Friday, August 3, 2012

August Full Moon and Lughnasaad

I've spent these past few days in reflection. I had spent two weeks in the psych ward and needed the time to reflect on myself. Now that I am not deemed safe around my children, I have a lot of free time on my hands. I reflected, released toxins, and did yoga. There will be a lot of reflection while I'm alone. **** LUGH Lugh is the Celtic lord of every skill. He was patron of Lugodunum (Lyons) in Gaul. He and his nature goddess consort (Rosmerta) were worshipped during the 30 day Lugnasad midsummer feast in Ireland. Fertility magic during this festival ensured ripening of the crops and good harvest. He was called Lamfhada or 'of the long arm' in Gaelic because of his great spear and sling. His animal attributes were the raven and the lynx. Lugh mirrors Hindu Karttikeya, the spiritual warrior, and Roman Mercury, the swift messenger. His exploits are recounted in the "Tain Bo Cuailnge", the Cattle-raid of Cooley. KARTTIKEYA The principal god of war of the Hindus is Karttikeya.He is also known as Skanda. He replaces both Indra and Agni who, in the early stages of Hinduism, were considered to be gods of battles. In his role as defender of the gods Karttikeya is more single-minded than any of his predecessors. Hindu myths profess that he is interested in nothing but battles and warlike adventures. He is reputed to be not even interested in women, being somewhat of a misogynist. This is almost singular, as all other Hindu gods are associated with one or more women, be they goddesses or otherwise. Nevertheless, some texts allow him a wife named Kaumari or Devasena ('army of the gods'). There is a very interesting tale associated with Devasena which also tells of how Karttikeya was conceived and why. Karttikeya is also known as Kumar, as this word means 'one who is a bachelor'. In South India Karttikeya is worshipped as Subramanya. Karttikeya is popularly conceived of as riding a peacock with his battle armor on. He always carries with him his bow and arrows, neatly tucked in a quiver hanging down his back. He is usually dressed simply in white clothes without any other embellishments, as befits an austere warrior. There is some confusion on how many heads and appendages he has but the popular notion is that, for sure, he has six heads. It is supposed that he also has six hands and legs but this is rather uncertain. According to the most popular version, Karttikeya is the eldest son of Shiva and Parvati. The story behind his conception is quite enthralling and is narrated hereafter. Once an asura (demon) named Taraka performed a great number of austerities for a great number of years and thereby attracted the attention of Brahma. When Brahma asked him what he wanted as reward for his exceptional piety the asura asked for the boon of absolute invulnerability. At this request Brahma was dismayed because Taraka was an asura and not to be trusted with such tremendous power. So the wily god tricked Taraka into accepting a modified boon whereby the asura got absolute invulnerability from every creation in the universe except a son of Shiva. Thus, as a result, nothing and no-one could kill Taraka or overcome him in battle except a son of Shiva. Taraka was overjoyed at even this modified boon as Shiva had no sons and had just lost his wife Sati who had jumped into her father Daksha's funeral fire and been immolated. Shiva was mad with grief and had taken refuge in the forests intent on leading a life of absolute austerity. Taraka thought he had nothing to fear and began what he had initially set out to do, hold absolute sway over all creations in the universe. So, protected by Brahma's boon, Taraka started extending his domains and not only conquered all creatures on earth but also started making inroads into heaven. He defeated the gods one by one and forced them to pay him tribute. Indra was forced to part with his wonderful white horse, Uchchaisravas, which was one of the fourteen precious things that had turned up at the Churning of the Ocean at the beginning of creation. Jamadagni, the great sage, had to give up his celestial cow Kamdhenu, a creature which could fulfill all desires. Kubera, the god of wealth, had to pay tribute to Taraka in the form of a thousand precious sea-horses and Vayu had to obey all of the wicked asura's commands. Even the sun and the moon were in terror of Taraka and while the sun could not give out any heat the moon was forced to shine all the time. The gods were forced out of their respective heavens and wander about in forests. One day, in the forests, all the gods gathered in a clearing to discuss how they could overcome Taraka but no way could be found till one of the gods fortunately remembered the lacuna in Brahma's boon to the asura. Taraka was invincible against all except a son of Shiva's. This gave the gods some hope but Shiva was still mourning Sati and living a life of complete celibacy in a forest by Mount Kailash, his usual abode. So the gods began to hatch a plan to persuade Shiva to marry and beget a son. They decided that Sati would be reborn as Parvati, daughter of Himalaya, the mountain. Then they would somehow contrive to marry her off to the still grief-stricken god. So Parvati was born, exceedingly beautiful and worthy of a potent god like Shiva. When she came of age she was made to understand her mission in life and she herself began to perform many austerities in the hope of attracting Shiva's attention but that god was still in grief and impervious to all her best efforts. After the passage of many years without any result Indra began to despair of Parvati's success without some assistance. So he appointed Kama, the god of love and desire, to go to Mount Kailash and somehow make Shiva break his self-imposed celibacy. That flighty god fearfully went to Kailash and found Shiva deep in meditation, impervious to all around him. Even the birds and animals in that holy place made no noise. Even the leaves on the trees stayed still and made no sound. Kama dared not proceed with what he had been sent to do and hung about the place wondering what he could do. So Kama dithered about the place quite uncertain as to how to rouse Shiva's desire to wed with Parvati. This uncertain situation went on for many days till, one day, suddenly, Kama saw Parvati approach gently and quietly and start picking flowers to offer to her desired lord, Shiva. Kama immediately saw his opportunity and, setting aside his fear of the hot-tempered god, fitted an arrow to his famed bow and aimed at Shiva and let fly. The arrow flew true to its mark, Shiva's breast. Shiva was rudely shaken out of his meditative trance and his eyes flew open. The first person he saw was the lovely Parvati charmingly picking the colorful flowers. He immediately felt a warm surge of desire for her course through his body. Then he saw Kama and he instantly understood the reason for his unforeseen desire. He flew into a rage at what he thought of as Kama's imprudence and, turning his terrible third eye on that hapless god, reduced him to ashes. Though now under the influence of physical need for a woman, Shiva was still determined to stick to his life of absolute asceticism. He receded farther into the forests and, ignoring his physical urges, continued with his meditations. Perceiving this, Parvati began anew her austerities in the hope of moving Shiva into noticing her. So this went on for several more years. The gods, exiled to the wildernesses by Taraka's tyranny, yearned for their comfortable heavens but could do nothing in the face of Shiva's obstinacy. At last though, since the potency of one of Kama's arrows never diminishes, Shiva was forced to acknowledge his physical needs and consented to marry Parvati. The gods were overjoyed at this new development and envisaged that they would soon be able to go back to their old, sybaritic life-styles. Shiva and Parvati wedded amid great pomp and glory and a sumptuous feast to which everyone who was someone was invited was organized to commemorate the auspicious occasion. Yet things were not as they should have been. Many years passed and yet Shiva and Parvati had no issue. The gods fell into consultation again and this time it was decided that Agni, the god of fire, should go to Kailash and find out what was wrong. When Agni reached there, it is fortunate that he perceived Shiva just leaving his wife Parvati. Agni transformed himself into a dove and flew around the place where the two had just been together, he was lucky in finding a seed of Shiva's. He picked this up and made for the place where the other gods waited patiently for his return. But Agni is a lesser god and he was unable to carry Shiva's seed for long. Soon he grew tired and dropped the seed. It fell on a bank of the river Ganges. There, upon the bank of the great river, arose a child who was beautiful as the moon and brilliant as the sun. As he lay there crying on the bank the six Pleiades, being the daughters of six powerful kings in Hindu myth, came to that very banks to bathe. Seeing the pretty baby lying there without anyone in attendance they were all overcome with motherly love and each offered him her breast. Thus Karttikeya, who was this beautiful child, was suckled simultaneously by six surrogate mothers without much difficulty as, being the son of a god and a god himself, he had six heads and could suckle six breasts all at once. So Karttikeya grew up in the care of the loving Pleiades and later fulfilled his mission in life, that of killing the tyrannous asura Taraka. Thus the universe was again brought back to the control of the gods who could go back to their heavens and pursue their usual lives of complete leisurely pleasure. MERCURY Mercury is god of trade and profit, merchants and travelers, but originally of the trade in corn. In later times he was equated with the Greek Hermes. He had a temple in Rome near the Circus Maximus on the Aventine Hill which dates back to 495 BCE. This temple was connected to some kind of trade fair. His main festival, the Mercuralia, was celebrated on May 15 and on this day the merchants sprinkled their heads and their merchandise with water from his well near the Porta Capena. During the time of the Roman Empire the cult of Mercury was widely spread, especially among the Celtic and Germanic peoples. The Celts have their Gaulish Mercury, and the Germans identified him with their Wodan. The attributes of Mercury are the caduceus (a staff with two intertwined snakes) and a purse (a symbol of his connection with commerce). He is portrayed similarly to Hermes: dressed in a wide cloak, wearing talaria (winged sandals) and petasus (winged hat). Mercury is also known as Alipes ("with the winged feet"). HERMES Hermes, the herald of the Olympian gods, is the son of Zeus and the nymph Maia, daughter of Atlas and one of the Pleiades. Hermes is the god of shepherds, land travel, merchants, weights and measures, oratory, literature, athletics and thieves, and known for his cunning and shrewdness. Most importantly, he is the messenger of the gods. Besides that he was also a minor patron of poetry. He was worshiped throughout Greece -- especially in Arcadia -- and festivals in his honor were called Hermoea. According to legend, Hermes was born in a cave on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. Zeus had impregnated Maia at the dead of night while all other gods slept. When dawn broke amazingly he was born. Maia wrapped him in swaddling bands, then resting herself, fell fast asleep. Hermes, however, squirmed free and ran off to Thessaly. This is where Apollo, his brother, grazed his cattle. Hermes stole a number of the herd and drove them back to Greece. He hid them in a small grotto near to the city of Pylos and covered their tracks. Before returning to the cave he caught a tortoise, killed it and removed its entrails. Using the intestines from a cow stolen from Apollo and the hollow tortoise shell, he made the first lyre. When he reached the cave he wrapped himself back into the swaddling bands. When Apollo realized he had been robbed he protested to Maia that it had been Hermes who had taken his cattle. Maia looked to Hermes and said it could not be, as he is still wrapped in swaddling bands. Zeus the all powerful intervened saying he had been watching and Hermes should return the cattle to Apollo. As the argument went on, Hermes began to play his lyre. The sweet music enchanted Apollo, and he offered Hermes to keep the cattle in exchange for the lyre. Apollo later became the grand master of the instrument, and it also became one of his symbols. Later while Hermes watched over his herd he invented the pipes known as a syrinx (pan-pipes), which he made from reeds. Hermes was also credited with inventing the flute. Apollo, also desired this instrument, so Hermes bartered with Apollo and received his golden wand which Hermes later used as his heralds staff. (In other versions Zeus gave Hermes his heralds staff). Being the herald (messenger of the gods), it was his duty to guide the souls of the dead down to the underworld, which is known as a psychopomp. He was also closely connected with bringing dreams to mortals. Hermes is usually depicted with a broad-brimmed hat or a winged cap, winged sandals and the heralds staff (kerykeion in Greek, or Caduceus in Latin). It was often shown as a shaft with two white ribbons, although later they were represented by serpents intertwined in a figure of eight shape, and the shaft often had wings attached. The clothes he donned were usually that of a traveler, or that of a workman or shepherd. Other symbols of Hermes are the cock, tortoise and purse or pouch. Originally Hermes was a phallic god, being attached to fertility and good fortune, and also a patron of roads and boundaries. His name coming from herma, the plural being hermaiherm was a square or rectangular pillar in either stone or bronze, with the head of Hermes (usually with a beard), which adorned the top of the pillar, and male genitals near to the base of the pillar. These were used for road and boundary markers. Also in Athens they stood outside houses to help fend off evil. In Athens of 415 BCE, shortly before the Athenian fleet set sail against Syracuse (during the Peloponnesian War), all the herms throughout Athens were defaced. This was attributed to people who were against the war. Their intentions were to cast bad omens on the expedition, by seeking to offend the god of travel. (This has never been proved as the true reason for the mutilation of the herms.) The offspring of Hermes are believed to be Pan, Abderus and Hermaphroditus. Hermes as with the other gods had numerous affairs with goddesses, nymphs and mortals. In some legends even sheep and goats. Pan, the half man half goat, is believed to be the son of Hermes and Dryope, the daughter of king Dryops. Pan terrified his mother when he was born, so much so that she fled in horror at the sight of her new born son. Hermes took Pan to Mount Olympus were the gods reveled in his laughter and his appearance and became the patron of fields, woods, shepherds and flocks. Abderus, a companion of the hero Heracles, is also thought to be a son of Hermes, he was devoured by the Mares of Diomedes, after Heracles had left him in charge of the ferocious beasts. Hermaphroditus (also known as Aphroditus) was conceived after the union of Hermes and Aphrodite. He was born on Mount Ida but he was raised by the Naiads (nymphs of freshwater). He was a androgynous (having the characteristics of both sexes) deity, depicted as either a handsome young man but with female breasts, or as Aphrodite with male genitals. It was Hermes who liberated Io, the lover of Zeus, from the hundred-eyed giant Argus, who had been ordered by Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus, to watch over her. Hermes charmed the giant with his flute, and while Argos slept Hermes cut off his head and released Io. Hera, as a gesture of thanks to her loyal servant, scattered the hundred eyes of Argos over the tail of a peacock (Heras' sacred bird). Hermes also used his ingenuity and abilities to persuade the nymph Calypso to release Odysseus, the wandering hero, from her charms. She had kept Odysseus captive, after he was shipwrecked on her island Ogygia, promising him immortality if he married her, but Zeus sent Hermes to release Odysseus. Legend says that Calypso died of grief when Odysseus sailed away. Hermes also saved Odysseus and his men from being transformed into pigs by the goddess and sorceress Circe. He gave them a herb which resisted the spell. Hermes also guided Eurydice back down to the underworld after she had been allowed to stay for one day on earth with her husband Orpheus. Known for his swiftness and athleticism, Hermes was given credit for inventing foot-racing and boxing. At Olympia a statue of him stood at the entrance to the stadium and his statues where in every gymnasium throughout Greece. Apart from herms, Hermes was a popular subject for artists. Both painted pottery and statuary show him in various forms, but the most fashionable depicted him as a good-looking young man, with an athletic body, and winged sandals and his heralds staff. His Roman counterpart Mercury inherited his attributes, and there are many Roman copies of Greek artistic creations of Hermes. The Greek post office has Hermes as its symbol.