Today is the first day of the annual Hindu nine-night festival of the Divine Mother!
Each fall for the past ten-ish years, my Mom and I have celebrated this festival together.
Our first introduction to Navaratri was in Val Morin at the Sivananda Ashram. We arrived just as the leaves were turning from lush green to a spectacular rainbow of gold, orange and red, clueless but eager. We left the morning of the year's first snowfall with more than we could ever have expected!
Tantric priests performed Pujas, offerings of rice and flowers, japa, Devi Bhajans, and readings from the Devi Mahatmya.
photo borrowed from Wikipedia
Written by Rishi Markandeya around 1500 years ago, this Great Glory of the Goddess tells the story of how the Divine Mother (known by many names including Kali, Chandika, Devi, Shakti, and loads more) kicked some serious demon butt and saved the Devas! They had to put all their powers together to create her and then had to spend aLOT of time writing and singing songs about how awesome She is to thank her!
We were told that if you practice all nine days (plus a tenth for blessing books and tools of your work or spiritual path) with sincerity and devotion, all your prayers, spoken and unspoken will be answered.
Or not...You know how it goes - every year I come up with new prayers, and so every year it's like starting from scratch...
On our own, we don't practice as formally as we did at the ashram. Our pujas are held each day whenever our schedule allows, and we act as our own pujaris. Our altars are dynamic and personal.
Our flowers are simply whatever we grew ourselves or nature provided us. Mostly we're just grateful for whatever the frost hasn't taken!
Swami Vishnudevananda's Samadhi Estates.
This humble little flower, sacred in India for it's fiery color, represents "Plasticity" according to Sri Aurobindo's disciple, The Mother who considered that the highest attribute of a yogi.
Styling our own ritual has become a part of the devotional practice. We honor our own craftiness, courage, creativity and abundance. We trust that our "mistakes" will be overlooked.
We embrace unconventional thanks and praises too, like Rob Brezny's heartfelt and hilarious poem/prayer: A Prayer for Us.
And we eat fruits and Indian milk sweets and just in general - whatever we please - as in, whatever we think would please the Goddess in us!
I encourage you to craft your own ritual to the Divine Mother for the next couple of weeks.
Make a little altar somewhere where you can sit for a few minutes each day and offer your longing, your dreams and your gratitude to the Divine Mother. See Her in your Self.
I will post more in the next nine days as we celebrate the three main personalities of Shakti: Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. Shakti means power. Empower your yoga practice by checking out the tools and rituals of the ancient yogis for yourself, embracing those that feel right to you now.
I'd love to know how and where you're celebrating so please leave your comments and feedback!