Possessed: The Role of the Yogini in Tantra Practices

Academic, Religious Studies

Early Hindu Tantra was intertwined with yogini worship and possession, beginning as early as the 6th century CE (White, “Origins”). The evolution of what we now term “Tantra” coincided with an evolution of the yogini “cult”; while both “Tantra” and the yogini cult are amorphous terms for a series of complex practices, rites, and doctrines (in the case of Tantra) and a variety of groupings of female deities (in the case of the Yogini cults), the intersection of the two created a specific role for the yogini as a “messenger” within the hierarchy of transcendental beings and humans. In understanding a brief evolution of Tantra and of yogini goddesses, features of the goddesses, and Tantra’s specific creation of identity, one can better understand the role of the yogini.