Explaining Mantras explores the intersection of poetry and magic in the mantras or verbal formulas of Hindu Tantra. Drawing upon linguistics, semiotics, anthropology and philosophy, as well as the history of religions, the author argues that mantras and other ritual discourses use rhetorical devices, including imitation, to construct the persuasive illusion of a "natural language", one with a direct and immediate connection to reality. This vital relation between poetry and ritual has been neglected in many current theories of religion. Explaining Mantras combines the study of ancient Tantric rituals with the latest theories in the human sciences, and will be of interest to a broad range of readers.

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