Friday, December 9, 2011

Blessed be thy feet: Part 1--A little tickle

Blessed be thy feet, that have brought thee in these ways.....

Feet.  Most people have them.  Some people love them, some people hate them, and some people fetishize them.  Quentin Terentino loves Uma Thurman's feet.  Watch Pulp Fiction and the Kill Bill movies again and count how many times the camera has a tight shot of her feet.  Feet take us everywhere.  They can bring us pleasure and they can bring us pain.  They can be lavished and spoiled, or punished and tortured.  They can symbolize dominance, like a foot on the back of the neck, or they can symbolize submission, like bowing to kiss someone's feet.  Feet carry us on secular paths and religious paths, often both at the same time.
The next series of blogs was suggested and inspired by two of my readers.  The series will look at how different religions, not just Pagan ones, incorporate feet into their worship, deities associated with feet, the Eathwalking/barefoot movement in the US, and some of the grittier, kinkier things that can be done with feet.  As always, along the way, tie-ins will be made to Paganism and how to incorporate this topic into your personal religious practice (and maybe other practices too).


From a Hindu forum:
" In the image, the sole of one foot of the Goddess is visible,
 apparently decorated with Mendhi, beautiful designs. I thought that it
 was an insult to display the sole of one's foot. Is that only true for
 the Islamic population? Is there an exception for Goddesses or other
 deities? Am I misreading the image, perhaps?"

"Every part of the Great Goddess Durga is Sacred! Haha It may be a little
distasteful to rub your own dirty feet on someone else or point them from a
cultural standpoint. From the point of Divinity it changes though. In fact,
many temples to the Goddess and Vishnu amongst others have only an image of
the deities feet. The idea is that to gaze upon the whole figure would be to
There is a Hindu custom of touching the Gurus feet or even placing your head
at the Gurus feet as a sign of reverence. The idea is simply that you
acknowledge the Guru's superiority in whatever it is they are teaching you. A
direct way to state that they are above you in some regard.
There is nothing filthy, or profane about the Goddess's feet for she is a pure
Look at Kali Ma-she is dancing on Lord Shiva's chest right now!
He doesn't seem to mind;-)"
He looks asleep or dead to me.  I guess that's why he doesn't mind!

Some people may question why I would investigate Hinduism and other religions for a blog that is unabashedly Pagan.  The reason is because Paganism is eclectic.  Even Wicca, that little subset, is eclectic.  Many Pagans have taken ideas and deities that they like from different religions and made them their own.  Gardner took many, many idea from the Hindu religion and made them Wiccan.  This was brought home to me one time at a handfasting that I attended.  The handfasting was at a public park, and an Indian couple stopped by to watch the rite from afar.  Once I spied them, I motioned for them to come closer and join in the fun.  After the ceremony, all they could talk about was how similar the handfasting ritual was to their own Hindu marriage ceremony that they had had in India.  The ritual planners hadn't set out to borrow Hindu customs, but because they had gone with a status-quo Wiccan ceremony they had done so anyway due to Gardner's original borrowing.
In the above quotes, the answerer discusses how bowing and touching one's head to someone else's feet is seen as an act of humility and respect to teachers and deities.  This practice is called Pranama.  It's often part of the custom of darshan, which means to "see with reverence and devotion," where not only does the one touching their forehead look to connect with divinity, the one who's feet are being touch often bestows a blessing.  This is done in connection with puja, which could be described as a Hindu worship service or ritual.
In some British Traditional and Gardnerian covens, especially ones that adhere to The Ardanes, coven members are expected to show respect to the High Priestess by bowing, sometimes to the point of their head connecting with feet.  As in Hinduism, it's a sign of respect.  I also know of many groups that will bow to the elements and deities when they are welcomed in or invoked in circle.  Some groups also have their members bow low to a person who is representing or aspecting a deity, especially if a blessing is being bestowed.