In every culture there are one or more goddesses who are archetypes of the ‘Red Goddess.’ This name is often used to describe a goddess who is powerful but dark, evil, or destructive. However, I see the Red Goddess as representing something else. For me, she is the goddess of many facets of our feminine nature—light and dark—and the mysteries and powers of our lunar blood.
The Red Goddess is often portrayed as fierce and warrior-like, devouring her enemies whole and possessing a blood-lust nature. She is the aspect of The Goddess who shows us the primordial and protective potency of a woman’s lunar blood. She has absolute and supreme life-giving and life-taking power. Her image gives meaning to the irritability and the insatiable hunger for food and for sex that many women feel during their moonflow.
The Red Goddess is often portrayed as a seductive and alluring siren. Her body, scent, and sexual movements drive men wild—often to their undoing. She is the Tantric Goddess, the Shakti force who cannot be tamed. She inhabits the womanly blood of sexuality, lust, and desire. She possesses a magnetic, attractive power, which heightens just as she is ovulating and prior to bleeding.
But sometimes the Red Goddess appears as the mother who is nurturing, loving, and compassionate. This is the blood of all human life. Nourishing, supportive, and strong, this is the blood of conception that remains in the womb to feed the embryo, and the blood of life released during childbirth.
Kali Ma as the Red Goddess traditionally appears wearing a necklace of bloody skulls with her gigantic red tongue protruding from her black demoness-like face. The spiritually unevolved ego trembles at the sight of her, fearing its own annihilation and perceiving its death. But for the spiritually evolved ego, Kali Ma appears gentle, kind, protective and very compassionate. This type of ego sees Kali Ma as redemption, resurrection, and rebirth, and to all, she is the great Mother who possesses the power to create and destroy. She is the personification of time, death, transformation, the darkness of the womb, the void and its essence from which all things come from, and to which all things return.
Kal Mai, and the many other dark goddesses from every culture help us understand our menstrual blood as potent, filled with the power of our sexuality and femaleness. They are among the first powerful, sexual personifications of The Divine Feminine, and they teach us of flow, cycles and power.
Cycle and flow are familiar to women, as every month we experience our own kind of suffering with our lunar blood flow. Ancient cultures considered the blood that women release to be extraordinarily potent. Tibetan ceremonies called for the mixing of uterine blood with red wine as an elixir to raise spiritual powers. Ancient pagan and Greek rituals involved the pouring of menstrual blood onto the ground to fortify the soil and ensure its fecundity.
Even today, some women save their blood to nourish plants around their house and garden. The first time that I heard a friend say that she did this, I was horrified and repelled—just as I was when I first encountered the fearsome face of Kali Ma. But soon, I learned to honor the wisdom and knowing of the Red Goddess and began saving a bit of my own blood each month on a piece of beautiful, handmade paper. I then rolled these into scrolls as a way to preserve my power between the moon phases. These scrolls are potent charms reminding me of creation and The Great Mother. And now that I no longer bleed, I have these keepsakes of my precious lunar blood, and a powerful way to connect with Kali Ma.
Like the power of The Goddess, the blood essence of women is both attractive and fearsome. All through history, women were either honored, sequestered, or avoided during their time of bleeding. They were considered either powerful or unclean, depending on the culture.
Native American traditions consider a woman’s moontime as one of intense spiritual and physical purification, a time to receive visions and wisdom. A bleeding woman is respected and encouraged to sit in solitude to meditate on behalf of her tribe.
Pagan and Wiccan cultures view lunar blood as Goddess-given and a bleeding woman as Goddess-like. Their blood is thought of as a potent symbol of feminine fertility. It is sometimes used to anoint ritual tools, altar objects, people, and places, believing that its power will be transferred to them. It is also used as an offering to the gods and goddess, and mixed with potions in fertility, sex, and blood magic spells.
In Africa, menstrual blood is considered so powerful that it is used in magical spells for purification or destruction—an acknowledgment of The Great Mother Goddess, who both gives and takes life.
In Judaism, a woman who is bleeding is called niddah, which means ‘moved’ or ‘separated.’ She is considered unclean and has special restrictions. Muslim and other Middle Eastern cultures share this practice. Many require women to have a ritual bath to purify themselves once their bleeding has ceased. However, in the Sikh faith, a women’s bleeding is considered to be a normal and natural event, as God-given. A Sikh woman is not prevented from participating in any activity or from attending any place of worship.
Southern India commemorates a girl’s first blood with gifts and celebrations in her honor. Orthodox Hindu culture considers moonflow an impure time and requires a woman to avoid domestic chores, marital intimacy, and many other activities for four days during her flow.
In the Japanese Shinto religion, a woman is considered unclean during her moon- flow and may not enter a Kami shrine for fear that the blood and death upon her would block the Kami spirits from granting wishes. In contrast, Buddhism considers a woman’s lunar flow as ordinary and normal and imposes no restrictions at all upon her.
It is unfortunate that in our modern Western world, a woman’s lunar blood has been sanitized into an ordinary and uncelebrated moment. Hopefully, as more and more we come to find a new-found awareness of our sacredness, you will choose to re-member your bleeding as a time of sacredness, and even if you no longer bleed, you will consider taking time each month to acknowledge and honor your power—and the power of Kali Ma.
CORRESPONDENCES OF KALI MA
ASSOCIATIONS: fire, darkness, light, power, transformation
LUNAR PHASES: new moon (beginnings), full moon (endings) and dark moon (womb, void)
COLORS: black, red
CRYSTALS: cinnabar, ruby, garnet, jet, obsidian, black tourmaline
I am that which is powerful, potent and strong within you. I am the cycle of ending that leads you to another beginning, the destruction of one thing and the creation of another. I am the single drop of red blood that falls from your womb to the earth. Call upon me for empowerment, for the wisdom to know your blood as sacred, and the courage to know yourself as sacred, too.
I possess power and sacredness within my body, my body is sacred, my blood is sacred, I am powerful and sacred.
WORDS OF POWER FOR KALI MA:
Accomplishment, Achievement, Armor, Authority, Awareness, Command, Compelling, Completion, Comprehension, Conclusion, Courage, Daring, Darkness, Defend, Energy, Fierce, Force, Fulfillment, Gratification, Insight, Intense, Light, Mighty, Potent, Power, Protection, Realization, Safety, Satisfaction, Shield, Success, Supreme, Transformation, Understanding, Violent
PRAYER FOR KALI MA:
From the darkness of the void,
I emerge, ready to do battle with
your pain, your worries and your fears,
Stand before me, open-eyed, and I will reveal;
the essence of light that is within you,
the essence of strength that comes from you
and essence of the power that is you.
Stand before me, open-minded, and I will reveal;
the essence of courage that is within you,
the essence of truth that comes from you,
and the essence of love that is you.
Stand before me, open-hearted, and I will reveal;
the essence of The Priestess that is within you,
the essence of The Feminine that comes from you,
and the essence of The Goddess that is you.
From the darkness of the void,
I emerge, ready to show you who you are;
a woman, a priestess and a goddess on earth.
© 2020 Renée Starr
This article was adapted from passages from my book; You Are Woman, You Are Divine: The Modern Woman’s Journey Back to Goddess and lessons from my courses.
Image Credit: Shiraz-Henry / Unsplash