Lakapati, Transgender Tagalog Goddess of Fertility & Agriculture
In celebration of Transgender Day of Remembrance, which brings attention to the continued violence endured by the transgender community and memorializes those who have been murdered due to transphobia, we honor Lakapati, the transgender deity of fertility and agriculture. Also known as Ikapati/Lakanpati, they are the beloved Great Mother Goddess of the Tagalog, one of the most understanding and kind of all deities, protector of crops and farm animals and the one who gave agriculture to mankind. Long before the Spaniards arrived, the concept that there were more than two genders was socially and spiritually accepted in precolonial Tagalog society and other parts of the Philippines. Many Spanish records state that there were individuals born with male sexual organs however were seen and considered as women by society often marrying men, dressing in women’s clothing, and partaking in activities often done by women such as weaving and cultivating the fields. These individuals were not thought of as being abnormal but were seen as people who were closer to the divine, often becoming spiritual leaders, known as bayog, asog, bayoguin, those who were an intermediary between the mundane and spirit world. According to the Boxer Codex they were the highest spiritual authority of katalonans, the priests and priestesses. As a modern deity, Lakapati is a patron to farmers, the LGBTQIA community in particular the transgender community protecting the souls of those who have faced violence and death, and governs the crops, fields, and food.
Many accounts state that their name literally means "giver of food" and her worshipers pray for her to protect them from starvation and for abundance during the harvest. Ligaya Caballes, in her blog Musings of a Pinay Polytheist writes that "The name Lakapati comes from the Tagalog word Lakan which was a title for a noble ruler the Tagalogs version of Rajah or Datu used in other parts of the Philippines and Pati, which comes from Sanskrit and also is a title meaning master or lord of." Their symbol is the dove or the kalapati. During the Spanish colonization Lakapati was used by the priests as the equivalent for the Holy Spirit, which is why the dove is still the symbol of the Holy Spirit today.
Role in the Creation of the World
In some myths Lakapati is married to Mapulon, God of the Seasons, and gave birth to Anagolay, Goddess of Lost Things. In another myth, they were the consort of Bathala (the Supreme God, ALSO transgender) and the one that began the creation of the world. As the story goes, Bathala and Lakapati lived together in the heavens, but Lakapati sensed that Bathala felt something was empty in his life. They decided to create something to make him happy, so they created a ball out of clay and banana blossom and gave it to Bathala. He was happy working and shaping the ball, forming rivers and mountains, and when Bathala finished it Lakapati thought it so beautiful that they placed the ball of clay in the sky, and so the Earth was created.
Offerings and Rituals (Mag-anito)
The most common offering for Lakapti is to put out a plate of rice around seven in the evening on the night of the full moon. Plants and herbs of any kind can also be offered if Lakapati's help is needed with any trouble. In the oldest Tagalog dictionary, Pedro de San Buenaventura’s Vocabulario de Lengua Tagala (1613), it is written that during rituals and offerings in the fields and during the planting season farmers would hold a child up in the air while invoking Lakapati and chanting directly to them, “Lakapati, pakanin mo yaring alipin mo, huwag mo gutumin.” (Translation: Lakapati, feed this servant who is yours, let them not be hungry).
As the provider of abundant crops and protector of farm animals, they are also considered the provider of the Misa de Gallo (midnight mass celebrated on Christmas Eve). According to Patricia Telesco's 365 Goddess: A Daily Guide to the Magic and Inspiration of the Goddess, "When the sun begins to rise today, people take to the streets with all manner of noise makers to invoke Ikapati’s protection and to banish evil influences that might hinder next year’s crops. Effectively, even in more Christianized forms, this is a lavish harvest festival in which Filipinos thank the divine for their fortune and food, which is always a worthy endeavor."
Lakapati’s themes of harvest and thanksgiving and symbols of harvested food are also fitting for this week as the US celebrates its Thanksgiving holiday. We can reclaim the roots of this holiday by modeling it after the lavish harvest festival in which Pilipinxs thank the divine for their fortune and food. We can join the festivities today by eating rice cakes or puto bumbong to internalize Lakapati’s providence and drinking ginger tea for health and energy. It is traditional during this meal to invite the Goddess to join you at the table by leaving them a plate and cup filled with a portion of your meal. Afterwards, return this offering to the earth where Lakapati dwells (or to your compost heap), and whisper a wish for improved luck to the soil. The Goddess will then accept the gift and turn it into positive energy for the planet and your life.