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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in hindu goddesses

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Pagan Response to the Corona Virus?

India being India, there's an entire genre of Bollywood films known as the “theologicals”: religious movies.

Back in the VHS Era, my friend Stephanie and I used to rent theologicals from our local Indian grocery store. Our shared pool of Hindi being pretty limited, it was always quite an experience to watch an unsubtitled 2½ hour film in a language that you don't understand. After a while, we got pretty good at figuring things out.

One of our favorites was a film called Shitala Ma (SHEE-ta-la Mah): “Mother Smallpox.” Shitala Ma is the goddess, not just of smallpox, but of all infectious diseases. (Stephanie, being something of an amateur epidemiologist, found this pretty engaging.) Those infected with disease are considered to be possessed by Shitala Ma, and are actually worshiped as her vehicles (note the donkey in the image shown above); the goddess is given offerings, and asked kindly to depart, leaving the sufferer unharmed.

Now there's something they don't teach you in Med School.

The heroes of the film are a poor family of farmers, pious worshipers of Shitala Ma. While working in the fields one day, they discover a murti (statue) of Shitala Ma buried in the ground. My memory is that the family dog led them to it.

Naturally, they hold a puja (worship) for the statue. Shitala Ma herself appears—this happens during pujas sometimes—and tells them that she wants a temple built for her in the field where the statue was found. The father of the family goes to tell the local rich man who owns the field of the goddess's apparition and of her request.

The rich man, of course, is loath to lose the field and the income that it brings.

No way,” he says.

(Bollywood being Bollywood, of course, the film is punctuated by mass song-and-dance spectacles, passionate love duets in gardens with fountains, and slapstick comedy routines featuring transvestites, none of which have anything whatsoever to do with the plot. Really, what's not to love?)

Nothing daunted, our pious family sets up a small shrine to Shitala Ma in the field, and soon all the villagers are gathering there to worship the goddess.

Finally the landowner has had enough. He sends his goons to steal the statue, who drop it down a well to get rid of it.

Bad move. Angered, Shitala Ma smites the rich guy's entire family with smallpox.

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Weekly Goddess Inspiration: Rati

Spring is the season of passion, of stirring life, of creation. In my younger years, this season was all about Beltaine, and Beltaine was allll about passion and sex. One of the things I love best about my path is the celebration of sexuality as something sacred, as a gift from Goddess. As I've gotten older, sex has become less central to my Spring celebrations -- not because sex is no longer an important part of my life, or because I think it unseemly to be openly sexual and sensual now that I'm no longer in my 20s, but because I've begun to think about passion and creation in a wider sense. My Beltaine ritual this year involved working on my home, spending time with my partner, and honoring all the things I am creating, gestating, and getting ready to birth -- my women's circle, my priestess sisterhood, my creative projects. All the things that awaken passion in me, and all the passions I feel in addition to sexual passion. 

In my New Moon circle this past week, I drew oracle cards that encouraged me to step into my Authentic Self, to find my true passions and follow my calling. In some ways, this whole past year has been about accepting that I even have a calling -- something I've resisted for most of my Pagan life -- and learning what it might mean to step into it. So I've been spending the past week thinking about authenticity, about passion, about the role my politics around gender and sexuality and justice play in following my calling. I've also been reflecting a lot on the role that healing around my sexuality has played in my spiritual path, and about the ways in which I can help to create safe, brave, healing spaces for survivors of sexual violence in my spiritual community; about how I can help to facilitate the much-needed conversation about consent that's happening (or needing to happen) in Pagan spaces; and about what it means to be part of a sex-positive spiritual community in an overwhelmingly sex-negative culture.

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This week, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, wisdom, music, arts, and learning comes into our lives to serve as guide. Beautiful Sarasvati appears when we are on the cusp of enlightenment, of new learning, of finding new ways to express ourselves. If you have set creative, spiritual, or intellectual goals for the coming Spring (in the Northern Hemisphere), Sarasvati has come to tell you that you are on the right path. 


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The rains continue to pour in North Texas, keeping me inside rather than planting my container garden, swimming in my pool, or enjoying what is usually one of the most beautiful times of the year. Twenty years of living in an area plagued by drought have taught me to never, ever wish for the rain to stop -- the memories of watching cattle die in the fields just a few years ago are too fresh for me to do anything but revel in the power of the storms and the swollen rivers. Though my thoughts are also with those who are seeing their homes washed out, and I hope that the rains slow down a bit soon to let Mother Earth absorb the much-needed moisture.

Even though I've had to pursue indoor fun the last few weeks, this is still a playful time for me. I'm between classes right now, and my freelance work has slowed down, allowing me a much needed break. Much of my focus has been on job applications, but I've found time for relaxation and recovery from a long, emotionally draining semester. The Universe itself seems to be also feeling the playful vibe, as it has sent the Hindu goddess Lalita to frolick with me in the spring rains.

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