Several people for the last year or two have asked me to write about how I do devotions to Kali. Here is what I do. It is a combination of rituals I have gleaned online and in books, and elements of my Feri practice.
I honor Kali just about any time I sit down at my altar and light incense. Ganesh always gets the first wave of incense and prayer: “Jai Ganesh. May my worship be acceptable.” Then I wave the incense before Kali and say “Jai Ma!”
From there I may go into devotions for Shiva or Kali or other deities, I may do a working of some kind, I may honor my ‘gurus,’ or I may just sit in meditation.
However on Tuesdays I honor Kali in a special way: I perform puja. I also use general correspondences and try to weave them into my day. Mostly this involves wearing red of some sort, keeping Her fierceness in mind, thinking on Her throughout the day, and wearing a perfume I have that is set aside for Her.
I try to perform puja in the mornings: after yoga and breakfast, when the house is more quiet. If that doesn’t work out for whatever reason, I will perform it when space is available – or I will get up extra early to make sure it happens. I prepare by cleaning myself. If I don’t shower that morning, I at least make sure to wash my face and hands and clean my teeth (pretty standard twice daily routine anyway). If puja happens later and I’m hours away from having washed my face and brushed my teeth, I will wash my hands and rinse out my mouth.
Next, I clean up my altar. I remove old offerings, replace the incense, refill my special pitcher of water, etc. I gather other supplies: new candles if I need them, new incense, whatever offerings I’m giving, flowers if I have them, and water for kala/purification.
Once I’ve gathered everything I light my candles: a candle that represents my Self, one for Kali, one for Durga. I light my incense, waving it before Ganesh and Kali, around all the other stations in my altar, and finally around myself. I honor my teachers with a prayer. Then I sit and breathe to get centered, usually aligning my souls as taught to me by my Feri teachers.
In this spot I use the kala rite that my witchcraft tradition uses for purification. It involves meditation, breath work, chanting, emptying the blockage into a cup of water, and offering up the cup. I chant “Ma.” Then I drink down the water and let it wash through me. “For my eternal purification,” I pray.
I greet Kali, speaking her praises. I offer up several prayers.
“Oh Kali Ma, slay the fears that limit my spirit. Oh Kali Ma, dance upon the grave of my iniquities. Oh Kali Ma, lead me darkness to light, from ignorance to truth, from death to immortality.”
If I have any special requests, personal prayer needs, or feel the need to just talk, I do it here.
I chantOm krim Kali, both vocally and in silence, for a bit and then sit in mediation on Her.
I pick up my pitcher of water and chant Om krim Kali over it. I dip my fingers in it and flick the water around the altar, blessing the space, and finally I anoint myself. I ring my singing bowl.
In honor of the Great Womb, I pray over the pitcher. I use the Holy Mother prayer: “Holy Mother, in whom we live, move, and have our being, from you all things emerge and unto you all things return.”
Joyful chanting goes here: “Jai jai Kali, jai Shiva Kali, Shiva Kali, Kali Durga, Ma Ma go Ma, jai Ma!” I don’t know what this chant is supposed to sound like, so I’ve created my own. I chant this at least three times, sometimes more.
I anoint myself with the flame of my red Kali candle by picking it up and waving it in front of me. I use my hands to wash in the incense.
Here is where I place offerings on the altar – either flowers in the pitcher or in a special cup or fruits, chocolate, or other candies into the big clam shell I have set aside for this purpose.
I ring the singing bowl, bow, and sit in silence. I then align my souls as per my Feri teachings and go about my day.
As I’ve gotten more pregnant I have started anointing my belly with the water from the pitcher at the time of flicking, and I wave the red candle in front of my belly as well.
This puja can be as long or as short as needed. It usually takes me 20 minutes. If I’ve got a lot of time and space and I can meditate and chant for extended periods of time I often go 40 minutes (it could certainly be longer). That doesn’t happen very often. I have also done this ritual with my son present. I recently did so, and I got the distinct impression that Kali was pleased. It wasn’t my ‘holiest’ puja or deepest meditation, but She was definitely present. Sometimes I find that She is present, other times She’s not present at all! What’s important to me is that I do this regularly. I am not focused on the technicalities of this puja, rather I take comfort that the basics of ritual are present, and I can focus more on the relationship building aspects of the puja.
I use this outline as a basis for much of my personal puja practices, altering words, chants, prayers, offerings as needed. But the structure is sound, I think. At the very least: this will do until I know better!