Street Kids and the Killer Angels

Via Bayou Renaissance Man (a former Catholic priest): an entire cosmology invented and/or syncretized and/or revealed by homeless kids in Miami.

The homeless children’s chief ally is a beautiful angel they have nicknamed the Blue Lady. She has pale blue skin and lives in the ocean, but she is hobbled by a spell. “The demons made it so she only has power if you know her secret name,” says Andre, whose mother has been through three rehabilitation programs for crack addiction. “If you and your friends on a corner on a street when a car comes shooting bullets and only one child yells out her true name, all will be safe. Even if bullets tearing your skin, the Blue Lady makes them fall on the ground. She can talk to us, even without her name. She says: ‘Hold on.'”

….

Folktales are usually an inheritance from family or homeland. But what if you are a child enduring a continual, grueling, dangerous journey? No adult can steel such a child against the outcast’s fate: the endless slurs and snubs, the threats, the fear. What these determined children do is snatch dark and bright fragments of Halloween fables, TV news, and candy-colored Bible-story leaflets from street-corner preachers, and like birds building a nest from scraps, weave their own myths. The “secret stories” are carefully guarded knowledge, never shared with older siblings or parents for fear of being ridiculed — or spanked for blasphemy. But their accounts of an exiled God who cannot or will not respond to human pleas as his angels wage war with Hell is, to shelter children, a plausible explanation for having no safe home, and one that engages them in an epic clash.

The reporter sees these “myths” as a response to the kids’ social distress. But do they also reveal an underlying predilection for a sort of cobbled-together Gnosticism?

4 thoughts on “Street Kids and the Killer Angels

  1. Ah, a classic makes another (well-deserved) comeback. Note the datestamp on the original article – June 1997.

    Lisa, Lackey’s novel ‘Mad Maudlin’ with Rosemary Edgehill came out a few years after ‘Myths over Miami’ was written, and is explicitly based on the article. The last time the article was being passed around the blogosphere, there was much debate about whether the novel constituted some form of ‘cultural appropriation’. I’m not familiar with the book, but to me the ‘Blue Lady’ from the article sounds like a close match for Yemaya, especially her protectiveness of children.

    ‘Myths’ has never been corroborated – which would be a difficult thing to do, given that the sources were anonymous members of a highly transient population (in their early twenties by now, and I pray their lives are better). But ‘shelter lore’ is a well documented phenomenon, and all of the ingredients in this one make sense for the cultural setting.

    There’s been some debate as to whether the mythos is/was actually as widespread and cohesive as the author describes, since myths ‘in the wild’ rarely are. However, the author wouldn’t be the first folklorist to collect a series of semi-related local myths and conclude that they were all part of a unified myth cycle – we got most of our ‘canonical’ myth cycles by that process, actually, if you look closely.

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