Lord of beginnings and destroyer of obstacles, Ganesha came into my life when I was in sorry shape - my family life was falling apart, my friendships were precarious, I was self hurting and drinking far more than I should have been. I was in desperate need of a change.
One hot summer night meandering the booths at a fair, I came across a shop with all manner of statues and tapestries of a Celtic style. I browsed and nothing caught my eye at first but there among all of those swirling knots and long haired beautiful Gods, sat one very different figure. He called to me as soon as I saw him and I paid two days wage for him (remember when $5 was the legal limit on minimum wage?) carrying this elephant headed fellow home ever so carefully.
Placing him on my nightstand, I slept soundly for the first time in what seemed like forever and the next day began to research who he was. Having been a follower of the Greek pantheon, the Hindu gods were completely new to me and I lost myself in the research and learning. I offered up sweets and devotions to Ganesha and felt only warmth and joviality in return.
That was thirteen years ago. Ganesha has moved with me from home to home and my original icon has been joined by two smaller ones who live in different areas of the house as well as a pendant. My main one, however, resides in the heart of our home on my mantle - he is our main house Deity. Every day as I walk past him I stop and offer him my thanks and my love, dusting him off and running my finger down his trunk. I often burn candles and incense for him in devotion and if there are sweet things being made, he always receives the first piece. My devotion to him brings me nothing but happiness and just sitting with him or wearing his charm, fills me with love and a sense of peace. He helps me to understand that nothing is static and even the biggest obstacles and challenges, the most seemingly impossible situations can be overcome and changed.
You can't tell from the photo, but his trunk is worn to a much lighter, reddish shade from my rubbing it. No idea why I do it, it's just always felt right.
Some folks may find it odd that I work with this particular deity, being as how I'm not a follower of the Hindu faith. But as an eclectic Pagan, I choose to work with those deities who tap me on the shoulder, call my name and fill me with knowing. Ganesha has been a part of my life longer than I have had a name for my beliefs, I've been with him longest of all the Gods, save Artemis and Hermes.
The name Ganesha is broken up into two parts - 'gana' meaning follower of Shiva and 'isha' meaning lord, making Ganesha the lord of the Ganas - followers of Shiva.
The elephant headed Hindu deity Ganesha is the god of success and the destroyer of obstacles, vanity and pride. He is also worshipped as the god of wisdom, education, the arts and science.
He is a loving and benign deity who you can invoke to overcome dificulties, to see you through on a journey, when making business decisions, for inspiration or when you could just use a little luck in your life.
He is a god rich in symbolism and mythology. The story of how he came by his unusual head is one of the most popular, there are several versions so this is just a paraphrasing of one:
While her husband Shiva was away, the Goddess Parvati, wished to have undisturbed privacy during her bath. As such, she created a son for herself from paste on her body and set him at the entrance to her private chambers with the instructions that no one was to enter.
The boy, true to his word, refused entrance to Shiva when he returned. Growing increasingly incensed at his being blocked by this boy (who he didn't realize was his son), Shiva lopped off the boy's head and tossed it away! Emerging from her bath, Parvati was overcome with such anger and sorrow that she threatened to destroy the heavens and the Earth for her son.
Acting quickly to pacify his wife, Shiva sent his followers into the forest, telling them to bring back the head of the first creature they encountered. They returned with the head of an elephant and Shiva attached it to the boy's body, breathed life back into him and gave him the name of Ganesha. Overjoyed, Parvati and her son embraced.
Large Head - Wisdom, big ideas and a keen ability to make discriminating decisions.
Big Ears - Good Listener, able to hear any and all prayers and ideas no matter how small.
Broken Tusk - Duality, the full tusk representing wisdom and the broken (left) tusk representing emotion. It is said Ganesha broke off his tusk to use as a stylus to finish copying a dictation - finish what you start.
Trunk - Adaptability, flexibility, the ability to be strong or gentle depending upon the situation.
Big Belly - Sometimes said to contain the world or all of the emotions there-in. The ability to face and digest all emotions and situations, pleasant or not, in a peaceful manner.
The Mouse - Ego, desire. Often seen riding atop the mouse's back, or with the creature small at his feet this symbolizes Ganesha's control over his egos and desires, that he does not allow them to control him but rather he controls them. The mouse shows that thought controlled, they are always present.
There are so many more symbols and stories about this particular deity, so many names and aspects to him that I can't possibly go over them all here. If you're interested in learning more about Ganesha, A quick internet search will yield more reading than your eyes can handle in a day.