Katyayani: mother as bestower of paradise

Katyayani Navadurga Maata, Boodram, Creative Commons
Katyayani Navadurga Maata, Boodram, Creative Commons

Carl Jung noted a relation between the mother and paradise [1]. In the Hindu tradition, there is a word svarga or swarga meaning ‘paradise’ or ‘heaven’. In the Devi-Mahatmyam, the mother goddess (Devi) is honored as the bestower of paradise (svarga) and liberation. In Verse 11, 7 we read:

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Mahavidyas: working with the ambivalent aspect of the mother archetype

Durga_under_an_arch_displaying_the_Mahavidyas,_with_Shiva_at_the_apex
An image of Durga (Shakti) under an arch displaying the Mahavidyas, with Shiva at the apex; 1930’s. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

In the image above, we see the Goddess Durga (Shakti) under an arch displaying the Mahavidyas. The mahavidyas express various forms of the Devi. Mahavidya is a Sanskrit word that speaks to the revelatory power of the mother goddess. Maha means ‘great’ and Vidya means ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom’.

Sitting on top of the arch, we find Shiva. Shiva is an image of the cosmic Self (Brahman). The mother goddesses express the form and power of the cosmic Self. As such, she emerges as ‘great wisdoms’, offering esoteric knowledge of the Cosmic Self. Arthur Avalon speaks to the relation of Shiva and Shakti:

“Mind and Matter are ultimately one, the two latter being the twin aspects of the Fundamental Substance or Brahman [or Shiva] and Its Power or Shakti. Spirit is the substance of mind-matter, the Reality (in the sense of the lasting changelessness) out of which, by Its Power, all Appearance is fashioned not by the individual mind and senses but by the cosmic mind and senses of which they are but a part. What It creates It perceives.”

Shiva and Shakti form two aspects or poles of the cosmic Self (Brahman). All of reality emerges as such: cosmic mind and cosmic body. For the yogi, this eternal truth is revealed within both the macrocosm (cosmic body) and the microcosm (individual body). By working to realize these poles of being, we come to know the nature of the Self.

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Chinnamastā: the negative sides of the mother archetype

Chinnamasta and Shiva, late 18th century. US public Domain via wikimedia
Chinnamasta and Shiva, late 18th century. US public Domain via wikimedia

In the above image, we see Chinnamastā. She copulates with Shiva as she severs her head with her fingernail. Three streams of blood flow from her head. The streams flow to feed the goddesses on her left and right, as well as her own head.

Carl Jung speaks of the “negative side the mother archetype” (CW 9i, para. 158) For many this image of Chinnamastā would certainly be a dark, foreboding, negative image. Yet, taking in its own context this image reveals the very nature of the ecstatic non-dual. There are many ways in which the image reveals such truth, most readily in the symbolic severing of the head. The severing of the head may represent moksha (liberation), as an image of non-dual ecstasy associated with the release of our individual identity.

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