Across the planet many people honour and worship the Feminine Divine. As well as the established traditions in the East and in indigenous cultures, there has also been a renewed interest in the Goddess via western earth-spiritualities such as Druidry, Wicca and the Goddess Movement. In many belief systems that honour the Divine Feminine, there is an understanding that the Divine resides within each of us – that we are an expression of Divinity; that there is an underlying unity and connection between all life and Goddess/God/Spirit. This approach asks of us that we treat all life-forms with care and kindness and view each as equally important and deserving of respect.
It might be assumed that in honouring the Divine Feminine, nature and women would also be honoured and treated with respect, and yet we only have to look around the world to find an alarming amount of abuse and violence towards both women, children and the natural world.
There has been an interesting advertising campaign in India that illustrates the disparity between the worship of the Divine Feminine and the actual attitudes and treatment of women in everyday life. In recent times we have seen reports of the most shocking violence against women coming out of India, a culture that, paradoxically, has a rich relationship with the Goddess in her many forms. There are many complex reasons for violence against women in Indian culture (or in any other for that matter) but it is clear that far too often something is going horribly awry between the spiritual teaching and the actual practice. It is precisely this that the Mumbai based agency Taproot India has tried to address in their campaign Abused Goddesses and it gives food for thought to all those that see the Divine Feminine as a vital source in helping us to create a more equitable and loving world.
Taproot India were commissioned by Save Our Sisters, an initiative of Save the Children, India to bring attention to domestic violence and the trafficking of women and children. In response, they took traditional images of the goddesses Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Durga – three of the most widely venerated goddesses in Hinduism – with bruised and battered faces. Accompanying the images was the following text:
Today, more than 68% of women in India are victims of domestic violence. Tomorrow, it seems like no woman shall be spared. Not even the ones we pray to.
Whether such a campaign can truly make a difference is unclear but it is an interesting point that the images make and, whilst causing a good deal of offence in many quarters, it has helped to drawn attention to the issue. Surely, if we love the Goddess, that love and respect must extend to all women – in fact, it must extend to all beings.
But then, we are used to pray for a man fixed on a cross with nails and in India Krisna also is a god fixed on a tree in great pain. I don’t know, Kali is not the nicest of Goddesses but prayed at by many. Perhaps we humans are not capable of acting without violence ( and even the deification of some succumbed to violence.)
…and, reading the news lately in the West, it seems there is still much more to be done (in the West), including in area(s) or organisations one might not necessarily expect….i.e., incl women’s highly abusive behaviour towards men, as well as other women, all of which are equally important issues of the day as well. Abuse is not only physical; research has shown that it also occurs alongside emotional abuse/bullying as well. Let us hope that this initiative in India helps bring more awareness to the global situation. Meanwhile, here’s to the goddess, in her many guises!
and what to think of the way we treat the Sow of today , lying between bars forced through artificial insemination to have far too many piglets each birth and not even allowed tot take care of them the way a mother would..female abundance under male control..is abuse
It’s worth noting that, while Saraswati and Lakshmi might conceivably have allowed themselves to be abused…
…no WAY would Durga (the gal with the 10 arms holding both weapons and peace symbols at the bottom) have let it happen.
She is the primordial goddess, who preceded Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu, and who not only tricked, but also soundly defeated, the King of Demons — in a fair fight!
And some of the earliest mythology says Kali is an extension of Durga’s mind, having sprung from her third eye/mind, as Athena did from Zeus’s.
Got a lot of this from Ajit Mookerjee’s book, Kali: The Feminine Force. Great illustrations and fun myths and insights in that book!!
Peter, thanks! You helped me realize there’s an added opportunity in Durga.
There are two phases to ending an abuse pattern. The first is to recognize and acknowledge that what’s happening is abuse and should not be tolerated.
The second is to empower those who are being abused — in this case, women — to stand up for themselves.
What more powerful example can you give women to emulate than Durga herself?
My heart cries when I read this, and it is not only in India that their is violence towards women, children, the weaker ones and nature, it is amongst us,it is even in spiritual guru’s in europe and England where promoters of the Divine Feminine are making money out of it , byb writing books, giving workshops and at the same time luring , attracting help-seeking women who at first firmly believe they are in a safe place with these spiritual guru’s, but are abused by them….We can only pray they will be exposed in a good way …
Going back to the campaign in India: it is truly a wonderfull way to spread this message with these pics. I support it totally and hope it will create a wave of Light to shaken up the people and emppowering these women ….My gratitude for all those who started this campaign, may they be safe ! <3
I made some mistakes in the english writing, sorry for that..
Thank you for writing this timely article and for referencing the Abused Goddesses project in India. Violence towards all beings and the earth itself has escalated in the last decade with no end in sight. If we are One, if She is us/earth, then this is a poignant visual that might give people pause to reflect on the damage we are inflicting upon ourselves. Like Durga, we are the most dangerously armed human beings in history, yet despite this we are also the most incredibly violated and violating of one another…… we must find some way of stopping this abuse to ourselves, all beings and the earth. Thanks again!
A wonderful post Philip. I am always reminded of the figure of Macha. Was she abused? yes, but she is also a person of control and action. Highighting is fine and good but does it inspire action?
I hope that this campaign does make those in India especially think about how women are regarded & treated – it will take a lot of work but I think this is a great idea. Your article is thought provoking & I agree with all the points you’ve made. Thank you & Bright light to all /|
Philip, why pick on India? The violence to the Divine Feminine begins at home. Paganism has not yet forfeited the opportunity to become a leader on environmental awareness, but it will do so rapidly unless it reforms itself. As you are probably aware, I have had to distance myself from the “western earth-spiritualities” you mention precisely because of their hypocrisy. They claim to be earth-honouring and in the next act, fly around the planet and talk climate change denialism. For paganism to be taken seriously it needs to develop its political and philosophical position. The party’s over.
Its a gr8 effort & a much loving support for d abused goddeses. Im a priest, i know d reasons bhind d scars of goddeses ( in picture ) . The goddeses r not only forms, they have their own mantras , they have their own dhyan(meditation rules) , & many other things within them.
Wenever a priest mispronounces a word/letter in mantra it hurts d god/goddess being worshipped.
Wenever d priest is missing a single part of d dhyan (state above mental understanding) it hurts a million times more!
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti …
Having gone into service in the Hindu temple system, with a background of reading the Puranas, Vedas and other texts in a rather insular and idealistic manner, I found the dichotomy between what is ‘believed’ or ‘taught’ and what is practiced so vast that after several years, I left. I wrote a poem on it, closed the book, and walked away. This is the Kali yuga.
Very clearly expressed Gwernen! 🙂