This image of the Goddess Kali was borrowed from the Indian History website.
In some communities within Nepal, it is believed that a small child, who has not committed any evil acts, can be possessed by a God. Through meditation and ritual these individuals are able to call the God to enter them and gift them with the supreme knowledge to make predictions and give warnings.
Women who possess this skill are called a Mata or Devi. The practice of visiting a Devi is not as wide spread as it once was but a Devi is still often called upon during weddings arrangements or other important events. It is even rumored the late King Birendra visited a powerful Devi in Kathmandu.
I was invited to watch a Devi consultation in Pokhara*. I was expecting an irritated old ama, resting on plush velvet cushions, surrounded by Shisha smoking disciples. I thought we would be given the same vague suggestions about financial success and romantic bliss that most mediums dispense in western countries. I certainly was not prepared to be given an impending time of death.
Sitting in my friend’s kitchen, impatiently sipping tea, I tried not to show my irritation as he readied himself in Nepali time. The Devi we were visiting is said to be possessed by the Goddess Kali, a furious black goddess with a reputation for destruction, I did not want to be late. Eventually the relaxed preparation got the better of me and I casually enquired when we might be leaving.
His mother headed across the lane towards a meek looking woman washing clothes at the communal tap. It was hard to accept that quiet, ordinarily looking girl was in direct contact with the ferocious Goddess Kali. Kali’s power and temper are considered so great that she is often depicted standing over the body of Lord Shiva or with a decapitated head in her hand.
When the laundry was finished and we were summoned. Her baby immediately started crying as we crowded into the small bedroom, maybe we should have taken that as a sign. Her husband, dressed in an Adidas tracksuit and looking every bit a modern Nepali man, sat on the bed and happily chatted to my friend. They explained they went to school together and I wondered how that will impact the validity of the reading.
As she readied herself on the bare cement floor and started to chant and shake, no one else seemed concerned that anything out of the ordinary was happening. My friend’s mother, grandmother and aunt had decided to join us and they gossiped loudly.
It wasn’t until she reached for my friend’s Cheena that she suddenly had the attention of the room. A crumpled looking 5 rupee note fell to the floor, there should always be money kept wrapped inside a Cheena to encourage prosperity. Cheena is an astrological chart, usually calculated at birth by a Brahmin priest, using the time, date and location of birth. It is written in Sanskrit and should only be opened by priests, astrologers, Devis, Devta or for divination purposes.
After a few minutes everyone stiffened and all the women took a sharp breath. The Devi was speaking too quickly for me to follow in my limited Nepali but I could understand motorcycle accident and “ek dem”, (very important), being repeated over and over. My friend tried to reassure me with small smiles but I have to wait through another 20 minutes of chanting, shaking and worried whispers from his mother before I get a full English interpretation.
It was explained, as evidence of her power she had offered a small token – his mother’s broken promise before my friend’s birth. His family seemed to be satisfied with this information. Maybe it is the nature of Kali to focus on the impending difficulties but she foretold a very distressing future ending at the early age 26 years, leaving behind four children and a lovely wife. She also outlined a very difficult time for his family in study and finances. And all this happy news only cost 205NR; it is thought the price paid for a Devi consultation must be an amount that cannot be evenly divided in two.
The experience may have had more of an impact on me than my friend and his family. I’ve seen he has no plans to stop riding a motor cycle. My friend was quick to assure me his family are not fools who follow such things blindly. There is a growing prejudice that people who still follow such practices are backward, though this particular Devi is reported to be very popular in Pokhara.
*The names of individuals and the exact location of the consultation have been omitted to ensure the privacy and protection of those involved.