Dakini – Sky Dancers; Cloud Fairies; Celestial Women; Space Travelers; Sky Walkers

Dakinis are flying female spirits, sources of inspiration and power. They are protective and terrifying. Although often described as dangerous (some allegedly have a taste for human flesh), they may operate as personal guardian spirits and are invoked for initiation into the secrets of Tantra. Dakinis teach, assist, and initiate great yogis (and yoginis, too).

In pre-Buddhist times, the word dakini denoted female death spirits found at battlefields, cemeteries, and cremation grounds, possibly similar to a Valkyrie. In modern Hindi, dakin is a “witch.” Dakini is often translated into English variously as “Fairy,” “Fury,” or “yogini.” They are sometimes defined as “Spirits of Wrath.” Some Dakinis are full-fledged Buddhas. They have male counterparts, called Dakas, or in Tibetan, Khadro. Some are of celestial origin, but others are mortal women who acquired the requisite power and wisdom and transformed into Dakinis.

Dakinis are now most famous as Kali’s attendants. However, from the ninth through at least the thirteenth centuries, they were venerated at their very own temples throughout India. Shrines centered on Tantric practice and adoration of sixty-four Dakinis. Dakini rituals were practiced well into the sixteenth century, when for now unknown reasons they began to fade from mainstream Hindu religion. Temples were eventually abandoned, but many buildings still remain and may be visited. (They were architecturally unique in India as they lack roofs, perhaps to allow the Dakini, sky riders, to fly in and out.)


Khadroma (Tibetan)




Dakini manifest as beautiful, desirable, naked, but potentially raging and dangerous women. They may appear with a woman’s body but an animal’s head, usually avian, canine, equine, or leonine. Be forewarned: they are shape-shifters who may not be immediately recognizable. (Alternatively, they must be recognized with the inner or third eye.)


Shamans who contact them wear masks of the bird or animal associated with a specific dakini, for instance Vyaghravaktra, the Tiger Face dakini.


Curved knife, indicating their ability to slice through obstacles and ignorance; a skull cup containing blood; five bone ornaments


Dakini Feasts are held on the tenth and twenty-fifth days of the month by those initiated into Dakini Tantric traditions.



Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.