Finished Yantras

I finished my yantras! It’s taken me all week. Between finding the concentrated time and preparing myself, through meditation and chanting, it has been more challenging than I expected to finish such a small project.

I have no idea if these are “correct,” but they are infused with much intention, prayer, and enthusiasm.

Shiva yantra

Shiva yantra

Kali yantra

Kali yantra

Durga yantra

Durga yantra

I’m so pleased that I finally got around to making my own yantras. I found the process educational and meditative. Next I will hang them in my altar.

And yes, I know they look like something a child would do! Visual arts aren’t my skill, and because I have kids, crayons were the coloring medium of choice. These please my own inner-child, so I think all my parts are happy with the outcome.

 

Attempting Yantras

Yantras are intricate, geometrical Hindu designs. Tantric Hinduism uses them for meditation, magic, and devotion. It’s an ancient practice that involves a lot of training, preparation, and precision. So I thought I’d make some. In a morning. Silly me.

I have only ever seen yantras in books or on-line, never in person. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of doing some for myself since I first began my Hindu quarter at the beginning of this blog. Now, with my eldest child in kindergarten and my youngest in morning preschool, I have 2.5 hours of child-free time. I thought surely that would be enough time to make some small yantras. But I was wrong.

I don’t know exactly what the process or requirements are for making yantra. From what I can tell, it involves purification, meditation, preparations, and puja. So this morning I censed my house, made kala (a purification rite), meditated, aligned my souls, and made a brief puja. I called upon Durga and Kali. I made offerings and petitioned their blessings and assistance.

Then I began to draw. I am not a visual artist, but I did my best. My eyes started watering, my hand started cramping. I clearly don’t do this very often. By the time I was done drawing and inking my three mini-yantras an hour had flown and it was time to get my daughter from preschool!

Here is what I have so far:

Shiva yantra

Shiva yantra

Durga yantra

Durga yantra

IMG_0728

Kali yantra

I will have to do yet more puja tomorrow and spend some meditative time coloring them. There is a part of me that wonders if I’m bringing calamity on my house by not having the geometry exact or the lines just so. I figure that these are all gods I have a relationship with, I prepared myself to the best of my knowledge and abilities, and the efforts are in good faith. This isn’t some casual, smart-ass coloring project.

For comparison, here are some pictures of actual yantras:

Kali yantra

Kali yantra

Durga yantra

Durga yantra

Next week I’ll post my colored final yantras.

 

What I Do

Earlier in the week a friend on Facebook linked to a great blog post on a blog I’d never read before. The post is called The Keys to Success in Magic. It makes a great point, that most witches/magicians/sorcerers worth their salt don’t do magic most of the time. I’d say that’s true!

Midway through the post the author has a ‘flow chart’ of his practice. If I had to make a chart, this would be pretty close.

If we’re not making magic, what do we do?

I can’t speak for most other people, but clearly this gentleman and myself – and many of my magical and/or Pagan friends – are similar in our approaches. Let’s walk through this flow chart together.

The foundation of all practice is some form of meditative practice. I learned mine primarily from yoga, but it was in my training with T Thorn Coyle where I was pushed to incorporate meditation into a daily practice. Before I had kids I would do 20-30 minutes of sitting practice every morning. I sat, checked in with all my parts – my body, my emotions, and various souls – and breathed through whatever came up. It was during this time that I finally got a handle on my anxiety issues, all through a daily sitting practice.

Now that I have kids, my practice isn’t so extensive or regular, but there is some form of breathing exercise every day. If I had to wager a guess, I’d say I sit before my altar three to four days out of 7 in the week, but there is some form of conscious breathing moment every day. It truly is the foundation of all else.

Why is breathing so important? In my experience it is useful in several ways. It teaches us to connect with all of our parts. I am learning to listen. What is going on with myself, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually? I am getting better at listening to others, both human and non-human. I am learning that my thoughts might not be the truth of the matter, nor might they be the most important information in any given moment.

Mostly what happens when I sit in meditation is that my brain hits me with every task I need to keep track of: grocery lists, appointments, blog post ideas, etc. My ears strain to hear the kids in the other rooms. What I do is I thank my brain for taking care of all that information and I let it go, just focusing on the breath. One of these days I’ll get back to the deeper levels of meditation. It happened before, so I know it can happen again. But this tool, this ability to slow down and quiet the mind is invaluable. Being able to step outside my reactive thought processing and learn to listen with other parts of myself has been the key to my mental and spiritual health.

The creator of the above flow chart has listed devotions, offerings and energy work next. Again, I think these three things are the next most important acts, after meditation and before magical work.

Devotions and offerings are perhaps one and the same in my mind and practice. Every dark moon I replace the offerings of water. sometimes I offer special incenses. Sometimes I buy flowers for a certain god. Every Tuesday I do Kali puja. It was not until I delved into a three-month Hindu practice, back at the beginning of this blog, that I learned how important and powerful devotions could be. Elaborate or simple, they are a way to build connection with deities and spirits. I learn something new each time I do it. Occasionally I do something a puja for Shiva on Monday, sometimes something formal for the Red Goddess on Friday. But always, every Tuesday for Kali.

sometimes these rituals yield immediate results, and by that I mean, felt connection or certain blessings later in the day. Some days there’s no felt connection. Never do I feel it was a waste of my time.

Lastly, I would call the lessons I am doing for my Feri training my energy work. Right now we are working through the Iron Pentacle, a form of energy and value system, that is unique to the Feri tradition. Making kala, a form of purification, also falls into energy work. I make kala at least once a week, sometimes more as needed.

Lastly comes making magic. I include reading the tarot in this category, as well as spells or ritual. I don’t often read for myself. If I read it is usually for others. I go in phases, sometimes pulling a card every day, sometimes doing a reading on each full moon. For the last year I’ve been rather inactive with my cards.

When I do make magic, use spell work, or construct a larger ritual, there is always a specific need. I spend several days giving the purpose much thought, and once the intent and/or goal is clear, I figure out what course of action is most appropriate. I want to make sure the timing is right, that I have the items needed for whatever working I’m doing, and that I’ll have uninterrupted time and space to complete the working.

My experience is that, while I don’t make magic often, when I do, it is effective. I don’t think I’m any more innately gifted, psychic, or touched by the gods than anyone else. What I am is deliberate. I think the scaffolding of my practice also sets me up for success. Before magic comes gaining strength in skills and forging relationship with others, gods and spirit allies and the world around me. But before even that comes getting centered within myself and letting go of the chatter in my mind as much as possible.

If I could sum up in a less wordy way an answer to the question ‘if not magic, what do you do?’ the answer is basically: I breathe.

A Budding Theologian

Last night I was chanting Om Namah Shivaya. My son, who will be 5 at the end of the month, was listening.

“Mama, do some chants for Kali,” he said.

“I’m chanting to Shiva right now,” I answered. “We can do some chants for Kali tomorrow.”

With such conviction he said to me, “Shiva and Kali are the same, Mama. Shiva is just a nickname for her.”

***

There’s something to think about.

Kali and Shiva. I found this beautiful murti posted at anglohindu.wordpress.com

Kali and Shiva. I found this beautiful murti posted at anglohindu.wordpress.com

Observing the week with Shiva and Kali

I’ve been writing a lot more frequently about Traditional Witchcraft stuff, but what’s been happening with my Hindu practices, you might be wondering? I haven’t forgotten or forsaken it. I’ve returned to a practice that I gained much from during my Hindu quarter at the start of this blog: I devote one day a week each to Shiva and Kali.

Bangalore Shiva, wikimedia commons.

Bangalore Shiva, wikimedia commons. I find this statue incredibly beautiful.

Mondays are traditionally devoted to Shiva. Tuesdays are Kali’s day. On these days I refrain from eating beef. While many Hindus are vegetarian, not all are, and my family definitely is not. However, almost all Hindus abstain from eating beef, as they view the cow as sacred. After being a lactating mother I can see how the cow might be viewed as holy and life-giving. I also refrain from drinking any alcohol on Mondays. I listen to Hindu chants throughout the days. On Mondays it’s mostly variations of Om Namah Shivaya, on Tuesdays it’s mostly variations of chants to Kali or Durga. I use mantras when washing the dishes and sitting in meditation.

I feel that Shiva does not need extensive puja. Sitting in quiet meditation in honor of him and thinking on him while doing my morning yoga (which I’ve recommitted to doing) is puja enough. However, Kali is quite a bit more demanding and I am increasing my puja skills, endurance and knowledge for her Tuesday morning devotions.

On these two days I read something Hindu related. I have started a book about Lord Ganesha, as he is always honored in my home. Ganesh and Ma are always honored, bowed before, and blessed with incense first before any work I do, whether explicitly Hindu or not.

The rest of the week I focus on the work that I am doing with my Craft teachers and/or how I feel so moved.

In the past I have found that even one day a week focus on these gods has deepened my connections with them at a surprisingly quick pace. I find that Shiva brings a clarity and peacefulness, while Kali engenders a different kind of cunning focus, a fierceness, and a passionate devotion in me.

Shiva

Om namah Shivaya!

This is perhaps the best known Hindu chant in the Western world, along side Hare Krishna. Shiva is one of the best known gods, both within and without the Hindu tradition. I first gained familiarity with him through practicing yoga. I must confess that as I write this post on Shiva I fear that I have very little to say. He and I are just getting to know each other. Or, more precisely, since He is the Absolute Ground of Being and is therefore I, my Self, my True Self, that He knows me and I am just getting to know Him.

Statue of Shiva

In my practice and understanding of Hinduism, Shiva is the ultimate source of all. Shiva and Shakti, though separate, are One. All of creation is One. That we believe we are separate individuated beings is but an illusion. And yet we are embodied entities. It’s a giant paradox of unity in diversity. I find this theology beautiful and complex: mystic enough to satisfy my soul, concrete enough to satisfy my brain, reflecting my lived experience in a way that satisfies my heart.

Before I moved to Wales I practiced yoga regularly, mostly Anusara yoga, and this was my main source for discovering Hinduism. There are many criticisms of Western hatha yoga and its portrayals of yoga philosophy and Hindu religion; many of these criticisms are right on in my opinion, but many are unfair, too. I had learned about Hinduism in my undergraduate studies, but only through the practice of yoga did I start to see it as a living tradition that might have relevance to my life.

There are many forms of Shiva, but the most well-known, at least to yoga practitioners, might be Shiva Nataraja, Lord of the Dance. In this form, Shiva is dancing the destruction of creation in a ring of flames, preparing it for renewal, crushing the demon of ignorance under his right foot.

Statue of Shiva Nataraja, Lord of the Dance

I’ve only recently begun honoring Shiva in a specific way. Mondays are the day sacred to Shiva. Many devotees might fast, perform a special puja, and do a number of other things. I have chosen to observe Mondays in the following way: as a nursing mother I do not to fast from food, instead I fast from social media and excessive time online; I wear something white; I avoid alcohol; I offer white flowers on my altar; I chant Om namah Shivayah; and I listen to devotional music, as there is a ton of music in a wide array of styles and variations on the Om namah Shivayah chant. The first day I practiced this I noticed a sweet stillness and presence. I look forward to seeing how my understanding of Shiva deepens and our ‘relationship’ unfolds in the Mondays to come.