Category Archives: directions

G is for Ganesha

One of my favorite deities of the Hindu panoply of gods is Ganesha. He is fantastic. I forget when I was first introduced to him, but I have always felt a certain fondness for him, and enjoyed learning about him; the myths, the mantras, the devotions, the festivals.

The popularity of Ganesha extends throughout many of the religions that originated in India. Hindus, Buddhists, Jainists, all seem to venerate Ganesha, and it seems quite a few people outside of that religion, who also are drawn to him.

His origin story is quite well published, and if you want to read it, well, Google it, but I will do a quick paraphrase here. He is the son of Parvati, the wife of Shiva, who was created to guard her while she took her bath. However, while Parvati was bath, Shiva returned and sent some of his followers to call upon Parvati. Ganesha denied them, and beat them soundly when they attempted to trespass. Finally Shiva came to see what the problem was, and not knowing the boy was his wife’s son, they fought. Shiva won, but before Parvati could stop the conflict, Shiva had used his destructive third eye upon the youth, destroying his head. In order to revive him, another head needed to be found, which was an elephant head, which became attached to the boy’s body and he was then revived. There are quite a number of different versions that fill in various details and explain various things, but that is the very short hand version of the story that I first heard.

He is associated with having dominion over many things, but his main attribute is the Lord of Obstacles. While mostly often he is asked to remove obstacles, it is also said that he can place obstacles in the path of people who need it. One of his names reflects this power where he is identified as Vighneshvara, which literally translates as Lord of Obstacles (shvara – lord and Vighne being obstacles). There are other variations of this name, but the meaning is considerable consistent. The obstacles he governs are both physical and metaphysical and can be people, places, concepts, spiritual issues, illness and many other things. For this reason he is often called upon when beginning a new venture, to remove obstacles that may obstruct it, as well as when engaging in ritual, to remove obstacles that would impede the success of the ritual.

Another name and association is with knowledge, wisdom and learning. The concept I learned with that is his name Ekadanta which means “One Tusked” as he is often portrayed with only one complete tusk, the other one often broken off and being held in one of his hands. I have a small clay statue showing him holding this broken tusk, and it seems he was using it as a writing implement. The story that I learned is that it was Ganesha who first created writing, and started to write down what other gods said, that it might be preserved and remembered. As he was doing so, his writing implement broken, and there was nothign to replace it. So he broke off his tusk, and dipped it into the ink and continued writing. Because of his connection to knowledge, wisdom and learning, he is also sometimes known as Buddhi’s husband or Buddhipriya, buddhi being a sanskrit word for knowledge and wisdom which is a feminine word and priya meaning fond of, lover or husband.

Ganesha is also associated with a number of other concepts. It is said that the OM is his nature. The swastika is a very popular symbol and it is widely associated with Ganesha. Many statues from the subcontinent of Ganesha often have the swastika prominently displayed on Ganesha, or used in his depictions. He is also said to dwell in the muladhara chakra, as it said the “he holds, supports and guides the other chakras , and thereby governing the forces that propel the wheel of life”

The largest festival associated with Ganesha is Ganesha Chathurthi. This annual festival of 10 days happens in early autumn, typically at some time in August or September (because it is based upon a lunar calendar, the dates vary in the Gregorian calendar. You can google the date). Originally a small family orientated festival, it became a rallying point for Indian independence from the British, and for that reason is widely celebrated across the country, but especially so in specific states and in Ganesha specific temples. The beginning of the festival is marked by the arrival of Ganesha, usually as a large statue. At the end of hte festival, the statue (or statues) are then taken to nearby bodies of water (lakes, rivers etc…) and submerged. While this tradition continues, there has been some discourse over it, as the original statues were often made of clay and would just dissolve into mud, many modern statues started to be made from plaster of paris, which is filled with toxic chemicals, and then painted with toxic paints, which would then pollute the bodies of water. While I have read that some areas have returned to using clay and non toxic pigments, others have started using reusable statues also colored with non toxic paints and dyes, and so they retrieve the statue from the body of water after a few days.

If you want to engage in devotion to Ganesha, a very simple way is through offering him incense and sweets. While he is often depicted with a bowl of traditional indian deserts, I have found he likes all maner of sweets and candies. Including incense (sandalwood is a good choice) is always good, as would including some kind of liquid, even water. The most commonly recited mantra to Ganesha is “Aum gam ganapati namah” Ganesha is very often identified with the color red, although white also is used, along with blue, and it seems orange and yellow are also popular (although usually used with different roles of Ganesha).

And now a little devotion for you

Standing at a Crossroads

Right now I am standing at a crossroads and I am looking at my options about what direction to go, in terms of spiritual exercises and focus. A few weeks ago I completed an extensive meditation/trancework practice with the runes, spending a week (or more) with each rune. I began this in 2009, and while my original goal was to finish in 33 weeks (for the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc and Northumbrian runes) it did take much longer because of little bumps in the road of life, like colds, moving, or just not being able to get into the trance state I felt was needed. But I stuck it through to the end, and I finished. It was awesome and when I was done I felt great satisfaction and completion. That lasted for about a week.

The new question is “Where do I go from here?” It is the challenge of being mostly self-directed in one’s personal spiritual/magical practice. There is no teacher saying “study this next” and honestly, while I do love books, for me I need to move beyond them. They too easily become a crutch and a distraction, instead of propelling me ahead into my next thing. I have an extensive library already. The only things I would like to add to it are rare and expensive contemporary books from the Cultus Sabbati and a few things that I have sitting on my wish list at Amazon. That being said, I do need to be thrify and plan my expenditures in that direction more carefully.

That being said, I wonder, where do I go from here? There is no wrong direction, I just need to choose. My usual problem is that I like to my cake and eat it to, and a few other cakes from everyone else as well. Some of the options that have presented themselves to me are:

1) Elemental Mastery – I have a relationship with the elements, Persian and otherwise. But I wouldn’t say I have mastery or a deep and well-established relationship. I have been told that Earth is where I need to begin.
2) A friend and guide along the path has directed me towards working with another magical alphabet, and to unlock meanings from those. While at first I have to say I was not thrilled, after some thought, it seemed interesting.
3) Ancestor Veneration – while I already do this on some level, I would like to take it to a deeper level and put together a more complete ancestor altar, with items of my family and other lineages that I am connected to. This would eventually lead to practicing necromancy and developing that skill set.

So, that is some of the options I am considering. There are others, but I haven’t quite figured them out exactly what they are. I have recently been reading “The Master Book of Candle-Burning” by Henri Gamache and contemplating the working presented there. I have also been working with Biblical Psalms, which might lead to something else, but I am not sure where that might lead, other then my interest in prayers and incantations. I have also been desiring to move forward with my Reiki studies, and become a Reiki Master, but I am not sure if that is what I am ready for yet.

So, I stand at the center of the crossroads, and I contemplate which direction I should head in now. I know eventually I can return and pursue the other objectives, but for now I need to choose and follow that direction.