Eventful Octobers

It seems like Octobers are almost always eventful, and usually involving the Mothers.

The beginning of the month was especially blessed with the welcoming of a new member to our household pantheon, Nossa Senhora de Fátima:

A gift from a friend from far away makes Herself comfy in Her new home.

I’m not quite sure yet which godly power is behind the Lady of Fatima, but something tells me that she’s older than the biblical Mary. This stunning statue of the Lady comes from Galina who was kind enough to send it over as a gift. Here She is, bathing in bukhoor incense, a traditional gesture of hospitality in the Arab world.

Shortly after, our town fiesta happened, which is always a blessing of joy to our people, Catholic or otherwise:

Nana Pilar

It is always an honour for any man or woman to carry Her, our loving town patron of many years. She was exceedingly beautiful this year, our dearest Mother of wild dances.

[I will be posting a couple of videos later in the week.]

The Queen is finally home after an entire afternoon and evening on the streets. Truly, a Dancing Queen.

Here She is again, home after an entire afternoon and evening on the streets. Truly, a Dancing Queen.

Another festival honouring a divine mother followed right after as we celebrated the Maha Navratri in our home:

God is a woman, a fearsome mother. Jai Mata Di! Shubh #Durga #Navratri!

As the new moon of Ashvin rose, we welcomed Durga into our homes once again. Jai Maa!

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Of course, no Navratri is complete without a visit to the local mandir. She was especially beautiful this year in bright crimson.

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The other gods were just as beautiful in their new clothes.

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We are a relatively small temple, but the place is full of stout hearts. It’s always nice to be in a sea of devotees.

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Shiva’s coat was especially fab. (No living tigers were harmed in the making of the coat.)

Come late October, I revamped the house shrine:

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Our Agathos Daimon now sits comfortably between the Holy Child of Atocha (dubbed ‘Baby Hermes’) and Ganesha, the ‘Hermes of Hindustan’.

And, of course, never a month without the customary thanksgiving dinner:

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Of all the things we owe the Gods, this is but a small feast. This feast was dedicated not only for a month full of events, but also for our dear friend, Sannion.

Another eventful October, indeed, and by the looks of it, next year will be just as busy with the twin Great Mother festivals coming right after the other. Hail, the Spirits of October! Hail, the Two Mothers! Hail and hail again!

To the Great Mother of Wild Dances

Sorry for the delay, it’s been a very busy October so far. (Well, actually, it hasn’t been un-busy for me since Wep Ronpet!) But, yes, we did dance to two great mother goddesses the past week (well, technically, one goddess and one saint, but you get what I mean).

Whether you see these two ladies as different forms of one ‘Goddess of ten thousand names’ or two distinct personalities (one divine and the other human, or both divine!) isn’t important. The non-Catholics who couldn’t help but dance to the Señora’s brass band didn’t seem to mind their religion’s prohibitions against deifying the mother of Christ nor did the Sikhs at the Hindu temple hesitate to join their polytheistic brethren in celebration despite their staunch monotheism. I suppose all is fair in fiestas and pujas. After all, who can resist the rattle and the drum, and swaying hips in praise of the ‘Great Mother’, Durga or Mary be her name?

¡Viva Señora del Pilar! Jai Durga Mata!

PS: As these things are better seen than read, I uploaded a few clips over at my YouTube channel. Although watching them doesn’t compare to actually being there, I hope you can still enjoy what I could afford to capture!

¡Viva! Jai!

Dancing for the Great Mother

Two very exciting things happening today and tomorrow:

The annual karakol (ritual street dance) for my city‘s Patron, la Nuestra Señora del Pilar …

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Our Lady of the Pillar, Protector of Imus
Source: cfcfflcavite.webs.com/dioceseofimus

Source: flickr.com/photos/44877083@N05/

Our Lady of the Pillar, Lady of Zaragoza, Zamboanga, and Imus
Source: flickr.com/photos/44877083@N05/

… And the eighth night of the Maha Navratri where the Great Goddess is celebrated as Shri Durga Devi, Slayer of Mahishasura.

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She with the strength of a thousand lions

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Slayer of Mahishasura

Hail to these two great goddesses! Hail Great Mother! Ave Magna Mater! Jai Mata Di!

How I Met Your Mātā

Sing this day of Durga,
Om Jai Mahadevi!

Sing this day of Cybele,
Ave Magna Mater!

Sing this day of Rhea,
Khaire Mêtêr Theôn!

Sing to the Great Mother,
Goddess of ten thousand names!

Sing ever to the Great Mother,
Mother to gods and men!

***

Dear cousins in Hinduism,

My name is Aldrin, and congratulations, we just sang together up there.

By the way, I’m pagan (click it, if you’re not familiar) and I’ve come to you today in a spirit of brotherhood and community, and perhaps also gratitude. Well, actually, gratitude is the primary reason why I’m writing this letter.

Now, as there are countless beautiful things that modern pagans have to thank Hinduism for, I’m not going to explore all the facets of the diamond here. I wanted to thank Hinduism specifically today because of your divine mother, Durga.

I know she’s everybody’s mum on a cosmic level, but culturally, you are her children and I’m but a nephew. That said, who says you can’t love your auntie like your own mum, eh? So, thank you, cousins, for keeping her worship alive and vibrant throughout the centuries and making it possible for foreigners like me to experience the blessedness that comes from calling Durga “Ma”.

I guess, I wanted to write this letter because I never really thought about how I ‘met’ her until yesterday, when a Hindu asked me how I came to know the Mahadevi. Quite a good question, actually, since it’s not every day that you meet a non-Hindu who claims to be a devotee of Durga. (I was temporarily possessed by the spirit of inarticulateness at that time, so I am writing about it to make up.)

Interestingly, I was introduced to Hinduism early on in high school, when I would pray to Vishnu and Shiva to protect me from nightmares (perhaps, one reason why I could already be part-Hindu as we speak), but not to Durga Mata. Not yet. She came in rather late in my early twenties when I was reading on our own great mother goddesses in Hellenismos (that’s roughly “Hinduism for Greeks” FYI), particularly Rhea-Cybele who was referred to as Mêtêr Theôn (Mother of the Gods) and Magna Mater (Great Mother) by my pre-Christian ancestors.

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The Phrygian Great Mother, Cybele, seated on a lion, a symbol of power

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Rhea-Cybele, Mother of the Gods, enthroned and drawn by lions

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The Divine Mother of Hindustan

It wasn’t that hard to connect Rhea-Cybele with Durga. They’re both primal forces, divine progenitors, and are both associated with power, lions, mountains, and the best ecstatic music there is on either side of Alexander‘s empire. They’re not exactly alike, of course, but you get the picture.

From that moment on, I’ve only been in sheer awe at her beauty. I remember the first time I watched this video and just melted into ecstasy. “Holy shit”, I remember myself saying with pure devotion. BECAUSE SHE IS TOTALLY AWESOME OH WOW LIKE TOTALLY FREAK ME OUT I MEAN RIGHT ON DURGA SURE IS NUMBER ONE!

Here, watch this:

(I love that aarti to death, I swear.)

It wasn’t long after I met her that I came to know and love other deities such as Ganesha and Hanuman, too (who, to my delight, both resemble a great deal with my beloved Hermês). Call it self-affirming syncretism and I won’t argue. I mean, I am an unapologetic multicultural mongrel.

As finite beings who have to be born into a certain time or culture, it’s only natural for us to know and name the divine powers that move and preserve the cosmos in our own languages. But whether we speak their names in Greek, Latin, or Sanskrit, or whether it’s Navratri or Megalesia that we’re celebrating, it all boils down to our personal, honest-to-rta relationship with each other: human to beast, human to god, and human to human.

That and because I would rather sing of what we have in common than how we differ. (Luckily, it isn’t in our nature as pagans and Hindus to exclude each other as many Christians and Muslims do.)

So, thank you again, dear cousins. I wish for the continuity of our life-affirming, celebratory traditions for ten thousand more years. Hail the waters of the Indus! Hail the encircling lands of the Mediterranean!

May the Great Mother keep you safe.

From Alexandria with love,

Your Hellenistic cousin

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