Celebrating Navratri: The Hero/Heroine’s Journey
Every fall I find myself looking forward to a very special Vedic festival called Navratri. The name comes from two sanskrit words, nav and ratri, meaning “nine nights”. Navratri marks a traditional 9 day 9 night festival dedicated to the celebration of 9 avatars of Maa Durga, that happens several times a year, with the largest observation in the fall season.
Within our Vedic lineage, my teacher Acharya Shunya shares these 9 Devis or Goddesses, as a connected tale of the ultimate transformation of a human woman, Parvati, from pampered princess to a goddess in her own right. I remember how deeply satisfying and touching it was to hear these stories for the first time 14 years ago - for my tender battered heart to experience the archetypal Hero’s Journey from a female perspective. It was so radically empowering just to be able to feel myself represented, and to see a path to Self Actualization that values traits often rejected in our modern world.
As a student of Advaita (non-duality) I personally connect with these teachings as a powerful reminder that despite the near stranglehold patriarchy has on human societies in the modern era, Consciousness is made manifest in all forms and qualities, including the feminine. Navratri feels like a gift - first to connect with the many beautiful qualities of the goddess, and then to feel them within myself. Each of these 9 goddesses represents goddess traits that we ourselves hold within, regardless of our gender. Qualities like self determination and discipline, the ability to nurture ourself and others, joyful creativity, and righteous anger, and even unflinching courage to face our dark corners so that we can become our limitless goddess selves. These qualities gain extra dimension when we know them through the lens of the all-inclusive, all-encompassing, all-mutually responsible goddesses.
For me, Navratri is a time for deep self reflection. It was in this process of self inquiry, that I first saw my own internalized misogyny, as I felt discomfort with even the word “goddess”. Over time, while the katha or sacred stories of each goddess became familiar, my inner exploration and inner questioning changed. One year I wondered “What makes these values “goddess archetypes”, what differentiates a goddess way of being disciplined for example?” Throughout that Navratri, the answer became clear: “Oh! A Goddess discipline is a discipline that comes from profound self love, not self punishment.” What a difference that realization made for my own self care and self healing. I no longer had to fight against myself to change unhealthy behaviors and beliefs. I can choose and allow change from my goddess self, not from self hatred or self judgement. Every year I have taken some new insight forward from Navratri to reach a new level of growth - a gift and blessing from Maa.
This Navratri for 9 mornings (Sept 26-Oct 4), students from all over the world will gather together online to listen to Acharya Shunya share the sacred stories of each of these goddesses, and hear beautiful chants, and reflect together. We will share our beautiful altars and personal insights in a private group, and we will come together afterwards with Acharya Shunya for an online retreat afterwards (Oct 8). Once again, these age-old teachings will be shared and we will walk an ancient path together. We will soften and forgive ourselves and allow our own magnificence to shine.
We will take the Hero/Heroine’s Journey to our inner goddess Self.