Tuesday, 19 August 2008

The living goddess - until she bleeds

Athana at writes in her blog of her reservations about goddesses such as Kali and Nemesis. I share some of these but depart from her in many ways, which I will not go into here. I may blog in detail about them later for Kali has long been a goddess for whom I have felt a particular reverence.

Anyway, her post got me thinking. I was sent a link some time ago to a news report about the search in Nepal for a living goddess who will embody Kali/Bhavani. I felt very uneasy about this form many reasons. The first was the age of the girl sought. There is no way, I feel, that a girl that young can consent to the extraordinary life she will lead. These feelings are similar to my feelings about the institution of monarchy, particularly in this modern age of media and public prurience, and the lack of freedom that heirs to the throne have to make the normal mistakes of growing up. I do, i confess, have the same strong reservations about the institution of the Dalai Lama, notwithstanding the spiritual and intellectual greatness of the current incumbent.

Then I looked at the text a bit more closely and saw that she can only remain a "goddess" as long as she does not menstruate. And my mind went into overdrive at the implications of this. Kali is anything but prepubescent and is often covered in blood. Around her neck is necklace of severed male heads. To a modern western eye, she seems almost to be the apotheasis of a caricature of a woman with PMT/PMS.

And yet, she is, and must be, embodied in a child. She must be tamed and made safe. She must certainly not bleed - not demonstrate those aspects of femaleness that so terrify men. A client of mine once said, " How can you trust something that bleeds for a week and doesn't die?" It seemed to me that he had articulated something very profound about the male condition - a feeling of powerlessness in the presence of a mystery.

And it is this feeling of powerlessness, I think, that is operating in this tradition. This act of embodying the Goddess in this way is an attempt to neutralise her power. To render her safe and unthreatening


Anonymous said...

There's a quite a lot of extant scholarship (which I'm wading through just now) which indicates that women have historically been seen to occupy a position of defilement, of miasma; a position of less perfection and acculturation than men.

Partly due to the ability to bleed and bear children and thus continue the race; the central mystery of the human condition and some might say our highest purpose, and it has been devalued in favour of warmongering and physical violence.

More to come at TGW on this!



Brian Charles said...

I look forward to reading what you will have to say