The flaying knife (gri gug – hooked-knife) is a curved, crescent-shaped or hooked knife with a vajra handle. It is also called a Kyi gri (sKyi gri – knife for flaying or scraping a hide) and owes its origin to the butcher’s knife of ancient India. Associated with these are: the gri kug – iron hook; the gri gu – curved knife; the gu-gri (rGyu gri) – gutting knife; the sahn-gri (bShan gri) – butcher’s dagger; the pi chag – large butcher’s knife; the tsé-geng (rTse sGreng ba) – scimitar; and the zang-gri (zangs gri) – copper knife.
This gri-gug has been used in several gö-kar chang lo ordination dances because it is of a large size suitable for dancing. It is fashioned of gilded copper and was made in the 17th century. It is one of the treasures of the Confederate Sanghas of Aro. It was first used by Khandro Déchen in 1992 when she performed the Aro dakini dance at ‘Bird Rock’ in the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales – a place where Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen have often given teachings and transmissions. In this particular dance (and with Vajrayana symbolism generally) the gri-gug is held in the right hand as a symbol of active compassion or method – and the skull bowl in the left as a symbol of wisdom or penetrating insight.