When I first encountered the fierce Hindu goddess Kali by way of a vibrant poster that one of my professors had pinned up on the blackboard, I was immediately hit by a sort of kinesthetic whap. I had no idea what or who she was, but I did know she my heart flutter and pay attention, so I decided to check her out. I took a class on Indian goddesses, read some books. And eventually even lived in India for a while, and for my birthday that year was given one of the fiercest-looking goddess icons I’d ever seen. For a while, my ishta deva (my personal deity or divine face of choice) was this intense Indian warrior-goddess, a four-armed, sword-wielding, completely naked (well, except for a skirt made of human limbs and a necklace of human skulls) female deity who actually predates Hinduism. Kali’s blood-soaked tongue sticks out at us (as my favourite transgressive professor Jeffrey Kripal would say); she has wild hair, likes to be on top, and, if she so chooses, can dance the universe to death. Unlike most Hindu deities, she is not married, she traditionally likes to be worshipped in cremation grounds, and she pretty much scares the bejesus out of neoconservative Texans and those who are not willing to face all of themselves in order to become enlightened. But for those who worship her, she appears beautiful and loving. (In this case, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.)
To worship Kali – or maybe a better way of saying it is, to embrace Kali mojo in your life, is to tap into a swift transformative energy that’s all about cutting through illusions – like all your personal issues and fears and domineering ego – so the real you (divine self) can come out to play.
Meditating on Kali and being intentionally aware of her wild energy as I remained a modern American gal and went about my daily grad school business was not always easy. Obviously, she ain’t your typical soft-focus, pink ‘n’ fluff goddess type. No matter my stress level or relationship status, Kali kept me slicing away at the unhealthy qualities, from shyness and lack of confidence (in the classroom and the bedroom) to fear of change (and elevators) to unhealthy eating habits and a whole host of other personal crap I consciously or unconsciously clung to.
To this day, she encourages me to write – to live – fiercely and from the heart.