Siva (also spelled Shiva) is one the major deities in the Hindu pantheon. Known in the West through shallow popularizations as the "Destroyer God," and contrasted with Brahma ("the Creator God") and Visnu ("The Preserver God"), he is actually far more than one-third of a triad to his Indian devotees (called Saivites), for they view him as the Supreme Being, the ultimate Creator, Sustainer, and Destroyer of the Universe. To goddess worshipping Hindus (called Saktiites), who devote themselves to female divinities such as Kali, Durga, and Parvati, Siva is the "consort," described in various religious texts as the teacher, pupil, friend, lover, husband, or sacrificial victim of the goddess who is the Supreme Being. Among those who worship Visnu (Vaisnavites), Siva is a fairly minor god, one whose chief distinction is that he aided and assisted Visnu during the creation of the universe by drinking a poison that developed during the churning of the buttermilk sea from which the cosmos was precipitated.
Siva is typically depicted as a thin, near-naked man with
long hair worn in a top-knot. He usually has two arms when
shown seated in meditation as an ascetic and four arms when shown
performing his tandava dance of cosmic destruction. In his ascetic form he sits
on or is clothed in a tiger-, leopard-, or lion-skin. He carries a double-headed
drum and a trident or gig, called in Sanskrit a trisula, which he uses as a weapon. His
vehicle is a bull whose name is Nandi. His chief decoration
consists of the crescent moon in his hair, and bracelets and
necklaces of living cobra snakes (nagas). He is sometimes
shown holding prayer beads (malla) in one hand. His forehead
is marked with a design of horizontal stripes.
Because one of the major sites of Siva-worship is the ice cavern of Amarnatha in Kashmir, where a giant natural ice-stalagmite serves as a linga, Siva is often shown meditating in the snow among mountain ranges. In his hair, especially in contemporary images, one can often find the small face of the goddess of the river Ganges spouting water, symbolic of his home in the mountains, from which the sacred river begins its course. This Himalayan image also accords with Siva's status as the consort of two ancient regional mountain goddesses, Uma and Parvati. As the consort of Parvati, the god is usually shown in an outdoor domestic setting, a happy husband and the father of the elephant-headed god Ganesh and his half-brother Kartikeya.
On the contrary, when Siva is viewed as the consort of the fearsome Bengali goddess Kali, his usual posture is supine and motionless beneath her treading feet (a pun on Siva and saiva, the latter meaning "corpse") as she dances above him brandishing a beheading knife, her tongue protruding and her hair dishevelled. Such pictures often take place in a cremation ground, and the most extreme devotees of Siva typically mark their bodies, especially their foreheads, with ashes and live in extreme voluntary poverty, near naked in emulation of their god.
In northern India, Nepal, and Tibet, a fierce
protector god called Bhairava, has come to be identified
with Siva. He is identifiable by his bulging eyes, blue or black skin, and distinctive mustaches.
Whether one views him as the Godhead, the consort of the Goddesses Durga, Parvati, or Kali, or as a minor god, Siva is both the most ascetic and the most erotic of the Hindu deities. His universal symbol is the linga (sometimes spelled lingam) or penis; in fact, the very word linga means "sign," "symbol," or "mark." Scholars debate the origin of Siva's worship, but it seems to have been endemic in India among the Dravidian people before the so-called Aryan invasion, for there are Aryan texts in which the native people of the sub-continent are laughingly referred to as "penis-worshippers."
The Siva linga stones shown here are of a type found
exclusively in the Narada River in central-western India.
They can only be collected from the riverbed during the dry
season of the year, and the work of gathering, shaping, and
polishing them is performed by a few families who have
passed on their traditional techniques from one generation
to the next for hundreds of years. The linga shape itself
represents Siva; it is a grey composite rock made of
basalt, agate, and quartz. The reddish-brown markings,
called the yoni (female genitalia), represent Shakti and are
comprised of iron oxide that was deposited in the river bed
millions of years ago by a meteorite, in what seems to have
been a divine copulation between the Goddess and the God.
The one at left is 1 1/4" long, suitable for use as a pocket
piece, and the one at right is 2 1/4" long, appropriate
for placement on a small altar. Larger sizes are available
-- up to 3 or 4 feet in length -- but due to the difficulty
of finding large stones with clear markings of the
most desirable type, and the time it takes to work them,
they are quite rare and are priced accordingly.
Hindu gods and goddesses appear or are described on the following Lucky W Amulet Archive web pages:
SEARCH THIS SITE: a local search engine and a named link to each Lucky Mojo page
Lucky Mojo Site Map: a descriptive entry-level index to the whole Lucky Mojo pile
Lucky W Amulet Archive Home Page: an online museum of folk-magic charms
Sacred Sex Home Page: essays on tantra yoga, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
The Sacred Landscape Home Page: essays on archaeoastronomy and sacred geometry
Freemasonry for Women Home Page: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
The Lucky Mojo Curio Co.: manufacturers of spiritual supplies for hoodoo and conjure
The Comics Warehouse: a source for back-issues of comic books and trading cards
catherine yronwode, the eclectic and eccentric author of all the above web pages
nagasiva yronwode: tyaginator, nigris (333), nocTifer, lorax666, boboroshi, !
The Lucky Mojo Esoteric Archive: captured internet files on occult and spiritual topics
copyright © 1995-2003 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.
Send your comments to: cat yronwode.