In the chinamasti temple in gowathi there is a depiction of devi, the goddess, with her head chopped off. she is holding the sword in one hand and her severed head in another. we are here on pilgrimage in the north of india, assam. our cell phones don't work because of terrorists attacks in this state and kashmir last year, now only local phones work. gowathi is a small town with 10 temples to the goddess in 10 fierce and benevolent forms. she is called the Mother.
maybe it is hard to imagine Mother and goddesses wielding swords and severed heads. but that is the Mother. the giver and taker of life. There are the parts of all our own mothers that are hard to accept. especially when we expect them to be passive and loving, protecting us from hurt or needing our protection.
The shadow of the mother is the witch. the witch first appears when the baby cries for milk and is denied. the mother to the baby is a god, the baby is completely dependent. we create the light and shadow of the feminine. the "good mother" is nurturing and self sacrificing, living for her mate and children. the "witch" is the woman who enjoys her power and pleasure for herself. society is threatened by her.
the biggest temple in this town is the kamakhya, yoni (genitals) of the Mother. we arrive at the gate and are told to wash our hands and feet. there is a long line that snakes through underground catecombs with sculptures carved into the walls and covered in bright red kumkum powder to give them shakti (life force). the deeper we go underground, the more dank the smell and claustrophobic the feeling. the priests wear all red and the indian women in line around us are singing. sometimes they put their index fingers in their mouth and wiggle them back and forth while they make a high pitched cry. it tingles the spine.
finally we reach a place where the steps in stone are so steep that only one person can descend at a time. there is a pit with the deity. but she has no form. just a dark pit with water. people have brought flowers and oil lamps are burning. the priest tells me to get on my knees. i bow to the shrine. he says a mantra which i repeat. he says, "touch the water". i touch the water, sprinkling it over my head like a baptism. then i climb back up and out into the fresh air. this temple is to the yoni itself, the female genitals, the Mother. and the temple was like a womb...descending deeper into the earth, getting darker, the smell stronger, until reaching the point of power which was formless and touching the water.
the mother creates life through the pleasure of the body. through the desire to create and be immortal by being reborn. she is the pressure of the volcano. to her pleasure is not good or bad, it just is. the driving force of life. like hunger.