move. smile. release. Uma Spender (previously Jessie Neave) - name in transition - new website coming soon!

Uma Spender (previously Jessie Neave) - name in transition - new website coming soon!

embracing the Goddess - Diwali blessing

It’s almost December - I can’t quite believe I’m offering my last workshops for the year...this weekend! The transition to Summer & the tidal wave that is Christmas/Xmas is almost on us, so, I thought I would take the time to reflect a little on celebrations, festivals & the ‘G’ word, yep - the Goddess. As someone who has rejected religion (almost religiously!) from a young age, discovering a deep love for mythology, especially the Goddess, has been a wonderful & satisfying surprise...and it just keeps unfolding.

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A couple of weeks ago marked Diwali, the 5 day “festival of lights” - one of the most widely celebrated festivals in India. The tradition holds that on the darkest night of the astrological year all homes should be filled with light to dramatically signify the triumph of light over dark, good over evil, hope over despair, knowledge over ignorance etc etc. In the lead up people everywhere clean & decorate their homes, buy new things, wear their finest clothes and celebrate beauty, abundance & good fortune (the qualities of the Goddess Lakshmi) in the form of sweets, colours & light. It is believed that Lakshmi, wife of Vishnu & the Goddess of fame & fortune, will expand her Shakti (creative force) in the homes of all who honour her.

Diwali has always been a very magnetic festival for me (I mean, who wouldn’t want to celebrate the triumph of light over dark?!), it has all the lovely aspects of Christmas; the ‘coming together’ with family, the presents, the feasting & the endless sweets, but without the harsh monotheistic undertones. Although Diwali (or Deepavali) is claimed as a Hindu Festival, the origins stem from well before Hinduism to the Indus Valley Civilisation that birthed Yoga, back in the time where the Goddess was celebrated and adored as more than just a consort to the male Gods…when she was actually honoured as the supreme deity. 

The disappearance of the Goddess across the globe from mainstream celebration happened, not coincidently, at the same time as the development and dominance of Islam & Judaeo-Christianity - Monotheistic Religions that saw any recognition of anything beyond “one true God” as an insult. What interests me most about the mainstream Goddess Worship predating 6000BC is that the people who worshipped the Sacred Feminine were Agricultural people, meaning they were in tune with and aligned to the cycles of nature. The many different forms & faces of the Goddess represent and symbolise the changing faces of the natural world and as such worship was not of an ‘unseeable & almighty presence’ but instead of the very real & tangible ‘earth & sky’ and all the gifts & challenges they bring.

So, honouring & celebrating the Goddess means connecting the divine to our world & our selves.

It is important to note that in the ancient tradition of Yoga the Goddess is utterly beyond gender - the sacred feminine is as much present in masculine as feminine bodiesand makes up the entire experienceable world (and much that is not experienceable also).

The Goddess didn’t just disappear from the world over night, there was a long period between 6000BC and 3000BC when the Warrior tribes began to conquer and dominate, bringing with them their more dominant male God figures, and as they settled in they allowed their Gods to “marry” the Goddesses of the Agricultural people, allowing the Goddess to be wife, mother, consort etc. Gradually, over millennia, the sacred feminine stopped being honoured altogether and the dark ages truly began. Throughout this whole dark time - literally thousands of years - miraculously, the Festival of Lights has continued, evolving to suit the modern times but essentially remaining in tact. Diwali is a hugely popular mainstream festival that actually honours & celebrates the Goddess. This very survival is a tribute to the soft, feminine grace of Lakshmi herself, who has seemingly remained radiant and fortunate despite everything…truly the triumph of light over dark. 

So how did Lakshmi survive so well? It’s always puzzled me a little. As the Goddess of fame & fortune she has been the least easy of the Yoga Devis for me to connect to - it just didn’t seem in line with my core values to be celebrating a lady who was all about being rich and famous - I don’t look at glossy magazines that idolise Hollywood celebrities for the same reasons! Plus, Hollywood glamour seems about as far from the natural cycles & rhythms of the earth as it could be…but, this Diwali I started to get it. Something beautiful happened as I sat in the glow of all my candles celebrating the triumph of light & hope. I understood Lakshmi's connection to fame & fortune for the first time. Definitions and roles have shifted & changed so much - including the sentiment that Lakshmi represented to the agricultural people of many thousands of years ago. To be ‘famous’ would have meant that you were respected as a good, generous, honest & reliable member of the community, and to have ‘fortune’ would be that you had enough food to last the winter, you were strong & healthy and had many children & grand children.

For the first time I was able to fully bow in reverence to the Goddess Lakshmi, humbly ask for her blessings and actually understand her place & importance in the world…and I felt, and still feel, so absolutely fortunate & grateful for the experience.

Of course! It's all connected...how could it possibly not be?

Om Shrim Maha Lakshmai Namaha
May we all have fame & fortune!
Jess