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Kali

Kali is a destructive and creative mother goddess in Hinduism. Kali is the fierce aspect of Devi, the supreme goddess, who is fundamental to all other Hindu deities.

The continuous, ongoing work of Creation is described as "the play of Kali".

Kali is considered to be the destroyer of evil spirits and the preserver of devotees. She is the consort of Shiva. Her name apparently derives from the word 'kala' (Sanskrit for 'time' or 'dark'); it also means Black Female, in contrast to her consort, Shiva, who is white; and Kali is the common name for Energy in her form as Shiva's wife, or Shakti. She is also called Durga. Other names are: Bhowani Devi, Sati, Rudrani, Parvati, Chinnamastika, Kamakshi, Uma, Menakshi, Himavati, Kumari. These names, if repeated, are believed to give special power to the worshipper.

Skulls, cemeteries, and blood are associated with her worship. She is black and emaciated. Her face is azure, streaked with yellow, her glance is ferocious; her disheveled and bristly hair is usually shown splayed and spread like the tail of a peacock and sometimes braided with green serpents. She wears a long necklace (descending almost to her knees) of human skulls. She may be shown wearing a girdle of severed arms. Children's corpses as earrings, and cobras as bracelets or garlands add to her terrifying adornments. Her purple lips are often shown streaming with blood; her tusk-like teeth descend over her lower lip; and her tongue lolls out. She is often shown standing on the corpse of her consort, Shiva, whose head she holds by the hair. She is sometimes accompanied by she-demons. Her four (or 8, or 10!) arms hold weapons or the severed head of her husband: these objects symbolize both her creative and her destructive power, for Kali personifies the ambivalence of deity, which manifests itself, according to Indian tradition, in the unceasing cycle of life and death, creation and destruction.

Her poor reputation in the West came from the cult of the Thuggee, Hindus and Muslims who took the goddess Kali as their deity. They robbed and murdered travellers as sacrifices to Kali and were destroyed by the British.

For her Tantric worshippers, it was essential to face her Curse, the terror of death, as willingly as they accepted Blessings from her beautiful, nurturing, maternal aspect. For them, wisdom meant learning that no coin has only one side: as death cannot exist without life, so life cannot exist without death.



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