by Joy E. Stocke
Funny, the things one puts together when traveling.
I’ve been coming to Baja for seven years, and to California since I was 14. I’ve sung hundreds of songs containing the mouth-pleasing word California, but I never thought that there might be a connection between the west coast of the United States and the great destroyer goddess of Indian mythology, Kali. But, let me start with another book, The Bull from the Sea, by Roberto Colasso. In it, he outlines Greek mythology beginning with its connection to his own continent, Europe. The story he tells is of the goddess Europe (Ev-ro-pee) and the white bull who brought her from the Island of Crete to European shores. In that book, he asks a question: But where did it all begin?
Here is something I surmise: The great Indian goddess Kali came to California and gave it her name. But to make that connection, another book comes into play, a book I mentioned in an earlier blog – the 1972 Time/Life book about Baja.
Here is what it says: First came the Spanish conquistadors, avidly searching for gold, a passage to the Indies and a mythical race of lady warriors who fought with golden weapons under the rule of a queen named Califa. Her realm had been celebrated in a popular medieval romance, Las Sergas de Esplandian, chronicling the adventures of a prince who gathers a crusading army to defend the Anatolian city of Constantinople form the Persians.
The prince learns that there is “an island on the right hand of the Indies, very near the terrestrial Paradise, peopled by black women among whom was not a single man. They had beautiful bodies, spirited courage, and great strength and their weapons were all made of gold.”
So now I will make my hypothesis. Having studied Indian mythology, and having traveled to and written extensively about Turkey, or Anatolia, I have become familiar with the myth of the black goddess, Kali – she who lives in mountains and forests and has the power to destroy as well as create. Her name is Kali or Kali-Ma as the Hindus call her; and she is fierce. Considering that she wears a necklace of skulls, one wouldn’t want to cross her. Yet, in her form as Durga, she gives all the riches we could desire.
She has also given the first syllable of her name to many things, not the least of which is the word Ka, which is the first syllable for the word black in Arabic and Turkish (and other languages, I’m sure.)
The Spanish didn’t find gold in Baja, although they did their best to seek it out. They, did, however, bring their religion and another woman into the pantheon, the Virgin Mary. Look carefully at her image when you are here. Often, she is pictured as the black Madonna.
Joy E. Stocke is editor in chief of Wild River Review.