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Australian ejournal of Theology 19.1 (April 2012) The goddess Kali and the Virgin Mary John R. Dupuche Abstract: Comparative theology as defined by F. X. Clooney is rich in possibilities and able to lead
Australian ejournal of Theology 19.1 (April 2012) The goddess Kali and the Virgin Mary John R. Dupuche Abstract: Comparative theology as defined by F. X. Clooney is rich in possibilities and able to lead in surprising directions. This article shows how an appreciation of the ferocious goddess Kali can, unexpectedly, lead to a heightened appreciation of the texts concerning the Virgin Mary. It gives a necessarily brief survey of the varied descriptions of Kali which, intentionally, defy any categorisation. In order to answer the questions put by some of her typical features, it studies, exegetically, a small number of texts concerning Mary, and only a few aspects of those texts, and leads to valuable new perspectives on the Blessed Mother. It does not consider the historicity of the Biblical episodes, but looks only at the evangelists presentation of the personages and the theology. Lastly, it asks that if Jesus, surprisingly to many in his day, was called the Christ, can Mary be called the Kali. Key Words: F.X. Clooney; Comparative Theology; Kali; Mary; Holy Spirit; energy; he methods, scriptural reasoning and comparative theology, have both been used in studying various religious traditions. However, as scriptural reasoning is more usually employed in the context of the Abrahamic religions, this article makes use only of comparative theology which Francis X. Clooney defines as follows: Comparative theology marks acts of faith seeking understanding which are rooted in a particular faith tradition but which, from that foundation, venture into learning from one or more other faith traditions. 1 In his book Divine Mother, Blessed Mother, 2 Clooney compares three respectable Hindu goddesses, Laksmî, Devî, and Apirâmî, and the Virgin Mary. He studies Hindu and Christian hymns by literary analysis, and devotes the larger part of his text to the goddesses. By contrast, this article briefly presents one goddess, the terrifying Kali in her standard iconographic form; it studies Biblical texts exegetically and in detail so as to avoid the charge of eisegesis ; and therefore, by necessity, the article largely concerns Mary. However, the same approach is used, and the same result is achieved: Mary is seen more clearly. This article is aimed principally at a Christian readership. While, in fact, these aspects of Mary are objectively available in the Biblical text, without the stimulus of Kali s iconography they would in all probability go unnoticed. The figure of Kali, so ardently worshipped by vast multitudes in West Bengal and Orissa, puts questions to Christians concerning Mary. Due the brevity of a journal article, the questions that the figure of Mary might put to Kali s devotees must wait for a later study. 1 Francis X. Clooney, Comparative Theology; Deep Learning Across Religious Borders. (Chichester UK: Wiley- Blackwell, 2010), Francis X. Clooney, Divine Mother, Blessed Mother; Hindu Goddesses and the Virgin Mary, (Oxford, Oxford University Press), PART I: THE ICONOGRAPHY OF KALI The figure of Kali has undergone the most diverse interpretations, 3 arriving at what is now the typical iconography of Kali where she is shown 1. holding a sword and a demon s head, 2. in frenzy of mind, 3. triumphant as the supreme goddess, 4. granting boons, 5. projecting her tongue protruding so as to suck up blood, 6. standing on her consort, Siva, as a corpse. These six aspects have textual counterparts. Of paramount importance, the 6 th century Devi-Mahatmya ( Praises of the Goddess ) 4 provides the first written account of Kali. 5 the goddess Kali is black, wears a garland of human heads and a tiger skin, and wields a skull-topped staff. She is gaunt, with sunken eyes, gaping mouth, and lolling tongue. She roars loudly and leaps into the battle, where she tears demons apart with her hands and crushes them in her jaws. She grasps the two demon generals and in one furious blow decapitates them both with her sword (7.3-22). Kali defeats the demon by sucking the blood from his body and throwing the countless duplicate Raktabijas into her gaping mouth ( ). 6 Other texts add to the gamut of her qualities. In the Devi Mahatmya Kali bestows wisdom and prosperity. She is the true cause of the triumph of good over evil. 7 She is indeed the essential energy who dwells within this world which ultimately derives from her. 8 She has a heroic power which is different from that of men. Her power is the compassionate, righteous, self-controlled power used in service of the good 9 such that the gods exclaim What comparison can there be to your bold acts? Where [else] is there such a lovely form, yet one which strikes such fear among foes? 10 Bhavabhuti s Malatimadhava 11 in the 8 th century and later the Siva-purana 12 develop her association with Siva an important stage in her recognition as a goddess. This trajectory of the goddess s increasing significance will continue in the Tantric literature of 3 See David Kinsley, The Sword and the Flute. Kali and Krsna, Dark Visions of the Terrible and the Sublime in Hindu Mythology (Berkley: University of California Press, 2000), Cynthia Ann Humes, Is the Devi Mahatmya a Feminist Scripture? in Encountering Kali, In the Margins, at the Center, in the West, eds. Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey J. Kripal (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), , at Kinsley, The Sword and the Flute, David Kinsley, Hindu Goddesses, Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987), Humes, Is the Devi Mahatmya a Feminist Scripture? Ibid., Ibid., Ibid., Kinsley, The Sword and the Flute, Ibid., the mediaeval period where the feminine becomes increasingly dominant and where the masculine becomes increasingly inactive. 13 Although Kali is known early, her popularity is late. Indeed, the popular celebration of her feast in autumn dates only from the late 18 th century. 14 She subsequently takes central stage in Bengal, becomes the dominant deity, and acquires the title mother. Ramakrishna, the great Bengali saint of the 19 th century, approaches Mother Kali Ma Kali as a child. The six aspects of her diverse character, developed in the above-mentioned texts which cannot be analysed here in greater detail, will structure what follows. PART II: EXEGESIS OF MARIAN TEXTS IN THE LIGHT OF KALI THEMES 1. Kali s sword Kali brandishes the sword in the one left hand, and hold the demon s head in the other left hand. She has slaughtered him and freed her devotees. In what way does Mary bring to an end that which is limited and ineffectual? In what way is she fearsome? How does she liberate humanity? Mary the Virgin Matthew 1:17 specifically states that there are three sets of fourteen generations. However, the third set gives only 13 names, from Shealtiel to Jesus, 15 which has caused considerable puzzlement. The Jerusalem Bible 16 suggests that Jechoniah should be counted twice. Others suggest a scribal omission or simply an error in counting. 17 Such suggestions, however, pay insufficient attention to the grammatical form. The fourteen generations are always listed in the same manner N*, the father of (egennêsen) N* always with the active form egennêsen. The text would be expected to continue: Joseph, the father of Jesus, but there is a shift to the passive form, egennêthê. The word egennêthê is poorly translated in the Vulgate as natus which in turn influences the English translation born. It would be better translated as was fathered or was begotten in keeping with the rest of the genealogy. 13 Alexis Sanderson. Saivism and the tantric traditions, in The world's religions, eds. S. Sutherland, L. Houlden, P. Clarke and F. Hardy (London: Routledge, 1988), , at Hugh B. Urban, India s Darkest Heart. Kali in the Colonial Imagination, in Encountering Kali, in the Margins, at the Centre, in the West, eds. Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey J. Kripal (Berkley: University of California Press), , at Salathiel, Zerubbabel, Abiud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, Jacob, Joseph Jesus. 16 The Jerusalem Bible, Alexander Jones, ed. (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1966), Footnote a to Matt W.D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (Edingurgh: T. & T. Clark, 1988), Vol. 1, That shift, at notable variance with the remainder of the long genealogy, is a case of the divine passive 18 used often in the Gospel of Matthew in keeping with Jewish reluctance to say the divine name. Since the legal paternity through Joseph is indicated by the phrase the husband of Mary and the divine paternity is indicated by the passive, there is a double paternity: Joseph is father in a legal sense but God is father in a real sense. This makes for a total of fourteen generations. The legal paternity of Joseph is important, for it establishes the right of Jesus to be called Christ and King of the Jews, 19 but why is Joseph unable to father the Christ in the physical sense? After all, he is righteous and merciful, obedient to the divine messenger, energetic in leaving for Egypt and wise in shifting to Nazareth. Similarly, why is the genealogy inadequate? The forty legal ancestors of Jesus are all Jewish and the blood line stretches back through the whole history of the Chosen People. Why are they incompetent to father the Christ? In answer to this question, Matthew explicitly refers to 3x14 generations, making a total of forty-two. This translates into forty-two months (Rev 13:5) or 1260 days (Rev 12:6) or three-and-a-half years (Rev 12:14.), which, by the gematria found frequently in Biblical literature, signifies the period of persecution. In other words, the seeming perfection of the genealogy is one long period of insufficiency. An altogether new approach is needed. The focus dramatically shifts to Mary and her body. The text reads: of whom Jesus was fathered. The procreative power of Israel has become irrelevant. From her body alone comes the one will save his people from their sins (Matt 1:21). 2. Kali s frenzy Kali wields her sword in total frenzy. She is essentially shakti, energy, power, capacity. Does Kali s energy free us from an inadequate view of Mary? Does the goddess open our eyes to the vigour and freedom of the Virgin of Nazareth that had been underemphasized? In what way is she foolish with a divine folly? Mary and the Spirit While Luke 1:26-38 is replete with allusions to Old Testament texts, 20 the primary referent is the annunciation to Zachary. The angel appears to Zechariah but gives no greeting. By contrast, the angel greets Mary with the words chaire, kecharitômenê ( Rejoice, you who have cause to rejoice ). The word chaire can also refer to the joy that greets a divine saving act, announcement, or 18 Davies and Allison, The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Vol. 1, C.H. Gordon, Paternity on Two Levels, Journal of Biblical Literature 96 (1977): Especially Gen 16:7-12; 17:1-21; Judg 13: promise. 21 It is not well translated by ave or even salve but means laetare. 22 Thus Mary realises this article considers the meaning of the story not its historical value that it relates to the coming of the Messiah. 23 Indeed, she realises that the message of joy once addressed to the Daughter of Sion is now addressed to her. 24 Understandably, whereas Zechariah is disturbed (etarachthê) by the appearance of the angel, Mary is profoundly disturbed (dietarachthê) by the greeting. 25 The angel then declares: And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. and stops. What is Mary to make of this announcement which is pointedly similar in form to the announcement made to Zechariah? She has been given no other information and, on the model of the announcement to Zachariah, can expect none. She can infer only that she is to bear a son through Joseph, her betrothed, as did the wife of Manoah in the case of Samson, 26 a son who will inherit the throne of David in terms that reflect contemporary Jewish hopes. 27 Why does the angel stop? Is it a literary devise, modelled on other annunciation stories in the Old Testament or is something more significant happening? The message, such as it is, could be understood as the prospect bearing of the Messiah in an earthly manner, comparable to the past. That would indeed be glorious. Could the angel s message, therefore, be understood as a temptation comparable to the serpent s promise: You will. (Gen 3.5)? Is the reader being shown that Mary does not succumb to the honour of bearing an earthly Messiah? Her response ( How can this come about since I do not know a man ) is a classical difficulty for exegetes, and no one interpretation has yet secured universal acceptance. 28 Many say it is just a literary device to allow the angel to go on to the second part of his message. 29 Other scholars see it as a reference to a vow of perpetual virginity since the word know can refer to sexual union, but most scholars reject that interpretation. 30 Others say it is just a perfectly reasonable question 31 while still others suggest the 21 Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1977), Stanislas Lyonnet, Kaire, kekaritomene, Biblica (1939): , at René Laurentin, Structure et théologie de Luc I-II. (Paris: J. Gabalda et Cie. 1964), 65. See Zech Laurentin, Luc I-II, Lyonnet, Kaire, kekaritomene, Judg 13.1 ff. 27 Francis J. Moloney, Mary, Woman and Mother (Homebush NSW: St Paul s Publications, 1988), John McHugh, The Mother of Jesus in the New Testament (London: Darton, Longman &Todd, 1975), 173. Max Zerwick, quoniam virum non cognosco, Verbum Domini 37 (1959): , , gives a survey of views. 29 I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke. A Commentary on the Greek Text (Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1978), 70. See also McHugh, The Mother of Jesus, Moloney, Mary, Woman and Mother, 21 fn Ibid., sentence is an anachronistic comment by later generations to the effect that Mary remained ever virgin. 32 Another approach is possible. The annunciation given in Luke is an anticlimax. The greeting (chaire) held out the hope of Messianic fulfilment but the message is little more than a repeat of the promise made to David. 33 There is discordance between the angel s greeting and his message. Mary has been led to expect something more. Her reply is a simple and polite refusal; she will not accept the angel s message such as it is. The possibility of refusal as an explanation in the sense that Mary refuses the angel s message because it implies a sort of infidelity to Joseph is mentioned by Haugg 34 but passed over without comment by Laurentin. 35 Dimly or clearly Mary perceives that the conception cannot be in terms of the common beliefs of her day. Her refusal arises from a deeper perception. This is borne out by contrasting Zechariah s and Mary s responses. They are grammatically similar: how since... but when Zechariah asks how will I know that this is so? For I am an old man,? he is expressing doubt at the angel s message. Gabriel, affronted, states his authority: I am Gabriel, I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent. Then, in a manner reminiscent of prophetic oracles, he declares Zechariah s offense and its punishment. because you did not believe my words you will become mute, and leaves. Mary also raises an objection How since but the angel s quite different reaction shows that her response is not an act of disbelief; it is not disobedience or recalcitrance. It is not a question but an expostulation. She is rejecting the angel s message because it is inadequate. She will not bear the Messiah in the manner seemingly implied by the angel s message and states her refusal by using the realistic present. 36 She knows there must be another way more in keeping with the new messianic times. The angel responds positively to the refusal in two couplets which surpass all Jewish religious and cultural expressions. 37 The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. Of the two couplets, the second largely reaffirms what Gabriel had already said in v.32. The most innovative is the first, and the reference to the Spirit changes everything. Mary agrees. Mary s agreement is carefully phrased. On the one hand she is the servant of the Lord ; on the other hand she uses the word genoito let it be done which recalls the fiat 32 McHugh, The Mother of Jesus, Sam 7.1 ff. 34 D. Haugg, Das erste biblische Marienwort. Eine exegetische Studie zu Lukas 1.34 (Stuttgart: Kath. Bibel-Werk, 1938). Zerwick presents Haugg s view in quoniam virum non cognosco, 214 ff. 35 Laurentin, Luc I-II, McHugh, The Mother of Jesus, Moloney, Mary, Woman and Mother, of creation when God says Let there be light (genêthêtô phôs). She does not say I accept, I submit, but let it be so. She is both obedient and commanding. Her agreement counterbalances her earlier refusal. She had refused the message of the angel who seemed to be speaking of a Messiah only in Davidic terms. She requires a new approach which the angel announces only when he speaks of the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. Her two responses refusal and agreement show the transition between old and new which dominates the Lucan infancy narratives. 3. Kali the goddess Siva is sava (a corpse) beneath her feet. Kali reigns supreme. Kali s exultation asks to what extent is Mary supreme and triumphant? What is the source of her omnipotence and what is the result? Mary, Mother of my Lord At the start of her proclamation (Luke 1:42-45) Elizabeth uses the word blessed twice (eulogêmenê, eulogêmenos) with reference both to Mary and to her child, but at its conclusion she uses the word makaria once with reference to Mary alone. The Vulgate is more accurate, for it distinguishes between benedict- and beat- but English translation, which has the word blessed all three cases, glosses over the significant difference between the Greek words. The term eulogêmen- generally implies a wish in praise of someone, with a future sense, while makarios does not normally confer a blessing but recognizes an existing state of happiness. 38 Elizabeth s proclamation starts with the words blessed but ends with the word makaria which is the climax of the proclamation, and leads to the Magnificat where Mary also uses the form makariousin they will call me makaria (Luke 1:48). Elizabeth declares that Mary is makaria because she believed that there would be a fulfilment (teleiôsis) of what was spoken to her by the Lord. The phrase what was spoken to her is often understood to refer to the message given by the angel, 39 but the word teleiôsis hardly fits this view. The angel had announced that Mary would conceive and bear a son, which process has only just begun: she has only just conceived. Another interpretation seems to be required. Elizabeth s final statement, what was spoken to her (tois lelalêmenois), is echoed in Mary s final words in the Magnificat: according to the promise he made to our ancestors (kathôs elalêsen), to Abraham and to his descendants for ever (Luke 1:55). It does not hearken back to the term word (rhêma) used by the angel to both Zachariah and Mary in the annunciation scenes. 38 Raymond E. Brown, Karl P. Donfried, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, John Reumann, Mary in the New Testament. (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1978), 136 fn Ibid., Mary is the Daughter of Sion and therefore the representative of the Chosen People, especially of the Remnant. 40 Feuillet puts it well: In these chapters [of the Gospel of St Luke] Mary is presented as the Daughter of Sion, and the miraculous conception of Jesus in her womb is identified with the eschatalogical dwelling of
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