Black Elk II

The third rite is the keeping of the spirit (Wanagi Wicagluha). Death is a transition from one existence to another. The demise of the body does not mean death of the spirit or the soul and the spirit or the soul continues to exist long after the body has turned to dust or has been reduced to ashes.

The third rite of the Lakota is similar to the death rites of many other ancient cultures in that the spirits or the souls of the dead linger around their families or their prized possessions for a period of time before they crossover. It is a time that is used to coax the spirit into continuing with the journey.

The spirit especially in cases and circumstances of unnatural deaths has to be made to come to terms with death. Normally a special place is erected in honor of the spirit and it is done to commemorate the passing and to remember the deceased.

This special place may or may not correspond with an altar (what an altar is or isn’t is a question of perception) and friends and relatives are sometimes invited to join in during what is called a feeding ceremony or an occasion during which offerings of food are made and shared with the spirit.

The rite continues for a year and after a year the spirit is freed or released. During this rather testing time close family members of the deceased are forbidden or prohibited from taking part in any celebrations or festivities.

It has to be made clear that the mourning period is undertaken with love for the departed in mind. It is a grieving period that allows both the family members and the deceased to say their goodbyes. It is in essence a period of letting go and abstaining from celebrations and other festivities allows everyone to come to terms with the passing in the appropriate manner. It is also a time for silent reflection.

In 1890 there was a religious movement that consolidated numerous Native American believes. It was called the Ghost Dance and among other things it advocated that proper practice of the dance would reunite the living with the spirits of the dead and would bring spirits to fight on their behalf. It is reflective of the importance that is attached to spirits in Native American culture and tradition.

Spirit keeping is also a common facet among many other shamanic cultures and features prominently in Tungus cultures and its variants. The Tungus people are of Siberian origin and the near-death phenomenon similar to the experience Black Elk went through when he was nine is a prerequisite to becoming a Tungus Shaman.

Now, if Black Elk had been born in Siberia he would not only have been a medicine man but he would also have been recognized as a capable shaman and would have been accorded a position befitting a shaman in the community.

In these ancient cultures that adhere to time honored traditions, the shaman is also a healer (it is possible that there were early Siberian migrants to the Americas. The distance between Siberia and Alaska is only 55 miles. The territories are separated by a body of water known as the Bering Strait).

According to the near-death principle, once a shaman prospect has gone through the near-death experience he or she would not only be able to see spirits but he or she would also be able to communicate with them.

Similar dynamics also apply to the Tamang shamans (hill shamans) of Nepal and they too acquire the ability to see and speak to spirits. Hence, the ability to see or commune with spirits is an ability that is accepted in certain communities and societies.

These spirits also require sustenance and it is the duty of the shaman to provide the spirit with the type of sustenance that is deemed suitable and that would differ from community to community or from society to society. Likewise, it is the duty of the deceased’s next of kin or the keeper of the spirit to provide the spirit with suitable food.

Therefore, the notion of relatives and friends sharing a meal with a spirit is not at all far-fetched and to the contrary it is, depending on the culture, something of a norm.

It is also an accepted principle that the spirit after death needs to be coaxed into undertaking the journey that follows and the mourning period or the “keeping of the spirit” is a time during which relatives of the departed help the spirit to cross over.

Let me cite the practices of another ancient culture as an example. Let us briefly go to Leh and Ladakh in Western Tibet. Here the mourning period is forty-four days i.e. it takes forty-four days for the spirit of the departed to cross-over and during that time a priest is close at hand and he or she reads verses from the Tibetan Book of the Dead or the Bardo Thodol to help the spirit to cross-over.

According to the death rites of many of these ancient cultures, the period following death and prior to the crossing over is a perilous time for the spirit and it is confronted with a series of images conjured by the mind that are a result of its fears and inhibitions and therefore it needs the assistance of its family members to help it along the way.

It is slightly different from the Ghost Dance which according to my understanding is more akin to the summoning of the spirit and this normally applies to spirits of some fortitude or spirits that have been around for some time and it is more or less like the induced trance state. It is practiced to this very day.

The mourning period differs from one culture to another and from people to people but the one year period is similar to that of the East Indian culture where relatives of the dead are required to mourn the dead for a period of one-year and during the mourning period they are prohibited from taking part in any festivities. Therefore, we won’t be wrong in stating that the mourning period among the Lakota is strikingly similar to that of the East Indians.

Another amazing similarity is the feeding of the spirit. In the East Indian culture offerings of food are made at periodical intervals at an altar over the duration of a year. It includes offerings of vegetarian dishes and the favorite sweets of the deceased and relatives and friends are invited to be a part of the somber occasion.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Continue Reading

Black Elk I

Black Elk was a famous medicine man from the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) and second cousin to the famed Native American warrior Crazy Horse who rebelled against the Federal Government for intruding on Native American territories.

Born on December 1st 1863 in Little Powder River Wyoming he was a medicine man of substance and his experiences, during which he becomes aware of the Seven Sacred Rights of the Lakota, reaffirms the outer body experience as propagated by Jung, which occurs as a result of either natural sleep or induced sleep i.e. hypnosis. It confirms what parapsychologists like Jung have asserted for years in that the mind is a vast untapped resource and has never been fully explored.

When Black Elk was nine years old he was struck by a sudden illness that left him unconscious and unresponsive. During this time, he experienced visitations from cosmic entities who he described as thunder beings (Wakinyan) and who he perceived to be the forefathers or the ancestors of the Oglala Sioux. According to his accounts these spirits were kind and loving, and were very giving in their paternal affection.

His experiences further reaffirm the shamanic principle ardently advocated by well-known exponents of shamanism like Mircea Eliade in that, the shamanic gift is bestowed upon a person or an individual after a prolonged and sustained life threatening illness or experience. From all expert accounts, Black Elk’s narrative of his experiences are most likely true. He died on August 19th 1950 in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

According to Black Elk, it started with repeated visitations from an ancient man, whose head was filled with white hair and who was wise beyond reason. The man was always alert; his eyes were constantly looking in all directions and he was full of fatherly affection. The old man surprisingly enough bears a striking resemblance to the heavenly father. He then imparts the Seven Sacred Rites of the Lakota to Black Elk.

The first of the Seven Sacred Rites is Inikagapi or Inipi (the rite to renew life). A sweat lodge is held in a dome shaped structure made of saplings and covered with hide or tarps and it symbolizes the shape of the universe or the womb of a pregnant woman.

Heated stones are placed in a large crevice located in the center of the lodge and water is poured over the stones by an itancan (leader) to create steam. The purpose of the ceremony is to pray for the spiritual and physical wellbeing of all sentient beings. The lodge utilizes all the powers of the universe: earth and the things which grow on the earth and powers derived from the other elements, water, fire, and air.

Before embarking on any type of spiritual journey the body has to be detoxified, and any remains of toxic residue in the body will be removed by sweating. The result of sitting or meditating in a dome shaped structure with heated stones placed in the middle is excessive sweating.

It is also important to realize that Black Elk specifically mentioned the shape of the structure. Dome shaped structures are symbolic to all religions and theologically the dome acts as a transmitter. Any vibrations resulting from chanting in this type of structure will be carried to the heavenly father.

The second rite is Hanbleceyapi (crying for vision). The vision quest is undertaken by an individual with the help and guidance of a holy man. A person elects to go on a vision quest to pray, communicate with the spirits, and to gain knowledge, strength, and understanding.

The person pledges to stay on an isolated hill for one to four days with a blanket and a pipe, but without food or water. Upon returning, the vision may be discussed with the Wicasa Wakan (holy man). Often the meaning of the vision is not readily apparent and the individual may be told to wait for knowledge and understanding.

The second rite is the seeking of visions or an attempt to bridge the gap between the conscious and subconscious mind, through the medium of sleep or deep meditation or dreamtime, whereupon, the subconscious mind will reveal the mysteries of the world to the dreamer in the form of vivid images.

Experts in the field have suggested that implanting the thought of bridging the gap between the conscious and the subconscious mind or seeking visions prior to falling asleep will help the subject achieve dream quest more easily.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Continue Reading

Goddess Yamuna

The Yamuna River is the second longest tributary of the River Ganges and it is regarded in both Hindu mythology and theology as a representation of the Goddess Yamuna who is none other than the sister of the God of Death, Yama – the very personification of Dharma.

Yama and Yamuna are the son and daughter of the Sun God Surya and the grandson and the granddaughter of the Primordial Creatrix, Aditi, and therefore are Devas or descendents of the race of Gods.

Yama and Yamuna were born onto what could only be described as the Hindu Garden of Eden and were its first habitants. They were the sole occupants of this earthly paradise, a place that was unsoiled by the rigors and turmoil of the physical world and whose inhabitants were untouched by the birth and death cycle and were not subjected to the turning of the karmic wheel. It was a land where the sun never set and it remained perpetually and continuously in the sky.

The Epic of Gilgamesh gives us some clues as to its location and whereabouts. Following the death of his close friend, Enkidu, Gilgamesh goes in search of the hereafter so that he won’t be touched by old age or death and from all accounts the paradise that he was searching for was the Harappa Civilization or the Indus Valley civilization epitomized by Mohenjo Daro, or the “Mound of the Dead” that flourished between 2600 and 1900 BC.

The stone tablets that the poem Gilgamesh was inscribed on date back to about 2100 BC, so it’s more or less during the same time-frame, give or take a few hundred years.

Does the term or the phrase “Mound of the Dead” have any reference to the God of Death, Yama, or does it implicate him in anyway? – the answer in short is yes.

The supreme God of the Indus or Lord of the Indus was Shiva and in seals and other artifacts found in the Indus Valley there are depictions of Shiva and two other Gods that are synonymous to Shiva, Rudra and Yama. The three Gods (Shiva, Rudra and Yama) are also associated to another indigenous Harappa God – Kallan.

I’m not going to elaborate on Kallan at this stage and I’ll leave it for another day but it is clear that Yama was a significant presence in the Indus Valley and that implies a strong Vedic link or connotation because Yama is a Vedic God.

According to the Vedas, Yama is an Āditya (child or descendent of Aditi), and therefore was granted dominion over the world after death, not to be confused with the hereafter but a transitory world that is synonymous to Yama or the Kingdom of Yama.

According to the legend, after years of isolated existence Yamuna fell in love with Yama and sought a union between the both but the God of Death and Virtue refused and counseled Yamuna instead to seek the tender embrace of another.

Thus shunned, Yamuna undertook a journey of self contemplation and wandered far from her brother. She returned much later to find him asleep beneath a tree. She shook him and tried to awaken him, to let him know that she had realized the error of her ways, but Yama neither moved nor stirred.

His body had gone completely cold and despite the resplendent heat that pervaded the earthly paradise, his body was devoid of warmth. It eventually dawned on Yamuna that Yama was no longer alive.

Yamuna started to cry and the tears rolled down her cheeks like little streams and flooded the ground below her feet. Yamuna vowed to cry for as long as the sun remained in the sky.

Realizing that their kindred and sibling was in mortal pain and that the world was in danger of being drowned by her tears the Devas conspired to create night and day.

Yamuna would cry during the day and only at night when the sun sets will her crying stop or abate. The tears that flow down Yamuna’s cheeks are, according to legend, the water that fills the river Yamuna.

There are a few temples dedicated to the Goddess Yamuna. The most famous Yamuna temple is located in the state of Uttarakhand at an altitude of 10, 797 feet.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Continue Reading

Goddess Ganga

The river Ganges is the third longest river in India and it is home to a host of rare aquatic species including the endangered South Asian River Dolphin which is split or divided into two exotic species, the Ganges River Dolphin and the Indus River Dolphin.

Many ancient kingdoms were situated along the river or close to its shores including the non-Vedic Kingdom of Magadha which was located in present day Bihar, just south of the Ganges River Basin.

The river according to both Hindu mythology and theology is a representation of the Goddess Ganga who comes to light in the Vamana Purana and she is none other than the daughter of Brahma.

The story begins when Vishnu at the behest of Aditi reincarnates in the physical world to end the reign of Bali who despite being born in the asura clan is a pious devotee of Vishnu.

Because of his devotion, he acquires enough powers to usurp the Devas (those who belong to the race of Gods) and conquer the three worlds (Triloka) or the three spheres of existence. The Devas who are suspicions of Bali’s intentions and apprehensive of his sudden rise to power appeal to Aditi, the Primordial Creatrix, as far as the Devas are concerned, for help, and she in turn extols Vishnu to intervene on behalf of the Devas.

Vishnu refuses at first but Aditi continues to plead and the mighty God not unaware of the dangers that Bali could pose to the Devas eventually relents.

As Vishnu’s next avatar starts to take shape, in the belly of the primeval ocean, the laments of the Devas grow louder, to the point that Vishnu is unable to complete the full term and is forced to manifest or appear prematurely and as a result his growth is stunted and he appears as a dwarf. Hence Vishnu’s Vamana avatar is also known as the dwarf avatar.

Vamana approaches Bali when the latter is performing an Ashwamedha and both Bali and Sukracharya, the Lord Preceptor of the Asuras, recognize Vamana for who he is but because Bali is a devote worshipper of Vishnu, he is pleased that the God has decided to grace the occasion with his presence, and offers to grant Vamana anything that he wishes for.

Vamana asks for all the land that he can cross in three steps and Bali readily agrees. As soon as Bali agrees Vamana grows in height and soon towers well above the sky and continues to grow indefinitely until he reaches the highest extremity of the present universe.

With his first step, he reaches Brahmaloka located in the highest precinct of the universe. As soon as Brahma senses that Vishnu has set foot on Brahmaloka he reaches for his water-pot to wash the foot of the mighty God. The water that flows from the sprout of his water pot is the Goddess Ganga.

Ganga swept through the heavens and through the celestial kingdom of Indra, her currents swift and strong, and she remained there until she was brought down to the earth to wash away the remains of Asamanjas and the other sixty thousand sons of King Sagara, with the help of Shiva, after they had been reduced to ashes by the sage Kapila.

According to the story, the spirits of Asamanjas and the sixty thousand sons of King Sagara remained behind and were prevented from crossing over because their last rites had not been completed in the prescribed manner. Kapila later granted the son of Asamanjas, Anśumat, the boon that his grandson will be able to wash away the sins of his father and his uncles.

By the time Anśumat’s grandson, Bhagirath, assumed the throne, the souls had turned malevolent and malicious and had begun to precipitate death and destruction in the kingdom of Kosala.

Bhagirath consulted the sages and discovered that the malady that had befallen his kingdom was caused by the restless souls of the sons of King Sagara and the only way he could rid the kingdom of the evil that plagued it was to wash away the remains of Sagara’s sons or as custom dictated have the ashes scattered in running water.

Unable to retrieve the ashes of Sagara’s sons, he asked Brahma for help who in turn told him that the ashes of Sagara’s sons could only be washed away by the Goddess Ganga. However, he cautioned that Ganga was a willful and turbulent river and should she fall directly onto the earth it would tear the world asunder and therefore he told him to seek the help of Shiva to bring Ganga down from the heavens without destroying the world.

Bhagirath meditated upon Shiva and in time the God appeared before him and agreed to help him. Shiva sat in the meditative full lotus position and with the aid of Brahma convinced Ganga to fall unto the world. In order to break the fall, she first fell on Shiva’s matted dreadlocks and then flowed from his hair to the mortal world. It is said that bathing in the cool, crisp waters of the River Ganges absolves one of his or her sins.

There are very few temples dedicated to the Goddess Ganga and she isn’t worshipped in orthodox or contemporary Hindu circles and that might be due to her forceful and uncompromising nature.

One of the most famous temples dedicated to the Goddess Ganga is in Bharatpur. It is an exquisite two storied red sandstone temple built at the turn of the last century.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Continue Reading

Chandika

Chandika is a Hindu Goddess of some significance but she is rarely worshiped in orthodox Hindu circles and though she is mentioned in various shlokas and in the Devi Kavacham (armor of the Goddess) her worship is anything but common.

She is more worshiped in Nepal, especially among the hill tribes than anywhere else, and many of the rites and rituals accorded to her are shamanic in essence.

Before I go any further let me first elaborate on the word Chandi and the various meanings attached to it. The word Chandi simply means mistress and denotes a feminine power of greater authority. It has different connotations or implications and its interpretation depends on the context it is used in but all of them relate to a higher feminine power, for example the Chandi Path (the path of the Goddess).

Chandi in South-East Asia refers to small places of worship constructed in some of the South-East Asian nations like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia by visiting traders (most likely).

These places of worship include, in addition to intricate carvings and sculptures, clay and terracotta representations of Hindu deities and other heavenly and celestial beings associated to Hinduism (Chandi No. 11 – Lembah Bujang, Kedah). It is safe to say that these Chandis were constructed at least a thousand years ago, if not earlier.

In addition to being places of worship I am convinced that these Chandis were markers that marked a trade route that connected various parts of ancient India to Southern China and the initial voyage to the Malay Peninsula and the Isles of Indonesia was made by sea i.e. the route was part maritime and part land.

If the origins of these Chandis were uncovered or unraveled, it would most likely shed more light on the mysterious religious rites and rituals of Angkor. It is in reality a facet of Hinduism that we know very little about.

These Chandis may have also served another purpose and I’m inclined to think that some of them were mausoleums that were erected to honor high-ranking members who died along the journey or local chieftains of some note.

They may have been an outflow of a unique blend of Hinduism that culminated in Angkor and the total shift outwards may have erased all tangible evidence of the source of these archaic rites and rituals that without doubt originated in the sub-continent. This can be adduced by the clearly discernible Vedic and Sanskrit influences.

The next meaning that is attached to Chandi is shamanic and it is tribal in essence. Chandi in this context refers to the returning spirit of a young maiden usually in the prime of her youth, deprived of the pleasures of existence because of an untimely death that occurred in a particularly brutal manner i.e. accidents or murders. It is usually the latter and it does not exclude ritualistic murders.

This is the reason why some sources refer to Chandi as a malevolent deity or a deity that is found in the most uncommon places. This type of worship is however limited only to specific hill tribes (Nepal).

Having clarified the meaning of the word Chandi, let me now elaborate on the Goddess Chandika. The Goddess is an extremely potent form or manifestation of the Goddess Durga and very much akin to the Goddess Chamunda (Chamundi), the slayer of the asuras, Chanda and Munda.

They are similar in that they both emanate from Durga but they are not the same. Chamunda is a Goddess that is worshiped in contemporary Hindu circles and this is made evident by the popular recital of her mantra “om aim hreem kleem chamundaye vichche”.

Chandika on the other hand is rarely worshiped in orthodox Hindu circles because it is, to put it mildly, difficult to channel the energy that one derives from her worship.

In most instances, she in only worshiped by those who are willing or competent enough to make the required sacrifices and in most cases this is limited to orthodox kysastrias including those who belong to the hill tribes of Nepal. She is a bali-devata and therefore she is a Goddess that is worshiped with offerings, often sacrificial in nature, made or performed in a stipulated manner.

According to most sources (shamanic) Chandika is a Goddess that picks or selects her worshipers and therefore her worship is not as popular as one would expect it to be.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Continue Reading

Hidimba Devi (Hidimbi)

Hidimba Devi (Hidimbi) is a Goddess who is primarily worshiped in the state of Himachal Pradesh. She is not an orthodox deity and she is from the race of rakshashas (giants) who according to the Puranas are descendants of the Sage Kashyapa, one of the 7 Saptarishis (according to the Mahabharata) i.e. the 7 sages who remain constant in each manvantara and the daughter of Daksha (one of the 10 manasa putras or those who were born from Brahma’s intellect) and Krodhavasha.

An interesting fact about the rakshashas is that, in addition to being gifted with tremendous strength, they also have the ability, though they look ferocious and intimidating in their natural state, to take human shape and form or assume any form that they desire for that matter, and they may appear as either male or female. In more contemporary terms, they are shape-shifters.

The next obvious question that springs to mind is that, is it possible to worship them? Well the answer in short, despite not falling into the folds of orthodox or conventional Hinduism, is yes.

In the Mahabharata for example, Amba in order to kill Devavrata (Bhishma as he was known after he’d taken the oath of celibacy or he who’d taken the terrible vow) meditates in a secluded forest and after years of silent devotion gains or acquires the power of the rakshashas and Amba in addition to gaining the strength of giants also acquires the ability to shift-shapes and goes from being a female to a male and is later appointed Arjuna’s charioteer in Kurukshetra.

Because Amba was born a female, she is untouched by Bhishma, who abided strictly to the kysastria code, which prohibited a warrior from inflicting any type of harm or injury to a woman and eventually she helps Arjuna defeat Bhishma. So it is definitely possible and it may be a facet of Hinduism that remains as yet unexplored.

Hdimba Devi’s story starts in the Mahabharata and to some extent it is safe to say that she is a Goddess who surfaced towards the end of Dwapara Yuga and at the start of Kali Yuga and from that aspect or perspective of things, her appearance does conform to the scriptures because Kurukshetra also signals the end of orthodox Hindu practices and the start or the beginning of more ritualistic types of worship (according to most sources Dwapara Yuga ends with Arjuna’s victory in Kurukshetra).

In the story, after the Pandavas escape from Lakshagraha (a house built from highly flammable material that was designed to be a death-trap) they found themselves in a dense forest occupied by Hidimba (male) and Hidimbi (female), who are siblings.

Rakshashas by the way, in addition to being savage looking also feed on human flesh and sensing that the Pandavas had entered their forest, Hidimba sends his sister to lure them into a trap. Hidimbi takes the form of a sultry woman and makes her way to where the Pandavas are resting.

She soon stumbles across Bhima or the second of the Pandava brothers and she instantly falls in love with him and instead of luring him into a trap, as she was supposed to, she asks him to marry her but not before revealing her true identity.

Bhima agrees to do so and with Hidimbi’s help he manages to kill Hidimba. The pair marry soon after and are gifted with a son, Ghatotkacha, who was later summoned to fight along with the rest of the Pandavas in Kurukshetra where he meets his end in the hands of Karna.

The above story tells us a lot about Hidimba Devi. To start with because she is a descendent of the race of rakshashas she is most likely a Bali-Devata. Though there is no harm in worshiping her with vegetarian offerings there might be instances where she would be worshipped with ritualistic (sacrificial) type offerings.

Because of her nature she is a strong Goddess, forceful in her approach and therefore diligent worship will reward the devotee(s) with both mental and physical strength.

She is a potent Goddess especially when it comes to removing hexes and maledictions and will no doubt have the power to forcefully eject any spirit that has invaded the body and thus she is extremely helpful during exorcisms.

Her temple is located in Himachal Pradesh and it is built, according to most sources at the spot where she sat in deep meditation, in Manali. It was built in 1553 but remains stolid until today.

Now, if we go by the Mahabharata, Manali or the area around Manali is most likely the dense forest that the Pandavas entered following their escape from Lakshagraha and the spot where the temple is built was the spot where she sat in silent contemplation with her brother Hidimba, next to her, when the Pandavas encroached into their territories.

It is also fair to say that she is a guardian deity who is peculiar to this part of the world or pertinent to those who originate from this part of the world.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Continue Reading

Arjuna’s Penance – Mahabalipuram

Arjuna’s Penance is a sculpture chiseled on two blocks of adjacent rocks that are located in the town of Mahabalipuram approximately 58 km from the capital of the state of Tamilnadu, Chennai. It is a rock carving that was done about the 7th century and it is a legacy left behind by the Pallava Rulers of the South. While some writers refer to the town as Mamallapuram I’m going to stick to the time-tested Mahabalipuram for the simple reason that the name does have some significance which is not only limited to the historic sphere but further extends to religious circles.

According to most sources the sculpture represents rock cut depictions of two myths both Mahabharata related in inference or in reference to the war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas.

The first myth or the most common interpretation of Arjuna’s Penance is that it refers to the austerities that Arjuna performed to gain Shiva’s weapon Pashupatastra, a Divya (celestial) Astra (bolt, arrow, missile) that could be fired by thought i.e. a mind controlled weapon.

According to the story, Arjuna set up a hermitage and started meditating while sitting cross-legged in front of a linga (an image or a representation of God) and while he was in silent contemplation and deep meditation he was attacked by a boar (some sources have the boar as an asura). Arjuna who had his bow Gandiva at hand (the bow was created by Brahma who was also its first user) quickly loaded his bow with an arrow and fired at the beast, killing it instantly.

Arjuna then walked over to inspect the remains and was surprised to discover two arrows in the carcass and this is when he first comes across Shiva or the hunter aspect or manifestation of Shiva.

The reason I have elaborated on the story is because there are other rock cut depictions in Mahabalipuram of Varaha (Vishnu’s boar avatar).

The second myth is also related to the Mahabharata and according to some sources the depictions on the adjoining blocks of rock tell the story of the descent of Ganga (the Daughter of Brahma) who first came to light when Brahma used the water in his water-pot to wash Vamana’s foot (the dwarf avatar of Vishnu) when his foot touched Bramaloka.

Ganga was brought down to the earth to wash away the remains of Asamanjas and the other sixty thousand sons of King Sagara, with the help of Shiva, after they had been reduced to ashes by the sage Kapila.

Among other things Mahabalipuram is also famous for its rock cut temples or mandavas (pillared halls for public rituals) including the Varaha cave (in honor of the boar-headed avatar of Vishnu) and like other Pallava cave temples these caves are famous for the stone engravings that have been chiseled out of sheer rocks that line their walls.

The question that has always come to mind or to my mind anyway is what were these cave temples or halls used for? The orthodox Hindu connotations are fairly obvious but I don’t think they were created for mere decorative purposes and I pondered on it for a very long time until strangely enough the answer or what I believe to be the answer was given to me by a cab driver (you’d be surprised as to who understands Sanskrit these days). He was a Maratha lad and probably had a different view or perspective on things then I did.

He said to me to try the literal interpretation of Mahabalipuram or interpret the word Mahabalipuram as it is. Well, Mahabalipuram is made up three words but it is pronounced as a single word. Maha which means great, bali which means offerings or sacrifices and puram which means city or fortress.

Mahabalipuram interpreted in the orthodox or conventional manner simply means city of great sacrifices or great city of sacrifices and the world bali here does not mean offerings in the softer sense of the word or as I normally use it to lessen the impact. It actually means ritualistic sacrifices.

Using this alternate interpretation of the word it is possible to come to the conclusion that the rock-cut caves or mandavas were there for people to either observe ritualistic sacrifices or were sacrificial chambers where ritualistic sacrifices were performed and I can’t help but wonder what one would find if they excavated the ground beneath the rock-cut temples or mandavas.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Continue Reading

Pooja (Puja) II – Items at an altar

Having acquired some understanding of the altar and having gained some knowledge as to how to set it up, it is now time for us to take a closer look at the other items that are used to make the altar more presentable and more acceptable or suitable for worship.

Let us start with the oil lamp which is crucial to worship. The lamp is fueled either by ghee, gingelly oil or unadulterated coconut oil. Under no circumstances must palm oil or groundnut oil be used to fuel the lamp. Gingelly oil is probably the cheapest, ghee and unadulterated coconut oil are fairly expensive and therefore it is far more economical to use gingelly oil.

The wick is lit prior to the Pooja being started and it is kept alight for the duration of the Pooja. Once the Pooja is over, after a reasonable time (at homes it is usually half an hour to an hour after the Pooja has been concluded) it is put out and the Pooja area cordoned off.

The lamp is put out using either a flower or by drowning the wick in the ghee or the oil that fuels the lamp. The flame cannot be put out by blowing at it or by fanning at it with the hands. It is also inauspicious to allow the lamp to burn out by itself.

According to orthodox Hindu practices the wick must be lit by the lady of the house, failing which someone who has attained the status or is on his or her way to attaining the status of a priest or a religious guru or a teacher may light the wick.

Given the orthodox Hindu requirements it may be easier for a person to just attend Poojas at a temple especially if the person is staying close to a temple.

It is also relevant at this stage to elaborate on some of the flowers and leaves that are used during Pooja. God resides in the lotus of our hearts and therefore God is best worshipped in the presence of flowers and sacred leaves.

It is important to know which flowers and leaves are appropriate for worship and which are not. There is normally a flower, a leaf or a blade of grass (there are various types of grass) that corresponds with the deities at the altar (each deity has a flower, leaf or grass that is associated or specific to him or her) and therefore it is essential to have some knowledge of the flowers, leaves and grass that are used in worship.

For starters flowers that do not fade should not be used for worship, for example plastic flowers. It also includes flowers like bougainvillea and Crossandra infundibuliformis (firecracker flower) or kanagambaram. It is essential that the flowers that are used fade and that they fade within a specified period.

Other items that are found at the altar include a small bell. The bell is rung at the start of the Pooja (in temples there is usually a huge brass bell located in a bell tower and the bell is rung by pulling a long rope) to alert everyone that it is time for worship and that they should make their way to the altar.

In addition to a small bell there is also a camphor holder to light camphor, an incense stick holder for incense sticks and a benzoin resin holder for lighted benzoin resins, all of which are considered essential items for a Pooja.

It is common practice to light incense sticks and benzoin resins just prior to the start or towards the completion of the Pooja and to leave the wick lighted until the incense sticks and the benzoin resins burn out. Camphor is lighted towards the end of the Pooja.

It is also customary to offer the deities at the altar food. God is the provider of all things and therefore it is only fitting and proper that we offer our food to the deities who are in fact representations of the omnipresent supreme-being before consuming the food ourselves to receive God’s blessings.

Food that is presented to all Hindu deities must be strictly vegetarian, unless it is presented to a Kaval Deivam (Guardian Deity) or a bali-deva or a bali-devata.

Even if a photo or a small statute of a bali-deva or a bali-devata is kept in the main altar the offerings must still be strictly vegetarian and there are no exceptions to this rule.

If the photo or a small stature of the bali-deva or bali-devata is kept some distance away from the main altar (usually outside the house) as it is with a Kaval Deivam then non-vegetarian offerings may be presented.

Disposing of Pooja items

Items used for the Pooja especially dried flowers, leaves and dried blades of grass are to be released in running water i.e. rivers. Under no circumstances are any of the items to be throw in drains or disposed of in the conventional manner. All Pooja items are nontoxic and therefore are not in any way harmful to the environment.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Continue Reading

Possession E-book

Possession

With the advent of the Christian church and post the Renaissance Period of the 16th century the “spirit” edge of the older religions had been blunted by a cultural revolution dictated by modern philosophies and the codification of preexisting myths into a comprehensive form of literature leading to a general dismissal of the spirit world as nonexistent or the product of a society that has not yet reached the pinnacle of its evolution.

Often however it is the rituals and practices of these “lesser evolved communities” that provide an answer when none other exists and it only stands to reason that when there is no other scientific or medical explanation available, the answer lies in the realm of the occult.

Occult practitioners and black magicians continue to earn a reasonable living preying on the calamities that befall others and isolated schools continue to exist for the astute pupil who is unable to afford the inflated cost of a college education. These schools provide a means to earning a livelihood from what is commonly perceived to be a forgotten art.

After an extended period of service, the graduating student is free to accumulate as much wealth as he desires. Man is by nature a pagan made to conform to accepted norms by the laws and agents of governance. If these laws failed to exist, he’d regress to his old ways very quickly.

The most common and widely practiced variant of black magic is necromancy. It is the art of summoning the dead and it is forbidden in most religious circles because of the devastating results it can produce. The practice is rampant in many communities and the most likely reason is because causing death by black magic is not yet a crime and therefore it remains the most common means of achieving an end.

Despite the intervention of the church these rituals continue to exist and the church itself does not deny the existence of spirits and other entities, divine or malevolent. The bible clearly tells us that where there is a body, there is a soul or a spirit.

The world that we live in is twofold and it can be divided into the material world i.e. the corporeal world and the spiritual world, a world that many are reluctant to admit or are compelled to find valid explanations for and most of us put it down to a trick of the mind. A trick of the mind it may be but not in the sense that many perceive it to be.

The mind itself is dualistic in nature and it is divided into the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. The conscious mind is that which is most commonly used in our day to day lives and almost 90% of the time we tend to reason things out.

The subconscious mind is the portion or section of the mind that’s always kept in abeyance, suppressed most of the time by the activities of the conscious mind and it only kicks in when the body goes into a state of paralysis, either natural or induced.

Natural paralysis occurs during sleep and induced paralysis occurs during hypnosis. In the latter state, the conscious mind is at its weakest and the subconscious mind is able to breach any resistance and break the invisible barrier that separates the conscious mind from the subconscious mind and the soul or the spirit is sometimes flung thousands of miles from its place of origin and it is often able to see and feel things that it otherwise would not.

Among the explanations offered for this phenomenon is that, the subconscious minds of all persons, past, present and possibly the future are linked to a super consciousness or a vast warehouse or a natural storage facility and we are therefore able to access the memories of another. It may also be called shared memory.

This would certainly explain that alternated personalities that often reveal themselves under hypnosis like in the case of T.E., a 37-year-old American housewife who under hypnosis became Jensen Jacoby from Sweden despite never having been to Sweden.

She started speaking in Swedish without warning and she spoke it like a native speaker, with a tinge of Norwegian. Researches later came to the conclusion that Jensen Jacoby, the alternate personality of T.E., was a Swedish immigrant who migrated to New Sweden in the 17th century.

More compelling yet is the case of Delores, who under hypnosis, to cure her back pain, suddenly started speaking in German. She not only spoke in fluent German but she also wrote in the language despite having no knowledge of German.

In later sessions, Gretchen, the alternate personality of Delores, went on to describe her previous life in Germany in detail, including aspects of her home, the names of her parents and her siblings, the town she lived in and the political situation in Germany at that time. She died when she was 16 years old from a sudden bout of fever.

Interestingly enough Gretchen did not share the same reality as Delores, which is usually the case with possessions. Gretchen was under the impression that she was speaking to strangers in the streets of her hometown in Germany, Eberswalde, some seventy odd years back.

Shared memory or something more alarming? The theory of the collective consciousness to some degree explains the case of Delores. The subconscious mind is a vast warehouse, a library of indefinite memories and if this theory were applied, it would explain the link between Gretchen and Delores. It is difficult for possession to occur over vast distances like that which separate the United States from Germany. It would have been different if Delores had actually been to Germany and visited or lived in Eberswalde.

For haunting or possessions to occur the victim needs to share a certain proximity to the spirit for example lived in the same house or used an item of jewelry that belonged to the spirit – time is but a relative mode of regarding things. Events may, in some sense, exist always, both in the past and in the future.

Time is like a moving picture reel, containing the future scene at the present moment, though out of sight, dream time is an absolute consciousness in which the past, the present and the future, exists as a single perception.

The Austrian Abbot Alois Weisinger, sheds more light on the subject. According to him, there are methods whereby a person can receive intimation of future events by dreams, of whatsoever his mind mediates upon. “Spirits” he says do show these things and give secret information and warnings, in dreams and visions.

Having witnessed these events personally and having had a firsthand view, of possession, trance and shamanic rituals, let me first caution the reader that this is not a journey for those with a timid mind. I can safely say that god is the best and only protection one can find.

“The Church” the learned abbot writes “does not deny the possibility of diabolical possession and it even has a special ordination conferring powers of exorcism for the casting out of devils, but she enjoins us to treat everything as natural until the contrary is proved, a rule that she applies with particular strictness when alleged miracles are cited in the canonization process.”

“In these circumstances, it is surely legitimate to present in the light of theology and of Christian philosophy an explanation which seems to come closer to the truth …. One could call this theory the theory of the spirit-soul and its basic assumption is that the depths of this spirit-soul are as yet insufficiently known to us.”

Max Heindel elaborates on the subject. Spirits and nature according to him are inexplicably connected and therefore there is a nexus between spirits and the land and this certainly holds true in cases of possession.

“In the middle ages, when many people were still endowed with a remnant of negative clairvoyance, they spoke of gnomes and elves or fairies, which roamed about the mountains and forests. These were the earth spirits. They also told of the undines or water sprites, which inhabited rivers and streams, of sylphs which were said to dwell in the mists above moat and moor as air spirits, but not much was said of the salamanders, as they are fire spirits, and therefore not so easily detected, nor so readily accessible to the majority of people.”

From the above paragraph we can adduce that spirits not only exist but can further be divided into different types of spirits i.e. earth, water, air and fire spirits and it further implies a nexus between spirits and the elements, using the contemporary definition of elements.

More compelling then situations where the alternate personality appears under hypnosis are cases where the other personality appears spontaneously without warning and the subject begins to talk and act in a manner that’s completely different to his or her normal self. The case of Uttar Huddar and her alternate personality Sharada is extremely moving.

Sharada first appeared in 1974, when Huddar was thirty-three years old speaking Bengali and dressing in Bengali style rather than in the style appropriate to her home state of Maharashtra. She appeared in a hospital where Huddar was being treated for a psychological illness. Sharada displayed no knowledge of modern innovations and lacked the ability to use modern utensils. It was like she had stepped out from another time.

Sharada provided the names of her family members in Bengal to investigators, which were later verified through Bengali genealogical records. Huddar, the actual personality, had no knowledge of these family members.

Sharada was not aware that she was dead and she acted as if she was still alive. Sharada did state however that she was bitten on the toe of her right foot by a cobra, which was the last incident that she described in her life, without realizing that she had died from the snake bite.

Post the First World War there was a surge in occult studies and Freud attributed it to the desperate search for answers outside the traditional sphere of religion to the political turmoil, economic collapse and the social dislocation that followed the war.

Freud further went on to speculate that scientific discoveries and theories stimulated public interest in the occult and he cited the discovery of radium and the theory of relativity as two examples that undermined the integrity of science.

He considered a possible connection between occultist and psychoanalysts on the basis that modern science rejected both and discredited both as disreputable. We should he said “be prepared to find reciprocal sympathy between them”. “They have both experienced the same contemptuous and arrogant treatment by official science”.

What many students of the occult fail to understand is that occultism is as much a science of the mind as it is a science of faith and answers unravel themselves quicker when a student is prepared to probe the subtle nuances of the mind. True magic originates from the self and it can only be tapped by developing one’s own inner and lofty nature. The key ingredient is faith.

The field of studying the unknown or parapsychology was for many years regarded as mysticism and the hesitation to formally recognize it as a science of the mind was attributed to the fact that should its nexus to occultism be proved by the principle of analytics, committed to a dispassionate appraisal of the facts, the foundations of modern science would collapse.

Freud predicted that occultists “will be hailed as liberators from the burden of intellectual bondage, they will be joyfully acclaimed by all the credulity lying ready to hand since the infancy of the human race and the childhood of the individual. There may follow a fearful collapse of critical thought, of determinist standard and of mechanistic science”.

Freud feared that the formal recognition of occultism would spell the end of legitimization and exterminate the need for analytics. If occultists were able to provide all the answers there was no longer a need for laborious procedures. So profound were his fears that he subsequently felt obliged to limit his studies of the occult to his personal capacity and he withheld his findings from the public domain.

Occultism is closely related to mathematics and it is a science of formulas and equations. It is not the random summoning of spiritual matter but the logical step by step accumulation of spiritual knowledge. Mastery of the occult science is the culmination of specific processes and procedures that produce a desired result.

When the apprentice begins to explore the many facets of the mind answers will unfold in numerous ways. The most common method of stumbling across these answers which initially won’t make sense is through sleep either natural or induced. Carl Jung the renowned Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist was a noted proponent of the occult.

Jung was admitted in a hospital after a minor mishap and during treatment he lost consciousness. He experienced a phenomenon commonly referred to as the outer body experience. It is easily distinguishable from a dream because the symptoms are markedly different. In a dream, the sleeper withdraws slipping into a corridor of the mind. During the outer body experience, the sleeper finds himself drifting upwards away from his body before there is a burst and he is flung thousands of miles away from his physical embodiment.

Jung found himself floating thousands of miles above the earth traveling vast distances in a matter of seconds. He hovered above oceans before crossing arid sand filled deserts and found himself seated atop the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas. He was almost propelled out of orbit before he turned back and drifted south towards a huge monolith when he saw the entrance to a temple and before it was a Hindu sage sitting on a lotus. He realized that inside the temple was the answer to his existence. When a person experiences this phenomenon he has breached the barrier that stands between intellectual imprisonment and spiritual freedom.

Let us now look at situations where a person receives intimation with regards to a future event. On the morning of June 28, 1914 at approximately 3.15 am Bishop Lanyi wrote “I awoke from a terrible dream. I dreamt that I had gone to my desk early in the morning to look through the mail that had come in. On top of all the other letters there lay one with a black border, a black seal, and the arms of the Archduke (Francis Ferdinand)”.

“I immediately recognized the letter’s handwriting, and saw at the head of the notepaper in blue coloring a picture which showed me a street and a narrow side-street. Their highnesses sat in a car, opposite them sat a general and an officer next to the chauffeur”.

“On both sides of the street there was a large crowd. Two young men sprang forward and shot at their highnesses”. “The text of the letter was as follows: ‘Dear Dr Lanyi: Your Excellency. I wish to inform you that my wife and I were the victims of a political assassination. We recommend ourselves to your prayers. Cordial greetings from your Archduke Franz. Sarajevo, June 28, 3.15 a.m.”

Having written the document, Bishop Lanyi dressed, called the household together, gave them the sad news that he had received and said that he would at once offer mass for their highnesses in his private chapel.

At 3.30 p.m. on that same day, June 28, 1914, a telegram arrived to say that the Archduke and his wife had been assassinated in Sarajevo. The crime occurred at 11 a.m., nearly eight hours after the Archduke had notified Bishop Lanyi of his own murder.

As aspiring parapsychologists, we need to find a determinant that will help us distinguish between intimations and alternate personalities that are a result of a person’s own latent abilities and actual cases of possession, which is by virtue a difficult proposition.

In 1671 in Groton Massachusetts a young lady by the name of Elizabeth Knapp began to display signs of an alternate personality.

She was a servant in the Willard household, and without warning the sixteen-year-old began to act in a strange manner and would burst into inexplicable laughter or utter audible shrieks when asked what was wrong.

Her condition deteriorated rapidly and she had even complained of strangulation and had attempted to throw herself into the fire on several occasions.

Knapp would make senseless statements repeating the words “money, money,” and sometimes “sin and misery” and her body would go into violent convulsions.

“Her tongue would be for many hours glued to the roof of her mouth, so that no fingers applied to it could remove it. Six men were scarce able to hold her in some of her fits, but she would skip about the house yelling and howling and looking hideous, her tongue being drawn out of her mouth to an extraordinary length”.

In his book, “Epidemiological Spirit Possession among the Maasai in Tanzania” Finnish author Arvi Hurskainen states that a large number of Maasai women experience possession at some time or other. “In a certain survey almost half (47%) of adult females had experienced the spirit possession phenomena and in almost half of the spirit possession cases the women had reproductive problems” – reproductive problems are among the over 100 symptoms of spirit possession.

In a case published in the East African Medical Journal, November 2000 edition, “E.D., a twenty-three-year-old single male from Kpando Dzoanti in the Volta Region of Ghana, a predominantly rural area of Ghana attended a general adult psychiatric outpatient clinic at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital (APH). He was accompanied by his mother and other relatives who claimed that E.D. had been possessed by a spirit for the past three years.

“The onset of his “possession” was sudden and started just before his final examination at his college. He believed that a spirit had taken hold of him and that it had made him so forgetful, that he could not take his examinations.

He also started behaving “abnormally” and this included wondering around aimlessly in his village. He further claimed that he had no control over his actions.

In his own words …. “It was the spirit that was making me do it, and putting thoughts into my mind, which are foreign to my religious beliefs as a Roman Catholic.” According to him he could hear voices from outside his head, commenting on his actions and criticizing some of them. He was certain that the voices were that of the spirit.

One of the most talked about cases of possession in recent times is that of Anneliese Michel. I’m not going to go into the facts of the case too much but it is important because it dismisses many of the myths that are often associated with the possession phenomenon.

Firstly, it clearly tells that possession doesn’t only occur in rural, isolated communities and that it can also happen in modern, contemporary societies and secondly, it also tells us that the Roman Catholic Church does perform exorcisms but it does so very rarely and with a great deal of hesitation – the facts of the case will explain its reluctance.

In this particular case the victim after having displayed outward signs of possession received a lot of medical attention but the medications didn’t seem to have any effect on her and according to most sources she displayed 6 different alternate personalities. Her condition deteriorated with time despite taking the medication that was prescribed and the intervention of the church. To some degree she was like the girl Regan in the movie the exorcist.

The movie, by the way, was based on a novel by William Blatty but what many people don’t realize is that the book itself was based on a true story. The child was a 13-year-old boy who was particularly attached to his aunty, a spiritualist and she introduced him to the Ouija board.

When she died, he tried to contact her through the Ouija board and that’s how the whole thing started. The boy was assigned the pseudonym Roland Doe by the priests who performed the exorcism.

Both cases were well documented because the cases went to trial and there are pages of transcripts that a diligent student can siphon through.

As to denomination of the church that performed the exorcism, it was the Roman Catholic Church or to be more precise the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) who without doubt have a lot of experience in the field particularly because of their work in South America, where cases of possession are more frequent. Exorcisms are a lot more common that a lot of people perceive them to be.

As paranormal researchers, we need to know and to understand as much about the possession phenomenon as possible and to realize that it occurs in most communities and to draw parallels where possible.

We have to establish, if possible, certain rules or guidelines to aid us in our research. To start with we have to have it clear in our heads that possession in most cases, does not occur on its own. There has to be something that has triggered the possession as in the case of Ronald Doe – the Ouija board.

It also tells how dangerous Ouija boards really are. Similarly, another common game, especially among young teenagers, the spirit of the coin, can also produce similar undesirable results – the older the coin, the more potent the spirit that is summoned.

Possession in most cases starts with the victim coming in contact with something that is owned by the dead person and if the person has died an untimely death or an unnatural death for example death by accident or suicide then the lingering spirit has a greater propensity to haunt or possess.

These spirits are extremely restless and in instances of such deaths it is best to find out if the last rites had been performed and if they had been performed in accordance with the dead person’s religion.

If the last rites have not been performed then it is just best to perform the last rites as dictated by custom, tradition, and religion and to try and set the spirit at ease and to prompt it to leave the world of the living and continue with its journey to the hereafter.

What is extremely compelling in the case of Anneliese was the grueling manner in which the exorcism was performed and it ultimately led to her death. The priests were charged with negligent homicide and the cause of death was determined as malnutrition and dehydration.

Paranormal research requires a high degree of self-honesty. If we were to, by chance, stumble across cases of what could be actual instances of possession than there is always the possibility that we can’t cure or help the victim and that being the case it is best to leave it to someone who is better at it.

Let us now look at another variant of the possession phenomenon that is equally challenging where the victims acquire the ability to receive intimation of future events and are able to speak in languages that are previously unknown to them.

In 1906 a young orphan at St. Michael’s Mission in Natal, South Africa was recorded as being possessed but unlike the previous two cases of possession that we have already mentioned, Clara Germana Cele, a 16-year-old girl of native African origin became the sudden recipient of gifts that could at best be only described as extraordinary.

The child was suddenly able to speak and understand several languages, which she had no prior knowledge of and she could see into the future especially with events pertaining to the people around her.

Before I go any further I’d like to point out that the ability to speak in tongues or speak in languages that the speaker has no prior knowledge of and the ability to see into the future is also common among those who are extremely pious.

The apostles for example could speak in other languages and the Book of Corinthians tells us of people with special skills who are not only able to speak in languages that are unknown to them but are also able to interpreted what others have said in languages that they are unfamiliar with.

Likewise, the dream that Bishop Lanyi had prior to the Sarajevo murders also clearly tells us that people who are devoted to their faith do receive intimations of future events with regards or reference to others who are close to them.

Based on the two exceptional gifts that the 16-year-old Clara Germana Cele had displayed it is impossible to ascertain whether she was possessed or otherwise and if anything, she seemed to display outward signs of having acquired talents or abilities that belonged solely within the pages of a bible.

Therefore, it is not a phenomenon that is novel or unheard of but the question all researchers must ask themselves is where does the ability come or stem from? Is it from a source that we perceive to be divine or is from a source that one would call or consider unwholesome.

I must also throw into the equation the fact that normal people have in the past suddenly displayed the ability to not only speak but to also write in languages that they have no prior knowledge of under the influence of a hypnotist as in the case of T.E. and Delores – two cases that we have touched on earlier.

As paranormal researchers, we cannot come to the conclusion that someone is possessed based on the fact that they have suddenly acquired the ability to speak in different languages or receive intimation of future events because there may be other factors that we are unaware of that has helped them acquire their abilities.

There were however some other disturbing facts in case that led those around her to conclude that Clara was indeed possessed. Firstly, she began to resent all forms of religious artifacts or suffered from a sudden bout of religiophobia and secondly she responded violently to the priests who attended to her. In addition to that she was also able to levitate or float up in the air without the aid of any mechanical contraptions.

None of the facts on their own would lead us to the conclusion that the child was possessed but if we look at it as a whole, assuming that Clara had acquired the skills at the same time that she started resenting priests and avoiding religious artifacts, it can lead investigators to the conclusion that the child had indeed acquired her sudden abilities as a result of diabolical possession.

Would the situation have been any different if the child did not display any form of resentment towards her religion and religious artifacts? I think the answer would be in the affirmative.

Fortunately, Clara was not subjected to prolonged periods of exorcism and her sessions were over within a matter of days and she was back to her normal self once the sessions were concluded. According to the priests who performed the exorcism the possession was triggered when the child made a pact with satan.

In more recent times a woman named “Julia” began displaying the same symptoms as Clara Germana Cele. Julia had a history of being involved with satanic groups and because it occurred less than a decade ago (2008), there appears to be irrefutable evidence to suggest that all of the above can and did occur.

Julia was observed by a team of priests, assistants, laymen and qualified psychiatrists who in addition to witnessing all the symptoms in the case of Clara Germana Cele, also witnessed books, dishes and other items flying around the room when the alternate personalities appeared. It eventually led them to the conclusion that Julia was indeed demonically possessed.

I must add however that Julia had never been in favor of the church and this is made amply evident by her involvement with satanic groups, prior to her being diagnosed as suffering from possession and therefore her resentment towards priests and other religious artifacts should not be factored into the equation.

The other point I’d like to raise with reference to diabolical possessions is, if we do start recognizing diabolical possession as something that occurs naturally without conducting more research on the subject, what happens when it is raised as a defense say for example in a homicide?

That was exactly what happened in the case of Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Arne). It was the first case in the United States where the defense sought an acquittal for murder by virtue of the defendant being a victim of diabolic possession.

Prior to committing the murder, the defendant had participated in three exorcisms involving his girlfriend’s 11-year-old brother David who according to reports was possessed by 43 different spirits and in one of the sessions Arne had challenged one of the spirits to enter his body and was possessed as a result.

Arne didn’t have any prior convictions and from all accounts he was a normal person. He changed after the incident during the exorcism session and he developed an alternate personality that would appear in a particularly menacing or intimidating manner. Most sources conclude that he was possessed by the spirit that he had challenged.

Prior to the murder Arne and his landlord, Allan, had been seen drinking heavily in the company of Arne’s girlfriend, Deborah, after which they returned to the apartment that Arne and Deborah shared. A fight broke out between Arne and Allan and in the scuffle that followed Arne stabbed Allan. The defense went to great lengths to try and establish diabolical possession.

At this stage it is important to mention that exorcisms can not only go wrong but can go drastically wrong at times so it’s best not to attempt them unless one is rigorously trained and mentally conditioned to perform them.

In 2014 a Maryland woman and her friend stabbed her two toddlers to death and injured her two other children while performing an exorcism because they thought the “the devil was inside” the children.

The pair later told the police that they were part of a demon assassin cult whose calling was to hunt demons. It may sound like it was taken out of the pages of a fantasy fiction novel but there are people who think in this manner and become overly preoccupied with the concept of good and evil. What’s good and what’s evil is subjective and it is often a question of perception. It differs from person to person.

In the Son of Sam case, David Berkowitz claimed that he was ordered to kill 6 victims and injure 7 others by his neighbor’s dog Harvey. The dog was a four-legged representation of a demon and it belonged to his neighbor Sam.

A lot of what was said or written looked like facts or details that someone could have picked out from a book and structured or organized to make it look like a crime that was committed as a result of diabolical possession. Therefore it is difficult to determine if it was indeed diabolical possession or something else that compelled the perpetrator to kill.

The accused confessed to the crimes but later amended his confession to say that he was a member of a violent satanic cult and that streamlined his account with other cases of possession.

There is a standard pattern that emerges with possession in that the victim has an intense aversion to anything that is holy or sacred, including blessed objects and images. So if for some reason Arne or David didn’t display any type of aversion to religious objects then the chances are they were not possessed.

It is also worth adding the obvious in that, the “aversion to religions objects”, must be strong, tangible, discernable aversions as opposed to mere dismissals.

I’m also going to revert to instances of alternate personalities that appear under the influence of a hypnotist. If these alternate personalities are not averse to religion or religious artifacts then it is not possible for us to come to the conclusion that the subjects are possessed.

In the case of Delores for example, the alternate personality Gretchen Gottlieb, in one particular conversation mentioned Pope Leo several times and she repeatedly spoke of religious tensions.

Likewise, if there is an association to a satanic or demonic cult(s) it must be evident i.e. the victim must display or have knowledge that is peculiar to satanic cults or there should some tangible evidence that the victim (of possession) had been involved or has performed dark rites.

Thus far we’ve looked at cases of possession from the western perspective and to have a better understanding of the subject, it would be worth our while to briefly turn our attentions to the sub-continent (including Nepal and Bhutan) where possessions are much more frequent and where exorcisms are performed on an almost daily basis.

The concept of demonic possession does not exist in the sub-continent and while they are more common or more acceptable here, demonic possession is attributed solely to malevolent or malicious spirits and are perceived to be the returning spirits of those that have died an un-timely death.

Possession is also attributed to malevolent spells or charms that have been directed at the victim as a result of jealously or some other enmity that though they may seem trivial and inconsequential to others are serious enough to warrant a visit to the local black magician.

The spirits that are used are the spirits that are most likely to possess a victim i.e. the spirits of those that have died as a result of accidents, murders or suicides.

The more grotesque the death the more vengeful the spirit and these spirits are classed or categorized as belligerent spirits. Regardless of whether possession occurs naturally or is the result of a curse or a malediction it often results in serious or fatal illnesses.

In countries like Bhutan even normal football matches require the intervention of a shaman and it is not uncommon for the opposing teams to visit their respective shamans prior to the match to bring about a turn of good-fortune.

The symptoms of possession are more or less the same everywhere and this includes the alternate personalities that appear. However, there is an additional element that isn’t mentioned or covered in cases of possessions that originate from the west in that possession or what we accept as possession is a state that can be induced i.e. the person as in the instances of shamans can decide whether he or she wants or wishes to be possessed.

Possession in the sub-continent can be divided into two types – induced possession as in the case of shamans or possession in the normal sense of the word or possession which occurs naturally.

The trance state is relevant in both instances because in either case there are visible changes in the shaman or the victim for example changes in their voice, in their mannerisms, in their appearance and sometimes the shaman or the victim displays additional abilities otherwise not associated to him or her for example the ability to speak in a different language or the sudden ability to predict or foretell future events (clairvoyance or pre-cognition).

Now, possession in the sub-continent is also divided into possession by divine entities for example heavenly and celestial deities and possession by malevolent spirits.

The former occurs mostly during non-Vedic religious festivities or unorthodox Hindu rites that are synonymous to the locality or the principality and the subject (not necessarily a shaman) goes into the trance state and starts to display all the symptoms that are associated to possession. The subject can slip into the trance state merely by chanting mantras.

This type of possession can also occur during prayers at home or at temples and it is by no means harmful. In most cases and instances it lasts for no longer than an hour or so and the subject is no worse for wear.

The latter type of trance state occurs naturally or when the victim has not done anything to prompt matters and it is classed or categorized as non-induced possession.

In almost all the latter type cases the victim is possessed by a spirit that is evil or malicious and it is either a result of unfortunate circumstance or the outcome of a hex that has been directed at the victim for some reason or another and in these instances the victim has to be exorcised to remove the malevolent spirit from the body and to rid the person of the curse or the malediction that has resulted in the victim being possessed.

Once it has been established that the victim has been possessed, the symptoms of possession are more or less the same with recorded cases in the west and once the victim has sought medical treatment (though I must admit that in many cases victims of perceived possession especially in rural areas are never brought before a physician) and the treatment does not seem to work then the victim is brought before a shaman and an exorcism is performed.

In many cases and instances, it works. Anyone who is willing to take a trip to certain rural areas in the sub-continent can witness these exorcisms personally.

The shaman usually treats the victim after she or she enters the trance state. What the exorcist or the shaman (they are the one and the same) does is that he or she allows the essence of a divine entity or a divinity to enter his or her physical body (the induce trance state) after performing certain rites or chanting specific mantras that are known only to them (these rites and mantras are kept secret and in many cases it is believed that the rites and mantras of invocation are given to the shaman prior to the shaman becoming a shaman by the divine spirit that has chosen the shaman to be its messenger).

Hindu priests do not perform exorcisms because it is not their role or function. The function of a priest is to keep the religions teachings intact and to adhere to or to conform to the rules of worship as prescribed by the Vedas and the Puranas.

Shamanic teachings are more sutra and tantric orientated and they are not rites and rituals associated with orthodox or contemporary Hinduism.

Cases

Delores – Gretchen Gottlieb

On May 10, 1970, a Methodist minister by the name of Caroll Jay conducted a hypnosis session on his wife Delores with the aim and objective of curing her back pain. For those of you who are wondering why someone would go to a hypnotist to cure his or her back pain well the answer is because the pain may have been caused by an accident or an injury that the patient has forgotten about or it may be the result of repressed memories.

By bringing these memories to light, hypnotists hope to help patients come to terms with what’s happened and thereby put them on the road to recovery. It is a separate subject by itself and I’ll elaborate on it when the time permits.

While under hypnosis or induced sleep the hypnotist will ask the patient a series of questions and in the beginning at least, the patient will reply with a simple yes or no.

When Caroll started asking his wife questions under hypnosis, she did reply, as per the norm, but oddly enough she replied in a language that was foreign to her i.e. a language that she had no prior knowledge of and her answers were all in German.

This prompted Caroll to question his wife further and in so doing, he managed to establish the identity of the speaker. Her name was Gretchen Gottlieb and she was murdered when she was 16 years old by some men in a forest close to the town of Eberswalde, in the 1870’s, while she was waiting for her uncle. The information came to light after a series of sessions.

Gretchen lived in particularly difficult times, during a period known as Kulturkampf – which is in reference to a struggle between the Roman Catholic Church and the political powers that were trying to subject the church to a written constitution which under most circumstances will limit or place constrains on the powers of the church.

She also lived during the time of Martin Luther who was a German professor of theology, a priest, a monk and a protestant reformist. Gretchen clearly indicated that she was a Roman Catholic and that she was uncomfortable with the changes that were taking place to the extent that she was intimidated by what was happening and transpiring around her.

She was the only daughter of Herman and Erika Gottlieb. Herman was the town burgomaster (mayor). Her mother Erika had passed away when she was 8 and she lived with her father Herman who she described as an elderly man with grey silvery hair. They were attended to by a cook Frau Schilder or Schiller.

Frau Schilder would bring her own children while she was in Gretchen’s home and Gretchen would play with her 4 children. They resided on a street called Birkenstrasse and her father from all accounts appeared to be a man of at least moderate means.

Gretchen was a well behaved girl who replied quietly to the questions that were posed to her. She was averse to the changes that were taking place and resented the implications on her family. The struggle between the church and the reformists had placed a great burden on her family and as a result her father had been imprisoned.

I think it’s safe to speculate a bit here and it is possible that her father had been imprisoned because of his views in favor of the Roman Catholic Church and that the young lady was distressed by his imprisonment.

According to most sources she didn’t know how to read or write but the alternate personality of Delores Jay wrote up to 40 words in German in one session. So there is some discrepancy there.

There is also some mystery surrounding her death. There are some sources that quote her as having died from a serious illness but all sources confirm that she died at the age of 16.

While there are suggestions that there may be a hint of possession, I’m going to rule it out. She wasn’t in favor of the reformists but she accepted her faith to the extent that she spoke freely about it. I’m also not certain if the line of questioning prompted her to speak about her religion or if Gretchen herself was trying to lead the people who were questioning her in another direction.

There are 3 possibilities that I would like to consider here. The first is that there is a genetic link i.e. a genetic component that stores the memories of earlier generations and hands it down to the next. These memories maybe repressed or suppressed memories and they may never come to light until and unless they are triggered by a specific event. In the case of Delores it was the act of subjecting her to hypnotic sleep.

However that would imply that there is a familial bond but according to the facts as they are, Gretchen was an only child and she died childless at a very young age. Therefore despite the theory being valid and applicable in certain situations, it does not warrant further examination in this particular instance.

The second possibility is that Caroll Jay whether intentionally or otherwise may have used a technique known as past life regression. It works on the principle that our mind is an unlimited storage facility and all things past, present and future are stored in the mind’s memory banks or as some people like to call it the unconscious or the subconscious mind. Past life regression is a process that unlocks the memories that are hidden in the endless vaults of our minds including those that belong to a past existence.

Therefore what has transpired during the numerous sessions is that the memories of Delores in her past life have been brought to light through the process of hypnosis. This of course would imply that life is a continuous process and that we all go through what is commonly known or perceived to be the birth-death cycle.

If the alternate personality was indeed the result of past life regression we can conclude that Delores was in fact Gretchen in her past life. During the regressive process, the hypnotist guides the patient (subject) back in time towards certain events in the past and it is possible that Caroll Jay, the hypnotist, went too far back in time and uncovered memories that belonged to Delores when she was Gretchen.

Gretchen is an extremely intriguing personality as far as alternate personalities go and there is something about her that paints a poignant picture. Even as I write this I can’t help but wonder if there is something that can be or should be done that we haven’t done or if there is something that we should do and that brings me to our third possibility.

Delores without knowing it or realizing it may be a spirit medium and Gretchen used her to communicate with the hypnotist. I don’t know if it is possible to study to become a spiritual medium or if it possible to acquire the knowledge through books and other reading materials using the contemporary meaning that is attached to study.

It is possible in Hinduism but it requires the help of a teacher who is well versed in the relevant texts and they are not easy to find. In most cases however it is a latent ability that many people have and they are not aware of it until something prompts them or urges them in the appropriate direction.

According to most sources spirit mediums draw their energy from spirits around them which is not wrong and it leads me to come to the conclusion that there must have been something in the room or thereabouts that belonged to Gretchen.

It must have been something she valued for example a doll, an item of furniture or jewelry, the possibilities are endless, and Gretchen’s spirit is somehow attached to that item. It’s not really possession at all; it’s just that Gretchen’s spirit has used Delores as a channel to communicate with others.

Spirits especially of those who have died under unnatural circumstances tend to linger around the people or the objects that they value most. In Gretchen’s case she died an untimely death and her spirit may linger around an object that she particularly cherished.

The object was most likely in the room and when Delores was put under hypnotic sleep, the channels were opened i.e. Delores became the conduit through which Gretchen relayed her message(s).

So what did Gretchen really want? I think the only thing she wanted or desired was to tell her story and it is a compelling story that is worth telling a hundred times over. I think she wanted to be accorded her last rites in the manner that she was accustomed to or in the manner in which her mother was buried in.

She was murdered and her father was in prison at the time of her death. She may never have been buried in the manner prescribed by the Roman Catholic faith and she may never have been accorded her last rites. Doing so in the manner prescribed by the faith and religion she was born in and accepted may set her spirit at ease.

Sharada – Uttara Huddar

The case of Uttara Huddar and her alternate personality Sharada presents us with a unique opportunity to study what might possibly be an actual case of an external alternate personality entering the body of another, which results in dramatic changes to the actual person.

Let us start by looking into the personalities of both Uttara Huddar and her alternate personality Sharada to give us some understanding of both personalities and to try and comprehend the cultural diversity that separates both personalities and the salient features or factors that brought them together and eventuated in a melding of sorts. Before we go any further let me just say that I am not at all convinced that this is a case of possession in the ordinary sense of the word.

Uttara Huddar was born on Friday, the 14th of March 1941 (Friday is a day synonymous to Sukracharya. Persons born on this day, theologically at least, have the faculty to see into the past, present and the future and have an affinity to the dead by virtue of Sukracharya’s ability to raise the dead) in Nagpur (a city in Maharashtra).

Venus (Sukra) is the governing planet and persons born on this day also have a closer affinity to the Goddess Durga than others. It is the prescribed day to worship the Goddess.

Furthermore, Uttara Huddar was born on the day, Holi, an important festival in the Hindu calendar was celebrated in 1941. Narashima the fourth incarnate of Vishnu was born on Holi. Under normal circumstances I’d also look into the time of her birth but since there is nothing available to confirm her time of birth, we’ll have to run with what we have.

Uttara Huddar was born in Nagpur which probably derives its name from the Sanskrit word Naga which means cobra. According to Uttara’s mother, when she was pregnant with Uttara, she had repeated dreams of being bitten by a snake on the foot and as a child Uttara was unusually afraid of snakes and suffered from acute ophiophobia.

Uttara was the 5th of six children born to the Huddars. Her father, G.M. Huddar was from Maharashtra and her mother Manorama was from the south. She had a normal childhood and like her father she took an interest it Bengali literature, artifacts and Bengali people. Being a native Maharashtrian she dressed, spoke and acted in a manner that is peculiar to most Maharashtrians. Uttara had lived all her life in the areas of Nagpur and Wardha.

In school Uttara was an average student who actively participated in dance and drama. She studied Sanskrit for three years in high school and was privately tutored in Sanskrit for an additional year. She had even taken and passed a special examination in Sanskrit.

In college, however, she abandoned Sanskrit and took up science. Later she dropped science and studied English and public administration instead. Eventually she obtained a double M.A. in both subjects.

After graduating from college, she became a part-time lecturer in the postgraduate Department of Public Administration at Nagpur University and it was during her tenure at the university that the alternate personality of Sharada began to appear.

There are two points that I’d like to mention or highlight here. Firstly, Uttara was by no means an illiterate person. To the contrary she comes across as a learned person of at least average intelligence.

Secondly she was schooled in Sanskrit and had learned enough to read, understand and recite specific mantras and this is of some relevance or significance with regards to Sharada.

The alternate personality of Sharada emerged in 1974 when Uttara Huddar was 33 years old. She was unmarried at the time and according to most sources she still remains unmarried.

Sharada would continue to remerge on numerous occasions between 1974 – 1979. The Sharada phases would last anywhere from a day up to six weeks and eventually it became accepted as a fairly normal occurrence.

There was something else that occurred prior to the onset of the Sharada personality. Uttara had a met a young man that she liked. Could Sharada have been a defensive mechanism that was triggered by the appearance of the young man? The possibilities are there especially because Uttara knew Sanskrit and if she recited mantras that were relevant or pertinent to the Devi anything is possible.

In 1974 Uttara’s life changed completely when her personality was suddenly and unexpectedly supplanted by a new personality that appeared without notice. The name of the new personality that appeared was Sharada and she was completely different from Uttara. From all accounts and from cross referencing the details that were given by interviewers, researchers came to the conclusion that Sharada was someone who had lived between 1810 – 1830 in the state of Bengal and had died more than a century prior to Uttara’s birth.

Among all the alternate personalities that I have researched or come across, I’m particularly fascinated by Sharada because of her traits, characteristics and the physical changes that occurred when Sharada was in control.

Is it possible for two separate souls or spirits to share or inhabit the same body? The answer in short is yes. It is common among shamans and it includes changes in their voice, in their mannerisms and they may even acquire additional linguistic capabilities that are pertinent or relevant to the spirit that has taken temporary control of their body or physique.

It is called the induced trance state i.e. a state or a stage where a shaman allows another soul or spirit, be it celestial, heavenly or otherwise to enter his or her body and it is quite a common phenomenon.

That however does not imply that Uttara was a shaman, no, not by any stretch of the imagination. I am merely saying that the onset of the Sharada personality could have been either knowingly or unknowingly induced and that it is not an uncommon occurrence. The fact that Uttara was well versed in Sanskrit made it all the more plausible.

What makes Uttara special is the personality that she had induced i.e. Sharada. Before I go any further let us first look at Sharada and examine the information that has thus far been made available to us.

Sharada throughout most of her natural life was extremely devoted to the Goddess Durga and if someone were to ask me her caste I won’t hesitate to say that she was a Brahmin and it’s not because of the fact that she had a lot of Sanskrit influences in the way and manner in which she spoke Bengali (this became apparent during the interviews) but because of her devotion to the Goddess Durga.

Even today, worship of the Goddess Durga is limited only to the Brahmins in the north and while people in the south know of her, they don’t worship her to the extent and in the manner that the Northern Brahmins do. Nepal is the only exception.

In short she is not a Goddess who is popular among other castes and that raises or possess another interesting question, how did Uttara merge or meld with an alternate personality that is so diverse? I dare say that Uttara wasn’t a Brahmin because her father was from Maharashtra and her mother was from the south.

Brahmins don’t generally marry out of caste so it is easy enough to adduce that she was not a Brahmin unless of course her parents were both Brahmins from different parts of India but even then I think Sharada is specific only to Uttara and her sudden appearance was not a result of lineage and heritage.

Considering the fact that Sharada lived in the early 1800s, at a time when India was deeply stooped in caste segregation, the type of knowledge that she displayed would have been only available to the Brahmins.

Sharada’s surname just based on her characteristics or mannerisms alone would have been one of the following: Mukhopadhyay, Bandhopadhyay, Chattopadhyay, Gangopadhyay, Ghoshal, Sanyal, Bagchi, Bhaduri, Lahiri, Maitra, Bhattacharya, Chakraborty, Goswami, Acharya, Kanjilal, Patitunda and Pakrashi i.e. names that are synonymous to Bengali Brahmins.

Sharada was married at the age of 7. It was common among Brahmins especially during the period that she lived in to marry their children off at a young age and it was prevalent until the mid-1800s.

It was at about this time that religiously orientated or centered social reform groups like the Brahmo Samaj and the Arya Samaj pioneered work to prevent or prohibit child marriages and their efforts had some measure of success in the 1860s when the Indian Penal Code enacted rules to protect young children.

Now, I have to add that despite being formally wedded, the couples never lived together until both the husband and wife reached the age of maturity. Sometimes they never lived together at all but they would remain married or could never remarry.

One of the fundamental reasons that children were married off in this manner was to keep the religious teachings intact and to limit the dissemination of Sanskrit. It was only in 1880s that child marriages received national attention and it was followed by the enactment of the Age of Consent Bill.

Sharada was taught to read by her uncle, which is another salient feature that clearly indicated that she was from a higher caste because at the time that she lived, reading and writing was limited only to the upper castes.

Sharada lived with her maternal aunt and I can’t help but wonder as to what happened to her parents. There appears to be no mention of them. Sharada was a native Bengali speaker and behaved in the manner of an orthodox married Bengali woman. She appeared somewhat shy and demure and in the initial stages anyway she did not recognize Uttara’s parents, her siblings or any of her friends.

It was like she had stepped out of another time zone, maybe she was trapped at a specific point in time, it’s impossible to say. Either way she appeared to be oblivious to the changes that had occurred since her death.

In short there were two different people that inhabited the same body, each unaware of the other, at least at the start anyway.

Could this be a case of reincarnation? I doubt it. In instances of reincarnation the subject remembers his or her past life in light of his or her present life as opposed to completely assuming another identity. I am convinced that we are dealing with two different personalities.

Sharada was very forthcoming in the way and manner that she spoke and freely divulged details pertaining to her life. She didn’t feel afraid at all and neither did she appear intimidated in any way.

A normal person if they were suddenly exposed to strangers or surroundings that they were unfamiliar with would be apprehensive, uncomfortable and even afraid at times but there is nothing to indicate that here at all.

To the contrary Sharada appeared friendly, open and to some extent from what she had said, even eager to share her life with others around her. She may have been shy but she wasn’t in anyway intimidated.

There is something else that leads me to think that Sharada may have been induced. A premonitory sign usually preceded the phases during which Sharada manifested. Uttara first had a sensation like that of ants crawling on the top of her head. A few hours later, she became Sharada.

It’s not the first time I’ve stumbled across similar symptoms. It is the same sensations that shamans feel when a divine entity is about to take control of their body. According to some shamans it is like a current ripping through their body.

There were also instances when Sharada would appear overnight i.e. Uttara would go to bed as Uttara and wake up as Sharada, and as soon as she woke up, she’d dress in Bengali fashion, wash her hair while bathing and place a vermillion mark between the parting of her hair, like a married woman. I’m not certain if she left her hair loose or did it up in some fashion or manner that suited her.

At the beginning, Sharada appeared distant towards Uttara’s parents and communicated with them only in gestures because she didn’t understand a word of Marathi but she later managed to pick up some Marathi.

She appeared for all intense and purposes to be alive and her mannerisms were very unlike that of any spirit that appeared when a shaman went into the trance state i.e. it was much more subtle.

It was like Uttara’s parents were suddenly gifted with another daughter and I say that because that’s what she appeared to be and that’s exactly how I would have treated her. I revert back to the statement I made earlier in that there is no mention of her parents and I can’t help but wonder if she had a last wish or a dying wish and if so what that would have been?

Sharada had no knowledge of modern utensils or modern innovations and she didn’t have the slightest clue as to how to use many of the modern amenities that we take for granted. But she was amicable, friendly, willing to learn and was communicative. She didn’t even know how to open a bottle of pickles (which is regarded as a standard item that is available in every Indian household).

She took no interest in any of the household chores and she didn’t do any housework which reaffirms my belief that she is an upper caste girl. She spent almost all her time in worship or activities relating to the worship of the Goddess Durga. I can’t help but wonder if she followed the Chandi path and if she had accepted the Goddess Durga as her mother.

According to researchers the Sharada phase usually ended with an aarthi or homa – a Vedic type of worship which pays homage to the 5 elements i.e. earth, wind, water, fire and aether. Fire the symbol of purity is essential in the performance of an aarthi, which tends to suggest to me, as perplexing as it may seem, that she wanted to convey the message that she was pure or maybe innocent.

The Sharada phases lasted from a day up to 6 weeks. The median duration was approximately 2 days but the average duration, because of two long phases that lasted 41 and 43 days, was slightly over eight and a half days.

Despite initially being unaware of each other both Uttara and Sharada over time began to drop hints that they were growing accustomed to each other. Uttara from what I have read so far appears to be an auspicious or fortuitous child.

I am going to revert back, temporarily at least, to Uttara’s parents. Prior to her birth Uttara’s mother had received intimation of being bitten on the foot by a cobra (Sharada died as a result of being bitten on the toe by a cobra) and she would withdraw her foot in fear whenever it happened.

Working along the same lines, Uttara’s father had a fascination for Bengali people and all things Bengali and it leads to me to the conclusion that Sharada’s parents whose names she gave as Brajanath Chattopadhaya (father) and Renuka Devi (mother) were G.M. Huddar and Manorama in their past lives.

According to Hindu marital customs all couples who are married in the orthodox Hindu manner remain married for 7 lifetimes. I tend to take it as an eternity because after 7 lifetimes they achieve either salvation or liberation and are not reborn. There are exceptions of course but the exceptions do not apply here.

These couples normally have the same children unless there is a cusp child i.e. a child that is born between two families (that is the best way I can think of describing these children).

So Brajanath Chattopadhaya and Renuka Devi had in addition to Sharada, 6 other children including Uttara. The number should correspond with the exact number of children G.M. Huddar and Manorama had minus the one child who was Sharada.

I don’t think Sharada was ever reincarnated, while her parents and her siblings were. She for some reason or other, being exceptionally devoted to the Goddess Durga, was spared the rigors of mortal existence. Having said that all cusp chidlren come under the auspice of the Goddess Durga.

Initially Sharada’s parents did not notice a pattern in Sharada’s appearance but later they realized that her appearance coincided with the 8th day of the waxing or waning moon.

In the Hindu calendar, these days are called Ashtami days and these days are particularly significant to the Goddess Durga. These are the days that are devoted to the worship of the Goddess Durga.

Maha Durga Ashtami is the most significant of all Ashtami days and it is the day, the Goddess Durga appeared in the form of Mahishasura Mardini to slay the buffalo headed demon Mahishasura (that is why buffalos are sometimes slaughtered during the festivities i.e. to reenact the slaying of the demon Mahishasura).

Though Sharada’s appearance did not coincide with Ashtami all the time it happened consistently or significantly enough to form a trend or a pattern. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that the Sharada personality would have been strongest on Maha Durga Ashtami.

Sharada gave the interviewers as much information as possible. For example, she wrote her husband’s name down as Swami Vishwanath Mukhopadhaya and wrote her father in-law’s name down as Nand Kishore Mukhopadhaya.

She gave details of how she had travelled from Burdwan (West Bengal) to Kalighat in Calcutta and how she had gone to Shivpur (Bangladesh) with her husband. From Shivpur she had gone to the Tara Devi Temple at Shikarpur (Bangladesh) by boat. She also told interviewers of her visit to the Hansheshwari Temple at Bansberia. All in all, she was a fairly-religious child.

She also mentioned that she’d had two miscarriages and that she had not given birth to any children. When she was 7 months pregnant with the 3rd child, a snake had bitten her on her toe while she was gathering some flowers and she fell unconscious. She was 22 at the time and died as a result.

I think that her death came as a shock and that she had appeared to spend some time with her parents who I suspect were on their 7th or last marriage cycle. Sharada wasn’t prepared or ready for death and maybe she just wanted to say her goodbyes.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Continue Reading

Possession VI

Thus far we’ve looked at cases of possession from the western perspective and to have a better understanding of the subject, it would be worth our while to briefly turn our attentions to the sub-continent (including Nepal and Bhutan) where possessions are much more frequent and where exorcisms are performed on an almost daily basis.

The concept of demonic possession does not exist in the sub-continent and while they are more common or more acceptable here, demonic possession is attributed solely to malevolent or malicious spirits and are perceived to be the returning spirits of those that have died an un-timely death.

Possession is also attributed to malevolent spells or charms that have been directed at the victim as a result of jealously or some other enmity that though they may seem trivial and inconsequential to others are serious enough to warrant a visit to the local black magician.

The spirits that are used are the spirits that are most likely to possess a victim i.e. the spirits of those that have died as a result of accidents, murders or suicides.

The more grotesque the death the more vengeful the spirit and these spirits are classed or categorized as belligerent spirits. Regardless of whether possession occurs naturally or is the result of a curse or a malediction it often results in serious or fatal illnesses.

In countries like Bhutan even normal football matches require the intervention of a shaman and it is not uncommon for the opposing teams to visit their respective shamans prior to the match to bring about a turn of good-fortune.

The symptoms of possession are more or less the same everywhere and this includes the alternate personalities that appear. However, there is an additional element that isn’t mentioned or covered in cases of possessions that originate from the west in that possession or what we accept as possession is a state that can be induced i.e. the person as in the instances of shamans can decide whether he or she wants or wishes to be possessed.

Possession in the sub-continent can be divided into two types – induced possession as in the case of shamans or possession in the normal sense of the word or possession which occurs naturally.

The trance state is relevant in both instances because in either case there are visible changes in the shaman or the victim for example changes in their voice, in their mannerisms, in their appearance and sometimes the shaman or the victim displays additional abilities otherwise not associated to him or her for example the ability to speak in a different language or the sudden ability to predict or foretell future events (clairvoyance or pre-cognition).

Now, possession in the sub-continent is also divided into possession by divine entities for example heavenly and celestial deities and possession by malevolent spirits.

The former occurs mostly during non-Vedic religious festivities or unorthodox Hindu rites that are synonymous to the locality or the principality and the subject (not necessarily a shaman) goes into the trance state and starts to display all the symptoms that are associated to possession. The subject can slip into the trance state merely by chanting mantras.

This type of possession can also occur during prayers at home or at temples and it is by no means harmful. In most cases and instances it lasts for no longer than an hour or so and the subject is no worse for wear.

The latter type of trance state occurs naturally or when the victim has not done anything to prompt matters and it is classed or categorized as non-induced possession.

In almost all the latter type cases the victim is possessed by a spirit that is evil or malicious and it is either a result of unfortunate circumstance or the outcome of a hex that has been directed at the victim for some reason or another and in these instances the victim has to be exorcised to remove the malevolent spirit from the body and to rid the person of the curse or the malediction that has resulted in the victim being possessed.

Once it has been established that the victim has been possessed, the symptoms of possession are more or less the same with recorded cases in the west and once the victim has sought medical treatment (though I must admit that in many cases victims of perceived possession especially in rural areas are never brought before a physician) and the treatment does not seem to work then the victim is brought before a shaman and an exorcism is performed.

In many cases and instances, it works. Anyone who is willing to take a trip to certain rural areas in the sub-continent can witness these exorcisms personally.

The shaman usually treats the victim after she or she enters the trance state. What the exorcist or the shaman (they are the one and the same) does is that he or she allows the essence of a divine entity or a divinity to enter his or her physical body (the induce trance state) after performing certain rites or chanting specific mantras that are known only to them (these rites and mantras are kept secret and in many cases it is believed that the rites and mantras of invocation are given to the shaman prior to the shaman becoming a shaman by the divine spirit that has chosen the shaman to be its messenger).

Hindu priests do not perform exorcisms because it is not their role or function. The function of a priest is to keep the religions teachings intact and to adhere to or to conform to the rules of worship as prescribed by the Vedas and the Puranas.

Shamanic teachings are more sutra and tantric orientated and they are not rites and rituals associated with orthodox or contemporary Hinduism.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Continue Reading