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Heroic Hindu Goddess

The mighty god Vishnu took on many forms and incarnations—the demon-slaying goddess Mohini is one of them. Her name is closely related to several Sanskrit words such as 'bewildering', 'illusion,' and 'deluding.' The words 'tricky' or 'clever' seem to come pretty close to conveying this esteemed lady's name.

The tale is told of a mighty demon called Bhasma ('ash' like the remains from a fire, not the tree of that name). Bhasma managed to score a very dangerous superpower for himself—anything he touched would, appropriately enough, turn to ashes. Needless to say, this concerned the gods a bit; how are you supposed to rein in a guy who can turn your weapons into ash as they hit him?

Cunning Mohini was up to the task. She went straightaway to the demon's lair, then started a sexy dance. Bhasma got pretty distracted, and the goddess said "If you can imitate my dance exactly, you can have me." Or words very much to that effect.

Perhaps Bhasma was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, or maybe his intellect was inversely proportional to his lust, but he agreed. The two then proceeded to do their own Vedic-era version of Dirty Dancing, with the monster successfully copying her every move. She then placed her hands on her head. He did exactly the same and, well, even a mighty demon can't survive having his own head turned to ash.

Mohini, always good against demons, also outwitted some bad guys who were trying to steal the magical ambrosia that was forming when the gods churned the primeval sea of milk (using a huge mountain as a churner and another avatar of Vishnu, a turtle named Kurmavatara, as a fulcrum). It also seems that Vishnu used this form to trick and seduce the god Shiva at some point (something those gods always seem to be doing to one another, whatever the culture).

(This writeup would be for BrevityQuest 2007, if such a thing actually existed, which, lamentably, it does not)

Larrington, Carolyne, editor, "The Feminist Companion to Mythology" (Pandora, London, 1992).
jordan, Michael, "Encyclopedia of Gods" (Facts on File, New York, 1993).
(also a couple of Google searches for information about the Sanskrit meanings of her name)