The general appearance of the deities of the Vajrayana pantheon. Those of you who have seen tantric paintings and sculptures may have wondered why the deities wear necklaces of severed heads, ornaments of bone, and so forth, and also at the prevalence of animal skins, skeletons, weapons, and the like. Why, in Vajrayana iconography, is there so much of the macabre?
The answer is that the ornaments of bone, human and animal parts, weapons, and so on are all paraphernalia of the forces of evil as they are conceived of in our collective consciousness. The fact that they are now worn and wielded by Vajrayana deities symbolizes several things: (1) it symbolizes the victory of good over evil; (2) it indicates the use of the power of evil for the purpose of good; and most importantly, (3) it represents the union and transcendence of the duality of good and evil, nirvana and samsara.
On a mythical scale, this is how we are to understand the particular nature of the appearance of the Vajrayana deities--as an expression of the mastery and transformation of evil, and as an expression of the transcendence of the duality of good and evil. Peter Della Santina, The Vajrayana:Myth and Symbolism
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