Life with Sarasvati

 SaraswatiBuddhist

I haven’t talked much about my personal relationship with My Lady Sarasvati here, but I think I’m going to change that. She is an important part of my life, as much as any member of my family. She has acted as mother, friend, confidante, teacher, master. She has been all things to me since our relationship began, and my heart has been filled with all the varieties of love for her…including romantic love.

I am a mystic at heart. Most likely I always have been. Even as a child, sitting in the pews at St. Joseph’s, I opened my heart to the Divine, and when no answer came – when the G-D of the Christians was silent – the pain was as real as a knife in my flesh. It cut me, for I believed. I believed and I loved and I was turned away.

Mysticism is love. It is yearning. My mysticism is a burning pain when My Lady is silent, and an equally burning joy when I feel her near. The joy and the pain drive me equally to chase Her forever. I have pledged myself to her many times, and probably in many lives. I know I have promised her in this body that I am hers in this life, and in the next life, and in all the lives I have to come. My fate is hers. I give it over to her gladly.

Self-Definition

What am I?

I belong to Sarasvati. I am Buddhist. I am Shinto. I am Hindu. I am Pagan. I am a mystic. I am syncretic. I am an eclectic. I am an apostate. I am a heretic. I am Catholic, but I am not Catholic anymore. I am a Lokean. I am Nokean. I am a poet and a writer. I am a student and a teacher. I am a witch. I am not a witch. I am all and nothing. It’s complicated, you see, but it’s so very simple.

What do you want me to be? What do you need me to be? I am here to help you. That’s all there is to it.

So what is a Hamsa, anyway?

Hamsa

In case you didn’t notice, my blog is undergoing some changes. You probably didn’t notice, though, because I haven’t blogged anything in forever…But first off, my blog is now “Flight of the Hamsa” and not “The Red Faery” This brings up an important question. It is one that I feel simply must be answered: what the heck is a hamsa, anyway?

A hamsa is a silly goose! *rimshot*

*crickets*  Sorry…..

In seriousnes, a hamsa is indeed a goose. My patroness Sarasvati is shown riding one through the air, hence the new name of this blog. Herself has referred to me as her hamsa, mostly in order to make the “silly goose” joke above. I am her hamsa; I am her silly goose.

Is It All In Your Head?

In pagan parlance, I have an “open head.” To non-pagans, this is best described as being prone to mystical experiences; I communicate frequently with the Divine. Depending on where you are yourself in the spiritual spectrum, this statement may sound silly, grandiose, delusional, or even deceptive. I assure you, it is none of those…well, it is a little silly. I’ll give you that. OK. It’s very silly. But while I cannot prove my honesty (this is the internet, and I am talking of subjective experiences. You want proof? Sorry. Go somewhere else, troll), I can provide ample evidence of my sanity. (Though again, not here. I’m not giving you my medical records over the internet. Go away, troll.)

You see, I am indeed under psychiatric care, and I am also quite comfortable discussing why. I have Aspergers syndrome, or I did before that particular name was stricken from the DSMV. I also have ADHD and OCD, as well as chronic anxiety issues and a panic disorder. I’ve suffered from depression, and in my adolescence, I had fits of uncontrollable and often violent rage (this is sadly not uncommon for children on the autism spectrum, though we do grow out of the worst of it). I am – I fully admit – a disabled individual. I am twenty-seven years of age and still not quite capable of taking care of myself. I remain financially dependent on my parents. I have the emotional maturity of a teenager. My personal hygiene is lacking. I need a cocktail of pills to even function: one prescription for anxiety, one for my ADHD, one for my mood swings, and one to counteract the sluggishness and lethargy brought on by the mood stabilizer. (Yes. I have a medicine that treats the side effects of my other medicines. It works fine like that. I’m not going off either of them. Got a problem? Go away, troll.)

I am one of the mentally ill, you might even say. And the gods talk to me. I have communicated with Norse Trickster Loki, and with myriad Shinto kami from Inari to Uzume to Amaterasu herself (and she’s every inch a Sovereign; none of this ooey-gooey pagan fluffy-bunny “patron goddess, work with me!” business. She is granting you an audience, foolish mortal!). I’ve had the Egyptian Cat Goddess Bast show up and make a demand of me (buy that statue) and then leave. And of course, the Indian Goddess Sarasvati is immanent in me.

But here’s the thing: I am not delusional. I have no history of psychoses. I have no history of disassociation. I have neither an individual history nor a family history of these issues, nor of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, or any other mental illnesses that could cause delusional thoughts or behavior. I am not delusional. My mind is certainly not normal, but it is quite sound. It may not work as well as yours, but it is not making things up. I am sane. Never said anything about normal though.

The major hangup I see is the idea that these gods are “talking” to me. The first thing I have to explain is that they are not “voices in my head.” When I (or, from what I have learned of other open-headed people) talk of the gods “saying” things, that is only because I for one have no better way of putting it. The gods usually give me impressions, sometimes almost in a literal sense. I feel what is being communicated. I do not hear it as a voice, as words. It doesn’t sound in my ears. It often seems more like a touch than a sound, yet it is a touch that triggers my brain to form words.

You can call me a mystic. I cannot prove to you that what I say is the truth, but I will say that I am being both honest and earnest. Do you want to say that this is all in my head? You are probably right. But why can’t the gods be in our heads as well as in the heavens?

Namah Savitri

In this world I created

born from my mind

brought forth from my thought

I alone was God.

God without, God within

God of all, but God of none,

for this world of thought

was empty of You.

I alone was God,

but alone, I was God.

The world I made

was nothing without you

My world was nothing

I, a God of nothing

until you came forth

until you were something

You came forth from thought.

Before you, there was nothing

and after, nothing but you.

There is nothing that exists without you.

Hail, Maha Devi! Namah!

Glorious Sarasvati, the Flowing One!

Hail Sarasvati! Hail Savitri! Namah!

You are the half of me that brings forth the world.

Objective Fact and Subjective Truth: What’s in a Name?

Let me get this off my chest right away: I really wanted Sarasvati’s name to have a pretty meaning. I was dead set on it meaning “The Flowing One,” because…well, that fits in so perfectly with how I experience her. She is a goddess of things that flow: water, fortune, inspiration, ideas, communication. You name it. She rules the tides of my heart. (And yes, I’m aware of how sappy that sounds. Deal.)

Contemporary Hindu sources, give the etymology of her name as “Sara” and “Sva,” that is, the knowledge of one’s self or essence. A very pretty explanation too, but not one I find useful, as I am already far too prone to self-absorbed navel-gazing. I’d make a very good Pythia, as I “know myself” perhaps a little too well.

What does Sarasvati’s name actually mean, though? For a start, Herself was originally the genius loci of the mysterious Sarasvati River in Ancient India. She was a Vedic deity, and as such, was not anthropomorphized except as poetically necessary. She was the river, spoken of as gushing in mighty torrents that broke the peaks of mountains. In the Rig Veda one is more likely to hear talk of Sarasvati’s roaring waters than anything else. She was not conceived of as a beautiful goddess, but as the awesome waters of the river.

The meaning of Sarasvati’s name is thus the meaning of the river’s name. In an unusually richly cited and clearly reliable article, Wikipedia details the etymology of the River’s name. In the proto-Indo-Iranian languages of Ancient India and the Near East, *sáras-va-tī meant “marshy” or “full of pools.” In later Sanskrit, the masculine sáras meant “pool” or “pond,” while the feminine sárasī meant specifically a stagnant pool or a swamp. A connection with the Sanskrit *sar-, or “flow, to run” is specifically singled out as being unlikely. Thus, the river’s name was likely a description of the terrain of the area: marshy, a swamp, full of stagnant pools.

But here we come to the distinction I posited in the title of this post: Objective Fact and Subjective Truth.

The facts are that Sarasvati’s name means “marshy, full of pools,” and refers to her origins as the genius loci of the Sarasvati River. One cannot dispute that her name did not originally mean “knowledge of self” or “the flowing one.” That was simply not what it meant in Vedic times. The Sarasvati River was not named for either of those things, and thus, neither was my goddess. Those are the plain, bone dry facts.

However, facts are in the domain of rationality and measurable, verifiable experience. Once you leave the realm of objectively verifiable, materialistic facts that are required in the social and natural sciences (and to a lesser extent, in the humanities), you stumble into experiences that simply require a different framework for evaluation. There is a reason that individual, mystical experiences have their own acronym in the Pagan community (UPG – unverified/unverifiable personal gnosis). The sublime and the numinous comes to each person differently, if it comes at all.

In fact, the experience of the sublime is usually considered to be unique to the individual, simply as a given. This is why, in the pagan community, SPG (Shared Personal Gnosis, also called PCPG, or Peer-Corroborated Personal Gnosis) is often such an incredibly validating experience. For example, I stumbled across a poster on a Pagan forum who worked with Sarasvati. This person claimed that Herself had a thing for being surrounded by crystals. I promptly freaked out, as this is something I could verify in my own personal experience with Her: Sarasvati loves crystals and stones.

So what does this have to do with the meaning of the name “Sarasvati?” Well, it all comes down to the idea of there being a concept of subjective Truth, as well as the more ordinary, rational truth (with a lowercase-t) shown to us by facts. Myth is often held up as an example of Truth rather than truth. The ancient stories of deities reveal Truth (with an uppercase-T) about Them that the academic texts do not. To a Hellene, the objective reality of Greek myths is irrelevant, because the myths speak to the sublime. They reveal reality on a different level than the material.

So let’s consider the etymologies again. Factually, objectively, historically, Sarasvati means “marshy, full of pools” and indicates the swampy terrain of the river. But the goddess is more than just what the river was, and for those who seek self-discovery with her, the Truth (uppercase-T!) is that her name means “knowledge of self.” For someone like me, the Truth – the reality revealed to me by my own experiences with the sublime – is that Sarasvati’s name means “the flowing one.”

So may your god bless you, whichever one that is.

Sunrise Goddess

Sage and Starshine

I see You in the early hours of the morning when I wake up before my alarm

Or when I roll over and hit the snooze button one too many times

Or when I wake up unable or unwilling to get back to sleep

When the house is cool and dark

When the light through the shades is still watery, weak

When darkness pulls back from the land like a lover

Reluctant to leave the warm embrace of her beloved

Soft and slow, taking its own sweet time

Dawn begins its careful ascent above the tops of the mountains

My mountains

Peaks long since rounded and softened with the weariness of age

Trees catching the golden light one leaf at a time

 

You are the scalding coffee and the sizzle of bacon

The bright sunshiney eggs and the tiny furry head

Belonging to the not so tiny dog (not…

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