I shot this photo yesterday in the American Airlines terminal at O’Hare airport in Chicago, where I spent a good bit of time because my flight for down-state was canceled due to the snow storm that was blanketing the central part of the country.
Although the American terminal at O’Hare is very pretty this time of year, I was looking for an image for the blog today that was something a bit ‘more.’
So I turned to J, who had provided the testosterone star that I posted on the 21st. I asked her whether she might have an image that I could post for the season but not necessarily from this country. I wrote, “I am interested in the message ‘peace on earth, good will toward our fellow human beings.’ Do you have anything like that you would care to share?”
And this is what she graciously sent…
The Goddess, the Khusra and the Saint
(random notes on peace, love and tolerance)
It was Shravan, the holiest Hindu month. I was strolling down a beach in Mumbai enjoying the last of the rains. The evening sun was melting into the sea, and the breeze chased tiny raindrops. Then in the whistling winds I heard a rumble, the tom tom of drums and some chanting.
I turned to see a group of people, all dressed in festive finery.
Couples, young children, a few teenage boys and some girls. Among them were two young transladies, their lilac and ochre sarees fluttering in the wind. The group bore a brass statue of a Hindu Goddess in their arms.
India is a land of many Gods and Goddesses and scores of their avatars. But I had never seen this particular Devi (Sanskrit word for ‘goddess’) before. So I approached a lady within the group and struck up a conversation. She said the statue was Goddess Renuka.
The devotees placed the Devi on the sands and offered flowers and joss sticks to her. They anointed her with vermillion. Then gently immersed her in the sea before bringing her back to shore, all the time chanting, singing.
Just as Christ was born to bring peace, unity and tolerance, Renuka Devi too, looks to integrate all people. In fact she is one of the Goddess protectresses of transpeople, as well as the patron Divinity of members of the oppressed sudra caste of the Hindu caste system.
And as always there is an intriguing story of how the Goddess came to be. It is said that that Renuka was once a woman married to a holy sage. She was so pure and undefiled that she emanated fire and radiance. Her chastity enabled her to perform miracles. And to preserve her purity, the sage did not touch her. Instead he used magical means to beget children.
One day as Renuka walked by the river, she noticed a male sprite’s amorous advances towards her maid – a sudra lady. Intrigued by what she saw, Renuka approached her husband with desire in her eyes and related what she had witnessed. He realized she was losing her purity. And in rage decided to kill both Renuka and her maid.
The sage summoned his sons to behead the two ladies. All 4 sons declined. And for sympathizing with the women, the sage changed half their bodies into that of a woman. They were now intersexual.
Then he demanded his son Parasuram conduct the beheading. Parasuram agreed on one condition: that his mother be brought back to life immediately after the act.
After the beheading, the 4 sons whose bodies were now both male and female, carried the head of their mother and the body of the maid to a shrine. Here they fused Renuka’s head to the sudra maid’s body. Renuka came alive as goddess Renuka-Yellama .
Today she is said to protect transpeople and those who are intersex, as she sees the image of her four loyal sons in them.
In India where Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, flourished, the core aim is to spread peace, tolerance and unity. And it was to the intersex and transpeople that believers often turned.
Early Judeo-Christian Islamic tradition deemed them to be God’s favored children. Thus it was believed their intercessory prayers, or Du’a, were especially powerful. They soon became sought after intercessors.
A study of world religions show they all preach tolerance, unity and love for humanity. Today on the holiest of Christian days the important question is, will we ever open our minds and listen?
Thank you J.
— Wishing you all greetings for whatever holiday you observe, from ATM and J.