Skip to navigation | Skip to content



  1. Group Book review: Kali Studies

    Following a Kali ritual at this year’s Queer Pagan Camp, a few people asked me to recommend books about Kali, so here’s a quick round-up of some books that I’ve found useful in one way or another, particularly in helping me to get to grips with this complex goddess. This is a subject very dear to me, as it was a recurring dream of Kali, experienced back in 1982, which first led to my becoming interested in Tantra – so my devotion to Kali is very much at the heart of my tantra practice. Continue reading »

  2. Sakti bodies – II: Kali in the Mahabhavagata Purana

    “Oh Kali full of Brahman!
    I’ve searched them all
    Vedas, Agamas, Puranas
    and found You:
    Mahakali
    Krisna, Siva, Rama
    they’re all You
    My Wild-Haired One.”
    Ramprasad Sen

    Kali has been occupying my thoughts a great deal of late, so to take this series of posts forward, I thought I’d take a look at how Kali is represented in the Mahabhavagata Purana, a late medieval text which for the most part, is given over to narratives about the Great Goddess. Continue reading »

  3. An extract from Smoke and Mirrors

    Admin’s note: There follows an extract from Stephen Grasso’s essay Smoke and Mirrors which features in a new anthology – The Wanton Green – out soon from Mandrake of Oxford. For more details and contributor previews, visit The Wanton Green blog.

    In the earliest creation stories of London, Brutus the Trojan was caught in a storm on his voyages from Troy, and amid the wreckage of his ship was witness to a vision of the Goddess Diana, the virgin huntress of The Moon. Radiant on the waters like so many incarnations of Our Lady from the Stella Maris to the Virgin Caridad del Cobre, each appearing to those in distress at sea. Diana saved his life, and told him to build her a temple at the place where he struck land. He founded a city and dedicated it to her. Luan-Dun, the city of The Moon, and built her sacred temple upon the hill where St Paul’s Cathedral now stands. Continue reading »

  4. Multiplicious Becomings: tantric theologies of the grotesque – IV

    “Dismantling the organism has never meant killing yourself, but rather opening the body to connections that presuppose an entire assemblage, circuits, conjunctions, levels and thresholds, passages and distributions of intensity, and territories and deterritorializations measured with the craft of a surveyor.”
    Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

    “The Supreme Lord fashions the body and the senses, corresponding (to the sphere of) duality by the power of Maya, while through His power of knowledge He generates Mantras. Their body is the self-awareness which is the expanse (akasa) (of consciousness), and they denote the wonderful diversity of things.”
    Ksemaraja, commentary on the Spandakarika (Dyczkowski, 1992)

    For the final part of this extended essay I will focus on Sitala and her relationship with disease and possession. Continue reading »

  5. Multiplicious Becomings: tantric theologies of the grotesque – III

    “I salute You, Devi Sitala, and worship your feet. Wearing royal garments, yet You are space-clad. In Your right hand a broom, in the crook of Your left arm a water pot. You have with You pox-incense. A golden broom in Your hand, a golden pot on Your left side. Come, Ruler of Disease, accept the worship that is rightfully Yours, and offer salvation through Your unique quality.”
    Sitala Mangal Bardhaman Pala of Kavi Jagannath (Nicholas, 2003, p133)

    In the third part of this essay, I’m going to focus in on the goddess Sitala, frequently described as “the smallpox goddess” or categorised as a “disease goddess”. Continue reading »

  6. Multiplicious Becomings: tantric theologies of the grotesque – II

    “There is something demoniacal or demonic in a line of flight. Demons are different from gods, because gods have fixed attributes, properties and functions, territories and codes: they have to do with rails, boundaries and surveys. What demons do is jump across intervals, and leap from one interval to another.”
    Gilles Deleuze, Clair Parnet Dialogues II p40

    “Busy in making themselves felt, the ganas were the comparitively infinitesmal quantities replete with the impulsion of his presence that swelled the host of the Great God. … The demonism and density of Siva’s entourage, which throbbed with the invisible and varied texture of feeling alive, was tinged with grotesque and lugubrious hues.”
    Stella Kramrisch, The Presence of Siva p395

    In the previous post, I examined Karraikal Aimmaiyar – “the woman who became a ghoul” and joined Siva’s ganas. This time, I’m going to take a closer look at Siva’s ganas – the hooligans of heaven. Continue reading »

  7. Multiplicious Becomings: tantric theologies of the grotesque – I

    “It can be said that becoming-animal is an affair of sorcery because (1) it implies an initial relation of alliance with a demon; (2) the demon functions as the borderline of an animal pack, into which the human being passes or in which his or her becoming takes place, by contagion; (3) this becoming itself implies a second alliance, with another human group; (4) this new borderline between the two groups guides the contagion of animal and human being within the pack. There is an entire politics of becomings-animal, as well as a politics of sorcery, which is elaborated in assemblages that are neither those of the family, nor of religion nor the State. Instead, they express minoritarian groups, or groups that are oppressed, prohibited, in revolt, or always on the fringe of recognised institutions, groups all the more secret for being extrinsic, in other words, anomic.”
    Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

    One of the major projects I am exploring here on enfolding is the sidling towards an (unnatural) alliance between Continental Philosophy, tantrisms, and queer theories. An obvious point of intersection between these three areas is the emphasis on multiplicities, metamorphosis, hybridity and the grotesque. Continue reading »

  8. Occult gender regimes: Polarity and Thermodynamic bodies – I

    “Star and nerve-tissue are parts of the system-stellar and nervous forces are correlated. Nay more; sensation awakens thought and kindles emotion, so that this wondrous dynamic chain binds into living unity the realms of matter and mind through measureless amplitudes of space and time.”
    Edward Youmans, 1869, The Correlation and Conservation of Force

    This post will examine the arrival of thermodynamics in the nineteenth century and consider its wider cultural impact – in particular how it was used to reinforce gender regimes. Continue reading »

  9. Sakti bodies – I

    “By you is everything supported, by you is the world created: by you is it protected, O Goddess, and you always consume (it) at the end (of time).
    At (its) emanation you have the form of creation; in (its) protection (you have) the form of steadiness; likewise at the end of the world (you have) the form of destruction. O you who consist of this world!
    You are the great knowledge (mahavidya), the great illusion (mahamaya), the great insight (mahamedha) the great memory and the great delusion, the great Goddess (Mahadevi), the great demoness (mahasuri).”
    Devimahatmya 1, 56-58

    Sakti is one of the most fundamental aspects of Tantra – and potentially, one of the most bewildering. Continue reading »

  10. Pan: Adolescent Panics in Forster and Saki

    “God went out (oddly enough with cricket and beer) and Pan came in.In a hundred novels his cloven hoof left its imprint on the sward; poets saw him lurking in the twilight on London commons, and literary ladies in Surrey, nymphs of an industrial age, mysteriously surrendered their virginity to his rough embrace.”
    Somerset Maugham, quoted in Hutton, Triumph of the Moon, p48

    For this post, I’m taking a cue from Patricia Merivale’s Pan the Goat-God: His Myth in Modern Times (Harvard Univ. Press, 1969). Merivale’s book is particularly useful as she focuses on the great upswell of appearences of Pan in English prose between 1890 and 1918. Literary representations of Pan in the fin de si├Ęcle change dramatically, from Pan as an essentially benevolent and transcendental figure, to a much darker character. Continue reading »