Saturday, March 14, 2015

Matangi and Me

om hrīṁ aiṁ śrīṁ  namo bhagavati ucchiṣṭacāṇḍāli  śrī mātaṅgeśvari sarvajanavaśaṁkari svāhā

“Reverence to Adorable Matangi, the outcast and residue, who gives control over all creatures.” (Frawley, p.143)

I have been exploring the Southern Asian goddess for three semesters in the LMU Yoga Philosophy Certificate program.

  Of all the goddesses I learned about so far Matangi is the one that resonates the most with me. She is called on to achieve command over speech, creativity, music, knowledge, and fine arts and to remove disharmony and achieve harmony in life.  For me, what is most important about Matangi is that she is both goddess of arts/creativity as well as being an untouchable, dark Sarawati.  As a brown artist yogini interested in creativity and the creative process,  Matangi and I connected.

“Matangi is the dark mystic, ecstatic or wild form of Saraswati. . . Saraswati is often a goddess of only ordinary learning, art and culture. Matangi rules over the extraordinary, which takes us beyond the boundaries of convention…She is that part of Sarasvati that is allied with the transforming energies of Kali.” (Frawley 1994: 140)

In the many descriptions of Matangi, she holds in her four hands: a noose, a sword, a goad and a club. I think of the noose as an instrument to hang the demons and deterrents to my creative process and personal growth including getting in my own way. The noose may kill my scared self-deprecating self in order to make room for the new, true and authentic self. The sword cuts through fears and opposition and allows me to be the heroine of my own story filled with strength and fearlessness. The goad, like a hook, encourages me to move forward and remove all obstacles and troubles from my dharmic path. The club, one of the simplest of all weapons, reminds me to trust my intuition, celebrate my primitive nature, and to stay strong against self-doubt and any other enemies. The club also symbolizes my devotion and surrender to a higher power.

Another of my strong identifications with Matangi is her status as an untouchable.

I consider myself in many ways untouchable because I am mixed race and not just mixed race but a combination of black and Jewish, two things that a lot of people don't like (or even hate).

Caste painting of a mulatto marriage
 I was in India traveling through some villages around Jodhpur my host pointed to the untouchable camp with disdain and disparaging words and all I could think was: they are me.

That's what people say about black people in America (especially in the past, but still in the present).  I explained to my host how in the 60s there were different water fountains for blacks and whites and how if a "colored" person went into a white person's swimming pool, the whole pool would have to be drained and scrubbed to get our pollution out.

White man throwing bleach into a swimming pool with blacks in it

When I was looking for places to study yoga in India, I hated all the schools that wrote this teacher was a Brahman, blah, blah.. I thought what do I care about that, I want to go to a school where the teacher is a Dalit like me.  I don't want to hear about how pure anybody is.   What do I care about that? I am not pure. I am not seeking purity. Everything is not pure - a dirty Jew, a lazy n word - that's me.  THAT'S ME!!

 In America, I always have identified with being both the pollution and the polluter. Being a black/Jewish artist yogini, to find a goddess who is an outcaste and a goddess of creativity helps me not feel so alone and isolated.

Matangi urges me to go very deep into self- exploration, explore my darkness and find my unique voice that comes out of my personal narrative. “Matangi represents the power of women’s creative voices to overturn or unsettle the patriarchal patterns of accepted female behaviours and opinions. She pushes the boundaries and extends the limits of our horizons so that when we manifest the power of our creative energies, we can express what has previously been prohibited or reviled, and we can reveal what has been hidden and forgotten.” (Dinsmore-Tuli)

 Matangi is yama, the dark one. She encourages me to slow down and just sit and rest. “Creativity may involve ecstatic outpourings that are joyous and free, but it always also involves spending time in uncertain places which are frightening and unknown, times when all there is to do is to wait (for the seeds to germinate), for the bread to rise, for the editor to get back with the comments on the manuscript). All these, aspects of creativity are part of the process.  Matangi’s great power is to be equally at home in all these phases.” (Dinsmore-Tuli, p. 309-310)

Matangi is worshipped with "food from stained hands and lips,” which is a huge reversal of Hindu rituals that are usually obsessed with purity. She asks for leftover food, which is normally considered highly polluting, because she emerged from leftover food. I find a great relief in embracing what is not pure and exploring the darkness, the wild eroticism, being untamable, going beyond those places any of us would mention in polite conversation and experiencing the creativity that is there is what I want to do (and may in fact be doing). “Her special siddhi is the capacity for abundant creativity and the expression of unique vision.” (Dinsmore-Tuli, p. 309)

  Matangi is beautiful and unapologetically sexual. One of her names according to Kinsley is “she whose limbs are intoxicated (with passion).”  Mata means thought, opinion, wild, and passionate. “Creativity and sexuality are two sides of the same coin.” (Dinsmore-Tuli, p.309)  Matangi is an avatar of  Parvati when she dressed as an untouchable to seduce Shiva.For me this seduction story reminds me of the desire for the Other in both passionate and horrible ways.

I think of the inestimable rapes of black women in America during slavery and beyond by white men, as well as, loving mix raced relationships that were not legal in all of the US until 1968.  I think of the countless rapes of Dalit women in India.

Matangi is also about using our sexuality when we (as women) want not for the power, pleasure or spiritual awakening of men.

Matangi brings awareness of the ebb and flow of the creative process.  We can’t force ourselves to create when it is not the time. “Just as there is no point in pressing a woman for sexual intercourse if she is too tired, or too premenstrual or otherwise at the wrong time of her particular cycle, so too there is no point in pushing for productivity in the reflective or evaluative phase of the creative cycle.” She reminds us to be in the present moment and take it for what it is. Her seat in the human body is the throat, the fifth chakra. It is in the throat chakra that we speak our truth. “She also resides in the tip of the tongue, the place wherein speech is articulated and wherein we are able to taste the essence of things.” (Frawley, p.142) In addition, Matangi, the elephant goddess, is related to the ear and our ability to listen and understand.

According to Kinsley, Matangi has a few other origin stories besides the Parvarti-Shiva seduction. The first form is a Buddhist tale about hunter Matanga and his daughter Prakrti (an early form of Matangi) who falls in love with Ananda.  Ananda first encounters Prakrti when he is looking for water. She refuses to give him water because of her low caste. Ananda responds “I am not asking you what your caste is, I am only asking for water.” Affirmed as a person who is not just an outcaste, she becomes instantly enamored.  Prakrti uses her mother’s magic to attract Ananda, who falls for her but later resists her with the help of the Buddha. Impressed by the power of the Buddhist teachings, Prakrti becomes a Buddhist nun.

There is also the story Uccista-mantangi, who animates from remnants of the food Vishnu and Lakshmi gave Shiva and Parvarti  at a dinner party. Shiva blesses her with the ability to grant people to control their enemies and obtain objects of their desire by repeating her mantra.  Matangi is also sometimes considered the daughter of the Rishi Matang/Matanga and she was given to him as a boon for his merits as a sage. “Playing a ruby-studded vina, ecstatic, delighting in sweet speech, I remember the daughter of the sage Matanga, who has soft dark- emerald limbs.” (Frawley, p.142)

Because the guru instructs through the spoken word, Matangi represents the teachings of a guru and the guru tradition. “Matangi’s voice is brave and terrifying to those who are constrained by fear to live their lives according to propriety and expectations.  She rattles people, pokes holes in their comfortable boxes of convention, and embarrasses the cowed and silent by singing loud and clear.” (Dinsmore-Tuli, p.312) In several festivals, Matangi is the jester.  She is like the boy in the story The Emperor’s New Clothes who says the emperor is naked. “…. her status as an outcaste gives her the power to inhabit the outer regions of consciousness where no-one else will go, to say outrageous and alarming things, to be vilified, despised and humiliated, and through it all to remain surrendered with a clear pure heart so that what needs to be manifested can find its way out.” (Dinsmore, p. 309-310)

“The Tantrasara at several points says that by meditating upon, reciting the mantra of, or worshipping Matangi one gains power over others, the power of having everything one says come true, and the power of attracting people.” (Kinsley,  p.220) As a yantra maker, I will connect with Matangi by making her yantra.

In Harish Johari’s Tools for Tantra, I learned about the form and colors in Matangi’s yantra. The bhupur is dark olive green perhaps reminding us of her connection to the forest and the wild. The yantra’s eight petaled lotus symbolizes the eight fold prakriti (the five elements and the three internal organs. The colors of the lotus petals are pink, which I consider the color of the yoni and remind me of our sexual nature and the connection between sexuality and creativity. The yantra has a six pointed light yellow ochre star with a touch of emerald green and is set in a neutral white background. The six pointed star is a union of Shiva and Shakti, masculine and feminine, and represents our human place between heaven and earth. The yellow ochre perhaps represents  turmeric and the power of the sun and the green the Anahata chakra. The golden bindu represents Matangi herself.

And as for Matangi and me, our journey together,  I am sure she will always be with me. I don't know how I have lived 45 years without knowing her.  But I have found her now. Welcome! Welcome! Welcome to my life Matangi!  Please come in, the door (or the yoni) is open!

om aiṁ namaḥ ucchiṣṭacāṇḍāli mataṅgi sarvasaśaṁkari svāhā

Books that I cite:
Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses by Dr. David Frawley
Yoni Shakti by Dr. Uma Dinsmore-Tuli
Tools for Tantra by Harish Johari
Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas by David Kinsley

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