December 26, 2012

Mamaquilla: The Incan Goddess of Marriage

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , at 2:12 am by Babs

Mamaquilla (Mama Quilla, Mama-Quilla or Kilya) was the Inca Pre-Columbian, South American mother moon goddess.  It was Mamaquilla who helped to regulate time and the Inca festival calendar.  The South American Indians were very protective of their mother goddess.  Considering an eclipse of the moon to be perilous time when a mountain lion or snake tried to consume the Divine Feminine energies, they performed noisy rituals in an effort to scare the marauder away.  For more updated current information about her, please see the Hierarchs of Twelve Universal Rays article about Goddess Belisama Mamaquilla serves as Hierarchy of the Fifth Ray of Rainbow Healing.  The Sacred Site focal point of Hierarchy Belisama Mamaquilla is the Pointe Vicente Lighthouse, Los Angeles County, California, U.S.A.

Belisama Mamaquilla was known as “The Radiant Brilliant One”, “The Morning and Evening Star”, “The Sacred Tree”, “The Noble and Perfect Lady” and “She of the Beauteous and Inspirational Smile”.

A Pan-Celtic, Continental, and Gaulish light goddess of crafts, creeks, fire, the forge, rivers, and song smiths, she was revered under many different names in many different places.

A bright source of Awen for poets asking for an insightful and encouraging muse, Belisama also answered the prayerful requests of those seeking the heartening lilt of her laughter blessing their dreams, or, the softly comforting flames of her burning well of ancient wisdom warming up their cauldron of understanding until it boiled with aromatic knowledge.

Mamaquilla or Kilya translates to “Lady Moon” in the Incan tongue, Her name means “Mother Moon” or “Golden Mother”.  This Incan Moon Goddess who protects married women was portrayed as a silver disk with feminine features.  Eclipses were said to occur when Mamaquilla was eaten by a heavenly jaguar.  It is also said that her Icon was a gold disk with a human face on it… but being the goddess of the moon, silver would be more appropriate.

In one of the Inca foundation legends she was the daughter of Viracocha and Mama Cocha and the wife of Inti.  She was the mother of the first Inca Manco Cepac his wife Mama Ocllo Kon.  After the Ichma, nominally of the Chimu empire joined the Inca empire, she also became the mother of their deity Pacha Camac in the Inca religion.

Dance was preferably for magical-religious or ceremonial purposes, but was also used for the purpose of wars, harvests and diversion.  Men participated in all dances, but women were prohibited to take part in war dances as well as many magical religious dances.  Dances had a collective or choral character.

The Incas cultivated all the styles of poetry (lyric, epic and dramatic)  The Haravicus (poets) enjoyed great respect in the Empire. Her most famous temple was erected at Cuzco, seat of the Incan Empire.

December 18, 2012

Bast: The Cat Goddess of Egypt

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , at 12:58 am by Babs

In early times Bast (written as ‘Bastet’ by scribes in later times to emphasize that the ‘t’ was to be pronounced) was a Goddess with the head of a lion or a desert sand-cat and was regarded as mother of Maahes, a lion-headed god, and wife to Ptah.  She was usually depicted as a cat, or as a woman with the head of a cat or lion.  She was also connected to Hathor, Sekhmet, Tefnut, Atem (her father) and Mut.  It was only in the New Kingdom that she gained the head of a house cat and became a much more ‘friendly’ goddess, though she was still depicted as a lion-headed woman to show her war-like side.  As with Hathor, Bast is often seen carrying a sistrum.

Her name has the hieroglyph of a ‘bas’-jar with the feminine ending of ‘t’ represented by a loaf of bread, reading ‘She of the bas-Jar’ .  These jars were heavy perfume jars, often filled with expensive perfumes – they were very valuable in Egypt, considering the Egyptian need (with the hot weather) of makeup, bathing, hygiene and (of course) perfume.  Bast, by her name, seems to be related to perfumes in some way.  Her son Nefertem, a solar god, was a god of perfumes and alchemy, which supports the theory.

Now there is some confusion over Bast and Sekhmet.  She is given the title the ‘Eye of Ra’ when she’s in her protector form… but Bast and Sekhmet are not the same goddess (unlike Hathor who becomes Sekhmet as the ‘Eye of Ra’).  This all gives rise to a lot of confusion about these goddesses.  Bast and Sekhmet were another example of Egyptian duality – Sekhmet was a goddess of Upper Egypt, Bast of Lower Egypt (just like the pharaoh was of Upper and/or Lower Egypt) and they were linked together by geography, not by myth or legend.  These two feline goddesses were not related by family, they were both very distinct goddesses in their own right.

She was one of the older goddesses, mentioned in The Book of the Dead (which was a selection of spells, rather than an actual book):

The breast of this Meri-Ra is the breast of Bast; he cometh forth therefor and ascendeth into heaven.

Rubric – If this Chapter be known by the deceased upon earth, he shall become like unto Thoth, and he shall be adored by those who live. He shall not fall headlong at the moment of the intensity of the royal flame of the goddess Bast, and the Great Prince shall make him to advance happily.

–The Chapter of the Deification of the Members (From the Pyramid of Pepi I)

Even from very old times, as protector, Bast was seen as the fierce flame of the sun who burned the deceased should they fail one of the many tests in the underworld.

Some of Bast’s festivals included the ‘Procession of Bast’, Bast was seen as the fierce flame of the sun who burned the deceased should they fail one of the many tests in the underworld.

Herodotus describes the ‘Festival of Bast’ where thousands of men and women travelled on boats, partying like crazy. They had music, singing, clapping and dancing. When they passed towns, the women would call out dirty jokes to the shore-bound, often flashing the townsfolk by lifting up their skirts over their heads! When they reached Per-Bast, they made their sacrifices of various animals, and drank as much wine as they could stomach. No wonder it was such a popular festival!

When the people are on their way to Per-Bast, they go by river, a great number in every boat, men and women together. Some of the women make a noise with rattles, others play flutes all the way, while the rest of the women, and the men, sing and clap their hands. As they travel by river to Per-Bast, whenever they come near any other town they bring their boat near the bank; then some of the women do as I have said, while some shout mockery of the women of the town; others dance, and others stand up and lift their skirts. They do this whenever they come alongside any riverside town. But when they have reached Per-Bast, they make a festival with great sacrifices, and more wine is drunk at this feast than in the whole year besides. It is customary for men and women (but not children) to assemble there to the number of seven hundred thousand, as the people of the place say.

— Herodotus, Histories Book II Chapter 60

Her cult center was in Per-Bast (the temple is now in ruins, but it was made of red granite with a sacred grove in the centre, with the shrine of the goddess herself… it was also full of cats). An alternative translation of her name could be ‘She of Bast’, referring to the city of Per-Bast. She was also worshipped all over Lower Egypt.

Bast comes from the Kemetic religion, a belief system that for many years was traditionally typecast as polytheistic in nature. Recent modern research has questioned this label, and the Egyptological community today is now vastly under the opinion that the Kemetic religion was, keeping with most indigenous African religions, “monolatrous” meaning one god who can take on multiple faces (the One and the Many).

Some people question the categorization of ancient Egypt as a monolatry because it would seem to be so obviously polytheistic. People who purport that ancient Egyptian religion is polytheistic are actually half correct however, numerous references to deity in the singular and to priests priding themselves on knowing the “Names of Netjer” point toward more than just a polytheistic categorization of the religion, which is where the term monolatry comes into use. One God with multiple faces.

Because Kemet was absorbed by the roman Empire (which was polytheistic) and encountered by the Greeks before even that (who were also polytheistic), and because for over a thousand years the hieroglyphic language was lost, it is easy to see why it has been miscategorized. However, just as one could not fairly call the religion of Yoruba or the Hindu religion polytheistic, so also one would not – when dealing with pre_Greco-Roman Egypt – do the same with Kemetic religion. It is extremely important when studying ancient Egypt to differentiate between the time when Egypt was held by foreign powers – the Late Period on – and when it was not. Culturally, religiously, and structurally, the differences are readily apparent – enough so that Egypt may as well have been two different countries entirely: the land of the native Pharaohs, and the land of the foreign rulers.

Finally, while Bast is one of the better-known and visible Goddesses of Netjer, She is also part of a magnificent and complex composite. This is a fact that should be kept in mind throughout the course of reading this. People who have had a problem grasping ancient Egyptian religion and its seemingly confusing flurry of myriad, over-lapping concepts may also find that their view of the theology has changed with this new understanding of how it was most likely viewed by the ancient Egyptians themselves.

When dealing with something as enduring as Bast, it’s easy to forget just how old She really is. Since She has been dated to at least the Second Dynasty, this means She predates the following events:

  • The Dark and Feudal Ages of all the major world cultures.
  • Muhammad as the Prophet of Allah.
  • The Roman Empire’s rise.
  • Alexander the Great.
  • The Trojan War.
  • Lao-tzu, Confucius, and Buddha.
  • Ramese, Tutankhamen, Akhenaten, Thutmose III, and Hatshepsut.
  • The building of the Pyramids, Khaefra (Cheops), Senefru.

If you sit back and think about it, this means She has existed – in name – just under five millennia. This is an awesomely vast amount of time, making Her one of the oldest Goddesses in existence.

Bast is most commonly depicted as a woman with the head of either a cat, a lion, or a large desert cat. Not that these desert cats, ferocious in fury and strength, were not domesticated variety as we would know them’ this was the feral desert cat from which the Kemetics would breed cats similar to our own pets. Except in one Ramesside depiction where She is syncretized with Mut (Mut-Bast), Bast is never shown fully human.

Most importantly, Bast was not depicted with the domesticated cat imagery that has now become synonymous with Her until 1000 BCE – nearly two thousand years after Her worship began. Previous to synonymous with Her until 1000 BCE – nearly two thousand years after Her worship began. Previous to that, the cat was considered “beneath” representation except in rare cases involving Mafdet (in the Pyramid Texts) and Ra. In the Litany of the Sun, seventy-five names of Ra are mentioned, along with His seventy-five corresponding forms. Two of those names are cats – Miuty and Miu-Oa or “The Great Male Cat”. While Bast is perhaps better known as a domesticated, Her representation as a lion or desert cat did not cease with the advent of Bast as a house cat. Images of Bast as a lion-headed figure holding a was-scepter (from the Hall of Osorkon at Bubastis) or with a lion’s mane and holding the Eye of Ra can be found throughout Egyptian art from the Late Period on. Bast is even shown in one particular Late Period depiction as wearing the Double Crown (the red and the white “nested” together) and suckling the Pharaoh – perhaps an illusion to the rise of popularity with Per-Bast or Bubastis, the Domain of Bast. Additionally, there is not reason to believe that the lion device on the aegis wielded by the cat-headed Bast is not in fact a second representation of Her (a concept known to Kemetic art and symbology).

Bast is often shown holding the ankh or the papyrus wand, and sometimes the was-scepter (usually only in connection to Bubastis, which was the home of Her cult). The papyrus wand is a significant and slightly baffling item for Her to be holding, as this item usually signifies a “first” or primordial god such as Ma’at as to Bast’s suspicious lack of representation in common Egyptian mythology, and may connect Her to Tefnut, who, like Bast, is also the Eye of Tem-Ra and depicted with a feline head.

Bast’s sacred city in Kemet was Per-Bast (Greek: Bubastis; modern-day Tell Basta, near Zagazig in Northern (Lower) Egypt). Per-Bast translates into “the Domain of Bast” and has been excavated numerous times since Edourard Naville first broke ground there in 1887. Details on Naville’s excavation can be found in a set of extremely rare books entitled Bubastis, 1887-1889 and The Festival Hall of Osorkon II in the Great Temple of Bubastis, 1887-1889 by Edouard Naville. Both of these books have long been out of print, and are now outdated by the more recent (mid-1970s) excavation information but forth by the late Dr. Labib Habachi in his book, Tell-Basta (also out of print and difficult to acquire). Finds dating from all periods of Kemetic history have been made at the Tell-Basta site; a current mission recently unearthed war-offerings and other materials dating from King Ahmose of the 18th Dynasty.

Other cities where Bast was venerated (with approximate time of establishment of custom when possible) were:

  • Memphis (Old Kingdom), where She was associated strongly with Sekhmet (the lion-headed visage Het-hert takes on when She becomes the Eye of Ra).
  • Heliopolis (Old Kingdom), where She was the “Daughter of Tem” via a possible connection to Tefnut.
  • Herakleopolis (???), in a city called the “Hill of Bast”.
  • Eastern Delta (???), “Ba-ir-Ra-st on the Waters of Ra”.
  • Denderah (???), via Her connection to Het-hert. Denderah is referred to in some cases as the “Southern Bubastis” – an important implication as it would mean that the worship of Bast from early on was country-wide and not regional.
  • The Precinct of Mut in Thebes (New Kingdom), via Her connection to Mut.
  • Sais (Late Period), the city of Nit, where a statue of Bast existed.
  • Leontopolis (???), the city of Shu and Tefnut, at “ihy.n.Bes.t”.

Cities in which festivals of Bast were celebrated included Thembes, Memphis, Bubastis, and Esna. It should be noted that the contrary to some modern-day claims, there was no festival of Sekhmet-Bast-Ra to coincide with the modern-day Halloween.

Today, no shrines or temples remain of Bast in Egypt; even Bubastis was mostly ruins by the time Naville got around to it. There is a “Portal of Bast” on the Giza Plateau (fittingly, near the Sphinx), and statues have been discovered showing Khaefre accompanied by Her. A painting of Bast is present within the tomb of Nefertari at Abu Simbel, and dozens of bronze statues dating from the Late Period have been discovered amidst the cat cemetery found at Per-Bast. A Bast shrine on display is located in the Field Museum of Chicago; benches flank a small enclosure thin which stands a statue of the seated cat and the cat-headed woman (both behind glass).  This is perhaps as close as we can currently get in the modern-day to a public shrine unto Her.

Bast is one of several names who are known as the “Eye of Ra”, a title that denotes a Name of Netjer who functions as a protector or avenger.  Since the earliest of times She has been associated with the king.  Pyramid Texts 892 name Her next to the king as the, “Knowledge through which death cannot approach too closely.”  She also serves as his protector, a trait that is common in many other feline names such as Mafdet – protector of Pharaoh’s chambers – and Sekhmet – destroyer of the King’s enemies.

As a regional name associated with Per-Bast, Bast was strongly connected to the delta region of Kemet (referred to as Lower Egypt).  Her initial role as the protector of the ruler spread out to children and pregnant women in later times as Her image became “softened” by Her associations with such names as Het-hert (Greek: Hathor), Mut, and Aset (Greek: Isis).  She was also invoked in the hopes of bestowing fertility (perhaps due to the proliferation of cats themselves), and She became more closely associated with Het-hert She became more closely associated with Het-hert She also picked up many of that Netjert’s associations, such as music and the arts.

They hieroglyphs for Bast are the jar-like symbol representing “bas” and the half-circle (a loaf of bread) standing for the feminine “-t” ending.  The jar and two loaves of bread are the hieroglyphs for Bastet, the one of the name She is given when in the full cat form.  The bas-jars themselves are heavy vessels used to store perfume, one of the most valuable commodities of Kemet, and Bast Herself has relations to perfumery (a second beginning of the 1900’s (as per E.A. Wallis Budge’s The Gods of the Egyptians), Bast’s name has nothing to do with “friction”, “heat”, or “fire”.

Bast has been associated closely with Het-hert since the Old Kingdom; toward the Middle Kingdom, Bast also became associated with Mut and, even later, Aset (Isis).  As well, just as images of Bast have been found in Memphis (the city of Sekhmet, Ptah, and Nefertem), images of Sekhmet have been found in Bubastis.  As the Eye of Ra, Bast acts as His personal “hitman” ripping out the hearts of the transgressors of Ma’at and delivering them personally to His and the Pharaoh’s feet.

As we can see, this is far from the “happy fluffy sex goddess” that has been set forth by the media and many modern-day religious institutions.  This approach may not even be appropriate for the cat-goddess She became with the arrival of Hellenistic influence on Her society, and even if it was, it is fairly appropriate to say that this Hellenized version is no more Bast than processed Velveeta is really cheese.  Defining the Egyptian Bast by the Greek and Roman worldview does not leave Her empowered to do the job She was originally allotted in the Kemetic theology.

While Bast and Sekhmet have been paired together since as early as 1850 BCE, their relationship is not along the lines of facets of a pacified/angry goddess.  Bast’s role as a “raging” goddess quickly discourages this notion, and even in the very later periods She was still depicted bearing the Uadjet and wearing Wadjet which would imply divine vengeance and the role of the divine avenger.  Sekhmet is no more the “angry” side of Bast than Bast is the “pacified” side of Sekhmet; if any Egyptian deity occupies this role, it would be Het-hert, who clearly becomes Sekhmet after She has gone forth to slaughter those who would disobey the will of the Creator (Ra or Tem).  In regards to Sekhmet, another pairing that should be considered by those who wish to explore Her as the divine destroyer would be the one the ancient Egyptians themselves established by “marrying” Her to Ptah.  In this union, the two compliment each other suitably as in Egyptian theology Ptah occupies a position of industrious craftmanship and even creation of the world.

However, the fact remains that Bast and Sekhmet were paired.  Bast was primarily a Northern god (since Her main place of worship was in Lower Egypt), while Sekhmet (as a form of Het-hert) was a Southern god.  Just as Nekhbet and Wadjet are paired (Nekhbet being the vulture and Wadjet the royal cobra) as the Two Ladies, so Bast and Sekhmet are paired, one representing Lower Egypt (Bast) and the other representing Upper Egypt (Sekhmet).  This is traditionally a “She of the North and She of the South” representation, and not necessarily a “She of the Content and She of the Really Ticked Off” kind.

Bast shares qualities of both Sekhmet and Het-hert in Her role as protector, destroyer, and avenger; witness the dozens of shields belonging to soldiers with Bast’s device on them that have been unearthed in Egypt.  However, at no time in the history of Kemetic religion were Sekhmet and Bast associated in a “sister-sister”, “mother-daughter”, “aunt-niece”. or “big bad lioness/ nice kitty” context.  The phrase, “She rages as Sekhmet, She is pacified as Bast.”  is a fairly late one (150 BCE), and in specifying “Kemetic religion”, one is implying the state of the theology previous to the Third Intermediate/ Late Period.

As final note on the sisterhood issue – while it might be convenient to put Sekhmet and Bast back-to-back as the lion/cat twins, keep in mind that sisters in ancient Egyptian theology were extremely important and rare occurrences and that Bast and Sekhmet in particular are never mentioned in this sort of relationship.  Aset (Isis) and Nebt-het (Nephthys) who are sisters, share a very distinctive relationship that carries through into their iconography and depictions.  Rarely do you see one without the other in funerary scenes, and there are numerous paired statues of the two as well as extant mythology relating them as born of the same parents.  The same is not true in antiquity with Bast and Sekhmet, aside from references of Ra as their father – a reference that rings true for nearly every ancient Egyptian goddess.  If one is to understand the theology of Kemet, one would be wise to avoid instituting one’s own presumptions onto the framework of the society.  It is our duty, as responsible historians, to preserve and respect the wishes of those from whom we have inherited.

More on Bast

Bast’s mother goddess energy is most nurturing, but like all mothers, is occasionally a disciplinarian for the greatest good of all.

Suggested Mantra: Play!

Suggested Affirmations:

  • I am playful
  • I enjoy the simple things in life
  • I enjoy the journey!
  • I embrace life in its absolute fullness
  • I reach out and take hold of this moment
  • Today I choose to do what I can and I can do anything

Gemstones:

  • Fire Agate
  • Pyrite
  • Sun stone
  • Agate
  • Jasper
  • Lapis Lazuli

Bast, or Bastet, is an Egyptian goddess of the sun but was later adopted by the Greeks as a goddess of the moon.  She is the daughter of Isis and Osiris (Ra), and is represented as a cat-headed woman holding a sistrum (rattle) in her right hand and a protective totem (cat) in the other.

As the ancestral mother of all cats, she is the patron of play, but is capable of unleashing dangerous forces in revenge.  In this sense, she is a goddess of pleasure providing it is for the greatest good of all.  Joy, dancing and music are energized with Bast’s influence, but only if you follow a recipe for wholeness of body, mind and spirit.

Bastet, or more correctly, Bast – was originally worshipped as the Eye of Ra and protector of the Pharoah.  But the conquering Greeks, Romans (and others) evolved her legends so that she eventually became the original Party Girl, ruling over pleasure, love-making and sensory delights.

Also considered a patron goddess of home and family, she was a Daughter of the sun-god Re, sister of Sekhmet the Lion Goddess, and the wife of Ptah, although her worship appears to precede that of Ptah by at least several centuries.

The cult of Bast flourished at her sanctuary at Bubastis in the rich Nile delta region of Egypt, where a necropolis has been found containing mummified cats.  She is depicted as a cat or as a woman with a cat’s head often holding the sacred rattle known as the sistrum.

The cult of Bast or Bastet?  The confusion in the pronunciation runs deeper than one might think.  Firstly, in many cases, the Egyptians did not record vowel sounds – so you might hear “Bast” pronounced “BOST” or even “BIST”.  We don’t really know what the vowel sound was between the B and the ST sounds.  Secondly, the name “Bastet” has been used because the Egyptians used an extra T mark to distinguish a female rather than male personage.  If anyone attempts to correct you on the pronunciation of Bast – just shrug your shoulders and say “it’s all Egyptian to me!”  No one really knows the exact pronunciation that the Egyptians used for the Goddess Bast!

The cat first appeared around 3000 BC in a country called Nubia, which bordered Egypt.  Egypt later conquered Nubia and by 2500 BC the cat was domesticated in Egypt.

The cat’s first name in Egypt was ‘Myeo’ or ‘Mau’.  The ancient Egyptians held the cat in the highest esteem, its status evolved rapidly and it was eventually thought of as the guardian of the temple and was worshipped as a goddess.  The earliest feline Egyptian goddess recorded was ‘Mafdet’, it is recorded in Egyptian lore that She killed a serpent with her claws.  Mafdet is usually depicted as a large cat, like a panther, cheetah or leopard.  The Egyptians had several other feline Goddesses, such as the lioness headed Sekhmet but only Bast was represented by the domesticated cat.  Bast, a beneficent and kindly Goddess, was believed to be the daughter of Isis and Ra.  A Goddess of the Sun – it was believed that the glow from a cat’s eyes held captive the light of the sun – the Moon, fertility, wisdom and love.  Bast presides over enchantment and protects her subjects from evil spirits and contagion.  She is blessed with the powerful ability to heal.  One version of her name, “Pasht,” might have given rise to the English term “Puss.”

Bast was usually depicted as the seated Sacred Cat, often holding the sacred rattle known as the sistrum with gold jewelry in her nose, ears and around her neck.  When she took on her half-feline, half-human form she was known as Bastet.  When in her half-feline form she is often seen holding in her left hand an amulet of the all-seeing sacred eye, the utchat, believed to have magical powers.  It was often depicted as being the eye of a cat, sometimes with cats within the eye itself.  An utchat at the door kept a watchful eye out for thieves and vandals, protecting the home.  An utchat over the lintel kept a watchful eye over all who dwelt within, preserving them from disease and accident.  An utchat over the lintel kept a watchful eye over all who dwelt within, preserving them from disease and accident.  An utchat worn around the neck kept its watchful eye upon the road and protected travelers from harm.  An utchat showing a mother cat with many kittens given as a wedding present meant many children.

The main center for the worship of Bast was in the norther Egypt city of Bubastis.  The festivals that honored Bast were described as one of the largest and most enthusiastically celebrated in the entire ancient world.  Ancient Egyptians also carved wooden figures of cats and crafted furniture and jewelry in the shape of cats.  Thousands of small cat sculptures, probably left with offerings to the Temple by devotees, have been recovered at Bubastis.

December 12, 2012

Lakshmi: The Goddess of Wealth & Beauty

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , at 1:06 am by Babs

Goddess Lakshmi means “Good Luck” to Hindus.  The word ‘Lakshmi’ is derived from the Sanskrit word Laksya, meaning ‘aim’ or ‘goal’, and she is the goddess of wealth and prosperity, both material and spiritual.

Lakshmi is the household goddess of most Hindu families, and a favorite of women.  Although she is worshipped daily, the festive month of October is Lakshmi’s special month.  Lakshmi Puja is celebrate on the full moon night of Kojagari Purnima.

The Lakshmi form is depicted as a beautiful woman of golden complexion, with four hands, sitting or standing on a full=bloomed lotus and holding a lotus bud, which stands for beauty, purity and fertility.  Her four hands represent the four ends of human life: dharma or righteousness, kama or desires, artha or wealth, and moksha or liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

Cascades of gold coins are seen flowing from her hands, suggesting that those who worship her gain wealth.  She always wears gold-embroidered red clothes.  Red symbolizes activity and the golden lining indicates prosperity.  Lakshmi is the active energy of Vishnu, and also appears as Lakshmi-Narayan – Lakshmi accompanying Vishnu.

Two elephants are often shown standing next to the goddess and spraying water.  This denotes that ceaseless effort, in accordance with one’s dharma and governed by wisdom and purity, leads to both material and spiritual prosperity.

A Mother Goddess

Worship of a mother goddess has been a part of Indian tradition since its earliest times.  Lakshmi is one of the mother goddesses and is addressed as mata (mother) instead of just devi (goddess).

As a female counterpart of Lord Vishnu, Mata Lakshmi is also called ‘Shri’, the female energy of the Supreme Being.  She is the goddess of prosperity, wealth, purity, generosity, and the embodiment of beauty, grace and charm.

A Domestic Deity

The importance attached to the presence of Lakshmi in every household makes her an essentially domestic deity.  Householders worship Lakshmi for the well-being and prosperity of the family.  Businessmen and women also regard her equally and offer her daily prayers.

On the full moon night following Durga Puja, Hindus worship Lakshmi ceremonially at home, pray for her blessings, and invite neighbors to attend the puja.  It is believed that on this full moon night the goddess herself visits the homes and replenishs the inhabitants with wealth.  A special worship is also offered to Lakshmi on the auspicious Diwali night.

While the great goddess as a cosmic force may be a deity of compelling dynamism and fearsome power, it is in the guise of the gentle and beneficent giver of the devotees’ desires, that the female divinities of India first appeared.  This role of the goddess as one who fulfills wishes has remained one of enduring strength and consequence.  In the ancient collection of sacred humans known as the Veda, this aspect of the goddess already becomes manifest.  The two most shining examples in this context are The Great Goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati.

Goddess Lakshmi, also known as Shri, is personified not only as the goddess of fortune and wealth but also as an embodiment of loveliness, grace and charm.  She is worshipped as a goddess who grants both worldly prosperity as well as liberation from the cycle of life and death.

Lore has it that Lakshmi arose out of the sea of milk, the primordial cosmic ocean, bearing a red lotus in her hand.  Each member of the divine triad – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (creator, preserver and destroyer respectively) – wanted to have her for himself.  Shiva’s claim was refused for he had already claimed the Moon, Brahma had Saraswati, so Vishnu claimed her and she was born and reborn as his consort during all of his ten incarnations.

Though retained by Vishnu as his consort, Lakshmi remained an avid devotee of Lord Shiva.  an interesting legend surrounds her devotion to this god:

Every day Lakshmi had a thousand flowers plucked by her handmaidens and she offered them to the idol of Shiva in the evening.  One day, counting the flowers as she offered them, she found that there were two less than a thousand.  It was too late to pluck any more for evening had come and the lotuses had closed their petals for then night.

Lakshmi thought it inauspicious to offer less than a thousand.  Suddenly she remembered that Vishnu had once described her breasts as blooming lotuses.  She decided to offer them as the two missing flowers.  Lakshmi cut off one breast and placed it with the flowers on the altar.  Before she could cut off the other, Shiva, who was extremely moved by her devotion, appeared before her and asked her to stop.  He then turned her cut breast into round, sacred Bael fruit (Aegle marmelos) and sent it to Earth with his blessings to flourish near his temples.

A few texts say that Lakshmi is the wife of Dharma.  She and several other goddesses, all of whom are personifications of certain auspicious qualities, are said to have been given to Dharma in marriage.  This association seems primarily to represent a thinly disguised “wedding” of Dharma (virtuous conduct) with Lakshmi (prosperity and well-being).  The pint of the association seems to be to teach that by performing Dharma one obtains prosperity.

Tradition also associates Lakshmi with Kubera, the ugly lord of the Yakshas.  The Yakshas were a race of supernatural creatures who lived outside the pale of civilization.  Their connection with Lakshmi perhaps springs from the fact that they were notable for a propensity for collecting, guarding and distributing wealth.  Association with Kubera deepens the aura of mystery and underworld connections that attached itself to Lakshmi.  Yakshas are also symbolic of fertility.  The Yakshinis (female Yakshas) depicted often in temple sculpture are full-breasted and big-hipped women with wide generous mouths, leaning seductively against trees.  The identification of Shri, the goddess who embodies the potent power of growth, with the Yakshas is natural.  She, like them, involves, and reveals herself in the irrepressible fecundity of plant life, as exemplified in the legend of Shiva and the Bael fruit narrated above, and also in her association with the lotus, to be described later.

An interesting and fully developed association is between Lakshmi and the god Indra.  Indra is traditionally known as the king of the gods, the foremost of the gods, and he is typically described as a heavenly king.  It is therefore appropriate for Shri-Lakshmi to be associated with him as his wife or consort.  In these myths she appears as the embodiment of royal authority, as a being whose presence is essential for the effective wielding of royal power and the creation of royal prosperity.

Several myths of this genre describe Shri-Lakshmi as leaving one ruler for another.  she is said, for example, to dwell even with a demon named Bali.  The concerned legend makes clear the union between Lakshmi and victorious kings.  According to this legend Bali defeats Indra.  Lakshmi is attracted to Bali’s winning ways and bravery and joins him along with her attendant auspicious virtues.  In association with the propitious goddess, Bali rules the three worlds (earth, heavens and the nether worlds) with virtue, and under his rule there is prosperity all around.  Only when the dethroned gods manage to trick Bali into surrendering does Shri-Lakshmi depart from Bali, leaving him lusterless and powerless.  along with Lakshmi, the following qualities depart from Bali: good conduct, virtuous behavior, truth, activity and strength.

Lakshmi’s association with so many different male deities and with the notorious fleetness of good fortune earned her a reputation for fickleness and inconstancy.  In one text she is said to be so unsteady that even in a picture she moves and that if she sticks with Vishnu it is only because she is attracted to his many different forms (avatars)!  She is thus also known as “Chanchala” or the restless one.

Her notorious fickleness has convinced her devotees that she may desert them at the slightest pretext.  They have thus devised numerous ingenious strategies to retain Lakshmi, and thus prosperity in their establishments.  One such sect is known to offer only the worst net-like fabric as vastra (clothing) to Lakshmi; for they say, ‘It is much easier for Goddess Lakshmi to abandon our houses clad in ample folds of cloth rather than scantily dressed in the minimum fabric we offer to her as garment’!

In a mythological sense her fickleness and adventurous nature slowly begin to change once she is identified totally with Vishnu, and finally becomes still.  She then becomes the steadfast, obedient and loyal wife who vows to reunite with her husband in all his next lives.  As the cook at the Jagannatha temple in Puri, she prepares food for her lord and his devotees.  In the famous paintings on the walls of the Badami caves in central India, she sits on the ground near where her lord reclines upon a throne, leaning on him; a model of social decorum and correctness.

Physically Goddess Lakshmi is described as a fair lady, with four arms, seated on a lotus, dressed in fine garments and precious jewels.  She has a benign countenance, is in her full youth and yet has a motherly appearance.

The most striking feature of the iconography of Lakshmi is her persistent association with the lotus.  The meaning of the lotus in relation to Shri-Lakshmi refers to purity and spiritual power.  Rooted in the mud but blossoming above the water, completely uncontaminated by the mud, the lotus represents spiritual perfection and authority.  Further more, the lotus seat is a common motif in Hindu and Buddhist iconography.  the gods and goddesses, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, typically sit or stand upon a lotus, which suggests their spiritual authority.  To be seated upon or to be otherwise associated with the lotus suggests that the being in question: God, Buddha, or human being has transcended the limitations of the finite world (the mud of existence, as it were) and floats freely in a sphere of purity and spirituality.  Shri-Lakshmi thus suggests more than the fertilizing powers of moist soil and the mysterious powers of growth.  She suggests a perfection or state of refinement that transcends the material world.  She is associated not only with the royal authority but with also spiritual authority, and she combines royal and priestly powers in her presence.  The lotus, and the goddess Lakshmi by association, represents the fully developed blossoming of organic life.

No description of Goddess Lakshmi can be complete without a mention of her traditionally accepted vehicle, the owl.  Now, the owl (Ulooka in Sanskrit), is a bird that sleeps through the day and prowls through the night.  In a humorous vein it is said that owing to its lethargic and dull nature the Goddess takes it for a ride!  She is the handmaiden of those who know how to control it; how to make best use of her resources, like the Lord Vishnu.  But those who blindly worship her are verily the owls or ‘Ulookas’.  The choice is ours: whether we wish to be Lord Vishnu or the ‘Ulooka’ in our association with Lakshmi.

This is a favorite time of year because the Lakshmi comes alive during the Hindu holiday of Deepavali (or Diwali).  Each year, around the new moon in October or November, Hindu people celebrate this Goddess of Fortune and invite Her into their homes, attempting to secure Her favors for the year to come.

Lakshmi is such a special Goddess.  She’s magical and practical.  Her mate is a God and her best friend, a guy.  She is a living Goddess, worshipped around the world.  In these times of challenge as in all times of challenge, she can be a comfort and a healer; she brings a sense of greater fortune even in the darkest moments.  She is a powerful cosmic connection; a divine female who looks like us, and offers a sense of courage, of hope, of power.  As the Hindu Goddess of Good Fortune and Beauty, she represents and is seen as the personification of abundance, prosperity, wealth, well-being and harmony.  She is actively worshipped daily by millions of Hindus, and interfaith practitioners of Goddess spirituality around the globe.  Because of her popularity she is considered a universal Goddess.  Yet Diwali is her special holiday because it is a holiday of lights, and represents a sweet, soulful and prosperous time when people dress up and celebrate in the name of the Goddess of Fortune.

On the night before Diwali children often light off firecrackers and sparklers, and in some parts of India, adults bang pots and pans to scare off Lakshmi’s dark sister, Alakshmi.  Then women line their windows and doorways with tiny lights (deepa) that are offerings to Lakshmi, to help her find her way to their abode.  On Diwali day Lakshmi is honored with worship such as Homan, Abishekam and Puja. And later that day the Sarada Puja to bless account books for they year is offered, followed by a Lakshmi-Kubera Puja, to Goddess of Fortune and the God of Wealth.  For two days, people participate in additional pujas and “Annakut Utsavam,” where people bring sweets to the temple or make offerings in their homes to Lakshmi and her beloved Vishnu.  In the temples the food is stacked and overflowing around holy icons and the priests hand out blessed sweets to children and especially needy devotees.  They are accepted gladly, in two hands, and a respectfully bow of the head.  People often kiss or pray over this blessed food, called prasad, before eating it and taking in the energies of the Goddess and her mate.

Lakshmi is a goddess who brings all good things to light and to life!  She has one of the most colorful creation myths of all the deities in the Hindu pantheon.  It is said Goddess Lakshmi was born, fully grown, on a pink lotus that rose from the milky sea.  She was immediately be-decked, be-jeweled and worshipped by the gods and sages.  they prayed that she would come to their abodes, and to their worlds, for they believed that where Lakshmi is you will also find riches and fulfillment.  Three millennia later, she remains the symbol of all things fortunate, and she is a highly sought after and beloved female deity.

Lakshmi, like many Hindu deities, is often pictured as a beautiful Indian woman with bi dark eyes and with four arms.  Clad in sari, in a form that is very feminine and full, she sits or stands on her pink lotus throne.  She usually has two lotuses in either of her back hands.  Her front arms typically offer a protective blessing, as well as blessings known as “boons,” or favors from the God/dessses.  Her ability to enhance our good fortune in life is symbolized by the gold coins seen pouring from her hands, back into the ocean of life.

Need help with finances, a job, success, happiness and love?  Lakshmi is a goddess you can turn to.  it is the Hindu tradition to evoke the Lord of Obstacles, Ganesha, to clear the path to success.  Ganesha removes obstacles so Lakshmi can deliver fortune into your life.  While there are specific chants and prayers to evoke Ganesha, some people call to him with the simple chant: “Om Ganesha, Om Ganesha, Om Ganesha.

Lakshmi and Ganesha are cohorts, who often work side by side.  This is indicated by the frequency with which you see their icons and pictures together.  Lakshmi’s mate, however, is the God Vishnu – known as the Great Preserver, who comes to earth in the form of important avatars, such as Krishna.  Lakshmi reincarnates with him in all human lifetimes and because of this is also seen as a role model for undying love.

It is believed that those who pay attention to the Goddess of Fortune every day develop a clear channel of communication with Her.  You may also want to view this as simply focusing energy on that which you are choosing to creat in your life.  Lakshmi exists in a dimension far beyond our human struggles and sadness.  From where she sits on her Sacred Lotus, she can guide us to greater fortune, deeper love relationships and more joy.  Because she is also considered a Great Mother Devi (Goddess) she can guide us from darkness, into the light.  In fact, if you allow Lakshmi to be present in your life, you jut might find she elevates you to a higher state of being and living.  And in that state you will begin to see that you can create anything!

How to Invite Lakshmi Into Your Life

Attend a Lakshmi Puja: In the culture from which Lakshmi hails, she is treated with great reverence and devotion.  In the United States, it is very easy for anyone to attend, or even sponsor (request) a Lakshmi Puja, which is a form of formal worship to the Goddess.  anyone of any faith can  have a Hindu priest perform a puja at a temple or private home.  You can also attend what is usually called a Sri MahaLaxmi or Sri MahaLakshmi (meaning Mother Lakshmi) abishekam, which is the sacred purification and washing of the Goddess with milk, yogurt, honey and more.  The 108 names of the Goddess are chanted and prayers are uttered repeatedly during a Lakshmi worship service and devotional songs are sung.  Puja sponsorship usually begins at $51 (Hindus never end a number with “0”).

Pray to Her: Since ou may not get to attend a Hindu worship service to honor the Goddess, it is important that you know Lakshmi can hear your prayers from wherever you may be.  to evoke Her energy of good fortune, light a green candle in Lakshmi’s honor.  think for  a moment about what good fortune means to you.  Perhaps you may find that good fortune begins with a sense of peace and well-being within and has little to do with material goods or money.  Or maybe you have a financial issue which, once resolved, will make you feel more fortunate.  Although you can certainly pray to win the lottery, you may find more immediate results if you pray for whatever cash is needed to meet your financial obligations and whatever support you need to make your most heartfelt dreams come alive.  Evoke Ganesha by repeating “Om Ganesha” three times.  Then ask the goddess for her help.  Petition her as you would any deity (“Dear MahaLakshmi, please help me with…) or in Her spiritual presence, make a declaration (“I am ready to find the job (mate, apartment, car, etc) that is perfect for me, now”).  In these challenging times, you can also pray to her for peace and well-being for all.  Good Fortune on all levels, spiritual and material, is her domain.

Celebrate Lakshmi’s Sacred Holidays: Dates can sometimes vary in different locations.

Navaratri: the goddess Lakshmi is celebrated in image, song, worship and prayer in October during the sacred Hindu holiday honoring The Mother, called Navaratri.  This nine-day celebration also honors the Goddesses Durga and Saraswati, and in some locals Goddesses Kali and Parvarti.

Diwali: worshippers around the world clean their homes spotless and light oil lamps to invite the Goddess to their abode on this holiday.  The celebration runs a few days.  Lakshmi is honored in all day pujas on Deepavali (Diwali) day.

December 4, 2012

Hygeia: Greek Goddess of Health

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , at 8:49 am by Babs

Hygeia is the personification of health.  She was the daughter of Asclepius, the god of medicine, who was the son of Apollo.  Hygeia was associated with the cult of Asclepius.  Today, you will see sculptures of the goddess of health and the god of medicine in medical facilities throughout the world.

Like Asclepius, Goddess Hygeia was not one of the original deities of Greek Mythology.  If you search through the standard god/goddess index, you’re not likely to find the Goddess of Health on your first try.  Where did this goddess come from?  The Greeks had early gods and goddesses: twelve major deities, the three Fates, the nine Muses, and many minor deities.  While the Greek Sun God Apollo and the Roman Goddess of Wisdom Minerva are well-known and written about, the Goddess of Health is one of those minor deities.

There are at least twelve gods and goddesses for healing alone; health personified is named Hygeia, pronounced Hi-je’-ah.  It is derived from the root word hugies or hygies, meaning healthy, which is also the root word for hygiene.  The traditional male-dominated medical profession prefers to use the god of medicine, Asclepius, (or the Roman name Aesculapius) which is much harder to spell and pronounce, and rarely associated with women.  To highlight women’s health, we couldn’t find a better name encompassing all the ideals of mythology, with the focus on women, then Hygeia.

Classical mythology says virtually nothing about this powerful goddess, most probably the ancient Greeks considered her eclipsed by the god they believed to be her father.  However, the ancient peoples entrusted to Hygeia the role of watching over the health of humankind.

Hygeia is among the most gentle of goddesses.  When she appear she chooses to surround herself with a beautiful deep royal blue light.  Hygeia chooses to appear as a female in her mid 40s and has an aura of great wisdom.  She is tall, slender and graceful.  She has fair brown hair, worn in a thick plait over one shoulder, very deep blue eyes, nearly violet colored; and wears a long blue gown type robe with much drapery around the front.  The robe seems to be sleeveless.  She walks barefoot.

“I am the great Goddess Hygeia; Goddess of Health.  I accept your love and respect as you welcome me.  In return I give you my love and respect.  I have made myself known to several mortals who are ill or suffering pain, and through knowing me they are soothed.  I now have many temples in your world.  In some I am able to cure serious illnesses of people who worship there.  They do not know they worship me, yet some are aware of my presence and it is through cures of this nature that I will become known and years into the future there will be, in every country, a large shrine built for me where mortals will go to be healed.

In hospitals all over the world many die unnecessarily.  There is not enough care.  It grieves me, Hygeia, to witness what goes on in these places.  A third of mortals recover.  The rest do not, partly due to the chemicals they are given.  One day this will change.  These buildings will not be necessary in the distant future.”

For some unknown reason Hygeia kept a pet snake with a voracious appetite.  Perhaps she fed it viruses, bacteria and disease.  In any case, that snake can still be seen today, curled around Asclepius’ rod as the symbol of medicine and the bowl of Hygeia is a modern emblem for pharmacy.

Hygeia was often pictured holding a cup, (a kylix, or wine-cup), with a snake coiled about her body or arm.  The serpent is a symbol of resurrection; the cup, medicine.  Hygeia’s cup may have been an early inspiration for grail stories.

How to Contact a God or Goddess

Contact with a God or Goddess begins by speaking their name.  This creates an automatic link; wherever they may be at a given moment they are aware – super awareness seems to be one of their properties.

Speak their name and they will hear.  Be respectful but be yourself.  There is no need for sycophancy nor for chanting, this thy dislike.  Honesty and thought fulness are appreciated.

Use wine – generally red for Gods and white for Goddesses – and incense and fruit.  Sacrifice nothing but your time – for in fact the Gods and goddesses of Olympia do not tolerate the rituals associated with them in the past, and any individuals or groups who harm living creatures in an attempt to please them will find it does not work.

Most Gods and Goddesses are approachable and appreciate being remembered.  It also brings you to their attention.  You should also avoid favoritism.

Hygeia in Literature

“Bright-eyed mother, highest queen of Apollon’s golden throne, desirable gently laughing Hygeia (Health).” – Greek Lyric V Licymnius Frag 769 (from Sextus Empiricus, Agains the ethicists)

“Asklepios, the most famous god – ie Paian! By him were fathered… children of Epione, along with Hygeia (Health), all-glorious, undefiled… Greetings I give you: graciously visit our wide spaced city – ie Paian! – and grant that we look on the sun’s light in joy, approved with the help of Hygeia, all-glorious, undefiled: ie Paian!” – Greek Lyric V Anonymous, Fragment 939 (Inscription from Erythrai)

“Hygeia (Health), most revered of the blessed ones among mortals, may I dwell with you for what  is left of my life, and may you graciously keep company with me: for any joy in wealth or in children or in a king’s godlike rule over men or in the desires which we hunt with the hidden nets of Aphrodite, any other delight or respite from toils that has been reveled by the gods to men, with you, blessed Hygeia, it flourishes and shines in the converse of the Kharites; and without you no man is happy.” – Greek Lyric V Aripohron, Frag 813 (from Athenaeus, Scholars at Dinner)

“Drinking [moderately] is beneficial for body, mind and property.  It is well suited to the deeds of Aphrodite and to sleep, a haven from toils, and to Hygeia (Health), most pleasing of the gods to mortals.” – Greek Elegaic Euenus, Frag 6

“I swear by Apollo the physician, and Asklepios, and Hygeia, and Panakeia, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgement, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation…” – Hippocrates, The Hippocratic Oath

“To Hygeia (Health), Fumigation from Manna.  O much desired, prolific, general queen.  Hear me, life-bearing Hygeia, of beauteous mien, mother of all; by thee diseases dire, of bliss destructive, from our life retire; and every house is flourishing and fair, if with rejoicing aspect thou art there.  Each daidal art they vigorous force inspires, and all the world thy helping hand desires.” – Aides

“[Hades], life’s bane, alone resists they will, and ever hates they all-preserving skill.  O fertile queen, from thee for ever flows to mortal life from agony repose and men without thy all-sustaining ease find nothing useful, nothing formed to please.  without thy aid, not Aides’ self can thrive, nor man too much afflicted age arrive for thou alone, of countenance serene, dost govern all things, universal queen.  Assist thy mystics with propitious mind, and far avert disease of every kind.” – Orphic Hymn 68 to Hygeia

“He [the corrupt physician] made a pretence of dispensing the celebrated portion called by more learned people ‘The Health Offering’ (Salus Sacra), a drug necessary for easing gastric pains and dissolving bile; but in its place he substituted another draught, ‘The Death Offering’ (Proserpina Sacra) [ie Poison].” – Apuleius, the Golden Ass 12.25

The following is a personal account of an encounter with Hygeia:

“… she let me gently into the countryside, though I couldn’t say where we were.  There were fields and meadows and nearby was a forest.  I noticed the air seemed so pure, clear and cool and very invigorating without any wind.  There were flowers everywhere.

‘This is the sort of place where I can be honored, healthy open spaces.  This is how air should always feel.  This is pure.  There should always be trees, bushes and flowers near everyone.  MOrtals were meant to live along sie of healthy plants, not along side noise, pollution and masses of tall buildings.  In my new temples I have found so many weak links in the Christian faith that I am sure I can persuade many to go back to the old ways.  I endeavor to put the feet of those who enter my temples onto the right path so many appear to be walking in darkness.  When they appreciate the reality of the Olympian Gods and Goddesses their lives will be brighter and in many cases healthier.”

Next we walked into the forest.  The ground was carpeted with bluebells and primroses.  “You are now looking at some of the healing plants which would do more good than those pills in hospitals.”  As I looked around I noticed cowslips and coltsfoot and many other herbs I recognized.  I say bay, rosemary and sage and others, parsley and comfrey, different kinds of mints and every one of these plants seemed to shine as if they had an aura.

“These are the plants that should be cultivated for healing.  The stronger the Auric light, the more healing power they plant has.  When you have time, study this seriously.  Mortals have a certain amount of knowledge of herbal cures, but should study this more.  It is true there is a plant to cure every ailment.”

Celebrate the festival of Hygeia on October 13th.

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