Today, I think, is a Day for Dhumavati.
A Mahavidya [‘Great Wisdom/Revelation’ – you can see the coterminous linguistic particle there with “Vidya”, connected to the idea of “seeing”, of truths being “revealed”] Aspect of Devi, this form of the Goddess is often regarded as being of somewhat baelful portency. And, with a poignant array of associations linking Her most strongly to Death, the Cremation Ground, and Dissolution – it is not at all hard to see why.
Yet, as with several other Aspects of MataJI, a surface fixation of the outward signifers of the Goddess obscurates a deeper, and far more compassionate side to Her, that is much more readily apparent to the ardent devotee in need.
It is true that both Her Name and Her Nature, derive ultimately from the Funerary Pyre. “Dhuma”, itself, literally referring to “Smoke”, and the various ‘creation’ (or, I suppose, ’emanation/revelation’ myths) for the Aspect tending to hinge around exactly this concept.
In one, for instance, She is regarded as being all that remains, as visible and non-dispersed/off-pursuing-reincarnation ‘anima’ of Lady Sati, after the latter’s self-immolation at the ill-fated Horse-Sacrifice of Daksha. In another, She is ultimately revelated at the final Pralaya – the Unravelling/Dissolution/Burning of the Universe Itself, as ‘all that remains’ there, too – in a manner akin to Shiva, to Kali … re-transcending back as the rising smoke from the pyre-of-creation-at-large to AdiParaShakti, so that the whole process might potentially re-start anew.
These dual narratives, themselves, reveal a fundamental paradox to the nature of Dhumavati. In the latter instance, She is the *transcension* of what had gone before, and the moving on from the fires of destruction to better, brighter things (eventually).
In the former, however, She is the exact opposite – the *lingering* and the harbouring of a burning anguish and resentment for that which had been done in the course of the blaze’s ignition and previous.
This ‘duality’ is also conveyed in the customary iconography of Dhumavati – at once, being presented amidst the Smashana, the Ritual Cremation Ground, a signifer of that aforementioned ‘moving beyond’, and in a certain sense, the sailing of the Lethe – the ‘smoke’ representing also a barrier to the harmful lingerings of memory, a pleasant and useful ‘illusion’, in that particular regard, which is also ‘truth’, insofar as it helps to establish the insubstantial nature of the fundamental fabric of the world. [A byproduct of the *actual* eternal-burning fire of Rta at, beyond, Its Core]
Yet *also* accompanied most frequently by at least one Corvid, and often more than one. Crows and Ravens being, for us, the Pitrs – the Souls of the Ancestors .. and therefore, as ‘Yamadutas’, emissaries from *beyond the Veil [of ash and smoke]*, as well as very ‘living’ [in a certain sense] embodiments of the Memory, the Heritage, and the Continuity of our people and our memory, even beyond the transitory bounds of Death.
A most intriguing Goddess, who is at once, both ‘that which remains’ – and therefore closer than almost any to the Eternal, the Truth … yet *also* , Who is very form and ‘substance’ that is the *opposite* of this , being the insubstantive ‘smoke’ that otherwise clouds and occludes and *obscurates* what is more ‘really real’ beyond its pall.
Dhumavati is, therefore, prayed to by the Devotee for, amongst other things – the relief of moving past prior harms and woundings (for such, ultimately, is life and age and sanskara), through death/transcension and most necessary ‘occluding’ in the mean-time… but *also* for the deeper *revelations, those which actually, to my mind at least, are what is fundamentally *necessary* for the empowerment of wisdom, and the ongoing ascent to more truly take place.
Smoke may sting the eyes [a facility for which, in concer with Her mastery of Illusions, Dhumavati is most potent, also, in combat with the Demons, and their Lies], even bring us to tears … yet with the *right* perceptions, it can tell us things – one of which, perhaps most importantly, is that – if properly followed and guided and Favoured – the pathway goes ever *up* from here.
There is a hoped-for, accute sensation,when contemplating the Widow Goddess – that Death is *not* the End .. only the End, of Illusion, and Pain.