“Kali’s boon is freedom, the freedom of the child to revel in the moment, and is won only after confrontation or acceptance of death.”
- David Kinsley
“Kali is the greatest friend you could have because she is dark enough to absorb darkness…the unknowns, the evil, this goddess can contain that, protect the ego – and with her sword help you discriminate what must go, what can stay, what is evil, what is good – she can recognize the paradox and hold onto both."
- Marion Woodman
Transformation: At specific plot points in life each of us find ourselves confronted by its call. Instinct tells us it will be a painful boon, and secretly we know a reborn energy for thriving will not be had without attending to its voice. As I was reflecting on beginning the goddess series, I was reminded of the fierce redemption the Goddess Kali brought to my life in my early twenties as I fought addiction and illness. Kali, a Hindu mythic figure both monstrous and beautiful, took on a potent hermeneutic role for me as destroyer of demons related to addiction, and conversely, a force of sacred erotic connection, of creative partnerships, of recovery. Quite opposite from the image of the Western goddess as eternally flawless and demure, Kali was my imagined heroine: blue black and suffused with both righteous anger and passion. Opposite of the notion of perfection addressed in the introductory blog, Kali’s antidote was to arrive and dice perfection to smithereens.
Most people have experienced addiction, whether it is to food, alcohol, the Internet, heroin, cigarettes, shopping or any number of trap doors society provides as escapes into the dark unconscious. Already having been discouraged from a clear relationship to our individual soul’s worth, our longing to experience mystery and organic intimacy with each other is left sick and heaving. When dealing with addiction, it is easy to find oneself confronted by a nearly impossible feeling of challenge, an unavoidable obstacle course where we fight off our fearful shame and aversions in search of a more whole self. Our aversions age us at the very same pace they freeze us emotionally, creating physical illness, delusion, and the kind of corrosive repetition associated with the death drive. But by turning that ruthless force back on itself, in my life, the Goddess Kali has been an instructive ally for recovery. Concentrating on her myths allowed me to imagine into a power that could sever embodied pain, cut away toxic partnerships, cut away guilt and demonic darkness. She was instrumental in helping me make room for the dance of regeneration, for awakening into a healing as wild as my decline had been. I viewed her as a critical mythic embodiment of the feminine principle, capable of reminding us of the raw power we contain for change.
Gracing Hindu myth for over two thousand years, she was written as a battlefield hero, a wrathful demon killer, an enlightened Tantric consort, a protective mother, and ruler over the rhythm of creation and destruction in time. Her various forms have included Mahavidya, Devi, Tridevi, Durga, and Parvati; hers are the untamed steps that delineate power as she pulses in erotic union with her consort Shiva. Often portrayed as bloody at the mouth with a necklace of skulls and a skirt of human arms, her fearless engagement with death intimidates—creating shock and dominion over her opponents, returning awe. While in some mythic poetry she has been attached to images of ruthless pain and retribution, my personal work with her emboldened me to return to a more passionate internal mother, creating greater self-compassion and truth, overcoming the wrathful habits of addiction. It is her fierceness that led to a penetrating understanding of gentleness, and the subtle music of regeneration that accompanies healing connection. That transformation has informed my work every day since.
In working with the myth of each goddess, what can we learn by asking questions of the archetype, by imagining into what she offers for our personal lives? Can we identify those in our lives living the archetypal experience? I think of two Kali-like figures today: musician Patti Smith, and a high school girl, Emma González—currently prominent in the news as she continues to fight for gun law reform in the wake of the Parkland school shooting last week. Emma’s refusal to be silent, her insistence on calling violent players to task, is a wake up call to the creeping malevolence that expects complacency and quiet compliance.
I had a Patti Smith song in my head this morning, “Ask the Angels.” Patti’s completeness is without doubt a glowing personification of Kali’s vitality: goddess like feminine fierceness, an innocence that shows up full of elemental blood, and also full of poetic devotion. From her Kali channeled second album, Ethiopia Radio, “World ending, it’s just beginning and rock n’roll is what I’m born to be, and it’s wild wild wild wild.” The force of transformation cannot be contained, she is your Goddess friend if you imagine into her rowdy song.
What could Kali mean for you?
Here are a few voices to explore:
Kali by Rukmini Bahaya Nair
Invocation to Kali by May Sarton
Interview with Marion Woodman
Encountering Kali by Rachel Fell McDermott
~ Andrea Jivan, L.M.T., M.A.
Depth Psychotherapist Intern
Blog Team Member
Jung Society of Utah
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