Week 40 (T): triple goddess appreciation post
I was going to write about tarot for this second T post, but then I stumbled across such beautiful images of the Triple Goddess I thought I’d just share some with you. Artists listed when I know them. If you know an artist and their name isn’t listed, please let me know in the comments!
Week 21 (K): Kali, the Hindu goddess of time and change
I became acquainted with Kali while walking home alone from school one night. I was terrified of how dark the street was, and the silence that seemed to follow me, and so I began to meditate on all of the strong goddesses. Kali, with her necklace of skulls and fearsome expression, was the first image that popped into my head. This is when I started to consider all that Kali had to offer. Prior to this, I had primarily been in service to Brighid (more about that here).
Contrary to appearances, Kali is loving to me. She has been called a goddess of death, though this is inaccurate: she’s actually more about change. The change of seasons, while sometimes harsh, is ultimately positive; the cycle must continue. As the goddess of time and change, she often stirs things up. Kali has been a warmth at my back, a protective presence in my life that has been very welcome. Kali is a mother goddess, which might seem strange to you if you’re not familiar. But fierce women can be mothers too. Mistress of the Hearth wrote an excellent post on misperceptions.
Now it’s been almost ten years of worship. Kali’s picture has hung above my altar, prompting more questions from visitors than the rest of my altar put together. I affectionately refer to Kali as the black bitch goddess, because I believe that “bitch” can be an empowering title. She has taught me how love can be fierce, how sometimes something you perceive as a threat is actually working to protect you. I am grateful for her fierceness. I’ve found Brighid and Kali to be excellent complements to one another.
Week 6 (C): cultural appropriation
How do we, as eclectic pagans, borrow from and interact respectfully with cultures not our own?
More specifically, how do I, as a white western woman, worship Kali without offending Hindus?
Cultural appropriation is when a dominant group adapts element(s) of a minority culture without understanding the context from which said element(s) come from. This largely pertains to cultures that are still living (e.g. the Navajo tribe is still alive and well, whereas ancient Egyptian culture is not). The act of cultural appropriation is often considered offensive, particularly when people choose to use elements that are sacred within the original culture. An example would be hipsters wearing Native American war bonnets. But what about goddesses?
I felt called into Kali’s service a little over six years ago. I believe that my goddesses chose me, rather than the other way around. So how does one practice mindfulness in their spirituality? I do not worship other Hindu deities, nor do I identify as Hindu. But I also feel that I have made a serious effort to understand the context from which Kali comes. At all times, I try to be as respectful as I can be of her origins. But is that enough? I remain unsure, but not unsure enough to feel that my connection to Kali has been altered. It just means I’m less likely to talk about it as openly as other aspects of my beliefs.
My only hesitation with the idea of cultural appropriation is that cultures do change. Every culture borrows elements from other cultures (see my other post on religious remix culture in the further reading section). There is the question of an imbalance of power with the issue of cultural appropriation, because the ones doing the appropriating generally have more power than the group they’re borrowing from. But cultures build upon one another, and the idea of rigidly keeping cultures intact in their original forms is repugnant to me. It seems essentialist and overly simplistic. On the other hand, I strongly support protecting native cultures from forced assimilation (e.g. what happened to Native Americans in the U.S. from the 18th century through the early twentieth).
Obviously people of color differ in their feelings about appropriation. Some aren’t bothered, others are. My inclination is to say that as a white person, it’s not my place to decide when cultural appropriation is acceptable. But on the flip side, I feel that I have been called to Kali’s service. This post is not about answers, mostly because I don’t feel like I have them. I do have plenty of questions though.
Discussing cultural appropriation on the SolitaryWiccans LJ community (an oldie but a goodie)
Poems About Kali (a selection)
Religious Remix Culture (my earlier writing on the topic, with links to more resources)