Heart of Kali

by Mari P. Ziolkowski

KaliYou the one who Opens Hearts.  You who defy this westerner’s preconceived ideas and bring me to the ground in surrender, time after time.  Heart opening, tears flowing.  You the dark one, Kali awesome power.  

You who are the creator of worlds – whether through lovemaking with Shiva, or through menstruation – you the Cosmic Creatrix, Black Time, Mother of Worlds, Dark Mother, Dark Matter.  From whom all is breathed out, and to whom all returns.

You who slay the demons of oppression, greed and war on the planet when no one else can, in consort with your sister warrior goddess Durga.  You who lick up the blood of demons to stop them from multiplying.  You who shake the worlds with your bloodlust dance until you recognize your lover Shiva laying on the ground, and invite him to play with you. Continue reading "Heart of Kali"

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

by Mari Ziolkowski

Day of the Dead Skull

Halloween, All Saints’, All Souls’ Day.  Didn’t understand what all these days pushed together meant when I was growing up Catholic.  Except for candy and trick or treating.  That was the big thing.  And carving pumpkins. . . .

The saints weren’t really anyone I could relate to.  Too holy.  Why they had a special day right next to Halloween was anyone’s guess.  All souls too. ‘All’ was too large a number for me to contemplate.

And then you get too old for trick or treating, and Halloween just becomes a holiday for little kids.  A reminder of fall, and the leaves changing colors . . . and occasionally a scary movie.  In your twenties, maybe a costume party or two …. until you move to the border, and start traveling in Mexico. And run up against so many skulls on display this time of year.  Skeletons playing the piano, skeletons dressed up for a wedding, skeletons reading a book, skeletons dancing . . . skeletons basically doing all the everyday things that people do.  Mummy museums - dead people on display.  Picnics in the graveyard with your dead relatives.  A beautifully decorated sugar skull given to me as a gift.  I was totally confused.  What was all this fascination with death? Continue reading "Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)"

Meditating in the cremation grounds?

by Mari Ziolkowski

columbariuma few years ago...

well, we were not exactly in the cremation grounds, as we were all westerners living in a large west coast city, and the closest we could get to cremation grounds was outside a columbarium* ... however, at my impetus, there we were.

i had been following a path that was slowly revealing itself to be a part of goddess oriented tantric traditions, and to my surprise, felt a call to meditate in a graveyard. no, i wasn't crazy, and no, i'm not a ghost whisperer. rather, it was an inner directive. part of the left handed tantric path in india, it's true --

however, we weren't in india and i didn't have a guru. surprisingly i found a few kindred souls who wanted to join me. two men and one women, all having practiced in different traditions. one was following a native american path. one was following an initiated shakta tantric path. one was following the path of dreaming. one was following some of all of the above -- me. the columbarium being in a residential neighborhood, not situated conveniently on the ganges like in india, we chanted together inside my car. creating safe sacred space, in hope that energy raised would be of assistance to any souls who were stuck there ... the more chanting, the more heart opening energy, the more we sent it out freely to those in need ... Continue reading "Meditating in the cremation grounds?"

The Return of the Yogini – Part 1

By Mari P. Ziolkowski, Ph.D.


TempleThe term ‘yogini’ has several meanings, according to Miranda Shaw. She states that the term can mean a female practitioner of yoga, or ritual arts, a female being with magical powers, or a type of female deity.1 Though I am interested in all of the above, in this paper I will focus on the human female adept, guru or yogini.

When I first read in some depth about the cult of the yoginis, I was a bit put off by their connection to left handed Tantric practices (development of magical abilities, group sacred sexual practices, wandering naked, meditation in the cremation grounds).2  However, it seems that as I am drawn into further understanding of my relationship with the Tantric Wisdom Goddess Kali, I am also drawn into a need to understand who these antinomian yoginis were (are).  On an intuitive level, after working with Kali, reviewing several sources, and hearing some presentations on the yogini/dakinis,3 I became  absolutely convinced of their existence not only in the Buddhist Tantric tradition, but in its sister Hindu Tantric tradition as well.   Though it has been said that there is not much in the way of academic sources to support this claim, coming from a feminist spirituality standpoint as I do, I believe that their presence must be teased out from the rather masculinist sources that make up much of academia. Continue reading "The Return of the Yogini – Part 1"

The Return of the Yogini – Part 2

by Mari P. Ziolkowski, Ph.D.

Yogini - author's image

In the first installment of this paper, we reviewed a sampling of respected academic sources, both Western and Indian.  We looked at sources that named themselves subaltern, as well as spiritual bio/autobiographical sources focused on male saints.  However, in none of these sources was the focus on the role of women as adepts, gurus, or yoginis.  Yet in each source, we found references to the presence of women of power, to yoginis.   I would like to now demonstrate that this was, in fact, only the tip of the iceberg, as Schussler-Fiorenza’s hermeneutics of suspicion would claim. By surveying articles and books specifically focused on the role of women in India, I will demonstrate the return to the Hindu Tantric foreground of the female yogini adept.

Lynn Gatwood, in Devi and the Spouse Goddess, charts the spousification of the independent, sexual tribal goddesses by the Brahminic priestly caste as reflecting the historical effort to ‘domesticate’ the ancient Dravidian peoples, and their wild, untamable goddesses.  When discussing the role of the goddess Kali in left handed Tantra, and the transformation of sexual energy into psychic energy through identification with the male and female aspects of divinity, she states “there are references in the literature to female gurus and initiators.”1 Continue reading "The Return of the Yogini – Part 2"

Good Mood Alaska Inland Passage

by Mari Ziolkowski

alaska2off to alaska again on that magic ship - the ship that seemed to remember me. sun peeking through the fog on the way up, mountains welcoming us on both sides as we come into victoria ... after sampling local art, saying hi to mount baker, and watching ravens chasing a bald eagle across the sky - the ship heads out again into the mystic, setting sun over rising fog bank .... wind whipping across deck, alone at the front of the ship, i spread my arms in a kate winslet move and offered myself to the sea ....

light playing over the water, shadows dancing on the waves .... whales spouting off both sides of the ship .... soon we are back in juneau, and the beautiful blue glacier, humpback whales tail slapping - baby whales showing us their faces, orcas in a pod swimming all around us. bald eagles on the shore hanging out. the wind whipping on the back of the boat, i stare at the snow-capped mountains and whisper:  i'm back! Continue reading "Good Mood Alaska Inland Passage"

Celtic Warrior Queens Cartimandua and Boudicca: Guidance for Women Today?

By Mari Ziolkowski

Bouddicca Statue by Thomas Thornycroft, near Westminster Pier, London. Photo by A. BradyCartimandua and Boudicca – two women leaders living in what we now call the British Isles in CE 40 or so – one a Brigante tribal queen, the other a warrior leader of the Iceni.  Both were confronted with the Roman invasion of their homelands.  Both women had to make tough decisions about how best to protect their people.  What do their decisions have to say to women today who continue to find themselves living in a male-dominated society?

Do we surrender to the more powerful oppressor as did Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes, to invading Roman legions in CE 43?  What are the costs, and what are the benefits of becoming a ‘client queen’ in a male dominated society?  Are we protected for a time, as was Cartimandua?  If we are ‘good girls’ at work and at home, and don’t make a fuss, is there a pay off in safety for ourselves, or our family? Are our house and job safe, and our families safe because we are a team player?  If we are challenged or attacked at work or in the streets, will the ‘powers that be’ fight for us as the Romans did at least once to save Cartimandua?

Continue reading "Celtic Warrior Queens Cartimandua and Boudicca: Guidance for Women Today?"