Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

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When You Love a God or Goddess, Your Heart is Made Large

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Image result for durga

Every modern pagan thinks from time to time what it would be like to live in a pagan country. Few, if any, of us will ever get to find out.

But that doesn't stop us from wondering.

Here's one thing that I can tell you for sure about our Paganistan of the future: there will be movies about the gods.


That's how it is in India. (“Hinduism,” of course, isn't pagan—it stopped being pagan back in the Upanishadic period when it became world-denying—but there's no denying that it's remained truer to its pagan roots than any of the other Big Box religions.) There's even a specific Bollywood genre called the Theologicals: films about gods.

They're great. Back in the 80s a friend and I would regularly rent them from our local Indian grocery. ("Oh, you like the religious ones," the owner would say, nodding his head.) Now, you might think it challenging to watch an unsubtitled 3½ hour film in a language that you don't understand. So it is, but—Theologicals being Theologicals—the genre is formulaic enough that, watched sympathetically, it's easier than you might think to figure out what's going on. Pretty much all of them, after all, have the same premise: Stick with your god/goddess, and he/she will see you through.

Really, there are worse premises.

Let me tell you the story of one such. At this remove of time, I can no longer remember the title of the film or even the name of the heroine, but this much I can tell you: she loved Durga, and Durga loved her.




There was once a poor family with two sons: the elder industrious and good, the younger lazy and bad. The younger had not yet married, but the elder son's wife—an orphan, and our heroine—was a pious worshiper of Durga, India's tiger-riding warrior goddess.

Times were hard, and the elder son was forced to travel to a faraway city to earn a living. Meanwhile, back at home, our heroine does pretty much all the work, while cheerfully doing her best to cope with abusive parents-in-law and a leering grab-ass of a brother-in-law. That, of course, doesn't stop her from singing the praises of Durga Ma in her beautiful voice.

One day things come to a head. Her no-goodnik brother-in-law follows her out to the village well and tries to rape her. Horrified, our heroine calls on her goddess.

Durga Ma hears her cry and intervenes: she sends her tiger to stop the assault. Although he's not physically injured, the would-be rapist is terrified, and loses his sanity. He becomes, more or less, catatonic, able to say only one word: Shir! Tiger!

Our heroine runs off. Without family, her options are limited. She seeks refuge at a temple of Durga where, with her beautiful singing voice, she serves her goddess faithfully.

Meanwhile, having made his fortune in the big city, the elder brother returns home, only to find his beloved wife fled and his parents preparing to set off on pilgrimage in hopes of finding a cure for their youngest son's madness.

He joins them, and they travel from temple to temple.

Finally, as they approach a particular Durga temple, the good son hears his wife's voice, singing the praises of Durga. He rushes to her side, and they are joyously reunited.

The now-chastened parents approach, leading their zombie-like younger son. They too are reunited with their erstwhile daughter-in-law, begging her forgiveness for the wrongs that they have done her.

When you love a god or goddess, your heart is made large. The woman—who has, after all, now made a successful career for herself as a priestess—forgives her mother- and father-in-law, and calls to Goddess Durga to heal the man who tried to rape her.

Shir! Shir! he cries.

Naturally, the goddess can deny her pious worshiper nothing. The younger brother's senses—including, apparently, his moral sense—are restored, and he begs his sister-in-law's forgiveness, which naturally she grants.

All wrongs now righted, the reunited family together sing the praises of Mother Durga.

The End.


And the moral of the story?

When you love a god or goddess, your heart is made large.

Stick with your goddess/god, and she/he will see you through.







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Tagged in: Durga maa durga Piety
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien Wednesday, 10 February 2021

    Jai Ma! Oh, how I miss our Kali pujas.

    I remember a dinner with friends in Paganistan many years ago where we screened a theological about Shitala Ma, goddess of smallpox (sores, ghouls, pustules and diseases). Fond memory.

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