Imprecatory Female Spirits

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Imprecatory Female Spirits ma mo

  • The imprecatory female spirits (Skt.mātaraḥ) are generally depicted as ugly, ferocious, dark-complexioned, and half-naked with emaciated breasts and matted hair. They invoke curses and imprecations, inflicting plague (dal yams) on living beings. The imprecatory female spirits were subdued by Padmasambhava on Mount Chu-bo-ri. Among their many classes, the most important are the supramundane protectress Śrīdevī (Tib. dpal ldan lha mo), the eight mātaraḥ (ma mo brgyad), headed by Gaurī, who form one sub-category of the fifty-eight wrathful deities, and the meditational deity known as Imprecatory Mātaraḥ (ma mo rbod gtong), which is one of the eight principal meditational deities of Mahāyoga. On the various classes of mundane imprecatory female spirits, see Nebesky-Wojkowitz, Oracles and Demons of Tibet, pp. 269-273. GD (from the Glossary to Tibetan Elemental Divination Paintings)

The Eight Gaurīs, Gaurīmas, Mātṛkās, Mātaraḥs or Wrathful Female Deities are: 1) Gaurī or Gaurīma (Tib. ko'u ri or ko'u ri ma, ko’u rii or ko'u rii ma, ga’u ri or ga'u ri ma, ga’u rii or ga'u rii ma, gau ri or gau ri ma, gau rii or gau rii ma, ke’u ri or ke'u ri ma, ke’u rii or ke'u rii ma, goo ri or goo ri ma, go rii or go rii ma, goo rii or goo rii ma), 2) Pukkasī (Tib. pus ka si, pus kas sii, pukka si, puk kas sii), 3) Caurī or Caurīma (Tib. tso'u ri or tso'u ri ma, tso’u rii or tso'u rii ma, tsoo ri or tsoo ri ma, tso rii or tso rii ma, tsoo rii or tsoo rii ma), 4) Ghasmarī (Tib. kas ma ri, kas ma rii, gha sma ri, gha sma rii), 5) Pramohā (Tib. pra mo, pra mo ha, pra ma haa), 6) Caṇḍālī (Tib. tsan dha li, tsan dha lii, tsaN Da li, tsaN Da lii), 7) Vetālī (Tib. be'e ta li, be’e ta lii, be ta li, be ta lii), 8) Śmaśānī (Tib. sme sha ni, sme sha nii, sma sha ni, sma sha nii).

They are also known as the ‘Eight Wrathful Females’ or ‘Eight Wrathful Goddesses’ (khro mo brgyad), and are identified in particular as being synonymous with the Eight Mātṛkās or Mātaraḥs (ma mo brgyad), the Eight Mātṛkās of Sacred Places (gnas kyi ma mo brgyad) and the Eight Wrathful Goddesses of Sacred Places (gnas kyi khro mo brgyad). These different terms for the same set of eight goddesses are thus all equivalent. A Mātṛkā or Mātaraḥ may be defined as an “imprecatory female spirit”, but more commonly as a mother deity, mother goddess or “divine mother” (mātṛkā and mātaraḥ meaning ‘mother’ or more revealingly, ‘matrix’). The root of this concept of Mātṛkās or Mātaraḥs goes back far into the ancient history of India, perhaps being even pre-Vedic; much later they were incorporated as Tantric deities in both Hinduism and Buddhism, and a set of 7, 8 or 9 Mātṛkās exists in the Hindu pantheon. The Tibetan term mamo is more commonly used in Vajrayāna Buddhist circles than the original Sanskrit terms. Significantly, these eight female deities are also counted among the Fifty-eight Herukas (or ‘wrathful deities’, khrag ‘thung lnga brgyad), specifically as part of the retinue or assembly of the Herukas of the Five Buddha Families. [Erick Tsiknopoulos]