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Author Topic: Thelema's 'Red Godess' and other modern "Blood Gods;" inspired by Hinduism?  (Read 1908 times)

EnderDragonFire

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I've recently been reading Crowley, and the 'Red Goddess' Babalon, whom he describes in Thelema sounds very similar to Chinnamasta, the Tantric Hindu blood Goddess. From their role in the cosmos, to what they represent, to their symbols and iconography, they're very similar.

I was wondering if anyone else has made that connection, and if there's any information about how much Crowley actually knew about Eastern mysticism? It's very clear that a large part of his inspiration did come from other cultures and belief systems, and he was reasonably well read and well traveled, but I also find it hard to believe that he had first hand experience with all of the initiatory traditions that he drew inspiration from. He probably exaggerated his own experience in order to make his magical pedigree seem larger than it really was; I imagine he probably read about other people's experiences and claimed them for himself.

Anyway, besides Crowly and his possible Hindu influences, I was wondering if the more general "Blood God(ess)" motif seen in many forms of Western occultism, Theosophy, and Chaos Magic might not be borrowed from Tantric Godesses. AFAIK, the motif didn't appear in Western magic until the 19th century, while it has existed for millenia in India.

Obviously, other cultures have blood deities as well, such as Mesoamerica, but when I look at the "Blood Gods" seen in modern Western occult traditions, they seem to have more in common with the Tantric Gods and Goddesses than with Mesoamerican ones.

So, was this motif borrowed from India? If not, where did it come from and why did it appear in Western occult practice suddenly in the 19th century?

"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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I was wondering if anyone else has made that connection, and if there's any information about how much Crowley actually knew about Eastern mysticism? It's very clear that a large part of his inspiration did come from other cultures and belief systems, and he was reasonably well read and well traveled, but I also find it hard to believe that he had first hand experience with all of the initiatory traditions that he drew inspiration from. He probably exaggerated his own experience in order to make his magical pedigree seem larger than it really was; I imagine he probably read about other people's experiences and claimed them for himself.

Anyway, besides Crowly and his possible Hindu influences, I was wondering if the more general "Blood God(ess)" motif seen in many forms of Western occultism, Theosophy, and Chaos Magic might not be borrowed from Tantric Godesses. AFAIK, the motif didn't appear in Western magic until the 19th century, while it has existed for millenia in India.

My impression from my pagan movement history research is that all the ceremonialists and mystics of the period were at least heavily familiar with Theosophy, which was The Prime Woo of the time, though Crowley's personal background was more in the Secret Mystical Lodges thread.  Blavatsky did in fact travel to India, but her affiliation was Arya Samaj, not tantric, and I don't know if they also had tantric affiliations.  I also don't know if the Neo-Vedanta developments of which that was a part exported tantric stuff.

I can well believe that having gotten a taste of Hindu thought Crowley would have gone looking for tantric practice, though, that being his bag.  His wikipedia entry does mention tantra (and yoga) as things he pilfered from.  Oh, okay, he did also travel in India and practiced yoga there, reading further; he studied at Meenakshi Temple, which is primarily a Shaivite destination, but includes icons of Vishnu.

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So, was this motif borrowed from India? If not, where did it come from and why did it appear in Western occult practice suddenly in the 19th century?

I would guess that an Indian origin is entirely plausible.
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Yei

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Obviously, other cultures have blood deities as well, such as Mesoamerica, but when I look at the "Blood Gods" seen in modern Western occult traditions, they seem to have more in common with the Tantric Gods and Goddesses than with Mesoamerican ones.

So, was this motif borrowed from India? If not, where did it come from and why did it appear in Western occult practice suddenly in the 19th century?

Although Mesoamerican influences show up in some very unlikely places, I don't think it had much of an influence on 19th -early 20th century occultism. Hinduism was exotic, but reachable thanks to the British Empire, while Mesoamerican polytheism had been pushed out of the cities and therefore out of focus, well before the birth of the Theosophists and similar movements. It was just simply out of site out of mind for the most part. It doesn't help that the most famous Mesoamerican people (The Mexica/Aztecs) have not been well regarded historically speaking.

However, during the 20th century Mesoamericans did become part of the 'New Age' mythos, thanks in large part to the 2012 phenomenon, which typically was based on a mistaken translation, which was corrected, but nobody noticed. In addition, the Toltecs have also become a minor focus for some New Age writers, as so little is known about them it is easy for authors to project their values onto the them, and add a few bits of Toltec imagery for spice. With the exception of Quetzalcoatl (who is likely the only Mesoamerican god who has widespread recognition, again for the wrong reasons), there doesn't appear to be much emphasis on gods directly.

Although, this may have changed in the last few years and I haven't kept up to date.

EnderDragonFire

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Although, this may have changed in the last few years and I haven't kept up to date.

Sounds about right. Most people don't even know the difference between Inca religion and Maya religion, and get their Gods and mythology mixed up, in my experience.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

Riothamus12

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I've recently been reading Crowley, and the 'Red Goddess' Babalon, whom he describes in Thelema sounds very similar to Chinnamasta, the Tantric Hindu blood Goddess. From their role in the cosmos, to what they represent, to their symbols and iconography, they're very similar.

I was wondering if anyone else has made that connection, and if there's any information about how much Crowley actually knew about Eastern mysticism? It's very clear that a large part of his inspiration did come from other cultures and belief systems, and he was reasonably well read and well traveled, but I also find it hard to believe that he had first hand experience with all of the initiatory traditions that he drew inspiration from. He probably exaggerated his own experience in order to make his magical pedigree seem larger than it really was; I imagine he probably read about other people's experiences and claimed them for himself.

Anyway, besides Crowly and his possible Hindu influences, I was wondering if the more general "Blood God(ess)" motif seen in many forms of Western occultism, Theosophy, and Chaos Magic might not be borrowed from Tantric Godesses. AFAIK, the motif didn't appear in Western magic until the 19th century, while it has existed for millenia in India.

Obviously, other cultures have blood deities as well, such as Mesoamerica, but when I look at the "Blood Gods" seen in modern Western occult traditions, they seem to have more in common with the Tantric Gods and Goddesses than with Mesoamerican ones.

So, was this motif borrowed from India? If not, where did it come from and why did it appear in Western occult practice suddenly in the 19th century?

Crowley was immensely influenced by Hindu and Buddhist ideas, in particular tantra, so perhaps this should not be surprising. However, I am curious as to what similarities between Chinnamasta and Babalon you see. It's a comparison I've not heard before.
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EnderDragonFire

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I am curious as to what similarities between Chinnamasta and Babalon you see. It's a comparison I've not heard before.

Well firstly, there's the association with unrestrained female sexuality; this is true of several Tantric Goddesses, not just Chinnamasta, and I wouldn't make the connection based on just that trait, but for the reasons I list below, Chinnamasta seems the most likely inspiration.

Secondly, they are both associated with the color red. Among the Mahavidyas, the only one who is associated with that color in Hinduism is Chinnmasta. While Babalon wears the color Red, Chinnamasta actually is the color red, in both cases the color symbolizes the same thing: blood.

That's the third point; Babalon is associated very strongly with blood. Human blood. Menstrual blood. Female blood. She is often depicted holding a chalice of blood... the exact same thing is true of Chinnamasta. Chinnamasta is always depicted with a chalice of her own blood.

Chinnamasta is a goddess of blood, and specifically of blood in association with female sexuality.  Moreso than the other Mahavidyas, she is something of a sex goddess (though they are all pretty sexual), and is associated with sexual rituals involving blood, basically sex magic.

Both Babalon and Chinnamasta are understood to engage in sexual acts in exchange for the participant's blood, a notion not found among other Tantric goddesses, just Chinnamasta.

There are other things as well that really make Babalon seem like a Tantric goddess more generally; the idea that her feminine energy empowers, and is necessary for the function of, her male divine counterpart; the fact that she is associated with chaos, and with maternity; all of these traits are found among Tantric goddesses. 

All of these commonalities could be dismissed if Babalon and Chinnamasta were equally ancient and long established deities from different parts of the world, but they aren't. Chinnamasta has existed since at least the ~300s BC in Hinduism, while Babalon was constructed in the 19th century, by a European who had been exposed to Indian religious ideas. In such circumstances, I find the idea that they're all coincidental to be unlikely.

« Last Edit: January 11, 2019, 09:18:27 am by EnderDragonFire »
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

Micheál

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So, was this motif borrowed from India? If not, where did it come from and why did it appear in Western occult practice suddenly in the 19th century?
Crowley, and other western occultists were familar with eastern mysticism, however I believe Egyptian deities to be  of more influence to Thelema, and the Bible to Babalon. Aligning himself with "The Beast 666" of Revelations, Crowley drew from the symbolism of the whore of Babylon, the Sacred Whore of unrestriction that rides the beast, and embodied his Scarlet Woman.

The similarities are interesting though. It's possible he was aware of it as well for sure. He liked mixing things together.

Micheál

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I've recently been reading Crowley, and the 'Red Goddess' Babalon, whom he describes in Thelema sounds very similar to Chinnamasta, the Tantric Hindu blood Goddess.
Actually looking at 777, even though it's a Qabalistic writing, there are many different influences and correspondences listed, and Chinnamasta does not appear in the list of Hindu deities.

That's not to say that other western esoterists haven't made that association though.

EnderDragonFire

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That's not to say that other western esoterists haven't made that association though.

Just because it's not listed doesn't mean it wasn't present.

I mean, the Biblical/Christian/Western literature regarding the whore of Babylon, pre-Crowley, didn't really delve deeply into the sexual symbolism of the figure. Wherever he got that from, he didn't get it from Western culture.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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