Sunday, September 26, 2010

Goddess of the Week

The Hindu Goddess Uma is this week's pick; this is Her first time here. Well, sort of.

The thing with Hindu Goddesses is that they tend to slide into each other, especially given that reincarnation is a tenet of Hinduism; Sati, for example, Shiva's wife, is said to have been reincarnated in Parvati. Kali, Who came up both last week and two weeks before that, can be considered an aspect or even emanation (to use that word imprecisely) of Parvati, or Sati, or Durga (Herself sometimes an aspect of Parvati), and could even reasonably be said to be the same Goddess as Uma. It is assumed that a Goddess, or the Goddess, has been worshiped in India since prehistoric times; in medieval times a Goddess called Devi, 'Goddess' or Mahadevi, 'Great Goddess' was said to be the underlying principle behind all Goddesses, and ultimately no less than the very essence of reality. The Mahadevi is especially associated with this particular cluster of Goddesses—Parvati, Durga, Uma, Gauri, Kali, &c.

Now to Uma specifically. She is an aspect, or emanation, or independent Goddess Who was later attached to Parvati or Sati, Who personifies, represents or incarnates the practice of devotion and asceticism. She is closely tied with Shiva, the God of ascetics, and said to be His wife (Such is Her fame, however, that Shiva is often called 'Husband of Uma'). Her power derives from Her ability to practice austerities and in Her renunciation of the world; and in this form Shiva, Who is also the God of the phallus and eroticism, cannot deny Her.

Her name is said to come from Her mother's reaction when She learned of Her daughter's desire to become an ascetic: U! Ma! She cried—No! Don't!

A Goddess called Uma Haimavati is mentioned in the Kena-upanishad, which probably dates to the first or second century CE; the name Haimavati means 'She Who Belongs to Himavat', Himavat being the God of the Himalaya Mountains. Uma Haimavati is in later writings a name for Sati-Parvati, and indeed Parvati's name means 'Daughter of the Mountain', Her father also being Himavat or the Himalayas. Uma Haimavati is earlier than Parvati, though, Who is not mentioned by that name in the Vedic texts; She was perhaps attached to Parvati at a later date, or the early mention of Uma was assumed to refer to Parvati, perhaps to give Parvati a more ancient provenance.

Sati, Shiva's first wife, is sometimes called Uma in the stories when Her devotion to Shiva is being emphasized. However, when Sati's father insulted Shiva, such was Her devotion to Shiva that She killed Herself; and Shiva, Who hadn't cared about the insult at all, mourned Her death with such world-destroying intensity that the other Gods had to resort to a ruse to get Him to stop.

Parvati, as the later reincarnation of Sati, was destined from birth to be married to Shiva; but Shiva Himself, perhaps a little wary of marriage after that experience, did not want any part of it at first. So She withdrew from Him, and devoted Herself to a fierce type of asceticism.

Parvati as Uma surpassed even the greatest sages in all the traditional austerities, such as standing on one leg for years, living on leaves and air, and sitting between four fires at the height of summer. This type of practice is believed in Hinduism to generate tapas, a kind of inner heat or fire; this fire can get so hot in the great sages that the Gods fear for the safety of the world. This is turn means They are usually more than willing to grant the practitioner a boon.

Now Uma had focused Her devotion on Shiva; so, in time, it was He Who came to grant her dearest wish. That dearest wish? That she marry Shiva. And, having proved Herself not only His equal but His type, He readily agreed.

This week looks to be a continuation of the themes in play for the last three weeks, since Kali, also an aspect of Parvati, first came up. The problem is the same one that had you reaching into the darkness and the depths and the destruction; but the focus this week is on the work that must be done with it. It is hard work, but good work, and not something you can't handle, I don't think. Find that focus, and let your mind run on one track for a while. You will be able to achieve more than you thought was possible.

What does She say?

Practicing denial of the flesh so that one may unite with the Beloved? It has its twisted logic, doesn't it? But I know what I'm doing. And so does He.

And so do you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An Amused Question

A bit of levity, sorely needed I think with the great Kali showing up twice in three weeks.

Okay all you vision-havers and dream-interpreters out there, I got one for you.

What does it mean when one is entertaining a bit of a crush on a young Peter Gabriel, yet one is having recurring dreams of Phil Collins?

I can't figure out if I love or hate my brain.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Goddess of the Week

This week's Goddess is Kali again, the Hindu Goddess of destruction and death, showing up for the second time in a month as the year tips towards the dark here in the north. The first time She was here was only the week before last; in between Her appearances we have had Sunna, the Germanic Sun Goddess. We have been taken to the black Void, then to the brightest Light, then back to the black Void. I do not know what is going on here.

Kali is the Goddess Who represents that which is outside of civilization and society, the messy reality of things which don't fit into the neat categories we create. She reminds us that those messy things are also necessary, sacred, and a part of the whole.

Though She is unquestionably destructive and horrific, as the primeval Void, She is also infinite potential. The waters of the underworld, where embryonic demons wait to be incarnated, are said to be Her womb, and indeed as I mentioned in the earlier post, Kali is revered in Tantrism as the shakti or primordial female principle, She Who underlies all reality, and Who is both formless and unmanifested, and manifested in infinite forms.

Maybe it's the time of year; after all at the equinoxes both hemispheres see day and night, the light and the dark in balance. This time of year is about just that, balance, not just the shifting seasons, in the growing or fading warmth, or the growth or death of the plants, but in the emphasis, the weight of things moving into another position. Autumn is here in the north, and summer has ended; and we must change ourselves to fit it.

Look this week to both your darkest dark and your brightest light. Find out how they are joined, and how they move in balance (for they are not static) to make a complete whole. Though you may not have to look very far; the 'energy' now feels pretty unsettled to me, and they may very well make themselves known all on their own. Try to take it in stride, I guess.

What does She say?

I am here, always here. I am the root and the dark; I am at the bottom of all things. And yet, go far enough down in the cold Earth and you will find heat and light, will you not? Within is without. You know this by now.

But look on the black side! Not all is blinding-brightness and burning heat. The dark can be very soothing, and offers healing and renewal in its own way. Things are waiting to be born in the lightless waters. Call them forth! Receive them! Be willing! For They will come anyway. And remember that when something is born, something else dies.

That is as it must be. Do not pretend to be surprised.

Well. What do you think?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Goddess of the Week

Sunna came up (ha) for the first time here just about two months ago, on July 5th. She is the Germanic Goddess of the Sun; Her Norse equivalent is named Sól. Both names just mean 'Sun.'

Sunna's sister is one Sinthgunt (Who may be a star Goddess, or a doubling of Sunna Herself), about Whom not a whole lot is known; in one of the so-called Merseburg Incantations, dating from the 9th or 10th century CE, both sing charms to cure Baldar's horse, which had become lame.

In Norse myth, Sól, the Sun, was created from the brightest ember that had escaped from Muspellsheim, the land of fire to the south. She was set in a chariot, drawn by two horses called Árvakr ('The Early-waking One') and Alsvin or Alsviðr ('The Fleet One'), which She drives across the sky every day, pursued by a wolf named Sköll ('Treachery'). She is said to be the wife of Glenr ('Opening in the Clouds').

An alternate myth says that Sól and Her brother Máni (the Moon), were originally the mortal children of a man named Mundilfäri ('Travels Like a Pendulum', perhaps an alternate name for the Moon), who were so radiantly beautiful that Mundilfäri named them for the heavenly lights. The Gods, however, were angered by Mundilfäri's hubris, and so snatched the children away, tasking them with driving the chariots of the Sun and Moon.

Sól is sometimes called Álfröðull, meaning 'Elf Disk', though this term is equally applied to Her chariot which holds the Sun.

I am glad to see Her after all the black of last week's Kali, I'll admit. Though I can't help but think the two are connected, as They are so markedly opposite. One week it's black as the Void and then the next it's the brightest of the Lights there are? Something's going on. I don't know if it's both/and or an either/or, though. The latter sounds like it could cause some serious whiplash. Take it gently, if that option resonates with you.

If the former, know that the digging in the dark from last week will allow you to stand more firmly, and be more grounded and rooted in the earth, which will form a stable base from which to reach towards the Sun.

Sunna is a healer, too; bask in Her warmth, and cultivate a sunny outlook if you can. It will help immensely at this time.

What does She say?

I am Healer, I am Light, I am the Sun, the Day-Star; I fly across the sky, regulating time, marking the day, and cutting the night up into manageable pieces, so there is never too much dark. Follow my example. Cut your darknesses up; make them into small things, and take them one night at a time. And do not despair. I am ever followed by the Wolf; yet, I do not let him catch me. Not yet, anyway. We will all be caught some day, it is true; in the mean-time, blaze forth in glory.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Goddess of the Week

Well, last week before I picked the card which would turn out to be Morgana, I thought for a moment, and tried to guess, or predict, Who it would be. And I came up with black, black black black. And I thought, Oh, Kali.

But it was Morgana, for whatever reason.

And now here Kali is. I guess I was off by a week.

She is a Hindu Goddess of destruction, death, blood, disorder, and that which is outside of order and civilization. One meaning of Her name is 'The Black One', and She is always said to be black or dark. She was the first card I did, apparently out of nowhere, when I knew very little of Her, and before I had any idea that I would be doing an entire card deck of Goddesses; She should properly be much darker in Her skin tone. I apologize.

Kali is said to have been born of the wrath of a Goddess, either Durga, Parvati, or Sati, depending on the tale. As Their personified rage, She is so powerful and out of control in Her bloodlust that She threatens to destroy the world.

There are many tales of Kali involving Her frenzied behavior on the battlefield. Like Sekhmet of the Egyptians She is said to go into a battle fury and gleefully drink the blood of Her enemies, or anyone in Her way, really. Only Shiva, often Her husband, and no stranger to chaos Himself, has the power to calm Her, either by lying down in Her path and pretending to be a corpse, or by taking the form of a wailing baby. Either way, He attracts Kali's attention, and stirs Her compassion, so that She is calmed.

As Kali She is described as wild and dangerous, bloodthirsty and violent. She is depicted naked and emaciated, with fangs, claws, and a long lolling tongue; Her skirt is made of cut-off arms, Her necklace of skulls or severed heads, and Her earrings are the corpses of infants.

And yet.

In Tantrism, She is very highly venerated as the primordial shakti, the female creative principle. In the Mahanirvana-tantra, Shiva says:

Thou art Kali, the original form of all things... Resuming after Dissolution Thine own form, dark and formless, Thou alone remainest as One ineffable and inconceivable. Though having a form, yet art Thou formless; though Thyself without beginning, multiform by the power of Maya, Thou art the Beginning of all, Creatrix, Protectress, and Destructress.

And in the Nirvana-tantra, Kali is described in terms of the primeval ocean: She is like all the waters of the sea, and Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma are merely the water filling the hoofprint of a cow; and from Her those three arise like bubbles from the ocean's depths.

She is underlying reality, in all its mess, blood, disorder, and death. Yet She must be made peace with, and must be accepted, to be whole and to achieve salvation and enlightenment in Tantrism. She is a reminder that our desire for order goes against the nature of life itself.

So this week? Well, I won't lie. This is big stuff. Big ugly stuff, that is of necessity also truth. How well you are able to deal with it, face it down, accept and even love that ugliness will determine how well you do with it, and what you learn from it. There is powerful knowledge and wisdom here, remember.

Now. What does She say?

I am black. Black as the void, black as the all-swallowing Winter that approaches. Black as a hole, black as the heart of the Sun, black as the heart of you.

The Void is not nothing; that is the irony, the mystery at its heart. It is all potential, all material, all that is, waiting to be born, to be manifested. Yet until it is it is nothing. That is the mystery; that it is nothing, and everything, at the same time.

I am not that frightening. Or, well, maybe I am; but you will have to get over that. It is inevitable, you know, that you come back to Me. It is not something you can escape.

But take heart; you have come home to me many many times. This death is not your first. You are an old hand at dying, really.

And at any rate you do it all the time, don't you? For I am here now.


Hindu Goddesses, by David R. Kinsley.