Once upon a time, the great god Shiva and his beautiful consort Sati were having an argument. Her father was hosting a party and hadn’t invited the couple. Infuriated, Sati wanted to confront her father, and Shiva felt they should stay away and let it lie.
Sati, very upset, insists on going, with or without her husband. Shiva forbids her. At that, Sati’s face suddenly changes. She turns into a black goddess, a necklace of skulls at her neck, her skirt made of severed arms. She has become the fierce goddess Kali, and roars at her husband, sticking out her bloodthirsty red tongue. Terrified, Shiva relents, remembering that his wife is, after all, a manifestation of Shakti, the energy that drives everything in the universe. It’s not wise to piss off the Great Goddess.
In the Tantric tradition of yoga, goddesses come in two types: Shri, like the beautiful and sweet Sati, and Kali, like the fierce black face of the namesake goddess she becomes in this story. The two categories are not, however, as separate as they may seem: every Shri goddess is at her heart a demon slayer, and if a Kali goddess destroys, she does it in the name of rebirth. Shri and Kali interweave constantly. Mythology is always, really, about those who hear the stories, and this one reminds us that we all have sweet and fierce aspects that we need in different situations.
I’m thinking about this as as the April 4th Blood Moon approaches. The Blood Moon is a lunar eclipse in which the face of the moon briefly turns a deep coppery red. This is the third in a tetrad of Blood Moons, the fourth of which is coming in September (along with, according to some Christian traditions, the end of the world).
The moon has long been associated with the feminine, perhaps because of the connections between women’s bodies and the lunar cycle: the word “menstruation” is etymologically linked to the Greek word “mene” or “moon.” I’m thinking of the Blood Moon as a moment when the pale Shri face of the full moon turns fierce in its eclipse, revealing the hidden intensity and bloodthirstiness of the Kali qualities that have always been there, too.
The full moon shines into the darkest places in the night. In my experience, this is a time when emotions, memories, or issues we’ve been trying to keep in the dark emerge from the shadows. It’s a good idea to rest and journal during this time so that whatever is arising doesn’t reveal itself on the city bus--most of the time, we slay more demons with the unassuming smile of Shri. At the Blood Moon, however, we are being invited to try on a fierce face and see, when a smile is not enough, what power may lie in a Kali-like roar.
Kali is a goddess of transformative destruction, and anger is one of her weapons. It is not, however, inhibitory anger, which arises to protect us from feelings like sadness or vulnerability. Kali deals in righteous anger, a calm, clear, fearless state that arises to fight for those who have been disempowered, including, perhaps, ourselves.
Do you feel an area of your life where you feel, like Sati, that someone has forgotten your power? Is it time to let go of (or destroy) something in your life that has been holding you back? Be careful, though, about your actions during this time--your weapons may be even more powerful than you think.