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:



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

Birthing my Future: Lessons on Transition with Artemis

Since I wrote this post on Artemis, I have felt myself preparing for transition. Truth be told, I’d been feeling the stirrings for far longer than that…almost exactly nine months. For much of that time, the stirrings were more intellectual, dreaming of what might happen, thinking about taking steps, considering what the changes in my life might look like.

Towards the holidays, I started to really feel the need to change my life up. I began earnestly looking at where my path might lead. I prepared for grad school, took the GRE, started looking at new jobs in mental health, even pushed for vacations to get a new perspective on my routines.

But it wasn’t the right time for me to begin my transition.

I’ve had a particularly hard time with the winter this year, and I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I myself felt so frozen, not in a time of rest and dormancy, rather as if my life force were being held captive by the season. I don’t like being held back after I’ve made a decision to move forward. When my initial attempts to get into grad school by last fall fell through, I settled into a restless period of waiting. I felt as if I were crouched to leap at any opportunity, yet not quite desperate enough to just make change for change’s sake. Waiting for the right change to present itself was torturous.

I restlessly surrounded myself with plants, trying to bring a sense of growth into my life, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t will the winter outside my windows to go away.

Yoga with Artemis helped. She gave me courage to keep preparing myself for change when fear tried to convince me to let well enough alone. She gave me the motivation to plunge into the discomfort of uncertainty with regard to the next year. She gave me hope that with that uncertainty might come possibility.

And finally, I’ve come to it. The transition has started. The cards have fallen into place (seriously, you should have seen my tarot reading for this month!).

Now Artemis is standing with me in my birth pangs. In a few weeks, I’ll be starting a new job/career and mailing off my application to grad school. I’m exhilarated and excited, of course. But there’s also pain.

With my new beginning also comes a type of ending. Not a permanent, never-going-to-see-you-again ending, but an ending to the way my relationships and life have worked up until now. I love the people that I’ve worked with for the past several years. They’ve been like family to me. I’ve stayed where I am as much because of them as because of my own needs for incubation. To leave is heartbreaking.

For that Artemis is there with her fierce independence, not scorning my connection, but reminding me that connection, like life, is meant to be fluid. She reminds me that it’s loving to say goodbye when it’s time to go. Life isn’t about staying the same; life is about changing. When I resist change because of connection, I dishonor both life and connection.

I know I’m on the right path for myself. I’m so excited about the possibilities. The uncertainty of the next few months feels gloriously wild…just like the spring that is beginning to peak out from hibernation. But with each new opportunity, I’m reminded that there are also endings. I honor those endings today and look forward to the transitioning of relationships along with the transitioning of employment.

Doing Yoga with Artemis

I don’t typically work with a particular Goddess in my spiritual practice. Whether I’m meditating, doing a spell, or creating a ceremony to commemorate something, I’m the type of practitioner that always skips over the invocation of the goddess/god. Since I believe that my spirituality comes from within, not without, I don’t feel like a deity needs to be present for me to work.

I also don’t even believe in them in the literal sense that they are separate persons. I approach divine individuals as archetypes from which to draw inspiration, not as real personalities. I’m closer to an agnostic than a theist, with my definition of the Divine falling somewhere along the lines of the Doctor’s definition of time (the “big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey stuff”).

I was surprised, then, when I suddenly found my practice invaded by Artemis. I say invaded because I didn’t seek her out or decide to study her. She wasn’t even on my radar. As much as I love moon Goddesses, I’ve never paid an ounce of attention to Artemis because I like Diana more (shh, don’t tell Artemis I just said that!).

She invited herself in while I was reading an essay “Artemis: The Goddess Who Comes From Afar” by Christine Downing. It was one of several essays in Weaving Visions on the topic of naming the sacred, and I almost skipped over it.


I read it because I wanted to keep reading the chapters in succession rather than jumping around, a strange impulse considering I’d already jumped around in the book quite a bit. Through the tiniest glimpse into her love of chaos and her work as a midwife, she decided to take up residence in my life.

I felt her arrive and didn’t feel her leave when I finished the essay. When I finally realized she wouldn’t be leaving for a while, I began searching for more resources to help me understand what this Goddess may have to teach me. I figured I would learn from her the way I had learned from Inanna, by reading her mythology and some of the commentary on it . . . but Artemis had other plans.

As soon as I started to research her more, I felt as if she were laughing at me, mocking me for thinking that anything that had been written about her would be able to define or contain her.

Her energy felt like the energy of the Page of Wands, the energy that just said “Dive in and see what happens”. . . but I wanted the energy of the Knight of Pentacles, methodical and slow and entrenched in books. Such a fiercely independent energy was terrifying to me. It felt as though I would be shredded trying to keep up.

Still Artemis called, taunting my fear, enticing me to feel the intoxication of chaos.

So I put my books down, shut my computer, and pulled out my yoga mat.

Suddenly, Artemis wasn’t wild and intimidating anymore.

She was beside me, inside me—her strength flowing through me. The wild wasn’t wild like it seemed to be. It was almost peaceful in its activity.

Movement, action, feeling—these were her mediums of teaching. Her physical energy was surprisingly gentle in its unbridled way. Even though it felt like she could easily take off and drag me on a run through the wild, she stayed with my pace once I was willing to go along for the ride.

I’ve realized she’s not the type of Goddess that likes to come around for a chat and a cup of tea. Downing describes how Artemis assisted her in a symbolic birth. It’s strange that I would feel a connection to that aspect of Artemis since I neither have nor want children, yet Artemis’ arrival has been like the arrival of a midwife right as my soul goes into labor.

She’s also not one to coddle. She teaches where she lives, in the wild. As a guide, she’s willing to get lost with me, but she’s not going to read my compass for me. She doesn’t try to prevent me from scraping my knees. Falling is part of the process.

She asks, “Where does your strength lie?”

If I know, she tells me to use it. If I don’t, she tells me to find it.

Yet, she’s not unkind either. Her kindness lies in knowing that the process ends faster when the discomfort is embraced fully; fighting her lessons isn’t really fighting her but fighting my own spiritual birth pangs.

Artemis has already taught me much. She challenges me to reassess how I view independence and connection, and reminds me of the beauty of embracing chaos.

She has facilitated my return to physical exercise better than anything else since my injury. Whereas before, I practiced yoga limitedly as I struggled to regain my strength, now she guides me through full-length practices, teaching me to find the balance of pushing, but not pushing so far that I reinjure myself. The physical activity has brought back an aspect to meditation that I had forgotten was missing.

She’s not the type of Goddess I would have associated with a yogic practice, but I can feel that she’s the companion I need for the time being. I don’t know how long she plans to stay or what the main thrust of her teaching will be, so I will be doing yoga with Artemis until I birth this new aspect of my soul.

I may not have invoked the Goddess, but I’m sure as hell not going to snub her either. Agnostic though I may be, I’m honored and excited to have her in my life.