Oct 24 2012
O I saw witchcraft tonight
English version by Robert Bly
O I saw witchcraft tonight
in the region of Braj.
A milking girl going her rounds,
a pot on her head,
came face to face with the Dark One.
My friend, she is babbling,
can no longer say “buttermilk.”
– Come get the Dark One, the Dark One!
A pot full of Shyam! –
In the overgrown lanes
of Vrindavan forest
the Enchanter of Hearts fixed his
eye on this girl,
Mira’s lord is hot, lovely
and raven –
tonight she saw witchcraft
— from Mirabai: Ecstatic Poems, Translated by Robert Bly
/ Photo by AMagill /
The “Dark One” referred to in Mirabai’s poetry is Krishna, whose name can be loosely translated as the dark one.
In this poem, milk is the ambrosial drink, the sweet subtle liquid-like substance often perceived during states of sacred ecstasy.
Mirabai herself is the “milking girl going her rounds.” She is the mystic gathering the blissful substance of divine union, traveling town to town as a mendicant ascetic, with her awareness making the pilgrimage through the psycho-spiritual centers of the spiritual body (Vrindavan forest, where the Enchanter of Hearts is found).
The milk pot is “on her head” — a reference to the skull as the bowl that catches the fountain of the rising Kundalini Shakti and the descending heavenly liquid.
When the ecstasy of spiritual union is strong, it is sometimes associated with an outpouring of words — one more reason so many mystics become “babbling” poets.
Her skull, the “pot,” is full of Shyam — Krishna, God — and from this overflowing cup of divine milk, she is eager to share with all.
– Come get Krishna, the Dark One! A head full of God and a heart touched by the Enchanter! –
Mirabai is one of India’s most beloved poet-saints. Her devotional poetry — directed toward Giridhara, a form of the great God-man Krishna — is so intensely personal that it borders on the erotic while, at the same time, it remains transcendentally spiritual.
Mirabai was born into a noble Rajput family in Northern India. She was married to the crown prince of Mewar, but she made it clear that her love was for Giridhara alone.
Many of the tales of Mirabai’s life focus on her struggles with her husband’s royal family. They apparently did not approve of her constant devotion to God to the neglect of her husband and family. And her preference for the company of wandering holy men was not considered proper for a princess. These conflicts grew to such a point that it is said they attempted to kill her, once with a deadly snake, another time by poison, but she was miraculously saved both times.
When her husband died, Mirabai refused to throw herself on his funeral pyre and eventually took up the life of a wandering mendicant and poet, immersing herself in her love for God alone.