Kulachudamani Tantra is a nigama, meaning that instead of Devi asking questions answered by Lord Shiva (agama), he asks questions answered by Devi, the goddess. In this tantra the cult goddess is Mahishamardini, a Devi with some similarities to Durga.
In seven short chapters, Devi expounds the essence of her worship, sometimes in beautiful and nearly always in colourful language. But the uncanny side of Kaula and Kali worship is dwelt on in great detail, with references to siddhi, including a mysterious process where the tantrik adept leaves his body at night, apparently so he can engage in sexual intercourse with Shaktis.
These uncanny elements may well have code meanings and be intended to throw the unwary off the scent. See, for example, the Jnana Karika, which gives an entirely different slant to crossroads, Kula trees, Kula wine and the like.
Animal sacrifice also appears to have a place in this tantra, as well as gruesome magical matters, including using the bones of a dead black cat to make a magical powder. Please don’t try this at home.
To read the abstract of the text provided in Sir John Woodroffe’s Tantrik Text series (here) you would have little idea of this.
When, under the pseudonym of Arthur Avalon, he produced this series, at the beginning of the 20th century, the fact that an Englishman and a High Court judge would interest himself in even orthodox Hinduism no doubt caused eyebrows to rise and lips to be pursed amongst his peers.
As well as including that introduction, we also here provide our translation, first published in Azoth magazine in the early 1980s.
Although far from being completely happy with this rendition, it does give a flavour of the content which you would be unlikely to get if you relied just on the Tantrik Texts abstract. Chapter seven remains to be translated.
The siddhis – or magical powers – play a large part in this text. The main tantriki rites are called the six acts (shatkarma) of pacifying, subjugating, paralysing, obstructing, driving away, and death-dealing. But the Kulachudamani includes others such as Parapurapraveshana, which is the power of reviving a corpse; Anjana, which lets a sËdhaka see through solid walls; Khadga which gives invulnerability to swords; Khecari, which gives the power of flying and Paduka siddhi, magical sandals which take you great distances, rather like seven league boots.
Certainly, the importance of having a suitable Shakti forms the essence of the instructions Devi gives to Shiva. We see this emphasis over and over again, throughout the tantra.
Devi here takes the form of Mahishamardini, more popularly known as Durga, who destroyed the two arch-demons Sumbha and Nisumbha in an epic battle between the goddess and the throng of demons. It was at this time, according to legend, that Durga created Kali, by emanating her out of her third eye.
We learn more of Durga’s legends and myths from the Kalikapurana, an influential source in Kaula tantra. The Devi, Mahamaya, appeared as Bhadra Kali – identical with Mahishamardini – according to the same text, in order to slay the demon Mahisha. He had fallen into a deep sleep on a mountain and had a terrible dream in which Bhadra Kali cut asunder his head with her sword and drank his blood.
The demon started to worship Bhadra Kali and when Mahamaya appeared to him again in a later age to slaughter him again, she asked a boon of her. Devi replied that he could have his boon, and he asked her for the favour that he would never leave the service of her feet again. Devi replied that his boon was granted. “When you have been killed by me in the fight, O demon Mahisha, you shall never leave my feet, there is no doubt about it. In every place where worship of me takes place, there (will be worship) of you; as regards your body, O Danava, it is to be worshipped and meditated upon at the same time.” (Kalikapurana, ch.62, 107-108. There is now a complete English translation of this purana — see Bibliography for details.)