Friday, June 10, 2011

BHJ Continues... The Crocodile Goddess

Dear Birth Peeps,

At some point during the Ordeal, the unexpected happens and things fall apart; expectations and best-laid plans fall apart; relationships shift or split altogether; our “mask” falls off and our strategies fall away. The would-be hero feels real terror as she spins around and faces her deepest fear, the very thing she tried her best to avoid or prevent--and in that moment--she loses control of that moment and of her future. The initiate finds herself--if only for an hour, perhaps for days, weeks, even months—spinning in circles trying to make decisions or find a way out. She might literally be brought to her knees or curl up in fetal position, convinced she can go no further.

This is not a sign of weakness, nor is it time to pull herself up by the bootstraps and keep going. If she has given it her all and is cracking open or falling apart, she is in an important part of the rite of passage; the necessary slow dying of the ego-mind. In this darkness and stillness, after the resisting and spinning, she begins to “gestate” so she can be born anew into new understanding, a new role.

A few days ago, my friend Lyn sent me an email introducing me to a little known, ancient Hindu goddess, Akhilandeshvari. In Sanskrit, “akhilanda” means “never not broken” and “ishvari” means “goddess” or “female power.” So, Akhilanda is the Always Broken Goddess; she is also called the Crocodile Goddess (link below).

A goddess riding a crocodile! . . . What could be more fitting during our trip through the underworld! I’ve never painted a crocodile before… but I set right to work. Painting this fearsome creature allowed me to enter into the power and essence of this animal archetype.

Crocodiles are present in many Hindu myths. The predatory crocodile plucks its prey from the banks of the river, drags it in its powerful jaws into the water, and spins it until it is disoriented… and breaks.”(1,2) Perhaps, Stoneberg suggests, the crocodile represents our reptilian brain, which is where we feel fear.

What does the Crocodile goddess represent in our daily lives and journey through our hero’s journey mandala?

When you are spinning and disoriented after your partner does the unthinkable or leaves you, or you lose your job, your home, or your health, in this moment you feel “broken” your future dissolves in front of you. Since this is mandala is primarily about birth as a hero’s journey, we need to consider circumstances when parents or birth peeps are likely to feel “broken” or lose sight of their future. For example, mothers who envisioned birthing normally anticipate “loss of their future” when, in pregnancy, they are warned or told an intervention (induction, cesarean, etc) may be in their future. When a baby is born premature, sick, or dies, parents experience a profound “loss of future.” You can recall or think of many examples.

When the Crocodile plucks us unawares from the banks of our comforts and routines, we experience sudden loss of control and certain uncertainty—not only of this crisis-moment but of our imagined future, too. In the croc’s spin, we can’t think what we would do next or even think to find a way out. We may try to protest, but shortly go to “pieces” (literally!) Unmoored from our steady idea of the future, we have no idea how to go forward; we are either indecisive or impulsively quick to decide. . .

Ancient mythology is ambiguous, so here’s another take: Akhilanda is not the fearsome Croc’s prey; she refuses to avoid or reject her fear; instead, she rides on it’s back.

Today I spoke with two mothers who had truly gentle, straightforward labors, births, and postpartum transitions. They did not encounter a crocodile or tiger on their journey. Although not every woman will need to ride her “crocodile” through one of the Gates of Laborland, no one knows that to be the case in advance. For this reason, mothers need to learn how face their tiger and ride their crocodile so that if they need to during their Ordeal, they know how!

Most birth peeps are prepared to encounter the unexpected in labor, they are trained to know what to do when the unexpected happens. Taking action during a crisis is one way to avert trauma, because when we take action we feel less powerless—in that moment. The trend is to inform mothers and fathers about what Ones Who Know will do in various crisis, but they are not prepared themselves to envision what they—as parents—will do or can do to help or to cope—i.e., ride their crocodile!



(Croc of Trivia for the Day:
A croc’s bite comes down with a whopping 5000 pounds of pressure per inch!

Mama crocs lay eggs in nests on the banks of rivers. Then they leave. Baby crocs have a special tooth to crack their egg. They make their way to the river, and find their mother, who then carries them in her mouth.

1 Stoneberg, Eric (2011, Jan). retrieved from:

2 Peters Julie J.C. (June 6, 2011), “Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea.” Retrieved from:

1 comment:

  1. I just found your beautiful painting and this great post. I'm going to be teaching more about Akhilanda in 2012 and I grabbed your portrait of her for my promotional material. Thank you for your work, Pam.
    Blessings! Eric Stoneberg