The Goddess: Holder or Enabler of Fertility?

Storing up of power is also seen in women who are virginal, as in the Mahabharata, when Madhavi gives part of her (virginal) virtue to help restore her father Yayati. Upon intercourse, Dexter explains, a woman's "energy was released and given to a man, sometimes in the concrete form of a child, and sometimes in the abstract form of revitalization."1 And, as shown several sections ago, goddesses are most often thought of the holders of fertility -- Ganga Mata's very self (water) is seen as, again, the "sustaining immortal fluid (amrta) of mother's milk,"2 and Usas and Adjti are sources of nourishment and light.

Mata Ganga in Siva's hair
When Mata Ganga brings fertility to Earth, the enterprise succeeds because she is first diverted and calmed in Siva's hair. Here we have the male mediating and controlling the power (fertility and energy) of the female.

But for Siva himself, procreation is both instigated by a goddess (Parvati wielding Siva into marriage) and seperated from that same female:
. . . the gods interrupt Siva and Parvati's lovemaking. As a result Siva spills his semen outside Parvati. The potent seed, which is extremely fiery and hot, passes from one container to another . . . until it is finally contained in a suitable place, often the Ganges River, where it is incubated and born as the child Karttikeya."3

O'Flaherty points out that in both the Upanisadic tradition and "Dharmasastra, too, the seed remains more important than the womb," and even the sweat and tears of men have creative force; when Brahma lusted after Sandhya, "his sweat fell to the ground and produced a multitude of sages," and, in the Matsya, Atri's tears are the embryo which, having been recieved by the ten points of the compass in the form of a woman, becomes Soma.4


And while the Ganges (sometimes characterized as Siva's wife) and Earth are seen as sources of fertility, this splitting in two of the female role in procreation casts the goddesses (Parvati and Mata Ganga, Sandhya and Earth) in the role of enabler rather than holder (different, here, from container) of fertility. Sex itself is to be avoided by aesthetics (excepting those following the 'left-handed' way), and can be negative even for the house-holder: "After marrying Parvati, Siva made love to her for a thousand years, but then he lost all of his tejas and his virility was reduced."5