Through gestures, the house painter indicates that the goddess appeared to him in a dream and asked for a sacrifice. He points to a small piece of flesh lying in front of her stone toe, a flattened pink slug trailing a red carpet: his tongue. That explains the blood all down his shirt and chin. He opens his mouth and blood pours out instead of speech. As the word spreads, other devotees rush into the temple to annoint him with garlands. There’s even a small procession, the newspaper reports, though it doesn’t give any details. The tongue still lies untouched before the goddess, whose name is Amba Mata. She is said to reward spontaneity and naturalness. Once each year, a group of 50-100 women gathers in her honor, dancing in circles for nine nights. They bend, they turn, they clap. Their husbands maintain a respectful distance.
I live in an Appalachian hollow in the Juniata watershed of central Pennsylvania, and spend a great deal of time walking in the woods. Here’s a bio. All of my writing here is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For attribution in printed material, my name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact me for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).