Yogini Ritual Dance Luisa Spagna

In the early nineties I went to Orissa to learn Odissi dance and I lived in Bhubaneswar for several months. After this first residence, I lived in Orissa many other times involving myself not only in Odissi dance but also in other cultural aspects among which the study of the sculptures of dancing women. It was for this reason that, between 1999 and 2000, I visited for the first time the Yogini temple at Hirapur in Orissa, where I came back many other times during my research.

In one of these residences, I was looking for the right subject for my new book when a very strong artistic inspiration showered over me: to write about the Yogini, in particular the Yogini temple of Hirapur and why not … to rebuild all the sculptures of the Yogini drawing them one by one. 

The call was so strong that I didn’t think it twice … anyway when the Yogini invite us to do something it is not possible at all to decline the invitation! So, I did it in a very inspired creative way.

While the results of the Yogini temples, history and meaning was published in the book “La danza segreta delle Yogini. Il tempio di Hirapur” (Venexia, Rome 2014), the artistic inspiration to rebuild the broken sculptures of the Yogini lead me to create an original artwork: the deck of oracle cards called Yogini of Hirapur Oracle composed by 64 cards of the Yogini and a card for Shiva Bhairava and one for the Katyayani. The deck includes a booklet in Italian and English language with the explanation of each oracle cards.

The artistic recreation was done in full respect of the tradition but, at the same time, in complete freedom to realize a very original artistic tool.

I never thought to do a visual art work! But, after having drawn 66 big paper (the original paper of the cards is A3+), I definitely feel to have gained an important experience in the field of visual art.

Soon after the publication, Yogini of Hirapur Oracle cards received the interest of many women from different part of the world. This is the reason why I always say that more than mine this is a project of the Yogini themselves!

The third phase of the Yogini research is the project Yogini Ritual Dance.

I will explain how Yogini, Dance, Ritual and Oracle come together in this project

Who are the Yogini

Briefly we say that Yogini belong to the Shakta Tantra tradition. They can be considered goddesses, demigoddesses, Shaman women, ogresses. As Yakshini they are also spirits of nature … but also women in flash and bones.

They have a benevolent, wrathful or theriomorphic aspect.

These three aspects are depicted in the oracle cards Yogini of Hirapur Oracle as well as enacted during the Yogini Ritual Dance.

What is Yogini Ritual Dance

Yogini Ritual Dance can be defined as an approach to heal and to the self- knowledge through the artistic expression of dance. It is a journey through the body, the heart and the soul re-awakened by the signs and symbols of the oracle cards Yogini of Hirapur Oracle.

The main characteristics of this dance project are:

– the use of the Hasta Mudras according to the system of the classical dances of India for their aesthetics and narrative aspects, but also for their healing, and energetic aspects according to yoga;

– the artistic expressivity of the whole body and,

– the choral choreographic process in which all the participants are involved in the creation of the dance items.

– and the use of the oracle deck Yogini of Hirapur Oracle.

In a session of Yogini Ritual Dance choreographic creation and performance of the group are part of a ritualistic moment shared in the time and space of the workshop. Chorality is a really relevant aspect of the Yogini Ritual Dance.

The ritual, creative and transformative aspects of the Yogini Ritual Dance emerge, take shape and are shared in the intimate space and time of the dance workshop. In this way the participants are completely at their ease to open up and experience the ritual of change that dance brings with itself.

Dance has the power to transform, to renew and recreate. These aspects linked to the ritual process are the best way to mark a path, to flow in the depths of the meaning and to go towards a changing process.

Yogini Ritual Dance is basically a healing process through the art of dance and the oracle. We cannot say if it is the dance which leads to the oracle or the oracle which manifests the dance. The two moments work together, interchanging and interacting at the same time.

What is an Oracle

Oracle is an ancient ritual that belongs to all the ancient civilizations and is still practiced in many traditional culture.

I live in Kerala and I have had many times the opportunity to see oracles during some of the traditional artforms. But Kerala is just one of the several examples I can mention.

The forms of the oracular languages are closely linked to the culture that expresses them. Hence, the Yogini of Hirpur Oracle speaks a contemporary language. Although the Yogini of Hirapur Oracle was inspired by the temple of Hirapur, it detaches itself from it to become a contemporary oracle. The wisdom of the Yoginis comes back to light but in a new context.

Divination is a creative process in which ingenuity and power, the ability to do and the ability to feel enable us to communicate with the veiled processes of the universe.

Prophetesses or prophets, enchantress and magicians, sibyls, witches and sorceress, poetesses and poets  – but I would include all the arts –  fall into that category in which the art of divination, in its various forms and systems, has always announced itself to human beings.

How Yogini, Ritual, Dance and Oracle work together?

Dance makes poetry with the body and, in some ways, a dancer may be considered as someone who prophesies with the body. As the dancer Bronislava Nižinskaja, underlying the aspect of empathy embedded in making Art as well as in proffering the oracle, said “Art and dance are capable to predict the future. They are like intuition”.

In Yogini Ritual Dance there is no ecstasy or trance, but a slight modified state of consciousness is activated by the work on the body which releases tensions and inhibitions.  In dance there is always a certain alteration of consciousness because, in order to move, tensions must be released. Opening your body, spreading your arms, moving your legs, shifting your weight, accepting to ‘move’ from where you are, always implies  the acceptance to release.

Thanks to a method of work based on the images of the oracle cards and the response of the oracle after the dance, Yogini Ritual Dance invites us to open to a more sensitive dimension. The response of the oracle with dance points out what kind of ‘energy’ I am dealing with. In Yogini Ritual Dance we always engage with our possibilities, never with our truths. Ultimately, we have to say that it is not even so much getting answers but asking questions. It is the right question that bridges the gap between the worlds and invites the oracle to cross the threshold to reveal us the answer.

During the dance with the oracle, we allow the body to ask questions and find deep answers which cannot be proffered through words. The questions and answers of the body do not necessarily have to be said by words. They rest in the depths of our bones, our muscles and our skin. They emerge in the way we experience our body. The questions and answers after a Yogini Ritual Dance session are showed by the dancing body itself. They are visible to us and to others for how, after the dance which has ritualized the existence, we move our body into the world.

Dance and the oracle are a dialogue with ourselves, with others and with the events of life. And the signs and symbols of the cards in the Yogini of Hirapur Oracle are important guides.

Both Dance and Oracle bring us back to our body which is the most essential and fundamental actor of magic.

The body, being a complex synthesis of different intelligences and languages, is the place where we experience various levels of existence and may lead us to do anything we have imagined. By means of dance and the oracle these levels may be experienced and crossed. They lead us to an understanding of existence and to a deeper participation to it.

To conclude we go back to Tantra Shakta tradition to which the Yogini belong to.

Tantra can be translated as woven together, Shakta is the power of the manifested energy in life.

I have not found the best way to be guided and healed by the Yogini than to wave the power of the existence through the dance and the oracle which themselves have inspired.

I will always be grateful to the Yogini for their precious presence in my life.

Luisa Spagna

Oracle Cards Yogini of Hirapur Oracle

Yogini Ritual Dance