Lately I have been getting asked or running into questions being asked about incorporating the Hindu deities into conjure. Because I have worked with them for the better part of 20 years now, I do have a set method of working that has been extremely successful for me, and which I’m happy to share. It is a way of working that respects the cultural tradition from which they spring, and acknowledges their roles as full-fledged powerful and compassionate deities, and not just spirits that we can treat as totems for quick money or the like.
I had previously written an article about using mantras with spellwork, which introduces the topic of petitioning Hindu deities for magical goals in a very basic sense. People have been requesting more detailed information, which I applaud, and so I’m happy to provide my perspective.
I am in no way saying that this is the only manner of working with them, I am just presenting what has worked for me and how the Hindu deities have guided me to work with them. Once you develop a relationship with them, they may guide you differently.
So without further ado, here are some of the most common questions and concerns that I run into regarding blending work with Hindu deities into a rootworking or other folk magic context.
HOW DO I WORK WITH THEM FOR MY SPELLS?
I would suggest working to build your connection with them before trying to petition them for anything other than just their presence. It irks me to see people treating them like gum-ball machines – thinking that if they put up a statue and pour some oil on it that money or love will just start to come right out at them. These are high-level gods and goddesses who are worthy and deserving of your respect, and because they have approximately 900 million native worshippers they are not dependant on your offerings for their sustenance. They are compassionate deities who are more than willing to help those who call upon them with a sincere heart, and who may receive spiritual benefit from their interactions.
While they are certainly happy to aid with your day-to-day mundane problems, they do have a much more expanded view of life and are more anxious to aid you so that you can develop spiritually, then they are to just give you stuff because you want it. Ultimately they are most concerned with maintaining the dharma, the right way of living. If helping you will help you be a better person and live a better life, then they will most likely be willing to lend aid. However if your goal has no real positive value, then you may find yourself unaided.
Taking the time to develop a relationship with them shows that you have a vested spiritual interest in them and the disciplined commitment to some form of spiritual practice to be deserving of their attention and open to their positive influences.
Spend time reading up on the various myths and scriptures associated with that deity – that way you can learn their personality, as well as their likes and dislikes, and in what ways you can expect them to work with you. Set up an altar space for the deities you wish to work with, and make is beautiful and welcoming. At least burn some incense and a candle at the altar daily, while spending some time calling out to them and inviting their presence into your life. I recommend that you perform a small simple puja for them each day, and spend time chanting their mantras. As I spoke of in the other article, mantras are extremely potent and powerful and call in the attention and energies of a deity very quickly.
You will want to make sure that you have successfully called the deity’s presence into your altar image before petitioning for specific requests. There are rituals that one can perform to establish the deity into an image, however this generally requires an established relationship and connection between the deity and the person doing that ritual. So those first starting out would most likely not be able to accomplish them. However, daily devotions done at an altar will result in the deity being called into that space and establishing a presence there, if the devotions are performed with consistency and sincerity.
SO HOW DO I DO A SMALL PUJA?
Puja is ritual devotion. If you look up traditional Hindu pujas that often look very intimidating and require many items that, unless you live near an Indian market, it will be unfamiliar to you and difficult to acquire (although online shopping has made it easier to get them). However, you don’t need to offer all the various things that are culturally foreign to you. You simply want to offer something from each of the 5 elements, and that is sufficient.
Each day offer a small amount of food (Earth element) for the deity to take prana/energy from, some cool water (Water element) for them to refresh themselves with, some incense to sweeten the air with (Air element), some light in the form of a ghee lamp or candle (Fire element) for them to warm themselves with, and your mantras, hymns, and prayers of devotion and respect (Spirit element).
Flowers are another common offering if you have them readily available, they are a nice addition; however if you do not have a garden, buying flowers daily can be cost-inhibitive, so this can be an options offering for special occasions. Another nice touch which you can experiment with is ringing a small bell as you make the offerings – as bells are considered to bring the deities attention to the altar and cross through the various planes of existence. Generally speaking bhajans (hymns) to the deity will be sung while the offerings are being made. Most of these are in Hindi or another Indian-language, however you can easily find them streaming online at YouTube, and it’s become common practice in modern times to simply play bhajans on a stereo during puja. This is what I generally do, though because I’ve listened to them for so long I now know the words and can sing along. But it is nice to have the musical atmosphere. Again, the bhajans and music are optional. These are elements which can be added once it seems natural to do so, and needn’t be seen as a requirement.
When you present the offering to the deity’s murti (image), it is traditional to circle it in front of their image 3 times in a clockwise motion.
After presenting the offering, spend time praying and chanting. I recommend chanting the mantra at least 108 times, which is one round of mala (Hindu rosary), and then spend a few moments just speaking from the heart. It’s easy to find mantras to the various deities through Google searching. But just in case you get confused, here are some simple ones for some of the more popular deities for your reference.
Ganesha – OM GAM Ganapateyei namaha
Lakshmi – OM SREE Mahalakshmiyei swaha
Saraswarti- OM AIM Saraswatieyi namaha
Durga – OM DUM Durgayei namaha
Kali – OM KRIM Kalikayei namaha
Shiva – OM nama Shivaya
Krishna – Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
When you are finished chanting and communing at the altar, then partake of the food and water offerings that you made. In Hindu practice this is called Prasad, or grace – the deities has taken what it wants from the offerings, and in turn has bestowed special blessings and energy onto them. Partaking of the offerings is a way of accepting the blessings of the deity and internalizing their presence and energy. This is similar to the Christian communion.
SO HOW DO YOU DO THE CONJURE PART OF THE WORK WITH THEM?
But when you move into petitioning them, I always perform puja first, and only then ask their aid with my petition and conjure.
I don't really change too much about the conjure itself at that point, except I use mantra instead of Christian-style prayer and of course I'm asking for their aid and not any other spirit from any other tradition. So however you would normally go about dressing and working your candles, or making your mojo bag or bottle spell, or whatever you may be doing, you basically do that the same way.
However as I perform the conjure I chant an appropriate mantra to bring that deities energy and aid to the work, or you can just pray to the deity from your heart asking for their aid. This is like the prayer part of the work that you would normally do, you are just addressing the prayer to the Hindu deity, rather than a different saint or angel or whathaveyou.
Finding an appropriate mantra is an important step if you wish to incorporate mantras into the work itself (which I always do). Healing Mantras and Shakti Mantras are two great books by Namadeva Acharya (aka Thomas Ashley-Farrand) that help you find a mantra that energetically targets particular goals. The author also has accompanying CDs that you can purchase to learn how to properly chant a mantra, and also to have a track to chant along with which can be very convenient. As I chant an appropriate mantra, I visualize the sound taking the form of my petition being granted - so that see that happening with each recitation of the mantra. That's at least 108 times of seeing it happen in one sitting, though if you have the endurance doing 10 rounds of japa is ideal.
What’s fantastic about incorporating mantras into your conjure, is that you can chant your mantra at any time and be working for your goal. Just hold your petition/intent firmly in mind as you chant. This can help you work towards you goal throughout the day. Even if I have completed the ritual part of my conjure, for instance I am done with my 7-day prosperity candle ritual, I will still chant at the altar each day for my petition. This continues the work and helps infuse me and my space with the energy of that deities aid for my case.
As an explicit example of my blended “Hindu conjure” work, let’s take dressing a glass encased vigil light. I have all my conjure supplies at hand, and then perform the puja. Once the puja is complete I speak from the heart asking for the deities blessing and aid in my need. Then I begin preparing the candle – dressing with oil, inscribing names/petitions, etc. I speak and pray from the heart to the deity while I do all this. Then I take the candle into my hands, and holding the candle in such a way that my breath will fall onto the top wax, I begin chanting 108 of the appropriate mantra for that deity and my petition. As I chant, I strongly visualize that deity aiding my cause and my petition being granted. When I am through chanting, I knock the candle on the table 3 times to seal it, and then light it to set it to work. I place the candle on the deity’s altar, and then partake of the offerings while offering my sincere thanks for their aid, and for the blessings received through the prasad.
When your goal has manifested, I recommend preparing a puja with more elaborate offerings (within your means) in thanks. Go out of your way to find out what exact foods and flowers are especially favored by that deity and offer them. Ganesha is particularly fond of sweet balls, called modaka or ladoo, but any sweet will do. Saraswati likes yellow sour candles, and yellow foods in general. Coconuts (and coconut water and coconut milk), mangoes, honey, fruits in general, and rice are always good offerings if you're not sure what else to offer. Try to include flowers in a thanksgiving puja as well, as well as some traditional music.
WHAT CONDITION PRODUCTS (OILS, INCENSE, ETC) DO I USE WHEN WORKING WITH THE HINDU DEITIES?
I use the same products that I would normally use for that condition. If I’m working to draw money, I’ll use Money-Drawing, if I’m working to open my way I’ll use Road Opener or Van Van, if I’m working for success I’ll use Crown of Success, etc.
If I have a specific image of a deity that I maintain on a separate altar, as in not an altar exclusively for them (for example the Ganesha and Lakshmi that I keep on my prosperity altar), I will anoint it with an appropriate condition oil at least once weekly. This helps keep it specifically attuned to the intent of that altar space; but I still understand that the deity in question in much larger and multifaceted than simply that one particular aspect that I call upon at that altar.
Also, Lucky Mojo does make a fantastic line of Hindu Deity condition products that can be incorporated into that work. I like to use the Lucky Mojo Hindu oils in my puja, and then blend some of the Hindu oils with the appropriate condition oils for my conjure for the actual spell work. So blending my Road Opening with Ganesha oil is pretty standard fare around my conjure studio, as is blending Lakshmi oil with Wealthy Way oil.
As for general devotional work with the Hindu deities, sandalwood incense is always a great choice. Again, theLucky Mojo Hindu incenses are a fantastic choice as well. If you do have an Indian market near you, you can find other incense blends that are made with a specific deity in mind. Generally these are all synthetically fragranced, though, so I don’t use them in my conjure very often. But they can be nice altar offerings.
I’VE HEARD I HAVE TO HONOR GANESHA, EVEN IF I JUST WANT TO WORK WITH LAKSHMI?
Yes, always acknowledge Ganesha in some way before moving into petitioning any other deities. He's the gatekeeper, and it's traditional Hindu protocol to honor him first. Trust me, it will make things go easier. If you are at all familiar with African Traditional Religions, then you may recognize this concept of a gatekeeper-type spirit that must be acknowledged before any of spirits. Papa Legba and Ellegua immediately come to mind. Ganesha’s role is very similar, so to ensure that any obstacles are removed from you reaching the other deities, always acknowledge him in some way at the outset of your rituals.
This can be easily accomplished by saying his mantra OM GAM Ganapatayei namaha once while intending that he hear and open the ways for your devotions and work.
It’s a tiny amount of effort to respect that spiritual protocol and reap the benefits of following it.
AM I SUPPOSED TO KEEP GANESHA BY MY FRONT DOOR?
Ganesha does serve as guardian of the thresholds, and so is often kept by doorways in Hindu practice. Keeping a statue of Ganesha by the front door is something that I first learned from an Indian furnace-repairman that came to our home early last winter (can you guess why he was there – LOL).
I have a very small Ganesha statue that I used to keep by my computer. When we moved into the new house, he got packed away, and when I finally unpacked that box he ended up going onto a shelf with some other small statues that I had in the basement. As the repairman was leaving he saw the Ganesha statue and turned to look at me, re-noticed that I am definitely not Indian, and asked who else lived here. I answered just me and my husband. He looked puzzled and asked why we have a Ganesha statue (he hadn’t walked through any of the rooms where my large altars are, or he would have gotten an eyeful of all kinds of Hindu deities and Christian saints). I said that I’ve honored Ganesha ever since I studied Hinduism in university. He nodded and said, “You should really keep him facing your front door. He will bring blessings and guard the home. But he must face your front door!”.
I thanked him for telling me that as he left. I now keep my large stone Ganesha statue facing my front door on my prosperity altar in my living room – and my blessings have definitely increased!
You don't HAVE to keep Ganesha near your front door, it is just one folk practice associated with him that I have adopted. For most of the time I've been a devotee of him he had altar space in a variety of different places in my home and our relationship was fine. So don't feel obligated to keep him near your door - it is just one way that you may do it.
If you would like to develop a relationship with Ganesha, I would recommend that you start by reading one of the best resources available on the topic, Loving Ganesa, which is available online for free!
WHAT PSALMS DO I PRAY WHEN WORKING WITH HINDU DEITIES?
I've been asked a couple times in the past week if I use Christian prayer/psalms, etc with the Hindu deities. If I'm petitioning the Hindu deities, I just leave it with them and keep it within the Hindu tradition. I try to keep my spirit-systems separate unless I get specifically guided to blend them. I don't think Ganesha would mind working with other spirits, but Durga and Kali might depending on the circumstances, and I'm sure there some others that might not get on so well with other pantheons, and remember that many Christian spirits are quite against polytheistic traditions and may not play well with others in that regard as well!
That is a generality to keep in mind, not a hard and fast rule. Jesus is often worshipped alongside the Hindu deities on some Indian altars. In my healing studio, St. Michael and Durga share a space on a protection altar. They actually get along fairly well, as both are divine figures who actively fight demons! However your Durga may feel otherwise – so make sure to ask, or at least make adjustments if you feel that two spirits from different cultures aren’t fairing well sharing space.
I do know that some people still pray psalms when working with the Hindu deities, and their work is successful. That is fine – if you wish to try it, go ahead. For me it just feels “off”, and so I do not do that when I work with them. The energy is just too different for me. But if you feel drawn to try it, please feel free to experiment.
If you do like having scripture to read as part of your work, I encourage you to look up the scriptures of the deities you are petitioning. Most of them will have many different texts associated with them that you can find online or at a good library. There are truly stirring pieces of sacred literature and devotional poetry that make excellent additions to ritual work with them.
ARE THERE CERTAIN THINGS I SHOULD AVOID WHEN WORKING WITH THE HINDU DEITIES?
Speaking of some spirits not getting along with others... there are some inter-Hindu feuds between the deities, and taboos for certain spirits that you may wish to be aware of. Taking time to learn about the deity you wish to work with will also give you a good idea of what they like and what they do not.
One example is that you should never have Lakshmi and Saraswati on the same altar together unless you put someone else there as well to mediate - usually you'll see Ganesh in that role, though sometimes you'll find Durga playing go-between. (This isn't universally practiced, because Hinduism is far too big of a tradition for that. But it is present in some regions, so if you find your Lakshmi and Saraswati not getting along, it's something to be aware of.)
In some traditions, Ganesha and Shiva do not like tulsi, so never use tulsi malas (commonly used in devotion with Krishna and other Vaisnava deities) or tulsi leaves in his devotions; sandalwood or rudraksha are safer bets. Apparently the reason behind this is that tulsi (holy basil) is used to exorcise spirits, and Shiva is the patron god of ghosts and gouls, so he does not appreciate the presence of a botanical that removes his friends. Ganesha according to some myths got into a disagreement with Tulsi who cursed him, and he cursed her in return to eventually be turned into a plant; she repented and he turned her curse into a blessing by saying she would be central in the worship of Vishnu, but she was still never to be present where he was worshipped. Likewise tulsi, in some traditions, is not to be used with Lakshmi because Tulsi was a sometimes rival for Vishnu's (Lakshmi's husband) affections.
Of course NEVER offer meat of any kind to Krishna as he is a very strict vegetarian. Generally don't offer beef or alcohol of any kind to the Hindu deities since those are taboo substances, unless you are petitioning a tantric aspect that accepts such things, or you're working in another blended tradition that has its own methods of offering that's been negotiated with the deities.
So there are just little things like that to be aware of, but mostly if you honor them with sincerity they will help guide your practice. I find Ganesha is actually the most active guide in that respect. I've had some pujaris and priests tell me the same thing.
Finding out the likes and dislikes of the deity you're working with is definitely part of the reason you should do some research into their myths and scriptures and traditional worship. It will only help deepen your relationship with them to take the time to do so. And always listen to the deity! They will speak to you and let you know how best to serve them.
SO, HINDU GODDESSES DON’T GET ALONG THEN?
It's not goddesses in general that don't get along, it's specifically Lakshmi and Saraswati. In the Shakta traditions they are considered sisters with Durga as their mother. In those areas Durga is the mother of Laskhmi, Saraswati, Ganesha, and Murugan; and Shiva is a mostly absent father who spends all his time away from home smoking hashish and hanging out the ghosts and ghouls. Durga becomes more like a struggling mother who tries to keep peace among her family in those traditions, which are very folk based and speak to the experience of many poor rural women. Laskhmi and Saraswati have a fierce sibling rivalry, and so simply cannot be in the same space together alone without huge fights breaking out - so to keep the peace there must always be a third between them. Generally you see Ganesha, as he is their brother, and peacekeeper, and mediator of the gods; but sometimes you'll find Durga since she is their mother.
I’VE HEARD OF HINDU GODDESSES POSSESSING PRIEST/ESSES SORT OF LIKE WHAT HAPPENS IN VODOU? IS THIS TRUE?
Yes, this happens most commonly in certain areas of Northern India. If that is a topic that you would like to explore more, I think a book you would be very interested in is Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls by June McDaniel. It's about the folk Shakta traditions in Bengal, and they talk a good deal about the various devotees that get chosen by Durga or Manasa Devi, and in many cases become possessed and channel the goddesses at certain times. These men and women are approached from people all over for herbal remedies and cures, spiritual advice for dealing with various issues in their lives.
You'll also find many tree spirits and other nature spirits being honored, as well as trees and rocks that are believed to be manifestations of particular goddesses and so provided with devotions.
Those folk traditions are much more shamanic than mainstream Sanskritic Hinduism, and share a good deal in common with indigenous spirit-working traditions around the globe, including the African ones.
Generally speaking though, this is not a common event even within Hinduism in India. It is a fairly localized phenomenon.
I’M AFRAID OF WORKING WITH KALI, SO I WORK WITH DURGA INSTEAD. IS THIS RIGHT?
It's neither right nor wrong, really. Durga is a very protective force. I was taught to use OM DUM Durgayei Namaha as a very strong protective mantra to practice if you want to invoke her protection. But Kali and Durga, while being intimately related since one is an aspect of the other, have very different energies and serve very different functions.
As Kali is the fiercest aspect of Durga, you can certainly call on Durga and once you've developed the connection with her ask her to aid you in connecting with Kali in the way that is most appropriate for you at that time. You will see then how different their energies are!
As to the dichotomy of Durga and Kali, a good friend of mine, Kalipadma, explained it thusly (and I find that to be very accurate) - Kali is the negative/entropic force, meaning that she tears things down, destroys, levels, brings chaos...all of this is the doorway for new beginnings. The old has to be destroyed or die, before the new can take its place. Durga is thepositive force, meaning that she comes in and re-builds, fortifies, lifts up, brings order...all of this helps make things stronger and better. Kali can be rough, but it is always out of compassion - though admittedly it can be hard to handle sometimes. That's why I always like to invoke Ganesha into any Kali works, because he helps mitigate and smooth over the chaos, making it more bearable.
But there are forms of Kali that are much more gentle. So if you feel called to develop a relationship with Kali but feel intimidated by her nature, start with one of the more soft Motherly manifestations of her -Bhavatarini, for example. This is the manifestation that means "savioress of the world", or "redeemer of the universe". Use an image of her that emphasizes her beauty, as well as Motherly and Compassionate nature, rather than her fierce nature and call on her by her gentle names.
I hope that this information has helped you and inspired those who wish to incorporate devotion to the Hindu deities in their folk magic practice.