Of Gods and Goddesses

For some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about myth-making, religions, and various deities. I saw a Cannabis strain called Blue God. It made me think of Krishna, the Hindu blue god and flute player, and lover. Before the BJP’s Hindu nationalist agenda, this image of the blue god was one I always found to be of beauty, gentleness and/or passion, celebrating the love between Krishna and Radha. Today, where Hinduism has become a threatening and militarized religion as promoted by the Indian government, the blue god, might have a different incarnation.

I’ve also been think about the Orishas, the deities of the Yoruba religion practised in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the United States, and Brazil (Candomble/Umbanda).

Cuba’s patron saint, the Virgen de Caridad de Cobre has a counterpoint in the goddess Oshun, daughter of rivers, love, and what might be called “femme” energy. Yemaya, mother of the sea, and goddess of the seven oceans, has her counterpart in Santa Barbara. And Oya, goddess of hurricanes, lightning, death and rebirth, reminds me of Kali, the Hindu goddess, although she is apparently syncretized with Saint Brigitte. Syncretism was one of many ways in which oppressed and persecuted African practices were kept alive by those who were enslaved. Santeria is a huge part of historical and contemporary Afro-descended culture and has influenced music, dance, visual arts and story-telling traditions in Cuba. The religion has also played a part in abolitionist uprisings by the those who were in enslaved.

In my time studying and researching in Cuba for my graduate work, I was very interested in the practice of Regla de Ocha in the Caribbean as the religion is also called.

When I started my exploration of the religious traditions of Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian peoples, I relied on books, records, and then the oral knowledge of practitioners. But today, there is a lot of information about pantheistic religions on the internet including Hinduism and Santeria/Ifa. There is information on the West African religious traditions which were carried across the murky waters of the slave trade I won’t get into long explanations and discussions here. But certainly amazing writers of the Caribbean and Brazil have relied on their audience’s knowledge of the Orishas and their meanings. Earl Lovelace, Alejo Carpentier and Jorge Amado are three classic and highly lauded novelists drawing on these Afro-descended practices.

I share my paintings of gods and goddesses below.

Blue God and Comet, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Blue God 2, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Recruiting the Blue God, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Oshun , Kaushalya Bannerji, 2017
Yemaya, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Oya, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2018

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