Costume Candidate for 2013: Draupadi

Thanks to our Kickstarter campaign for 2013, we’re adding 19 new costumes this season, 7 of which our backers and supporters will get to vote on. This series of posts is designed to briefly introduce the many notable women and legendary figures we’ll be considering. Voting will take place spring/summer of 2013.


When patriarchal religions collide with goddess-worshipping cultures, strange things happen. The female deities get demoted, tamed, domesticated. Divine Mothers are married off to father gods and transformed into jealous nags, awesome creator goddesses are turned into fertility nymphs, and sovereign queens are re-cast as trophy wives. That’s what happened when the migrating Greeks (patriarchal Indo-Europeans) arrived in the Balkans, and it’s what happened when their cousins, the Indo-Aryans, arrived in South Asia. It probably happened with other Indo-European tribes as well, but it’s clearest with the Greeks and the Indo-Aryans. The classical mythologies of both cultures are full of crash debris.

Queen Draupadi is a case in point. As the heroine of the Mahabharata, she’s practically the poster child for Formerly Independent Goddesses Trapped in Patriarchal Myths And Not Liking It One Bit. Her polyandrous marriage to the five Pandava brothers is surely a relic from a pre-patriarchal era, and her miraculous birth from a fire altar strongly hints that we’re dealing with an ex-goddess. But the Mahabharata insists on making her subordinate to her five husbands. The men treat her as shared chattel, and even gamble her away in a dice game. Draupadi protests vigorously, but the day is saved only when Krishna intervenes from heaven.

Three thousand years later, poetic justice has prevailed. Draupadi the Fire-Born has been reclaimed as a feminist icon, with the complexity of her story providing an almost endlessly rich source of contemplation for today’s women. It’s probably not what the authors of the Mahabharata had in mind, but we think Draupadi would be pleased.

Think we should add a Draupadi costume to Take Back Halloween? If you missed our Kickstarter campaign you can still become a supporter and get to vote on the new costumes.


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