Tuesday, August 19, 2008

FOOEY ON Fighting

A few days ago, Vicki Noble emailed me about a new film called Durga Rising:
"I am writing to encourage your attention to ... an original documentary film about ... the Indian Warrior Goddess Durga. In a time of unprecedented destruction and corruption on this planet, there is a need for "slaying the demon" of ravenous greed and murderous violence...."

"Durga--somewhat like the Greek Nemesis--is the Goddess who brings the world back into balance, by slaying the patriarchal demon who is destroying the world. Surely after 5000 years, it is time for such a radical rebalancing."
But see, I just don't wanna go there. I want to heal the world through Mother love. Fooey on fighting violence via violence. Call me addle-brained, but I just can't let go of the idea that teaching, and "gentle prodding" will do the trick.*

In my opinion, Durga, Kali, Nemesis and other violent goddesses are simply patriarchal makeovers (i.e., beginning around 6000 years ago, the war gods began taking non-violent goddesses and turning them violent; see comments section of Feb. 21, 2007 post, "Time to Ditch the Dude").

When the brothers in the forest tried to rape the awesome Irish goddess Macha, did She slash back with physical force? Nuh-uh. After tying them one by one to trees, She taught them "right ways" (see Oct. 17 '06 post, "Handling Bad People").
*Although this won't be as easy as falling off a log. Few of us know the tricks to fighting violence with the weapons of teaching and gentle prodding. This is a skill that needs to be studied, experimented with, and taught -- just as our military has studied, experimented with and taught men and women the art of planned violence.
thnx to ancientartizen for the foto; go HERE to see more of her work.


Brian Charles said...

I share some of your unease about warrior goddesses and believe with you that they are relatively recent. I take also your point about Macha and the need for unconditional love and for finding other ways of dealing with violence. One of the images that turned my thoughts to Goddess many years ago was the young woman placing flowers in the barrels of rifles. A whole new paradigm was in that image.

What would Macha's reaction have been, however, if it was Her daughters who were raped. Unconditional mother-love would, i imagine, not have precluded extreme violence in defence of her young.

However corrupted by patriarchy the image of Kali is I cannot but see Her as a positive model. Her rage is defensive of others, not aggressive and this, I believe, makes a real difference.

Athana said...

I remember that image, brian. It did indeed promise something radically different than what we were used to then. Maybe we should dig that image out and dust it off again. We might "get it" the second time around???

About Macha's daughters being raped: Here's how I see the Mother Goddess as role model: we are to treat each other not the way mothers treat just anyone, but the way a healthy mother treats her children.

So the question is, what would a healthy mother do to her child A if she found out that child A had seriously hurt child B? Would she react violently? Or would she react some other way?

Also this occurred to me today after reading your response to this post: do you think it's an accident that non-violent protest originated in the only large country still today openly worshipping mother goddesses?

Brian Charles said...

Your question is interesting Athana, but the Indian experience worries me in that after the political success of Ghandian non-violence, independence was accompanied by huge sectarian massacres and two antagonistic states who each have nuclear weapons. Non-violence did not seem to be rooted in the culture and still does not.

I am a pacifist and yet I know that were my child being attacked - not by another child as you suggest - but by an adult - then i hope that i would have the courage to fit for him I am glad that this was never the case in real life.

Athana said...

Brian, India and Pakistan *as states* are anything but nonviolent. But as a collection of indigenous subcultures, I wonder how many of those subcultures adhere totally to the patriarchal dictates of the larger state.

There may be an Indian/Pakistani "culture," but I wonder if all the myriad subcultures in India and Pakistan support that culture to the same degree. I suspect that some villages and village collections might support nonviolence to a far greater degree than does the Indian/Pakistani state government. After all, "India" and "Pakistan" are merely artificial entities consisting of several disparate subcultures that have been forced to live with each other within the same artificial geographic boundaries.

The "were my child being attacked" example is a tough one to untangle. I grew up in a pacifist church, and I can remember discussing this very question in church: if your own family were attacked, would you remain a pacifist, or would you fight to save them.

I chose the side of fighting to save my family.

But I'm older now. And now I think I see what my church elders were getting at. You and I and our own families are of course tremendously important. But so is the human race. And I suppose if I had to choose which was more important -- me and my family or the entire human species -- I would need to choose the species.

Does that make any sense?

paul said...

It seems to me the violence and greed come from a belief that nothing more is possible in life, or that they're an exercise of God-given authority; it's a view of the world and the self that's shrunken, withered. Maybe the brothers had this limited self-awareness, and being tied down was an illustration of that. Macha doesn't take away their strength, she restores it to them, restores them to a living world, not one that ends with the ego.

Athana said...

paul, that's a very elegant and befitting explanation of the Macha story. Violence and greed have to come from a belief or set of beliefs that is "shrunken and withered," because not all world cultures show the level of violence and greed found in most of the world's industrialized nations.

Morgaine said...

I struggle with the warrior Goddesses. On one hand, I do believe that violence is aberrent human behavior that begins and ends with patriarchy. While we have to contend with patriarchal forces, however, we might need women willing to take up arms to stop the madness that is institutionalized in governments. There's a part of me that is an Amazon, not by choice, but by necessity because I live in a rape culture. Sometimes we need dark Goddesses - we need Oya to wipe the slate clean with a flood or a tornado even a plague or defensive action. I'll never forget the pride I felt when the students stood up to the tanks at Tianemen Square, but I'll never forget the horror that followed, either. While governments have armies, we need to protect ourselves.

As I said, I struggle with this and I'm waiting for the Goddess to give me clarity on how peaceful transition is possible.

whatsername said...

I feel a deep connection to dark goddesses like Morrigan and Kali, so I can't totally agree with you here. I think it is unfortunate but probably true that our world needs a certain amount of cleansing so as to start fresh right now.

At the same time I do believe in living the change you want to see in the world, and that setting a good example is by far the best way to convert others to your way of seeing. I do believe in taking the high ground.

I guess that is my conflicting nature, and striking the balance of must be one of the issues I figure out in this life.

Athana said...

morgaine, what about Gandhi and Martin Luther King? And I wonder: would any kind of armed revolt among Chinese students have toppled the government of China?

Athana said...

whatshername, when you say "cleansing," what exactly to you mean? Who will be cleansed? Of what? Who will do the cleansing? Goddesses? We mortals? Which of us mortals? And how will we cleanse? With weapons? Where will be get the weapons?

To me it feels glorious to think that something or someone could come along and suds away all the filth in the world so we could start fresh. The notion is totally seductive and intoxicating.

My question to you (and myself too) however, is, Why is the idea so intoxicating? In the West, most of us have one foot in the war-god camp, and the other in the Goddess camp. The West is heavy with the War God, but with an ancient Goddess substratum underneath.

So does this notion of sweeping ("bad") things away instantaneously -- by force -- come from the Goddess stratum? Or the War-God stratum?

Morgaine said...

This rambles a bit - forgive me.

Martin Luther King wqs assassinated, and I don't see any great movement forward in Ghandi's wake. If I think about it too much - how much fire power governments have now - I get very depressed because there's no obvious way to oppose them. They almost have to be willing to be changed.

The Cleansing I think we're all picturing is a Noah's/Nuah's ark/arc kind of cleansing - Nature's own immune system doing what it has to do to restore harmony within Her body. We may already be seeing this in all of these droughts, floods, melting ice, tornadoes, hurricanes and tsunamis, not to mention the new bacterias that we can't fight off with antibiotics anymore. The Earth could tilt on Her axis or there could be a Global Pandemic. From a Global perspective, it coud be equivalent to clearing the field before you plant it. From a human perspective, it would be devastation. On some level, millions of people would have to agree to die in service of the Whole. History is full of stories about times when this has happened before. That it will happen again is almost inevitable.

I think we could have stopped it if Kennedy and King had lived, and we had taken action in the 60's and 70's. I'm not sure we haven't reached the tipping point. That's one of the reasons I'm so intent on getting Goddess culture into the public square, and letting people know that there's an alternative. The survivors will have to rebuild - I'm praying that they go in the right direction this time.

There's so much entrenched and indoctrinated patriarchal propaganda - they have people convinced that we must have war, that we are naturally violent, that men's way is the only way. Something huge has to bring our Mother back out into the light. She never left, but has been lurking in our subconscious, in the dark and damp places, waiting to come back. It's time for Her to take over again. It has to happen, and quickly. It might still be up to us whether it happens gently or by storm, but it may not be up to us as this point. I just know it has to happen.

The recent episode with Wikipedia just shows me how far there is to go. Such a minor thing, to get a theoretically open website to tell the truth, or at least both sides, of the story about a 40 year old book, and they just refuse to do it or to even be fair to our side. Then I have these news searches for Feminism that bring back not positive stories about feminism but Right-ist rants full of vitriolic misogyny. Big Daddy won't go down without a fight unless he's swept away by force.

There is much to do.

Athana said...

morgaine, I think the first key is to not waste time -- if at all possible -- getting or staying depressed. So how to do that? Somehow I think we have to "fight" without being addicted to the results. [Next time I'm depressed you can remind me I said this -- ha!]

The thing about the Noah's flood route: the more I think about it, the less sure I am that it works. It seems to me that big natural disasters would tend to wipe out all but the brutal people, those willing to do anything to stay alive.

I think what wiped out the civilized Goddess people and ushered in the primitive war gods was widespread natural disaster.

And I don't see the Hebrews getting any better after Noah's Flood wiped everyone out.

I suspect our best and maybe only hope is the Gandhi route. You say you don't see "any great movement forward in Ghandi's wake," but I see significant movement forward. For starters, Indians are taking all our jobs! Which means that educationally, technologically and culturally they've made huge strides in an amazingly short period of time. They're pulling themselves out of poverty.

And MLK was killed, yes, but look at the huge strides black Americans have made in a little less than fifty years.

You and I might not see all the changes we want in our lifetimes, but we have the great gut-level satisfaction of knowing we're contributing to a movement that is smack on track.

Lady Jake said...

Ma Kali IS Mother Love! Mother Love is fierce as well as beneficent. To catagorise Kali as merely a "Warrior Goddess" is to perceive Her through a Western lens. Too often, Ma Kali/Durga is culturally appropriated by Western Pagans as the titular "Bitch Goddess." Certainly, Hindu culture is patriarchal; yet, Shakta worship is a living tradition which embraces the Divine in Female form, and has survived in Hindu culture as it has not in our own. That living tradition approaches Ma Kali as the Divine Mother; Her "violent" iconography represents the death of ego. To interpret Kali as merely an idealisation of bloodlust is to ignore the deep, metaphysical beauty the Shakta path (& Hinduism itself) has to offer. I don't disagree with your bottom line of "two wrongs don't make a right," but I encourage you to explore Ma Kali further at the following websites: Kali Mandir ("traditional Hindu temple dedicated to the worship of Goddess Kali in the mother/child relationship") http://www.kalimandir.org/about_us/about.asp?page=about2, and Sharanya Devi Mandir (a newly minted tradition based on the Craft & the Shakta path, called Sha'can) http://www.sharanya.org/shacan/. Jai Ma & Blessed Be!

Anonymous said...

In the Macha story, the brothers entered the forest feeling strong in themselves, in their separateness, loyal only to their own power and to their group that furthered it, like all oppressors. I wonder if their Nemesis could be that they're exposed now. The praises they sing of service to country, noble self-sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan, most recently: it's a transcendent glory to them, almost mystical, like it was to Hitler. But as we see over and over the wreckage and grief they bring, their claim to be acting for a greater purpose is exposed as just a lie: as Natalie Merchant wrote, 'the lies of Destiny' (if i'm understanding that correctly). They're exposed as just a bunch of damnfool old men with a stupid little power trip, who'll never understand what's really possible for us. They've nothing hopeful to offer, nothing to sustain, and i think Morgaine is so right about showing people an alternative, because a whole generation worldwide would leave the Patriarchy now, and that would be its Nemesis.

Om Shanti said...

athana wrote :: "In my opinion, Durga, Kali, Nemesis and other violent goddesses are simply patriarchal makeovers (i.e., beginning around 6000 years ago, the war gods began taking non-violent goddesses and turning them violent; see comments section of Feb. 21, 2007 post, "Time to Ditch the Dude")."

Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but perhaps more research delving into the real meaning as interpreted by the actual cultures in which this very ancient Goddess Durga's myth and story emanates (translated from Sanskrit), may be in order if we are seeking the truth rather than what what has been told to us by western scholars as seen through their often biased and unknowledgeable lense. Durga's all encompassing, non-literal, allegorical story comes to us from the Indo-Europeans matriarchal culture, preserved meticulously to this day in the sacred hymms and texts that are appropriated and devoted to telling Her story. These sacred Goddess texts are mostly known as the Puranas, and in the specific case of Durga, a 700 versed hymm called the Devi Mahatmya. These texts are available to anyone willing to do a little research to find a reputable translation to further their knowledge. The often confusing imagery has deep and hidden meaning for us all on an inner spiritual journey and should *never* be taken at face value as "violent", for this is simply incorrect and shows a lack of understanding of what is iconically being portrayed.

For example, we often see images of Kali Ma or Durga with so-called weapons of war, particularly the sword. The ancient wisdom seers, the sages and rishis, some of them women in fact, who wrote these sacred texts tell us that the sword is meant to represent that which destroys the bondage of ignorance, an ignorance that we are all born into, and helps us to discriminate between relative truths and eternal verities. The actual Sanskrit is: viveka-vijnana-mahasina, which translates as "the wonderful sword of knowledge and discrimination." The fact that such discrimination is picturised as a sword also expresses the belief that this understanding severs the shackles of bondage to material things and the ego, bringing us closer to our soul's purpose. Hence, the sword is also considered a symbol of renunciation, as is apparent from the following line quoted from the Vishnu dharmottara Purana: "The sword Nandaka represents vairagya with which
The bondage of the world is broken."

May you seek truth and find peace within!

~Om Shanti

Athana said...

Lady Jake, thanks for the links. I'd like to learn more about Shakta worship, see how much of the old 2nd millennium BC Indus Civilization it might preserve.

As for Kali's wrath symbolizing the death of ego, there are other ways to symbolize death. Why use human-on-human violence? I still think Kali is a late-comer patriarchal makeover. Doesn't mean She's a bad goddess -- just one who needs to have the patriarchal tarnish cleaned off Her.

Lady Jake said...

Athana ~ I respect your aversion to violence & your desire to link back to our much-hoped-for matrifocal origins. As a Pagan, I am inspired & nourished by the idea that humans (may) have in the past structured our societies in benevolent, mutually respectful ways. I was called to Ma from the moment I stepped on the Path; in researching Her further than the superficial interpretations of some in the Western feminist spirituality community (eg: Barbara Walker), I was dismayed by the fact that Kali's origins are Vedic (therefore patriarchal), and I stepped way back from Her for a good while as a result. Through my studies as a "religion wonk," I have come to a place where I understand that Ma Kali is a living goddess from a living tradition, who has evolved from a mere Warrior Goddess to Brahman - an expression of The All That Is - encompassing both Destruction & Regeneration in the form of the Fierce Divine Mother. My contention remains that to claim that Kali is "simply a patriarchal makeover" is to ignore the reality of a living tradition of goddess worship that has transcended Her patriarchal origins.

As for your question "why use human-on-human violence [to symbolize the death of ego]" I would answer in two parts. First, it is a misnomer to interpret Ma Kali's iconography as "human-on-human violence" as Kali is Divine, not human (tho She manifests in gynthropomorphic form); in the mythology, She slays demons rather than humans. Second, the depiction of a human severed head represents the death of ego because ego is a human attribute.

Waes hal & Blessed Be ~ Lady Jake