Seminar: Voices of the Dark Goddess: Kali and The Black Madonna
Spirituality - # 60071
Instructor: Chandra Alexandre, Ph.D.
Faculty Bio: Chandra has her A.B. from Columbia University in NYC (her hometown), with M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from The California Institute of Integral Studies in Philosophy & Religion, and her D.Min. from UCS is forthcoming (2004). Initiated first by her grandmother and then in India, Chandra serves as a Rashani (Priestess) in San Francisco and Puri (India) through SHARANYA, the 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation and devi mandir she founded in 1999. SHARANYA, a goddess temple, is dedicated to engaged spirituality and a reclamation of the Sacred Feminine along with an unpathologizing of the wounded Sacred Masculine, which can create potentials for wholeness in Self, World and Relationship. Chandra is dedicated by her diksha (initiation) to Maa Kali. Personally, she seeks alliances among her own ancestors to empower the creation of cross-cultural and interfaith spaces for dialogue that bridges divides of difference while simultaneously honoring the sacredness of those differences. SHARANYA provides community worship services, interfaith & spiritual counseling, offers pilgrimage tours, and facilitates project work (in conjunction with regional NGOs) in eastern India. Chandras own voyage through anorexia nervosa has been instrumental to her realization of the Shakta Tantra and her personal devotion to Maa Kali. Her coven, Daughters of Kali, invites women on the transformational journey. She may be contacted at [email protected] or 415.351.0213. Public puja/worship ceremonies are open to everyone, men and women, on a life-affirming path.
Goals and Structure of the Course:
This class will give an historical and cultural introduction to the traditions of the Dark Goddess as particularized through Kali and The Black Madonna. Together, participants will begin an exploration of what dark images of the divine mean for westerners today. The class starting point will acknowledge the Dark Goddesses generally as life-affirming and deeply transformational, with a variety of culture-specific guises, forms, and names. Despite culture of origin, however, Kali and The Black Madonna are powerful and empowering forces; in fact, forces that have been manifesting in individuals' dreams and through synchronistic experiences in the western world for some time. The Dark Goddess refuses to be ignored; therefore, we will look at Her through a variety of cultural lenses, noting the archetypal level of human connection to the Sacred Feminine. We will also explore what She means to us as individuals and communities gathered for the work of finding meaning, truth, and beauty through the transpersonal.
Class participants will explore the antinomian, relational, embodied, cyclical, and chthonic elements of these Divine Female forces through readings, small group engagement, story and myth, some of the literature, ritual, discussion, personal exploration and spiritual techniques for uncovering Her embodied presence. Learnings will be immediately applicable to participants daily lives and practices for self-restoration, growth, and renewal, and will facilitate an increased capacity to understand the function of the Feminine in Self and World. By evoking and invoking the power of the Dark Goddess through embodied practice, theory, and method, we will together help catalyze the motion of personal and planetary healing.
30% didactic 30% interactive 40% experiential
To have class participants learn about and experience the Dark Goddess through embodied praxis. In this course, students will gain familiarity with cultural and historical perspectives on Kali and The Black Madonna. We will specifically explore Her as the Divine Female rooted in the depths of human consciousness. We will together come to know Her through images as well as through an exploration of traditions, ritual, shared experience, and the literature. Students will:
v Explore and revisit the term Dark Goddess in writings and class discussions to deepen mindfulness and facilitate insight
v Learn about some of the Dark Goddess traditions in the Jewish, Christian, and Hindu contexts
v Co-create ritual for and about the Dark Goddess as birthed from class lectures, discussions, readings and personal experiences, thereby helping open class members to principles of compassion and discernment
v Gain insight and inspiration from peoples and practices across cultures to facilitate an appreciation of differences in attitude, custom, belief, and worldview
At the conclusion of this class, students will be able to:
v Articulate for themselves personally the presence of the Dark Goddess as well as experience the healing that comes through the cyclical phases of birth, death, and regeneration that this archetype encompasses
v Present context-specific learnings on some of the Dark Goddesses of India and Europe
v Relate myths, customs, traditions, and methods of worship of some Dark Goddesses
v Speak on goddess worship in the Shakta tradition of Hinduism
v Re-trace the development of veneration of The Black Madonna and describe some of Her sites, festivals, and stories
v Discuss issues surrounding gender, identity, and spirituality vis-à-vis the Dark Goddess
A reader may be purchased from the instructor at cost (approximately $20). Please contact Chandra at to order reader. Payment will be made directly to her.
Begg, Ean C.M. (1997). The Cult of the Black Virgin. London: Arkana/Penguin. (ISBN: 0140195106)
Galland, China. (1991). Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna, A Ten Year Journey. New York: Penguin/Compass. (ISBN: 0140121846)
Kinsley, David. (1997). Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas.
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press . (ISBN: 0520204999)
Markale, Jean. (2000). The Great Goddess: Reverence of the Divine Feminine from the Paleolithic to the Present. Vermont: Inner Traditions. (ISBN: 0892817151)
Mookerjee, Ajit. (1988). Kali: The Feminine Force. London: Thames & Hudson. (ISBN: 0892812125)
Writing Assignment & Assessment
Five (5) page pre-paper on the Dark Goddess that includes references from the readings is due on the first day of class. Suggested topics include: Who is the Dark Goddess? Why is she dark? What does it mean to me to envision the Divine as female and as dark? How do my experiences of the Dark Goddess interplay with the course readings? What would/does pilgrimage to Her mean? Final paper: topics to be determined in class.
Students will have feedback from one another and the instructor during the course of the class meetings. Evaluation will be based upon attendance, participation in discussions, knowledge and incorporation of readings into class forums, creative expression of ideas, reflection on class material, assignments, and the final paper.
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