Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

La Mano Poderosa

La Mano Poderosa is Spanish for "The Powerful Hand," the pierced hand of Our Lord Jesus Christ which is often seen in Mexican iconography.

Atop each finger is the figure of a member of the extended Holy Family -- los Cinco Señores, or "the Five Lords": Saint Anne, Christ's Grandmother; Christ's Mother; Christ Himself; St. Joseph; and Saint Joachim, Christ's Grandfather. Christ's wounded hand and the Holy Family are always-present aspects of La Mano Poderosa iconography. The figures may be in different orders, they may sit directly atop the fingers or be positioned on clouds or vines about the hand, but they're always there.

They're often surrounded by angels, and those angels sometimes bear the instruments of Christ's Passion. Sheep, symbolic of the Christian, are sometimes depicted drinking the blood that pours from Christ's wounds, a lovely illustration of the Eucharist. The sheep are typically seven in number, likely to symbolize the seven sacraments, the means of grace which derives from Christ's Blood.

To wit, La Mano Poderosa is a mash-up of devotion to the Holy Family and devotion to Christ's Wounds.

This New World iconography, which dates back to at least the 18th c., can be seen on tin retablos or as sculpture, carved from wood.  It's seen adorning glass votive candles and holy cards as well.

As is, in itself, it's a beautiful devotion long cherished by many Central and South American Catholics. It is not a "top down" devotion, one that you'll find in Catholic devotionals with imprimaturs; it's a "bottom up" devotion, a folk tradition, common among the layfolk, with its own novena:

Hand of God, ponderous and prompt, liberal and benign for those who are deserving of the intercession of its five Glorious Fingers. JESUS, MARY, JOSEPH, JOACHIM and ANNE. Whose novena serves to ignite devotion, a devotion to those five Holy LORDS.

Or, in Spanish:

Mano de Dios, ponderosa y pronta, liberal y benigna para los que se valieren de la intercesión de sus cinco Gloriosos Dedos. JESÚS, MARÍA,  JOSÉ, JOAQUÍN Y ANNA. Cuya novena ofrece para encender la devoción, un devoto de estos Santísimos cinco SEÑOR.

As practiced, though, the iconography associated with this particular devotion is sometimes mixed up with occultism. In the Spanish speaking world of the Americas, superstition along with magick, santeria, and other such practices abound, and such madness extends to and befouls even Catholic things. St. Jude, among other Saints, is invoked by drug cartels to defend their causes, as is Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Even Santo Niño de Atocha -- the Holy Child, Christ Himself -- is called upon for protection by those who deal in narcotics and kill mercilessly in plying that trade. These cartels have even made up a "saint" -- "Santa Muerte," or Saint Death, in reality a demon depicted like a female Grim Reaper, as a skeleton clad in black robes and typically holding a scythe. Police often seen shrines to Santa Muerte and the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe side-by-side when entering the lairs of narco-terrorists, and seeing the Virgin or some other Saint tattooed on a gang member's arm doesn't mean it's unlikely you'll see the satanic Santa Muerta on his other arm. These cartels have made their way into the United States, so much so that you can undoubtedly very easily find votive candles depicting Santa Muerte at your local grocery store if you live in the U.S. Know what Santa Muerte looks like, and avoid it:

The point: because it's a fact that if you see objects for devotion to La Mano Poderosa, you're possibly (but not at all necessarily) looking at something being sold or used for occult purposes, be exceedingly careful with this devotion and how you acquire any religious objects related to it. Occult shops very often sell items with this image on them along with items depicting "Santa Muerte" and the Blessed Virgin and Saints for people to use for nefarious purposes. Don't support them -- and know, too, that objects can be cursed in the same way that other objects can be blessed. Be mindful, and use discretion. See the "Spiritual Warfare: The Preternatural World" pages for more information about curses, cursed objects, the demonic, etc.

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