Sooner or later, we come to understand Kali, the goddess of destruction and purification.
Like most women, I have resisted getting to know the energy of Kali because I was, and wanted to be… “nice.” Kali is not always nice, but she is always effective.
The first time I looked unwaveringly straight into the face of Kali — the first time I did not run to avoid the intensity of her energy — was at a gathering of twelve women at a spiritual retreat. It was called the “Women’s Wisdom Council” and we all had the opportunity to move beyond our limited perceptions of wisdom during that weekend (and hopefully beyond).
One of the women at the gathering insisted on recognizing and expressing the Kali energy present in the group. Leah was intense. Since I already knew Leah well, I trusted her wisdom in this matter, both from my experience with her good judgment and from my gut feeling. A lot of the other women were not so trusting.
Leah is a black woman, and she wanted the rest of us (all whites) to look at and acknowledge the rage within some of our black sisters. She described it as Kali energy, and tried to help us understand that it was ultimately purging and ultimately loving — necessary for the transformation of our society.
About three of the women in the group were openly opposed to allowing Leah’s open expression. They were offended that the “niceness” of the weekend was being threatened. They would rather keep things light and wanted to drop the topic.
Leah held her ground and refused to be dismissed, no matter how indignant and skillfully articulate the opposition became. I stepped forward to support Leah’s position and another woman joined us.
Three of us wanted to allow Leah to tell her story, and three were vehemently opposed. The remaining six women were noncommittal.
So here we were, a group of women on a spiritual retreat, at which one of the objectives was to build community among us… and we were bitterly divided. All because most of us were uncomfortable with Kali-type energy.
Unfortunately, there was no resolution by the end of the weekend. Many of the women grumbled that the retreat had been ruined for them. They had felt uncomfortable. I, on the other hand, was rejoicing because I had a breakthrough in understanding the energy of Kali. I finally “got it.” She is the loving destroyer. She is necessary for transformation.
It is easy to accept the concept of a goddess as a nurturer, a healer, or one of the muses of nature. It’s not so easy to accept a goddess as a destroyer.
Most of us live removed from nature, cut off from the experiences that constantly remind us that every act of creation is also an act of aggression. To plant a garden, you must dig out the weeds, crush the snails, thin the seedlings as they reach towards the light… Creation postulates change; and any change destroys what went before. (Starhawk)
Until a woman is comfortable with and understands Kali energy, she is handicapped in fulfilling her potential. Because “nice” does not always survive. And we want to stay in the game. Even a dolphin is not always “nice,” and will kill when required (see On The Strategy of the Dolphin).
Gut-level anger can be a good thing. However, it can be scary because we associate anger with violence. Again, some wisdom from Starhawk:
It is a survival emotion, a warning that something in our environment is being threatened. Danger triggers a physical, psychic, and emotional response that mobilizes our energy to change the situation… Anger becomes a connecting force that spurs honest confrontations and communications…
Anger is not to be confused with temper. Anger is an honest emotion, even if we’re not always angry for the reason we think we are; temper is childish and often manipulative. Nor should Kali energy be confused with senseless acts of violence — that is unleashed fear. Kali’s energy comes from a necessity to transform. “This has got to go,” she says, and makes good on her promise.
Mother Nature is intimate with Kali and depends on her energy when radical change is required. Kali’s energy is behind earthquakes, floods, volcanoes… all transformative earth changes. “You’re out of balance,” she warns. “We need to make adjustments, fast.” We don’t always understand the necessity behind Kali’s destruction. But surely, Mother Nature must know how to heal herself, and we’ve got to respect that.
I called upon Kali when it was time to close my business after 13 years of being a slave to it. It was not going to die naturally. It had developed a life of its own. So I had to kill it. This act of destruction was against my nature… Kill something I had created out of nothing? I needed help.
So I called upon the spirit of Kali. I trained my mind to be brave and think in a new way. learned how to be effective, while not necessarily being “nice”… totally removed from my comfort zone. But I got it done… I killed my business in order to make space for my transformation into an artist. It was the right thing to do for my soul!
Sometimes things can evolve gradually and predictably — as in the leaves on the trees that change through the seasons. But sometimes a leap in evolution is required. That’s where Kali comes in.
Kali is involved when a flash of insight occurs, shattering some tightly-held familiar beliefs. “Can we get past this?” she asks, “Or would you like to continue getting pounded on the head until you wake up?” You can choose to ride the wave of transformative energy, or stay stuck in resistance and rutsville.
I’ve made friends with Kali and the dolphins, and I’m glad they’re in my corner!
(Just to clarify… of course Kali. goddess, Mother Nature, and dolphin are used as metaphors!)