Goddess of Disease

Sitala is a beautiful goddess. She is usually presented as such, very beautiful, although often in odd context. Beauty in the context of eating and regurgitating an elephant, for instance. She is the goddess of sores, of ghouls, of pustules and disease. A strange place to find beauty. And sometimes, like the ferocious Kali, she is presented as a frightening goddess, showing the fears of disease. Yet disease is seen as favor of the goddess (as is the lack of disease in some cases). The goddess loves you. She wants you to be a part of her. But disease is also her way of punishment.

What is the difference between disease as a blessing, and disease as a curse? Disease is this goddess's lila, the way in which she interacts with the universe and humanity. Perhaps the best thing you can hope for is to be ignored by this particular goddess, neither her favor nor her disfavor look terribly enticing for mortals.

But this is not the only goddess who shows her favor through things we would consider bad. The Ganga steals away people for her own if they please her. And being struck down by a goddess in her favor is a most auspicious way to die. And in India aspicious ways to die are more important, more important often than even continuing to live.

Sitala is a strange goddess. She appears odd to western eyes, which are not accustomed to seeing disease as a goddess, or as a good thing. But disease makes us stronger. If we can pass through Sitala's rite of passage, we often come out the other side stronger and more able to deal with the rest life can throw at us. But there are some who never fully escape her hold, who stay sickly, and eventually, like all of us, die, perhaps a little sooner than they should have. Sitala is a harsh mother, she prepares us for the world. And some of us aren't quite ready.

Sitala desires worship, and those who do not worship her should dearly fear her wrath. She is a harsh mistress, she will do with you as she wishes. But eventually she will come through for you. Usually. Just don't cross her. For disease is a nasty thing, and Sitala has a temper, and has the muscle with which to back it up. So remember to do as she asks.

Worshipping disease is a way to try to appease it. Plagues appear as if they have a will of their own. They will take one person and not another, wipe out entire towns, or only take some. They may skip over that house, and only take one in that house, but take everyone in the next house. Disease is fickle. And seems to have its own agenda. It can rise from its own ashes years later, cholera lingering in the weave of fabrics spreading its death to others long after the original "donor" is long gone. So perhaps it makes sense to have a goddess of disease. She gives order to an otherwise orderless process, disease gives and takes, and if there is some mind behind that...

That is both comforting and frightening.

The Goddess on the Edge Back to Kali Pollution and Ganga Ma
The Edge Home Pollution

Note: This is actually a picture of Devi, and not her aspect of Sitala.