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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