Exploring the Hindu Goddess Shakti
The Hindu Goddess Shakti—or Sakti—represents pure divine female power. The word ‘Shakti’ means energy or power in Sanskrit. She is the creatrix, the great divine mother. She is the dynamic energy that is responsible for the creation, maintenance, and destruction of the Universe.
She is also known by the names Parvati, Durga, and Kali. Shakti is a Mahadevi, or great Goddess—which is a sum of all other Goddesses. All other Hindu Goddesses are seen as aspects of Shakti.
She is the active, passionate, and creative spark of life that stimulates Shiva or Siva—who is consciousness, Shakti's consort and counterpart. Shakti and Shiva are seen as interdependent opposites with near equal value.
Much like the High Priestess is considered by many to be a vessel for the Goddess, the Hindu tradition sees all women as vessels of Shakti.
Shakti: Formless Energy and Power
Shakti is power and energy. Specifically, She is Divine female creative power. As such, She has no specific form physically. When She is shown as a Goddess, it is in one of her three aspects or avatars—Parvati, Durga, and Kali. Shiva is Her consort in all Her forms.
- Parvati: Daughter of the mountains. Goddess of Love, devotion, marriage, fertility, children, beauty, strength and power. This aspect is the most similar to Shakti. She is the Divine Mother. Each of Her aspects is expressed with a different name, giving Her over a hundred names in regional Hindu lore. She is shown with two arms and holds a blue lotus in Her right hand. Parvati is thought of as the calm aspect of Shakti. She is the light in the darkness. She is the recreative energy and power of Shiva. She is typically shown with Shiva and or with their children. She has three children Ganesha, Kartieya, and Ashokasundari.
- Durga: Durga, in Sanskrit means “She who is incomprehensible or difficult to reach.” Durga is a warrior, protector form of the Goddess, usually depicted wearing a red Sari. The red represents action, destroying evil, and protecting humankind. She is almost always with or riding Her vahana (mount or vehicle—main means of travel for the Hindu deities), a tiger or a lion. The tiger symbolizes unlimited power. Durga riding a tiger indicates that She has unlimited power and uses it to protect good and destroy evil. Her main function is to preserve moral order and righteousness by destroying negative aspects of human nature such as selfishness, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, anger, and ego.
- Kali: There are times when Durga is confronted with a demon that cannot be destroyed despite the attempts of many Gods. When this happens, She turns blue with rage and from Her third eye comes the Goddess Kali. Kali is the most terrifying and ferocious of the Hindu deities, and She has an insatiable blood lust for demons. She is typically depicted as blue or black wearing a necklace of skulls and demon heads as earrings. She is most commonly shown with four arms. One hand holds Her weapon the scimitar, another holds the head of a demon by its hair, Her third hand is spread flatly open offering blessings, and in Her forth another weapon, usually a spear or a trident. She is typically shown standing on Her consort Shiva.
Of Shakti's three aspects, I personally have the deepest connection to Durga and Kali. Durga even presented Herself to me through a series of dreams during a time when I truly needed Her protective energy.
Which form or avatar of Shakti do you connect with most?
Working With Other Cultures
While many eclectic witches wiccans, and/or pagans may choose to work with deities from a wide range of cultures, I believe that connection is made deeper by further understanding the cultures, traditions, people, and religions they are derived from.
In the case of Shakti, it is beneficial to learn about Hinduism as it is a current, living religion practiced by approximately 900 million people. This is not only respectful of the culture, religion, and people the deities comes from, it will also aid you in connecting more fully with their energy.
Though its home and origin are in India, Hinduism is practiced around the globe. Shakti energy is a focus in some yogic practices as well.
Here is a brief introduction to some Hindu and yogic meditation and mantra techniques used to raise Shakti energy and help intensify your relationship to the Goddess.
Mantras are a single syllable sound or series of phases that are repeated continuously. Chanting a mantra aloud or silently is a practice that many Hindus and yogis use to focus concentration on a single thought and/or still the mind in meditation. It is believed by many cultures that the vibration of sound, in the form of mantras, chanting, or song will activate spiritual energy.
Mantra Shakti is the universal cosmic energy of Shakti that is evoked through the recitation of mantras.
Shakti bija are single-syllable or seed mantras. Probably the best well known of which is Om.
Main Shakti bija and Their Energies
Power to stop
Power to stabilize
Power to transcend
Mantra shakti can also be achieved through a series of phrases, rather than a single seed sound. These phrases are repeating continuously in a loop by the practitioner. One common shakti mantra is the Adi Shakti or First Shakti mantra. This mantra invokes the Goddess' protective energy, eliminates fear, and fulfills desires.
Some examples of Shakti mantras and the energy they invoke:
- Adi shakti (primal power): adi shakti, adi shakti, namo namo
- Kundalini mata shakti (mother of all energy): mata shakti, namo namo
- Prithum bhagawati (divine creation): prithum bhagawati, prithum bhagawati, namo namo
The Significance of 108
In order to achieve Mantra Shakti, mantras—whether just a seed sound or a phrase—are often repeated 108 times. Hindu prayer beads or Mala beads are composed of 108 beads, plus one "guru bead," around which the other 108 beads revolve. This is meant to mimic the planets turning around the sun. They are used to count each repetition on a mantra.
The number 108 implies spiritual completion. It is sacred to multiple faiths and cultures. Like mala beads, a Catholic rosary also contains 108 beads. The number 108 is significant to the Rosicrucian order as it represents the time frame of some of their cycles. The pre-historic monument Stonehenge is 108 feet in diameter. In Japan, at the end of the year, a bell is chimed 108 times in Buddhist temples to finish the old year and welcome the new one.
The early Vedic sages were renowned mathematicians and even invented our number system. Therefore it’s not surprising we find these other interesting connections to the number 108. The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. In geometric terms, it is a natural division of circle (108=36+72=9 X 12). The earth cycle is supposed to be of 2160 years = 20 x 108. A leap year is 366 days, and 3 x 6 x 6 gives 108.
According to yogic tradition, there are 108 sacred sites, or pithas throughout India. It is believed that there are 108 energy lines, or nadis, converging to form the heart chakra. There are said to be 108 types of meditation. Hindu deities have 108 names.
108 is a Harshad Number, which is an integer divisible by the sum of its digits. Harshad in Sanskrit means “joy-giver.” 108 represents the whole of existence.
Working With Shakti
Here are a few ideas on how to incorporate the magick of Shakti into your daily life and rituals:
- Develop a mantra and/or meditation practice.
- Awaken, align, heal, and balance your chakras.
- Explore yoga, especially kundalini yoga.
- Learn about and practice tantra, sacred sex, and sex magick.
- Engage in gentle touching, sensual pleasures, or massage.
- Eat nourishing foods.
- Buy yourself a fragrant bouquet of flowers.
- Connect with your heart space, and feel deeply.
- Pursue your passions or create art.
- Enjoy simple pleasures, luxurious baths, tantalize your senses.
- Practice being present, relaxed, and comfortable in your body.
- Unplug—whatever that looks like for you.
- Build an altar dedicated to Shakti and Her many forms.
- Lead or attend a ritual dedicated to the Goddess Shakti.
Symbols, Magickal Attributes, and Offerings
Use these items with intention on your altar or in your daily rituals to welcome the energy of Shakti:
- Shakti mandalas and thankas
- Mantras, meditation, and yoga practices
- The yoni ,and anything resembling the yoni
- Flowers, especially those that look like a yoni
- Conch shells
- Crescent moons
- Symbols of your passions and creative endeavors
- Fruits: Peaches, strawberries, apples, figs, dates, pomegranates, and oranges
- Other food offerings: Milk, curd, honey, ghee (clarified butter)
- Colors: Reds, pinks, oranges, salmon, and coral
- Herbs: Shatavari and tulsi basil
- Kundalini and the chakras
Shakti is the pure essence and energy of the Great Mother Goddess. She is a wonderful introduction into the diverse Hindu pantheon of deities. I hope you are inspired by the ideas here to further enrich your practice by connecting to the Goddess Shakti in a deeper way.
References and Resources
© 2019 Jennifer Jorgenson