This month's full moon altar honours the Buddhist Bodhisattva, Kwan Yin. As an embodiment of the Divine Feminine, Kwan Yin is the Goddess of Compassion -- her very name means "She Who Hears the Cries of the World." See the small golden vase in her hand? It contains the healing Balm of Compassion composed of Kwan Yin's tears, collected as she weeps for the suffering of the world.
I found this lovely little porcelain statue of Kwan Yin about 20 years ago in an Edmonton second-hand store, with a small tag affixed which said "Chinese Lady $10." Clearly she went unrecognized in that store! For Pride month, Kwan Yin sits on a transgender flag altar cloth, flanked by two white lotus candle holders.
Why is Kwan Yin the perfect Goddess to represent those who are non-binary, gender fluid or transgender?
Centuries ago, Kwan Yin originated in India as a male deity and was brought to China in that form. Ancient representations of Kwan Yin often include a pencil-thin moustache and a small goatee. But because compassion and mercy were categorized as "feminine" virtues, portrayals of Kwan Yin got progressively effeminate over time as artists tried to capture that essence in their work. During the Song Dynasty (1000-1200 C.E.), Chinese artists turned Kwan Yin into a woman once and for all.
So today Kwan Yin is a willowy figure in a flowing white dress and veil, with the hairdo and jewelry of a beautiful woman. But, in recognition of her male origins, she is always portrayed as completely flat-chested. Unlike virtually every other representation of the Divine Feminine, there are no big breasts for Kwan Yin! She is the most androgynous of all spiritual beings.
Kwan Yin's journey from one gender to the other mirrors the transgender/non-binary journey that so many people undertake today. Taking our cue from Kwan Yin, mercy and compassion should always be our response to that most profound of all transformations. It is quite literally a divine journey.
[First two photos © Debra She Who Seeks, June 2021; Third image is from the internet.]