Sunday, May 26, 2019

Kali Ma and the Dark Goddess

"Mask for Kali" (2014)
Here is the Kali mask currently in my show at Arise Gallery in San Francisco...... the mask was also used at the Parliament of World Religions in 2015 by Macha NightMare and colleagues.  I think often of Kali, of being in the time of "Kali Yuga", according to the Hindu great calendar.   Kali Ma is greatly revered by millions of Hindus, but as a religious figure she is very hard for westerners, with our dualistic religious systems, to understand.  So I thought I'd share this article, along with an interview I did with Drissana Devananda, a friend in the Bay Area who has danced with the Kali mask, and with fire.  I find her wise words always important.

Kali is the Dark Goddess of  India, in Tibet manifesting as Black Tara, as far away as Bali manifesting as Rangda.  She may also be related through the migrations of the Indo-Europeans to the Caillech of Scotland.  Her origins are ancient indeed, going far back into pre-history. 

She is beloved Mother, the last resort Savior, and She is also  terrifying,  a personification of the  transformative powers of the Three-fold Mother Goddess  as destroyer and changer.   The Goddess as three-fold (as Maiden (birth), Mother (sustainer), and Crone (destroyer)) is an ancient symbol of the ever changing processes of life.....the Trinity is probably Indo-European in origin, and is found in the  Hindu Brahma/Vishnu/Shiva trinity, and I believe was also co-opted in early Christianity as the Father/Son/Holy Ghost Trinity as well, as this "power of Three" would have been very prevalent in pagan Europe.   

Kali's tale begins when the Hindu Gods could not defeat a plague of demons that were destroying the Earth.  They called at last upon Durga, who manifested the fierce Kali.  It was Kali who destroyed the demons - but in her ecstasy, she could not be stopped, and so the Gods were forced to call upon her Consort, Lord Shiva, to enter the battlefield to stop her.  He lay down before her,  and when she stepped upon his body, Kali at last stopped and ceased her blood lust.

Kālī  means "black, dark coloured", and is also drawn from the Sanskrit word for  time.  Kāla primarily means "time" but also means "black" in honor of being the first creation before light - the "black matter/Mater" from which all is born. 

Severed heads adorn Her necklace, Her skin is black as night, and Her tongue protrudes from Her  face with the lust of battle, as well as the immense laughter of Kali, destroyer of illusion, who sees beyond all appearances. Kali's dance is the destruction that must occur for each new beginning, the ending cycle that begins a new cycle as well. Kali's love is tough love; yet the dancing feet and the flaming sword of Kali are among the most powerful expressions of Divine Love.

Here, in the dance of Kali, is found the necessary destruction of that which has become corrupt, rotten, that whose time has come to end, just as the forest must burn for the new trees to arise.  But interestingly, within this imagery there is also often a Tantric meaning,  the arising of the power of Kundalini, symbolized by the erect penis of Shiva, the Eros that is the vitality of creation, the new seed.

"Kālī means "the black one" and refers to her being the entity of "time" or "beyond time." Kāli is strongly associated with Shiva, and Shaivas derive the masculine Kāla (an epithet of Shiva) to come from her feminine name. A nineteenth-century Sanskrit dictionary, the Shabdakalpadrum, states: कालः शिवः । तस्य पत्नीति - काली । kālaḥ śivaḥ । tasya patnīti kālī - "Shiva is Kāla, thus, his consort is Kāli" referring to Devi Parvathi being a manifestation of Devi MahaKali.  Other names include Kālarātri ("black night"), as described above, and Kālikā ("relating to time"). Kāli's association with darkness stands in contrast to her consort, Shiva, who manifested after her in creation, and who symbolises the rest of creation after Time is created. "

by Lauren Raine

Once upon a time,
The world became overpopulated by demons
They filled the world with their insatiable greed
and reproduced themselves endlessly

They ate the light of day,
They soiled the air
They consumed the trees, 
They swallowed the waters
They devoured the lands with insatiable greed.

Eating, eating eating!  Fill me!

Until there were no more things of beauty made
or new dreams dreamed
or children born.

The Gods called to Me,
The unborn ones called to Me.

The time had come 
to say Enough.  And.....NO MORE!

I am the Goddess of  No More!

I, I am the one who devours....fool!
I, I am the shadow,

the flame,  the dancing feet
of all those whose lives are wasted
by the demons of greed and arrogance

I....I  am the Mother
of those who are yet to come!

Jai Ma, Kali Ma! 

Kali Yantra
by Drissana Devananda

I wanted to create a performance for Kali. As I drove to the event, I brought a costume, and a live snake with me, thinking the snake represented the serpentine energy of the kundalini. I had a sense of what to do, but I didn't have a script, a plan. 

When I went on stage, and I took a newspaper, and acted as if I was reading a paper.   I just let the mundane despair come out. "I can't stand it!" I said, and then I turned my back to the audience, just breathing, and whispered, "When I meditate, sometimes I become a Goddess......." 

Then I put on the mask. And a hot, hot energy seemed to rip through me. I turned around, faced the audience, and words just fell out of my mouth.

As I picked up the snake, I remember saying, "This is the Kundalini, this is the serpent." I spoke about how we channel that enormous energy into sexuality, but we don't understand that it can rise further into our hearts, our vision centers, infusing our entire being. All of this was spontaneous! I genuinely can't say it was I, Drissana, who did it. When I went into the dressing room later, I was shaking. It was as if Kali had left, and I was just this small, exhausted person, who for a moment had been inhabited by that ferocious intelligence.

Kali is the surgeon. She cuts away what has to go. I ask for that quality when I have to cut something out of my life; an addiction, or a relationship that no longer is about growth. And I ask it be done precisely, this cutting away of dis-ease, malignancy, the aspects that no longer serve. Kali was the last resort savior. When the Gods couldn't kill the demonic forces that ravaged the Earth, they called on a woman's wrath.

We all have the ability to call the Goddesses into ourselves. I can do this in my dance, but in everyday life it's more difficult. That's why I thrive on performance, because I can freely let those forces work through me. What I forget is that we can call on them at other times. We've forgotten that the Goddess dwells within us, all the time, and not just when we wear a mask, or are in workshop, or a ritual. We are, in Tantric terms, extensions or emanations of the Gods and Goddesses - we are their material aspects. We're not bodies that are seeking the spirit, we're spirits that are seeking bodily experiences.

Remembering is a devotional practice. In the Hindu tradition, everyone has a deity they focus on as their personal deity. In the West, as we begin to reclaim the Goddess for spiritual practice, we each need to create a relationship with the Goddess form we have chosen, in order to manifest what we need for spiritual and emotional growth, to invoke the help we need. That practice is not just cerebral. We function out of our whole self, our bodies and spirits. The body-mind. That is where we re-member, we communicate with the Goddess within ourselves.

Women need to become angry. Now. About the women of Afghanistan, the meaningless wars, the destruction of our environment. The demons of insatiable lust are devouring our planet. Those souls who await the future are being denied their birthright. Kali is the catalyst for saying "No more". She's the voice of women whose voices aren't being heard, women who need to open their mouths and speak for the first time. 

It's time to embrace the sword of Kali and start cutting away the delusions that are destroying our world. This is the ferocious mother who says "get away from my children, or I'll kill you."

Mothers today aren't saying that. They're giving their children away. Giving them away to war, giving them away by allowing our environment to be depleted, giving permission to the powers that be to destroy their future. 

This is the dance of Kali. (2001)

Below are two of  the "spirit photos" from a 2004 ritual theatre performance called "Restoring the Balance". I always felt very blessed, or affirmed, in these surprising photos, which I shared with the cast, although not with others after a while, realizing that many people did not believe they were "real".   Quynn Elizabeth, a Shamanic practitioner in Tucson, invoked and performed with the Kali mask - and amazingly, these goat-like images appeared in three  photographs from that segment of the event.  Later we learned that in India goats have been sacrificed to Kali - something we did not know. Below is seen the back of Quynn's head, and appearing behind her is a kind of figure eight or infinity symbol, and the "goat".   Perhaps, the meaning of this phenomenon, is that Spirit was providing a symbolic "sacrifice" for our dance........ 
From "Restoring the Balance" (2004).  Photo courtesy Ann Beam.