It took some doing to find a figurine of Kali, the destroyer goddess, but I made it happen.
The New Age bookstores were focused more on Greek and Norse mythology, so no luck there. When I went into a shop in an Indian strip mall, the nice woman who helped me backed away a couple of feet when I asked for one, her expression saying, “What does this crazy white guy want with a Kali?”
When I finally found one in a curio shop on vacation, the guy at the counter seemed to be saying, “So someone finally bought that thing.”
Kali is not a safe goddess. Dangerous, really. Her creation was nearly accidental, but she saved the world before she nearly destroyed it.
It happened a little something like this. The gods were faced with a demon they couldn’t defeat, despite their best efforts. Someone finally realized that if the gods couldn’t pull it off, maybe what they needed was a goddess. So they created Durga, the warrior goddess, each god giving a piece of himself.
Durga was fierce and beautiful, but everytime the demon bled, the blood would grow into a clone of the demon. Soon, she was surrounded.
Out of Durga’s rage arose Kali, jumping right out of Durga’s forehead onto the battlefield. Kali figured out what was going on, and realized she needed to drink that blood to kill off the demons and his clones. I guess she was thirsty, because Kali pulled it off and saved the day.
Maybe it was all the demon blood she drank, but Kali just couldn’t stop fighting. If Kali couldn’t be stopped, soon she would destroy the whole world in her rage.
It was Shiva, the world preserver, who finally calmed her down. He turned himself into a baby and placed himself right in her path. If she didn’t stop, she would crush him underfoot. At the last minute, Kali noticed the baby at her feet and stopped her path of destruction. The world was saved a second time that day.
Rage has its place. In the right situation, some well placed rage can even save the world. But rage unbound can also destroy the world it just saved.
Prolonged anger poisons the soul. I’ve known some prolonged anger in my life, for injustices done to me, real and perceived. Anger has fueled some seasons of my life, and sometimes it felt good. Sometimes it gave me the fuel I needed to confront those injustices, or, if not that, to keep them from happening again.
But prolonged rage wears you down, closes you in, twists you again the grain of your best self. And it doesn’t defeat the demon. It destroys your world, one angry step through the battlefield at a time.
I put that Kali figurine on my altar to remind myself that rage has its place, but then it needs to calm the hell down. Sometimes what Kali needs isn’t a battlefield but a nice, long nap.
Now where can I find a pillow for Kali?
Pic by Sanjay Patel.