Tuesday, August 9, 2011


One of the fun things Pagans get to do is pick a patron or matron god that is special to them in some way. And I do believe that you pick them. The "you don't pick them they pick you" argument is pointless because it takes both parties full involvement to make a partnership. Anyway, I could say that this was hard for me, but I would be fooling absolutely no one who knows me. My patron god is the extremely popular (and adorable) Hindu god Ganesh.

Ganesh (also known as Ganesa or Ganesha) is immediately recognizable, he has the body of a man and the head of an elephant. He appears in lots of iconic art in India and beyond. His name means, roughly, “lord of the group” or “leader of the group.”

Ganesh is the god of new beginnings, so it is an Indian custom to say a prayer to him before starting any new project. When you do, he will remove all obstacles in your way, which is symbolized by the ax he carries. He has quite a sweet tooth, and likes it when people leave deserts on his altar. This love of deserts has also made him a bit pudgy. Ganesh is also the god of science and the arts, of intellect and wisdom. His tusk is broken off because he used it as a pen when he transcribed Vyasa’s epic Mahabharata (this is a real work of ancient Indian literature, it’s about three times the size of the Bible). He is commonly invoked as a patron of letters before writing sessions. Because he is considered to be the god of the everyman, Ganesh was often used as an icon of protest against British rule.

One of the most prominent myths about Ganesh is how he got his elephant head in the first place. In the most popular version of the story, he wasn’t born that way. Parvati, the goddess of love, created her first son Ganesh out of dirt to protect her while her husband Shiva, the god of transformation, was away. When Shiva came back home, the two men didn’t recognize each other. Ganesh denied him entry into the house, and Shiva became so annoyed that he beheaded him. Parvati was filled with grief when she saw what happened. Shiva panicked, found a baby elephant in the woods, killed it, and gave the head to Ganesh when he brought him back to life.

If you look at pictures and statues of Ganesh, you might notice that he has a sidekick. He has a rat that he rides to get to where he needs to be. The rat is interpreted a number of ways. Rats are obviously a menace to farmers, therefore making it an obstacle. The fact that he’s riding it reiterates his main claim to fame as a clearer of obstacles.

Ganesh even has his own holiday. Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival celebrated for ten days, typically around late August and early September. It is celebrated with street parades, music, and submerging terracotta idols into sacred rivers.

Ganesh is slightly different from other artsy gods in that he is all about follow-through. A muse might give you inspiration, but she doesn’t stick around to make sure you aren’t dilly-dallying around. Ganesh sacrificed his own tusk in order to complete his work. What are you willing to do for yours? Plus he’s just so damn cute. How could you look at him and not be happy?

Now you might be thinking, "Well, that's all nice and stuff. But is Ganesh a name used by, you know, people in realityland?" It actually is, in India. That doesn't really come to a surprise to me since he is so beloved over there. One baby name book tried to convince me that Ganesa is also used for girls, but I've been steered wrong by this particular book before.

But could this name be used in Western cultures as well? It depends on how daring you want to be. It's overly exotic as a first name, but could be a daring middle name option. Or a great magickal name.

Note: This is an edited version of the guest post I wrote for The Pagan Mom Blog.

The Little Book of Hindu Deities by Sanjay Patel

Image Credit:
Found via http://ffffound.com/
I took the second photo in Ireland!

1 comment:

  1. Ganesh has long been a favorite of mine. I have a small statue of him, which I got from a fair-trade emporium in India a few years ago!


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