Contemplation of the aspects of various Goddesses can be helpful to the female when she is establishing a concept of her self as the Sacred Feminine. The Divine Feminine archetypes we have grown up with and that have been customary in the world for a very long time may not satisfy all our needs as modern evolving souls. The archetypes have been meek, humble, pure, virginal, submissive, placating, peace-making, intercessory, etc…all qualities which have their due place and should not be negated. But, as I say, they may not be sufficient. Traditionally men have had access to archetypal representations of God and Hero that are very encouraging for them – the male god is just, fair, wise, studious, detached, athletic, handsome, creative, strong, powerful, wrathful when necessary, forgiving, charismatic and so on and so forth..all qualities very nurturing to the male sadhak, and necessary. In order to take our place as the Divine Feminine we should likewise look to the archetypes available to us to nurture the Heroine’s journey. I am no expert here. I am simply exploring possibilities.
Parvati is considered the foremost and complete incarnation of Shakti. She has been brought forth by Brahman in order to entice Shiva out of his seclusion and into the world of activity again. To do this – to create this perfect feminine force – Brahma must meditate for 30,000 years on a mountain top and sing the praises of Maya to the four corners of the Universe. He invokes a Goddess capable of both enlightenment and of immersion in the world of the senses…
She manifests on earth as the daughter of Himavan – Lord of the mountains, (and indeed may actually have emerged as an archetype from earlier pre-aryan mountain goddesses.) She is said to be a reincarnation of Sati, who having rejected her father’s objection to her marriage to Shiva, immolated herself, casting Shiva into this profound withdrawal.
Parvati, from the very beginning, felt unswerving devotion to Shiva. Shiva, however, had fallen into such a depression because of the death of Sati, and had become a cold, detached ascetic, and he would not return Parvati’s affections. In order to reawaken desire in Shiva – desire being the engine of creation – Parvati had to adopt some extreme measures. First she cleaned and decorated his cave with flowers – contrived a luxury paradise, no less – and paid him all sorts of attentions, but he could not be distracted. He had lived for such a long time in a cave and spent his time in deep meditation and study, ignoring the suffering of a world that was being over-run by demons. He had become immensely powerful due to his practices but all of his power was locked up inside of himself because of his detachment from the world. Even Kama, the God of love, who came and shot arrows of desire at Shiva could not draw out the ascetic – instead Shiva saw through the ruse and opened his middle eye and burned the God of Love to ashes. However in that one moment of emerging from his deep samadhi he did become aware of the propitiating maiden, Parvati, and was struck by her.
Parvati feared he might not be attracted to her because of her dark complexion. She therefore resolved to engage in a severe practice of ascetics (tapas) and yoga, to become mistress of her energies, to become a self-mastered yogini – she took immediately to living naked in the forest, eating nothing, become as complete in the art of austerity as Shiva himself. Her mother forbid her to practice Tapas saying it was the preserve of men, but Parvati said ”i am the daughter of a mountain..I am tough”.
She stood on one leg in a freezing mountain stream, repeating the name of Shiva ceaselessly, and she learned to focus her will. This focusing of will by Paravti has been equated metaphysically with the soul’s desire for Union, for higher awareness- and this mastery eventually gained the young girl the attentions of Brahma, who granted her a boon. She wished to appear more pleasing to Shiva and so her skin was turned a golden colour.
It is also said that despite the fact that during her days of ascetic retreat nothing could distract Parvati – not driving rain or unbearable heat or stampedes of elephants – but when she heard an infant crying in distress she left her meditations and sacrificed personal samadhi to go to its aid. It was however Shiva in disguise – and he had tricked her, and she had failed his test. In the end however, he was moved by the compassion of this sadhak who was willing to give up the advances they had made in their own spiritual path in order to save one infant and so he accepted her as his wife.
Gradually with persistence and love she engaged the attentions of the ascetic Shiva, who over time softened his heart due to marital happiness, and became once more interested in pleasure, the arts, dance and the general affairs of the world The two retreated to Mount Kailash, where they spent their time in philosophical discussion and such love making that the cosmos was said to tremble. The God of Love – Kama – was reborn upon their marriage.
Parvati is generally depicted as the calming foil to Shiva’s rages and madness..she seduces the goodness out of him, she calms him when he goes into an earth-shaking dance. While some have shown her as submissive, relying only on her feminine wiles to tame the bad boy Shiva – others have shown that she was physically and psychically quite capable of manifesting such energy as was needed to subdue Shiva, and that therefore she was more the ”powerful” one.
On an archetypal level she represents the possibility of attaining both enlightenment and earthly relationship and love – both requiring self discipline, conscious focusing of the will, effort and commitment. The conversations between Shiva and Parvati made available to the Universe the understandings Shiva had made while in his time of severe retreat. These revelations take the form of the Tantras. Shiva and Parvati alternate the roles of Guru and Chela in these scriptures- both having access to equal though different wisdom. An example of a text said to have emerged from this time is the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, which describes processes whereby higher states can be achieved while fully engaged in apparently mundane acts. This ”pillow talk” between the primordial Shiva and Shakti is offered to humans as a gift to aid them on their search for enlightenment.
Parvati kept her part of the original bargain with the Gods, and sent a portion of Shivas’ aura to heaven. It was cooled by being passed through the ganga, and turned into a seed.This seed was then planted in a forest,and from it grew the war God, Skanda, who eventually subdued the demons that had been threatening the world. Parvati (as Kali) came to the aid of her son in this war, but became so furious that she threatened to destroy the whole world and only Shiva could stop her in this rage.
Even so, Shiva continued to sometimes be cruel to Parvati throughout their marriage, for example refusing her a child. She withdrew to a cave and cried so much onto a pile of rags he had told her to imagine was a child, that a baby manifested. Later on, while this child was guarding her at bath, Shiva became remorseful over his cruelty to Parvati and came to apologise, but the child would not let him pass. Shiva beheaded the child in a fury. Realising then that it was Parvati’s child, he sliced the head off an elephant and revived the child now with the head of an elephant – thus was born Ganesha.
Parvati is an archetypal representation of unwavering love and devotion. In spite of rejection and repeated unwarranted suffering she persisted with her unconditional love. She also represents the wrathful nature of the sacred feminine. When she believed Shiva had been consorting with another woman she flew into a rage and killed the watchful guard she had appointed to preserve Shiva’ chastity. Here, in this case, her anger manifested as a Lion. Her cast off ”darkness” also became the wrathful Goddess Kali, who could only be appeased by Shiva manifesting as a child in need of nursing.
Shiva never totally abandoned his carefree and narcotic ways, and this sometimes angered Parvati, but gradually she accepted his unconventional nature, and it is said that the bliss of their cosmic union is what keeps the Universe spinning, keeping Matter and Spirit in harmonious balance.
It is true that they often engaged in fiery battles and argument, from which Parvati would not shrink – she remained independent and creative in her own right, though throughout their various ups and downs her love of and devotion to Shiva is unchanged. This aspect of Parvati represents our capacity to love without sacrificing our individuality, to love without negation of the Self.
Essentially Parvati is always working for the inner alchemical marriage, the union of the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine, and for this she uses strength, persistence, austerities, devotion, self- sacrifice, creativity… but most of all infinite LOVE. She destroys negativity because of this boundless love, and brings peace and harmony. She is lover, yogini, wife, mother, daughter, creator, destroyer. She can be both the hardened ascetic risen above all delicacy and resistance, or she can be the gentle placating wife – through her wisdom and love she comes to accept the unconventional Tantric life they lead, having no home, living ascetically, wildly.
When wholly united Shiva and Parvati are Ardhanarishwara
She is the Goddess who balances gentleness with strength. She represents yogic will-power, but also devotion and empathy. Meditation on the archetypal qualities of any deity can help internalise the subtle yet powerful qualities of these goddesses. In her stories, Parvati represent Shakti – divine Love – which needs Shiva – Divine awareness, in order to be complete, and vice versa…wisdom and compassion combining forces to be a whole. Without the other they are misdirected, sterile, unworkable. Together they are invincible.