Kali: Tears of Anger, Dance of Grief

A year and a half ago I made my unexpected acquaintance with Artemis and wrote a post about how intimidating, wild, and chaotic she was as a teacher. I laugh this week at how scary it felt to encounter her. She seems like a pussy cat compared to the new Goddess who came dancing into my spiritual practice—Kali.

19th Century lithograph of Kali by R. Varma. Public Domain.

19th Century lithograph of Kali by R. Varma. Public Domain.

Kali is most often depicted in her warrior stance. As far as chaos goes, Artemis might thrive in it, but I’m pretty sure Kali is the mother of it.

I’ve always admired Kali from a distance as a beautiful archetype of anger and destruction, but to actually work with her is not something I would have put on my bucket list.

Had she entered my life in all of her wrathful glory, I might have made like a Yip Yip and said “Nope!”

Instead, it was I who was lost in wrath. My inner activist was all riled up with righteous indignation over something this past week. I was in a royal rage, blindly throwing out shards of anger at anyone who happened to get in the way, which happened to be none of the people who actually deserved those shards.

Rather than joining in my anger, Kali came capering up in this goofy dance, tongue lolling out.

I thought, “Oh good. I need a Goddess of destruction right now”…as if she were a guard dog that I would send to chase down and maul my enemies.

Instead, what I got were hot tears swirling up in my eyes.

Tears did not fit with my anger! I fought them off vehemently, but they were determined to come. When they finally escaped, Kali was there, wrapping her arms around me to comfort me with all the tenderness of the most nurturing mother.

In a way, it felt like she was scolding me for my indiscriminate hostility.

She’s not the type of deity that requests the suppression of emotion. She recognizes that anger and destruction are vital energies, especially to the oppressed and wronged. But there is a difference between righteous wrath leading to the dismantling of that which harms and the blind frenzy of bloodthirsty rage.

Kali knows well how heroic anger can transform into villainy.

In her legend, she is the savior who comes to defeat the undefeatable demons, devouring them and drinking their blood. But at one point, she loses sight of her purpose and gets lost in the exhilaration of her destruction, requiring Shiva to step in to recall her to herself.

Accounts vary about how Shiva stopped her.

In the most common one, as her husband, he lays down at her feet. When she steps on him, she comes to her senses and stops her rampage.

In another, he comes as a baby. His cries break through her bloody trance, again ending the rampage as she stops to comfort and nurse the baby.

Both times, it’s her connection, love, and relationship to another that prevents her anger from destroying the whole world, which is a striking analogy of the importance of relationship within activism.

The activism conversation came after though. What was primary was Kali demonstrating her maternal side. Kali needed to remind me that anger is always accompanied by grief, and it’s the denial of that pain and grief that makes anger so monstrous.

Although the infant was technically Shiva, I secretly think that the infant was an aspect of Kali herself.

I believe that beneath the terrible Goddess of destruction is a small child scared, hurt, and longing for comfort.

Like Kali, I was blinded by my anger this week, pushing away the pain that was beneath it and losing my sense of connection and relationship both to myself and to those around me. She came to guide me to my own tears—tears that softened my frenzied heart so I could take the time to nurture myself.

Kali, though as uninvited as Artemis, came into my life at an opportune time. As I continue to explore the meaning of power (especially the reclamation of it) and become more comfortable with my own anger, she seems like an excellent guide to have along.

For more readings on Kali:

http://sites.lafayette.edu/rel101-sp12/2012/03/02/a-discussion-of-hindu-myths-or-why-kali-is-the-coolest-mythical-character-ever/

http://www.ancient.eu/Kali/

And for a gorgeous belly dance about Kali, check out this YouTube clip:

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One thought on “Kali: Tears of Anger, Dance of Grief

  1. […] Kali: Tears of Anger, Dance of Grief. […]

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