Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture

Mother's Day last Sunday, and you know what that means: Kali and Durga all over the place, baby.

I've felt lush with chants to the divine feminine these days, heart beating and feet stepping along to the rhythm of "Kali Durga" and "Om Sri Matre," what with that Hallmark holiday having just filled restaurants and flower shops with all kinds of obligatory mother-honoring. May, of course, has always seemed to me naturally rich with peonies and blooms, fresh air and sunshine, all of those classical symbols of growth, newness, life, creation. And, in spite of its commodified Hallmark co-optation, Mother's Day's cultural reminder to offer thanks to the Creatrix, to the wild feminine, that spirit of nourishment and compassion, springtime and rebirth, has been a welcome one. So in classes over the last few days, I've been continually harping on tuning into that sense of creativity, vitality, an offering of gratitude for those beings in our lives -- blood-related or not -- who lend a mothering quality to what we do, who we are, how we grow.

Sally Kempton wrote a great piece for Yoga Journal a few years back celebrating the potential for unleashing Kali-style ferocity in our own lives. She writes that
Kali shows up in yogic art almost as much as the elephant headed Ganesh. Kali is the one with the wild hair, the bare breasts, and the severed heads around her neck. She usually carries a sword, and one of the ways you know its Kali is that she’s sticking out her tongue. (Try it as you read! Sticking your tongue out, all the way out, is one of the quickest ways there is to get you in touch with your unconventional wild side!) She’s usually described as the goddess of destruction, and she looks scary, even though when you look at her face and body, you realize that she is also beautiful. Kali is supposed to have arisen out of the warrior-goddess Durga during a particularly fierce battle with some demons. The demons had a nasty skill: their spilled blood turned into more demon-warriors. Kali’s job was to lick the drops of blood from the slain demons, and she did it so well that Durga won the battle.
Gradually, over the years,
this image of the wild-eyed battle goddess came to symbolize both spiritual and psychological liberation. She came to be understood as a form of the archetypal Great Mother, not just the warrior, but also the protector and giver of boons.
I love this understanding: that nuanced awareness that the Great Mother can be more than just conventionally, heteronormatively feminine; she can be wild and fierce and dark and destructive at the same time that she protects and gives, nourishes and comforts.

As Kempton writes,
...tuning into Kali in daily life often means tuning into aspects of ourselves that we normally don’t have access to, a power that can step outside the conventional and become bold and fierce, fierce in our love, fierce in our ecstasy, fierce in our willingness to stand up to the ‘demons’ in ourselves and others. We don’t become free just by going with the flow. We become free by knowing when to say “No,” to fight for what is right, to be appropriately ruthless, to engage with the fiercer forms of grace.
So take a second to shout-out to the divine Mama, that wild goddess of destruction Kali, that fierce warrior woman Durga; sing out to the Kalis and the Durgas in your own life, that Om Sri Matre Namaha, we might all bow down to the divine mother who's given us body and breath, life and existence, be she Mother Nature or your own mama or that mother hen neighbor down the street who clucks and feeds and cares and holds you close. We can all take a lesson or two from their compassion, their kindness, their bravery, their fierce, wild care.

(And to the dear mamas in my life: to Mariah, and Toni, and Sarah, and Molly, and Austen, and Su, and Jen, and Christie, and Nici, and Alicia, and Rachel, and Suzette, and Henna, and Lisa, and Sherry, and Jenn, and Vanessa, and Jess, and so many others -- I lift you and your endless, fierce, fighting hearts up, over and over again, yes.)

Kali (Wiki)
Durga (Wiki)
How To Be Fierce (Sally Kempton)


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