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Celebrating the Primordial Feminine:
Transforming Anger into Compassionate Wrath
by Mari Selby, Jennet Inglis (Artist)

As 21st century women we will continue to be easily seduced, and then just as easily dismayed, by the mediaís "perfect woman" as long as we buy into the outdated feminine ideal of motherly nurturance and essential passivity. And even if we donít buy into this limited ideal, our search for a "media correct" woman often leaves us dissatisfied with our army of personal trainers, therapists, and beauty consultants. Whatís missing? Perhaps a more evolved and holistic view of the feminine includes a wrathful aspect to our nature. Anger (or rage) is not wrath; wrath is focused, compassionate, creative and intelligent anger. Perhaps the next step in a personal and global evolution will guide women to become more primordial, wrathful and unreasonable, yet still compassionate?

What might wrathful creativity produce? Recently a friend sent me an image of a group of unreasonable women from Pt. Reyes, California. They were protesting US aggression in the Middle East by forming the word PEACE with their naked bodies. The "spirit" in the display was powerful and definitely sent a message. Their intention was to "shame" the government into rational thinking about the Middle East crisis.

Where do we source this wisdom of compassionate wrath? Today more and more women are turning to other world religions besides Christianity in their search for a deeper, more primordial and wrathful connection to feminine spirit. There has been a recent upsurge in the popularity of Kali, the Hindu goddess whose compassionate nature is both destructive and creative. In the Southwest, women are drawn to the Hopi and Navajo Kachinas as a way of embracing another version of themselves. The arrival of Tantric Buddhism in the West has introduced us to the (secret and formerly hidden) ancient female deities called Dakinis. The burgeoning popularity of Dakinis is rooted in their compassionate and wrathful nature. The unique compassion of the Dakinis is their focus on the embodiment of sanity through the integration of all emotions, not just peaceful or looking-good emotions.

So, still, what are we hungry for? Are we searching for outlets for our rage? Has our rage become so strong that we can ignore it no longer? As women weíve learned that the personal is political. How can we not be more angry than ever? We still see women being beaten and raped by their husbands, still assaulted and threatened by religionists, and still not being paid enough to feed their children.

We have also learned that we cannot be just angry, and then expect to be truly productive. As well, anger may not necessarily be the spiritual image we choose to mirror. How do we reconcile our rage with our desire to be spiritual? Many religions tell us to swallow our anger, or rise above it, or pray harder, or devote ourselves more intensely to our children, husbands etc. These practices do not change anything deep within ourselves.

Can we transform this anger into creative energy? One of the best films to deal with the transformation of anger into wrath is "Erin Brokavich." Erinís bitter frustration with her own single motherhood merged with deeply felt compassion to create wrathful action. Through witnessing acute humane suffering caused by corporate polluters, Erin transformed her anger into actions that profoundly benefited her community. Erin was unreasonable throughout her entire process.

We can all create wrathful change. We can transform our lives. Where do we find the wisdom to know how to do this? Wrathful women are a force of nature, to be respected and venerated. Who were our personal models who embodied a wrathful spirit? Did our mothers stand up for us? Was there a neighbor who fostered our courage and talents? Which teacher allowed us to question authority? Each one of these people mirrored the Dakini inside us. To embrace our unreasonable and compassionate selves is to recognize ourselves as Dakinis.


(The image seen here is a painting of the Vajra Dakini. This Dakini represents the element water. She transforms our fear, anger, and aggression into the creative intelligence of wrath and the embodiment of sanity. Invoke her and she will awaken your freedom.)

What are Dakinis?

Dakinis by their very essence, represent a transformational journey. The Dakini principle is found in all ancient and modern cultures. Thousands of years ago, before being swallowed by Buddhism, Dakinis were allies in the daily passage of life. A millennia later, they were further demoted to a kind of demon encountered during an individualís journey through the Bardo. (To Buddhists the Bardo is the place you go when you die, then travel through to the next level of spiritual evolution.) Dakini literally translated from Tibetan means sky-goer, one who moves through all dimensions. In our modern world, Dakinis represent the natural ever-changing flow of energy, from wrathful to peaceful, and back to wrathful again. The Dakinis may physically appear to us as a person, in our emotional patterns, or as animals. Dakinis are wisdom beings, as are we all.

The Hindus and Buddhists refer to these spirits Dakinis. Native American, African, Celtic and other cultures also have many names for elemental spirits. Spider Woman is an example of a dakini in the Navajo tradition. The legend of Nzingha, the African woman who saved her people from slavery, is another example of a Dakini at work.

Dakinis are primarily represented via one of the 5 Buddhist families, each seen in its specific color, element, direction, time of day and lunar cycle. Each Dakini also represents a completed integrated range of emotion, for instance, from fear and rage to creative wrath and grace. The beauty of the Dakinis is the full range of emotion and the transformational journey within that range. When we see the creative spark in our rage and feel inspired, when we recognize the power in vulnerability, we truly know what transformation means.

To many traditional Buddhists, the Tantric Dakinis are still secret, with practices given to certain lamas and nuns. Traditional Buddhists normally do not introduce Dakinis to lay practitioners as an enlightenment practice. As well, to some westerners, the idea of confronting our demons of fear, denial, anger, jealousy or greed is very threatening. However, to those of you magnetized by these Dakinis, they are perhaps already familiar allies. To those women, we say, go ahead, leap into your dance with the Dakinis!

Why Dakinis Now?

Any unreasonable woman is a Dakini. All the therapy and spiritual practice in the world can still leave us caught in endless negative emotional spirals. Through the realization of Dakini wisdom, integrated with our emotional poisons, we are able to break out of patterns.

Dakinis offer women a mirror image of ourselves as untamed women. Who hasnít had a bad hair day when bitch is the only word we can relate to? By embracing the energy of the Dakini we embody an elemental spirit that surrounds us in nature. By invoking the Dakinis we become a primordial goddess, an eternal image, and a compassionately unreasonable woman.

Unearthing the primordial feminine brings relief to the tensions of a positive outer image and an inner life in turmoil. We can be angry or fearful, and, at the same time, know that the transformation of those emotions is creativity and grace. When we have exposed the hidden poisons in our psyche, the Dakinis provide a path of soulful living and transformation. With rampant worldwide spiritual hunger, Dakinis offer the synthesis of our emotional, creative, and spiritual realities.

Elemental beings like Dakinis model the natural cycle of destruction and creation. Dakinis offer us a way out of blaming the Earth for her sometimes violent changes. By embodying our earthy nature as Dakinis, we focus more on embodiment. When we focus more on embodiment, the earth and our bodies can become one. The emptiness inside diminishes when we are full of ourselves with our reflection in all aspects of nature.

How do I know myself as a Dakini?

Start by recognizing yourself as an elemental being, a force of nature. Respect the power of who you are as a unique and special person. Be your own guru! Most importantly, be willing to change and transform yourself. After all, you are designing your own evolutionary story every day.

What do you do to transform your emotions?

Play or listen to music, talk with a friend, see a therapist, get a massage, ask for a raise, play racquetball, take a hike, swim, play with your inner child, draw a picture, make a pot, pet a dog, volunteer at an animal shelter, etc.

Where is the source of your inspiration?

Walking in nature, watching a sunset, working out, painting, sewing, meditating, your family, your friends, music, animals, etc.

Examples of transformational dakini behavior

Susan B. Anthonyís fight for Womenís Rights, Martin Luther Kingís inspirational speeches, Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad, Nelson Mandelaís strength and endurance, Oprahís disclosure of her sexual abuse, Crazy Horse fighting for his people, Rosa Parks saying "No, I will not change my seat", etc.

Examples of being a transformational Dakini:

Being open to new ideas, loving yourself, recognizing the power of having and making choices. Being wholly present in whatever you are doing, surrendering when you meet obstacles, and using wrath as a source of creative energy. Being generous with time or money. Giving yourself time to be contemplative, and honoring your accomplishments.

 © Copyright 2002 Mari Selby and Jennet Inglis.  All Rights Reserved. 


About the Author:

Dakini life began for Mari Selby in December 1988 when Tsultrim Allione gave the Queen Simhamukha Dakini transmission in Santa Fe. With the dakinis Mari discovered her whole self. A few months later she began to dream about the dakinis, and of creating an oracle deck. At the time, out of respect for the Dakini tradition, Mari did not create a "commercial" oracle deck. However, the dakinis persevered and in 1998 she designed the Dancing with Dakinis oracle deck.

For almost twenty years Mariís private practice as a pastoral counselor helped families and individuals build self-esteem and transform their emotional patterns. Dakini wisdom soon became a part of what Mari offered her clients. Mariís poems appear in several anthologies and in an illustrated chapbook of poetry titled We Are All Stars.

About the Artist:

Jennet Inglis is an internationally acclaimed artist, scientist and visionary. Jennet began her classical study of Nature at the age of 12, and for the past two decades she has exhibited her work in museums and galleries throughout Europe and America.

Jennetís inspiration to paint the twenty-five-piece mandala of the Vajra Dakini Simhamukha came in a pure vision received two months after first encountering the dakinis in 1988. At the time, painting a full mandala from a secret Tantric practice was considered the essence of unmitigated audacity. A full mandala had never been produced, and certainly not in the West. Needless to say, the dakinis are thrilled to be liberated from dogma and obscurity.



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