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The Sophia Secrets

synopsis


Anne Demaree, a hardy and lithe sixty-three-year-old, deals with more than she bargained for when she moves to Southwest Harbor, Maine, and plunges into writing a book about the divine feminine through the spectrum of Hinduism’s ten wisdom goddess.

Though Anne yearns to approach old age and dying with an enlightened mind, she has no idea her aspirations will involve life-altering adventures into the goddess domains guided by a mysterious old woman; a romance with eighty-one-year old Adam Waterfield, a retired philosophy professor and native of Maine’s Cranberry Island; and an entangled relationship with Adam’s drug-troubled grandson.


Excerpt from Chapter One: "India"


“Why don’t you go to India before you move to Maine? There are quite a few black Goddesses there.”

“Do you want to go, too?” I said. “I’m not due in Maine until late September. Come on, let’s both go!” And on a whim my friend Lori Silverbush and I bought tickets to India, on Singapore Airlines...

[In India] At one of the make-shift wooden stands near Dashineshwar Temple, we purchased our little baskets filled with offerings for Kali—sweet meats, incense sticks, red powder, a hibiscus garland, and a few mysterious items we couldn’t identify. Next to us a child wept, pulling on her mother’s sari. We followed the crowd through the entrance and into the cement courtyard arena with its complex of temples and other buildings.

We wandered over to what we supposed was the end of the line of Kali devotees, a line that snaked through the courtyard. Our place in line was just above the banks of the Ganges, in front of a row of twelve identical little Shiva temples, with brick red pagodas, standing sentinel in front of the Kali Temple. Some devotees were carrying cups with water from the river to offer to the Shiva images, the lingams.

An Indian woman thin as a rail, dressed in a tattered faded red sari appeared, her eyes luminous, her smile infectious. She took us each by the hand. “Come,” she said. Farther up the line at the bottom of the stairs to the Kali Temple, she chattered in Bengali to some Indian women, made a space for us, and then shoved us gently into the line. Lori and I nodded to her, with palms together thanking her, and then she disappeared into the crowd. The woman in front of us held a baby in her arms; her little boy clutched tightly to her sari with one hand, and with the other clasped tightly around their basket. Behind us an older woman smiled at us and wobbled her head side to side, Indian fashion, as if to indicate she was fine with us cutting in front of her.

Pressed between bodies, we were carried along inch by inch, up the stairs, amidst unfamiliar smells, spices and body heat. Though it was relatively early in the morning, the sun was already hot. I was wet with perspiration. Not used to coming into full body contact with strangers I was in line with—not for the movies, not for the county fair, not even with a friend—I felt irritated and wanted to yell at them to back off and stop pushing. After a while I relaxed into the joining of bodies, falling into a sense of moving along as one being, progressing slowly forward, with only one common purpose in mind—a vision of Kali inside the temple.

The emotional fervor intensified as we reached the entry to the sanctuary, bodies pushing urgently into one another, no longer a tame single line, but a mass of humanity pressing forward. I lost track of Lori. I was a lone pilgrim. We were inside now. The coolness felt refreshing. Incense smoke wafted all around, carrying the scent of sandalwood. Some devotees pulled on a rope hanging from above and tied to the clapper of a bell, like a ship’s bell. I was shoved along amidst the cries of many calling out: “Kali Ma!” “Jai Kali!” Bodies moving forward, our vision of Kali near. Some women knelt at the waist-high gate in front of Kali’s shrine, reaching through the bars to touch the floor. Some stretched across the gate holding out their small baskets of offerings. The priest taking these baskets, slinging the hibiscus garlands onto Kali’s feet, offering the baskets to the Goddess, picking out some sweets to leave with Kali Ma and returning the baskets, mostly full, back to the devotees. Prasad. Food offered to the God or Goddess, sacred food, to be eaten.

Now I was at the gate in front of the shrine. Nothing between Kali and me. Barely aware, I felt the priest take my basket. An electrifying energy enveloped me. I entered eternity. Time stood still. I looked at her blackness, her large eyes, red tongue, her feet standing on Shiva, her husband, lying on a silver lotus. She is black. He is white. She is animated. He is still. Tears filled my eyes, streaming down, and then I felt the basket against my hands, someone pressing my fingers around the basket, someone tugging on my arm, pulling me away from the gate.

I stood to the side, stunned, compelled by her, drawn to the wild look in her eyes, to her garland of skulls, to her sense of unguarded abandon. Painted black and red, ornately adorned with gold, crowned, and garlanded with flowers, shimmering in the play of light, bearing a curved lopping sword, the head of a demon in her hand. Intellectually, I knew she is the Goddess of transformation and regeneration, the destroyer of negativity, the great protector, primordial. But emotionally I was unhinged.

I felt Lori at my side. We walked out, threading our way through all the people, towards the Ganges. “I feel like I just completed a rite of passage,” I said.

“It was.”

We sat on the banks of the quietly flowing river, watching the occasional boat pass by and men bathing in their dhotis in the sacred river’s bathing ghats, dunking themselves over and over again in a ritual observance, chanting. A deep peace surrounded me. “Did you know it would be like this?”

Lori shook her head, her blond curls bouncing, looking at me with her round hazel eyes. “Not even in my dreams.”

Selected Works

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Books
A six-stage journey with the Great Mother, framed by Savitri Bess's own years of devotion to the Hindu mystic Ammachi (Mata Amritanandamayi).
A coming of old age story. A magical realism novel of mystery, romance, goddesses set in the village of Southwest Harbor, on the coast of "Downeast" Maine.
Adventure, romance, in the tradition of quest literature. A fast-paced story set in the Sonoran Desert where coyotes play a magical role.
Magazine Articles
An astrological study using mythology as metaphor
handmade books
Hickory Stroogle, a fantasy story set on an island in the Hebrides (long before the islands were known by that name).

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