“Let’s begin to see Kwan Yin in our mind’s eye. She’s an Asian Goddess, who wears flowing robes. She is usually tall and slender, sometimes nude or barefoot. Women turned to Kwan Yin when they were on their birthing bed or in their struggle for freedom and recognition. It was she who would bring their husbands back from war or the sea. It was believed she could understand their struggle, pain and suffering, and she lent them needed strength, love and compassion. She can be seen sitting on a lotus flower, fish, elephant or lion-like beast. Her image can also be one where she is nursing a baby or holding a child. Her symbols are a scroll of truth, a jar of healing water, and a pray of willow representing womanhood. She is often depicted with her feet on a dragon. The numbers vary widely, so let’s just say she has 33 manifestations and 11 heads enabling her to hear and see the cries of the needy and to answer their prayers. She also has 1,000 hands in which she holds a vase containing amitra, or the dew of compassion, which she pours forth upon humankind to extend life, cure, and purify the body, mind and speech. Kannon held objects too, to fight off all manner of misfortune that might befall humanity: a rosary, trident, sword, lotus, bow and arrows, ax, mirror, wheel, and bell. I couldn’t help but think of the female warrioresses in the movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
I think when patriarchy allows us to glimpse the Sacred Feminine, it wants us to see a very narrow and limiting picture of Goddess we might feel we must emulate in order to serve man or patriarchy’s authoritarian god. She is demure and mutable, a woman out of balance and not in touch with her power. Sure, they might approve of the nubile sex goddess here for man’s pleasure or the giving mother without personal boundaries to protect herself, the healer wiping the nose of the sick child or the tears from suffering eyes, or the crone who dedicates her time to keeping the church altar clean.
We’re allowed to have the Great Mother in our spiritual paradigm if she is docile and tame like Mary, or as the Goddess that saves women in childbirth or men from bombs and typhoons. But would patriarchy have us reclaim the full meaning of the Queen Mother of Compassion, or any Goddess, if it meant embodying her might bring our world into balance and emulating her caused women to no longer serve the status quo? I think looking more deeply at Goddesses like Kwan Yin/Kannon might make the patriarchy very nervous.” – Karen Tate, Goddess Calling