Snake-related News Pieces

A fascinating piece from 1904 on snakes’ reputed power to hypnotize their prey: Aaron Ullrey
Nag Pancami controversy over worship of live snakes: Courtesy Lance Nelson (RISA Listserv)
Recent audio story from BBC Outlook about an out-of-work snake charmer from Bangladesh: Courtesy Alexander von Rospatt
BBC report on the Million Death Study in India, including reference to the latest reliable estimate of snakebite deaths in India: Courtesy Alexander von Rospatt
A new biomedical development for treating snakebite (somewhat over-hyped though): Courtesy Robert Bloodgood

Podcast on Curing Scorpion Sting with Mantras

Dr. Lakshminaryanan tells the story of being envenomed by a scorpion sting as a child, and the miraculous mantra cure by a village “faith-healer.”  This is a modern-day Gāruḍika cure, and it is interesting to speculate with Dr. Laksminarayan on the possibility of mantra-mediated placebo effects.

Thanks to Rebecca Grapevine of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor for sharing this with me.

Jain Tantra: The Jvālāmālinīkalpa and Bhairavapadmāvatīkalpa

In the medieval period, the Jains developed their own fascinating traditions of Mantra Śāstra, including useful sources that are closely related to the Gāruḍa and Bhūta Tantras.
I am pleased to be able to offer digital etexts of the Jvālāmālinīkalpa (input by Aaron Ullrey) and its descendent, the Bhairavapadmāvatīkalpa (input by Michael Slouber).  The former is based on a very faulty edition with Hindi translation (the only one available to my knowledge).  It deserves to be edited, but that would be a project that both Ullrey and myself do not have the time to take on at the moment.  The edition of the Bhairavapadmāvatīkalpa is much cleaner, therefore the digital text of that is more standardized.
The Jvālāmālinīkalpa even mentions Khaḍgarāvaṇa—a mantra-form of Śiva invoked in the Bhūta Tantras to overcome demonic possessors.  For more on Khaḍgarāvaṇa, see this post.
Jhaveri, the editor of much Jaina tantric literature, informs us that Vidyānuśāsana is the source of both texts, so digitizing that text should be our next endeavor!

Biting the snake that bites you

The BBC recently reported that a man in Nepal bit to death the cobra that bit him because he had been told by a snake charmer that it would prevent the harmful effects of the venom. Here is the link:
What few people know about this odd practice is that it is ancient and spans the subcontinent.  The Kāmaratna, a medieval and worldly tantra on a variety of topics says: “When a brave man who is bitten by a snake bites that same snake that bit him, he is freed upon the snake’s death and becomes free of the effects of the venom.” sarpadaṣṭo yadā vīras taṃ sarpo daṃśate svayam / mukto ‘sau mriyate sarpaḥ svayaṃ nirviṣatāṃ vrajet //  (p.117 of the Indrajālavidyāsaṃgraha collection edited by Vidyasagara 1915).  The Rasaratnākara says the same thing with better grammar (p.837, 1909 edition), as does the modern Keralan composition Viṣavaidyasārasamuccaya, a text that I have digitized and described in another post.
This seems to be a classical folk remedy—it is not typically part of the repertoire of the professional snakebite healer (gāruḍika).  It does, however, appear to be related to a practice more commonly mentioned of using a mantra to force the snake to come back and remove its venom from the victim via a second bite.  One can see a staging of this in the film Sree Krishnaparunthu (displayed in this blog post) at 1:21.
Well, the Nepalese man in the BBC story survived his bite, so with the press it has gotten, perhaps this old remedy for the brave/foolhardy victim will continue well into the 21st century.

क्षिप ॐ स्वाहा on the web

The Vipati mantra became the Gāruḍa mantra par excellence by the tenth century.  I discuss its early and elaborate ritual system at length in my impending dissertation, and here I collect the web references to it that I cite.  Each is given some amount of explanation there, but here I simply list:

There are even more links and references, but these are representative.

Gāruḍikas in the Cinema

IMDB Entry:
This 1984 Malayalam film by directors P. Bhaskaran and A. Vincent features actor Mohanlal as a neophyte Gāruḍika who battles various temptations from human and supernatural women while perfecting the famous Gāruḍa mantra.  His descent into debauchery and evil magic is long and dramatic, and only remedied at the end with the help of a mature mantravadin.  If only I understood Malayalam, there would be so many fascinating details to relate from this film.
I devote the better part of a chapter in my dissertation to the five-syllable Gāruḍa mantra, so I was delighted when Pondicherry scholar S.A.S. Sharma pointed out this film to me.  It reinforces my thesis that the mantra, and of course this entire profession, is important and well known, yet not acknowledged or understood by the scholarly community.

Haro vva Taṃḍavio

Photo from Flickr page of Prasad R.N.

“The violently shaking bite victim is like Hara dancing in a heap of ashes knocked loose by the shrieking hisses of Vāsuki [in as much as] his face is radiant with all of the [white] syllables [and since he] becomes free of the negative effects of the venom.”
A verse from the 9th century Saṃhitāsāra of Śaṅkuka, a work inspired by the Gāruḍa Tantras.  I am editing selections of it with Harunaga Isaacson.