The Uses Of Anger: The Goddess Responding To Racism
"My response to racism is anger. I have lived with that anger, ignoring it, feeding upon it, learning to use it before it laid my visions to waste, for most of my life. Once I did it in silence, afraid of the weight. My fear of anger taught me nothing. Your fear of that anger will teach you nothing, also."
Lately I have been thinking about anger, and its uses.
And I have been thinking about the Dark Goddess and her role in the cycles of spiritual death and rebirth.
And I have been thinking about how all of this intersects with spiritual activism and how I want to continue cultivating conversations in my online spaces.
If you've read any of my writing, you'll know that I run with a lot of fire energy.
My writing is direct, fierce and activating. I write with purpose to tell my truths, and to set fire to old and broken paradigms so that newer, true-er growth can come through. I write to burn down and destroy what is no longer working, so that more love, truth and justice can be experienced by us all.
As a woman on the priestess path, I always find a way of relating my understanding of my soul work back to the archetypes and mythologies of goddesses. It will come as no surprise that I work closely with the goddess in her dark form (also know as the Dark Mother, the Dark Woman or the Dark Feminine).
The Dark Goddess has been known in many forms around the world, but the two that often fuel my writing around social justice are the Ancient Egyptian goddess Sekhmet (whose image has been on my phone for the last few months) and the Hindu goddess Kali*.
Sekhmet, whose name means 'Powerful One' or 'She Who Is Powerful', is known as the lion-headed warrior goddess who was sent by Ra to punish mankind because he was angry that they were not preserving the sacred principle of Ma'at, or justice. The sun disk on her head is said to represent the searing heat of the mid-day sun, and she was named 'The One Who Loves Ma'at (justice) and Who Detests Evil'.
Sekhmet was known by some as the 'lady of terror' because of the terrifying way that she rampaged through the fields with her unquenchable lust for human blood.
Eventually Ra realised that things were getting out of hand. He tried to get Sekhmet to stop, but she wouldn't. So he tricked her by pouring 7,000 jugs of beer and pomegranate juice in her path, which she thought to be blood. She drank the 'blood' and eventually passed out for 3 days. When she finally awoke, her bloodlust had dissipated and her rampaging ended.
Kali or Kali Ma, is the Hindu deity known as the Dark Mother. Kali is the goddess of creation and destruction. Death and rebirth.
She is a ferocious warrioress who fights against evil and injustice. In the Hindu religious text called the Devi Mahatmya, Kali is described as being born from the brow of the Goddess Durga during her great battle with the demon Mahishasura. Kali, who is thought to be a manifestation of Durga's anger, leaps forth from Durga's brow to help defeat the demons Shimba and Nishumba, and later the demon Raktabija. Kali's creation story in the Devi Mahatmya is described as follows:
"Out from the surface of her forehead, fierce with frown, issued suddenly Kali of terrible countenance, armed with a sword and noose. Bearing the strange skull-topped staff, decorated with a garland of skulls, clad in a tiger’s skin, very appalling owing to her emaciated flesh, with gaping mouth, fearful with her tongue lolling out, having deep-sunk reddish eyes and filling the regions of the sky with her roars, and falling upon impetuously and slaughtering the great asuras in that army, she devoured those hosts of the foes of the devas."
However, like Sekhmet, Kali's rampaging soon got out of control and she was destroying everything in sight.
In order to stop her, Lord Shiva threw himself in front of her path and lay under her feet. Kali was so shocked at this sight that she stopped immediately and stuck her tongue out in astonishment. This surprising act by Shiva finally ended her rampaging and indiscriminate destruction of everything in sight.
Why do I share these goddess stories? What does this have to do with racism, my spiritual activist writing or my work as a priestess?
Everything. It has everything to do with them.
The energy and anger behind my writing is very much like Sekhmet ragefully devouring humans because they would not uphold justice, and Kali ferociously leaping from Durga's brow to defeat the demons that had brought evil and destruction to humankind. These goddesses are devouring in nature. And from the feedback that I often receive about my work, my writing can feel devouring too.
My writing unmasks.
It names what we are not supposed to name.
It forcefully strips back layers of lies and deception, so that things can be seen, acknowledged and accepted for what they are.
It demands nothing less than full truth and integrity.
It is a raging fire, burning down the white towers of injustice.
These goddesses had to fight fire with fire.
They could not ask nicely. They could not wish love & light onto the situation. They could not focus on manifesting positivity and hope that they would create what they focused on. They were fighting evil and injustice, for goddess sake! And what is white supremacy and racism, if not evil and injustice? They knew that in order to defeat these forces, they needed to work with their anger. To use it purposefully and unapologetically. To fully own it.
This is what I am doing when I write about racism.
As I quoted Audre Lorde saying above - my response to racism is anger.
Yes, I am angry.
I am angry with the spiritual white women who, instead of using their spirituality for justice, use it to silence and gaslight black women and women of colour.
I am angry with the spiritual white women who say they want to help heal the world, but instead do a lot of harm and damage by refusing to acknowledge their privilege or their role as oppressors in a system designed to advantage them, at the expense of others.
I am angry with the spiritual white women who invoke the goddess to manifest their best life, but refuse to work with her in her angry, grieving dark form to bring about justice.
I am angry with the spiritual white women who do deep work with their clients on the witch wound or patriarchal wounds, but do not even acknowledge the slave wound of the white supremacy wounds (which therefore makes their work extremely white-centered, and negates the very real experiences of their community members who are black or people of colour).
I am angry with the spiritual white women who are happy to culturally appropriate goddesses and spiritual guides from various cultures and traditions that are not theirs, but host online spiritual summits and transformational events with speaker lists that are 90% white.
I am angry at spiritual white women for a million reasons, and I use my anger to write to them in the hopes of activating awakening and change.
As Audre Lorde says in the talk on anger quoted at the start of this article:
"Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being. Focused with precision it can become a powerful source of energy serving progress and change. And when I speak of change, I do not mean a simple switch of positions or a temporary lessening of tensions, nor the ability to smile or feel good. I am speaking of a basic and radical alteration in those assumptions underlining our lives."
So yes, I use my anger. And I will not apologise for it because it is useful, and it is mine.
And, at the same time, it is important to hold in mind the stories of Sekhmet and Kali letting their anger get out of control and destroying everything in sight without discernment or wisdom.
As Audre Lorde says in her talk on The Uses of Anger:
"Everything can be used / except what is wasteful / (you will need / to remember this when you are accused of destruction’)."
In other words, anger is a powerful tool however it loses its power when it becomes wasteful. When it becomes bloodlust. When it becomes bullying, shaming and unnecessary aggression.
When it begins to use you, instead of you using it.
This anger is not helpful and is not the type of anger I want to work with or encourage. This is why when we are using anger, we must be mindful in our use of it. So that in our trying to devour systems and ideologies of oppression, we do not end up devouring ourselves and the humanity of others in the process.
As someone who works so closely with anger and the goddess in her dark form, this is a lesson that I must continuously be learning.
As a black woman who has been conditioned to bite her tongue and stuff her anger back inside herself for survival in white-centered and male-centered spaces, allowing myself to feel and express my anger is one of the most liberating and empowering things that I can do. However I do not wish to allow my anger to turn into unconscious and self-destructive harm.
So this is a tightrope I am always walking and a paradigm that I am always exploring:
How can I rightfully and righteously express my anger as a black woman, a dark goddess priestess and a spiritual activist writer, without allowing my anger to devolve into attack, aggression and unconscious rage? Layer on top of this question the way that misogynoir tone-polices black women with the 'angry black woman' trope, and my own internalised oppression from patriarchy and white supremacy, and it gets even messier.
How do I know when I am consciously using my anger to create change, or when I am destructively using my anger to do harm?
How do I know when my anger is being used for intentional death & rebirth, or when it is being used for intentional death & destruction?
How do I know when my anger is coming from my power as a black woman, or when it is coming from my wounds as a black woman?
(And how do I know that one isn't as valid as the other?)
I don't have all the answers to these questions. And I certainly know that I'll never have it all perfectly figured out. But I know it's important to keep returning to this question:
Am I using my anger, or is my anger using me?
One serves, one destroys.
I pray that as often as possible, I can come from a place of service and not destruction. And I ask that when you interact in my online spaces, you try as often as possible to come from a place of service rather than destruction, too.
This does NOT mean black women and women of colour tone-policing themselves, tamping down on their righteous anger or conforming with white supremacist standards of being 'nice'. Messages like this are harmful and perpetuate the very oppression that we are trying to free ourselves from.
It also does NOT mean white women avoiding their responsibility of directly calling a thing a thing because they fear what it will do to their reputation or brand. Messages like this give white women an excuse to hide behind, when what we really need are white women willing to step up more and put their reputations and brands on the line in the name of justice.
What it does mean however is checking your intentions and asking yourself - am I writing to serve, or am I writing to destroy?
Ultimately, only YOU can know when your anger comes to serve or to destroy. And I will call you and myself in when I feel our anger is not being of service, or when it feels like the bloodlust of our anger is doing unnecessary harm.
But this is the thing about doing this work. There are no neat boxes or easy-to-follow instructions on how to get this right. And the dynamics of white supremacy, white privilege, the historical and modern-day silencing of black women and women of colour, and the use of the internet as a means of mass communication mean that the answer is rarely ever going to be that straight forward.
In practicing our uses of anger through this work, I pray that we will continue to grow and learn together - with truth, justice and love as our teachers.
What I do know for sure is that at this point in history, we need anger. The appropriate response to racism is anger. And like the dark goddesses Sekhmet and Kali, we must use our anger to dismantle the evil and injustices of racism.
As I finish up this essay, I want to say one last thing about Sekhmet and Kali.
Though both of these goddesses are described as terrifying, destructive and devouring, what we must also remember is that they have other sides to them that are healing and nurturing.
Although Sekhmet was known as the 'lady of terror', she was also known as the 'lady of life'.
She was the patron of physicians and healers, and her priests became known as skilled doctors. It was said that for her friends, she could avert plagues and cure diseases. She was just as much a healer as she was a destroyer.
As for Kali, she is often referred to lovingly as Mother Kali.
And although she is a fierce destroyer, it is thought that the impetus behind her destruction is to make space for rebirth. The darkness that she represents is often likened to the warm and unfathomable darkness of the womb. Though she destroys, she also creates. And without her destruction, creation could not take place. She devours all that is not working for us - fear, darkness, (unconscious) anger, self-destructive behaviour and injustice. Her devouring makes way for the birth of that which can better serve us.
I share this last part to remind us that the goddesses, like us, are complex and multidimensional. We are not always angry, always rageful, always devouring. We are loving and healing and nurturing, too.
And what may look like on the surface to be uncontrolled anger, destruction and rage may actually be truth, justice and love.
*Important note about speaking on Kali: It is important for me to note that I am not Hindu, and do not wish to culturally appropriate deities of the Hindu religion, such as Kali. While Sekhmet is from the Ancient Egyptian pantheon, Kali is part of a religion that is alive and thriving, with over a billion adherents worldwide. I want to make it clear that when I speak on Kali, I am not speaking as an expert or a worshipper. She is not mine to claim as my own. However, I would be remiss to mention her in this essay, as she is such a potent manifestation of the dark goddess, and has had such a huge impact on both my personal spiritual journey and my spiritual activist writing. Despite that, I want to make it very clear that she is not mine to own, and my intention is never to act as if she is. Thank you.
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