Religion and Senses of Place - Graham Harvey

Religion and Senses of Place - Graham Harvey

Sense, Place and the Goddess: Devotion to Kali in Cross-cultural Perspective

Religion and Senses of Place - Graham Harvey

Nicole Petersen [+-]
Lesley University (MA student)
Nicole Petersen holds a Bachelor’s degree in Global Studies with minors in Religion and Anthropology. Her studies focused on ritual and devotional practices surrounding the goddess, Kali. Nicole's work in India, specifically her interest in spirituality as a facet of holistic health, opened an inquiry into systems of traditional medicine. She studied with Dr. Vasant Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico and is a NAMA certified Ayurvedic Practitioner. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in Holistic Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Lesley University. Through her work, Nicole aspires to weave together the many branches of her education to serve as a change agent in the fields of sustainable health care and holistic wellness, supporting embodied wisdom, resilience, and thriving communities.


Kali, the dark Hindu goddess of time and fierce Mother of the universe, has a pervasive global presence. In this study, devotion to the goddess is traced from Her from historical roots in India across borders to temples in North America. Through this analysis, the project highlights the diversity with which devotion to Kali has been localized in different contexts, from radical preservation of conservative Hindu norms to integration into New Age spiritualities. In each of these diverse contexts, the sense of place is revealed as integral to the devotee’s ability to establish a connection with Kali. This essay analyzes the processes by which devotees separate themselves from their mundane reality and enter liminal spaces of worship. These spaces are understood both spatially and temporally and are characterized by devotional sensoriums (fluid networks of interconnected sensory stimulations) which are created and experienced by devotees and serve as gateways to the goddess. Finally, this essay explores the cultural and individual variations in processes of reaggregation, of leaving the limen and re-entering the mundane, where practices of worship and experiences in devotion to Kali are digested and given meaning. It is thus illuminated that the sense of place plays a significant role not only in the act of devotion, but the ways in this devotion is integrated into the rest of the devotee’s life.

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Petersen, Nicole. Sense, Place and the Goddess: Devotion to Kali in Cross-cultural Perspective. Religion and Senses of Place. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 124-144 Sep 2021. ISBN 9781800500662. Date accessed: 21 Jul 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.41478. Sep 2021

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