Skanda has been revered in India for over 3,000 years, with a wide variety of literature dedicated to his mythology and even great kings taking his name.
Skanda is commonly depicted with a peacock, traditional symbol of Impatient Desire and India’s monsoon, the season of Fertility and Love. Peacocks also represent the internal shamanic ‘journeying’ of the jhankri in the foothills of the Himalaya, the enlightenment found in ‘piercing’ ordinary boundaries.
Peacocks are also known as snake-eaters in India. With such a vahana or ‘divine vehicle’ under his command, Skanda protects Nagas, mythical serpent guardians of the Knowledge that leads to Wisdom.
Such is Skanda’s enduring popularity that he goes by at least 30 additional names.
As Guha, the Mysterious One, he holds insightful conversations with Shiva in certain Tantra-agamas. As Kumara, he is the virile Adolescent. As Kanta, the Handsome, he is the god of Male Beauty.
In South India, where the period between the waning moon in October and the full moon in November is dedicated to him, Skanda is better known as Murugan, the Boy; Alahan, the Beautiful One; Karttikeya, Son by the Krittika; or Subrahmaniam, the Beloved of Seekers of Wisdom. This last name refers to Skanda as divine patron of the Learning of Arcane Wisdom, for he represents the understanding of hidden meanings.
Shrines dedicated to Skanda are often found in the courtyard of Shiva temples. However, sadhana focussed on Skanda is normally undertaken in forests or open fields, sometimes involving Veriyaattu ritual trance-dancing in Tamil districts.
In Calcutta, where he is more commonly called Kartik, Skanda still takes pride of place beside the Great Goddess during the annual Durga Puja celebrations.
Having been born of the Six Sisters, Skanda is said to see the image of a mother in every woman. He has therefore chosen to spend eternity as a bachelor – hence his name Kumaraswami, the Unmarried God. He is traditionally said to be ‘wedded’ instead to his troop of celestial soldiers, symbolised by his lance – hence his name Senapati, Virile Husband of the Army.
It is perhaps for this reason that sadhana focussed on Skanda is not undertaken by women.
Skanda is thus especially regarded as the patron of men who reject conventional marriage in preference for the love of another man. Just as with the ancient warrior-cults of Crete, Sparta, Thebes and Chalcis, male intimacy is still shared during initiation into his cult. And this that a devotee might, like Skanda himself, become shukraja – a light-filled, ‘semen-produced son’ of Shiva.
It is therefore always in intimate groups that male shaiva tantrikas gather for shared Skanda sadhana, mindfully employing his symbolism as a means to overcome internal chaos and mental darkness.
You can read more about India’s largely forgotten or ignored homoerotic mythology and traditions in Limitless Sky
 For the benefit of conservative Brahminical conformity, Skanda is now often shown with two symbolic ‘wives’: Valli, the Lance, and Devasena, the Divine Army.