Calling Durga

Some people left after Owen closed the Day of the Dead circle. Cindy, for instance, felt she needed to get home to Van, while Celeste and June declared themselves too old and creaky for sleeping bags on the floor. “I’m a Taurus, you know,” said Celeste. “I like my own bed!”

Most of those remaining headed out for the hot tub. Returning in after a bit, cider and brandy came out as people began to brush their teeth, find their nighties and unroll their sleeping bags onto pads they’d brought or ones rounded up by Ursula and Charley.

“Let’s all put our heads to the middle like we did a few years ago. Maybe we’ll dream together,” suggested Pia.

“Listen!” said Ursula. “Is that an owl?”

“Some would say that’s an indication that the dead are close by,” commented Pia. “Or that we’re meant to go deeper.”

“There it is again.”

“Tell us a story, Ursula.”

“Oh yes, please!”

“Funny you should ask. I’ve been hearing Durga nagging at the edge of my consciousness all day and I haven’t known what to do with her besides get her picture out.”

“Isn’t she a Hindu Goddess?” asked Alex.

“Yes, one of the early ones. Some say the very first Goddess, Mother of the Universe,” replied Ursula, moving to the mantle to retrieve a colorful postcard of a many-armed woman in a bright red sari, bedecked in gold. “See, she’s riding a tiger, though some say it was a great lion. Durga means ‘invincible.’”

“Somebody get Ursula a cup of hard cider,” said Pia.

“And grab her feathered rattle from the bucket under the window,” added Charley.

Ursula settled her blue power shawl on her shoulders, and took a goodly swig of the potent apple drink made last year from the Benden Farm trees. Her hands began the rhythmic shaking of the rattle that was one way of put herself into deep storytelling mode. Her voice went all dreamy.

“Durga came to the rescue at a time when our world was in very bad shape. The demons of lust, greed, discontent, and jealousy were in ascendency. Everyone was at each other’s throats, often literally. The crops were poor because of quarreling over boundaries and how to apportion the harvest rather than folks putting their energy into the good of the whole. The markets were full of shoddy goods because artisans had become sloppy, more concerned with making a profit than in providing something beautiful to last many lifetimes. Villages were fighting with each other. Half the people hung around idle with little in the way of skills to make their way. Nor were there entrepreneurs to provide capital or employment. Priests were preaching the value of obedience, yet dispensations could be bought, and in the shadows many so-called holy men were cuckolds and molesters. Inebriation from various substances was rampant and too many cared more for their next fix than they did for the health of their family or fields or a craft. Governing bodies argued endlessly over turf and spoils, while petty despots both official and unofficial held sway. The trustworthy were few and far between, even within one’s own family where ‘power over’ was more important than care and consideration and nurturing. Rape, one of the worst forms of ‘power over’ others was common….”

“Sounds like today’s world,” a voice interjected interjected.

“Hmmm, it does doesn’t it,” Ursula replied with a twinkle. “In most versions of the story, the rampaging demons are characterized as enormous ogres and ghouls – great frothy mouthed, ugly beings with fangs and warts and pudgy groping fingers. Many were winged. When they went into battle they rode monstrous, many headed steeds with scrambled animal parts including terrible talons, hooves and tails. But I think a case could be made that the world was filled, just as it is now, with ordinary people, both the powerful and the downtrodden, who were caught in abusive cycles and had lost their way.

“In any case, the gods decided to incarnate in order to intervene. They recruited cadres of souls who still had a conscience to form armies to fight the nasties. Now to me many images come to mind. It could be seen as a kind of Onward Christian Soldiers thing, marching off to war…. men and women armed to the teeth to fight the bad guys…. even if they were your own neighbors…. Or perhaps it was in the form of NGO groups like Doctors Without Borders, our own CASAs who work with abused and neglected children, or Gameen banks making micro loans in villages. It was undoubtedly also courageous souls acting alone with random acts of kindness and bravery, both planned and spontaneous.

“Any way you want to look at it, they were mostly unsuccessful in the larger picture and both sides fought themselves to a stalemate. Oh, the good guys had a few victories here and there. Saved a child, rehabilitated a substance abuser, helped a woman create and market a clothing line that brought prosperity to one little hamlet. In other words, the demons were fought into corners occasionally for short periods. But mostly, the abuse and power wielding went on and on. Some on both sides got killed or maimed but the bad guys continued with their rapacious ways.

“One propitious spring, despite feeling hopeless, the gods concentrated their energies for one last try. This time, by some miracle, flames poured from their mouths and Durga – the many armed – sprang forth.

“Although produced by the gods, she was stronger than any of them, or even all of them together, and she was eager to fight. Fierce eyed, her ten muscled arms wielded magical sword, spear, bow and, interestingly, a lotus flower. She mounted a lion (some say it was a tiger) to ride toward the demon’s chief, the evil Mahisa. In the ensuing fight, Mahisa changed forms many times but was unable to prevail. Finally even though he assumed the form of a buffalo much larger than she was, Durga was able to slay him, freeing the earth of his energy. But on they came, more and bigger monsters.

“So like Neo in The Matrix, she flew at the enemy and won many victories…. Even taking on the Evil Warrior King himself in a last hand to hand combat. Did they have laser guns and kung fu moves? Something like that anyway.

“When it was all over, the evil ones lay vanquished. A sweet air blew over the lands. Durga with her helpmeet Kali Ma (who some say sprang out of Durga’s head) were triumphant. The people and the gods rejoiced, of course, and asked Durga to stay on Earth to rule over them. A benevolent despot sounded pretty good after all they had been through. But Durga declined, saying that she preferred to go back to her heavenly kingdom. After much begging from the people she finally promised to return whenever they really needed her. Not just sorta needed her. But really needed her.

“Durga, it’s time!” said Pia, her voice strong and clear.

“It might well be,” said Ursula. “But I’m thinking that in this round we all need to be Durga. Perhaps everyone was Durga then too. Or maybe she really was a being come down from the sky to help. But this time…..” Ursula’s rattle moved for a few more ever slower rounds…

“It’s like the Hopi saying, ‘We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,’” came a quiet voice.

“Or the idea that the Second Coming of Christ is the energy Jesus manifested appearing in all of us…. “ offered Charley as he got up to put on a CD at Ursula’s whispered request.

“This is Durga Pahimam by Jai Uttal,” said Ursula. “Let the chant fill you and rock you to sleep.”

“Hey Ma Durga, hey Ma Durga, hey Ma Durga Pahimam……” the melodious, deep, resonant voice intoned. Ursula could feel the group slipping into a trance that would soon become dreams. “And let’s make the intention that we use the energy of this night when the veils are thin to dream of manifesting, no…dream of BEING Durga. May all the brambles clear away. We can share about what comes through first thing in the morning before we get up.”

“Sounds good.”

The silence among them deepened while everyone nestled down, and letting the music seep in, set their minds on that intention.

“Nigh’ night, all.”

“Sweet sweet dreams.”