Outer Court Member of the Correllian Tradition; Public-Spirited Witch on the path towards becoming a Pagan Priestess.
The Goddess Never Not Broken: Akhilandeshvari
Can you imagine purposely breaking yourself into a thousand, tear-soaked pieces? Can you envision a life with no identity, as you are always changing? That is exactly what the Hindu Goddess Akhilandeshvari does.
Akhilandeshvari (pronounced Ah-keel-lan-desh-vah-ree) is the Hindu goddess of broken hearts, shattered souls, and transition. Her name means “never not broken,” which describes her perfectly. She is always broken, always putting the pieces back together just to tear them apart and reshape herself. She has been likened to a cloud, having no finite shape or size and in constant peaceful flux.
Although she is constantly broken into pieces, she always has a serene look on her face. She is not a goddess we would discuss with anyone we didn’t trust intimately. We live in a society that prizes control, with a “get over it” attitude, so it’s really a surprise that she is not known as well as some of the other Hindu gods. She can help us in our darkest times: when we get our heart broken, when we fail, when we are shattered into a thousand pieces and stuck crying on the floor in a wet, snotty heap. She helps us heal and reach a new level of enlightenment, but we have to be willing to work with her.
What is most beautiful about Akhilandeshvari is that the very thing we dread the most is the very source of her power: she is in pieces. She is broken, constantly moving and creating new experiences and wisdom out of the broken pieces.
— Stephanie Woodfield, Dark Goddess Craft (2017, p. 71)
Brokenness: A Necessity for Living
One major lesson we can learn from Akhilandeshvari is that we are always broken, and we must be so in order to grow. Stephanie Woodfield used an excellent metaphor in her chapter on The Goddess-Never-Not-Broken in her book Dark Goddess Craft. She likened our minds and our lives to tectonic plates. When one plate remains still too long, the others will push against it, and there would be a “massive tectonic explosion.” We must have a little give in order to grow, to change, to learn.
Nothing in life is entirely whole, and once you accept that you are always broken, like Akhilandeshvari, then you too will feel a sense of serenity. You accept that you will fail sometimes, and that is okay. If you didn’t fail in the past, you wouldn’t be the person you are today. There is a wonderful ritual in Stephanie Woodfield’s Dark Goddess Craft that helps you accept the times you were broken, the times you failed.
It is called “Ritual to Celebrate Failings,” and the intent is just that. For this ritual you will need:
- Quick-dry clay
- Tools to roll the clay flat and tools to write on the clay
- White candle and, if you wish, a photo or something to represent Akhilandeshvari
- Towel or Newspaper
- An offering of your choice
Take the modeling clay and roll it out flat. I made mine into a rectangle, but you can roll it into whatever shape you’d like—as long as it’s flat. Then take your other tools and carve designs into it—anything that strikes your fancy. I used a fork and some of my son’s Play-Doh tools. Then you will need a needle or even a pencil—I myself used a crochet hook—to write down either words or symbols of times you failed. You may write bad habits, names of people who broke your heart, any failure in your life. Now leave the clay to dry. You could pop it in the oven for five minutes or so at 350˚ if you want it to dry quicker.
When your clay tablet has dried, take it to your altar along with the towel/newspaper. If you wish to cast a circle and call the quarters you may, but it isn’t necessary. Sit at your altar, think about Akhilandeshvari. Conjure her image into your mind. When you’re ready, light the candle and say:
Akhilandeshvari, I call to you!
You who tear yourself apart endlessly,
Destroying and reforming,
Reshaping and remaking.
May I know your serenity
in the face of change.
May I know not fear,
May I know your strength,
As I reshape my life.1
See her in your mind, feel her in your space. Is she on her crocodile? What does she look like? What color are her eyes? When you have a clear image of her, take your clay tablet. Think about every time you’ve failed, when you weren’t good enough, the heartbreaks and tears you’ve shed. Feel that energy going into the clay. When you’re ready, wrap the newspaper or towel around it. Now smash it into pieces! Drop it or slam it onto the towel—carefully so you don’t hurt yourself! Now say:
I am allowed to fail,
I have failed,
I will fail again.
Before me are the shards of myself,
The failures that shape myself,
The pain that had helped me remake myself,
The scars that are part of my being.
I am allowed to fail!
I have failed,
I will fail again.
I will shatter what I am
And be remade anew.
I will be like Akhilandeshvari!
I will tear myself apart again and again!
Ever changing, ever becoming.2
Select one of the shards of clay and examine the designs on it. By breaking the tablet, you made something brand new! It is new and unique, and would never have existed unless it was broken. Even though it is not part of the whole anymore, it still contains a beautiful pattern. Hold up the piece and name it:
This is _____________.3
When you name a painful memory or a time you’ve failed, think about how that moment changed your life.
From it I have gained__________.3
When you’re done with the piece put it in the bowl as an offering to Akhilandeshvari. Repeat the process for as many pieces you need or want to. If there are leftover pieces you may discard them if you’d like. When you are finished, leave an offering for Akhilandeshvari—it can be herbs, flowers, milk, anything that has meaning to you. Thank Akhilandeshvari and ask her to help you see the blessing failure can have and to honor how those moments changed you.
You may want to keep the pieces on your altar, so you can revisit them every once in a while. Just take one or two pieces out and meditate on it. When you feel the time is right, thank the Goddess again and remove the pieces from your altar. Woodfield said to discard them any way you feel appropriate, and that certainly is an option. Since I have always taken failure so badly, I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the pieces that had helped me so much. So instead I arranged them just so and glued them on the painting I did of Akhilandeshvari and her crocodile. Now when I look at it—which is every day I go into my altar room—I am reminded that failing can be a beautiful, albeit painful, part of life. That it isn’t sinful, or anything to be ashamed of. It is just a part of life.
Freedom From Destruction
Akhilandeshvari teaches us that being broken gives us freedom. The crocodile she rides propels her down the river of the universe. It represents our fears—she uses her fears to keep her moving forward. Her brokenness means she is free to reconstruct herself however she sees fit-and tells us we can do the same!
We have the freedom to put ourselves back together in a new shape, new size, new personality. We get into routines and fail to see the bars rising around us, imprisoning us in a stagnant, toxic cycle. But we are not meant to remain still! We are always changing. Brain cells die, hair and nails grow, freckles rise to the surface of our skin in the sun. Nothing in life stays the same—even the hardest of stones are always being changed by the elements. So, we do we cling to routine? We stick to routine because it feels safe—it’s familiar and what we know we trust. But we are not built to live like that. We don’t grow up to a certain age and remain in that state like a porcelain doll until we die.
It isn’t healthy to cling like hell to routine, to things in our life that no longer serve a purpose other than familiarity. You are your most powerful when you hit rock bottom-I know first hand how it is to hit rock bottom! That bedrock is the foundation upon which you build your new life! It is so freeing knowing that every brick you lay is to your liking, to meet your needs. You are most powerful down there in the dark hole because you have nothing left to lose. You stop giving a darn about what others think, stop worrying about what it would cost you because you’ve lost so much already. You are free to climb up and out at your own pace. And as you climb, you establish new routines and new scenery. And when those things no longer serve their purpose, you now have the wisdom to know that it will be well worth tearing then from your life to make room for the new.
“Spiritual bypass is a trap that anyone can fall into, no matter what religion or spiritual tradition they practice. The trick is to recognize it and not fall into its cycle of avoidance. We need to remember that it’s okay to be broken, to be angry, to not have all the answers.” 4
The quote above is by Stephane Woodfield, in her article published in Llewellyn’s 2018 Witches’ Companion. As I said before, clinging to the old and stagnant is not healthy. In today’s society, we value control, routine, and avoid change and chaos as if it were a huge venomous spider. But this can lead to Spiritual Bypass, a phrase coined by Buddhist and psychotherapist John Welwood in the 1980s.
Pagans will smudge their homes with sage, Christians may sprinkle holy water—no matter our religious practice we all have ways of dispelling negativity. But if we don’t figure out the root of the cause then those negative energies will just blow right back in. You can have all the crystals, have the strongest ward, smudge with sage and rosemary twice a day, but it won’t work if you keep your traumas, fears, failures and horrendous moments of your life buried deep within you. By focusing only on the positive, and ignoring the murky areas of our life, you are only keeping yourself from transforming, from reaching spiritual enlightenment, from growing. Using your spirituality as a form of avoidance only makes your shadows darker and scarier. To really heal, to truly transform, you must get out the flashlight, get down on your hands and knees and shine a light on the monster under the bed so to speak. It takes time and patience. I’ve only been working with the Dark Goddesses for less than a year and I’ve come a long way—anyone who knows me tells me all the time how I shine with happiness. I still have a long way to go. You can’t resolve 30 years of failures, trauma, heartbreaks, and brokenness in just eight months. But it is worth digging deep and taking the time to reopen old wounds. By doing so, they can really heal. And the deepest ones will always leave scars, but you will stop applying Mederma and will wear those scars with pride!
Devotional Practice: Honoring Akhilandeshvari
In past articles, I have emphasized the importance of developing a relationship with goddesses and gods. They are not metaphysical vending machines and don't appreciate being treated as such. Akhilandeshvari is a very caring goddess, and is easier to forge a relationship with that some other goddesses, in my experience anyways. In fact, I introduced her into my life and accepted her into my pantheon by performing the ritual I described above and then formally asked her to help me heal, and help me remember her wisdom the next time my life fell apart. Failure is a part of life and it is definitely easier to take the blow when you have Akhilandeshvari in your corner.
Devotional work with her mainly consists of meditation and inner work. You may wish to create a shrine to her, or something simpler like printing a photo of her off the internet and hanging it by your altar. Due to lack of space, I have one altar. I have paintings I have created for almost all of the goddesses and gods in my pantheon hanging in the room, and I will take the painting off the wall and place it on my altar when I am doing a working or spell that invokes their energy, or a ritual to honor them or to their lessons.
You are free to be as creative as you wish when it comes to your devotional work with the Goddess-Never-Not-Broken. To introduce her into your life, I suggest sitting in your sacred space, lighting a few candles and calling to her. Meditate on her image, on the lessons she teaches, and how she could help you in your life. Ask her how she would like to be represented on your altar, and what she would like for offerings. Unfortunately, there is not much information available about her, so asking her directly is the best route. In fact, before writing this section I went to my altar room, invoked Akhilandeshvari and asked her what I should write in this section. I asked: "what do I tell people about how to honor you?", and the answer I got was that the devotional practice would be different for everyone, as no two people have the same traumas, and cope the same way. You should focus on forgiving yourself first and foremost because failing is a natural part of life. That is why I performed the ritual above to meet her for the first time. You cannot progress unless you forgive yourself. Then you need to take the time to work through each chasm in your soul. You must travel to your underworld, with whichever Dark Goddesses you like, and rely on Akhilandeshvari to show you the hidden blessings that came along with each trauma.
I wish you all the best of luck and happiness in knowing we are all broken from the moment we are born until the day our hearts stop beating. Blessings to all!
References and Endnotes
- (Woodfield, Dark Goddess Craft: A Journey Through the Heart of Transformation, 2017, pp. 77-78)
- (Woodfield, Dark Goddess Craft: A Journey Through the Heart of Transformation, 2017, p. 78)
- (Woodfield, Dark Goddess Craft: A Journey Through the Heart of Transformation, 2017, p. 79)
- (Woodfield, Embracing Being Broken: How to Avoid Spiritual Bypass, 2018, p. 59)
Akhilandeshvari —Goddess Never-Not-Broken * Wicca-Spirituality.com/SilverChalice. (2018). Wicca-spirituality.com. Retrieved 2 July 2018, from http://www.wicca-spirituality.com/akhilandeshvari.html
Clarenbach, C. (2014). Akhilandeshvari - The Divine Reality of Brokenness - The Way of the River. The Way of the River. Retrieved 2 July 2018, from https://thewayoftheriver.com/akhilandeshvari-divine-reality-brokenness/
Goddess Never-Not-Broken: Symbols and Surprises * Wicca-Spirituality.com. (2018). Wicca-spirituality.com. Retrieved 2 July 2018, from http://www.wicca-spirituality.com/never-not-broken.html
Woodfield, S. (2017). Dark Goddess Craft: A Journey Through the Heart of Transformation. Woodbury MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Woodfield, S. (2018). Embracing Being Broken: How to Avoid Spiritual Bypass. In A. Neff, Llewellyn's 2018 Witches' Companion: An Almanac for Contemporary Living (pp. 52-60). Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
© 2018 Amanda Wilson
Amanda Wilson (author) from New Hampshire, USA on July 04, 2020:
Thank you so much!
Misslilly8 on June 24, 2020:
Thank you Amanda. I found this goddess in 2017 and remembered her now. Your article was the best on her and really well written.
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on August 08, 2019:
Amanda . . .outstanding work! Very concise and thoughtful.
Loved the call-out in the middle.
You keep up the fine work.
Again. Very professional.