One of the 10 Mahavidyas, which are aspects of Shakti.
Mahavidya means great knowledge.
The 10 Mahavidyas are central to the Shakta aspect of Tantra.
Their names are Kali (Time); Tara (Star); Tripura Sundari (beauty of the 3 worlds); Bhuvaneshwari (queen of the Universe); Tripur Bhairaivi (terror of the 3 worlds); Chinnamasta (self-severed head); Dhumavati (smoke coloured one); Baghla Muki (she who stops speech); Matangi (Intellect); Kamala (She of the Lotus).
Chinnamasta is the most ferocious. Linked also to the Tibetan formed of Vajrayogini called Chinnamunda. Both names mean ‘’self-severed’’ ~ referring to her own decapitated body.
In The Secret Dakini Oracle, Chinnamasta is described thus......
‘’she represents the channelling of energy upwards to the fulfilment stage...she holds a kundalini serpent which indicates that she has harnessed the raw energy of her Base centre (mooladhara), a skull bowl filled with blood (symbolising..renunciation and compassion),...and her own decapitated head (symbolising her egoless transcendence). From her neck flow 3 streams of blood, indicating the three main psychic arteries are open to receive fulfilment...at her neck is a fine sapphire, meaning that the original Voidness of space is inherent in her...’’
‘’ Chhinnamasta is associated with the concept of self-sacrifice as well as the awakening of the kundalini – spiritual energy. She is considered both as a symbol of self-control on sexual desire as well as an embodiment of sexual energy, depending upon interpretation. She symbolizes both aspects of Devi: a life-giver and a life-taker. Her legends emphasize her sacrifice – sometimes with a maternal element, her sexual dominance and her self-destructive fury’’ (Wikipedia)
Shaktas find their power within. They are not looking for outside initiation, or power to descend. They are self- initiating, looking for direct, personal experience. The severing of Chinnamastas head represents this radical self affirmation. Chinnamasta is related to Manipura chakra, the fire of will in the body. She combines eros and thanatos in an image of utter self-control. Chinnamasta represents transformation, duality united.
‘’ Chinnamasta whose representation is headless, is the Great Cosmic Power who helps the sincere and devoted yogi to dissolve his or her mind, including all the ideas, attachments, habits, preconceived ideas into the Pure Divine Consciousness, helping him or her to transcend the mind and to merge with the supra-mental state (unmana) of the Divine Beatific Void.’’ (sivasakti.com)
Chinnamasta represents renunciation of the body and the mind.
Some representations of Chinnamasta show her naked with pronounced sexual organs, reminiscent of the Sheela-na-gigs in Ireland. These are a very ancient prototype of the Creatrix.
If we want to enjoy God, we should lop off our head from our body, and hold it in our hands. We should set all our belongings on fire, and should not look behind. We should be as bold, says Tuka, as a fly, which falls straight into a flame
(from ''Chinnamasta ~ the Aweful Buddhist and Hindu Tantric'')
OM TAT SAT