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Kali; unknown artist

Kali (also known as Kali-Ma, The Black Mother, or Kalika) is the Hindu devi or goddess of death and destruction. Depicted as a dark-skinned multi-armed warrior goddess, she is considered by some to have been born out of the wrath of Durga. According to this version of Kali's birth, when a pair of demons or asura brothers took the celestial kingdoms by storm, the devas turned to Durga to drive out these evil spirits. The wrath of Durga overcame her, and from her anger was born Kali. In this role Kali acts as the protector and avenger of the devas and slays their foes. Her fearsome reputation within traditional Hindu religion is the result of her blood-thirsty nature, which is put to use against asuras. With her tongue sticking out, she swallows up the asura offspring of Raktabija, while using her fangs to suck the demon's blood so as to ensure no further offspring can emerge. She is often depicted as a black woman whose tongue protrudes from her snarling face, wearing trophies from the destruction of her enemies, including a necklace of decapitated heads or skulls and a skirt of severed arms. In her right hands she may hold the bloodied sword or scissors of death and destruction, while in her left hands she may hold a severed head, a lotus, or a bowl of food. Such mingled iconography symbolizes her character as a devi of destruction, fecundity and benefaction.

Like many of the goddesses in the Hindu pantheon, and especially when considered as an aspect of Durga, Kali is said to be the bride of Shiva, his consort and his shakti or source of power. She is often depicted stepping upon the corpse (shaiva) of her husband Shiva, who, in one of the scriptures, placed himself beneath her to stop her frenzied battle rampage from destroying the world. Her altars are generally decorated in black, red, and yellow and often carry repetitions of the ritual number 5. Red flowers are a frequent altar offering to her. Kali is said to have 100 names, among them Sharatjyotsna (light of the autumn moon), Vidhatri (creatrix), Sundaripara (supremely beautiful), Muktakeshi (dishevelled of hair), and Samhlada Viparitaratatura (addicted to taking the superior sexual role). It is said that if a devotee recites all 100 names of Kali every morning he or she cannot be subjugated by anyone or anything that moves or does not move, on earth, in space, or in heaven.

Within the Hindu religious tradition, devotees of Kali are as fiercely loyal to her as she is to them for the Black Mother is protective of all her children and she is a very approachable deity. Her aid is sought on behalf of women, mothers, warriors, thugs, and all those in need. Those who identify Kali as one of the Mahavidyas, or Wisdom Goddesses, know her as the ultimate reality, insight into whom is gained through dedicated practice.

Hoodoo psychic readers, spirit workers, and root doctors who petition the Hindu gods and goddesses on behalf of clients may work with Kali when there are pending spiritual and magical issues involving protection and victory in battle, jinx breaking, exorcism of demons, and alleviation of curses, revenge and reigning down destruction upon an enemy, and fertility matters.


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