Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Text, warp and woof
Due to the textile origin of the term tantra (from tan- 'to weave'), one might suggest the idea that it denoted at first the "texture" (note the same metaphor at work in "text") of a ritual, upon which successive rites could have been applied exactly as different kinds of weaving could be woven on the same rough warp.
Jan Gonda analogously emphasises the textile imagery on which this ritual terminology is based, by mentioning «the distinction between the ‘warp’ (tantra) and the ‘woof’ (āvāpa) of a sacrificial rite, that is of the framework, standing model, or those components which has in common with other rites and those that vary from ritual to ritual and are therefore the special characteristic features» (Gonda 1977:510).
Unfortunately, a lexica mention 'woof' as a possible meaning of āvāpa and the etymology supports it, I do not know of any attestation of āvāpa bearing this meaning if not in the context of a contrast to tantra.
How much does this pre-history influence the later history of tantra as "Sacred Text"?
On tantra, see here.