Maternity wards and gynecologists are a recent invention. In the olden days it was always the village grandmothers who doubled up as maternity wisdom seers, healers and midwives. They represented part of the cycle of life. They were deemed ‘agents’ of Goddess of Married Woman, Fertility and Childbirth. Just as grandmothers were everywhere so were the Goddesses of Married Women!
The Hindu Goddess of Married Woman is Goddess Shahsti or Sasti. Although a minor deity predominantly worshiped in Bengal, Shashti is a manifestation of the Great Mother Goddess representing pregnancy and childbirth. She represents the fertility of both people and the land upon which they lived.
She is depicted holding a sword and shield in her lower hands while the upper holds kalasas. Her vahana is a black cat. She is shown seated on a large lotus. In her golden look, has a child seated on her lap symbolizing her powers to protect new born from evil powers and disease. She wears a prominent crown that associates her with Mother Goddess.
Goddess Shahsti is associated with Skanda, God of War. Indeed she is also known as Skandamata and as an extension of Mother Durga. Although having rural origins or a folk-goddess, Sasti is worshipped on the sixth – shashti day following a child’s birth. This is when the father pays respects followed by the mother on the 21st day. On this day, partial fast is observed. Pujas are conducted to a figureless deity planted under a Kadamba tree. Usually this is a stone in the size of a human head decorated with flowers. Traditional offering is that of a hand-fan. Food offerings are fruits only. A black cat is also revered on that day. Otherwise it is symbolized in the deity stone. Women who have lost their children, those suffering miscarriage, quick with child and sickly children pray to Goddess Shahsti.
BRAHMA VAIVARTA PURANA:
This is one of the major eighteen Puranas. It describes the creation of the universe – Brahma Khanda, Prakriti Khanda - description and histories of goddesses, Ganesha Khanda - life and deeds of Lord Ganesha and the final part to Lord Krishna. This Purana was written in Bengal and recited by the sage Suta in the Naimisharanya forests. In Krsna Janma Khanda, the final part, it declares Krishna to be the supreme God. It also develops the life of Radha-Krishna, thus deviating from the Bhagavata Purana. In Prakriti Khanda, Goddess Shahshti is depicted as the sixth aspect of Parama Prakriti – universal female energy.
Apparently a prosperous farmer had married all his seven sons to pretty girls. The youngest daughter in law was a greedy person. She steals food and blames it on a black cat. It was Puranic times and animal had anthropomorphic attributes. This cat takes revenge by hiding this woman’s new born babies and places them in a Shahsti temple. She finally prays to Shahsti. As repentance, she was asked to make an image of a cat to be worshipped along with Goddess Shahsti.
This is Bengal based mythology. Apparently the Fertility Goddess according to Egyptian mythology, was also a cat headed Goddess! Was Goddess Shashti alone in this burden? Hardly so. Mythology throughout the world shares her seat as Childbirth and Fertility Goddess. This is the edited list!
(1) Shakti (India), Mother Goddess.
(2) Artemis: (Greece) Despite being a virgin goddess she also presides over childbirth due to the ease of her own birth.
(3) Bast: (Egypt) Bast was the cat headed goddess was associated with both childbirth and fertility.
(4) Carmenta (Roman) Goddess of prophecy and birth. Pregnant women used to offer her rice for an easy delivery.
(5) Candelifera ( Roman) She was invoked at the beginning of childbirth. Her name means candle bearer and she used this light to help guide the baby into this world.
(6) Diana: (Roman) Queen of Heaven. Patroness of childbirth, nursing and healing.
(7) Deverra (Roman) Goddess who protected midwives and women in labor. Her broom was used to sweep
away evil influences
(9) Eleithyia (Greek) was the Goddess of childbirth and labour. She was shown as a woman wielding a torch, representing the burning pains of childbirth, or with her arms raised in the air summoning a child to the light.
(10) Frigg: (Nordic) associated with easing child birth. A plant called Freya's grass was traditionally used as a gentle sedative during a difficult labour
(11) Hathor: (Egypt) The seven Hathors blessed the newborn and set a child's destiny. She is also associated with nursing infants.
(12) Hekate: (Greek) As a midwife she carried a sacred knife to cut the cord at birth.
(13) Heket (Egypt) Heket the moon Goddess was associated with Hathor as a birth deity. She was said to be the birth goddess of all creatures. (14) Hepat (Egyptian) Goddess of Midwives.
(15) Hera: (Greece) The Queen of the gods, Hera presided over all things feminine especially maternity and marriage.
(16) Isis: (Egypt) Isis had many roles including the protector of motherhood.
(17) Ixchel (Mayan) Role included Goddess of childbirth, lunar cycles, and pregnancy.
(18) Juno: (Roman) She protected pregnant woman as well as at birth, bringing the child into the light.
(19) Lucina (Roman) - Goddess of Childbirth.
(20) Meskhent (Egyptian) Egyptian Goddess who presided over the delivery of babies.
(21) Mylitta (Babylonian) Mylitta took special interests in the process of childbirth.
(22) Nepthys: (Egyptian) Stood at the head of the bed encouraging the mother whilst her sister Isis acted as the midwife.
(23) Ngolimento (Toga) Goddess who cares for the spirit of a child before it is born.
(24) Nixi (Roman) The Nixi were a triad of Goddesses associated with birth
(25) Nintur (Sumerian) Her name meant "Lady Who Gives Form". She was represented as a woman holding a midwife's pail of water.
(26) Nona (Roman) Goddess of pregnancy. Her name means nine relating to the ninth month of pregnancy when the expectant mum would call upon her
(27) Pi-hsia-yuan-chun (Chinese) She protects women, children, and presides over birth.
(28) Prorsa Postverta (Roman) Goddess of women in labor she was associated with the position of the child in the womb.
(29) Pukkeenegak (Eskimo) Feminine Goddess who gave children to the Eskimo women.
(30) Renenet (Egypt) Goddess who presided over a baby's suckling. She bestowed both a name and a personality on a newborn infant.
(31) Shasti (Indian) Feline Goddess, depicted riding a cat. Goddess of childbirth and Protector of Children.
(32) St. Catherine of Sweden (Roman Catholic) Patron saint of miscarriage prevention.
(33) St. Gerard Majella (Roman Catholic) Patron saint of pregnancy and expectant mothers.
(34) St. Raymund Nonnatus (Roman Catholic) Patron saint of midwives.
(35) Tamayorihime (Japan) Ancient sea Goddess who watches over the birth waters to ensure a safe delivery.
(36) Taueret (Egypt) Protected infants by taking the form of a pregnant hippopotamus to frighten demons away and
(37) Uma (India) Her primary function was femaleness in all forms, particularly active ones like childbirth.
by Yogi Ananda Saraswathi Copied with permission!!