Saturday, June 28, 2014

Durga, Divine Mother of India

Durga is one of the incarnations of Devi or the original Mother Goddess in Hinduism. She represents the power of the Supreme Being and stands for righteousness. She protects mankind from evil by destroying evil forces such as jealousy, hate, greed, anger and arrogance. She is depicted as a warrior woman with eight arms and rides a tiger or lion. In each hand she carries different symbols such as a conch, sword, lotus flower, bow, and a trident among other things.

The lion she rides symbolizes uncontrolled animal-like tendencies such as anger, selfishness, jealousy and hate. By her sitting on top of the lion she represents the ability to tame and control those tendencies that all beings have. Durga represents pure positive energy or divine light and is the embodiment of divine feminine energy. She is seen as the Divine Shakti or powerful female force and is the primary deity in Shaktism.

The story of Durga says that she was born fully grown and created from the flames which came from the mouth of  the Gods in heaven. She was created so that she could destroy a buffalo-demon named Mahisasura. This fierce demon was said to be terrorizing the Gods in heaven and the men on earth. Durga was given an army of Gods to fight with her and a lion upon which to ride and was sent to kill Mahisasura.

Her festival, Navrati, or Nine Divine Nights, is celebrated for nine days and takes place around October during the harvest. During this festival the nine aspects of Durga or Navadurga are meditated upon one by one. Another celebration that is honored is Durga puja which takes place for five days annually. During this festival the victory of the goddess Durga over the demon Mahisasura is celebrated which represents the victory of good over evil.

To pray to Durga here are some mantras in her honor:  Om Sri Durgaya Namah
It is said that by chanting this mantra daily the Mother Durga will remove all obstacles from our lives. Another mantra is Om Hreeng Dung Durgaayai Namah. It is said that chanting this mantra will bring you success in all areas of life.

Jai Maa Durga! (Victory to the Mother!)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Medusa, Ancient Snake Goddess

Medusa is said to be an ancient deity and was originally known as a snake goddess. She was worshiped as a dark goddess in ancient Libya and was seen as a three-fold snake deity. She is known to be a gorgon who were said to be scaled and winged female monsters. In Greek myth she was the only mortal of three sisters and daughter to Phorcys and Ceto, who were chthonic monsters from an archaic world. Medusa was mother to the winged-horse Pegasus and the giant Khrysaor.

In classical Greek myth Medusa was a mortal priestess of the goddess Athena. She was said to be beautiful with long blonde, luscious locks of hair. As a priestess of Athena, Medusa had to pledge her celibacy and herself solely to the honor of the goddess. Although the god of the sea, Poseidon, took a strong liking to Medusa and ravaged her in Athena's temple thereby taking her sacred vows away from her. The goddess Athena upon hearing this became enraged with Medusa so she turned her into a terrible monster with snakes to replace her beautiful tresses.

If Medusa was looked upon by anyone, her gaze would turn them into stone. Athena instructs the hero Perseus to kill Medusa so he finds Medusa and decapitates her. When she is beheaded, her children Pegasus and
Khrysaor spring forth from her blood. Although Medusa has been killed, her head still has the power to turn men into stone even in death. Perseus uses it as a weapon to turn some of his enemies into stone, then gives it to Athena who puts it onto her shield. It is said that blood dripped from Medusa's head in the Libyan desert in which created many venomous snakes. This is said to be the cause of the many venomous snakes in Africa.

It is said that the reason that Athena punished Medusa so severely is because she and Poseidon were long time rivals. Some think that Medusa represents the destructive aspect of Athena. Other sources say that Medusa won a beauty contest over Athena which made Athena jealous. It seems to me that these myths are highly in favor of the male forces at play. Women turning against one another and a woman being punished for being raped. Sounds a little too patriarchal for my taste.

There are many messages within this myth. Some say that Medusa became more powerful in death than in life as her head still held it's power to turn man into stone and the ability to create life with her blood.  Some feminist groups today say that Medusa's head is a symbol of feminine rage. And that her head turning man into stone represents her warning to stay away since she was raped.  In classical antiquity the image of Medusa's head was used as an evil-averting, protection symbol.

Picture courtesy of Gaks Designs
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