Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Sometimes It Takes an Outsider

 Buy CraftVatika Gold Metal Panch Aarti ...

4, 2, 3, 7.

That's how you offer the lamp to a Hindu god.

Puja, also known as arati, is the major Hindu rite of temple service, in which various items—water, incense, fire, a flower (read: water, air, fire, earth) are presented to the deity indwelling the murti (statue), and then consumed by the worshiper herself.

(There's an entire theology encoded in this ritual, but I'll leave you to suss that for yourself.)

Each item is circled in the air—sunwise, of course—before the deity a certain number of times. That's where the numbers cited above come in.

  • Four small circles to the god's feet.
  • Two small circles to the god's navel.
  • Three small circles to the god's face.
  • Seven large circles around the god's entire body.

Why, I asked my friend, head pujari at the local ISCKON center, those particular numbers to those particular parts of the god?

My friend didn't know. He had, in fact, asked the same question of his teacher, who likewise did not know. While in altar training, my friend had asked all around. No one in the community seemed to know.

(This isn't really surprising. Sometimes things become so ingrained in a tradition that it simply never occurs to anyone to ask.)

Sometimes it takes an outsider to see to the heart of a given matter. I'm a ritualist myself, of a different, though related, tradition. So here, for what it's worth, is my best guess as to the meanings:

  • Four to the Feet
  • The god's Feet, being the locus of encounter between the heavenly and the earthly, receive four offerings for the four elements, the four directions: the entry into physicality.
  • Two to the Navel
  • Next comes the deity's Navel (or Waist), the god's mythic center: one offering each for the lower and upper halves of the god's Being, respectively.
  • Three to the Face
  • Continuing our upward contemplation of the god's Body, one offering to the divine Mouth and one for each of the Eyes.
  • Seven to the Wholeness
  • Having contemplated the various parts of the divine Body, we now conclude with an offering to the entire god: legs (2), torso (1), arms (2), head (1) and, in final summation, the god in Wholeness (1).

Well, for what it's worth, that's my best guess. Me, I'm just a dirty mleccha (non-Hindu), an eater of unclean foods—onions, garlic, eggs. But sometimes it takes an outsider to see what the insider takes for granted.

My friend liked it, though.





Last modified on
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


Additional information