shiva and kali

(The Dance of Shiva and Kali)

I returned last night from my Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training retreat at Spirit Rock in California. before I blog about my experience there, I thought I’d write about an insight I gained on the last day.

As I say in the sidebar, I bow to Buddha but I rock with Kali. I never resonated with any other Hindu goddess. I have a tattoo that includes Kali’s eyes and I wear a necklace with a Kali pendant.

One of the students saw it on the last day of the retreat and asked me who it was. I told her it was Kali and she looked like I slapped her. “Ooooh….,” she said, looking scared and backing away. fear. so many people live in fear of the unknown, out of ignorance. true believers in Kali know that she is very misunderstood, like all wild women are. this student told me that Thomas Ashley-Farrand said that a woman who worshipped Kali brought all her bad karma into play and she broke out in a terrible skin disease.

I looked at her and slowly smiled a Kali smile. “do you know who Ramakrishna was?,” I asked her. “uh, vaguely.” “then you would know that Ramakrishna worshipped Kali and Ramakrishna is considered a Hindu saint. she was the Mother to him.”

I realized how yet again some people (even women) are afraid of the power of a strong woman. there is a story about how both Kali and Durga, along with the Divine female powers of the male gods, Brahma, Shiva, Skanda, Vishnu, and Indra, destroyed an army of demons. the story symbolizes the destruction of our inner enemies by our higher nature. the demons represent our pride, passion, inertia, non-discipline and rage when thwarted — qualities of the ego that hinder our spiritual progress. Kali goads us to higher levels of self-perfection so that we can experience the bliss of our True Nature (from Kali: Slayer of Illusion, Sarah Caldwell.) Kali Ma is the destroyer of negative egos, yet she is only seen by many as the Dark Goddess. the Bad Girl.

Just like in the real world where women are supposed to be “nice”, people like their goddesses quiet and demure, to know their place.

After my conversation with this student I realized how sexist the attitude is that goddesses are supposed to be meek and mild, the nourishing Mother archetype instead of the Woman Warrior, Woman as Destroyer. even modern women buy into it. in fact I think many women are more frightened of strong women (at least women stronger than themselves) than men are.

Shiva is the Destroyer, but he is male, so that’s appropriate. but Kali Ma, a woman, and the image of her standing on top of Shiva with her necklace of skulls (which represent the letters in Sanskrit by the way), is too potent an image especially, surprisingly enough, to some women. there is something frightening to people about a woman who has power and control and confidence.

Nice is for little girls and kittens.


UPDATE: I just ordered the book The Quest of the Warrior Woman: Women As Mystics, Healers and Guides by Christina Feldman…I’ll let y’all know how it is.

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8 thoughts on “shiva and kali

  1. Thanks for sharing this, I introduced my committee(group of close women warriors and friends)to Kali. All have subsequently gone on to read more and discover more and most of all grow, evolve and become one with our power. I’m fortunate enough share my life with a man that accepts and even flourishes because I am progressive, assertive, protective and aware.Namaste.


  2. I hesitate to comment because my knowledge on this subject is still pretty limited. But I’ve heard that eastern religions and yogic practices were developed for and by men. So we women have a lot of exploring and re-interpreting to do in our own practices and understandings. Nice post.


  3. Don’t forget our girl from the West, Athena–goddess of War AND wisdom…I wuz looking for an email, but I’ll comment instead: I always welcome your, shall we say, sharp comments. Yoga blogs can get a bit lovey-dovey (myself included, Yoga Dawg excluded), so it’s nice to have some spice with the sugar. There’s a lot of cloying, insincere shit out there so, yeah, the term yoga community is kind of scary–the reason for my initial hesitation when given the assignment.I love the problematic studio-owner idea, and I will pitch it. Really interesting. Sorry you had to deal with that crap…Glad your hiatus hasn’t been that long…p.s.


  4. Hi there Linda! Love your blog!If you like Kali and Durga and all these powerful goddesses you may like the books of Shambhavi Chopra,she is the girlfriend of David Frawley. I´ve been in India on a Ganges retreat with both of them. She is amazing, and her stories about all gods and goddesses is a must read. Hope you like it.Namaste! Om Shanti!Fernanda


  5. Hi Linda, I really enjoyed this post. I agree with it as well. I feel these female vibrations appear in different forms for different people as Brenda Plakans, mentions the manifestation in Greece as Athena. However, two other manifestaions that are misunderstood like Kali Ma, are Oya Yansa and Erzili Danto.


  6. Jaya Ma! I’ve come to your blog via Yoga For Cynics, who kinda sent me your way.I rock with Kali too. On my recent retreat in July/August, we held a mahavidya ceremony, invoking Kali to choose for those of us who haven’t already connected to our wisdom goddess. All day before the ceremony we held a silent practice. And I was strongly overwhelmed with Kali before we’d done one speck of chanting or puja. Red and black insects kept landing on me as we circumnambulated. The method of ‘showing’ us our mahavidya was a circular board with the name of the ten wisdom goddesses. We each had a flower over which we prayed and breathed our intent into…Each in turn, we threw our flower. Mine landed smack bang in the middle of Kali’s segment of the board. And I smiled and I knew. And I understood.She’s definitely given a bad rap, people are confused by her wrathful appearance. But she’s the most compassionate, the most interesting of them all – queen of the dakinis and mahavidyas!I’m enjoying reading your blog.Namaste


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