- Define the following terms in your own words: “Trance,” “meditation,” and “hypnosis.” (min. 25 words per definition, dictionary definition does not count toward final word count.)
Trance, meditation, and hypnosis are differing methods of getting the brain to an altered state. Arguably, trance could be considered that altered state, and meditation and hypnosis would be two possible ways to get there.
Trance is an altered state of consciousness that allows the brain to see, experience, and react to more possibilities. When the body enters a trance state there are mental and physiological changes that happen, and can be perceived by the person experiencing trance, and often by outside observations as well. Within a religious context, trance can be used to gain spiritual knowledge through visions, to deeply experience the gods, and to focus magical intent.
Meditation is a method of reaching an altered state, whether it’s trance, relaxation, or focused contemplation. It is often an experience that focuses on going within oneself in order to make sense of that which is outside oneself. Within a religious context, meditation can be used to reach a quiet mind to allow for communion with the gods and spirits, to gain knowledge of spiritual tools through thought and contemplation, to reflect on religious experiences, and to examine one’s personal values and ethics as they relate to one’s spirituality.
Hypnosis is also a method of reaching an altered state, often thought to border on an empty and susceptible mind. Hypnosis is most often induced by someone other than that person experiencing the altered state. It is often used to condition the mind to certain behaviors through the power of suggestion. Within a religious context, hypnosis can be used to augment meditation and trance work in ritual by providing the brain with shortcuts. For example, a musical signal to begin ritual, once conditioned, could be used to quickly cause the brain to switch from the worries of the mundane world to being open to experiences the energy swirl within a ritual.
- Give a brief history of hypnosis. (min. 300 words)
Hypnos is the Greek god of sleep, who was often pictured with “a horn of sleep-inducing opium” among other things. It is from him that we get the word hypnosis (Atsma). The practice of hypnosis appears to have begun in Egypt, and later spreading to Greece. Special “sleep temples” were built where people could come to seek healing. They would enter the temple, undergo various rituals, and then sleep to dream for a cure (Hypnosis in History).
It is through the work of Dr. Franza Anton Mesmer that we are familiar with hypnosis today. Mesmer coined the term “animal magnetism” to refer to a fluid flowing through each person’s body that effected their health, and that this fluid could be manipulated through mesmerism to cure or debilitate them. Mesmer seemed to have extraordinary control over other individuals, mainly through the power of suggestion, since the theory regarding the “fluid” was proven wrong (Hypnosis in History).
Many of the continuing studies following Mesmer related back to the idea of sleep. These studies related Mesmer’s techniques back to their ancient origins, such as sleepwalking and lucid sleep. In the 1840s, Dr. James Braid coined the term “hypnosis” and “hypnotism.” Because he was a credited doctor, he lent credibility to hypnosis, and conducted studies involved the traditional swinging pendulum to produce states of hypnosis (Hypnosis in History).
As research progressed, more traditions and methods were studied, including shamanistic ways of trance induction and its uses. Hypnosis for healing continued to evolve, and in the mid-1900s hypnotherapy regained popularity thanks to Milton H. Erikson and his use of hypnosis to treat chronic pain. Hypnotherapy today is used for everything from pain management to anxiety to addiction to replacing anesthesia during surgery (“Hypnotherapy”).
- Describe Neuro-Linguistic programming. (min. 100 words)
Neuro-linguistic programming is the general idea that the way you present yourself externally will help you to manifest your goals. This includes the multitude of ways that we communicate, both verbally and non-verbally. What this means is, it is not only the words that you use and the emphasis you put on them, but also the gestures and other nonverbal cues that you give, that lend to your overall effectiveness in communication. It is like poetry of the body, in a sense. Each choice you make in how you communicate something will have an effect on the outcome of the interaction. This idea of communication doesn’t have to apply only to interpersonal communication. It also allows for a degree of self-analysis in the way we think about a situation in order to gain more control over it (Bandler).
Bandler has suggested that neuro-linguistic programming and its techniques are especially useful for therapists helping their clients overcome a multitude of issues, such as elimination of phobias, breaking destructive habits, and aiding in learning disabilities (Bandler ii). Part of this has to do with building rapport with a client, and using the same kind of words that they are in order to communicate on their level, in a way that they understand. Most people will describe experiences mainly in a visual, physical, or aural sense. When the therapist matches the type of word that they use to the type of word the client is using, a rapport is built (15-6).
This can apply to guiding others through a guided meditation or trance induction. For a small group of people, if they all think in the same mode, visual for example, you can focus your descriptions using mainly visual describing words (look, see, etc). Likewise, if you’re leading a meditation for a larger group you would want to be sure to differentiate your descriptions so that each person can relate to what you are trying to have them sense. For example, you could say, “Look at the trees around you and see how lush and green their leaves are. Feel the rough bark running up the trunk and the wet, cushiony soil beneath your toes. Listen as the wind rustles through the leaves and the birds sing back to it.” In this brief description, I’ve included visual cues (the trees are lush and green), physical cues (the bark is rough and the soil is wet), and aural cures (the wind is making the leaves move and the birds are singing). In this way, using the techniques presented in neuro-linguistic programming can help increase the buy-in to the trance experience when doing a guided meditation or spirit journey.
- Identify and describe three instances where trance is found in ancient Indo-European cultures. (min. 150 words each instance)
In many Indo-European cultures it appears that trance, and trance work are often linked to divination of some sort. Trance often appears to be a common method that is used to gain knowledge, inspiration, or skills by allowing a person to tap into a higher state of consciousness, access a more knowledgeable or skilled authority, or achieve a more deeply connected mindset.
The first example of this comes from Ancient Greece, where the oracle of Delphi (the Pythia), an enthusiastic medium, was said to sit above a chasm in the rock, on a three legged stool, and breathe in the vapors of the mountain. The ancients believed these vapors were the breath of Apollo, and by breathing it in, he (or his daimons) would possess her and speak through her (Johnston 44-7). This is the idea that “when this prophetic potency mixes with the Pythia’s body, it opens up channels through which her soul can receive impressions of the future” (46-7). This matches my definition of trance as an altered state of consciousness that allows the brain to see, experience, and react to more possibilities.
Iamblichus, a philosopher in the 3rd century CE, proposes a slightly more modern concept that rather than the vapor being the cause of the prophecy, it is instead what triggers the Pythia to enter a prophetic state (Johnston 47). This idea was deemed plausible in the late 20th century by researchers who determined that two fault lines converged under the aduton (the room where the Pythia delivered prophecies) that released a mixture of ethylene, ethane, and methane. “Small doses of ethylene produce an altered state of consciousness during which people feel euphoria and have out of body experiences, but remain lucid enough to answer questions” (Johnston 48-9). This supports the idea that initially the Pythia may have inhaled the hallucinogenic gases, but that as time passed the smell of the vapor would have triggered the altered state. It is hypothesized that it was only a trigger because it was only the Pythia who entered the trance state and prophesied, and not the priests and consultants who were in the outer chambers (49).
The trigger of smell, as well as the constant conditioning of going through the same ritualistic actions before delivering a prophecy (ex: bathing in the spring, fumigating with laurel leaves, dressing in white robes and wearing a laurel crown, going down to her chamber and sitting on the three-legged stool to breathe in the sweet smelling vapors) is indicative of the Pythia entering a trance state in order to do her job. These triggers were sensitizes by the repetition of the actions, month after month (Johnston 50). The Oracle of Delphi, the Pythia, is an example of a person who has attained a trance state in order to gain knowledge from a more knowledgeable authority, in this case, Apollo.
Another example from Greece that demonstrates individuals entering a trance state are the records of the Eleusinian Mysteries. The worshipers would drink cold barley water during some of their rituals. This cold barley water was likely infected with ergot, a fungus that grows on cereals and contains similar compounds to those found in LSD, lysergic acid (Wasson 8-10). In addition to the likelihood of the Ancient Greeks having access to some form of hallucinogen, there is also record of ecstatic dancing where “when at last [the pilgrims] arrived at Eleusis, they danced far into the night” (12). The celebrants were said to have visions within the sanctuary where the ritual was performed, and to experience physical symptoms, such as “fear and trembling in the limbs, vertigo, nausea, and a cold sweat” (13). The wine, the gift of Dionysos, was the medium by which the celebrants of both the Lesser and Greater Mysteries would have partaken of the hallucinogen. “At sacral events, the wine would be more potent [than wine drunk in social situations] and the express purpose of the drinking was to induce that deeper drunkenness in which the presence of the deity could be felt” (15). The worshipers of Demeter, Kore, and Dionysos are examples of people who attained a trance state in order to find a more deeply connected mindset to divinity.
Similar experiences to the Eleusinian Mysteries were said to be induced by drinking soma in the Vedic culture. As referenced in the Rig Veda, Soma causes an altered state, where the drinker of the soma-juice is granted great knowledge, skills, power, and inspiration.
Soma is called “a sacred Bard, a Sage; the meath is offspring of thy sap” (RV 9.18). This hymn refers to Soma himself as the Bard and Sage, who grants divine inspiration and knowledge. He is the ultimate giver of knowledge, skills and wisdom. Meath translates to “mead” or “honey wine.” This is similar to how within ADF we refer to the “the mead of inspiration.” Soma gives us the inspiration, and all who partake of that juice gain the knowledge of the bard and the sage. For example, when Indra drinks of the soma-juice, he gains skills that allow him to be inspired and compose as a bard who has trained for years would. He claims, after partaking of Soma, “as a wright bends a chariot-seat so round my heart I bend the hymn” (RV 10.119). Another hymn has a refrain line that calls to Soma to “make us better than we are,” which is to say, grant us skills and wisdom we didn’t have before (RV 9.4).
In addition to granting inspiration and knowledge, the soma juice seems to have the ability to effect in the drinker an ecstatic state, that can either be a deeply connected mindset, or result in what most today would call a bad trip. The speaker of this hymn calls to Soma: “Gracious, displaying tender love, unconquered, gentle in thy thoughts, Be sweet, O Soma, to our heart. / O Soma, terrify us not; strike us not with alarm” (RV 8.68). This references the physiological and psychological changes that happen in a trance state.
Wasson, who wrote about the likelihood of hallucinogenic drugs in connection with Eleusis, also suggested a similar plant compound that was found in both India and Iran that could be linked to Soma. While still controversial, he suggested that the plant used to make Soma was the mushroom Amanita muscaria. In another interesting connection across cultures, the raven, which is associated with Odin, was noted in antiquity to relish this particular mushroom. “In ancient Egypt the Amanita muscaria mushroom was called ‘Raven’s bread'”(Bedrosian). When this is taken into consideration alongside the text in the Rig Veda referring to the offspring of Soma as “meath” or “mead,” one is led to consider the story of Odin’s theft of the Mead of Poetry.
One of the roles that Odin takes on is the giver of divine inspiration, and when he was bringing the Mead of Poetry back to Asgard, a few drops fell to Midgard. Snorri writes that the mead itself would allow “he who drinks become a skald or scholar” (Sturlson). When Loddfafnir recounts this story in the “Hávamál”, he claims to have received the verses from Odin and recited them from his chanter’s stool (“Hávamál” 111). This bears a distinct resemblance to the Pythia in Greece, who sat upon her stool over the chasm at Delphi in order to receive the wisdom of Apollo. In this case, it appears that Loddfafnir, in a similar manner to the Pythia, used trance to in order to gain inspiration from a more knowledgeable authority, in this case, Odin.
- Describe three ways trance can be used in personal spiritual practice. (min. 100 words each)
Three ways that trance can be used in personal spiritual practice are during divination, to enhance the “spiritual experience,” and during parts that require visualization. The common benefit of trance that runs through all of these ways is by decreasing distractions and increasing a connection to the powers around us. There are also a few specific instances where trance is beneficial that are particular to group ritual.
During divination the Seer is called on to commune with the Kindreds to gain knowledge and insight from them. They often do this with divinatory tools to aid them, but the process is still one that appears to be vague at best from the outside. For example, on two different occasions, with the same omens from a divinatory set received, the message from the Kindreds may still be different. When acting as a Seer, it can be extremely beneficial to go into a trance state to deepen your connection both with the spirits your communicating with and with the divinatory set, as well as to allow your mind to see more possibilities and connections than it would otherwise be able to.
Enhancing the spiritual experience is something that I believe all rituals attempt to do, some to a better extent than others. Often, the times that one feels the most spiritual connection is when there has been an intentional disconnect from the mundane world in order to connect to the whole cosmos, and then effort made to bring that connection back to the world we know. By entering a trance state, one can feel a deeper connection to the cosmos at large as well as there place within it more clearly. This trance state is also what allows for a deeper connection with individual beings. When seeking connection with a particular deity, spirit, or ancestor, it can be beneficial to sink into trance so that the connection feels more direct and their words become clearer, and feels less like playing a game of telephone with kindergarteners.
During parts of a ritual that require visualization a light trance can be extremely useful. I’ve found that it has become second nature to me, as well as almost necessary, if I’m trying to make a connection or visualize something in a location or a t a times when I’m distracted. One of the experiences I had with most successful attempts at trance, is that when I reach a certain point the world around me because muted and fuzzy, and my attention can hyper focus on whatever I’m doing. This is especially useful during visualization when you need to be actively doing something, meaning you can’t close your eyes, and also need to see something happening. Particularly, during both personal and group rituals, I notice this when I’m recreating the cosmos and establishing scared space, opening the gates, and calling for the blessings. I need to be able to see enough of the mundane world that I don’t knock something over, but I also need to see, to visualize, the magical act that is taking place.
This same idea of trance being useful for visualization can extend into group ritual where not only are there often more distractions, but also when it’s very important to establish a group mind. This is often done by leading group meditation of some sort. As a bard, I’ve also found it beneficial in group worship to enter a trance state to help myself visual the lassoing of the energy that is being built up in the first half of a ritual so that it doesn’t escape and can be used during the latter part of the ritual.
- Identify and explain three methods of attaining a trance state. (min. 150 words per method)
The method I am the most familiar with is a combination of trance induction or guided meditation with focused breathing. This is the method we use most often in our grove, and that I use most often in my personal practice. Mostly because, since it is visualization and breathing, it requires no external tools (though sometimes a recorded or second person spoken guided meditation is nice if it is a journey that is new). The idea behind guided meditation is that the speaker, or leader, of the meditation will use techniques found throughout hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming. They will use a process of taking what you know to be true, and gradually suggesting new additions to your method of thinking, seeing, or approaching something. The power of suggestion mixing with what you know to be true moves you from a mundane state to an altered state where trance happens.
Another method that is commonly used is sonic driving. Sonic driving is when noise of some sort is used to occupy the brain and induce a trance state. This is often done with drums or rattles beating at a rate of 205 to 220 beats per minute (Harner 39). This method is hypothesized to work due to the aural stimulation causing a change in brainwaves. “Multiple EEg studies have confirmed that gamma waves can become entrained to auditory stimuli that are presented at rates in the gamma band (30-70Hz) (Turow 54).
Andrew Neher conducted a laboratory study of auditory driving in 1962. He accepted that part of trance journeying was culturally conditioned, but “that there are certain physical brainwaves states that must be present” in order for the stereotypical trance state to happen (Turow 41). Once the brain waves reach these states, with alpha and theta waves being the most common, they act like a blank slate where a range of states of consciousness with that brainwave can happen. This is particularly true of theta waves, where a person is highly suggestible, and could be led through a trance journey or simply succumb to the cultural conditioning of the ritual they were in (Turow 41). Additionally, cycles of 3-6 beats per second have been used across many shamanic cultures, and are thought to produce theta waves in the shamans reaching a trance state (Turow 85).
Harner has found sonic driving to be extremely effective when it is done with a recording played through headphones (not a speaker system) and a microphone for the person experiencing the trance so that they can record a simultaneous narration of their trance journey. This not only makes the experience more vivid, but also allows for immediate review and analysis of the journey itself (185-6).
A third method of attaining a trance state is through the use of body postures, often in conjunction with sonic driving. These postures were introduced by Dr. Felicitas D Goodman following her study of altered states of consciousness and pictures and illustrations of ancient art. She began looking at the positioning of the statues in the ancient artwork because she was dissatisfied with the results of other trance work being done, namely that there were few common experiences. Through observation and analysis of these common experiences Goodman has divided the 70+ postures into categories based on the type of spirit journey they produce (Goodman 2-3). To use ecstatic body postures as a method for attaining a trance state one must mimic the position of the body exactly as pictured in the ancient artwork in order to achieve the common trance experience. In is also important to maintain tension in one part of your body, often the arms or back. This tension allows the body to function as the control system for changing perception, and by increasing the tension and your awareness of it, you can deepen the trance state (Goodman 109).
- Using one of the three methods described in requirement 7, describe in depth a single experience you had while in the trance state from an experiential point of view (i.e. what did you feel, see, sense, etc.). (min. 300 words)
January 20, 2013: Grove trance night – going to meet Nemetona
I begin the trance in my Inner Grove. It is on a kind of plateau that looks out over the sea, with the forest behind it. There is cliff face with a winding, treacherous path that leads down to the rocky beach and the sea. The forest is sparse, but wild. The clearing on the plateau has dry meadow grasses that become more green as they reach the pond in the center. There are a few cypress trees growing around the pond, and reeds at the edges.
During grove trance work, Garanos the Crane is my guide. He was waiting for me, tall and elegant, at the edge of the pond. One foot on land, one foot in the water, and gazing up at the sky. I greeted him and climbed upon his back. He dove face first into the pond, and flew down a black hole type swirling vortex. We appeared to have flown straight out of the cliff face. I memorized the sites along the way, noting the signposts that would guide me home, and then back here again should I need to come. We flew over the waves. The water was choppy, but not stormy. We flew on, past a wind swept island with a palm or maybe fir tree, just one, in the middle. We flew over more waves then Garanos dropped me in the surf off the coast of another larger island. I wasn’t concerned by this, the water doesn’t bother me.
I swam up to the island and came up the beach and found a thin river, maybe more of wide creek, leading out to the sea. There were trees arched over the river and I walked up the river, feet splashing quietly in the running water, and through a veil of light. The river was gone, and just the arch of trees was behind me with the light shining in it. The archway had been a portal transporting me to a clearing, a grove, in a forest. Standing in the grove there, next to a giant, roaring fire was Nemetona. She was covered in a dress made of flowers. Not just covered in flowers, but clothed in them, like they were a part of her and she made them into the form she found most pleasing. Wild flowers, not completely cultivated, and more beautiful for it.
I danced around her, jumping and twirling, and told her what’s been going on in my life recently. She then gave me a seed. It looked like a seed, like the ones from Fern Gully. It clearly had light within it, which was just barely coming through the cracks. Blinding. I put it in my Crane bag. She said it was to tend my grove and make it stronger. She wants me to plant it in my inner grove. Garanos and I flew back, and past the same things we did on the way there. Then came back up through the black hole type tube.
During the trance I felt like gravity shifted to the right completely. I assume that I stayed upright during the trance, but I felt like I was leaning precariously to the right the whole time. I seem to have intense balance issues when I go into a deep trance. I also felt my eyes twitching and chills sweeping through my body, especially as the two powers filled me and left me.
The follow-up trance on January 25, 2013, to plant the seed that I was given.
I received a seed from Nemetona during the Grove trance night. Tonight I used calm breathing to put myself in a trance state. I went to my inner grove and took the seed out of my Crane Bag. I planted in in the soil next to the pond and it began to grow. I’ve never done acid, but I’ve read Dr. Seuss. That’s the only way I can think to describe how the tree looked coming out of the ground. It was brightly and multi colored and was a full-grown tree within minutes. It grew up maybe three times my height and had a bluish purple trunk, and bright orange, red, pink, and yellow leaves. Then the leaves began to turn green and bunch of flowers burst into bloom all over the tree in every color imaginable. The blossoms looked like the dress of flowers that Nemetona was wearing.
Most of the tree now looks like a normal tree, similar to a maple or oak: kind of a grayish brown trunk (though you can still catch hints of blue and purple in it) and leaves that range from yellowy-green to deep green. The flowers all over the tree though. Those are beautiful and surprising, and every shape and color under the sun. I think the purpose of the seed, and of the tree now, was to bring Nemetona into my inner grove where I can commune with her more easily. The same way I can go straight down the cliffside to meet with Poseidon at the ocean, or back into the forest to meet with Artemis. Now I have a Nemetona tree in my inner Grove to meet with her.
- Describe what happens to the body during a trance state from a physical standpoint. (min. 300 words)
Dr. Felicitas D Goodman describes the body as a “control system for changing your perception” (Goodman 109). Simply put, the brain fluctuates both in tension and in electric charge based on the stimuli that it is provided. The electrical charge, called the “DC potential” is a variable that can be measured in the brain, and relates to the level of excitability and alertness within the cerebral cortex. Goodman postulates with her study of hypnosis, meditation, and ecstatic trance, that hypnosis and meditation do not alter the state of consciousness enough to be considered true trance work. This was done by observing the DC potential of subjects engaging in each type of trance (Goodman 16-7).
Alternatively, during a true trance state, as achieved through sonic driving or body posturing, the DC potential increases dramatically causing an overactive state that is quite the opposite of sleep, while the brainwaves slow down to producing theta waves, which are normally only observed during deep sleep. Subjects who were observed and interviewed following the experiments showed that when the muscles were tensed, the DC potential went up and when the subjects consciously made use of relaxation techniques to relax their muscles the DC potential decreased. Dr. Guttmann coined the term “paradoxical arousal” for this phenomenon that is seen only in this higher state of consciousness, but not in the state of consciousness achieved by hypnosis or meditation (Goodman 18-9).
Dr. Goodman studied other physiological changes that occurred during a trance state and found changes relating to brain waves, blood pressure, adrenaline, and endorphins. During ritual trance the brain switches from producing beta waves, and begins producing theta waves. This moves the brain from a state normally observed during alert, waking hours to a state normally observed during deep sleep. During the trance state the blood pressure also drops, while the pulse races. Additionally, the level of stress hormones in the blood drop while the level of beta-endorphins increases. This leads to the euphoria experienced during trance (Goodman 8).
There are some difference that she observed between ritual body postures and channeling. Using ritual body postures the blood pressure drops in the middle of a session, while the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline drop between the first two phases of the trance. Near the end of a session there is a moderate euphoria. During a channeling trance state the blood pressure remains constant throughout a session, while adrenaline and noradrenaline dramatically increase near the end of a session, along with the endorphins, creating an experience of ecstasy (Goodman 20).
- (Crossover Requirement) Keep a journal for five months detailing the trance work that you have done. Write an essay based off those journals that examines your practice over the time you journaled. In this essay, explain how you can apply the trance work to divination, magic, and other workings you do in ritual and personally. Entries occurring less than weekly will not count toward completion of this requirement. Your journal must include work from the exercises found in the support material for this course. [This requirement matches up with Req. 3 in Magic 2] (min. 1000 words)
My journal for the first part of the Trance sequence was kept from December 2012 through May 2013. During this time period I worked through several different methods of entering trance. Some worked better than others, and some I would definitely like to try again when I’m not pregnant. Additionally there are some methods I still have left that I would like to try.
Two methods that I’ve experimented with and used mostly for visualizations, spirit journeys, and the simplicity of euphoric feelings are sonic driving and (sometimes in conjunction with) ecstatic body postures. I found sonic driving to be probably the most rewarding experience as far as simplicity and results go. I was able to sit and close my eyes with my headphones in, and allow the sounds to wash over me. There was often a distinct sense of the world tipping as my mind relaxed and stretched. While one of the recommended methods for sonic driving was to use the 210 bpm drumming, I found I really only liked that for use with the body postures. When engaging in sonic driving on its own, I preferred to use various percussive recordings. I have a CD of African drumbeats that I found works extremely well for me. It is complex enough that it engages the wandering part of my mind, and yet not so distracting that I hyper focus on it. My brain can follow it to some degree, and allow the majority of me to release and enter trance. I’ve also experience success with many Sigur Ros recordings. These are at the opposite end of the spectrum, being often extremely slow, with a more atmospheric feel to them. I think they work more to relax my body and allow my mind to disengage, rather than fully engage. I’ve found Sigur Ros to be more successful when I’m seeking a more self-directed journey, especially with a patron god/dess, while I’ve found the drumming to be more successful when I’m seeking to enter trance and let a new experience wash over me.
I did a little bit of experimentation with ecstatic body postures combined with 210 bpm drumming, and found the bit I did to be successful to some degree. However, I would like to experiment with this method more when I’m not pregnant. I found many of the postures difficult to get into and maintain my balance with my shifting center of gravity. I did experiment with writing a trance induction script using the birthing posture. It begins with a guided meditation that puts the body in the correct position, focusing on making a connection the child in the womb, and then is followed by 15 minutes of 210 bpm drumming, and coming back out again, allowing the body to reconnect to the self. I enjoyed writing and performing this trance several times, and found a deep sense of peace and calm joy. I found it has helped with my nerves through out pregnancy.
One thing I found interesting when working through Goodman’s ecstatic trance workbook was the discussion of how tensing your body into the body posture will intensify the trance state. This seems at odds with how we tend to open most meditations and trance experiences in ADF, which often begin with “Find a comfortable seat,” or “Take a deep breath and allow you body to relax.” It is a concept I’d like to play with more and see how working the tension into a public ritual could affect the outcome and success of the folks’ experience.
Another method that I’ve found useful a few times during this time period is the recitation of a litany. I have a set of the Olympian Prayer beads that Emerald gifted me. She sent the prayer that accompanies them, honoring each with a short verse. Since then however, I’ve used the structure of the beads to assist in writing my own litanies and mantras. I’ve fallen back on it many times when I need something and am at a loss for words, seeking comfort. The most often used one is the Litany to Ease Depression that I wrote:
“Hestia, warm my heart.
Zeus, give me strength.
Hera, give me serenity.
Poseidon, let the pain wash away.
Demeter, give me peace.
Aphrodite, rekindle the flames.
Ares, give me courage.
Artemis, give me companionship.
Apollo, give me words.
Athena, make me coherent.
Hephaestos, let me not feel ashamed.
Hermes, help me move on.
Dionysos, be kind with your mirror.”
It is repeated for as often as needed to regain enough calm to function, the prayer beads themselves acting as a fidget to keep the hands occupied. I don’t normally use the beads to count the prayers, though having experienced success with writing litanies to accompany these beads, I’ve wanted to experiment with writing short prayers that can accompany something like a rosary, so the prayers could be said for a certain number of iterations.
The two other methods I’ve used most often are a combination of cleansing breathes and guided meditation. These often go hand in had, though in some cases I will just sit and breathe. When I was doing yoga near the beginning, I found the cleansing breaths to be quite helpful. There was no visualization to go along with it, just a sense of ever increasing peace and calm. There have been a variety of guided mediations I’ve done during this period of time. We do at least one guided meditation during each high day ritual with the grove, and I’ve included them in most of my daily and weekly work. Most common for me is the dryad meditation used to enter my inner grove. From there I can stray from the meditation and allow other trance journeys and states to occur, but it is the guided meditation that kicks off me getting there.
Some of the ways I’ve used the various trance states during this period are for big ideas such as a vehicle for personal growth and for spiritual clarification along my path, but also for more categorical and identifiable things like divination, focused magical work, spirit song, establishing a group mind, and maintaining energy during a public rite. In general, I’ve found trance work to be especially beneficial when I’m questioning my path, and where I feel like I should be heading. I am able to seek guidance from my patron gods by entering trance and communing with them (often accompanied by some method of divination). It has been both enlightening and reassuring to get the sense of approval that this is the path I nee dot walk, and that I’m completing it to their and my satisfaction. My most notable memory of this actually comes from when I was initially trying to decide whether to take the clergy route or the initiate route. I eventually experienced spirit journey with Poseidon where it was he smacked me with the proverbial clue by four that the initiate path is what I need to walk, at least at first. That experience has helped me remember that sometimes, when I’m confused about things spiritually, that I should just go ask my gods.
Of the more direct applications of trance work divination definitely comes out at the top of my list. Before every single omen I take I offer bay leaves and a prayer to Apollo Mantikos:
“Apollo Mantikos, guide my hand.
See with my eyes. Hear with my ears. Speak with my voice. “
This repetition has helped me to create a trigger that allows me to enter this divinatory trance state quickly for the purposes of seeking messages from the gods. A similar feeling to this trance state is used when I complete my Noumenia blessing each month. I will have entered this trance state to take the omen for the coming month, and to receive the blessings. Then, while still in a light trance the power of the omens and blessings is infused into the kathiskos. It took some practice to be able to maintain the trance state while still focusing enough to complete the mundane tasks alongside the magical ones, like managing to not spill the water, and to draw the symbols on the jar. Over time, I’ve found that that skill of maintaining myself in both headspaces has improved, and with it, so has the feeling from the ritual itself.
This light trance that I maintain for magical work within my personal rites has also helped me when filling the role as bard at a public ritual. I believe that one of the tasks of a bard, beyond leading the songs to help guide the folk in building energy for the rite is to also help maintain that energy throughout the rite, so that it stays contained enough to be used during the working portion of the rite. The light trance allows me to continue to feel the energy swirling around me while leading the folk in song. It allows me to visualize what I refer to as the “bardic lasso.” It’s this picture of throwing a massive barrier around the folk gathered to hold in the energy that is created during the rite.
Another aspect of public ritual that I’ve touched on is establishing the group mind. This is done most often with the attunement section of the rite, which I’ve led several times in the past few months. I find it useful to have a general script to work off of, but to also be able to quickly analyze people and our surroundings in order to incorporate that into the attainment. I’ve found that it helps to better establish the group mind during the guided meditation, and leads to more “buy in” from the participants.
The last bit that I’d like to touch on as one of the practices I’ve incorporated into my personal work, is the idea of spirit song. I was first introduced to the term at a workshop at Earth Warriors Festival in 2011 by Kellianna. The idea is that you allow your mind to relax so you can draw on the pure expression of spirit within yourself and release it to experience it as sound, as your own personal song. The workshop itself was very powerful as we held space for each other and shared our spirit songs of the moment. Some were intimately lyrical and beautiful, some haunting, and one was heart wrenching as only a soul-born scream and cry can be. I’ve worked this into my personal practice with bardic work, most often using my guitar as an extension of myself, but not always. I breathe my way into a trance state, and speak prayers to the Muses. And then I play. I most often fall into a chord progression and continue that until my fingers no longer seem my own and they are moving of their own accord. Then I begin vocalizing and singing with my guitar. Sometimes there are words, but most often not. Most often it is the pure expression of sound and music. I don’t keep track of time when I do this, I just play and sing until it feels right to stop. It is a magical feeling, because it’s not just me singing. It’s me and my guitar, and the earth around me, and it’s like I can literally hear the harmonizing of the spirits around me as they join in. It is one of the most powerful, repeatable experiences that I’ve had. I’ve very occasionally recorded myself while doing this, and only in one instance has that taken form and begun to develop into a structured song. I think part of the power in it is within the experience, not the outcome. Though, I do see the benefit of using this technique for writing.
I found my experiences during this journaling period to be worthwhile, but as I said before, there are still some methods I would like to try, in addition to working through these experiences when I’m not pregnant to see how they differ. I want to try auditory confusion. I tend to get a lot out of aural experiences, and so I think auditory confusion could be very interesting to experiment with. I also would like to try dance. I would have liked to try it during this time frame, but didn’t feel comfortable attempting it in the way it’s described due to the raising heart rate and duration, which were discouraged for me while pregnant. So I decided to wait on this one until later. I also have plans to write a lot more guided meditations and trance inductions. Specifically, the next writing project I’ve set myself is a series of meditations based on the Greek Alphabet Oracle, meant to help a new practitioner connect to each of the symbols. Along the lines of divination, Johnston talks of many methods used to achieve a trance state during divination that I’d like to try. Many of these fall ingot he category of visual concentrate, such as watching a flame in a dark room, or smoke rising, or a mirror in a mostly dark room.
- Create a self-hypnosis tape to put yourself in trance and go on a spirit journey and bring yourself back out. Submit a script as well as a summary of your results. (min. 200 words for the summary)
The following is a Two Powers meditation I wrote initially for use at one of our Samhain 2010 ritual, and have used it as the attunement in many rituals since then. This past year at Fall Equinox, MJD actually caught it on video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvqCGdFQ9Yc). This is a tree meditation, using the imagery of the World Tree connecting to the Fire above and Waters below, written for multiple people, with bits of season specific imagery that can be tweaked to fit the current season. The path of the meditation takes you into a forest alone. You find a tree, you become that tree, and use the tree‘s own knowledge to draw the waters up and process the light from above. The meditation ends with you noticing the rest of the trees around you. Each person then steps out of their tree and returns to their bodies together, a united grove. The way I perform it at home when I am not in a community setting is by envisioning myself stepping out of the tree into the presence and community of the Kindreds.
However, beyond using it as a grove attunement, it is the text that I have used to build my inner grove, the place where I start nearly every trance journey from, the place I know how to get back to my body from. It started initially as a way that I connected to the Two Powers while working on my Dedicant documentation, and the more times I did the meditation, the more the visualization built upon itself. I have always been more successful in meditation when I have a concrete guide to follow that is both visually striking and descriptive, but also vague enough that my mind can implant it‘s own imagery without conflict. At first, I saw only what I describe in the text: the tree, the pond, and the grove. After each time though, a new piece was added it, kind of like a full painting that you first sketch out the details in pencil, and then begin filling in with colors, and then finally layer in small flourishes of detail so that the whole picture comes to life.
When I follow this meditation now, it takes me to my inner grove. I begin by envisioning myself pressing my back up against my tree, a cypress at the edge of the pond, complete with roots bulging up through the soil, and let myself sink into the trees awareness. As I connect to the powers above and below my vision of the mundane area around the tree fades and a gray mist or fog fills the peripherals of my vision, eventually pulling back to reveal my inner grove.
I stand with my tree at my back, and it acts as a portal back to my body, only needing me to sit back down there to go home. All around me are dry, meadow grasses, becoming greener around the edges of the pond, which is surrounded by a few other cypress tress and some reeds. Also at the edge of the pond is my tree, and also now the tree planted there from the seed Nemetona gave me. Additionally, there is a small fire, that while seeming too small to maintain itself, is clearly burning hot and strong. Occasionally there is a girl, Hestia, sitting in the flames, or maybe made of the flames. Behind me a forest rises up, mostly of pine and similar trees. It appears quite spares at first, but thickens the deeper one walks into it, and rising in the distance is a mountain. In front of me as I walk out is a plateau covered in the dry, meadow grasses and becoming sandy and rocky near the edge, where there is a drop off a cliff face, with a barely visible path down to the shore. There is a small, rocky beach in the cove that is formed there, with rocks out just a bit, acting a breaker for the waves. As the waves crash against them, a spray floats across the beach.
The two places I go most often from here are into the forest, to commune and journey with Artemis, and down to the shore to commune and journey with Poseidon. When Artemis is my guide, we start at the edge of the forest and as we walk into it, we approach the area we need to be, and she will again guide me back to the edge of the forest at the end of our journey. When I’m working with Poseidon, his pull is stronger. I walk down the cliff face to the beach, and sometimes as the spray hits my face I feel swept away, and others times I walk into the waves and am pulled out by the riptide. He is much more vast, alien, and huge than Artemis, and it has been much more difficult reaching an understanding of how our journeys are to work. His awesome power led me to put a bell at the edge of the beach that dangles into the water. When it is time for my to return to my body, the bell will ring and guide me back to land. I also work with Garanos Crane to guide me on other journeys. When I leave with him we start from the pond, and he dives into it, and it becomes a kind of portal to other worlds. One of the new images beginning to fill in at the edges is a wall of earth with a cave inset within its face. There is a flickering light coming from within. I believe at I do more work with Hekate as a Gatekeeper and Guide this image will solidify more, and I will see her, with her torches held high, ready to use the cave as a starting point for journeys with her.
Children of Earth, take a moment to calm your mind and body. Breathe deep and close your eyes. Listen to the sound of your own breathing. Hear your heartbeat thrumming inside you. Pause for a second and just listen.
See in your mind‘s eye where you stand now and picture yourself walking away from where you are.
You‘re walking towards a deep and old forest. Feel the cool, damp earth on your feet. As you enter the forest feel the cool autumn breeze brush your cheek.
Notice the sounds around you. A gentle rustling of leaves, perhaps from the wind, perhaps made by a squirrel bounding by. Notice the sunlight dappling across your face. A last breath of summer caressing your face, heartening you for the colder days ahead.
As you are walking deeper and deeper into the forest you suddenly come upon a clearing. There is a small pond in the middle of the glade surrounded by trees around the water‘s edge. One of these trees calls to you and you glide over to it. Place you hands on the trunk and feel the rough bark against your palm. Feel the ancient wisdom emanating from it.
Turn and place your back against the tree. Feel yourself sinking into it, becoming part of the tree. Feel your toes mix with the roots twinning down into the earth. Allow you mind to follow those roots and tendrils as they creep ever deeper, until suddenly they plunge into the cool deep waters far below the surface of the earth. Use the knowledge of the tree to pull those waters up through your roots. Feel them approaching you, up and up, until they reach your toes.
Feel the waters pulsing up through your toes and heels, moving up your legs and pooling in your groin. Feel them surging up into your chest and down your arms. Feel your branches swelling and cool waters seeping into your fingers, your leaves. Feel the waters rush up and fountain out the crown of your head, your uppermost branches and leaves, and come cascading back down into the earth to soak back down cooling your roots again. Having taken your fill, feeling replenished, allow those cool, dark waters to bleed back down into the earth.
Again feel the wind brush through your hair, your leaves. Feel as the sunlight shines down on you, brightening and invigorating you. Allow your leaves to take in that bright, golden light. Let it convert to pure energy and infuse your head and chest with light and energy. Let it saturate your branches and flow into your finger leaves. Feel as it washes down through your groin and flows down you legs and energizes you down to your roots. Having absorbed as much light as your body will hold, let the remainder reflect back off you, back into the sky.
Feel how the combination of the cool waters and the bright light mixes within your body. Feel how it mingles and brings a new awareness to every essence of yourself. Let your attention drift over yourself from your roots, to your trunk, and on up to your leaves.
Let a breath of wind catch one of your leaves and watch as it drifts downward to land fall lightly into the pond. Watch as the water ripples outward from this light touch. Allow your awareness to follow this ripple outward and see as it collides with other, similar ripples. As you follow those to their source you see that they also come from fallen leaves.
Now seeing all these leaves in the water creating ripples that touch and rebound off your own, you notice all the other trees surrounding the pond. Reach out your awareness and sense that these trees are all part of this grove. Reach out and feel that you are not alone in this glade, but rather you are surrounded by the warmth of your kin. You are all here together.
Take a moment and allow this feeling of togetherness and oneness to soak into your mind, your heart, your bones and your soul. Listen to the breathing of those around you. Your hearts beat as one now.
With this new realization that you are here among family, you begin to disconnect your self from the tree, just as all those around you do. Wiggle your toes and separate them from the roots. Wiggle your fingers and feel the leaves fall away. Roll you shoulders, allowing you to step out of the tree and once again become your own self.
As you now look around you see that while before you came to this glade alone, you now are leaving among friends. It is time now to turn away from the glade and walk back out of the forest. Listen, as before to the sounds around you. You can now hear the laughter of friends, and you feel now not just the warmth of the sun, but the warmth of companionship. As you break out of the forest and head back towards you body here keep that feeling that you are now one with the people around you.
Now, step back into your body and take deep breath to settle yourself back in. Wiggle your fingers and toes. Now begin moving your arms and legs just a little as you feel yourself come back to this place. Here, among kinfolk, we may now move on with the work we have for today.
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