Tag Archives: trance

I am an Initiate. This is what I do.

It happens fairly often now, where someone asks what my personal practice looks like.  Normally I respond in the general: well, here’s what I typically do each day or so.  I describe my home hearth practice.  And it occurs to me now, that I don’t often talk about what my practice as an Initiate looks like.  Or what my practice as a Priest looks like.  Or what the dove-tail looks like in my practice as an Initiate-Priest.  And not only am I not talking about it, I realized with some of the current discussion going on about The Spirit of ADF, no one appears to have talked about it much.

When you apply for entrance into these programs, you’re asked to respond to things like “What does being an Initiate mean to you?”, “Why do you want to be an ADF Priest?”, and “What form do you think your vocation will take?”  in your intention letters and vocational statements.  You’re asked to talk about what these things are without having been there yet.  And that is incredibly difficult.  If you’d like to read mine, you can find them here: Initiate Intention Letter, Clergy Intention Letter, and Vocational Statement. It is interesting that my Initiate Intention Letter still rings true for me.  Now having undergone the Ordeals and been tapped in to the Current, my Path was brightened and focused, but the root of it hasn’t wavered.

I know when I was an Initiate Candidate, I had no idea what Initiate Work looked like.  And even with several ADF Grove Priests in my Grove, when I was working through our Clergy Training Program, I had no idea what the personal Work of a Priest looked like.  Now, the obvious caveat here is that this experience will vary from initiate to initiate (especially) and priest to priest.  That’s part of the beautiful diversity of our organization.  But, we do have some commonalities, and I’d like to talk about them without getting into the Mystery of each specific Order.

So, as an Initiate, what do I do?  I’d like to start by talking about my Initiate Oath.  Each Initiate makes an Oath following third, and final Ordeal, that completes their initiation. It is book ended the same for each Initiate “I come from the Fire at the Center of Worlds… And with these tools I shall lead others to the Flame.”  We each fill in the middle of that Oreo cookie with imagery regarding the tools we gained.  Here is my full oath:

I come from the fire at the center of worlds,
Where the burning stars fall from the heavens to the seas.
Mists to open. Mists to bind.
Where the oak tree stands upon the mound.
Mists to open. Mists to bind.
Where the fire rages amongst the storm of lights and rain.
Mists to open. Mists to bind.
Where the stranger in the darkness stands as guide.
Mists to open. Mists to bind.
Where the heartbeat of the Mother ignites the fire within.
Mists to open. Mists to bind.
With these tools I shall lead others to the flame.

So, in the external work that I do, I am focusing on bringing others to the Flame.  That is the guiding statement for almost all of my work as an Initiate.  To me, this means that not only am I doing what I can to be a mentor to folks within our organization in general, wherever they may be on their path, but I am also specifically focusing on those who have expressed and interest in becoming Initiate’s themselves.  I have focused heavily on making sure that the path to Initiation is accessible to all who wish to walk it.  While it falls much more in the mundane realm of things, and not in the spirit worker realm, one of the things I did, that I think has had the most benefit thus far, is I fleshed out and built a fully structured syllabus and class that guides the beginning Candidate through all the required coursework and offers supplemental activities to make the work more enjoyable, more fulfilling, and ensure that the Candidate is as prepared as possible for the Three Ordeals they must undergo for Initiation.

“That’s great,” you say, “but what does being an Initiate in your actual spiritual practice look like? What do you do? What is an Initiate?”

I’m glad you asked! 😉 As an Initiate, I see myself as a Spirit Worker within an ADF context.  This means, that first and foremost, I work with the Current.  What is the Current you ask?  Well, here is an article that describes it’s establishment: https://www.adf.org/articles/working/initiatory-current.html  Notably, what is mentioned in the article is that at the culmination of a Candidate’s training, they will undergo a ritual of initiation that will tap them into a spiritual Current that unifies all ADF Initiates and that they would be able to use as the “juice” for their Work.  Because it was also an ADF Unity Rite, all of ADF was also joined into this work.  The Current is described as “flowing through ADF.”

I had just joined ADF when the Current was established, and was not there for that rite.  I came after, so I can only speak to what I know about it from my own experience and what I’ve learned about it along the way from my own Initiation and from the spirit work that has followed.  For me, the Current is the energy of the organization itself, and of the other Initiates who have been tapped in to this Current. It is a source of power for magic, divination, and trance journeying.  It is a connection to other Initiates.  Each Initiate sees it and works with it in a different way.  For me it most closely resembles the Mists of Magic that flow in the liminal spaces between the worlds.  It is referenced in my oath when I say “Mists to open.  Mists to bind.”  I weave the Mist of the Current into my magic.  I let it flow through me when I do divination.  It flows all about me and through me when I do trance work, and I use it as a tool to aid me in my journeys.  The Current is an integral part of my practice as an Initiate.

So, in my regular practice, what do I do as an Initiate?  I do Initiate-specific trance work, and make the attempt to do this a couple a times a week, though like most things, it ebbs and flows with what is going on in my life.  Since beginning the Initiate Work, my delineation between trance, magic, and divination has blurred.  They each tend to feed into the other. My trance work contains bits of magic and divination.  When I do magic or divination, I am certainly in a trance state.

So, this Initiate trance work for me generally takes the form of me traveling out from my Inner Grove with my spirit allies, and doing other spirit work, which may or may not include magic or divination.  Sometimes I go to places I know, sometimes I go to new places.  I seek new spirits who desire to work with me, or who may be beneficial in my own work. If I am doing helping work, I may seek out a spirit who can help me with that.  If I’m doing bardic work, I may seek out inspiration in the Otherworld.

I seek tools that will help me as I journey.  Do I need a way to bring the light of the Fire with me wherever I go (literally and metaphorically)?  Then I will seek that out.  I seek advice from spirits I know.  How should I approach this problem?  What direction should I focus my creative efforts?  I explore symbols and sigils in the Otherworld.  One of the cool things I’ve done and have just started writing up is I have journeyed focused on each symbol within the Greek Alphabet Oracle, and deepened my connection to the symbol set, finding new and more nuanced meanings for interpretation.  Each symbol has a location and vision in the Otherworld.  I occasionally engage in tandem-trance, where I journey with other Initiates (whether we are physically present in the same space or not) and we exchange experiences and visions. This allows us to build our Otherworld maps, and find the places where they overlap.  We can meet the spirits that another has met, and begin working with them independently.

Like most of the work I do as an ADF Druid in general, my goal with my trance work is to deepen my relationships with the Kindreds, and as an Initiate, it often becomes experimental.  I use my experience, knowledge, and devotion to gather around me powers that help me further the deeper work of trance, magic, and divination. This in turn deepens my practice further and as I find things that work for me, I share that with others so that more can benefit from it.  Sometimes this means introducing people to new spirits I’ve met.  Sometimes it means sharing new ideas for divination with others.  Trying them out in this world, rather than the Otherworld.  Sometimes it’s writing a song, or prayer, or piece of poetry that will help others connect to Our Druidry in a way they hadn’t before.

All of this to me is leading others to the flame with the tools that I have gained as an Initiate.  This post ended up longer than I anticipated, so I’ll post what I do as Clergy in a later one.

Alliance with the Spirits of Fire

Breathe deep, finding your center. Let your body relax.  Breathe deep, feeling the tension drain from your shoulders. Breathe deep, feeling the tension drain from your face. Breathe deep, feeling the tensions drain from you arms and legs. Breathe deep, feeling the tension drain from your hands and feet. Breathe deep, and just be for a moment. 

*Pause*
Calm now, at peace and centered, see in your minds eye mists rolling in around you, the wisps licking across your skin and obscuring your vision. Allow yourself to exist for a moment in this liminal space, expanding and reaching out for clarity without seeing. 
*Pause*
A figure begins to solidify in the mists: it is Garanus Crane. See him standing before you in the shallows of the waters, ever-watchful. One foot upon the land, one foot in the water, eye raised towards the sky. This is the Crane you know. Go to him and reconnect before we begin our journey. 
*Pause*
Now go with Garanus as he leads you away into the darkness of the night.  You journey on until you glimpse in the distance a light. As you near it it grows and you see it is a flame, glowing and flickering with warmth and power. Garanus gives you a bag as you arrive at the edge of the firelight.  In it are offerings for the fire. You hold on to it, knowing you will need them later. As he waits at the edge of the firelight, standing ever watchful, you walk towards the flame. Find a comfortable place to sit by it. This is the fire of your hearth. The fire of your community. The fire of sacrifice. Let its glow wash over you. 
*Pause*
The colors of the fire ripple and dance in and out. See the spirits of the Fire as they reveal themselves. These are the spirits of your home, who cleanses and blesses your space. The spirits of your community who strengthen the ties amongst the Folk. The spirits of sacrifice, who carry your offerings to the gods. As you watch the spirits of the flames, see the colors dance in your mind’s eye. See the white hot spark of inspiration. See the warm orange glow of the burning hearth fire. See the bright yellow spirit of dance and joy. See the deep red glow of community. See the brilliant blue flame that is focused in the night. See the rippling black across the embers. See the shining lights of colors that only you have seen.  Listen to the crackle and pop of the fire as the spirits call out to you. 
*Brief Pause*
Now take up the bag of offerings that Garanus gave you and walk to the fire. See and hear the colored fire-spirit that calls to you, and give them these gifts. Be with this spirit as they take up your offerings, burning and consuming them. Feel their warmth as they come to you and dance around your limbs. Listen as they whisper their secrets to you, telling you of blessings and sharing their wisdom. As you take this time to commune with them, remember to ask for a name so that you may call them again, and what offerings they would prefer you give. Now: listen. 
*Begin sounds for trance journey work (240 bpm drumming) ~15min*
See now the fire dying down, still hot, but reaching its end. Be sure you have asked your fire spirit for a name so you can call on them again, and then bid them farewell. 
*Brief pause*
Step away from the flames and head back towards the edge of the firelight, where you see Garanus patiently waiting for you, and ready to carry you home. You go with him, back into the darkness, and journey on until you again reach the place of mists where the land, waters, and sky meet.  Thank Garanus Crane, and bid him farewell. 
*Brief pause*
See in your minds eye the mists thicken again, the wisps licking across your skin and obscuring your vision.  Breathe deep and become again aware of your hands and feet. Breathe deep and become again aware of your arms and legs. Breathe deep and become again aware of yourself. See the mists roll back as you again exist in this place. Open your eyes and reconnect to this space. 
 

Trance-Along: Finding a Shared Space

We’ve decided to begin trying to build a shared space for the Trance SIG in ADF.  We are to looking for keys, or images, or signs that will help us to identify and create a shared space for our trance work.  Our first trance-along journey was done during this past new moon (and the day on either side of it).  The idea is to do trance-work as a group like this once a month during this time.

Here’s my write-up from this inaugural trance along with the Trance SIG.  In general it was very restless feeling, and an unusual landscape for me (I usually don’t go underground, or to places that are particularly dry.  This was both.  So, here we go:

In a desert landscape full of sandy soil and thigh-high and sharp grasses.  It felt very alien and unfamiliar.  I feel like I spent a lot of time wandering aimlessly through the grasses, without wanting to touch them.  Sometimes traveling by walking, and sometimes traveling by burrowing through the sandy soil.  It was surprisingly easy to dig through and allowed the forming of intricate tunnels and burrows. The burrows and tunnels seemed to stretch on infinitely, like I could spend a very long time exploring them, and digging more to get to where I need to go.  There were scratched symbols at some of the places where tunnels split, but I couldn’t make out any exact symbols.  I felt extremely comfortable in the tunnels.

Oddly, whenever I went underground I could just barely catch hints of what sounded like 8-bit video game music.  (Weird).  When I came up from the burrows I could see the sky.  Dark dark black, with way fewer starts that I expected to see in comparison to how dark the sky was.  They were very bright white pinpricks.  Some were very static in there place, and some were little splashes of swirling pinpricks.  The sky is very heavy.  Feels almost crushing.  Like I don’t want to be out in the open for too long.

Later in the trance there were little cyclones touching down in the grass and sand.  Small, little whirlwinds that were making shallow holes where the touched down, and spitting up bits of grit and sand.  They didn’t seem to be traveling at all, but rather touching down, remaining in place for a while, and then dissipating.

Most of the landscape felt very abandoned.  At three separate instances there were horses, or maybe some form of very large deer?  They clearly used to be domesticated, but weren’t so much anymore and were trying to return to being wild, but weren’t quite there yet.  The horses just ran across the landscape, close to me, maybe 2 or 3 arms lengths away. Just into my field of visions and out again.  Alone each time.  It was like they were trying to rung rom something, but not with fear, and were also trying to get somewhere, and with a very distinct and purposeful gait.

There was also something prowling and rustling in the grasses, circling around me.  I suspect this was my Lynx friend, but she didn’t show herself, which is unusual for her when I’m doing journey work, especially to new places.  So that was weird.

Anyways, that’s what I got.  I could see either exploring the tunnel further or perhaps following the paths the horses took, since they seem to be cutting throughout he grasses and making the way less treacherous.

For reference, I use polyrhythmic auditory confusion as my go-to method for entering trance.

Trance 2

  1. Describe your regular method of entering basic trance. (min. 300 words)

There are two main methods that I use, and it depends almost entirely if I am entering trance in a ritual setting or not.  Both methods include an aspect of controlled breathing as well as an auditory cue if possible.

My preferred method is to use some form of sonic driving to enter a trance state, and to maintain it throughout the duration of trance.  When doing this, I choose one of the auditory tracks I’ve used for this purpose in order to maintain continuity of the auditory cues my brain is used to.  The three types of tracks I use most often are either one of Harner’s 30 minutes drumming tracks at 240 beats per minute, or a complex drum track that is of a similar tempo (Fierce Tibetan Gods, of part of an African Percussion compilation), or an atmospheric type recording by Sigur Ros.  I’ve found that the straight up drumming tracks are the ones I’m the most successful with, especially if I’m in an area with a lot of distractions.  This is partly because I will have the sound continually playing to help maintain the trance (unlike the other recordings which may end after 5-7 minutes), as well as the fact that they include a callback beat to signal when the trance should end (Harner).  As the recording begins I begin focusing on my breathing and slowing it down to a comfortable and regular tempo.  As I progress deeper into the trance my awareness of my breathing fades and by brain locks into the sounds of the drumming, which will then seem to echo and morph, and eventually fade if a deep trance state is attained.  The drumming will remain in my subconscious if I’ve entered a lighter trance state.

While sonic driving is my preferred method of entering trance, it is not often the method that is used during a ritual setting.  During ritual, I again control my breathing and slow it down to a comfortable and regular tempo. Most often in ritual this is enough to put me in a light trance, which is all that is needed to complete the magical workings of a ritual.  There is the slightly woozy and disconnected from the world, yet connected to everything feeling that helps signify to me that I’ve entered a light trance.  Normally within ritual the only time I enter a deeper trance is when I’ve doing the work of the Seer.  In this case I’ve built in an auditory and olfactory cue to help me enter the state that makes interpreting the omens easier.  I take a deep breath to center myself and then call out to Apollo Mantikos, crushing an offering of bay leaves, using the same prayer I use every time I pull omens: 

Apollo Mantikos, guide my hand.

See with my eyes. Hear with my ears.  Speak with my voice.

I crush the bay leaves in order to offer them because it is both a sounds and a smell that happens every time.  This resonates with the idea that the Pythia had a whole series of steps that she would do the same every time in order to prepare her to speak with Apollo and enter that trance state where that was possible.  The Pythia is the name given to the Oracle who dwells at Delphi and speaks for Apollo (Johnston 33-50).  As I use them in a similar way to put myself into a light trance in order to make that call to Apollo Mantikos and be able to hear and interpret his words, I feel it is an apt way of doing things.

 

  1. Explain the use of trance in group ritual, including trance techniques including the Neurolinguistic Programming techniques of “anchoring” and “leading” in trance induction. Give an example of how you would script this use in ritual. (min. 500 words for the essay, 200 words fro the script)

Trance in group ritual can be a very powerful tool to engage the folk on the same page, and help to bring them all together in the same mindset, and thus allowing any energy that has been building to align.  This alignment of energies and purposes will help make the ritual flow more smoothly and make any magical acts that will occur more powerful.  Trance work in ADF ritual is most commonly seen during the Two Powers meditation, where the folk are connected to the powers of the realms, as well as to each other.  In this instance, trance is used to establish the group mind.

One of the ways group mind can be established through trance involves including aspects of Neurolinguistic Programming, such as anchoring and leading.  Anchors are some sort of stimulus that invokes a certain mindset.  The anchor will first need to be created and reinforced in order for it to be successful.  A successful anchor is something that is a unique stimulus and can be linked to a specific state and repeated (Ellerton). In the script below, the initial anchor is the body posture, specifically the part of the body posture that includes the cradling of the belly around the baby with the hands in the specific position described.  Other more subtle anchors are added in the initial step to continue to reaffirm the connection to the desired state.  For example, the instructions to “feel your palms on your belly” as a kinesthetic stimuli, and the feel and sound of breathing as well as the phrasing “take a deep breath, hold it for a moment, then exhale” continues to act as an auditory stimuli for this state.  As a visual stimulus, the script below includes phrasing such as “feel your roots extend into the earth, growing into your Mother.”  I think it’s important to include all three types of stimuli (kinesthetic, visual, and auditory) if possible, especially when you’re leading group trance experience.  You don’t necessarily know who is going to respond to what kind of stimuli, and so it because very important to make sure you’re reaching as many people as possible.

So other instances of anchoring lines that I have experienced included phrases such as “And now, Children of Earth, see in your mind’s eye…” which for me is a very strong auditory anchor that ritual work is about to begin, and that I will be entering some sort of magical or religious state of mind.  There is also the common visualization of during the Two Powers of send your roots down into the Earth, and your branches up into the Sky.

Once you have established an anchor, the next part of a successful trance induction is establishing rapport throughout the trance so that the folk will be more likely to let their barriers down and follow the progression of instances that you are leading them towards.  This is most often done by allowing your voice to mimic the way they should be feelings as you establish their anchor.  Most of our trance work in ADF public ritual involves making sure that the folk feel comfortable, relaxed, and secure as they engage their minds to interact with the liminal state.  So, to lead them into this, you would modulate your own voice to mimic this relaxed and calm feeling.  Other methods include “mirroring techniques to match the person in terms of tone, word choice, volume, breathing tempo, and body language to form a rapid bond” (Knight).  This is most often done by speaking in calm, smooth tones, with frequent pauses to allow their mind to slow down as your words slow down, and by allowing the slow breathing patterns that you are requesting of them to also be the slow breathing patterns that you yourself are using.  In the script below this is reflected both where there are commas (which I placed to indicate a short pause for breath), and where the word “pause” is included (to indicate a longer pauses, about 3 seconds or so).

*** Script ***

(note: this script is intended to be used by pregnant women engaging in the Birthing Posture (Goodman), and is designed to allow them to begin to connect with their baby in the womb)

Sit or stand with your feet parallel and firmly planted in the Earth, about six inches apart.  Keep your knees slightly bent. Looking straight ahead, close your eyes, and relax. Rest your hands on your belly with the fingers and thumbs held close together.  Your index fingers are about two inches apart, pointing towards your navel, gently cradling your baby.  Hold your arms away from your body, elbows sticking out, with your shoulders back. Your posture is good.  You’re comfortable, smiling inside, and cradling your baby.  Let a feeling of calm wash over you.

*pause*

Focus on your breath.  Take a deep breath in, hold it for a moment, and then exhale.  Again, breathe in deeply, pause for a moment, and then exhale.  Once more, breathe in deeply, pause for a moment, and then exhale.

Feel your body begin to relax.  Begin with your cradle.  Take a breath and feel your palms on your belly.  Exhale as you let the tension release from your hands and wrists. Take a breath and feel your arms extending out from your body.  Exhale and release the tension in your shoulders.

Now feel your spine extend from the base of your skull all the way down to your tailbone.  Take a breath and feel roots extend into the earth, growing into your Mother.  Now exhale and release the tension in your back.  Let it flow down into the Earth.  Focus once again on your breathing and feel with each inhale your connection to the Earth grow.  Feel with each exhale your tension flowing away.

*pause*

As your tension flows away feel this release also in your womb.  Feel your baby as she is given more freedom to move, as less pressure is placed on her.   Feel her tension lessen as well.

*pause*

Focus now on your heartbeat.  Feel as your pulse beats within your fingertips.  Feel as your pulse beats  within your belly.  Feel as your pulse beats within your chest.  Feel as your pulse beats with the Earth Mother.

Let your breathing relax as you focus on your heartbeat.  Listen to the faint beating within your ears.  Listen as this beating becomes louder.  This is how your baby hears your heart.  This is her connection to you.  She is soothed within your womb as you are soothed by the Earth around you.  Listen to the steady thump-thump, and feel that connection between the Earth, and you, and your baby.

*pause*

You tensions now eased, and a connection established, think now on the joy of your baby.  Think on the joy in her creation.  Think on the joy of her inside you now.  Think on the joy that she will bring into the world with her.  Think on the joy of raising her from infant to child to teen to adult.  Think on the joy that she will bring to all the lives she touches.

*pause*

With these joys in mind, feel them as a warmth growing between your hands.  Let this warmth pulse with your heartbeat, and with each breath grow stronger.  Let the warmth fill the space between your hands, spreading across your belly.

Now, let that warmth begin to seep down into your womb.  Let your joys fall across your baby so that she too can feel the ecstasy that she encompasses.  Let the warmth of outrun joys pulse through her as easily as your heartbeat does.

Feel the love, and joy, and warmth as it fills you and your baby together.  Spend some time focusing on these thoughts.  How do they make you feel?  How do they make your baby feel?

*210 bpm drumming for 15-30 min*

Begin to once again concentrate on your body.  Listen for your heartbeat, pulsing through you and your baby with love and joy.

*pause*

Feel your fingertips, warm now with that joy pulsing through them, as they gently rest on your belly.  Feel your arms as they extend out from your body.  Let your posture relax as you wiggle your fingers and toes.  Perhaps you roll your shoulders or neck, bringing yourself back to your body.

Take a deep breath and let this breath of the Mother rejuvenate you.  Exhale, and let the energy you’ve pooled within yourself seep back into the Earth.  Again, breathe in deeply, pause for a moment, and then exhale, coming back into yourself.  Once more, breathe in deeply, pause for a moment, and then exhale.  Let the last of the excess energy flow back into the Earth.

*pause*

Open your eyes and let your arms fall to your sides as you come firmly back to your body.

 

  1. Describe three experiences of trance. These trances must come from three different methods chosen from the list below: (min. 600 words for each experience)

b) Sonic Driving

Sonic driving is probably one of the most reliable ways I’ve been able to attain trance.  It is especially useful for me because not only does it align everything in my brain, but it also blocks out distracting noises that can pull me out of trance.  That being said, it is also one of the methods that I feel much more comfortable with when whatever it is I’m listening to has a callback beat, because it does hold me in trance so well.

For this trance experience I used Harner’s 30 minute double-drumming track.  I was slightly depressed going into the trance work, my husband was having a very moody day, and the baby had been cranky all day.  Needless to say, there were a lot of distractions vying for my attention.  It took me longer than normal to drop into trance. I stayed aware of what was around me longer.  As I listened longer, I began to hear bits of music or songs overlaid on top of the drums, with colors accompanying the sounds. This is not terribly unusual, but normally when it happens it feels more coherent.  This was more like if I were sitting in a closet with 4 separate concerts going on in the rooms around me.  I felt like there were words for some of the strains I was hearing, but I couldn’t pick them out. Other strains of music clearly didn’t have words and were just snatches of lyrical lines, here and there.  While all of this generally falls in the category of “trance work” for me, as I often begin to see colors alongside musical lines, it also generally falls in the pre-trance work state that I get.  That place where the world gets fuzzy as your brain hyper focuses on one thing, and then, like a black hole, folds in on itself and the “real” trance work begins.  This pre- stage lasted longer this time than normal.

When I did hit what I recognize as trance journey work for me, I was on the beach, which is not terribly unusual. I put my hands in the water as the waves rushed in and my hands tingled. When I pulled them out the skin was gone and they were dripping blood. It didn’t hurt or anything, I just didn’t have skin on my hands up to the wrists anymore.   It was like I was wearing gloves made of blood. There was a fire on the beach. I stuck my hands in the sand to coat them in grit and that hurt a lot.  I suppose much like you would expect if you shoved an open wound into gritty, dirty sand. Then I stuck them in the heart of the fire and inexplicably, that didn’t hurt at all.  It tingled again and when I pulled them out I had skin again but it was metallic, hard, and impenetrable. It was flexible like skin but obviously metallic and obviously impenetrable. It looked kind of like Peter Pettigrew’s silver hand in Harry Potter, except not silver.  It was a bronze color, like deeply tanned skin, and had a slight metallic sheen.  They still felt like my hands and still felt like I could use them in exactly the same way for everything. And the new skin still felt like skin, except soft skin. Baby skin. New skin.

Then I started to drift away and there was no more journey work. I was just sitting in the nothingness with the drums pounding in my head until the call back came. And the callback was more jarring than usual. Normally I need the whole callback string of beats. This time as soon as the drumming stopped I was jerked out of trance.

I did some follow-up on this one, looking into what different symbols might mean.  Open cupped hands represent innocence and the bare essence of your being.  So, part of my interpretation of this experience is that I have been blessed with the bare essence of myself and have received the blessings of the waters.  There is also some aspect of a cleansing and purification by fire in order to be made new.  Much like the visual concentration trance discussed below, I think this indicates some type of rite of passage or initiation.

d) Chant/Mantra

One of the tasks for a Bard in ritual space is to maintain the flow of energy.  When it is begin built up, it is important not to let any escape, and when a slow point in the ritual hits, the Bard can help to keep the energy from trickling away.  One of the best ways to do this is by including music, songs, or chants that will engage the folk and keep them participating in the ritual.  There is a certain trance state that happens when a Bard needs to be able to sense the energy patterns in a ritual and help to maintain and control the flow of energy.  It’s like throwing a lasso around the folk, where the Bard focuses on holding the energy that is built during songs and invocations within the bounds of the rite so that it can be used later in the rite.

At our Grove’s Imbolc ritual, there is a portion of the rite where energy is likely to flag.  First the waters are passed and quaffed, and then the Healing blanket is passed around to be recharged.  This is a lot of down time where the individual people at the rite are not necessarily actively engaged in the action.  As the Bard for the ritual in 2012, a large part of keeping the folk engaged fell to me.  In addition to being the Bard for the ritual, I also had the role  of calling down the waters and infusing the blessings into the waters. So, I was already in the mindset of holding all the energy in, and was already in a light trance state from that.

Following the Blessings was the working where we recharged the grove healing blanket and did healing work for a grove member and her mom, who had just had a horrible accident.  The working was especially powerful for me this time because I wrote the song we were using to build energy.  It’s actually the first song I wrote with guitar accompaniment, and yet still seems like one of the most powerful.  Perhaps because I wrote it while I was in that state and with that need.  It’s simple, easy to pick up, and can be layered with echo lines, counter melodies, and harmonies.  We just used the one section, rather than the whole song, in the rite, and I let the folk riff off the basic version as they felt moved to:

Let the rain wash away all your worries.

Let the rain wash away all your fears.

Let the rain wash away all your troubles.

And let the storm come rolling in.

 

Let the waves wash away all your heartache.

Let the waves wash away all your pain.

Let the waves wash away all your anguish.

And let the tide come rolling in.

 

Let this song wash away all your sorrow.

Let this song wash away all your tears.

Let this song wash away all your despair.

And let the harmonies of friends join in.

 

As I led the song, the healing blanket was being passed around, and I could see the flows of energy coming off people and bouncing against my lasso, so they would reflect back into the blanket.  As the song continued I began to hear bits of music and harmonies that weren’t there.  This is one of my usual indications that the magic is working, when I hear the whole choir and all its parts.  The strains of melody and harmony being woven together took on shapes and colors, and wove themselves into the blanket.  It all looked a lot like the introduction to Fantasia, where the narrator is explaining the different instrumental sounds and using visual stimuli to help.  I’ve experienced synesthesia-like trances before, but this was the first time it had happened with such intent and in a public ritual space.

f) Visual Concentration

This experience was a trance stemming from staring at a flame, which led to some divinatory revelations as well. It was kind of intense.  I traveled to the deep with Poseidon like I haven’t done for quite some time.  It started at Chenille, and most folks had already gone to bed.  There had been a fire in the fire pit, but it was burnt down to the coals.  I began to restart the fire from the coals, and as it was completely dark, the liminal space was amplified. I worked on starting the flames up again by breathing on the embers and carefully adding bits of kindling and wood.  Breathing on the fire is like taking breaths when swimming. Blow out, slowly and carefully, and then turning your head to the side to take another breath.  In water it’s so you don’t breathe in the liquid, and when coaxing a fire back to life it’s so you don’t breathe in the smoke.

Poseidon is so very powerful.  He has raw power and depth, and is very big, intense, and alien feeling.  You can’t control the ocean, and you can’t understand the ocean.  I work extensively with him, specifically for trance work, so going into a trance with him, and journeying to the depths of the ocean is not in and of itself unusual.  There is a release of control when I trance journey with him that intensely.  He is big enough to wash you away without even meaning to.  And when I experience trance with hi, it is not entirely intentional, it is still somewhat scary, no matter how much I have worked with him in that capacity.  It is nearly always magical from me when the deep trance with him happens.

After the flames were coaxed back to life I sat back on my heels and staring into the flickering light.  The trance began as I felt like I was standing waist deep on the shore with the waves crashing against me. And then the spray hit my face and I was suddenly at the bottom of the ocean in the deep dark of his realm.  That is normally my signifier for entering trance.  The spray of the ocean hits my face, and I drop into wherever I need to be.  As I hit the deep ocean, streaks of living fire cycloned around me.  There was the overwhelming presence of Poseidon almost vibrating around me, pulsing, sonar-like.  The tongues of flame solidified into a lantern shape and there was a distinct and sharp difference between the heat coming off the flame and the bone deep chill of the water.  Then as the lantern shape solidified further it was very obviously Phi overlaid on Zeta. (Phi is “having done something carelessly you will hereafter blame the gods” it’s taking responsibility for your actions. And Zeta is Zeus’s symbol. “Flee the storm lest Zeus destroy you.”) And that’s kind of terrifying.  I don’t normally see symbols when I trance, and perhaps that’s because I’m only just now getting them so deeply ingrained that they can comfortably appear.  There was a distinct sense of Poseidon needing me to see these overlaid symbols and understand them. But the danger and intensity that exuded from the lantern symbol was not his and not from him, but rather was a warning passed along, like something that he was sharing behind the back of another.

The general gist of the message seems to be that forewarned is forearmed.  It is extremely confusing though.  Does it mean that you must take responsibility for your actions, but then run from the consequences?  I feel almost completely blind with this vision.  Am I going to mess things up that bad?  Perhaps there is also an indicator that the message is from Zeus, as Zeta is his symbol.  It’s possible that this is the case, however that is certainly not the primary meaning of that symbol in this sense.  It may not be an immediate threat, but it is there.  I considered that the symbols could be an either/or situation, such as “take responsibility for your actions or you’ll anger the powers that be and have to run.” That could be the most likely interpretation, except that the symbols were overlaid, so I feel that they go together.  It is unusual for me to see overlaid symbols.

It’s also possible that the symbols modify each other. The overlay blends them into something different than the individual components.  Additionally, I feel like the lantern shape was also important, and the fact that it was made of fire, living fire.  Maybe it is a portal and the overlay symbol is the key.  Part of the message could be that I must travel through the heart of the fire.  My entrance to that trance world is through the lantern; access granted with the key.  The key could be Phi since that is what be traveled through.  And taking responsibly for your actions can also mean having a personal acceptance of it.  That this is the choice you had to make, and owning up to the fact that that was the chic you had to make.  Part of the acceptance could be that my actions must involve flight, and the flight may be through the heart of the fire.  And taking responsibility means sometimes you get burned. And you can’t endure the fire. You have to flee through it.  And fleeing isn’t always “bad,” sometimes it is just necessary.

An initiation of some sort, or a rite of passage, could make sense. Lanterns light the way. And a place of transition requires you to accept your past and leave it behind.  That’s feeling more right.  There’s still the intensity and vague sense of danger though. And the feeling that who is the message actually from is not Poseidon.  He is just the messenger in this sense and the original giver of the vision didn’t necessarily want me to see it, or at least not with this timing.

 

  1. Submit an original trance induction script based in ADF symbolism (e.g. Two Powers, Fire/Well/Tree, Three Realms, etc.). (no minimum word count)

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.

***Pause***

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 your 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 your 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.

***Pause***

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 your 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 also the warmth of companionship. As you break out of the forest and head back towards your 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.

 

  1. Submit an original trance induction script based in Indo-European Mythology. (no minimum word count)

Begin by finding a comfortable place, either sitting or standing.  Take a deep breath, and let the cares of your day to day life fade.  Take a deep breath, and let the worries of the world fade.  Take a deep breath, and feel the connection to the earth around you.  Take a deep breath, and feel the connection to the spirits around you.

See in your mind’s eye a mountain rising up beside you.  The red-gold dirt dry and powdery at your feet.  You footsteps lead you up the mountain, and as you climb the dust swirls around your feet.  The red-gold dust rises with you, and the sunlight catches it, forming shining motes in the air.

As you climb higher, you pass marble pillars.  Now there are small plants growing along the mountainside.  Laurel trees begin to take shape around you as you reach the pinnacle.  You see there is the entrance to a cave, and leading away from it, a narrow path that goes further up.

You step onto the path leading further up, and all at once you are surrounded by lush, green, growing things.  Soft grasses caress your feet, and the laurel trees shade your every step, taking in the heat of the day.  You crest the top of a hip, and find that you have come to a T-junction.  The path to you right leads down into a small valley with a pond at the center, and the path to your right leads up into a crevice in the rock face.  You head right, and make your way down in to the valley.

When you reach the pond you splash water on your face and take a few deep breathes, preparing for your work with the Pythia.  From the base of the laurel tree you take a dried leaf.  You crush the leaf, letting the scent of bay waft by you, and drop the leaf pieces into the pond.

*at this point, each person crushes a bay leaf*

You stand, and with the scent of bay growing ever heavier around you, filling you, you walk up the path again, this time heading for the crevice in the rock face.

You step up to the dark, taking a deep breath.  The Pythia awaits you, you need but enter.

 

  1. Describe the process of creating your inner locale, the challenges and aids you experienced in the creation of this locale, and (optional) its appearance. (min. 1000 words)

I already had a basic image of my inner locale when I began working on trance work. It is the calming place I created when I was going through dialectical behavior therapy, and was a place that I could visualize easily. The purpose initially was to be able to see myself somewhere calming where I could think and not be stressed out by the fast paced world, and my triggers there.

As I began trance work, I found that I was starting there, and so I began cultivating it to better meet my spiritual needs. 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 have set up my inner grove to be essentially a starting point, or a jumping off point for any other trance work I may do.

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 trees 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 (see the write-up on this from Trance 1).  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.   If I traveled up that way, winding my way through the deer trails, I was likely to meet with Artemis. 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.  My trance journey experiences that headed this direction tended to be transformative, and have roots within the real world experience I was struggling with. I would say that the take away from these journeys was most often a strengthening of myself, and a stronger resolve to know myself, and be true to myself.

Later, as I began working with Poseidon, another addition was made to my locale. As I walk out there 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.  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.  When I’m working with Poseidon, his pull is stronger.  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 me to return to my body, the bell will ring and guide me back to land.  I added this bell because I found that I was having a hard time with a call back from trance, so by including a callback mechanism within my inner locale, I am better able to respond to the callback that happens externally.

Another issue that I found was happening during guided trance journeys that other people were leading was that because of the way my inner local is set up, it was too big for me to traverse the whole length of it and “make it home again” by the time they were trying to end the trance.  This left me feeling panicked and rushed all through the journey.  So, the way that I mitigated this was to put a series of gateways and ‘fairy rings’ through my inner locale.  Each of these gateways and fairy rings connects to all the others, and they allow me to quickly jump between locations that I’ve added to my inner grove.  This has helped immensely in making my trance journeys more relaxing, more rewarding, and more successful in general.

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.  This is most often the path that I take if I’m engaging in trance work for the purpose of journeying to an unfamiliar place, and/or with an unfamiliar guide (speaker).

One of the more recent additions to my inner grove is a wall of earth with a cave inset within its face.  There is a flickering light coming from within.  This part of my inner grove has grown stronger and more present the more work I’ve done with Hekate as a Gatekeeper and Guide.  I can now call on her, and see her, torches held high, ready to use the cave as a starting point for journeys with her. This aspect of journey work tends to lead me to both the Underworld, as well as to the liminal spaces where the gods are easier to hear.  This included work done with the Pythia and various other bits of oracular work.

 

  1. Journal for five months, continuing the trance work journal you began in Trance 1. Provide an essay based on this journal detailing how your experiences have affected your practice. (min. 1000 words for the essay)

Since I was completing the journal for both Trance 2 and Magic 2 at the same time, one of the things I found is that I began using trance intentionally in my magical and divinatory work, and it has played an integral role. I’ve found that in order to be in the best mindset to achieve the results I want with my magical work, I need to enter a least a light trance. This trance may differ depending on my location, if there are other people present, if the magical working is taking place in or out of a ritual context, and how complex the magical working is.  The deepest trance states I use in conjunction with magical work are done when I am in my own home, by myself, in ritual space, with a complex working.  If I’m going to go deep into trance I need to feel safe and comfortable.  This could probably be done around a few people who I trust as well, though that opportunity has not presented itself.  I am also more likely to enter a deep trance state for more complex workings because this will minimize distraction and help me to better focus my intent.  Additionally, I’m more likely to do a complex magical working within ritual space because if it is that important or that complex, I will probably be asking the spirits for assistance.

I also use trance when I am doing divinatory work. Having practiced more with the NLP triggers one of the things I’ve changed since completing Trance 1 is adding in the crushing of the bay leaf. Initially I was just saying the prayer and making an offering of the bay leaf. But I found that by crushing it as I offered it, it not only added another auditory and olfactory cue for me, it was also a cue that was unlikely to be replicated outside of that specific instance, and will thus keep the trigger strong (Ellerton).

When I do divination the first thing I do is take a deep breath to center myself and then call out to Apollo Mantikos, crushing an offering bay leaves, using the same prayer I use every time I pull omens:

“Apollo Mantikos, guide my hand.

See with my eyes. Hear with my ears.  Speak with my voice.”

 I crush the bay leaves in order to offer them because it is both a sound and a smell that happens every time.  This resonates with the idea that the Pythia had a whole series of steps that she would do the same every time in order to prepare her to speak with Apollo and enter the trance state where that was possible.  As I use them in a similar way to put myself into a light trance in order to make that call to Apollo Mantikos and be able to hear and interpret his words, I feel it is an apt way of doing things.  This intentional use of trance has helped to augment my divinatory practice.

I also use trance for magic when I’m writing bardic pieces.  Part of the Order of Bardic Alchemy work requires you to write a bardic piece in ritual space, with the intent to use it during ritual.  The Muses are my bardic patrons, and whom I work with most frequently when I’m doing bardic work.  I call to them for inspiration before I write, and often before I play, sing, or perform.  I decided the piece I would write would honor them, and give me an alternative method to call to them, rather than with a simple invocation.

After completing the devotional and making offerings to the Muses, I sat with my bard book open, staring at a candle flame. The words seemed to come excessively quickly.  I often describe the process of this ‘gift song’ as trying to catch the Awen with your pen, and funnel it down into something coherent on the page.  This was not my first experience with a ‘gift song,’ and like the others, the whole piece was written in probably under an hour: words, chords, melody, and all.  It required very little revision following the initial writing.  “Muses, Sing Through Me” is still the main way that I call to the muses before beginning bardic work.

I also use trance when I’m doing healing work, in order to focus the intent of the energy being directed, as well as allowing me to better visual the target when I’m working from a distance.  Most recently we performed a healing at a Druid Moon for one of our Grove members.  Paul, Missy, and I led the working, which involved everyone toning and focusing the healing energy through to the grove member.  We began by breathing together and then started the toning.  The regulated breaths that are required by toning, combined with the circular motions Missy was making with incense helped to drop me into a deeper trance.  Things seemed to slow and the sounds took on a synesthetic quality, seeming to thicken and color.  I focused on wrapping the grove member in the tones.  As we continued to work, I began to hear the overtones and harmonics coming out of the toning.  That is one of the cues that I recognize as an indicator that the intent is properly focused and the magical work is taking effect.  We continued for just a bit longer past the overtones, letting them fully sink in, before completing the work.  I was surprised to note that the Folk followed me in ceasing the toning, and then Missy tied up the loose ends with pretty words.

Another powerful instance of trance that was surprising to me was one that among other people, that I didn’t lead, and that had no journey script to accompany it. At my grove’s Gaimonios druid moon we had lit the three fires of Belenos, and for the working, took turns standing within them (at the center of all three) and being blessed by the fire of inspiration, the fire of fellowship, and the fire of sacrifice/blessing. Please note that MJD says “the juju works anywhere within the circle.” What he meant was, you don’t need to stand super close to the fires and possibly get burned.  I led the toning while we each took a moment within, stating our needs, and standing there. MJD warned that some people might be trancey, what with the fire and the toning and all. I wasn’t sure that I would be, but once I stepped within the ring of stones, it hit me. I slitted my eyes partially because it felt right, and partially to help with the smoke. With the sounds buffeting against me, I got that slightly woozy feeling that trance brings on. The fires around me seemed to take up my whole vision, and began sparking and flashing. I drew my hands up, pulling the fires warmth and energy, and pressed it into myself.  I had asked for focus and perseverance.  Another note regarding this trance experience was that I don’t remember the fires feeling warm once I stepped within the ring of stones.

One of the things I’ve noticed has improved significantly since my work in Trance 1, is that I’ve begun to really learn and catalog what my “tells” for me to be able to tell that I’ve entered trance. I know that my breathing steadies, and my center of balance seems to shift. Most often I feel like gravity has moved and I’m leaning heavily to the left or right. If I am doing trance work accompanied by sound of some sort, when I’ve entered trance the sounds seem to circle around me, meaning that the location of the noise seems to be moving around me. Sometimes there will also be other layers of sounds that get added in, whether overtones, or drumbeats, or harmonies, that flesh out whatever it is that I’m listening to. Oftentimes I will get a tingly feeling that runs from the base of my neck down my spine and arms. Less often, I will get a feeling similar to the beginnings of an asthma attack, where my chest seems to be constricting and the air seems thicker.   Visually, the world will first go black and then colors will shift and sway across my vision until they clarify into an image or series of images.

I have also grown better at drawing my line in order to have more controlled trances rather than often having the experience of being horsed. Part of this I think has come with the magical work I’ve done, and learning to use my Big Voice, and part of it I think has come because now that I have a dependent, I have more reason to have that line drawn, and more conviction when I say “not right now.” One of the things I’ve done to encourage this progression fit right in line with the Trance 2 work. I set aside time, at least weekly, to open myself to the spirits and engage in trance. I found that by practicing more on my schedule allowed me to feel more confident and get more out of the trance work. Not only do I have a better memory for the trance work now, but I’m also getting better at making interpretations of what I see.

The final thing that I feel is significant from this period of time is that I’ve experimented with different methods of entering trance, and have found that certain ways of getting there are more beneficial than others depending on the circumstances and reason for going into trance. After Trance 1, there were some methods that I wanted to experiment more with once I wasn’t pregnant. I did some more work with Body Postures and found them to be extremely useful with internal work where the intention was to give me insight about myself and the way my brain operates. I especially enjoyed how using Body Postures in trance could help me to regain my center and allow me to approach things with a fresh perspective. I experimented with auditory confusion, and was surprised to find that I enjoyed it, where others I’d spoken to about it absolutely hated it. I found it soothing and mid numbing. I experienced some of the physiological effects of trance. Most notably a dizziness and a strong tingling in my spine. Like when someone just barely brushes the hairs on the back of your neck. Other than that I’m slightly sleepy. I used Sigor Ros and Fierce Tibetan Gods as my music for the auditory confusion that was most successful.

All in all, trance work has definitely enriched my practice from many different angles. I have grown more adept at everything from magical workings, to divination, to liturgical work and leading or participating in rituals.

 

  1. Describe an experience of leading a trance induction in group ritual. (min. 300 words)

 At Wellspring, the advanced study students wanted to do trance together.  We had initially hoped that we’d all be able to do this together, however, the Norse-kin broke off and decided to do their own thing with the World Tree, so I then volunteered to lead a trance for the Hellenes who wanted it.  We got the kin flame, and calling Hestia, we lit it.  We were on the stage at the main pavilion, in the darkness except for the flickering candle light.  I had some extra candles, and so lit one for each person, and gave each person a bay leaf.  I instructed them to hold on the bay until the point in the spoken guidance where they would crush it, and to focus on the flame.  We would be ascending the mountain of Delphi in order to commune with the Pythia. I also set aside a flame and leaf for myself.  Once everyone was ready, I instructed them to get comfortable, listen, and focus on their flame, saying:

“Begin by finding a comfortable place, either sitting or standing.  Take a deep breath, and let the cares of your day to day life fade.  Take a deep breath, and let the worries of the world fade.  Take a deep breath, and feel the connection to the earth around you.  Take a deep breath, and feel the connection to the spirits around you.

See in your mind’s eye a mountain rising up beside you.  The red-gold dirt dry and powdery at your feet.  You footsteps lead you up the mountain, and as you climb the dust swirls around your feet.  The red-gold dust rises with you, and the sunlight catches it, forming shining motes in the air.

As you climb higher, you pass marble pillars.  Now there are small plants growing along the mountainside.  Laurel trees begin to take shape around you as you reach the pinnacle.  You see there is the entrance to a cave, and leading away from it, a narrow path that goes further up.

You step onto the path leading further up, and all at once you are surrounded by lush, green, growing things.  Soft grasses caress your feet, and the laurel trees shade your every step, taking in the heat of the day.  You crest the top of a hip, and find that you have come to a T-junction.  The path to you right leads down into a small valley with a pond at the center, and the path to your right leads up into a crevice in the rock face.  You head right, and make your way down in to the valley.

When you reach the pond you splash water on your face and take a few deep breathes, preparing for your work with the Pythia.  From the base of the laurel tree you take a dried leaf.  You crush the leaf, letting the scent of bay waft by you, and drop the leaf pieces into the pond.

*at this point, each person crushes a bay leaf*

You stand, and with the scent of bay growing ever heavier around you, filling you, you walk up the path again, this time heading for the crevice in the rock face.

You step up to the dark, taking a deep breath.  The Pythia awaits you, you need but enter.”

At this point I said no more, and allowed myself to also enter trance.  I had had to hold myself a bit apart during the spoken guidance, and especially during the crushing of the leaves, particularly since that is one of my own NLP triggers for trance.  I’ve found that the hardest part of leading trance is holding yourself apart from the triggers and the trance work so that you can do your best to make sure that others are safely entering and exiting trance.  It’s also important I think to be able to stay conscious of the time that you’re letting people journey.

With this trance, I was fairly confident that I could allow more time for folks to journey, since they were all practiced to some degree or another at trance work.  That is also why I allowed myself to enter trance, since normally I don’t if I’m leading because I don’t know how the folks will react.

During the silent portion, there were a  decent number of distractions, including the sound of people walking across the gravel, talking from folks socializing at different fires, the cold, and the bugs.  If there had been a drum available, I probably would have been drumming, since that works nicely to cover those distracting noises and gives the brain something to dismiss all noises as.

But as things stood, each person worked using the visual concentration of the flame to guide them.  I had success personally as the flame divided out and merged again, shifting and turning into shapes made of flame and shadow.  It was like watching a play staged in a shadowbox theater.

 

Work’s Cited

Ellerton, Roger. “Basic NLP Anchoring Concepts.” Basic NLP Anchoring Concepts. Renewal Technologies Inc, 1 Jan. 2005. Web. 2 June 2014. <http://www.renewal.ca/nlp31.htm>.

Goodman, Felicitas D., and Nana Nauwald. Ecstatic Trance: A Workbook : New Ritual Body Postures. Havelte, Holland: Binkey Kok Publications, 2003. Print.

Harner, Michael J. The Way of the Shaman. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990. Print.

Johnston, Sarah Iles. Ancient Greek Divination. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell Pub., 2008. Print.

Knight, Lee. “Establishing Rapport: Pacing and Leading (NLP 3/5).” : Establishing Rapport: Pacing and Leading (NLP 3/5). Overachievers, 28 Feb. 2008. Web. 2 June 2014. <http://overachievercoach.blogspot.com/2008/02/establishing-rapport-pacing-and-leading.html>.

 

Trance 1

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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”).

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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).

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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).

 

  1. (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.

 

  1. 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.

“Dryad Meditation”

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.

***Pause***

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.

***Pause***

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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