January 2018: Happy New Year

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For 2018 I invite the Eye of Kali. Kali's earliest appearance is that of a destroyer of evil forces who brings the death of the ego, as the illusory self-centered view of reality. 

Kali's mantra:
Oṃ jayantī mangala kālī bhadrakālī kapālinī.
Durgā ksamā śivā dhātrī svāhā svadhā namō'stu‍tē

Below is an excerpt from an article Kali- A Most Misunderstood Goddess

In the eyes of westerners, Kali is a goddess dark of mind, body and soul, a mysterious goddess of death and destruction. However her story is far more complex and far-reaching; she cannot be easily fitted into a typical western narrative of good verses evil, and in fact transcends both.

The name Kālī first appears in the Atharva Veda, a collection of hymns and mantras published between 1200 BCE and 1000 BCE. However she is not a goddess but rather a fierce black tongue, one of seven belonging to Agni, the god of fire. It is another 400 years before Kali is described as an individual in her own right, when she appears around 600 CE in the Devimahatmyaas a battlefield goddess personifying the wrath of Durga. Her aspect at this time is terrible – a skeletal and frightening crone, coloured black (a literal interpretation of her name), wearing animal skins and carrying a khatvanga, the skull-topped staff associated with tribal shamans. 

Kali is often associated with Shiva. Her very name is the feminine form of Kāla, an epithet of Shiva, thus tying her inextricably to him. She is regarded as the shakti (power) of Shiva, and he her consort. 

In her earliest appearances, Kali was frequently associated with violent endeavours on the battlefields of the gods. In one legendary battle with the demon Raktabija, she is manifested by Durga to deal with a situation that has gotten badly out of hand...In this story she is brought in to play when decisive action is required, when dark deeds must be matched with dark deeds, when resolve must be shown - attributes not always associated in the west with the archetypal woman. In another story, Kali is summoned by a group of criminals who decide to sacrifice a human to her image in order to gain her favour. They unwisely choose a young Brahmin monk of upstanding character, however his saintliness shines so brightly that her statue is scorched in his presence. She manifests but proceeds to horribly kill her erstwhile worshipers by decapitating them and drinking their blood. Here, Kali demonstrates her refusal to be controlled by those who think they understand her and her triumph over the attributes of ignorance and evil, as well as the absolute impartiality of her nature.

...One of the meanings of Kali’s name is “force of time”. In this aspect she is considered to stand outside of the constraints of space-time and have no permanent qualities; she existed before the universe was created and will continue to exist after the universe ends. Limitations of the physical world such as colour, light, good and bad do not apply to Kali. She is a symbol of Mother Nature herself – primordial, creative, nurturing and devouring in turn, but ultimately loving and benevolent. In this aspect of goodness she is referred to as Kali Ma, Mother Kali, or Divine Mother, and many millions of Hindus revere and worship her in this form. In Tantric meditation, Kali’s dual nature leads practitioners to simultaneously face the beauty of life and the reality of death, with the understanding that one cannot exist without the other. It is worth noting that Shiva, in his role of destroyer of worlds, also stands outside the boundaries of the physical universe and is well complimented by his association with Kali.

In part because of her dread characteristics and habit of acting unpredictably, at least to those who tried to control her, devotion came late in the game to Kali – even devout Hindus were wary of her wrath. However in the seventeenth century Kali received a makeover from the Tantric Bengali poets in northwest India. No longer a terrifying red-eyed crone, she began to be depicted as voluptuous, motherly, young and beautiful, with a gentle smile, attractive ornaments and pleasing blue complexion. While she continued to brandish weaponry and severed heads, two of her right hands now made soothing gestures - the mudras of fearlessness and blessing.

Today, her image reflects her duality. Kali is depicted in the act of killing but smiles engagingly. Her protruding red tongue signals both modesty (a Bengali tradition) and her thirst for blood. Her dishevelled hair hints at unrestrained blood lust and alternatively the metaphysical mystery of death that encircles life. Her three eyes represent omniscience, her voluptuous breasts both sexual lust and nurturance. Her nakedness simultaneously represents carnality and purity. Her necklace of severed heads and girdle of severed arms signifies her killing rage but are also tantric metaphors for creative power and severance from the bonds of karma and accumulated deeds. Even her stance is imbued with dual meaning. The respectable, right handed path of Tantra (Dakshinamarga) is emphasised by her right foot forward stance, while the infamous left-handed path (Vamamarga) followed by “degenerate” Tantric practitioners such as the Aghori is down-played. While her right hands are generally associated with positive gestures, her left hands hold weaponry – depending on the number of arms she is portrayed as having, a bloodied sword or trident, a freshly severed head and a skull cup to catch the blood. However, even these are symbols of greater purpose. The sword symbolises higher knowledge, the head the human ego that must be severed in order to exit from the cycle of life and rebirth.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, many western feminist scholars have adopted Kali as a mascot of female empowerment, or have politicised her as a symbol of the supposed former matriarchal golden age that came before our present state of patriarchal control and decline...But Kali, the true Kali, will continue to defy all attempts to tame and domesticate her, as she has since the beginning of time.

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