September 15, 2022

Rage and the Divine Feminine

How does anger affect your wellbeing?

We can all feel angry at times – it's part of being human. Anger is a normal, healthy emotion, which we might experience if we feel:

·       attacked

·       deceived

·       frustrated

·       invalidated or unfairly treated

Whilst many of us have been taught that anger isn’t an acceptable emotion, it isn't necessarily a 'bad' one either. Sometimes it can be both positive and useful as it can:

·       help us identify problems or things that are causing us pain

·       motivate us to create change, achieve our goals and move on

·       help us stay safe and defend ourselves in dangerous situations by giving us a burst of energy as part of our fight or flight system

Repressed or uncontrolled anger can cause issues not only with our mental and physical health but also in how we relate to others and the world around us.

The following myth and exploration of anger goes some way to help us recognise the value of this powerful emotion on our journey of healing and reconciliation with our own Heart and Self.

Once a long time ago, the god Shiva, the Lord of Destruction, was so busy meditating that he was not doing his godly duties. The other gods petitioned the great goddess Shakti to manifest as Sati, a beautiful woman who would become Shiva’s consort and draw him back into engagement with the world.

Shakti Kali - Face of the Divine Feminine

She agreed to do so and took on Daksha, a minor deity, as her father, as long and no one ever forgot who she really was or mistreated her.

But Daksha gained enough power as a religious leader that he started to think himself more powerful than his daughter and her husband, whom he disliked.

He held a great fire ceremony and invited everyone in the godly universe but Shiva and Sati. This was a grave mistake. Daksha was so preoccupied with pomp and circumstance he forgot that his very daughter was the manifestation of Shakti, the reason for all religion. He broke his promise to her.

When Sati found out what he’d done, she was infuriated. She told Shiva she was going to confront her father, and Shiva, who has little time for religious showmanship, told her to calm down.

At that, Sati did what most angry people do when they are told to calm down: she got angrier. Shiva lost his patience. “I forbid it!” he said. At that, Sati turned black. Her fangs came out and her mouth dripped with blood. Her long black hair grew wild and unkempt, a necklace of severed male heads appeared around her neck, and a huge sharp sword appeared in her hand.

“You forbid it?” she asked quietly. Terrified, Shiva tried to run away, but everywhere he turned a new fierce goddess appeared, blocking his way. “Where is my beautiful Sati?” “Right in front of you,” said this dark goddess, whose name was Kali.

“This is my true face. I only appear beautiful and sweet as a favour to you. If you ever try to control me again, I will fight you in this form.” Shiva recognized the power and primacy of his consort and got out the hell out of her way.

What can we Learn from this Story?

Anger is a power that exists within us all. It does not discriminate. It’s a primordial emotion, a force that can both create and destroy. For those of us who have repressed rage and anger, we may experience a sudden overwhelm or outburst. Unwelcome in the moment, these flare-ups can literally take us by storm. Yet when we’re open to the possibility that such experiences also bring the gift of insight, we can feel heartened and encouraged. Anger is not an emotion that sets out to punish us. It is as natural as the forest fire. And if we recognise it as such we may go some way on the healing journey of self and compassion that our hearts, and the world needs so much right now.

Most of the time women reveal the prettier face of the feminine. For many of us have learned from a young age that it is neither safe or ok to become angry. Plus we know we’re more likely to catch flies with honey.

One of the most popular forms of the divine in India, especially among women is Kali the great destroyer. Even more powerful than Shiva she is both a killer and a mother, for in her destruction she allows new things to be born.

Kali often appears when the sweeter, softer goddesses are enraged, when a male force like Shiva, Daksha, or when a demon on the battlefield tries to control or subjugate her. There are also several stories that tell of how she appears when her love seeks to abandon her, when her heart threatens to break.

According to Tantric philosophy Kali represents Shakti, the fundamental feminine energy that animates everything and will not be fully controlled by masculine force. She also represents a reality that many women know well - the rage that arises when someone we love underestimates us, blocks our progress, or refuses to show up for us.

Kali can also be seen as a powerful symbol – representing the ‘shadow’. This Jungian archetype is part of the unconscious mind and composed of repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts, and shortcomings.

The shadow forms out of our attempts to adapt to cultural norms and expectations. It is this archetype that contains all things that are unacceptable not only to society, but also to one's own personal morals and values. It might include things such as envy, greed, prejudice, hate, aggression and even death.

Often described as the darker side of the psyche, this archetype represents wildness, chaos, and the unknown. For many these powerful forces that exist within us all - including rage and anger - are denied and ignored. Banished to the dark corners of the psyche only to emerge later in the form of addictions, illness, conflict, violence and tyranny. These projections manifest as darkness in a world where the wounded inner child has not been accepted, has not been loved - has not been integrated.

For many this Shakti-Kali energy is a symbol of that which we fear to face most of the time. Yet to forget or neglect that which lives inside each of us is at our peril. For like death, anger and rage is a reality of life more often smoldering beneath the surface, hidden from sight.

Regardless of gender, we all know what oppression feels like and rage can give us the strength to see past fear and take action. The important thing is to be conscious of this powerful energy, to practice self-awareness and recognise it as part of our healing journey. Yes it takes courage, but every now and then we need to rise up and bare our true fangs, and when we do, we are more likely to be surprised by the gold it brings us if we have the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the hearts to love.