One of these is Mahakala, the lord of time, whose physical appearance is revealing: with a powerful black warrior’s body, protruding teeth and bulging eyes, he bears the sword, a skull cup, and a conch shell or victory banner as he rides the snow tiger or lion, unless he is treading on a pig, snake or cock, emblematic of the three poisons. He symbolizes the strength that destroys the illusion which hinders the attainment of Enlightenment. He is the other face of Chenresig.
Equally ambivalent ferocious deities include Yamantaka, the slayer of the lord of death, and Palden Lhamo, the only feminine expression among the great ferocious protective deities. She forms a couple with Mahakala, and her origin dates back to the Hindu goddess Shri Devi. Carried on a mule, her hair bristling ferociously around her head, she wears a necklace of skulls and her distinctive attribute is an umbrella of peacock feathers. A bloodstained head of an enemy of her religion often hangs from her saddle. In painting and embroidery, she often has an aureole of flames expressing her dynamic activity. A third eye normally adorns her forehead, and the grin she wears revealing two protruding teeth is far from reassuring. She has nevertheless been dubbed “the Glorious Goddess,” often has a moon in her hair and a sun on her navel, and is considered as the protector of Lhasa.