Deities and Demons: Shiva the Destroyer

January 08, 2020 0 Comments

Deities and Demons: Shiva the Destroyer

Deities and Demons

Shiva the Destroyer
By Sera Timms
O you the creator, you the destroyer, you who sustain and make an end,
Who in sunlight dance among the birds and the children at play,
Who at midnight dance among the corpses in the burning grounds,
You, Shiva, you dark and terrible Bhairava,
You Suchness and Illusion, the Void and All Things,
You are the lord of life, and therefore I have brought you flowers;
You are the lord of death, and therefore I have brought you my heart—
This heart that is now your burning ground.
Ignorance there and self shall be consumed with fire.
That you may dance, Bhairava, among the ashes.
That you may dance, Lord Shiva, in a place of flowers,
And I dance with you.
-Aldous Huxley, Island


Shiva is a complex Hindu Deity whose identity is inseparable from the Hindu Trimurti (or trinity) of Gods, composed of Brahma as Creator, Vishnu as Preserver, and Shiva as Destroyer. In that they are a trinity, neither of them is exclusively bound to the actions their names would imply, and instead each acts as a mask of inertia upon the stage that is life.

The role Shiva plays in the game of life is that of a juggler who effortlessly balances the opposing forces of creation and destruction, asceticism and procreation, stillness and dancing, order and chaos. There are myths that describe him appearing among mortals as a begging wanderer seducing the wives of evil sages, and also as a terrifying destroyer who lords over the burning grounds of cremation. He is known in one of his ascetic guises to have ignored his beloved feminine counterpart Shakti for thousands of years while she beckoningly danced for him, and yet in another state he is found playing out the folly of passionate grief in which he destroys the very God of desire whom enables romantic love to exist with his all consuming fire. As The Destroyer, Shiva’s role certainly conjures up much fear and animosity, but as we will see, his destructive force is ultimately a vehicle of liberation.

Shiva has over 1000 names, nearly all with different meanings and functions, so he can be very hard to pin down. Shiva means “Auspicious One” and his other names range from Mrityunjaya-”The One Who Conquers Death”, to Shambhu-”One Who Bestows Prosperity”, to Om Bhavaya Namah-”The God Who Is Existence Itself”, Kala-”Time”. He is said to be inextricably woven into all form, but does have a specific iconography which includes: 

  • Third Eye: His third eye is the origin of his destructive fire. From this eye he destroyed Kama, the God of Desire, and he then had no desire to connect with his feminine counterpart and creation ceased. His partner returned in the form of Parvati who rejoices in desire and holds the spirit of Kama (desire) in her eyes. Still she could not lure him with her beauty because he had destroyed his own desire and so was content to exist eternally in the silence and stillness of the eternal void from which all form comes. So instead she sat and prayed until he could hear the devoted desires of Parvati, and out of love and compassion he choose to unite with her, and the world of creation began again. 
  • Blue Throat: He obtained a blue throat in a heroic feat of drinking poison to save all of humanity.
  • Crescent Moon: He is shown with s crescent on his head and described in sanskrit texts as “having the moon on his crest”.
  • Ashes: Shiva is covered in white ashes from the Cremation Grounds which he lords over.
  • Tiger Skin: And indicator of his great and dangerous power, reserved for only the most accomplished ascetics.
  • King Cobra: He wears the Naga (powerful serpent deity) around his neck like a necklace. The two became allies when they paired up to save the world from a toxic poison.
  • Trident: Shiva’s weapon 
  • Hourglass Shaped Drum: Used in Shiva’s sacred dance which keeps the rhythm of the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, as well as the daily rhythm of birth and death. 
  • Nandi: The White Bull which Shiva rides.
  • Mount Kailasa: The abode in the Himalayas in which Shiva lives.

 Android Jones

Shiva by Android Jones



Possibly the most well known image of Shiva is as the “Lord Of The Dance” or Nataraja, where he is shown ecstatically enraptured in the thrall of his own force, encircled by a ring of fire; A Cosmic Dance known as Ananda Tandava which translates to “Dance of Bliss” and implies a dance which begins with fierceness and ends in bliss. His dance is the animating force of the Universe. When portrayed as Nataraja, he is shown with his drum, a destructive flame in one hand, a protection Mudra with another hand, a raised leg symbolizing the hope of liberation, and the other leg standing upon a demon who represents ignorance and disorder, and the ring of fire which represents the successive cosmic cycles.

When Shiva dances the world is birthed or destroyed. When Shiva meditates the world disappears. If Shiva creates in ecstatic bliss, then he destroys the formless void. If Shiva destroys the world with raging fire, then the mortals are forced to release attachment to form, the liberation from desire, and to return to identification with the void, with the transcendent center of all possibility, also known as the Quantum Field. The void is where time does not exist, where Shiva is no longer keeping the rhythm of time going on his drum. The dance is also a metaphor for the process of spiritual transformation and our own personal cycles of death/rebirth, rest/inertia, etc,

With the current Saturn alignments we are likely feeling the pressure a Saturn’s restrictive force, his enforcement of deadlines, and the karmic debts he reveals when we have not been abiding by the laws of our soul-work. When we’re feeling the heaviness of time, and longing for it to stand still just so we can catch our breathe, it’s time to take a mediation break and meet Shiva in the void, where there is no time, no pressure, no rhythm, no “to do” list, no emails, and no desire ...there is only stillness and peace.

When we are stuck in old patterns, jobs we’ve outgrown, friends and relationships that are no longer in alignment with our current path, disempowering emotional patterns, even an old wardrobe that no longer suits us...then it’s time to dance with Shiva! The dance of destruction will help to burn away all that’s no longer serving you, and the dance of creation will help to bring forth the new.


lord shiva the destroyer



Be forewarned, Shiva is a VERY powerful force to work with! Proceed with caution and reverence, and be prepared for massive transformation and shedding of skin when you work with The Destroyer!

  • Wear tiger print
  • Paint a crescent on your forehead
  • Do a meditation to the soundtrack of a shaman drum, and visualize what you’d like to release and/or create
  • Do a mediation where you imagine letting all form fall away. First imagine hollowing out the form of your body with empty space, then the room, then the whole world! This is how you become your eternal consciousness in the void. Once you get to this place you may envision something your heart wants to create or bring into your life.
  • Dance with wild abandon to release the old
  • Dance with utter joy to attract the new 
  • Write a list of personal patterns or habits you’d like to release and safely burn the list. If you want to make it even more powerful mix the ashes with water and spread them on your body like Shiva. You could also use them to draw Shiva’s crescent moon on your forehead. 
  • Look up all of Shiva’s names and choose one that resonates with you intuitively...try not to think about it rationally. Light a candle for Shiva, then do a 5-10 minute meditation chanting that name. This allows Shiva’s force to help you in ways you may not know that you need help.
  • Draw or print images of him or any of his symbols and place on your altar so Shiva will help you let go of the old and outmoded aspects of your life


shiva at the metropolitan museum









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