I felt a bit like the goddess Kali, who is, coincidentally, our focus in this week’s ongoing classes. Get comfortable, yogis. It’s story time.
Like many great stories, the story of Kali begins with a fight between the gods and the demons. The demons were trying to take over control of the earth. In this battle, the demons were led by Raktabija, a demon with a special ability. Raktabija had been granted a boon, a special power, as a reward for practicing austerities. Every time a drop of his blood spilled, a thousand more demons arose.
The gods were losing ground in the battle, so they called on their goddess counterparts for help. Durga came forward. She went into battle on her tiger with all of the weapons of the gods at her disposal. She slayed all the demon soldiers until Raktabija was the only one left. As she attacked him, thousands of demons arose from his blood, full armies of demons advanced on the goddess, and they shouted, laughed, and taunted her. She became so angry that when she scowled, Kali, “the terrible one” emerged.
Kali was a fierce goddess, wearing only a tiger skin over her bony body, and she was armed with the sword of vengeance, a noose, and skull-topped staff. She had wild black hair, and she was filled with a raw and wild energy. As she turned her furious gaze to the demons, some died instantly. She shrieked, and more fell. She started shoveling others into her mouth and eating them. Just like Durga, she defeated all of the demons until only the demon-general remained. Depending on the version of the story, she bites him or stabs him in the side, then before his blood can spill to the ground she lifts him into the air and pours his blood into her mouth. Because she drinks his blood, no new demons are created, and the demon-general dies. When Kali throws his corpse to the ground, she is drunk from his blood and from battle, and she begins to dance and shriek, pounding all of the demon corpses into the ground. She is so out of control that the gods ask her husband, Shiva, to intervene. She is deaf to his pleas, and he throws himself under her feet. When she realizes she is dancing on her own husband, she comes out of her frenzy, and the world is restored to order.
On Memorial Day, we honor and mourn our own warriors, the American soldiers who sacrificed their lives for our country. Enjoy your day, but be sure to pause for a moment to remember these soldiers. The National Moment of Remembrance is officially at 3 p.m., but it's never the wrong moment to honor these heroes.
If you need me, I'll be in the garden, channeling my inner Kali as I battle what I have dubbed my Raktabija weeds.