Malevolent Female Spirits...or are they????
In the Varaha Puran the demonic female powers emanating from Camunda want food and are given delivering women and newborns. In the realm of myth and ritual, “food” is not simply what people eat at mealtime: it also signifies ritual offerings made to the gods and the ancestors. I would locate the significance of “food”—especially infants and parturient women as tasty, sweet-smelling food for the malevolent female powers in the realm of cultic tension between belief systems. The primacy of, and ritual obligations to a masculine deity, or Vedic practice is in conflict with worship of the feminine—and this conflict would be exaggerated at the time of childbearing. It is the mythic context, the stories relating sources of power and the gender of divinities that give meaning to ritual performances. So it is logical that the Sanskritization of the all-powerful, multi-valent goddess involved the elaboration of a female demonic pantheon.
In the narrative of Kartikeya, as related in the Mahabharata, the Matrkas are the six sages’ wives who have been unjustly accused of having been Kartikeya’s real mothers and consequently divorced by their husbands for being adulterous. The Matrkas then persuade Kartikeya to become their adopted son. He agrees and they also make two more requests. “The first is to be recognized and worshiped as great goddesses throughout the world. The second request is to live off the children of men because they themselves have been divorced and therefore cheated of the possibility of having their own children.” (David Kinsley, p 152)