Tag Archive: raven


Goddess Macha

“Macha’s themes are victory, success, protection, fertility and fire. Her symbols are red items, the acorn and the crow.  Macha means ‘mighty one.’ Macha used Her potency to clear the land for wheat, giving Her associations with fertility. She also used Her might to protect the Celts’ lands agains invaders, thereby becoming a war Goddess and guardian. Art shows Her dressed in red (color abhorrent to evil) and with blazing red hair, forever chasing off any malevolence that threatens Her children’s success.

Bonfire Night in Scotland takes place around May 22 and is a festival that originally had strong pagan overtones, the fires being lit specifically for ritual offerings that pleased the Gods and Goddesses and invoked their blessings. Additionally, the bright, red fire looked much like Macha’s streaming red hair, and thus it banished any evil spirits from the earth. So don any red-colored clothing today, or maybe temporarily dye your hair red to commemorate this Goddess and draw Her protective energies to your side. Eating red foods (like red peppers) is another alternative for internalizing Macha’s victorious power and overcoming any obstacle standing in your way.

Or, find some acorns and keep them in a Macha fetish bag (any natural-fiber drawstring bag). Anytime you want her power to manifest, simply plant the acorn and express your wish to it. Macha’s potential is in the acorn, ready to sprout!”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

The Morrigan

“Macha (pronounced MOCK-uh) is an Irish war Goddess, strongly linked to the land. Several Goddesses or heroines bear Her name, but She is generally thought of as one aspect of the triple death-Goddess the Mórrígan (the “Great Queen” or “Phantom Queen”), consisting of Macha ‘Raven’, Badb ‘Scald Crow’ or ‘Boiling’, and Nemain ‘Battle Fury’. Macha is associated with both horses and crows.

The Mórrígan is both sex and battle Goddess, and Her personality is usually described as both war-like and alluring. She is known to be a prophetess: the Washer at the Ford is said to be one aspect of Her, who appears to those about to die. She is commonly shown washing bloody clothes at a river ford; when approached, She tells the enquirer the clothes are theirs. Like the bean sidhe (banshee), who She is believed related to, She is an omen of death.

As Goddess of the land, the Mórrígan are said to be cognate with Ana or Danu, and Macha is said to be one of the Tuatha de Danann.

Three other aspects of Macha feature in Irish folklore, which likely derive from a common Goddess, as they are all said to have a mother named Ernmas (also considered to be the mother to Ériu, Banba, and Fódla, sacred names for Ireland). One Macha, a seeress, was the wife of Nemed ‘Sacred’, who invaded Ireland and fought the Fomorians in Irish legend. Emain Macha, a bronze-age hill fort in Northern Ireland, and legendary capital of Ulster, is said to have been named for Her.

The second Macha, titled Mong Ruadh (“red-haired”), was a warrior and Queen, who overpowered Her rivals and forced them to build Emain Macha for Her.

“Curse of Macha” by Stephen Reid

The third Macha, and probably the most well-known, was said to be the wife of Crunniuc. Like many supernatural lovers, She warns him to tell no one of Her existence; but he boasts to the king of Ulster that his wife can outrun the fastest chariot. The king then seizes the very pregnant Macha and forces Her to run a race, against Her protests. In spite of this, She does win, and as She crosses the finish line She gives birth. In Her dying pain and anger She curses the men of Ulster to nine times nine generations, that in their time of worst peril they should suffer the pain of childbirth.” [1]

The Goddesses of Ireland and their “fall” as Christianity spread into Ireland

“The Goddess was a ‘dual-natured female figure, beautiful and hag-like by turns in whose gift was great power’.  The Goddesses were especially depicted in three’s, such as Eriu, Banba, and Fotla, all Goddesses of sovereignty. In the 11th century, Ireland was often called Eire (a form of Eriu) and also called ‘the island of Banba of the women’. Goddesses were often hybridized by Roman and Greek influences, but this did not seem to obscure the native elements. For example, Julius Caesar likened one Celtic Goddess to Minerva, a classical deity. In fact, some Celtic Goddesses seemed to share certain of their characteristics. However, there were no Celtic Goddesses of love. There were Goddesses more often associated with fertility and the natural cycle of life, including death. Perhaps most importantly, the Goddesses represented creativity especially as it related to giving life, in all its aspects.

The female warrior Goddesses respect for death, as a natural part of life, which seemed in translate into ‘real’ life as well. This is best seen in the symbolic marriage between the king and the Goddess of sovereignty. This union was to ‘ensure fertility for the land and for his people in the year to come.’

“Triple Goddess” by Amy Swagman

The role of the Goddess in Celtic Ireland was important in to the inter-relatedness with human woman: ‘Since the source of life was so integrally associated with women, it would seem to follow that the origins of life were female. At times of joy or moments of pain, humans would turn to the Goddess who was honored in Her many guises’ (Condren). It would not seem strange then to worship a female deity and consequently treat her female subjects with respect and honor. Descent was also often traced through the mother and a strong emphasis was placed on the mother relationship. However, conservative scholars are quick to point out that the power did not entirely rest on women, rather the focus appears to be on women. Life was of tremendous value in what appears to be the most natural, physical sense. Hence the importance of the woman, Goddess or human.

‘Women were highly honored, female symbolism formed the most sacred images in the religious cosmos, and the relationship with motherhood was the central elements of the social fabric the society was held together by common allegiance to the customs of the tribe loosely organized around the traditions of the Goddess’ (Condren).

What appears to have dismantled this society was the warrior culture and the spread of Christianity into Ireland. The story of Macha is an instructive example of the ‘fall’ of the Celtic Goddess and in some sense the fall of the Celtic woman. Macha (Ulster Epona, the horse Goddess) marries Crunnchua mac Angnoman a rich widower. The two prosper together until one day, Crunnchua wishes to go to the annual assembly of the Ulsterman. Macha pleads with him not to go, but Crunnchua insists. While at the assembly, Crunnchua witnesses a horse race. Those in attendance with him, including the king himself, declare that none can run faster than these horses. Crunnchua knows that his wife can outrun these horses with no problem and decides to challenge the declaration. The king, angered at Crunnchua’s arrogance insists that Crunnchua bring Macha to them for a match. Macha comes reluctantly, but before doing so, pleads, ‘Help me, for a mother bore each of you. Give me, oh, King, but a short delay until I am delivered.’ Macha is pregnant.

“Macha” by Caroline Bradley

This request and the king’s subsequent refusal are striking reminders of the changes that took place not only in the Irish sagas such as this one, but also the changes in the societies that ‘authored’ such work that became, significantly, myth. The king’s ultimate responsibility was to allow the ‘creativity of women to prosper.’ Kings were to promise that no one would die in childbirth, food should grow plentifully, and the traditional dyeing (a woman’s art) would not fail. These promises were related to the ‘needs and concerns of women, and unless the king could be seen to take care of the cultural and fertility needs of the clan, symbolized by these women’s activities, the king would be overthrown’. The king as evidenced in this story, violated the promises he made and instead of being overthrown, is permitted to continue his reign with no apparent resistance from his constituents. This portrayal of Macha is actually the last of three major cycles. In the first She is a brilliant, strong mother-Goddess. In the second She is a helpless (but wise) wife, and the third She is relegated to an existence of shame and forced to abandon Her life-giving gifts, adapting to the new warrior ethos. This is how She had traditionally become associated with the three war-Goddess spiral, joining Badb and Morrigan. The appearance of the war-Goddess appears to develop as a result of the change in Celtic society to one of violence and paradoxically, Christianity.

“Gift of Peace to a War Goddess” by Portia St.Luke

Macha evolves into a warrior-Goddess as the simultaneously the status of women decline in societies constantly under attack, where emphasis is placed on death and bloodlust rather than on life and respect for death. With this, men began to feel threatened by women as well, by any force seen as competition. Importantly another aspect of the decline of Macha (and other Goddesses) was the Christian clerics who began to satirize the Goddesses because their patriarchal system of beliefs stood in direct contrast especially to the worship of a female deity. Goddesses were becoming as violent as the society that ‘created’ them. They were raped, murdered and often died in child birth.

Peter Berresford Ellis in his book, Celtic Women, Women in Celtic Society and Literature, concurs with Condren that Goddesses in literature were often raped, died in childbirth and their status was destroyed by the symbolism of the rape.

The Goddesses, however, gave birth to great men who would in turn become great warriors. Indeed, ‘the famous warrior society triumphed over the culture of the wise women’. Several sources consulted point to the war-Goddess as a symbolic adaptation to the culture who called on Her to wreak death and destruction. The war-Goddess is often portrayed too with a voracious sexual appetite. Ellis quotes Moyra Caldecott:

‘Her twin appetites for sexual gratification and for bringing about violent death are a travesty of the very necessary and natural forces of creation and destruction that keep the universe functioning and imbalance of which brings about disaster’. [2]

Wow…After reading this excerpt from the University of Idaho’s site, it all made so much more sense and brought it all home for me.  I had read in several books that stated that many peaceful agricultural societies worshipped a mother Goddess type deity(ies) who presided mainly over life cycles, vegetation, and agriculture; that it wasn’t until the invasions of the violent war-faring Indo-Europeans that “swept through Old Europe, the Middle East and India bring[ing] their priests, warriors and male gods of war and mountains” [3] with them that the Goddesses started becoming less important, more subservient and taking on more violent and warlike qualities.  Truly, this is not limited to the Celtic culture – look at Inanna for example; or Minerva who evolved from an Italic moon Goddess, into an Etruscan virgin Goddess of poetry, medicine, widsdom, commerce, weaving, dyeing, crafts, the arts, science and magic and later, the Romanized Goddess became associated with war.  Venus who originally was a vegetation Goddess and patroness of gardens and vineyards who had no original myths of Her own became associated with love, fertility and even war under the name Venus Victrix, the Goddess of victory in war.  And let us not forget how Goddesses like Inanna, Asherah and Lilith were demonized by the Abrahamic patriarchal religions for refusing to submit to them and their “all powerful” male deity.

“Morrigan” by Michael C. Hayes

I think it only appropriate to conclude with some words from Jani Farrell-Roberts, “Women often had to fight in the wars. They needed a Goddess of the Battlefield as did the men (thus their talk of heads being ‘the mast of Macha’) – and so grew the myth of the Morrigan into which the kinder harvest Goddess Macha was subsumed as part of a triple Goddess with Her two sisters, Badb and Morrigan. In Britain She was probably Morgan. The Morrigan however came to be hated by men who dreaded the female power She represented – so men tended to depict Her as a hag – or as three hags (perhaps as reflected in Shakespeare‘s Macbeth).

But in the old sagas Her role is much more that of the healer of the wounded and of the taker of the spirits of the dead into the next world. For example, Macha is depicted in these myths as the Sacred Cow whose milk is an antidote to the poison of weapons. She had become the Mother on the Battlefield.” [4]

ASSOCIATIONS:

Pantheon: Celtic

Element: Earth

Sphere of Influence: Protection and sex

Preferred Colors: Red, black

Associated Symbol: Raven

Animals Associated with: Raven, crow

Best Day to Work with: Monday

Strongest Around: Lughnasadh

Suitable Offerings: Acorns

Associated Planet: Moon      [5]

 

 

And now, a tribute to the great Goddess Macha and Her stories…

 

 
Sources:

Eisler, Riane. Iowa State University, “The Chalice and Blade“.

Farrell-Roberts, Jani. The Web Inquirer, “Macha, Brighid, the Ancient Goddess of Ireland“.

PaganNews.com, “Macha“.

Took, Thalia. A-Muse-ing Grace Gallery, “Macha“.

University of Idaho, “Celtic Women: Myth and Symbol“.

 

 

Suggested Links:

Aisling. Order of the White Moon, “Macha“.

AncientWorlds, “Epona“.

Bar, Tala. Bewildering Stories, “Goddesses of War“.

Jones, Mary. Maryjones.us, “Macha“.

Shee-Eire.com, “Macha“.

Skye, Michelle. Goddess Afoot!: Practicing Magic with Celtic & Norse Goddesses, “Macha” (p. 166 – 181).

Wikipedia, “Macha“.

Whale Goddess

“Whale Goddess’ themes are nature, meditation, rebirth and movement.  Her symbols are water and whales.  In Arabic tradition, the Whale Goddess swallowed Jonah, giving him time to consider his life and actions, seriously before his figurative rebirth. Let’s hope She doesn’t have to got that far to get our attention this month (or anytime, for that matter).

In some stories the earth rests on this Goddess’s back, and earthquakes result when She gets upset and shakes Her tail. Symbolically, when your life seems on shaky ground, consider what this Goddess is trying to tell you!

Around this time of year in Northern California, people examine the coastline with renewed interest and anticipation. They’re watching the annual whale migration  – a breathtaking sight. Since many of us cannot experience this firsthand, consider the whale as a magical symbol instead. The gods ride whales to carry messages to the mortal world. Witches ride them to bear their magic on the water. In both instances the whale carries something – either to your heart or toward a goal. Use this image in meditations for movement, and consider if whales show up in your dreams tonight.

If possible, visit an aquarium and watch whale there. Or send a donation to an accredited facility to give something back to the Whale Goddess and Her children.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

During my search on the World Wide Web, I couldn’t find any other information equating the whale in the Book of Jonah to an actual Goddess; however, the comparison is an intriguing theory to ponder on.  So, I decided to focus on whale mythology from around the world:

SOUTH AMERICA

“Mamacocha

Goddess of the ocean, Her name literally means “mother ocean.” She is a source of health and provider of food. She is sometimes shown as a whale Goddess. To the Q’eros, many of whom will never even experience the ocean, She represents the largest expression of the living energy of water. Smaller water deities that inhabit lakes rivers and streams are known as Phasi Runa.” [1]

“CHINA

Yu-kiang

The ancient Chinese believed that a strange mythological figure, Yu-kiang, held sway over the sea. This dragon-riding water deity had the body of a fish but the hands and feet of a human being. It was not a true fish, however, but a kuan, a huge whale several thousand li long that came from the Northern Sea. Sometimes the monstrous kuan got angry, and when it did it turned into a gigantic bird (p’eng), whipping up terrible storms as it emerged aborve the ocean surface (M. Soymi, in P. Grimal, 1963)

ALASKA

"Sedna's Love" by Tammara

Sedna

In Inuit mythology, Sedna was the Goddess of the sea and the whale was her most magnificent subject. In one story, Sedna was a winsome girl who had spurned all of Her suitors and married a bird. Outraged, Her father killed Her husband and took Her home in a boat. On the way back he threw Her overboard. She clung to the umiak, so he had to chop off Her fingers, one by one.

Sedna turned into the huge voracious deity of the Lower World and ruled over all the creatures that dwell in the sea. Each of Her severed fingers turned into a different animal: a right whale, a narwhal, a beluga, a seal, and so forth.

Big Raven

The whale also appears in Inuit myths about the beginning of the world. One of the chief characters in their creation myths is Big Raven, a deity in human form. One day, Big Raven came upon a stranded whale and asked the Great Spirit to help him get the creature back out to sea. The Great Spirit told him of a place in the forest where moonlight fell a special way. There he would find mushrooms that, if eaten, would give him the strength to drag the whale into the water unassisted. Big Raven did as he was told, rescued the whale, and thereby safegarded the order of the world.

CANADA

"tlingit killer whale" by AhlanNatsihlane

Natsihlane

The Tlingit people of northern Canada tell the story of Natsihlane. Natsihlane was a good hunter, and his brother-in-law was jealous of him. One day, the two of them went ashore on a far distant land, but the brother-in-law went off and left him behind. Natsihlane fell asleep and was awakened by a big gull. He heard it say that the sea lion chief wished to see him and that he had been sent to fetch him. Knowing that there was strong medicine at work, Natsihlane climbed on the back of a sea lion that swam until it reached a great rock beside the cliff.

The rock opened, and the Tlingit hunter found himself inside a great house in which the sea lions were assembled.

‘This is my son,’ the chief of the sea lions said to him. ‘He has been wounded by a harpoon. Help him, and I will help you get back to your homeland.’ Natsihlane removed the harpoon and tended to his wounds. The chief thanked him and gave him a magic sea-lion stomach filled with air to use a boat.

When the hunter woke up on the beach, he heard an inner voice speaking to him. He went into the forest and carved eight big fish from spruce branches. He said some medicine words over them and ordered them to jump into the water. They sprang into the sea at his command, but lay lifeless on the surface. Natsihlane then cut eight more fish from the red cedar, but they would not live, either.

Then he carved eight fish from yellow cedar and painted each fish with a white stripe across the head and a circle on the dorsal fin. He sang his most powerful spirit song and commanded the fish to leap into the water. They did so and soon grew into great black whales. They obeyed his orders. He asked them to swim out and see to it that his brother-in-law was drowned. They did as he requested, after which he called them out of the water. They formed a line on the shore. ‘I made you to get revenge,’ he told them. ‘That was a bad thing to do. From now on, you must never again harm any human being.’

 

ICELAND

Heimskringla

‘The best-known whale in Icelandic legend is the one said in Snorri Surluson‘s ‘Heimskringla‘ to have been sent there by a Danish king, who was angry because the Icelanders had made libelous verse about him. He considered sending an army to Iceland, but first he sent a magician disguised as a whale to spy for him. The journey was fruitless because everywhere the magician he was frustrated by the country’s guardian spirits.’

According to another legend, ‘a man threw a stone at a fin whale and hit the blowhole, causing the whale to burst. This deed was condemed and the man was told not to go to sea for twenty years. In the nineteenth year he could no longer resist the desire to return to sea. He went fishing – and a whale came and killed him.’ Whales can forgive a crime, but only if it had been properly atoned for.

 

AFRICA

King Sulemani

In one East African legend a whale teaches a king a lesson in humility.

‘One day, when all the people, spirits and animals in his kingdom had eaten their fill, Sulemani prayed to God that He might permit him to feed all the created beings on earth … But God wished to show him that all human enterprise must have an end in the very size of the encounter it has sought so fervently to face. It pleased God to raise to the surface of the sea a fish such as fishermen had never seen. In the learned books it is described as a whale, but it was much bigger. It rose up from the water like an island, like a mountain. It ate and ate, until there was not a single bag of corn left. The whale raised its voice and roared: ‘Oh king, I am still hungry, Feed me!’ Sulemani asked the big fish if there were more fishes of its size in the sea, to which the sea-monster replied: ‘Of my tribe there are seventy thousand.’ At these words, King Sulemani prostrated himself upon the ground and prayed to God: ‘Forgive me, Lord, for my foolish desire to feed Thy creation.’ King Sulemani thanked the creature for teaching him a lesson. From then on, he no longer tried to take over God’s job of feeding all His creatures.” (translated from the Swahili by Jan Knapper)

 

THE BIBLE

Leviathan

It is clear that God invested the huge, monstrous whale with tremedous power, including the power to strike fear into the hearts and minds of men. Nowhere does the whale’s terrifying prescence inspire more lyricism and hyperbole than in the Holy Scriptures.

The first creature God releases into the waters is the whale. ‘And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that have life … And God created the great whales, and every living creature that moveth.’

The biblical whale par excellence is the stupendous Leviathan – symbol of evil, focal point of all human fears, embodiment of unmitigated power – that the Lord created on the fifth day of Creation as a warning to mankind. From then on ‘Leviathan maketh a path to shine after him,’ whenever pride and the temptation to sin well up in the sons of Adam. Its gaping mouth is terrible to behold; nothing can equal its strength; its heart harder than stone.

Leviathan is mentioned again in Fourth Esdras, a Jewish apocalyptic work usually included in the Apocrypha. ‘On the fifth day thou didst command the seventh part, where the water had been gathered together, to bring forth living creatures, birds, and fishes … Then thou didst keep in existance two living creatures; the name of one thou didst call Behemoth and the name of the other Leviathan … But to Leviathan thou didst give the seventh part, the watery part.’

Jonah

The biblical story of Jonah in the whale, begins when the Almightly instructs Jonah (from Hebrew for “dove”) to prophesy against the wickedness of the city of Nineveh. Fearing the reaction of the lewd, luxury-loving Assyrians, he balked at the mission, rushed to Joppa, and stole away on a boat bound for Tarhish. But he had spoken ill of the Lord and doubted his Infinite Wisdom, so he never reached his destination.

The ship ran into a terrific storm. Believing it to be a sign from the Almighty, the crew threw Jonah overboard at the prophet’s request. As the water swirled around him and death seemed at hand, Jonah asked God to have mercy on him. The Lord, hearing His name uttered in prayer, sent a Great Fish from the depths to swallow him. After three days and three nights the whale ‘vomited out Jonah upon dry land.’ The prophet had been taught a lesson in unconditional obedience.

EARLY STORIES

The Whale-Island

One of the favorite imaginings of whale chroniclers, was of the living island, the animal island, the whale-island. The notion of a sleeping whale, with its dark rocklike back, being mistaken for an uncharted island is as old as maritime literature itself.

An early reference of such an occurance, comes from the Physiologus (Greek, second century), a collection of anecdotes dealing mainly with natural history.

‘There is a certain whale in the sea called the aspidoceleon, that is exceedingly large like an island … Ignorant sailors tie thier ships to the beast as to an island and plant thier anchors and stakes in it. They light their cooking fires on the whale, but when it feels the heat it urinates and plunges into the depths, sinking all the ships.’

Sinbad

The whale is recounted in this episode of the voyages of Sinbad, translated from the Arabic by N. J. Dawood.

‘We came at length to a little island as fair as the Garden of Eden. The passengers went ashore and set to work to light a fire. Some busied themselves with cooking and washing, some fell to eating and drinking and making merry …

Whilst we were thus engaged we suddenly heard the captain cry out to us from the ship: ‘All aboard quickly! Abandon everything and run for your lives! The mercy of Allah be upon you, for this is no island but a giganitic whale floating on the bosom of the sea, on whose back the sands have settled and trees have grown since the world was young! When you lit the fire, it felt the heat and stirred. Make haste, I say, or soon the whale will plunge into the sea and you will all be lost!’

Some reached the ship in safety, but others did not; for suddenly the island shook beneath our feet and, submerged by mountainous waves, sank with all that stood upon it to the bottom of the roaring ocean.’

Pinocchio

One of the key episodes in The Adventures of Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi (pseudonym of Carlo Lorenzini, 1826-90) takes place in the belly of a sea monster, a creature Collodi describes as a ‘gigantic Dog-fish,’ an Attila of fish and fishermen” that is ‘more than a kilometer long, not counting its tail.’ Readers soon realise that it must be a whale, as the creature breathes through its lungs … and suffers from asthma!

The Dog-fish ‘sucked Pinocchio in as he would have sucked a hen’s egg.’  When the marionette reaches the monster’s stomach, he meets up with a philosophical tuna that assures him, ‘When one is born a Tunny it is more dignified to die in the water than in oil.’ Then Pinocchio thinks he sees a light. It is the glow of a candle held by – can it be? – Gepetto, his father! the old carpenter had survived inside the whale ‘for almost two years,’ living on supplies from the ship the beast had inadvertently swallowed. Dragging, then carrying his father, Pinocchio makes his way to the tongue of the Dog-fish, which one would mistake for ‘a lane in the park.’ They manage to get past the giant fish’s ‘three rows of teeth’ because it ‘suffered very much from asthma’ and had to sleep with its mouth open.

Micromégas

In 1752, Voltaire (1694-1778) wrote Micromégas in which whales served as living proof of man’s colosal conceit. When Micromégas, the super-giant from Sirius, and an average-sized giant from Saturn reach Earth, they assume that a planet so ridiculously small could not possibly harbor living things. Then, using diamonds as magnifying glasses, they manage to spot a whale. Later, they have to squint and strain their eyes to make out a boatload of philosophers.

‘After a long time, the inhabitants of Saturn saw something almost imperceptable in the Baltic Sea: it was a whale. Very adroitly he picked it up with his little finger and, placing it on his thumbnail, showed it to the Sirian, who started laughing at the extreme smallness of the inhabitants of our globe. The Saturnian, satisfied that our world was inhabited after all, assumed immediately that all inhabitants were whales.'” [2]

Moby-Dick

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is a novel by Herman Melville, first published in 1851. It is considered to be one of the Great American Novels and a treasure of world literature. The story tells the adventures of wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. Ishmael soon learns that Ahab has one purpose on this voyage: to seek out a specific whale—Moby Dick, a ferocious, enigmatic white sperm whale. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab’s boat and bit off his leg, which now drives Ahab to take revenge. [3]

 

"Whale Song" by Griffblut

As a totem, the whale can teach us a great deal about ourselves. “The Whale Totem symbolizes, the power of the Sea, deep intuition, ancient knowledge, strength and grace and mystical communication. Whales have been the inspiration of many songs, myths, books, poems, paintings, drawings and movies. The Whale is the worlds largest mammal they are very family orientated like their land counterpart the Elephant. Whales can be found in oceans all over the world. They belong to the same family as dolphins and porpoises and possess the same ability as their smaller cousins to communicate with each other through sounds, vibrations and songs.

The Exceptional Whale Totem possesses the following virtues:
Deeper consciousness, ancient energy and vibrations, family values, happiness and harmony, beauty, balance, beauty, social skills, increased powers of communication, affection, energy, grace, charm, charisma, and intelligence.

The Whale animal totem is a strong spirit indeed and its magical properties are one of the most influential of all animal totems. Strength, friendship, virtue, cooperation, and so much more can be integrated into the spirit of the possessor of this magical pearl and the Whale totem.” [4]

Please also check out Avia Venefica’s site, Whats-Your-Sign.com, “Whale Totem Meaning” for a fabulous in depth look at the whale as a totem.

 

Sources:

Goddess-Guide.com, “List of the Inka Goddesses

HippyMom.com, “Whale Totem

Wikipedia, “Moby-Dick

World Transformation, “Whale Mythology From Around the World

Goddess Tara

Painting in the Dunhuang Series by Zeng Hao

“Tara’s themes are Universal Unity, peace, cooperation, destiny, energy and spirituality.  Her symbol is a star.  In Hindu mythology, Tara is a star Goddess who encompasses all time and the spark of life. She extends this energy to us, fulfilling our spiritual hunger. In so doing, Tara strengthens our understanding of the Universe and its mysteries and gives us a glimpse of our destiny.

Tara’s name literally means ‘star’. In works of art She is depicted as beautiful as the silver turret points of the night sky, young and playful. From Her celestial home Tara challenges us to live life fully no matter the day or season, looking to the stars and our hearts to guide us.

I cannot help but believe that Tara was standing by whispering in scientists’ ears as they launched Pioneer10 into space on this date in 1972, bearing a message of peace to anyone who might find it. In this spirit of exploration and hope, today is definitely a time to reach for the stars! Try something new or set some bold goals for yourself.

If you live in an area where you can observe the night sky, go out tonight and absorb Tara’s beauty firsthand. As you watch, let the starlight and Tara’s energy trickle into your soul.

Make a wish on the first star that appears, and then find concrete ways to help that wish come true. If you see a falling star, it is Tara coming to join you!”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

“Goddess Tara is probably the oldest Goddess who is still worshipped extensively in modern times. Tara originated as a Hindu Gddess, a Great Goddess — the Mother Creator, representing the eternal life force that fuels all life.

There are 21 embodiments of Tara, but the best known are the White Tara and the Green Tara.

The peaceful, compassionate White Tara gently protects and brings long life and peace. The more dynamic Goddess, Green Tara is the ‘Mother Earth’, and a fierce Goddess who overcomes obstacles, and saves us from physical and spiritual danger.

In Sanskrit, the name Tara means ‘Star’, but She was also called ‘She Who Brings Forth Life’, The Great Compassionate Mother, and The Embodiment of Wisdom, and the Great Protectress.

Adopted by Buddhism, She become the most widely revered deity in the Tibetan pantheon. In Buddhist tradition, Tara is actually much greater than a Goddess — She is a female Buddha, an enlightened one was has attained the highest wisdom, capability and compassion. . . one who can take human form and who remains in oneness with the every living thing.

In the legends of Tibet where the worship of the Goddess Tara is still practiced in the Buddhist tradition, it is told that the Goddess Tara is the feminine counterpart of the Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva who is reincarnated as the Dalai Lama.

Bodhisattvas are beings who have reached enlightenment and are ‘eligible’ for Budda-hood but have postponed their own Nirvāṇa, choosing instead to be remain in the cycle of birth and rebirth in order to serve humanity and assist every being on Earth in achieving Nirvāṇa themselves.

It is told that Tara first appeared rising from a lotus blossom in the lake that had formed from Avalokitesvara’s tears of compassion, tears that fell when he first beheld the scope of suffering in the world.

“White Tara Thanka” by Penny Slinger

Because of Her essential goodness, She was granted the right to assume Her human form as a man. But Tara elected instead to remain in Her womanly form.

The Goddess Tara vowed:

‘There are many who wish to gain enlightenment
in a man’s form,
And there are few who wish to work
for the welfare of living beings
in a female form.
Therefore may I, in a female body,
work for the welfare of all beings,
until such time as all humanity has found its fullness.’

One of the myths of the Goddess Tara demonstrates Her compassionate and loving nature and tells how She got the name “Tara of the Turned Face”.

An elderly woman who was a sculptor worked in a city where there was a large Buddhist temple called the Mahabodhi (Great Wisdom). She sculpted a statue of the Goddess Tara and built a shrine to house it. Upon completing the project she was filled with regret when she realized that she had not considered the placement of the shrine. ‘Oh no,’ she thought, ‘Tara has Her back to the Mahabodhi and that isn’t right!’

Then she heard the sculpture speak to her, saying ‘If you are unhappy, I will look toward the Mahabodhi.’ As the woman watched in amazement, the door of the shrine and the image of the Goddess Tara both turned to face the Temple.

Such is the love and compassion of the Goddess Tara.

The ancient Goddess Tara in Her many incarnations has many gifts to share with contemporary women. Tara embodies the feminine strengths of great caring and compassion, the ability to endure stressful and even terrifying moments, the acts of creation, and the source of sustenance and protection.

Demonstrating the psychological flexibility that is granted to the female spirit, the Goddess Tara, in some of Her human forms, could be quite fierce and wild.

Refugees fleeing the horrors of the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese armies recounted numerous stories of the Green Tara that protected them during their torture and guided their flight to freedom.

In other of Her forms, such as the White Tara, She embodied inner peace and spiritual acceptance. She symbolizes purity and is thought to be part of every good and virtuous woman.

Tara is an archetype of our own inner wisdom. She guides and protects us as we navigate the depths of our unconscious minds, helping us to transform consciousness, our own personal journeys of freedom.

It is the Goddess Tara who helps us to remain ‘centered’. The myths of the Goddess Tara remind us of our ‘oneness’ with all of creation and the importance of nurturing the spirit within.” [1]

 

“White Tara” by Marianna Rydvald

White Tara (Sveta Tara) is the incarnation of Bhrikuti Devi or Tritsun, princess of Nepal and wife of the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo.  She is regarded as companion of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. She is closely related to the Dalai Lama who is also regarded as an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara.  She is generally portrayed as seated, dressed and crowned like a Bodhisattva with an extra eye on the forehead.  Her right hand is in Varada Mudra (Boon Granting Gesture) and sometimes in Abhaya Mudra (Protection Gesture) with a full blown lotus at one or both shoulders.  Her left hand is in Jnana Mudra (Teaching Gesture) or holding the stem of a lotus.  Her right leg is sometimes hanging down supported by a lotus, this is also known as lalita asana.  She is often depicted in a standing or half dancing pose.  White Tara has seven eyes.  An eye of knowledge is found on Her forehead while the remaining ones are the usual eyes on the face and on one on each of the palms of her hands and soles of Her feet.” [2]

“She is described in manuals as having ‘the youth of 16 years’ but is often depicted as more full-bodied than Green Tara.  White Tara is referred to as “Mother of all the Buddhas.”  This is because she embodies the motivation that is compassion.  Her whiteness “Radiant as the eternal snows in all their glory” is indicative of the selflessness — the purity — of this compassion but especially the undifferentiated Truth of the Dharma.

 

Chintamani Chakra Tara (The Jewelled Wheel) is a protector form of White Tara with a violet or rainbow aureole.” [3]

 

“Green Tara” by Zeng Hao

Green Tara (Harit Tara) also known as Arya Tara in Nepal is considered the consort of Amoghasiddhi.  In sculpture She is portrayed in the same form as White Tara but She has a water lily (utpala).  She is a Buddhashakti and is regarded as a protector.  She is often depicted as slender and graceful.  Green Tara is often represented with a mischievous or playful smile on Her face. Green Tara’s powers are focused on protection. However, She is also a powerful guide during meditation.  Her most common identifying symbols are the utpala (blue lotus) and vara and vitarka mudras. The utpala opens at sunset, blooms and releases its fragrance with the appearance of the moon, with which it is associated. Tara’s right hand is outstretched in boundless giving-the vara mudra. Her left hand is in vitarka mudra. All fingers extend upward, except the ring finger which bends to touch the tip of the thumb. Vitarka is usually translated as “reflection” and is known as the the Three Jewels Mudra, or the mudra of Giving Refuge. Green Tara is often depicted with one leg out of the lotus position, extended down and ready to rise indicating Her quick response when needed.” [4]

“Green Tara is typically pictured as a dark, green-skinned girl of 16. In Tibetan culture, and some others, green is considered to include all the other colors. Buddhaguyha says that Tara’s green color is the result of the mixing of white, yellow and blue standing for pacifying, increasing and destroying respectively.  That means that Green Tara practice incorporates that of White Tara and of all the others, including that of golden Goddess of wealth, Vasundhara (Tib. Norgyun, Norgyuma). ” [5]

 

Nila Saraswati (The Blue Tara)

Blue or Ugra Tara (Ekajata Tara, Khadga Yogini or Vajrayogini*) is a dreadful manifestation of Tara and has a ferocious form and is associated with transmutation of anger.  She was overpowered by Padmasambhava.  She typically wears a five-skull crown.  These five skulls symbolize the first five perfections attainable on the Vajrayana path which are: generosity, discipline, patience, effort and meditative Concentration.  She has three eyes, symbolizing Her ability to see past, present and future simultaneously.  In Her left hand, She holds a skull cup filled with swirling brains and entails of the enemies of the Dharma and in Her right hand is the kartri, a curved flaying knife, the instrument used to annihilate these enemies.  She wears a garland of 50 human skulls.  She is adorned with six kinds of ornaments, as is usually the case with tantric divinities symbolizing their perfection in the six paramitas.  Vajrayogini helps those with strong passion to transform it into the realization of great bliss.  Vajrayogini, Vajravarahi or Bijeshvari Devi ranks first and most important among the dakini.  She is a Vajrayana Buddhist mediation deity and as such She is considered the female Buddha.  Vajrayogini is a key figure in the advanced Tibetan Buddhist practice of Chöd where She appears in her Kalika or Vajravarahi forms.” [6]

“According to the ‘Hindu’ Yogini Tantra: ‘Tara is the same as Kali, the embodiment of supreme love. So also is Kamakhya.  In thinking of them as different from Kali, one would go to hell.'” [7]

 

 

Vajrayogini

*Vajrayogini is not so terrifying and She is not blue but red, which is the proper color of Vajrayogini. Yet She has been called Ugratara-Vajrayoginiat least since 1775 when King Pratap Malla of Kathmandu put up that inscription after he built the present temple. Perhaps the most that can be said is the She is a peculiarly Nepalese form of the terrifying Blue Tara, possibly based on an iconographic source that has been lost.” [8]

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Golden Tara” by Marianna Rydvald

Bhrikuti Tara (Yellow Tara) is affiliated to the Dhyani Buddha, Amitabha.  She is typically either in a standing or sitting pose, one faced and three eyed.  In painting She is yellow in color.  She is associated with wealth and prosperity.  One of Her hands is usually in the boon granting gesture while the other holds a Buddhist rosary also known as malas, a vase and a triple staff.  She wears a crown on which a figure of Amitabha is carved.” [9]

“She is related to Hindu great Goddess Lakshmi, and Her Sanskrit name Vasundhara indicates She is the source of the eight ‘bountiful Vasus.’  Therefore, according to the epic Mahabharat, She is the bounty that is the waters of the river Ganges — the Goddess, Ganga whose origin is the snows of the Himalayas.

Ritro Loma Chen An emanation of Tara that is golden, with three faces and six arms.  Her power helps overcome plagues and epidemics, and illnesses new to the world.  Those who suffer from incurable conditions can still benefit from Her blessings.

Orange Tara As The Liberator, She is believed to be able to free prisoners and those confined in other ways.  This ‘freeing’ extends to Her efficacy in helping with childbirth.” [10]  She is also said to purifying all poverty. [11]

The Red Tara Kurukulla

Red Tara (Kurukulla) the passionate lotus dakini, originated from the country of Uddiyana.  She is said to have emanated from the Buddha Amitabha.  Among Amitabha’s three female emanations Kurukulla is the most important one.  Kurukulla is often called Red Tara (sgrol-ma dmar-po) or Tarodbhava Kurukulla, “the Kurukulla who arises from Tara.”  According to the texts, Kurukulla is a sixteen year old maiden because sixteen is an auspicious number which signifies perfection (four times four).  She is red in color because of Her magical function of enchantment and magnetism.

She has a single face because She embodies non-dual wisdom beyond conventional distinctions of good and evil.  She is naked because She is unconditioned by discursive thoughts.  She has four arms because of the four immeasurable states of mind, namely, love, compassion, joy, and equanimity.  She holds an arrow stretched on a bow entwined with flowers and leaves because she can give rise to thoughts of desire in the minds of others.  In Her other two hands She holds the hook that attracts and summons them into Her presence and the noose by which She binds them to Her will.  Both of these implements enable Her to catch those of us who have strayed from the path of the Dharma.

Kurukulla wears a crown of five skulls signifying the five perfections, whereas She herself embodies the sixth perfection, that of wisdom.  She wears a necklace of fifty freshly severed human heads dripping blood because She vanquishes the fifty negative emotions.  She is dancing because She is active and energetic, Her compassionate activity manifesting in both Samsara and Nirvana.  She dances, treading upon a male human corpse because She enchants and subjugates the demon of ego and desire also known as Kamadeva.  She stands within a flaming aura because Her nature is hot and enflamed with passion and upon a lotus blossom because She is a pure vision of enlightened awareness.  In the practitioner’s meditation, such is the recollection of the purity (dag dran) of the vision of the Goddess.  Usually She is one faced but can have 2, 4, 6 or 8 arms.  In the 6 armed form She has six Dhyani Buddhas engraved on Her crown; in the 2 armed form She is known as Sukla Kurkulla; in the 4 armed form she is known as Oddiyana Kurkulla and by several other names.  Her mantra is ‘Om Kukulle Hum Hrih Svaha’.” [12]

“The Drikung Kagyu Four-Armed Red Arya Tara is less common. Her activity is described as ‘overpowering’ in the sense of overcoming obstacles.” [13]

“Black Tara” by Paul Heussenstamm

Black Tara is a wrathful manifestation, identical in form and, no doubt, source, to Hindu Kali and is associated with power. Like Kali, She has a headdress of grinning skulls, like Kali, she is black, like Kali She has three eyes. Like many Tibetan deities in the wrathful aspect, She has the fangs of a tiger, symbolizing ferocity, a ferocious appetite to devour the demons of the mind. Her aura or halo is fiery, energetic, full of smoke symbolizing the transformation of fire.” [14]  “The Black Tara has been compared to the perfect guardian of the void, the Divine Mother of compassion and a firm Goddess to ward off any forms of evil.” [15]

 

“There are several ‘Black’ Taras invoked by Buddhists:

The Terrifier (Jigjema, Skt. Bhairava): brownish-black with tinges of red. She is “Victorious Over the Three Worlds.” She subdues evil spirits and cures any illness caused by them.

The Invincible (Shen.gyi.mi.tub.ma) “Crushes the Forces of Others” is black.  She causes your acts, intentions and aspirations to be invincible.

The Conqueror of Opponents (Shen.le Nam.par Gyel.ma) is red/black.  “Pulverizer of the Maras,” She nullifies the influences of any who oppose one’s spiritual aspirations.” [16]

 

“Some have a vision of you (Tara) as red as the sun with rays more brilliant and red than lac and vermilion.  Others see you blue like the sapphire.  Some again see you whiter than the milk churned out of the milky ocean.  Still others see you golden.  Your vishva-rupa is like a crystal which changes its color with the change of the things around it.” ~ Arya Tara Shragdhara stotra [Nitin Kumar’s newsletter, Nov. 2000)

 

 

 

ASSOCIATIONS:

General: Star, third eye (in the middle of the forehead), seven eyes (including eyes in the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet), full moon, lakes, rainbows, the numbers 3, 7, and 11.

Animals: Owl, raven, sow and mare.

Plants: Lotus blossom, either open or closed and any orange flowers.

Perfumes/Scents: Incense, rose and musk, jonquils

Gems and Metals: Diamonds, rose quartz, pink tourmaline, emerald, (any pink or green stones)

Colors: All colors, but especially white and green. [17]

 

 

 

* On a personal note, Green Tara holds a very special place in my heart.  She helped me through some very tough times a few years ago.  These two songs are my absolute favorite renditions of the Green Tara Mantra and fill me with peace, love and joy every time I listen to them.  Namaste.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Amelia. Friendburst.com, “Tara: Goddess of Peace and Protection“.

Dharma Sculture, “Tara, the Mother of All Buddhas“.

Goddessgift.com, “Goddess Symbols: Tara“.

Khandro Net, “Tara

Locke, John Ph.D. Digital Library & Museum of Buddhist Studies, “Vajrayogini Temple of Samkhu

Threads of Spiderwoman, “Black Tara“.

 

 

Suggested Links:

Devika. Order of the White Moon, “Tara, Goddess of Compassion“.

Exotic India Art,Tara and the Cult of the Female in Buddhism“.

Kagyu Samye Dzong Finland, “Green Tara: The Praise of 21 Taras

Religion Facts,Tara: Buddhist Goddess in Green and White“.

Sabrina. Goddess A Day, “Tara

Stolan, Mihai. Liveonlineyoga.com, “Yoga of the Ten Great Cosmic Powers“.

Vortex Distribution, “21Taras.HTM

Wikipedia, “Tara (Buddhism)“.



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