Shadow Work

My Version of Kali-Ma, cut paper, fabric remnants, dx martin watercolors, 12”x 12”, 2023

My favorite goddess of all time is the Hindu goddess, Kali-Ma. I said this to someone who happened to be Hindu and he looked at me funny. That’s sort-of like a Hindu saying to a Christian; I’m so intrigued by the devil! Could you tell me a little bit more about your Satan?

The origins of Kali-Ma are found in the Devi Mahatmya, a religious text dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries AD. She is a configuration born from the brow of Durga in battle, the fierce, destructive aspect, one deity in the holy triptych of Kali, Kali-Ma, and the Divine Mother. She courts destruction to manifest creation, she is the archetype who destroys ego. Unlike her voluptuous counterparts of the West, Venus, Athena, and Aphrodite, those full-figured gals mounted front and center on Greek pantheons, this goddess packs a terrifying punch. She dons the armor of severed limbs and a necklace of decapitated heads; this lady is outfitted in dismemberment. After slaughtering demons, she stands over her consort, dripping blood and maniacally beaming a frenzied grin. Ancient writings depict her as emaciated and black meant to symbolize the timeless universe, but later, she’s rendered all blue and fleshy. Kali-Ma was built to scare, and I’ll wager the scariest thing about this crone is that she wasn’t concocted to seduce anyone.

On January 13, 2020, an article was published in the Long Island Press- Long Island’s Sex Trafficking Problem Exists in the Shadows, by Maureen Rossi. The report outlines a detailed overview backed by facts and data put out by government agencies, local law enforcement, and non-profit groups dedicated to exposing how victims, many of them minors, are ushered through a system that is very much in place right now on Long Island. According to Rossi, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) dedicated an agency, the Long Island Human Trafficking Task Force, to combat the ever-increasing need to address the issue in 2013. As of September 27, 2022, a proposed project, the Suffolk County Anti-Trafficking Initiative (SCATI), would constitute a collaboration between the Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD) and the Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk (VIBS). The project has been awarded $750,000.00 to date in funding from the Department of Justice.

Detective John Birbiglia of the Nassau County Police Narcotics/Vice Squad represents the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force on Long Island. Detective Birbiglia stated that there has been pushback from the public regarding the nature of these findings. In Rossi’s article, he is quoted as saying, ‘Many people don’t believe that this is going on, (that) it’s only in the movies.’ According to Rossi, prosecutors from Nassau County state the current laws don’t go far enough to keep victims safe or to hold perpetrators accountable, and ‘need to be amended to be effective’. A chilling statistic issued from The Safe Center of Long Island reported that in 2019, Long Island, New York was among the top twenty human trafficking jurisdictions in the country. Most notably, their studies claim that 83% of the victims in confirmed cases were US citizens.

The Polaris Project is a non-profit agency self-described as a ‘social justice movement to end human trafficking’, created to recognize and halt the patterns of sex and labor trafficking in the United States. Established twenty years ago, at a time when victims were typically arrested and returned to their traffickers, they offer an extensive, multimedia approach in combating trafficking head on, starting in communities most vulnerable and continuing all the way to the top, where predators mingle in aboveboard industries. Their website,, is a valuable resource, easily accessible to agency officials, victims and laypeople alike. It differs from other non-profits, as their objective is straightforward, and not working under the possible pretense of a victim-centric agenda.

Back to Kali-Ma. In eastern India, in a region known for being one of Asia’s largest red-light districts, temples are dedicated to this goddess. Generations of children have been born into slavery there, in slums monopolized by gangs who force hundreds of girls into the sex trade each year. It’s the kind of place a wrathful goddess who can’t get enough of slicing and dicing can come in handy. Sex workers and their kids are the ones truly in need of a fierce, untamable force. Kali-Ma protects women and children. And yes, it’s happening here.