I do not worship Kali as a mother. Kali has no children. Her body is not a vessel of reproduction; it is a tool for terror and destruction. Kali does not carry a child; she carries a sword. Kali does not feed an infant; she feeds herself, on blood shed by her own hand. She may be viewed as beautiful, but she may also be viewed as grotesque; she is raw, naked, radiant, wild, and inspires both awe and horror. Her role is not inherently subservient, gentle, or nurturing. She kills, she fucks, she feeds, she screams. I worship Kali because I feel an affinity for Kali, I feel a desire within me to be among her witchy cohorts who slaughter, laugh playfully and terribly, and inspire fear. I’d sooner bear a weapon and take down life than bear life within me. I worship Kali as a goddess who is not confined either by her beauty and desirablity, nor by her fertility and maternal qualities. She is no goddess of love, nor of motherhood.
Even Parvati, who is indeed a wife and mother, is more than a benevolent “mother” goddess. She is an ascetic, who undertook extreme austerities to win the attentions of her husband, Lord Shiva, whom she now joins in a life of empowered renunciation on Mount Kailash. Her children, Ganesha and Kartikeya, are not the product of ordinary conception and impregnation. Kartikeya was born from six flaming droplets of Shiva’s spilt seed placed in the Ganges, producing six children which Parvati combined into one. Ganesha was made by Parvati as she was bathing, by scraping the sandalwood paste from her skin and forming it into a child. She utilized external resources and her own internal potency to shape and create these very powerful entities. In her role as Parvati, she is instrumental in bringing these demigods into existence and influencing them so that they may engage in the divine activities set out for them. But she engages in her own divine activities other than motherhood when there is need, by taking one of her many forms, and in the meantime she meditates on Kailash, still, potent, and ready.
This is why I turn to the Hindu understanding of female divinity (and divinity in general) most readily: it is thorough, encompassing the many aspects of power and pastime, rather than trying to pigeon-hole this understanding into limited, generalized definitions. There are many goddesses exhibiting many attributes, just as there is broad variety in the appearance, abilities, and personalities of human women. A goddess may be worshipped as beautiful, but another goddess may likewise be worshipped as ugly. You may worship a youthful goddess, or an elderly one. You may propitiate a martial goddess or a maternal one, according to her pastimes and yours. You may ask a goddess for health or wealth, for knowledge, for domestic comfort, for inhuman strength, for vengeance. A goddess may be gentle in nature, or she may be stern. A goddess may be compassionate, or she may be bloodthirsty. A goddess may be earthly, or she may be cosmic. There are any number of forms, and behind all of these forms is power. It is not superior to worship power without form anymore than it is practical to try and harness electricity without proper appliance. A goddess is not just an idea, a figure to be conceptualized and boiled down into some more easily comprehended notion: this is a “mother” goddess, this is a “war” goddess. Divine femininity is not a notion to wrap up female power into terms of sex, beauty, chastity, motherhood, &c., nor should these aspects be denounced or denied in favor of one over another. There is power in beauty, there is power in wisdom, there is power in rage, there is power in birth, there is power in austerity, there is power in desire, there is power in cruelty, there is power in calmness, there is power in effort, there is power in charity, there is power in struggle, there is power in labor, there is power in contemplation, there is power in harshness, sweetness, action, and inaction.
Kali may be a mother to one man, and a fright to another, and she may be turned to for protection from the horrors of everyday existence, or she may be sought out for benediction in enacting brutal duties. She offers solace with one hand, and blood with another. This is not conflict; this is completeness. I admire Kali as a being unto herself, and worship her in a sisterly mood, as the sister of Krishna, and a sister I would wish to have of my own. There are those who turn to her and love her for reasons other than my own, and she has the capacity to satisfy these relationships, just as an ordinary, individual human woman may play many parts to many people, yet always remain essentially herself. Kali has a female body, but she does not produce children, yet she is found to be nurturing by those who ask it of her. She is by her nature fierce, but she has the capacity for compassion. This is power. The potential for one form of power, without necessarily utilizing it (childbirth), the inherent, essential power of one’s nature (ferocity), and also the willingness and ability to assume forms of power deeper than or beyond one’s inherent nature (compassion). For me, Kali is about violence, wrath, and lust, but I love her all the more that she may also convincingly play the mother while her blade hovers threateningly. Such is the truth of divine femininity.
Yes! Here are some photos.
Most of the indoor altars: here.
We called this one ‘paunchy Siva.’
Asia - India / Rajasthan (by RURO photography)
India, Rajasthan, Bundi
Krishna and Rukmini as Groom and Bride in a Celestial Chariot Driven by Ganesha, 1675-1700
Brothers Ganesha and Murugan worship.
I’m doing great, thank you, and hope you are as well! I am indeed a Hare Krishna, an initiated member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which has a disciplic succession that goes all the way back to Lord Brahma. I am a Vishnu/Krishna devotee, but I have deep respect for other deities. They are highly empowered personalities who perform many vital functions within the material plane. I recognize Krishna as a purely transcendental being, whereas gods such as Shiva and Kali, while they are in essence expansions of Krishna (as all living things are), exist within the material world, and are subject to its laws. They operate on a MUCH higher level than we on this planet, however, and are very powerful and privileged to have the opportunity to engage in pastimes in this sphere. I propitiate several deities (including Kali, Shiva, Durga, Ganesha, and others) in a spirit of serving a servant of the Lord; they are highly enlightened devotees, and I offer my obeisances to them as such. On a more personal level, I find them easy to approach according to my nature, lifestyle, and proclivities. I perform Kali Puja every night, deep into the dark, and I have a close relationship with Her. I offer my library books to Ganesha, and see the twinkle of pleasure in his eye at having a few new novels to read. They are my dear friends, but friends to whom I offer a whole lot of respect.
Holy Family (artist unknown)