Monday, July 21, 2008

Dark Goddess: Kali

Kali, Kali Ma, Black Kali, the Black Mother, regardless of what she is called, Kali brings with her the presence of foreboding. Sometimes depicted with a belt from which hangs many skulls; sometimes shown with little skeleton children peeping from beneath the folds of her skirts, Kali has a strong connection with death and wild vengeance, which earns her a place with the Dark Goddesses.

In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, vampiress Mina Harker and Quartermain stumble across Captain Nemo as he is paying tribute to the Goddess Kali. Harker states to Quartermain, “Can we trust someone who worships the Goddess of Death?” A strange comment from someone who lives off the life-blood of others, sometimes bringing death in the process.

Stranger still is the paradox of Kali. She is a bringer of death, fierce in battle, who grows drunk on the blood of the slain, enjoying the kill and rejoicing in its aftermath. Yet she is the eternal mother, ever-caring for her children, filled with love for them. They are the only influence that quells her blood thirst. This devotion to her children inspires fierce love from them, as well.

Blood is natural image when speaking of Kali. Both her blood-thirstiness in battle and the use of blood in ancient ceremonies honoring her lead to the conclusion that Kali is a goddess full of wrath and a joy for blood-letting. However, blood is both symbolic of death and of life. It is the life force of all beings. It is present in both death and birth. Without blood, life is not possible.

And thus it is that Kali does not straddle the line between life and death, but walks it with grace, artistry and near-perfect balance. To me, she is a prime example of the balance between light and dark that is so necessary in life. She dances along the tightwire between life and death, her children holding tightly to her skirt-tail, with a smile on her face, blood on her hands, and both love and vengeance carried deep within her heart.

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