls Holy Mother Virgo. This does not mean she is merely maidenly in some vague form, but she embodies the quality of virgultum, the supple mind and form found in the branches of the young trees that ever protect the leaders, the central trunks of the trees.

The supple virgultum is able to bend without breaking, to bend to guard, and to snap back to able mind and Creator-given shape again, no matter what. We carry this quality too: Our Lady virgultum carries a vast presence, we carry the same in human proportion — the ability to bend to guard, and to snap back, to remember our original soul shapes.

Auditum here refers to the idea that " never was it heard" that the Mother, nor those who strive to carry her protective essence dear, would fail to answer the needful. But also the word audit, in another sense, given this prayer, is a plea to first be heard and second to be helped and protected. Not just asking to be listened to, but also to be weighed, auditioned, listened to for purity of tone, clarity of cry, and in a larger sense daring to ask protection as birthright. Audeo audere ausus sum, to be bold to bring oneself for help, expecting fully to receive it — Mother Mary is the mother of the quintessential Child of Love who also needed protection from robbers, exploiters, and other spiritual harms. Mother Mary is the quintessential guardian of the soul filled with nearly helpless love for all goodness.

Her hard-won experience as Holy Mother protecting the Child of Love is our experience as little mothers to vulnerabilities within ourselves and within others, and especially to those found in the naive, frightened, inexperienced, unable child-spirits of others.

In this way, because of our troth with her, we learn to be protective mothers in timely ways, like her too, only in human form.

Saeculum, related to saeculo, means "never in our time" has she refused us, never in the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, as far back as our little minds can strain to imagine our earliest life. Never has Holy Mother failed to carry the banner to protect the vulnerable; in fact, she carries suffragiasuffragatio, that is, she ever votes in favor of us, in support of us, as though we are running for office and hers is the only vote that counts. That she stands for us as precious worthy souls is undebatable.

About the word sin, peccatum in Latin, which means to make a mistake, e.g., one of judgment, or to err, take the wrong path via an accident of perception or, as often occurs, by choice: "Sin" is anything that takes a person away from the radiant principles at the center of the soul. Without those at center — what many of us call "Creator" — we are bereft in a sense, having lost our radar and sonar about how to proceed as a soul in a world that is tricky, because things are not always as they seem on the surface. Not being perfected beings, we can fall into an off-center state — by our own will perhaps, but more often having naively been persuaded or seduced away from Infinite Love into something falsified, something that crookedly seats us in something far less than eternal in fundament, and much more ego-narrowed and clever.

So here, in the cry to Holy Mother, one stands thrown off-center, and filled with sorrow — sorrow, meaning to feel deep distress, as a great ship listing sideways, bow broken open, taking on water. Sorrow and sin are not curses, not referendums presuming a defect of a soul. They are instead signals that a soul is hurting and needs lifting up, re-arighting. They mean this soul who came to these injuries in whatever way, is in need of care, cleansing, and aid. By way of simple sacred rite, and most of all in loving reassertion of the consciousness with " Source without source," the soul is reset like a jewel into center again. Healing and rebalancing can occur then — from those in heaven, and into and through those on earth. Not either/or, but all.

Curro, in the Memorare prayer chant, means to care for, to pay attention to, to trouble oneself with, and for this injured soul until the situation is solved, until the frightened and harmed one, the so-deeply suffering soul, is recovered. It means to see that a complete solution is understood spiritually and concretely, and is applied until wholeness is restored. ...


You can hear it, if you cry the words of the Memorare aloud, that it is not "just a prayer"; it is an incantation, meaning it is literally meant to be sung out. There is a strong musical cadence to the Latin words, to any language the Memorare is translated into, a sound that is far more reminiscent of sandstorms, stirrups nodding, wooden saddles squeaking. It carries a rhythm that is far more reminiscent of the trot and the gallop, the sway of tent curtains, the sound of those fleeing, than of someone walking flat-footed in and out of buildings undisturbed.

Thus, Memorare is a prayer for rough times, to one who knows rough times by heart, a cry to the one who wears the shirt of arrows, the one who carries in her arms the eternal Child, the one who has a heart radiant with courage first and foremost . . . and Love, equally so.

We learn as much, as much by who comes to our aid as by who does not. We learn that we can remain alert and true with and within Holy Mother. We can strive to fly to help others in their travails, sometimes so that as others within our reach might never again suffer the agonistas we ourselves suffered. Even though we may have lain unaided by the side of the road ourselves, even though we too may have earned the shirt of arrows (that is, we have been wounded over and over, and still find our ways through the violet light that shines from the wound), then, like Our Lady, we become even more deeply insightful, more awakened, more strengthened in our own sacred heart, more filled with understanding and with love — whenever we can, however we can, for whomsoever we can. (pp. 68-75).

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mother's Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul (Boulder, CO: Sounds True), 2011; pages noted in parentheses within text.
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Last modified on July 17, 2012 by Kay Keys (