I invoke you, O Goddess Laksmi

 Who is the colour of gold,

brilliant like the sun

She who is remover of sins,

Who shines with the fame of herself

Who is burnished like the moon

Who is adored by the Gods

Garlanded with lotus flowers,

As beautiful as the petals of a lotus

Who protects all her devotees

The bringer of wealth and the possessor of gold.

I invoke you, O Goddess Laksmi

May you bring me prosperity.

 The name Lakshmi (pronounced lock'shmee) is derived from the word laksmi meaning 'goal'. She is an ancient goddess who helps her worshippers achieve both spiritual and worldly goals, and is the goddess of prosperity, generosity, purity and chastity. Her sacred animals are elephants and cows, both symbols of abundance. Some think that she assimilated the pre-vedic deity Sri, a goddess of fertility, water and agriculture.

According to the legend, Lakshmi arose out of the primordial ocean, a sea of milk which was being churned, bearing red lotuses in her hands. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (creator, preserver and destroyer respectively) all wanted to marry her. However, Shiva already had Kali and Brahma had Saraswati, so she married Vishnu the Preserver, god of righteousness and cosmic harmony. She acts as his shakti, or animating force, and shared each of his ten incarnations. When Vishnu appeared as Vamana, Parasurama, Rama, Krishna, she appeared as Padma or Kamala, Dharani, Sita and Rukmini. She is as inseparable from Vishnu as good deeds from virtue. Vishnu represents all that is male and Lakshmi all that is female.

She is depicted clothed in red to signify dynamic energy, and her dress is embroidered in gold, to signify affluence. She appears floating on a red lotus, which represents divine truth, and denotes that while we may enjoy material blessings, we should not become obsessed by their importance. She is usually depicted with four arms and hands. The rear hands, which represent actions in the spiritual world, hold red lotuses. One fore hand pours coins into a pot, and the other is raised in blessing. Together they represent the four aims of human existence: dharma (righteousness), kama (genuine desires), artha (wealth), and moksha (liberation from birth and death). She is sometimes shown with two elephants, which signify fame and renown. Some sculptures show Lakshmi riding on the back of an owl. In Sanskrit, Uluka means an owl, and this is one of the names of lndra, the king of gods, indicating that Lakshmi rides on the back of power and glory.

Though her devotees pray to Lakshmi for wealth, her gifts are also of spiritual truth and purity, achieved through continual effort. This idea is represented by the lotus which, although it grows from the mud, remains pure and perfect, suggesting that the aim of her worshippers should be a spiritual state which transcends the material world. The goddess is surrounded by an aura of happiness and satisfaction on all levels.

Perhaps it isn't surprising that Lakshmi, as goddess of wealth, is more popular than Saraswati, the goddess of learning. Many homes have a shrine to the goddess. Separate Lakshmi temples are rare and when she appears in the company of her husband Vishnu, she is shown with two hands only. Otherwise, when worshipped in a temple, she is shown seated on a lotus throne, with four hands a pot of ambrosia and bilva or citron fruit. Lakshmi is worshipped with special ceremonies at Divali.

The goddess Lakshmi reminds us that we live in the material realm. Lakshmi tells us that while we make seek comfort and prosperity, we should not be fooled into thinking that these things are important in themselves. Only when wealth is shared, in order to bring happiness and relief of the suffering of others, does it have meaning. It is an energy that flows like any other and you should not cling to it.

NB: This short article is not from my more comprehensive Goddess Encyclopaedia