Kali, Sundari, Mary Magdalene – Goddesses of Erotic and Mystical Ecstasy

If you want to be spiritual, ask uncomfortable questions,’ Goddess News, Spiritual Blog, Divine Feminine,

Dr Joanna Kujawa

Spiritual Detective

Goddess News

How do we gather Gnosis – the Wisdom that is available to us but to which we only have intermittent access to? This Wisdom is not based on findings of the rational mind, which limits itself to empirical facts and physical experiences and which primarily focuses on survival and the protection of the status quo.  The rational mind likes to be in control but knows very little. I was on leave, feeling completely drained and whinging that I had lost my insight and creativity – then I stopped my mind. I listened to the advice of my man, who reminded me that Silence is a source of All Wisdom. So I allowed myself to quieten my mind and surrender to the fact that I might not create anything during my short leave and subsequent return to academic duties and I allowed myself to be okay with that. As the days passed and I was recovering from mental exhaustion, the Energies of Insights started to gather around me.  

I began to wonder why certain goddesses (and it is my firm belief that they are one and the same goddess manifested under different names, in different cultures and times) always come with the same symbolism. For example, Inanna, Isis and Mary Magdalene are portrayed with similar symbols and take on similar roles in the retelling of mythically significant stories. They all, in my opinion, represent the same archetype of the Goddess. I have written about this in several blogs but primarily in https://www.joannakujawa.com/goddess-and-the-secret-power-of-the-serpent-and-the-tree-of-life/.    As I was researching two Hindu goddesses that have a powerful Tantric lineage, Sundari and Kali, I began to see similarities between them and Mary Magdalene and then through her also to Inanna and Isis.  Let’s start with very basic symbols and associations.

Firstly, Sundari, Kali and Mary Magdalene are often portrayed in red (their colour is red) – all three are shown in red dresses. Both Kali and Mary Magdalene are often shown with red flowers. Mary Magdalene is symbolised by a red rose, Kali by a red hibiscus and Sundari by any red flower (indeed, even in botany the red mangrove, heritera fomes, is also called a ‘red Sundari’ due to its red flowers). Both Kali and Mary Magdalene are symbolically associated with blood and red wine. It does not take a biblical scholar to see why Mary Magdalene, who was the first to be present at the scene of the Resurrection and is often portrayed as being present at the scene of Jesus’ Crucifixion as well, would be associated with Jesus’ blood and the Last Supper (red wine). 

Kali and Sundari are also associated with blood and red wine because these two elements are a part of the Tantric Ritual that was passed on to us as the Kula Ritual by the 10th century philosopher Abhinavagupta. In the Tantric Kula ritual, where women are worshipped as representations of goddesses on earth, a mix of menstrual blood and red wine is drunk by the participants. (Recently, when I was doing this research, an item popped up on my screen advertising a Portuguese red wine called – ‘Drink me Kali’!)

Secondly, Kali and Mary Magdalene are the key elements necessary for the resurrection of male gods.  Yes, it is true! We all know that Mary Magdalene was present at both the Crucifixion and Resurrection and in esoteric terms she was necessary for the Resurrection to occur (in the same way that, for example, Isis was necessary for Osiris) – but what about Kali? It was here I came across a wonderful book by one of my favourite scholars and Tantric practitioners of Tantra, Daniel Odier – Tantric Kali.

In Tantric Kali, Odier refers to the mythologised account of Kali’s story as it was passed down to us in a Sanskrit text from 2500 years ago, Devi Mahatmya, which translates as ‘Glory of the Goddess’. In Devi Mahatmya we learn that Kali was born from the third eye of the Goddess Durga. Durga unleashed Kali as an ‘incarnation of absolute violence’, and she had to do this to save the world in the ‘cosmic war’ between the gods (and goddesses) and demons. As the good side was losing the cosmic war, Durga decided that she had no choice but to unleash her shadow part – the terrifying violence. However, Kali destroyed not only the nasty demons invading the universe but also the gods and goddesses whom she was supposed to protect.

Until… until she saw the ‘beautiful eyes’ of the God Shiva, who was lying helpless on the battlefield (but still somehow with his phallus erect). Kali ‘allowed herself to slip onto him and discover her capacity to incarnate absolute love’. In this moment, when Kali saves the dying Shiva, she transformed her infinite violence into infinite love and compassion. Thus, Like Mary Magdalene – but in a much more dramatic way – she is not only present at the moment of near death of a male god but she also saves him from certain death. In these stories of the saving-resurrecting of male god-consorts, both Kali and Mary Magdalene are represented by a skull (the symbol of both death and the transcendence of death).      

This leads me to my third point – that Kali, Sundari and Mary Magdalene have an undeniable, strong erotic element. Kali uses eroticism as a powerful form of transformation (from violence to universal love after her erotic union with the helpless Shiva).

Mary Magdalene was misrepresented as a prostitute by the patriarchs, who would not allow her to hold her place as both the consort and representation of divine wisdom in Jesus’ life. However, this misrepresentation still carries the erotic element associated with her presence in Jesus’ life and is most beautifully explained by the French scholar and priest Jean-Yves Leloup in his books (primarily in The Gospel of Mary Magdalene). Leloup argues, for example, that it is unreasonable to expect Jesus to be fully human but to deny him his sexuality. The obsession with desexualising Jesus was discussed by Margaret Starbird (in The Woman with the Alabaster Jar and Mary Magdalene: Bride in Exile) as the Christian obsession with a god being born not through sexual means (immaculate conception) and without a spiritual and erotic partner – which also conveniently removes the Divine Feminine from our lives. 

Similarly, another scholar Jeff Kripal, in his books Secret Body and Kali’s Child, discusses how the connection between the erotic and mystical is ‘the fundamental claim’ of Hindu Tantric traditions, which have been (and continue to be) repressed by mainstream religions. These Tantric traditions belong to the ‘left-hand path’. The left-hand path comes from the Sanskrit word vamachara. According to Odier, the word ‘vama’ also means ‘woman’ and therefore vamachara actually means ‘the Shakti path’ or the Goddess path.

Finally, what does this have to do with Sundari?  Well, at the end of my chapter on the goddesses of eros (from my book in progress but which you can check here: https://www.joannakujawa.com/exploring-the-goddesses-of-eros/) I discuss the Tantric Goddess Sundari. Only very recently, when reading Odier’s Tantric Kali, have I realised that Sundari is the very same goddess as Kali but after her erotic union with Shiva. Therefore, Sundari is a powerful Tantric goddess symbolling the power of erotic energy as a tool for the expansion of consciousness. Thankfully, Sundari does not have the violent elements of Kali. Sundari is Kali after Kali’s transformation. Sundari retains her power but is benevolent. And how do I know this?

Well, Sundari, like Kali, is represented as sitting on top of the body of Shiva in a clearly erotic act. During this erotic act with him, while sitting on top of him and looking into his beautiful eyes, she finds herself transformed into Sundari. From violence to universal love. From erotic act to spiritual transformation. 

Thus, all three (Kali, Sundari, Mary Magdalene) are archetypes of the same powerful goddess of transformation – and the Portal not only between Life and Death but also between Eros and Spirit.  

It is also my belief (as I argue in https://www.joannakujawa.com/goddess-and-the-secret-power-of-the-serpent-and-the-tree-of-life/ and in my video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YJgouMIvyA&t=1008s) that not only Inanna, Isis and Mary Magdalene but also Kali and Sundari represent the same linage of goddesses.

A new video on this is coming soon.

As always, I would love to know your thoughts through your comments.

Much love,

Dr Joanna Kujawa

Goddess News

Spiritual Detective

©Joanna Kujawa

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6 Responses to Kali, Sundari, Mary Magdalene – Goddesses of Erotic and Mystical Ecstasy

  1. Jason says:

    I adore your insights and your incredibly sexy zest for life. Gives me hope! 🙏

  2. John Noack says:

    John Noack to Sundari

    Thank you for your thoughts about the “Goddess”. I experienced the power and violence of Goddess Kali, when I visited South-East Asia during an end-of-season Football-trip in 1967 and I attended a Kali Festival at a Nepalese Gurkha Camp in Malaysia. During the ceremonies, the local residents brought with them their domestic animals and dozens of sheep and goats were beheaded by the large, sword-like “kukri knives” of the Gurkha Soldiers, who were part of Malaysia’s campaign against the threatening Communists. Within this context, the Goddess Kali appeared to be a mainly one-dimensional figure, whose character related to and revealed violence and destruction. I have therefore been wondering about the actual meaning of Kali’s attributes for the past fifty years.

    However, you have indicated that there are further dimensions to Kali and that the violent Kali shares in the erotic, pleasure-imparting and life-giving powers of the large phallus of the reclining and helpless Shiva. As a result of such infused powers from Shiva, Kali is transformed from her state of violence to her status as Universal Love, in the form of the Goddess “Sundari”. No wonder you have chosen this Goddess Sundari as your own pen-name or “alter ego” or second self or double or counterpart. Representing “Universal Love” is no mean feat.

    A similar transformation also features in the Bible. The Bible contains the Religious Writings of three different religions: [1] the JEWISH RELIGION, which is the same of the Bible’s Old Testament; which contains 613 Mosaic Torah Laws and which imposes as the motivation for obeying these Laws, such severe punishments as being stoned to death (see Deuteronomy 17:6) and as having hands amputated with no pity shown (see Deuteronomy 25:12); [2] the JEWISH-CHRISTIAN RELIGION, which was semi-Jewish and semi-Christian; which produced the Gospel of Matthew, based on the Mosaic Pentateuch, and also the Epistle of James; and (3) the CHRISTIAN RELIGION which produced the remaining Gospels and Epistles and was based on the Gospel or Good News of Jesus display of Love for us during his sacrificial death and his promotion of the Supreme Principle of Love.

    It is clear that the Deity of the Jews called “Yahweh” was, like Kali, a blood-thirsty and jealous God, who decreed (1) in Exodus 17:15 that all of the race of the Amalekites were to be slaughtered and that he would “wipe out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Yahweh also decreed a further genocide in Numbers 31:7-20, which required that Moses must slaughter all of the males, the mothers and the children of the tribe or race of Midianites, but could keep the Midianites’ “young girls” for themselves.

    In contrast to Yahweh’s cruel commands for the Israelites to hate, to slaughter and to decimate their enemies, the New Testament Jesus preached the Good News that it is Love which fulfills the Law. He even said in Matthew 5:44: “It was said… “Hate your enemy”. But I say to you, “Love your enemies”. This certainly is a dramatic transformation from the Jews’ very cruel and jealous “Yahweh” to the Christians’ inclusive and loving “Jesus” or Yeshua, which means, “Yahweh Saves”. We cannot avoid concluding from the above-mentioned biblical texts that Yahweh slaughters but Jesus saves.

    Yahweh was also associated with the Old Testament’s two feminine aspects of Ruach or Spirit, which in Genesis 1:2, hovered over the surface of the created waters and of Hokmah or Wisdom, which in Proverbs 8:30, was Yahweh’s Master Craftsperson and Designer behind the Creation of the Universe. The feminine Spirit aspect of Yahweh appears in the New Testament in a transformed form as the Holy Spirit and Wisdom appear in Gnostic and Christian Writings as the Gnostic Cosmic Sophia or Wisdom and as the Christian “Mary Magdalene”, who accompanied Jesus at both his cruel death and at his glorious resurrection and ascension. Mary also shared a Cosmic status as the morning and evening Star by her association with the solar-based Jesus as the ascended “Cosmic Christ”, whose daily and annual cycles of birth, life, death, descent, resurrection, ascension and rebirth in mid-Winter were and still are based on the regular cycles of the Sun through the 12 Constellations of the Zodiac.
    It is a great shame that the Western Christian Church has turned Mary Magdalene into a contemptible prostitute. We create great damage to our spiritual lives, if we continue to treat the female gender and the feminine principle in our Universe with such continuing contempt and abuse. The Goddess, by sharing in the “anima’ within all of us, deserves much better treatment than this.

    • sundari says:

      Thank you, John, I absolutely love your comment and Thank you for sharing your Gnosis and experiences with Goddess News. I really appreciate it. I, too, refused to write about Kali for the longest time despite the fact that this particular goddess keeps re-merging in our consciousness with great power. Also, according to the Hindu ‘calendar’ we live in the times of Kali Yuga. I was puzzled but the cruelty that her worshippers inflicted on animals made it impossible for me to even consider her. In one of my interview at the Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio one of the hosts asked me about Kali and I explained to him why I did not want to talk about her. But, like you, I wondered if there was another explanation and another version of Kali. And the fact that we do live in the times of Kali Yuga and so many Western women have a strong connection with her made me curious. So I think that it is not an accident that Kali re-emerges now as we COLLECTIVELY need to deal with our own shadows. After all, she like any other deity, is not separate from us. She is a part of our Consciousness as we are a part of the Universal Consciousness. So her darkness (as well as the darkness of other gods) is actually our own. We need to face it and transform it. I think that her time has come because of the undeniable volatility of our times at this very moment and the on-going (recent) collective perception that ‘something is going on’ on Cosmic level. This is our opportunity to transform that darkness into the Light of Consciousness. Carl Jung, in his Gnostic masterpiece- the Seven Sermons, said that we as human beings are at the centre of that Cosmic Transformation. And I believe that the time is now.
      On a more personal level, I did not choose the name Sundari – it was given to me by my spiritual teacher. Then, I had no idea why he gave this name. Since I was always identified with my mind, I expected something like ‘Saraswati’ the Goddess of Wisdom 😊. Ah! human vanity! But this is what our spiritual teachers do to us – they are like lightnings and tell us things about ourselves we did not know. So the journey of exploration of who Sundari is has already lasted a decade and a half. In a way, this blog and the realization that came to me while writing it – is a personal lightning for me too.
      I very deeply appreciate your contribution to this space and enjoy immensely your insights.
      Much Love,
      Sundari
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News
      Spiritual Detective

  3. Tod Jones says:

    Another wonderful article! I feel absolutely aligned with these insights.

    I continue to feel ambivalent about the contemporary scholarly urge to clear Mary Magdalene of the traditional imputation of prostitution. For one thing, I do not agree that sex workers are “contemptible”. In comparison with professionals in many supposedly respectable fields, prostitutes – although marginalized – perform a very frank, straightforward service. Secondly, it seems like a continuation, under the rubric of feminism, of the insistence that sexual “purity” is a precondition for spiritual exaltation, an insistence which has inflicted so much psychic devastation on our culture.

    Another, more “modern”, permutation of the tantric goddess, who shares the correspondences with the color red, sexuality, the blood and wine, liberation, apocalypse, and the connection with death and resurrection, is the Thelemic goddess Babalon. She makes her first appearance in Revelation, then in the visions of Dr. Dee and Edward Kelley, and latterly in the Vision and the Voice of Aleister Crowley, and subsequent occultists.

    Anyway….thank you for being such a font of inspiration with your thought provoking work! Peace.

    • sundari says:

      HI Tod,
      Thank you for your input and insights in this space. I really appreciate it and I am glad to see you here again. My point of view is that Mary Magdalen was neither a prostitute nor ‘pure’ sexually. Like you , I do not care for puritanism and think it promotes unhealthy repression. However, at the same time, Mary Magdalene was not called a prostitute anywhere not even in the canonical Bible. My take on eroticism is that it is purposefully degraded both by mainstream religions and media – just as you said ‘an insistence which has inflicted so much psychic devastation on our culture’. I believe that it can be (and was practiced as such) a source of great energetic upliftment and a spiritual tool for the expansion of Consciousness. So, what I am saying is that she was a sexual being (just like anyone else) and that there is also strong esoteric evidence that she might have belonged to a lineage of esoteric teachings from Egypt (among other things). It is not my intention to degrade sex workers but rather I would like to point out that the Fathers of the Church used this description of her to degrade her (as anything female or sexual) was repulsive and ‘low’ for them. Also, like you, I am not interested in modern Tantric practices and discuss only those from the 10th century or even earlier – which are much more radical. The ancient Tantric techniques were used for the purpose of joining with the Universal Consciousness and in no way would relate to the modern take on ‘Tantra’ as an improvement of martial sex. Thank you for mentioning Babalon – I was not aware that she had the same attributes as the goddesses here. She might be related to Ishtar but I will definitely check it out. Once again, I am delighted to hear from you here and sharing your insights. This makes my work here worth it.
      Much love,
      Joanna
      Dr Joanna Kujawa
      Goddess News

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