Why We Need Love Goddesses

I’ve said plenty of times that the deities in my life are all chaos and death. Chaos n death, that’s the pattern.  It’s not a matter of me being especially chaotic or deadly, but something about the way I fit into the giant clockwork jigsaw of the universe makes me especially compatible with these Powers. We fit well together. It’s always been chaos n death.

Many polytheist and pagan types find themselves aligned with Powers that share very similar domains or characteristics. A person might find themselves surrounded by liminal characters, lots of gatekeepers and crossroads types; another might find frequent allies in watery deities, deities related to animals, or deities concerned with health and healing. And of course, some people find themselves surrounded by Love Goddesses(TM).

I never “got” love goddesses. (And yes, I know there are male-type Powers associated with love and the broad category of concerns that love goddesses are also concerned with, but this actually isn’t important to the point I’m going to be eventually making.) I didn’t understand these love emotions or the beauty, art, or luxury that typically went along with love. I knew it was important, I just didn’t understand it on a personal level. I didn’t see how these things related to me.

A lot of this was very likely because I had a rock-bottom opinion of myself. I have always thought of myself as a fundamentally unloveable person – despite any evidence to the contrary. Not that I wasn’t worthy of love; I just felt that at some point, eventually, without a doubt, the people who loved me would discover that underneath the good stuff was a whole lot of garbage that wasn’t worth the effort. I have done considerable work on this front but it is still a mental stumbling block that needs constantly negotiated.

I also didn’t like myself. I thought I was ugly. I thought I was unattractive. I thought that I was repellent to others. I thought that luxury and pleasure were a waste, that they were a pacifying comfort against the reality of entropy and pain. I thought beauty was a waste because everything crumbles to dust sooner or later. Freya-norse-mythology-21934274-300-427

Freya was the first Power to step in and start to change all this. She was my first ally, in a way. She was the first Power to just up and offer to help when I was struggling with the emerging realities of life as a spirit worker and maturing devotionalist. To my mind, She had nothing to gain from this. Her compassion went straight down into me and rattled my emotional basement like nothing else had. I started to understand, very vaguely, that love was beauty and that beauty was healing.

A couple years ago I came across a Power that shook me right down to the emotional basement all over again. At the time I had resumed some very old work with Kali (like, stuff that I had started when I was 16) and was feeling it struggle to resolve. It wasn’t the wrong work, but it wasn’t quite right on some level, either. I persisted, hoping it would level out. I was puzzling over a very direct encounter of Her in an unfamiliar form. I fell into the research rabbit hole and came out the other side staring into the eyes of Kamakhya.

Shakta theology and philosophy is distinctive in the context of subcontinent religious traditions and global religious traditions. Encountering a radically different form of Kali was not actually a problem in the way such a thing might be in a different tradition or context. It was merely unexpected. That Kamakhya was identified with the yoni Shakti pitha, with Sri Lalita, with Tripura Sundari, and with the very Earth Herself was more surprising.

Sri Lalita

Sri Lalita

Sri Lalita had fascinated me for a long time but I hadn’t really done much about it (chaos n death, remember? I was busy). In her hands She holds a noose and goad, two minuscule instruments capable of exerting force wildly disproportionate to their size; a goad is intended to move an elephant. One instrument propels while the other restrains. Her other two hands hold arrows made of flowers (or flowers used as arrows) and a bow made of sugarcane (or a stalk of sugarcane used as a bow). The sugarcane bow is said to be strung with a string of beads. Imagine!

 

 

 

I called this goddess of plenitude forms Sri Lalita Tripura Sundari Sodashi Kamakhya – because She was. She was all these things and all these things are the same entity (you know, more or less. That’s just how Shakta theology works). Through Her divine grace I learned about love. I learned about just how powerful love actually is and how it can accomplish things that other emotions simply cannot. Her grace accompanied me at every step as I dove deep back into the bhakti current that had nurtured me so long ago.  No longer content with redigesting the lessons I had absorbed as a teenager, I set about trying to learn the deeper truths of this path and She helped me gain a fuller understanding of the power of devotional practice. And this is finally the point I want to make.

Devotionalists need Love Goddesses(TM). We need the Powers associated with love, beauty, joy, compassion, and companionship. We need to have these things in our lives because our path is completely saturated in a very particular sort of love. Petitioning a beloved Power who’s already on our side *because they have chosen love and power and beauty and compassion as their domain* is one of the most effective and profound things you could ever do on this path.

Devotionalists need Love Deities. We are already in Their precious and sacred domain. They already care about us. They already love our relationships. They already love our love.

My work with Sri Kamakhya is done – at least, this stage of it is. I was going to gently put away Her blessed altar because there is another Power that I am resuming work with and I have used up the very last bit of available horizontal space currently accessible. My little heart broke. My cold nasty cynical Lokean heart just broke. My beautiful, compassionate, luminous Goddess – how could I remove her visage?

And there it was – permission. Permission to keep the altar in place, permission given by a Power who has no sentimentality, but who does have compassion. Even She has to acknowledge the most blessed patron of my spiritual love.

We need Love Deities, you guys. We already have them.

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10 thoughts on “Why We Need Love Goddesses

  1. Cara Freyasdaughter says:

    Good food for thought. As a relatively newbie polytheist, I’m struggling to understand how others–people who don’t work with Love Deities–connect with, feel, and show love for their deities. Since I work for Freya (go team Freya!), it’s hard to see what is Love Deity-specific and what can be generalized across all (most?) deity devotional relationships. I’m gradually realizing that it doesn’t really matter which or what kind of deity one is devoted to; a version of this love will be inherent in the relationship regardless.

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    • Silence says:

      I was kind of surprised to discover just how narrowly I defined the kind of love that (I assumed) Love Deities were associated with; this is certainly a blind spot in myself but it’s also a blind spot that we have as a broader pagan and polytheist culture. Love is romantic, erotic, and frequently relationship-oriented or it is self-love. These are definitely very important concerns but they’re just a small part of the spectrum of love and affection that humans experience throughout their lives. Love Deities should be associated with familial love, friendship, compassion, altruism, and even charity at least as much as they are with erotic love. I think our human passion for the earth and our capacity to care deeply about non-human animals are also naturally part of the domain associated with these deities.

      I feel very strongly that we’re shortchanging Them by *not* allowing them to act as patrons and guides in the construction of healthy, flourishing emotional relationships with the Divine, no matter what name or personality we might be specifically interacting with. Realizing that we – that *I* – already had someone I could consider a patron of sacred love (Freya in this case but Sri Kamakhya and others) was a very profound moment of growth.

      And yes, I agree that this love will be part of any relationship. I rather think that the Powers are experts on the subject of human-divine relationships, given that they’ve had so very many of them. There are certainly some that have a particular mastery over this and can offer a more profound insight and level of guidance, but the Powers certainly seem to be pretty experienced with this sort of thing.

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      • Cara Freyasdaughter says:

        Nods. My stance is–They’re deities; in general, they know more about life and this kind of stuff than we do (else, where’s the point in calling them deities or in connecting with them?)

        The idea of calling on a love deity to help….. broker is not the right word; maybe just smooth the way for–a relationship with another deity (which I think is what you are saying), is a very radical one, from what I can tell. Also, very insightful. If the Love Deities can help with love in all of its varieties on a human or animal level, then why not on a human/divine relationship as well? Maybe they help solve the love problems between other deities, as well 😉

        And yes, pagans need to Get Over this concept of love deities being all about sex or romance. There’s so much more that they encompass, as you mention. Which is one of the main reasons I put together the Facets of Freya ritual at PCon this year: https://thegoldthread.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/facets-of-freya-ritual-script/

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      • Silence says:

        Yes, exactly. I think these particular Powers can be a big help in facilitating the development of a healthy, responsible, and mutually rewarding relationship with the Divine. Love Deities are especially attuned to human emotional concerns and our connections with the divine are nothing if not emotionally, so at the very least there is a logical fit. (And ah, the antics that would result from our beloved Love Deities trying to patch things up between other Powers!)

        Thanks for sharing the link, I just now saw your post on FB. I had a little more energy at PCon this year than last (I brought my traveling cane!) but I still didn’t get to do too much. Will you be doing this ritual again in the future? I’d love to come to it.

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      • Cara Freyasdaughter says:

        I’d love to do the ritual again, and I know the group would be thrilled. It really depends on whether the Con organizers think we can get away with putting it on two years in a row.

        I love it–“Love deities brokering emotional relationships is a *logical* fit.” 🙂 But yes, it makes sense.

        It’s the Love Connection Game, Divine version! 😉
        And though I think there are a few myths in which love deities do act as matchmaker or relationship mender, there’s just as many myths in which they (ahem Aphrodite ahem) intentionally mess up the relationships of Gods and humans. On a non-mythological level, though, within their pantheon, I think that is probably the role they often play–mender or relationship-builder. With Freya its a bit of a mix, though; She still is the strife stirrer, whether she wills it or no. It’s just the nature of being so full of love and generosity of spirit, I think; someone else who doesn’t have that will come along and want to own it somehow.

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