Kali Ma Goddess and divine mother meaning
Kali, in Hinduism, is the goddess of destruction and recreation. She is seen as a powerful force that destroys ignorance and sin to make way for new beginnings. Her eternal night represents timelessness and the transcendent power of time.
She is the consort of Shiva, who is the destroyer of the world, and her Shakti (energy) gives him the power to act. Kali is an ancient pre–Aryan goddess of time and divine femininity that has been revered in Hinduism since Indus Valley civilization.
The Goddess of vegetation Maa Kali
Kali Ma was an aboriginal deity of vegetation and farming. Evidence shows that animal and human sacrifices were performed in her honour, which points to her being a fertility deity. Even today, animals are sacrificed at temples such as Kalighat in Calcutta, where a goat is killed every day for Kali Ma. During the annual festival in autumn, goats and buffalos are sacrificed along with certain plants.
While human sacrifice has been prohibited, there have been occasional reports from remote areas of people allegedly being sacrificed to Kali Ma.
Representation of the hindu goddess
In her iconography Kali is fearsome. She is presented as black, standing over the white corpse of her consort Shiva, who is inert without her powers. Her tongue lolls, she is naked, she has human arms and wears a garland of skulls.
She has four arms representing the four directions of space:
One hand holds a sword, the power of destruction;
Another a severed head to show the living their destiny;
A third is an attitude to remove fear;
And the fourth bestows bliss.
Her cult is especially strong in Bengal and eastern India. There she is often worshiped as Durga, Devi, Shakti, Sati, Uma, Parvati
. Also other names under which she appears as the consort of Shiva.
Kali also is the goddess Kundalini, the Serpent Power. She arises from the depths of the body in tantric yoga so to bring the devotee to nirvana.
The dark mother of creation and destruction
Kali Ma, also known as the «Dark Mother,» is a Hindu goddess of creation, preservation, and destruction, who is especially associated with her Destroyer aspect. She is depicted squatting over her dead consort, Shiva, devouring his entrails while her yoni sexually devours his lingam (penis). Kali is seen as the hungry earth which consumes its own children and fattens on their corpses.
In India this experience of the Terrible Mother has been given its most grandiose form in the figure of Kali. She serves as an archetypal image for birth and death – she being both womb and tomb; simultaneously giver of life and devourer of her children. This same image has been portrayed in many ancient religions.
Psychologists image of Kali the mother
Psychologists today are aware of the power of this image: the angry, punishing, castrating Father. It‘s less intimidating than the representation of the destructive Mother, likely because she symbolizes death. To avoid this grim reality, many Roman Catholics teach about purgatory.
This way, they can soften the idea of an ultimate end. The full importance of the functions as giver of life, preserver and destroyer have been ignored or destroyed over time. The same goes for other aspects of the goddess. Western art and literature often portray her destructive side as a demon – evil and fearsome. In London‘s Museum, there is an image labelled ‘Kali–Destroying Demon.’
The Encyclopedia Britannica devotes five columns to Christian interpretations of Logos, but only mentions Kali in a single sentence as Shiva‘s consort and a «goddess of disease.»
Functions of the Kali goddess
In Hinduism Kali’s has three functions to the gods:
Vishnu, who brought the world out of the primal abyss, wrote the following about Kali:
«Maternal cause of all change, manifestation, and destruction…the whole Universe rests upon Her, rises out of Her and melts into Her.
From Her crystallized the original elements and qualities which construct the apparent world. She is both mother and grave… The gods themselves are merely constructs out of Her maternal substance, which is both consciousness and potential joy.»
As a mother
Kali, the mother of all living, is a treasure house of compassion and the giver of life to the world. Contrary to popular Western belief, she is not just a goddess of destruction but the source of all kinds of love that flows into the world through women – her agents on Earth.
Male worshippers of Kali are said to «bow down at the feet of women« and recognise them as their rightful teachers. Some believe Eve originated from Kali‘s leva or Jiva, the primordial female principle of manifestation.
It is said that she gave birth to her “first manifested form” and called him Idam (Adam). The same title was later given to Eve in the Old Testament – Mother Of All Living (Jaganmata).
Although referred to as «the One,» Kali was always a trinity Goddess: Virgin, Mother, and Crone. This triad formed nine or ten millennia ago has been manifested in many cultures:
- the Celts with their triple Morrigan,
- the Greeks with their triple Moerae,
- the Norsemen with their Norms,
- the Romans with their Fates and triadic Uni (Juno),
- the Egyptians with their triple Mut,
- and the Arabian Moon-goddess.
She is known everywhere. Her three–person Godhead is a part of Christianity; some believe it to be only male, but in the Hebrew Old Testament, the word for Spirit, ruwach, is of a feminine gender. Blood sacrifice was essential in the worship of Kali, as it was in early Biblical worship.
The Bible commands that blood must be poured onto alters for forgiveness (Exodus 29:16 and Numbers 18:9), but there were differences. Jewish priests would eat the sacrificed meat themselves, while devotees were allowed to consume their own offerings, such as in Calcutta.
Only male animals were sacrificed by her command. This is an ancient belief that the male has no part in the cycle of creation. Shiva, Kali‘s sacrificial partner, demanded that female animals not be killed on altars.
Kali was seen as an ocean of blood at the beginning of the world and may have been seen as a primordial mass from which all life arose; her destruction of the universe was seen as prefiguring each individual‘s destruction but also with reincarnation through her karmic wheel..
Kali and the tantric
The Tantric sages believed that after death comes nothing–at–all, which they referred to as the third state of being. It was similar to Dreamless Sleep. Another name for this state was «the Generative Womb of All, the Beginning and End of Beings«.
Kali was known for her power to devour Time and take on a formless shape – a concept seen in many myths about creation and destruction. Her worshippers accepted both her terrifying and nurturing aspects, understanding that life and death were two sides of the same coin. They communed with Kali in cremation grounds, recognizing her as both loving mother and destroyer.
Origin of the name
Kali Ma is a hunter of tombs and eater of the dead, who was worshipped in Finland as the Black Goddess. European «witches», Tantric yogis and dakinis, and former pagans all paid homage to her in funeral places, cremation grounds, and cemeteries respectively.
The phrase ‘Mater genuit’ – meaning ‘Mother bore me, Mother took me back’ – is found on Roman tombstones in her honor. Kali is often depicted wearing red, symbolizing the blood that she gives and takes back. This color is also associated with gypsy funerals as they worship Kali as the Goddess of disease.
Walker, Barbara G, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, New York, HarperCollins, 1983, pp. 488-494 Rice, Edward, Eastern Definitions: A Short Encyclopedia of Religions of the Orient, Garden City, New York, Doubleday, 1978, pp. 211-212
Cotterell, Arthur, A Dictionary of World Mythology, New York, G. P. Putman’s Sons, 1980, pp. 69-70