Religion & Beliefs

Well It’s Hard Out There For A Goddess

First of all, pretty much everything you learned about goddesses from The Da Vinci Code is wrong. You probably knew that, because you probably watched one of those Discovery channel Breaking the Da Vinci Code specials, but in case it … Read More

By / June 29, 2007
Jewcy loves trees! Please don't print!

First of all, pretty much everything you learned about goddesses from The Da Vinci Code is wrong. You probably knew that, because you probably watched one of those Discovery channel Breaking the Da Vinci Code specials, but in case it wasn’t totally clear, or in case you’d like to learn a little about goddesses and their effects on Judaism and Jewish culture, there’s a much better (though less suspenseful) book about the topic called In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth by the late Tikva Frymer-Kensky of the University of Chicago. One thing Frymer’s book doesn’t do, sadly, is tell you how to BE a goddess. Perhaps she assumes you’re rocking the goddess vibe already, or perhaps she thinks all those Glamour articles about how this new eye shadow trick will make you “look like a goddess” are stupid, but regardless it’s clear she wasn’t familiar with Sajani Shakya, a ten year old girl from Nepal who is worshipped as a goddess. Really.

Being a living goddess has its advantages for 10-year-old girl

In Nepal, Sajani is a living goddess, one of about a dozen such goddesses in her homeland who are considered earthly manifestations of the Hindu goddess Kali. Sajani arrived in Washington on June 11 to help promote a British documentary about the living goddesses of the Katmandu Valley and to see a bit of the United States. She is the first of the Nepalese living goddesses to come to the U.S. because the girls live mostly in seclusion.

What does a young goddess do in Washington? Unlike some visitors, Sajani had no plans to ask anyone for anything. Instead, she planned to go on a private tour of the White House with an interpreter. She hoped also to go to the zoo, perhaps ride a roller coaster, visit a Hindu temple and, in places like the school, learn how others live and show them, however shyly, something of her little-known world. "There's nothing I don't like about being a goddess," Sajani said through an interpreter. Then, thinking about her typical day, when she has to rise early for her family and others to pray to her, she added, "It was difficult when I was younger to get up at 4 to bathe for the morning prayers."

The goddesses of Katmandu are chosen when they are about 2 years old from a Buddhist caste, though they represent a Hindu deity, an example, Whitaker said, of the harmony between the two religions in Nepal.

The king of Nepal has traditionally sought the blessings of the three main goddesses. Hindu and Buddhist priests pick the living goddesses after consulting a horoscope and then finding a girl who meets "the 32 perfections," Whitaker said, from skin "of golden color" to a body "like a banyan tree."

Devotees believe that the goddess Kali inhabits the girls, though they do not exhibit unusual behavior, and then the goddess leaves them when they reach puberty. After that, the girls retire with a small pension. They are free to work and marry. "The idea of virginal, premenstrual purity, it does seem like a contradiction with worshipping a feminine divine," said Rachel McDermott, associate professor in the department of Asian and Middle Eastern cultures at Barnard College, "but in all this, there is the devotion to purity."

People go to the goddesses to touch their feet as they are carried through the streets. They give them money as offerings, which in Sajani's case goes to support her family. They visit Sajani in the goddess house, where she sits on a small ornate throne, to ask for a better job, better health, a measure of happiness.

Full story Okay, so you probably missed the boat if you wanted to become a goddess (unless you’re a 2 year old Tibetan girl, in which case, good luck!) but you can still pray like a goddess if you’re so inclined. Much of Jewish liturgy is written in the masculine form, essentially referring to God as a man. I have to be honest and say that as a feminist this doesn’t offend me in the slightest, but I understand how it’s frustrating for others, and I’m happy to direct you over to a website run by a woman named Judith Laura. At Laura’s website you’ll find almost the entire Shabbat daytime services converted over to feminine language. Baruch Ata Adonai becomes Brucha At Yah and so on. It’s fascinating, and at least worth a look. Check it out here.
And if you’re like me and sitting around having people worship you doesn’t seem like much fun, and you’re not inspired by feminized forms of God’s name, you might want to get yourself a copy of Kiss My Tiara: How to Rule the World as a SmartMouth Goddess by Susan Jane Gilman. It’s the kind of book that makes you laugh and think and get angry and have great ideas and want to change the world. And really, what else is there for a goddess to do?