Thursday, 18 April 2013


It was cycle day 25.

I was standing in the garden. Sun was shining and it actually felt like spring! While chatting to to my mother and sister in law, I see a huge, and I mean HUGE black crow, fly straight into the window of the house out the back. Everyone turned round to see what had made the loud noise, and we all watched as the crow that had landed on the porch of the house, launched itself at the window to the right. Another almighty knock and off it flew... We were all amazed to see it fly off unharmed, as the noise was beak cracking.

Straight away a memory came to the fore. A few days ago... I saw a crow do the same thing to the same house... Hmm... when had I been out in the garden (there haven't been many days warm enough). Last Monday (Cycle day 20). George was finishing off the shed roof. It was sunny. I was out the back and witnessed the same thing, although this one hadn't come back for seconds, just crashed into the window and flew off behind the house..
Then, another recent memory pop's into my mind. Last weekend Fae had been singing 'Sing a song of sixpence'. She'd found an old childhood book of mine and found this one ditty very amusing, puzzling and worthy of much chatter. She kept showing me the picture... black birds flying around a pie.

Crows and black birds had been in my mind for a while, I have been planning to draw or paint a crow or crows, and it's not the first time. A couple of years or so ago I was called by the crow. I think now and then our paths cross, only I hadn't really connected before.

After researching the common meanings of the crow, I googled Hindu Crow (I have been looking a lot at Hindu Deities after hearing Durga's call recently) and up came Dhumavati.

Dhumavati is the hag, the crone, the old, dark goddess. Her name means 'The Smoky One'. 
She is the void, the dissolved form of consciousness. Her creature is the crow, a carrion eater and symbol of death and decay. Some stories say she has crow like features. She is often pictured on a horseless carriage with a winnowing basket (a tool used for sorting the wheat from the chaff), a spear or sword, a broom and a kapala (a bowl made from a human skull). She can be found in 'the wounds of the world'... cemeteries, cremation grounds, smoky fires, deserts, ruined houses and wild dangerous places. 

She is often named as the seventh Mahavidya. The Mahavidyas (Great Wisdoms) are a group of the ten aspects of the Divine Mother. The 10 Mahavidyas are Wisdom Goddesses, who represent a spectrum of feminine divinity, from horrific goddesses at one end, to the gentle at the other.

She is now a widow, but was once Shiva's first consort Sati. Sati's hunger was insatiable, she demanded food constantly and could never be satisfied. Shiva refused her demands, so she announced she would eat him instead. After consuming her husband, Shiva, he demanded her to disgorge him, which she did with reluctance. He then cursed her and condemned her to a lifetime of widowhood. On hearing this smoke emanated from her, clouding her beauty. He named her Dhumavati. She was from that moment on, alone, banished to the cemetary where she stole clothes from the dead.

She obscures and reveals. She reveals those things that are imperfect and disappointing. She is defeat, loss, destruction and loneliness. She is cruel, ugly and disheveled. She is the embodiment of lust and ignorance. Always hungry and thirsty, she yearns for food and drink. She likes to create conflict, arguments and invokes fear. Dhumavati is always in a sad state and represents unsatisfied desires. She makes herself a widow by swallowing her husband Shiva in an act of power, independence and self assertion.

She teaches us that life is a struggle. You learn from the negative experiences in life and through them, you develop wisdom. She points out the negative, so you can learn from it. The bowl of fire she holds burns ignorance and also symbolises that all things are eventually destroyed. She is often pictured making a boon conferring gesture (Varada mudra) or knowledge giving gesture (Cinmudra). These hand postures open up a more positive aspect to this goddess. A boon is something to be thankful for, a blessing. She represents the wisdom that can be found through experience, the knowledge that hides in the smoke.

Dhumavati asks us to look beyond small ambitions. She may seem like a dark and negative inauspicious Goddess, but she offers special powers and knowledge. She instills a desire to be alone, to go within, to delve into ourselves. Without a consort she is free to follow her spiritual path, free of family responsibilities.

"Dhumavati symbolically portrays the disappointments, frustrations, humiliation, defeat, loss, sorrow and loneliness that a woman endures. She is the knowledge that comes through hard experiences, after the youthful desires and fantasies are put behind. Dhumavati thus represents a stage of woman’s life that is beyond worldly desires, beyond the conventional taboos of what is polluting or inauspicious. She desires to be free and at the same time she likes to be useful to the family and to the society."

The crow symbol also has a positive side. They are symbolic of hearing ‘unheard’ sounds. Crows can hear very low sound frequencies, inaudible to humans. They also show remarkable intelligence. In Hindu belief, crows are considered ancestors as seen during sraddha practice of offering food or panda. Crows ask us to listen carefully to your instincts, feelings and dreams.

She is associated it the waning and dark moon. Goddess Dhumavati is a good teacher. By obscuring or covering all that is known, Dhumavati reveals the depth of the unknown. Dhumavati obscures what is evident in order to reveal the hidden and the profound. Honor her by lighting incense or creating a smoky fire. Offer her flowers, wine, food and anything else indulgent. Worship her alone. She is for you and you alone. Dhumavati is also known as Alakshmi, the anti-lakshmi. Lakshmi is the Goddess of family, hearth and home. Dhumavarti is the opposite. Alone, away from the home. She looks after unmarried people, the single, widowed, the poor, beggars and the diseased.

The day after the crow/window incident, my attention was drawn to a local church. It is no longer used as a church, but is now part of the Church Heritage Trust. It is one of my favourite places, and usually quiet and 'abandoned'. I felt I just HAD to go there. I took some incense with me to light in honour of Dhumavati. A walk in the grave yard led me to two black feathers. I went inside the church and placed the feathers on the altar and lit the incense. I sat for a while, alone in the church. The stained glass was memerising, and the incense broke up the cold musty church smell. I left just as a local turned up to the church. Perfect timing! As I drove home, one word popped into my head. Acknowlegement. I hadn't really known why I'd felt compelled to go the church, but on the way back I understood. That simple act had been a show of acknowledgement. She's made me aware of her presence, so I made her aware I had listened and that she existed to me.

I began drawing on Day 2.  Just after the New Moon. In full bleed, with full connection to the energy. Crow images have filled my news feed, and I was having constant thoughts about the smoky Goddess. Images, ideas and visions flowing through my mind. The image had been nagging me for days, it's call getting louder and louder till I could ignore it no more. The image was finished at the same time as I stopped bleeding. When I create a shamanic piece of work, something I am called to create, it flows... it draws itself in a way. I am just a channel.

The more I read about Dhumavati, the more I could relate her to menstruation. She IS the energy many fear, the energy women with PMDD battle with. She is The Critic, The Bitch, The Unsatisfied. The bleeding phase is attributed to the crone, but where else do we get a description of the crone energy in so much detail as with the legend of Dhumavati? When our pre menstrual tempers fly and we act like a spoilt children, we are showing that insatiable desire, we are demanding it our way. Many times in this phase I have broken off relationships and wanted to walk away from my family... and yes, the desire to be alone with my thoughts, with myself, was powering that. I wanted to be the widow, and I would create the situation so I could end up alone. I would toy with thoughts of death during this time. My worst suicidal moments have been in the days before my period was due. Do I break up with my man and become alone, a widow? Do I walk out on my kids and create that loneliness and sadness? Do I end it all now, be transformed in my death? the ultimate tragic story?

I look back and I can see the Dhumavati moments. I can recall how I felt. I have felt how Dhumavati feels. I know that desire, that frustration when things don't work out the way you want them, the fear, the deep sadness. What I missed before was the boons, the blessings, the things I could have been learning if only I had understood. When the anger hits, the disappointment, the seemingly random and uncalled for actions and words wanting to destroy everything around you, you are feeling Dhumavati energy. What is REALLY behind the anger? What is REALLY the desire that isn't being fulfilled? Look at your life. What are you denying yourself? What are you hungry for? I think those crazy moments before a bleed are down to those things deep within that want to be fulfilled, lived out, worked on and learned from. Sort the wheat from the chaff, sweep the room, get rid of the rubbish in your life that you don't need... those things that make life harder. Look within. It may be difficult to figure out what it is you want from life, that is the nature of smoke and darkness, but keep looking, it will come, it will become clear. Learn from The Smoky One. Don't allow her energy to rule you, to create quarrels and situations where you end up the widow (unless, that is what you want!) On the other hand, her energy can really help with ridding things from your life you don't need anymore. In some relationships, the widow option is the better one, for the sake of your sanity and future!

In the winter phase, menstruation, we are cleansing. The unfertilised egg is being cleansed from the body ready for a new cycle. The body and mind feels a sadness for the potential that didn't become a life, maybe we also sense the frustration of a perfectly good egg going to waste... we begin to analyse the rest of our life. Where am I going? What good am I? I've wasted my life, I should be alone, I am a failure... Even in her condemnation, Dhumavati found the positive. She turned to the people that needed help, that are alone, that are outcast from society. She helps us to find the wisdom we all have inside, while at the same time encouraging us to look at whether we are fulfilling our own potential. She helps us to see what is holding us back, and what is good and bad for us in our lives.

So, with thanks to Dhumavati...

Dhum Dhum Dhumavati Svaha - Dhumavati's mantra is said to create a protective smoke shield that protects you from negativity and death. It helps remove illusions and allows you to see the unseen. Meditate on the void, the emptiness, the darkness. It enables us to 'read between the lines', to see past our initial judgements and prejudices. Don't look at the subject, look around the subject.

I never expected that seeing a crow hit a window would take me on such a journey, but it did... and I for one, am very grateful.