Ode to The Goddess Squad: The Dasa Mahavidyas


By Kelly Kamm

Illustration by Miriam Castillo

Illustration by Miriam Castillo

The Great Wisdom Goddesses. You can think of them as your power posse, your beacons of wisdom when the going gets tough, your #GirlGangGoals.

Each possesses her own distinct qualities. Together these goddesses represent aspects of divinity intent on guiding the spiritual seeker towards freedom and awakening. They are multifaceted expressions of divine feminine power, from the gentlest to the fiercest, and they teach us that wisdom can be found in all aspects of creation — from the bedroom, to the battlefield, to the burial ground.  

One of the Dasa (ten) Mahavidya (great wisdom) incarnation stories begins with a little spat between Shiva and his beloved, Sati. Sati’s father, Daksha, was not on board with her marriage to Shiva (to say the least). He organized a big event to which everyone who is anyone was invited…except for Sati and Shiva. Not being one to take insult lightly, Sati informed Shiva that she was going to the party anyway. Shiva barred her way, which only made the goddess furious. As Shiva closed his eyes to her fury, Sati began to transform. Her graceful appearance gave way to that of a wild woman. When Shiva opened his eyes, before him stood an awe-inspiring woman wearing a garland of skulls and a skirt of severed arms.  She had blood dripping from her fangs and a tongue that lolled terrifyingly from her mouth. This was Kali, the first Dasa Mahavidya. Around Shiva sprang nine more of these creatures, circling as if to cage him, each one distinct and wild looking. As they barred Shiva’s way, Sati went onto her father’s palace.

Each Goddess represents different aspects of the divine. Kali, for example, is the “devourer of time.”  She is the one to call upon when we need radical transformation in our lives. Beware, however, because calling upon Kali’s energy could require you to give up anything on your linear timeline.  That means your job, your relationship, your status… all of it is fair game when it comes to serious transformation. Author or Shakti Rising, Kavitha Chinnaiyan describes it like this: you are on one side of a door and Kali is on the other. Be careful when you call to her because she won’t bother to open the door; she’ll reach her clawed hand through the keyhole and drag you right through to the other side. Your comfort is of no concern to her. She only cares about your transformation.  

Supremely beautiful and radiant like a thousand suns, Lalita Tripura Sundari is the Empress of Love. Lalita means “the one who plays” and Tripura Sundari is “beautiful one of the three worlds.”  Reigning over desire, she is the one to turn to when we want to fall in love with our lives, even the messy parts. The story goes that Shiva, in an effort to quell his feelings of romantic desire for Parvati, burned Kama, the Hindu Cupid, to ash. From the ashes rose a man who became wildly powerful, and Shiva named him Banda. Because Banda was born from Shiva’s anger, he was a destructive force in the world. No one could defeat him until Indra prayed to the great goddess, and she manifested as Lalita Tripura Sundari. The demon came at her with every weapon he had – fear, illness, apathy, delusion.  She countered with her missiles of courage, compassion and insight. Finally, she defeated him with her most powerful weapon, pure unconditional divine love. From this we can gather that suppressing our desires never works; instead we must transform them.Turning our hearts away from selfish yearnings and towards more enlightened desires is not an easy task, so light a candle and ask for Lalita’s help. She’ll help you see the bridge between the holy and the erotic, and she’ll open your eyes to the magnificent beauty of this world, with all of its joy and terror.

These divine ladies are more than archetypes. When we limit them by using that term it becomes very easy to put them in a box: Kali is the ferocious one, Lalita is the sensual one and so on - when they are so much vaster than that. It’s better to imagine them as fields of consciousness, both within and without us, that we can tune in to at any moment in order to access their intelligence.  Your transcendental girl gang always has your back!


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