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