I probably first came across the Mother’s diverse names and pastimes as a teenager with the help of the tiny handful of books in my rural Utah public library’s non-fiction section. Having spent my entire youth and adolescence being taken to Mormon sacrament meetings and Sunday School lessons by my mother, my knowledge of the width and breadth’s of the world’s faith traditions was minimal, but I learned quickly that that particular corner of Protestantism wasn’t a great fit. Durga’s beautiful strength and Kali’s protective ferocity intrigued and enchanted me. “Of course She is black,” ran one line of text regarding the appearance of God. Yes, I thought. Yes.
A school friend of mine surprised me with a gift to a series of meditation classes on my 16th birthday. These were given by a local woman with an interest in New Age healing practices, and a few members of my friend group were participating. During our second class, I had a deep meditation experience aided by the sound of a steady drum. In that depth was an encounter that I’d rather not put into words. The details of that experience aren’t actually that important, and trying to determine whether it was conjured by imagination or not is rather beside the point. The impact of the experience is what actually matters, because I was left infused with an enthusiastic and besotted affection for a goddess I had really only had an abstract, if positive, relationship with. Maa’s love and presence were intensely personal in a way that a single evening before it hadn’t been.
Love and enthusiasm I had plenty, but I had no guide through the helpful and unhelpful information I encountered along the way. I had exhausted the local library’s religious section by the time I entered high school, and the mid-to-late 90s internet lacked many of the resources that would later become familiar. Eventually I acquired Usha’s book and others from city bookstores, and even small images of the deities I loved. When I finally left Utah I managed to acquire more books and more information, loving and honoring Kali in my own unstudied way even as I wound my way through the various avenues of the Colorado pagan communities. I never connected with other groups of like-minded or even unlike-minded devotees, which in hindsight was probably for the best.
I learned about Kali Mandir from Usha’s book. Thankfully Kali Mandir gained a website at some point by 2001 or so, which is the first version I remember seeing. (I remember very clearly a list of “things we need” that included a computer.) I would check in on the website from time to time to see how Maa in California was doing, and think about when I would get to visit. I’ve been listening to the podcasts for several years now, and cheering the Mandir’s growth and change from afar.
I was in my early 30s when Kali really arrived back in my life after a number of years of chosen distance from Her. Although I had never stopped loving Her intensely, I felt I had received guidance in my spiritual path that counseled a time of separation. Once I was done with college and was in a more stable part of my life, Maa came rushing back, and things have been sweeter than ever. I’m in a much better place to love more authentically and honestly, and hopefully with more humility. She lets me see Her familiar face in places I go hoping to find Her. I know She sees me, because I see Her. I love Her in many forms, with many names, and I hope never stop looking for Her or being able to find Her.