A Goddess of Post Traumatic Growth: Nilapataka Nitya
This goddess encourages us to courageously churn the oceans of our inner selves, to explore the painful feelings and old traumas in our psyches and let them teach us something.
The eleventh night from the new moon is presided over by a goddess named Nilapataka Nitya, or She who is Always Falling Into the Blue. She is covered in blue and adorned with sapphires. Her blue refers to halahala, a poison that appeared once upon a time when the gods and demons teamed up to find amrit, the nectar of immortality.
The nectar, they believed, was somewhere deep in the Cosmic Ocean of Milk, or the Milky Way. They gathered to churn up the Cosmic Ocean and try to find the amrit. Through their churning appeared the moon, the goddess Lakshmi, a sacred cow, and many other gems and riches, but no amrit. Suddenly, a blue poison called halahala arose from the ocean and knocked out many of the seekers. The god Shiva jumped in and swallowed the halahala, holding it at the level of his throat, enabling the seekers to keep churning. That’s why Shiva is sometimes called Nilakantha, the Blue Throated One.
Traditionally, this story reminds us of the rewards and dangers that can come from churning our internal experiences through meditation, yoga, therapy, or other forms of seeking. We need gurus to hold our blue for us so that we can keep seeking without getting hurt. From Nilapataka’s Tantric perspective, however, the lesson is a little different. For her, the blue poison IS the nectar, it’s the very amrit we’ve been looking for. She is adorned with blue, rich with sapphires. The poisons of our churning are exactly what we need to engage with so that we can turn them into gems and riches. We can’t do this if we always let someone else hold our blue for us.
This is one of my favourite of the 16 Nityas, the Tantric moon phase goddesses. She encourages us to courageously churn the oceans of our inner selves, to explore the painful feelings and old traumas in our psyches and let them teach us something. Her story is a metaphor for a phenomenon called post-traumatic growth. Trauma is an unfortunately common aspect of the human experience, and we often get the idea that if we’ve been traumatized, there’s no going back, our lives have changed forever for the worse. Trauma does change our lives, and of course it can often have really bad effects. But when we can begin the process of facing the trauma on our own terms and healing from it, we can discover an incredibly valuable source of wisdom.
I experienced a sexual trauma several years ago, and yes, for a while, it was pretty bad times. I numbed out and sleepwalked through about four years of my life. But then I got some counseling and worked with some excellent people who helped me navigate the poisons of what had happened to me. Through that process, I became more sensitive in my body. I came to understand the way certain social structures affect our behavior and make it harder for us to connect on genuine levels. I got to know my body on a much more intimate level and had to learn some hard but useful lessons about boundaries, love, and desire. I’m not going to say I’m glad it happened to me, but I did end up with some gems and riches on the other side that have become a part of who I am and what I love about myself.
Of course we need people to help us get through these experiences, but we can’t simply give the poisons away. When we churn up our old pain and face the poisons, we can draw it in and transform it into healing nectar.
Learn more about Nilapataka and meditate with her in Julie Peter's audio course Moon Goddess Meditations: A 16 Night Ritual.