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 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 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.