Kali, Brené Brown and Winter's Kiss

So, the thing that led to the massage of the body snatchers is this: I changed my grounding.

I didn’t examine this impulse. It arrived in me, fully formed, like a Midwest storm. One moment I was standing on the bank of Longfellow Creek in early September, working with the same molten earth energy I had been reaching into every since I was a baby witch conducting my first ritual on Mount Rainier in 1993, and the next I was striking out on my own.

If you are a witch too, the one I was used to is probably familiar, it’s sort of the witchy standard, at least in the Reclaiming tradition: You sit or preferably stand, legs hip-width apart and you breathe. Slow. You let your breath lead you down, exhale into the earth and when you have begun to settle into your skin, you begin to imagine a cord going down from your spine, from the soles of your feet, pushing down to connect with Earth energy.

When a witch or a priestess talks you through this, it is more likely than not that she will ask you to imagine your grounding cord as a root, to see in your mind’s eye, to feel your roots reaching, snaking, growing down. "Down," she'll say. "Breathing out and sending your roots down into the earth, through the leaf litter on top, through the soil and rock, through the water table and down, down, down through the layers of earth and rock until the rocks begin to become warm, warmer, and then pulse, melt and you reach the molten center of the earth and your roots connect to that center of earth energy."

Often it goes on to pull the fiery energy up through all that earth, into your body chakra by chakra until it erupts out the top of your head. I always love this moment. When it is good, it feels to me like being an earth volcano and a tree made of fire at the same time, branches of earth’s energy reaching into the heavens to touch the stars and fall to earth, completing the cycle.  

This is the basic. With some creative exceptions at one witch camp or another, this is the grounding I have been doing for 20 years.

But about six months ago I changed it. I changed it to a connection with darkness instead of molten light. I was just back from my first time teaching at BC Witch Camp and mid-week, we’d had a three hour (0r possibly three week) long ritual devoted to the Hindu Goddess of Sacred Destruction, Kali-Maa. I was changed by that night. When I got home, it was September. Everything was dying and Kali’s touch was heavy on me and suddenly it seemed clear to me that when I needed was power in the darkness.

This is the opposite of my previous practice, which was dubbed by my priestess friend Horizon “Your Yes Magic.” I had always focused on light, on Yes! I wanted to shine, not smolder. Catch more flies with honey.

Be likable.

But not anymore, not after that night in the sacred grove. Kali doesn’t give a rat’s ass about being likable, one of the reasons that She has always scared me. Like Baba Yaga. Both appears to me as dark, strong, ruthless, unyielding and yet pure to Their purposes.


Not how women are supposed to be in this culture. We are liked if we are unselfish, choose harmony over our own interests. So says Cheryl Sandberg in Lean In. In her amazing TED talk on shame, Brené Brown lists the things that define success for a woman in this culture:

1.    Nice

2.    Thin

3.    Modest

4.    Puts all available resources into appearance.

Pretty scary, right? But I know how to succeed at that game. I was born with most of what culture wants from a woman. I am tall, my curves are generally where they are supposed to be. I have fair skin, good hair…the dominant definition of beauty works in my favor.

I have made Brown’s list work for me.

Except “nice,” which rankles. And clearly modest is a struggle. This, btw, is called “sys-fem privilege.” That is the name for the benefit and the cage of being the way overculture wants women to be. Every privilege comes with a cage, including the nasty ones that enslave and deaden white men at the same time they confer so much status. That’s the double edge of the sword. Of course, it’s nothing to the cages that accompany racism…

Anyway, Kali thinks this list of feminine qualities is bullshit and She is not what I would call patient with this. She wanted me to get fierce, dark and unlikable. (gasp.) 

I can’t say that I named any of this at the time that I changed my grounding. I know only this: I started imagining pulling a plug instead of sending down roots. Like there was a drain at the base of my spine – one of those white rubber ones with the silver ring for a pull. I started pulling out that plug and letting all this heavy darkness in that space between my second and third chakras, (between pleasure and power) fall down. When I started doing this, the cool winds were blowing dry leaves in still sunny skies, but already I could feel winter below me and that was what I emptied into. I let the darkness in me, small and puny and terrifying, drain into the pool of infinite blackness underneath my feet. I let the that which needed to die fall down into a winter’s reservoir of death, where all life would soon go. And I pulled the cleansing dark back up, again and again for the last six months until there was nothing of my old dark there anymore.

Which I believe brings me to three weeks ago, and that massage.