Monday, August 8, 2011

Goddesses in the Dirt: Kali - Death. Blood. Mother. Got your attention yet?


Unearthing the Divine Feminine, one archetype at at time.....

Goddesses in the Dirt - Issue #16: Kali


How you react to the Hindu goddess Kali is all in the perception. If you are attached to your ego then you will respond to her presence with fear. If you are evolved and in the process of transcending ego, then you will perceive this powerful goddess with her maternal and loving instincts. In truth, she is both loving and fearsome. She is the Dark Mother.


Kali was born from the brow of the demon-slayer Durga during one of the battles between the divine and anti-divine forces. (Note the similarity between the births of Kali and the Greek Goddess Athena, who was born fully formed, from the forehead of her father, the God Zeus.) The story relates that she was so carried away in battle that she began destroying everything in sight. In order to stop her, Lord Shiva threw himself at her feet. In her shock, Kali stuck out her tongue in astonishment and ended her killing spree.


Kali is often represented as a Black Goddess, signifying her all-embracing nature, as the color black absorbs all colors and dissolves them. Her four arms represent the complete cycle of creation and destruction. Her right hands form the mudra of 'fear not' and confer boons, representing her creative aspect, while her left hands symbolize her destructive nature. The bloodied sword and severed head represent the destruction of ignorance the birth of knowledge. 


She wears a girdle of severed human hands which represent the principal instruments of work and the action of karma. Showing them as severed symbolizes that the effects of karma have been overcome. Her white teeth symbolize purity and her red, protruding tongue demonstrates that she consumes all in her indiscriminate enjoyment of the world's many 'flavors.'  Her garland of fifty human heads refer to the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, symbolizing infinite knowledge. Kali's nudity represents her freedom from all covering or illusion. Her three eyes symbolize the sun, moon and fire, with which she is capable of observing the past, present and future. In fact, her name is rooted in the Sanskrit word 'Kala', which means time, and she is so named for her ability to devour time and resume her own dark formlessness.


It is Kali's aspect as a Mother Goddess which intrigues me the most. As the bond between a mother and child is one of the strongest among humans, it is her maternal qualities which inspire the most potent worship among her devotees. Yet her followers never forget Kali's frightening aspects, and do not  try to see only this pleasant, nurturing side to her character. She may be a most formidable and terrifying Goddess, but it is because of this she is able to teach mankind that sorrow, death and destruction are not be avoided or explained away. To deny pain is futile. To those who truly understand, Kali represents the freedom that comes from accepting all which this dimension of existence offers. The freedom to live and enjoy the present moment comes only after one realizes one's ego is not the center of things, and that accepting one's mortality allows one to delight in the play of the Universe. This concept is central to that of the Goddess Persephone: a key participant in an ancient Greek mystery school which promised initiates that it was through the acceptance of death and transcedence of one's ego that lay the opportunity to be psychologically reborn to this life. 


I was recently watching a television program which focused on the origins of our universe with commentary by the preeminent physicist Stephen Hawking. Hawking's concept about the origins of our Universe deny the aspect of a Creator because, as he says, time itself ceased to exist before the Big Bang, and time, in his opinion, is necessary for there to be a 'someone' to exist 'before' the creation of the universe. Hawking's explanation of our Universe's birth in 'time' is eerily similar to Kali's manifestation as time itself, and demonstrates that humankind's belief in a Divine Creator or Creatrix is as eternal as humankind's scientific curiosity. As long as humankind exists, the longing to explain our world through both the scientific and the spiritual will exist.


Kali's appearance as disheveled and wildly out of control represents our world's tendencies to do the same. For those of us living in our present time, Kali is very much with us. She may be a force to be reckoned with, but she is a necessary one. In order for us to meet our fate, to meet what it is we need to be doing in this lifetime and essentially -  find out who we are - we must face these formidable forces. The secret Kali has to tell us is this:


the forces are not somewhere out there.


They lie within each one of us.




18 comments:

  1. Yay! Remember when I asked if you took requests? Kali was it.

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  2. I really enjoyed reading this, as always. A nice perspective and different from what I am surrounded by each day.

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  3. you touched me again....the out of control nature of kali and life is the mystery...embrace it because it is changing and violent and true....lovely words...so well written......

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  4. Ah, yes. The murderous mother, Kali. Hard to cuddle up to her.
    Thanks for the story, amanda.

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  5. I do not know much about this culture and their godess, for me she looks scary:)

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  6. She scares me so I must be attached to ego...and fairy tales of " happily ever after". Oh this world is so crazy but it really hasn't changed in millenia has it? We just find out about things faster now don't we?

    I like the similarities of the forehead birth; always like to see the similarities between gods and goddesses from different cultures. It makes you see how stories travel around the world taking from the local culture and developing their own identity.

    Thanks for this post - maybe I won't be so scared of this goddess now that you have explained her true nurturing yet fearsome nature.

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  7. It's interesting that her tongue hanging out was a symbol of retreat instead of aggression.

    I'd say a goddess who wears a girdle of human heads inspires fear no matter where you are on the scale of transcendence!

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  8. Establishing similarities between past and present religions and the various representations of the same concepts over human history is a fascinating occupation.
    As Mim wrote: " it really hasn't changed in millenia has it?"

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  9. A very interesting story, Amanda. The Hindu goddess Kali appears to me as a lot of fearsome with a bit of loving. Thank you for covering her and the various art forms.

    Bises,
    Genie

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  10. That's very interesting. Stephen Hawking is a brilliant man yet I beg to differ with what he says. I think it is humans who need time and who have a concept of time. For an eternal creator, there is no time. No past, present or future. I think we need to stop trying to explain the spiritual in human terms because it is impossible.
    On a different note, thanks for your comment on my blog. It made me smile :)

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  11. My favorite Hindu deity is the goddess Durga, but wow...Kali works well as a close second!

    Thank you for another fascinating read, Amanda.

    I think that many, if not most, men would respond strongly and negatively to Kali, as would more than a few women.

    She embodies the blatant and unapologetic passion of womanhood, and is fearless, protective, generous, and resilient...VERY formidible to some.

    I love taking this journey with you...what a great teacher you are.

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  12. Very interesting, Amanda. How do you KNOW all this? When you think of all the different religions and their gods and goddesses, you understand how vast our "inner life" is. So many aspects in us, in each one of us, really. My friend the actress says, I can play to be anything, a whore and a nun and a lover and a murderer. I have it all in me.
    I think I feel related to Kali.
    Thank you for this, Amanda!

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  13. Dear Amanda, I truly enjoyed reading this post.;)
    I am back from my summer break and am trying to catch up with everyone's writing.
    I did not know these facts about Kali, although as many, I knew of her existence.
    I love the statement that denying pain and sorrow is futile. It is my conviction that pain, just as happiness, need to exist in order to create balance within us. Everything painful happens for a reason.;)
    Hope all is well with you dear friend,
    xoxo

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  14. i just watched that show with my children! i feel like you and i shared popcorn somehow. it was an intriguing show but yes, i wondered at (what seemed to me) hawking's jump from the impossibility of the notion of before time to the impossibility of the existence of god but mostly, i was inthralled. and too, so damn pleased that he ended on a note of gratitude. who cares if there is or is not a god (ok, lots of people do:) but rather, either way, if we can learn to live with gratitude, how we might change our world!

    what you say here has me on the edge of my seat, "Kali represents the freedom that comes from accepting all which this dimension of existence offers. The freedom to live and enjoy the present moment comes only after one realizes one's ego is not the center of things, and that accepting one's mortality allows one to delight in the play of the Universe. This concept is central to that of the Goddess Persephone: a key participant in an ancient Greek mystery school which promised initiates that it was through the acceptance of death and transcedence of one's ego that lay the opportunity to be psychologically reborn to this life." now just how do i get beyond my ego? i practice trying to determine how and why i make choices but it seems impossible to rid my ego. i wonder if it's not simply a human condition to be afflicted with ego and all that we might be able to do is be mindful of it and one another. what are your thoughts? (on second read i see the notion of ego as central as the most important aspect. perhaps even if i can't get beyond my ego, if i see my place in the world in a healthier perspective then my ego won't be so destructive.?)

    (yes, i miss you too. this summer has been such a push. i look forward to the fall and the wheels slowing.)

    xo
    erin

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  15. Excellent post. I am so into the Divine Feminine right now...thanks, Amanda.

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  16. That's sounds so interesting, learning about so much different things!!

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  17. Stephen Hawking has endlessly fascinated me. That mind trapped in that body. He might not believe it, but there is a reason. To sit across from him, one of the gifts of a lifetime.

    Kali is my kind of girl. Namaste.

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  18. Yeah she's also known as PMT and I've seen her looking back through the mirror at me*!*

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