1st Edition

Tantra, Magic, and Vernacular Religions in Monsoon Asia Texts, Practices, and Practitioners from the Margins

Edited By Andrea Acri, Paolo E. Rosati Copyright 2023
    230 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores the cross- and trans-cultural dialectic between Tantra and intersecting ‘magical’ and ‘shamanic’ practices associated with vernacular religions across Monsoon Asia. With a chronological frame going from the mediaeval Indic period up to the present, a wide geographical framework, and through the dialogue between various disciplines, it presents a coherent enquiry shedding light on practices and practitioners that have been frequently alienated in the elitist discourse of mainstream Indic religions and equally overlooked by modern scholarship.

    The book addresses three desiderata in the field of Tantric Studies: it fills a gap in the historical modelling of Tantra; it extends the geographical parameters of Tantra to the vast, yet culturally interlinked, socio-geographical construct of Monsoon Asia; it explores Tantra as an interface between the Sanskritic elite and the folk, the vernacular, the magical, and the shamanic, thereby revisiting the intellectual and historically fallacious divide between cosmopolitan Sanskritic and vernacular local.

    The book offers a highly innovative contribution to the field of Tantric Studies and, more generally, South and Southeast Asian religions, by breaking traditional disciplinary boundaries. Its variety of disciplinary approaches makes it attractive to both the textual/diachronic and ethnographic/synchronic dimensions. It will be of interest to specialist and non-specialist academic readers, including scholars and students of South Asian religions, mainly Hinduism and Buddhism, Tantric traditions, and Southeast Asian religions, as well as Asian and global folk religion, shamanism, and magic.

    Acknowledgement; Introduction, Andrea Acri; 1. More Pre-Tantric Sources of Tantrism: Skulls and Skull-Cups, Ronald M. Davidson; 2. Charnel Ground Items, Śmāśānikas, and the Question of the Magical Substratum of the Early Tantras, Aleksandra Wenta and Andrea Acri; 3. Shamans and Bhūta Tāntrikas: A Shared Genealogy? Michael Slouber; 4. Female Gaṇeśa or Independent Deity? Tracing the Background of the Elephant-faced Goddess in Mediaeval Śaiva Tantric Traditions, Chiara Policardi; 5. Crossing the Boundaries of Sex, Blood, and Magic in the Tantric Cult of Kāmākhyā, Paolo E. Rosati; 6. ‘Let us Now Invoke the Three Celestial Lights of Fire, Sun and Moon into Ourselves’: Magic or Everyday Practice? Revising Existentiality for an Emic Understanding of Śrīvidyā, Monika Hirmer; 7. Narrative Folklore of Khyāḥ from Tantra to Popular Beliefs: Supernatural Experiences at the Margins among Newar Communities in the Kathmandu Valley, Fabio Armand; 8. Magical Tantra in Bengal, Bali, and Java: From Piśāca Tāntrikas to Balians and Dukuns, June McDaniel; 9. Tantrism and the Weretiger Lore of Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia, Francesco Brighenti


    Andrea Acri is tenured Assistant Professor in Tantric Studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE, PSL University) in Paris, France. His publications include the monograph Dharma Pātañjala (2011), as well as various edited volumes, including Esoteric Buddhism in Mediaeval Maritime Asia (2016). His main research and teaching interests are Śaiva and Buddhist Tantric traditions, Indian philosophy, Yoga studies, Sanskrit and Old Javanese philology, and the comparative religious history of South and Southeast Asia from the premodern to the contemporary period, with special emphasis on connected histories and intra-Asian maritime transfers.

    Paolo E. Rosati received his PhD in Asian and African Studies from ‘Sapienza’ University of Rome, Italy. He has published a double special issue on Tantra for Religions of South Asia (14/1–2) in 2020, and several contributions on the yoni cult at Kāmākhyā. His current research focuses on magic, memory, and cultural identity in postcolonial Tantric contexts.

    The contributors provide nuanced insights into Tantra’s practices and beliefs in Monsoon Asia through meticulous analyses of texts, fieldwork, and historical contexts. This volume significantly contributes to Tantric studies by adopting a chronological approach, from the medieval Indic period to the present, covering several geographic areas and drawing on fields including anthropology, religious studies, history, and philology. [... The book] is a valuable resource for scholars and students studying religion. It will appeal to those interested in the psychology of religion, South Asian religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Southeast Asian religions. -- Vineet Gairola, Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad, India, Asian Affairs 54.3