Each year, for the past twenty-five years, we’ve taken our pilgrims to a snake temple on the outskirts of the local village. This is no ordinary temple. Upon entry, we are greeted with an image of a beautiful goddess hooded with a five-headed serpent and the body of a snake. What is remarkable about this temple is that a live serpent dwells here in the form of a female cobra.
Eggs and milk are left out daily and are consumed by the snake that dwells in a large mound covered with turmeric as a sign of healing and worship. There is also a stone form of the goddess inside, upon which the priest pours liquids for special pujas. He performed a rather remarkable ritual for us, during which we chanted many of the mantras we use in our school, along with mudras, to engage the experience.
The original snake cults that are also associated with fertility cults continue to be integrated into the Tantric form of Hinduism that dominates popular Hinduism today, especially in our native state of Tamilnadu. The form of Tantra we practice, Sri Vidya, is a form of Shaktiism in which the feminine is the Absolute Reality. She is so highly revered that she is, in some instances, depicted with her leg on Shiva’s head, demonstrating her dominance over him.
Snake cults in India go back a very long time. From ancient times, these stones with serpents on them helped the people of Tamilnadu connect to a healing power that emanated from the earth. The Nagas, a mythical race dwelling below the earth, are partially associated with this sensitivity. The stones are mesmerizing. They are smeared with turmeric or holy ash as a form of reverence. It is human consciousness interacting with the stones that increase their power, meaning they become invested with consciousness and become repositories of heightened consciousness.
The reason this information is shared with you is to inspire your Tantric practice if it is something you are interested in. Tantra, particularly our path of Sri Vidya, is a form of Gnosticism. There is an alchemical aspect that touches upon healing, which is why turmeric, sandalwood powder, and sacred ash are essential to our practices, specifically to connect to the healing aspects of this type of Gnosticism.
Recently, when posting an image of these serpent stones on Facebook, I was asked if we are allowed to touch these healing stones. People do touch the stones to daub powders like sacred ash or turmeric or to wash them. Otherwise, they are revered because it is what emanates from them the people seek to make contact with.
Having sacred images and sacred objects on our altar, or even having a sacred space at home dedicated to our practice, from the Tantric perspective, is not enough. Simply going to this area to do one’s daily practice does not by itself increase the potency of the space or those objects. The objects and the space need to be consecrated regularly with mantras and rituals and sacred powders and smells. It is this type of activity that charges the objects and the space with vibrations and energies.
When we visit temples in India, there is a difference between walking into a temple that is alive with daily worship and an ancient temple that is merely a wonderful archeological site. It is the spaces that are alive with daily worship that have an energy to them that awakens something deep inside us.
In quite the same way, our place of spiritual practice at home will tend to atrophy if we do not charge it regularly because, from the Tantric perspective, spiritual energy is constantly being drained from any environment in which spiritual activity takes place.
In our Yogic Mystery School, we begin the study of healing Tantric rituals with Saraswati Puja. Presently, this course also teaches the Gayatri Upasana as a way of being Transformed By the Light when engaging the full scope of the Gayatri mantra practice that involves sacred gestures and ritualistic actions combined with uttered mantras. This classic Tantric process is sourced in Vedic tradition.
How come? Because Sri Vidya Tantra, specifically the form we practice, is not anti-orthodoxy. Instead, it upholds the authority of the Vedas. It includes many traditional Vedic practices and rituals, although it has its own unique set of practices and rituals that are exclusively Tantric.
We, in our Yogic Mystery School, go even further than typical Sri Vidya because we are deeply aware of avoiding spiritual bypassing, that is, taking the position that energy practices by themselves can address our need for healing. We believe that Western psychology and reason are just as important to our healing process. Ideally, when the two complement each other—psychology and Gnosticism, and without either compromising their integrity, profound levels of healing can occur in the individual.
Asha and I are dedicating this year to the study of healing processes, which is why we will work closely in developing new courses and approaches to wholeness and healing.