Kali - The Divine Witch: Goddesses and Gods

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

The Divine Witch: Goddesses and Gods

Kali is such a crucially significant, transcendent goddess that, as with Isis, reducing her to just one aspect, witchcraft, is unfair. Kali Ma, “Mother Kali,” is India’s Great Mother; a pre-Aryan deity, she remains venerated by millions.

Her name means “black” and also derives from the root word for “time.” She is reputedly the most difficult of all spirits to understand. Her devotees claim that the attempt to comprehend her ultimately frees them from all fear. She is the Mother in her destructive aspect—the Corn Mother who simultaneously grinds out life and death. Her stereotype depicts her as a scary, blood-thirsty, out-of-control demon but this ignores her tremendous gift-giving and fear-allaying aspects.

Fiercest of the fierce, Kali backs away from nothing. To fully appreciate joy and life, suffering and death must be faced. Kali is responsible for life from conception to the grave. She maintains the world order. Kali protects the helpless, particularly women and children. She is also the Matron of Witches. Her attending spirits are the Dakini, whose name is synonymous with “witch” in modern India. Kali is the chief Dakini and sometimes is called by the name Dakini.

Her appearance is meant to terrify. Kali is garlanded with severed heads and wears a girdle of severed hands. Her earrings are children’s corpses. She wears cobras as garlands and bracelets. Her mouth is smeared with blood. Her tongue sticks out. Her hair is disheveled. She is adorned with gems possessing the brilliance of the sun and the moon and is usually depicted with four hands, demonstrating her contradictions: two are actively involved in destruction while the other two confer benefits:

Image Her upper left hand wields a bloody sword

Image Her lower left hand holds a demon’s severed head

Image Her upper right hand forms the gesture of fearlessness

Image Her lower right hand bestows blessings and protections

When depicted by herself Kali is usually shown dancing, but she is often shown together with her beloved Lord Shiva. Typically she stands upon his prone body or they are shown in sexual union with each other. One famous image shows Kali squatting over Shiva’s prone body devouring his entrails while simultaneously offering him her breast. She also manifests as a jackalheaded woman.

Sacred Creatures: Crow, Snake

Colors: Black, red

Attributes: A black cauldron, a mirror, a cup containing blood of a head she has severed (sometimes this cup is a skull)

Planet: The moon, especially in the dark and waning phases

The deities closest in nature to Kali are Baba Yaga, La Santisima Muerte, and the Corn Mothers, especially Anat. Lilith claims that one of her alternative names is Kali.

See also Baba Yaga, Lilith, Santisima Muerte, Shiva; ANIMALS: Corvids, Dogs, Snakes; DICTIONARY: Dakini; ERGOT: Corn Mothers: Anat; FAIRIES: Nature-spirit Fairies: Dakini.