Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Is this what you mean by 'Goddess'?

UPDATE, July 20...It turns out Sajari will remain a Goddess after all--at least for now--after agreeing to a "cleansing ceremony" to remove the taint of her US visit.

Sajani Shakya of Bhaktapur, Nepal, a 10-year-old girl, was removed from her position as a Kumari or "living Goddess," on July 3, because those who had endowed her with this title felt that her visit to the United States tainted her purity. Sajani was one of several present Kumaris, (including probably the best known, Preeti Shakya, the Royal Kumari of Kathmandu) in an unending line of pre-pubescent Nepalese girls given this title since the about the 13th century CE, with the Nepalese tradition that a young girl could be the living embodiment of the Goddess Taleju going back probably to the 6th Century CE. Similar veneration of a pre-menstrual girl as Kumari is also observed in India, where it dates to the 17th Century CE, with "virgin worship" there going back more than 2,600 years.

While I always greet with welcome wonder surviving indigenous examples of Goddess worship, this one makes me stop and think: Ordinarily, the combination of "virgin" with "Goddess," doesn't bring to my mind the image of a little girl, aka a "pre-menstrual female." The "virgin" or "maiden" aspect of the Goddess in most contemporary Western Goddess traditions usually refers to a young woman past puberty, who is independent, assertive, and possibly also sexually active. Her "virgin" status has to do not with whether she has had sex, but with her ability to survive on her own in an independent, strong manner. (Interesting that this story broke near the US Independence Day....)

In Nepal, a Kumari is chosen when she is 2-4 years old. While she is Kumari, the little girl's feet never touch the ground unless there is a red carpet beneath them. She is revered as a living Goddess whose every move and mood has great significance. But as soon as she begins menstruating, the Goddess is considered to have departed from the girl's body and she is a mere mortal again.

What is the significance of a pre-pubescent girl embodying the Goddess but the Goddess departing as soon as she reaches womanhood? Why should a little girl be deferred to but a woman receive no deference? And why should a visit to the United States taint a girl’s "virgin" status?


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At Wednesday, July 11, 2007 2:03:00 PM, Blogger The Gorgon said...

Excellent questions. It would seem to me that the "taint" stems from the thought that menstrual blood is "contaminated" or not "holy."

I appreciate the explanation of "virgin" status. I, being new to some aspects of the Goddess, did not quite understand all the connotations of it. It's interesting because I'm reading a biography of "the Virgin Queen" Elizabeth I and she had many "lovers" but never "fully gave herself" to a man. This of course implies that woman is incomplete without doing so.

At Wednesday, July 11, 2007 5:51:00 PM, Blogger Medusa said...

Elizabeth I is a great example! I did a review of the movie about her, that has a ritual-like scene which culminates in her saying, "I have become a virgin." It's on http://medusacoils.blogspot.com/2006/12/elizabeth-film.html

At Tuesday, July 24, 2007 9:42:00 PM, Anonymous Flutterby said...

This isn't what I mean by Goddess. But there are a couple of issues here and I'm kind of torn between them. The first is that this is a culture different from mine and maybe I shouldn't be judging it. The second is that I sense a possible bit of pedophilia about this. I read somewhere else that there are several stories about the origin of this custom. One has to do with a king who wanted to have sex with a young girl. As a type of penance for his desire, he was told to institute a program for honoring young girls, and so he thought up this way of having a young girl embody the Goddess as a way of making up for his bad behavior. So another way of looking at this is that this "little girl worship" is actually a substitute, or a socially-acceptible way of channeling sexual attraction to little girls. No, this is definitely not what I mean by Goddess.

At Monday, July 30, 2007 10:48:00 AM, Blogger CA said...

actually, the girls are goddesses until they bleed at all, not only menustrate. i've put a fair amount of research into this, and they are not viewed in a sexual light. for a single moment, please step out of a western ideology and look at this culture and practice with an open mind. there are problems yes, but there are problems with any and all religious theory.


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Judith Laura

More blogs about /goddess/feminist theology/spiritual feminism/pagan/feminist spirituality/.