Ritual for Goddess Kali: Kali Puja (Worship)
Poignant and powerful, I believe that the fierce Hindu goddesses, and the Dark Mother more generally, are appearing and appealing to westerners now more strongly so that we may learn from and in turn honor them. They are liberators, and as Rita Gross has suggested regarding devi, She can be a powerful resource to westerners reconceptualizing and reclaiming Goddess from among the residue of patriarchal traditions. Her transformative power and draw in the west is keenly felt, even though the debate still ensues over who honors her, how she is honored outside of her native context, why feminists (and others) in the west are drawn to her, what she means to those of non-Indian origin, where she serves best and most, and when her call may be answered.
With the ancient presence of the Goddess, of Devi, as found today throughout the world and acknowledging of her roots within indigenous traditions of India as well as what is usually regarded as the more rigidly patriarchal Sanskritic brahmanical ones, I honor Kali from my place as a western feminist dedicated to the goddess because she liberates me, inspires me and has in my own life been a vehicle for transformation. I offer this worship to continue debate and open an opportunity to pray for continued transformation of goddesses, women, peoples, and the planet. I bring traditions of East and West together here with the hope of diffusing boundaries so that consciousness can be attuned to current actualities of goddess worship as transformational, the presence of the Divine felt within a concept of universal humanness, and hearts surrounded by the grace of the divine as most acceptable to the individual in a way that reflects and suggests ramifications for the collective.
Most broadly, I attempt to bring together elements of western, earth-based practice and Eastern, Sakta Tantrick worship methodologies and verses in order to honor Goddess in whatever guise She appears to those participating in this worship. At SHARANYA, this usually means that we work with Kali and Her various manifestations, still acknowledging the ties She has all over the globe.
This ritual is presented in order to facilitate the spiritual seeker’s personal exploration into sadhana (spiritual practice), because ritual can be a powerful means for opening to another level of human potential and personal awareness. Worship is an intensely private affair even when done among others, and I recommend not only reading this article, but also actually trying it, whether alone or with others. Such an endeavor, I believe, can promote overall clarity and help to develop a greater sense of relationship to the community of the Divine, both during the ritual itself and in general day-to-day realities.
When we at SHARANYA create space for the public to join us in this ceremony, we consider ourselves merely guides for the journey into Her embrace. The following then is an outline for your honoring of the Divine Mother, Goddess Kali, including Sanskrit mantras. Please understand that whenever/wherever you are uncomfortable with the Sanskrit language, you may use the English translation as given, or come up with your own words based on the meanings suggested. These words of worship, however, need to be revered and respected, since they are millennia old and have multiple layers of meaning that will only be revealed as a part of your own unfolding process and/or through work with a guru/teacher. Again, this is all and only presented in order to facilitate your personal exploration.
Additionally, any worship such as this should be predicated on a foundation inclusive of meditation, study, and intense contemplation of the deity to be honored, both in historical and cultural context, as well as by undertaking to reveal what the deity means to you as an individual in communion with Her spiritual essence manifest in the moment. In beginning any ritual, our tradition teaches that one must prepare a space appropriate to the work to be done, and setting up the worship area in personally meaningful ways may be the very most important piece. To this I would suggest that one bring all the love, joy, and creativity one has to offer, focusing that sentiment on the altar and worship area as a temporary home for the divine. The process of calling the deity from one’s heart into the image or statue you provide for worship takes one to the very essence of devotion.
In order for this specific ritual to be practiced, basic items to have within the worship space include: pure spring water, salt, uncooked rice, red flowers (flowers only, no stems) placed on a platter/tray or in a basket, flowers of one’s choice in a vase, sweets (Maa Kali, for example, loves chocolate and anything delightful as long as the offerings do not contain cow-derived products such as gelatin, because the cow is symbolic of her very body), red wine (or substitute), chemical-free natural tobacco, a small round fruit, such as a honeydew or watermelon, one votive candle (red, green or white), honey, colored paper and markers for writing a prayer, food have blessed and share, and favorite ritual objects arranged as pleasing to the senses.
As initiation of the process, take a few minutes to meditate on the divine as Kali, or as any other Dark Goddess of choice, focusing heart and mind on her presence and the overall intention of this ritual, which is to accept the Dark Goddess’ blessings and have her illuminate obstacles to spiritual growth by confronting fear and cutting through that which is unnecessary. Then, as ready, begin to intone or chant as presented here:
The ritual ensues.