The Howler





Shiva, Lord of Creation, Destruction and Death, destroys pain and sorrow. He is the lord of fertility and a great healer, described as the greatest of all physicians. Deity of the forest, hunting, and fishing, he is patron and ruler of untouchables and Demons.

Shiva is an indigenous, pre-Aryan deity of India. In his earliest manifestation, he may have been a horned god: an image, identifiable as him, found among the ruins of Mohenjo Daro (circa 2000 BCE) shows a spirit seated in yoga position with erect phallus, his head crowned with bull’s horns. Horned masks were found nearby.

According to myth, Shiva is the world creator. He manifested at the beginning of time in the form of a pillar of fire from which the entire world eventually sprang.

Aryan conquerors of India initially disliked Shiva, but his popularity was such that he was eventually integrated into their pantheon although still considered chaotic, dangerous, and unpredictable. Shiva is called the destroyer of rites and social barriers. He is a knowledge sharer, accused of teaching sacred texts to the low-born who were previously denied access. Shiva haunts cemeteries in the company of ghosts, witches, spirits, and gnomes. He is the protector of trees, animals, and wild nature and is among the world’s most beloved deities.

Shiva has various paths or aspects. He is, for instance:

• An extreme, dedicated ascetic

• A loving, devoted husband

• The cosmic dancer

• Lord of destruction

Shiva may or may not be another name for Dionysus, whose myth also places him in India. Like Dionysus, Shiva is identified with intoxicating substances and sex magic. He is often portrayed in the form of a phallus (the Shiva lingam), as is Dionysus. Both lead parades of dancing witches and spirits. Shiva, like Dionysus, is patron of theater as shamanic or magical performance, and like Dionysus, Shiva is happily wed: he and his consort, Parvati, symbolize the perfect union of complementary powers. Shiva is also wed to the various goddesses who may be paths or emanations of Parvati including Uma, Durga, and Kali.


Shiva is an ascetic and a sadhu: one who has renounced normal existence to devote himself entirely to spirituality and contemplation of the sacred. Shiva wears animal skins or no clothes but is adorned with snakes, scorpions, and a necklace of skulls. His hair is hopelessly tangled and matted. His face is covered with cremation ashes.


Shiva is represented by phallic images. Standard iconography portrays Shiva with blue skin, four arms, and four faces with three eyes each. His third eye located in the center of his forehead possesses the powers of creation and destruction. He may have two, four, eight, ten, or thirty-two hands. He wears the crescent moon in his hair.


Ax, damaru (hand drum, formed from human skulls), trident, staff, bow and arrow, spear, noose, sling, divining rod, rudrak-shamala (bead necklace)


Upward-facing triangle, pointing up like a mountain or an erect phallus, symbol of the active male principle


Nandi, the sacred white bull


Bulls, snakes, deer, and tigers








Blue, crimson, red ochre, saffron, olive green


Shiva lives on Mount Kailash in the Himalayas.


The Hindu month of Sravana is dedicated to Shiva.


The city of Benares (Varanasi); Shiva has a shrine at the Tarakeshwar Dream Temple in West Bengal: people fast, pray, and sleep in the temple until they receive the dream they need. Shiva frequently appears in dreams to answer questions or to address petitions.


Flowers, nuts, fruits, coconuts, beautiful things; Shiva is propitiated by performances of mythic theatrical plays and productions.


  • Anjani;
  • Dionysus;
  • Durga;
  • Gajasura;
  • Ganesha;
  • Ganga;
  • Hanuman;
  • Kali;
  • Kamakhya;
  • Kartikeya;
  • Manassa;
  • Nandi;
  • Parvati;
  • Pashupati;
  • Rudra;
  • Sati;
  • Sekhmet;
  • Silibo;
  • Uma;
  • Vishnu;

Shiva has many paths and one thousand eight names. Each may be understood as an aspect of the one Shiva, or one particular path may be venerated independently. The following are among his most popular manifestations:

• Shiva Ardhanari or “Shiva the Half-Woman” encompasses the union of male and female energies in one single body. Thus Shiva Ardhanari is envisioned with one female breast and both male and female genitalia. (See Also:Shekhina.)

• Shiva Bhuteshvara, Lord of Ghosts and Goblins, is the master of shades and spirits. He leads an entourage of all sorts of spirits, benevolent, and disreputable alike.

• Shiva Mahayogi is a master spiritual adept, Lord of Self-Discipline. He possesses the shamanic ability to walk through worlds at will.

• Shiva Nataraja, Lord of the Dance, is the master of ecstasy, dance, and shamanic trance. He dances the dance of creation and destruction. Shiva Nataraja holds fire in one hand and a drum in the other. He wears the crescent moon on his head. The earrings in his ears don’t match, indicating his androgynous nature. With one foot raised, he exists in liminal space. This iconic image originated over one thousand years ago in southern India and is a visual rendering of Shiva’s five functions:

• Creation (from the sound of the drum)

• Protection (his raised hand)

• Destruction (the fire)

• Salvation (raised foot)

• Refuge (foot firmly planted)


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.