Commander Pigeon was an old decrepit warlord, a broken-down woman. Lonely, she survived on attention, on her ability to inspire fear through the power of her own myth. In Afghanistan, the ability to create a mythology is powerful, maybe even more powerful than military prowess…

She hated the Taliban more than the Soviets, but the Soviets marked the beginning of jihad. Summertime, she remembered, about noon. The watermelons were ripe. She had been in her bedroom, talking and drinking tea with the women. Her son was cutting grass and her uncle milked the cows. Her whole family was outside tending the farm when the Russian commandos landed on the hill. They shot her son dead. She had no weapons and so she picked up a scythe and killed the commando who did it. She killed for hours and stole weapons from corpses. There were bodies everywhere. They hung from the trees. No man questioned her. *

This is almost the same description as the beserker state of Kali. The old ones knew this, the old ones had seen this. We, with our hygiene and our our manners, we pretend we don’t know this Kali in ourselves. We pretend, and you, Soviets, Americans, Europeans with your faux clean hands, your bidets and your OxbridgeHarvard industrial complex, your Manhattan projects and your shock and awe, you need to know this.

The iconography of Kali is terrible indeed to those who first encounter it! She is most often depicted standing over Shiva who lies on the battleground. All around are severed body parts and the weapons of the demons she has slain.  Shiva’s trisula is in her lower right hand, her own blood-stained sword in her higher right hand, the severed head of a demon in her higher left hand and a bowl to catch the blood of the demon in her lower left hand. She wears a garland of severed demon heads and a skirt of severed demon arms. Her hair is disheveled and her tongue protrudes from her mouth.

When deciphering the symbolism, it is of foremost importance to note that Kali is the dutiful wife of Shiva, whose body she has conquered. The body is not who Shiva is, but rather a vehicle of the Soul. Thus, while Kali conquers the body, she defends the Soul. She holds the trisula that Shiva gave to her when the Trimurti wished her into being. Now, even Shiva is under the influence of Kali’s power. **

Kali is not an isolated being, she is the other face of your pretty wife, not something solely in herself. Your pretty wife, your pretty self, whose child is murdered on a watermelon afternoon.

I came across Commander Pigeon in an article in the New Republic by Jen Percy about an Afghan warlord, a mother who has become a warlord and have here interspersed quotations from the article with descriptions of Kali. The bloody-minded but ineffectual people who plan modern wars do not understand the story of Kali or of the Hydra. They do not want to understand the Hydra that they fight as ‘terrorism’ nor to face themselves therefore as the creators of terrorists. In whose interest is this?

Commander Pigeon is a collector of lost and exiled men. The quietest soldier once belonged to the Taliban. He had been captured by local police, escaped, and having heard about Commander Pigeon, walked miles to reach her home. He fell to his knees and begged for protection. She made him swear loyalty. I asked how she knew he wouldn’t rebel. “I’m watching him closely,” she said. “I’m converting Taliban to normal people.” *

* Jen Percy


** Theresa St Amant


photo of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma adoring Kali, circa 1740, courtesy of  Los Angeles County Museum of Art www.lacma.org 

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