Sunday, February 15, 2015

Deity Introduction: Ganesha

Note: This post contains potentially problematic practices or language, cultural appropriation, or misinformation. I have been working diligently to decolonize my practice, for which you can learn more about in my article Decolonizing Witchcraft: Racism, Whitewashing, and Cultural Appropriation in Witchcraft and How to Decolonize Your Practice. I believe in documenting my journey in witchcraft and that my readers can learn from my mistakes, so the posts will remain as a learning opportunity.

Deity Introduction: Ganesha

Ganesha, the elephant-headed Lord of Prosperity, Wisdom, and Obstacles, stands out among the crowd as the most beloved Hindu deity. He is personally one of my favorite deity mythos, and I am not entirely sure why. I have encountered Ganesha several times in history lessons and literature, but he stood out most brightly to me in the book The Book of Dreams by O.R. Melling. I'm going to be honest; I started the book 5 years ago and haven't finished. I should probably start it over, but I digress. In the book the main character Dana, the light-bearers daughter, sets out on a quest with a half wolf French dude to find the Book of Dreams and saved the world and the world of faerie from dark forces. On her journey, she meets many obstacles and at one point Ganesha appears to guide her on her way. He tells Dana that he is helping her in her quest only because one of his daughters, Dana's stepmother, honors him and by helping Dana and he returning his love to Dana's stepmother. He then tells her not to expect his help again as he is not her deity or part of faerie. I found this very intriguing that a deity would reach out to help another who did not honor him. Today I'd like to share a brief history of Ganesha and how you can call upon him to clear obstacles from your path.

Ganesha is the son of the primal deities Shiva and Parvati. He was born in his father's absence and grew up completely devoted to his mother. One day while he stood guard while his mother bathed, Shiva returned unexpectedly and demanded to see his wife. Ganesha, having never met his father, barred his way. Shiva ended the argument by cutting off Ganesha's head, but when it was revealed that Ganesha was his son, he vowed to replace his head with that of the first creature he saw: an elephant. Because he no longer appeared "godlike," Shiva decreed that no prayers would begin without first invoking Ganesha. The letter or symbol Om or Aum found at the beginning of almost all mantras is a tribute to and invocation of Ganesha. Today Ganesha is invoked before beginning any new endeavor or project so he will open the way.

During August or September, the holiday Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated to honor Ganesha. Depending on when it falls it can last between 5-7 days or 10-12 days (usually 10 days). The festival involves placing clay images of Ganesha in public pandals, temporary shrines, and worshipping them with a variety of plants and leaves. At the end of the festival, the leaves are immersed in a body of water, usually the a lake, to purify the water. In the early years of the tradition, the water was their drinking source. Placing the blessed and medicinal leaves in it was believed to protect people from infections and viral diseases in the water.

You can request Ganesha's assistance with new projects and ask for his guidance on old projects you are stuck on. Offer him peanuts, golden raisins, and candy. You can also offer him leaves from 108 different plants to unblock your path. The most common mantra to invoke Ganesha is "Om Gam Ganapataye Namah," which means "Priase be to Ganapati." This is his mula or root mantra which is commonly used for yoga sadhana to merge oneself with Ganesha during practice. "Om Shri Ganeshaya Namah" or " Praise to Lord Ganesha" is the mantra used for invocation, adoration, and worship.

And to add an extra little tidbit, Ganesha's brother Skanda rides a peacock. Just so you know.

I hope this has been informative. Do you use Ganesha in your magic or yoga practice?

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