American Gods season two introduces us to a new Old God, Mama-Ji, who is sceptical about Mr Wednesday’s battle cry against the New Gods.
Here’s what you need to know about the character Mama-Ji and the mythology behind her story.
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Who is Mama-Ji in American Gods?
Mama-Ji is the Hindu goddess Kali, played by Sakina Jaffrey. The actress is best known for playing Linda Vasquez in House of Cards and for starring in Timeless, Homeland, and Mr Robot.
Forced to make a living as an Old God in the US, Mama-Ji can be found working as a waitress at the Motel America in Wisconsin.
Although she is characterised as a goddess of war, Mama-Ji is a mother figure who is aware of her limitations in America because of her lack of worshippers. To counter Mr Wednesday’s battle cry, she offers a voice of reason and peace.
Who is the Hindu goddess Kali?
In Hinduism, Kali is the goddess of death, time, creation, and doomsday, and has associations with violence and war. But at the same time, she is also symbolic of benevolent motherly love; referred to by some as “Kali Ma” (or Kali Mother), she is the great and loving Mother Goddess.
According to certain stories, Kali is an incarnation of Parvarti, wife of the Hindu god Shiva. In other traditions, she was formed from the anger of warrior goddess Durga. In her various forms, the goddess is generally worshipped in eastern and southern India, with the festival of Kali Puja held when the new moon coincides with the festival of Diwali.
Physically, Kali is generally represented as a fighter with a multiple arms each brandishing an object. Although mainly nude, she wears a neckless of heads and a skirt of arms, and often holds a knife or a severed head dripping with blood.
Some depictions give her bright blue or dark black skin, or a Bengali clay crown, and she usually has a long lolling tongue.
In the novel American Gods, her true form is revealed Backstage at the Carousel. Gaiman writes:
“Shadow saw the old woman, her dark face pinched with age and disapproval, but behind her he saw something huge, a naked woman with skin as black as a new leather jacket, and lips and tongue the bright red of arterial blood. Around her neck were skulls, and her many hands held knives, and swords, and severed heads.”
American Gods airs on Starz in the US, and on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and internationally