- 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.)
To me, trance is the shift in consciousness where you are now able to experience things that you are not aware of in your normal state of consciousness. In Neo-Pagan religious practices, this is commonly experienced as some kind of journeying and experiencing some kind of alternative space. We also tend to go to this state to open ourselves up to communications with various other beings. Basically, trance is about opening your awareness to everything around you.
To me, meditation generally results in some kind of hyper-focused state, blocking out all that is not being focused on. A usual goal of meditation is to silence the mind and be completely in the present. This focus on the release of everything is the opposite of trance where you open yourself up to everything.
Hypnosis is a form of trance where the person is open to suggestion. This is commonly demonstrated as a stage trick where the hypnotist induces hypnosis in an audience member and gives them suggestions to do something silly, like cluck like a chicken. There is medical value in it though through behavior modification for things like alcohol addiction or smoking. Ultimately, to me, this boils down to being put into trance, or putting one’s self into trance, for some specific purpose, and by that view, “guided meditations” are really a form of hypnosis.
- Give a brief history of hypnosis. (min. 300 words)
Hypnosis has a long history. We can find examples of this in ancient Greece at the temple of Epidaurus. This was considered a place of healing, and those that came there had dreams that told them what they needed to do to heal themselves. These dreams were likely the result of light trance and hypnosis. When they arrived, they had the preconceived notion that this would happen. This would be reinforced by the priest that received them and prepared them. All of this would help put them in a hypnotic state to get the expected dream (Hoffman 10).
In the eighteenth century we had the German physician F. A. Mesmer (1734-1815) who did healing work with magnets. He believed that the use of magnets could affect auras, and “smooth” them out (Hoffman 11). When this method became popular and Mesmer had moved to France, a board of inquiry was formed and one of the first blind studies in medicine was done testing to see if the magnets were absolutely necessary. The result of this inquiry was that the magnets were not necessary, and it was all due to imagination. This did start getting people to start down the path to studying trance and hypnosis though (Hypnosis).
Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891) was one of the first modern western practitioners of trance to get knowledge. She studied what was done in non-European belief systems, such as the Indian cultures, to learn how to disconnect herself from her physical body and travel to these higher beings to get answers. This is really one of the first modern examples of astral travel (Hoffman 12).
It was James Braid (1795-1860) though that first coined the term hypnotism, coming from the Greek word for sleep. He took what Mesmer was doing, and re-defined it to the point where there was no need for magnets, but through the use of a fixation on a moving object (Wikipedia). This is what many people today think of when one talks about hypnosis, as someone waving a pocket watch in front of the subject to put them into the trance.
Hypnosis was then brought into medicine as an early kind of anesthesia and to treat all kinds of disorders with varying results. A Dr. Elliotson (29 October, 1791 – 29 July, 1868) was a physician that used hypnotism as a way to successfully treat patients that suffered epilepsy, hysteria, asthma, headaches, and rheumatism (Hathaway 332).
The modern methods for hypnosis started with Milton Erickson (5 December, 1901 – 25 March, 1980). His method was to tell very boring stories that would put his patient into a trance. While in this trance, the patient was then forced to face with whatever their issue was, and given the chance to deal with it (Hathaway 359). The key development here was the use of words, and not things such as a moving object or rhythms at a specific beats per minute, to bring about the trance.
- Describe Neuro-Linguistic programming. (min. 100 words)
Bandler describes Neuro-Linguistic programming (NLP) as something that came out of hypnosis and the works of Satir, Gestalt, Perls, and Erickson. The general idea for NLP was the result of studying what successful therapists had been doing and finding the similarities in what they did. The result of this was, as Bandler explains, is that to be successful at this kind of hypnosis, you need to change the “map” of how the patient sees the world. If you can change this map of how someone sees the world, you can get them to get past whatever issue they came to you for.
This changing of the map can be done by changing how we weigh each of our 5 senses, our social and individual restraints, deletion of parts of the “map” that are counterproductive and distort other parts, and the use of generalization to modify the “map. This is all done through various forms of hypnosis and suggestion (Bandler 387).
- Identify and describe three instances where trance is found in ancient Indo-European cultures. (min. 150 words each instance)
With the Norse, trance was used as part of the Seiðr work. The saga of Eric the Red describes this practice. The saga has an account of how a völva, a woman that practiced seiðr, would travel around the various settlements and the general appearance of the woman and how she was treated. The saga then goes on to describe how the seiðr was performed. This was done through the use of singing and possibly drumming (Sephton Ch. 4).
The purpose of the seiðr was to get answers to questions, usually they were related to the health of the crops for the current or coming year. From the description of the seiðr, it is very obvious that what is happening is the völva is going into a trance. While in this trance, she would do what was necessary to answer the questions that were asked of them while in trance. It is implied through the dress of the völva and the stories told about the seiðr that the völva did some kind of shamanic traveling to gather the answers (Davidson 117).
Greek Oracle at Delphi
Probably the best know ancient trance practice would be the Oracle at Delphi. The shrine that was used was built around what was thought to be the omphalos, or the center of the world, according to Greek mythology. This happened to be at a spring and a hole that went deep into the ground (PBS).
The most notable oracles was Pythia, a priestess of Apollo (PBS). She would enter the shrine and sit on top of a tripod. Once there, she would enter into a trance and answer questions in an unintelligible speech. The priests that tended to her would then interpret what she said. Often, what came out was very cryptic and could be interpreted multiple ways (Ancient-Greece.org).
One thing to note specifically about this site is the geology. Where the tripod was situated, it was over a vent that released ethylene, a noxious gas that is known to have hallucinogenic effects. So, instead of going into an altered state of consciousness from non-medicinal methods, here a drug, ethylene, was used to induce the altered state.
Irish Imbas Forosnai
For the Irish, there was an oracular based trance induction that was done by the poets (filid) in order to gain knowledge that they seek. Cormac’s Glossary, the earliest version of which dates to early tenth century, was a listing of over 1400 Irish words and phrases, and their meanings (Cormaic). It is in this work that we find a description of how the Imbas Forosnai was performed.
The Imbas Forosnai was started by the filid by first chewing on some red meat from a pig, dog, or a cat and then leave it on the floor behind the door. He would then sing an incantation over it and make sacrifice to the deities asking them to come to him. The next day he would chant over his hands while again calling to the deities. Finally, he would put his palms to his face and go into a state of unconsciousness and be guarded from disturbance for a set number of days which could range from two to twenty seven depending on the translation (Chadwick).
What is likely happening here is that the filid is doing a ritual asking for something from the deities, presumably inspiration for their art. As part of this ritual, they put themselves into a trance and ask not to be disturbed for a period of time. I find it hard to believe that the upper bounds of the time range are physically possible though. During this time in trance, the filid finds his inspiration, or the knowledge that they were seeking and come out of the trance.
- Describe three ways trance can be used in personal spiritual practice. (min. 100 words each)
One way that I use trance in my personal practice is trance journeying. In brief, this involves putting myself into a trance, and then either putting myself somewhere or start from where I am and journey to a specific place. For me, this kind of trance work is used mostly to bring about some kind of conversation with one or many of the Kindred. This is best exemplified by the Clergy Order work that is done.
I also use trance journeying for magical purposes. I will journey to my “home” that I have worked on building up in this trance world. When I reach the home, I will then do my magical workings. Probably the most memorable thing I have done this way is to do distance Reiki on a friend. I went to my “home”, visualized them on the table, and did the Reiki to heal them.
Possession by entity
A common practice, but not one that is consciously done by me, is to be possessed by some entity, often a deity. This is usually done by the person going into some kind of trance, and inviting the deity in using whatever methods are appropriate for that being.
There are a few reasons for doing this. One common one is to bring that being in for the ritual, and have them be able to directly interact with the people there. Another reason is exemplified by Seiðr. Here the seer often will invite an ancient, now dead, seer into their body to answer the questions posed to them. At times, they also allow a deity or other Kindred to come through to give their answers directly. Finally, some people just enjoy being possessed, and do it for fun. This is not something I would recommend though.
Meditation is a form of trance where you strive to quiet everything and experience the nothingness and the silence of the moment. This, for me, is more about getting a physical response out of it. Meditation has been shown to have great benefits to ones health by doing things like lowering pulse and blood pressure, reducing stress, and calming oneself overall.
About nine years ago, I was undergoing a period of high stress from work. My doctor actually recommended that I look into meditation, and I started doing it on an infrequent basis. Even the haphazard meditation attempts I had at that time had a great effect on me physically. The stress related issues I had disappeared or moderated, and I was able to cope with work much better. Since then, I’ve used meditation mainly as a technique to reduce the stresses of life.
- Identify and explain three methods of attaining a trance state. (min. 150 words per method)
Almost every introduction to trance and meditation focuses largely on breath to start with. This was how I started, and definitely still a major part of how I go into trance. The use of breath is not really that surprising because the controlling of breath can affect your physiology with things like changing heart rate and blood pressure.
The use of regulated breathing is by far the technique that I use the most. This is because it requires no additional items to go there, and it can be done easily and discreetly almost anywhere. The way I use this method is to start off with taking three or four deep breaths to first help me clear my mind of what I’m currently thinking of. These breaths are also internal cues to me that I am going to be going into this trance or meditative state. After that, I then generally do breathing based on a four count. This is breath in for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, hold for four counts, then repeat. After doing this for a few cycles, I find I can stop my counting, and be in the trance or meditative state I was looking for. To return from the trance, I once again take a couple deep breaths and that’s my cue to return.
This is probably the next most common method that I use, and it’s usually used in combination with the regulated breathing. The idea behind the trance journey method is to go into trance with the purpose of doing something through visualization while in trance. While this is most commonly connected with doing an actual journey, such as visiting the underworld, I am going to broaden this more to include other kinds of visualizations such as guided meditations as the techniques for all are the same in practice for me. The two most common techniques I use here are the two powers meditation and the clergy order journeying, which for me usually comes after the two powers. So, in my practice, the two are really combined into one technique.
In general I start with breathing, and get myself in a light trance through breath. Then I go and visualize myself as being the axis mundi (usually a tree in my visions) and connecting myself with the waters below and the fires above. As I’m doing this, I’m drawing in the energies, but I am also going deeper into trance. Once I’m done with the two powers visualization, I then go on to do journeying. I am usually not one to retrace my tracks back when the journey is done though. Often I’ll just take a couple of deep breaths and return. If I was going someplace like Hel, or leading the journey for a group, then I do retrace the journey to return.
Rhythmic movement describes a number of different techniques such as dancing, drumming, or even running and knitting. I have found that some kind of repetitive, rhythmic movement has been very helpful in putting me into a trance.
The basic idea behind rhythmic movement is that you do something in a repetitive manner to induce the trance. This use of repetition is enough to induce a trance by itself, be it through dancing with music, or knitting. The idea is just to do something repetitive and in a consistent rhythm.
This technique is the way I was first successful in inducing a trance for myself, and it is one that I continue to use on a regular basis. The method that works best for me is drumming. What I do is start drumming a slow and simple four beat rhythm. When I get comfortable doing that, I then start to speed it up to a point that I get to a relatively fast pace. At some point, I find that I have gone into a meditative trance and lost all sense of space and time. To end this, I usually stop the drumming because I start flubbing the rhythm and notice it, start falling over, or just get tired. This method is by far the way I get into my deepest trances. It also helps that the audible rhythm is also usually in the range that has been shown to help induce theta waves which is associated with meditation and trance (Binaural).
- 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)
I am going to be describing a trance journey I did that was based off of what Michael Harner’s The Way of the Shaman presents, and a workshop that Kirk Thomas did at Desert Magic a few years ago.
I started, as usual, with concentrating on my breath and using rhythmic breathing to bring me into a light trance state. When I felt that I was sufficiently in trance, I then started visualizations. The start of the journey dealt with finding a hole in the ground, such as a cave, and to enter the hole and follow the tunnel that is behind it. I visualized myself at Lake Tear of the Cloud in the Adirondacks as my starting point because of the importance of the lake to me. I dove into the lake and found my entrance at the bottom of the lake.
Once in the tunnel, I couldn’t help but feel trapped as if the walls were closing in on me. It was definitely a very warm feeling, but I had no idea if I was going up or down, or even where I was going. The tunnel itself was very much like crawling through one of the corrugated drain pipes in texture, but made of earth. I crawled along on hands and knees and when I came to forks in the tunnel, I took the turn that felt correct.
Eventually, I found myself climbing out the top of a mountain in a very desolate and dark place. It was warm and humid where I was, and I felt a little scared being where I was. I found a set of stairs that I climbed down, and that in itself was nerve wracking as it was like walking along the edge of a cliff with no guard rail to prevent me from falling off. This staircase spiraled down around what I found to be a conical spire that I entered through.
The stair case seemed to go on forever, but eventually I reached the bottom of the stairs. I found myself in a forest, but not a normal forest. The ground was pretty much bare, and the trees were deciduous, but they were very regularly spaced as if it was a planned forest. I wandered around and explored the forest. There really wasn’t anything to note as far as what I saw. I did hear bird calls here and there.
Eventually though, I got the feeling that I was being followed, and then eventually chased. This is how I knew it was time for me to leave. I quickly found another entrance into the earth, and followed that tunnel all the way back to my body, and not the lake where I started.
- Describe what happens to the body during a trance state from a physical standpoint. (min. 300 words)
Trance and meditation have a large number of physical effects on the body. In general, these effects are along the lines of calming of the body and a heightened focus of the brain as shown by study of EEG.
Meditation has long been recommended as a way to lessen the effects of stress and help lower stress levels in patients. One example of how this can help is that the glucocorticoid levels, a hormone that is responsible for triggering among other things the fight or flight response, are lowered as a result of meditation. Lamaze, which is another technique similar to meditation in that it produces an altered state of consciousness, has been shown to lower the pain and stress of birth for the mother (Sapolsky 321).
If we look at hypnosis, there are also outward physical signs that one has gone into trance. These signs tend to be towards the calming of the body. Some signs that one can see are a slowed breathing rate, dilated pupils, lower lip engorging with blood, slowing and slurring of speech, increased flaccidity of facial muscles and skin tone, change in blinking rate, increased immobility of limbs, and eyelids fluttering or closing naturally (Bandler 1651).
Apart from the visible effects, there are also measurable effects to the brain. Meditation has been shown numerous times to produce alpha waves across the frontal lobe of the brain in EEG studies. This is indicative of the deactivation and slowing of the brain. This is in contrast to other imaging techniques that shows a general increase in activity of the same region. Hypnosis on the other hand has not been able to show any kind of measurable change in the EEG from normal waking state. The newer imaging techniques though have shown that there is definite localized activity in parts of the brain, specifically an increase in the temporal, occipital, and the parietal cortices and no increase in the dorsolateral aspects of the frontal cortex. In the end though, the response that is produced depends on the technique being used, and the purpose of the altered state of consciousness (Dietrich).
- (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 trance journal covers the period from December 12, 2009 through May 28, 2010. The vast majority of this time was when I was living in Singapore. Once a week, usually either a Saturday or a Sunday, I would go through trying to induce trance using one of the methods. If I was unable to go into trance using the method I intended, I then went in using breathing to do the work I intended to do that day. As this was done in conjunction with the work for Magic 2, I will concentrate only on the trance portion.
The first technique I used was one that I was very familiar with, breath. I first used some audible and aroma cues to help put me in the right frame of mind for going into trance. While these are not ultimately necessary for me, it was reassuring to do that for the first trance. I then laid down on the couch and concentrated on my breath and went into a trance easily. When I was in the trance, I did some visualization work along with magical working. By far, concentrating on breath was the easiest way for me to go into trance.
The next technique I tried was visual concentration. In this instance, I tried concentrating on a lit candle to help induce trance. I sat in a dark room and lit the candle. I then sat there focusing on the candle. This is a method that I had tried early on when I joined ADF as a method for meditation and didn’t have any good success. As I tried again, I found I had the same results. I was unable to go into any kind of trance. All that happened was I ended up focusing on my thoughts for the time I was trying to go into trance.
The next technique I tried was a little weird. I was flying back to the US and I decided to do a trance in the air combined with magic to fall asleep. As I was in an aircraft with no access to anything useful for trance induction, I used my breath to induce trance. I then did journeying to my trance world home, and did a magical working/visualization to bring myself to sleep. This all worked wonderfully as it gave me a few hours of sleep over Asia.
The following week, I was flying back and tried a different technique for going into trance, auditory distraction. In this case I was listening to some movie on the plane, but concentrating on going into trance. With a lot of effort on my part, I was able to go into trance. When I look back on it, after having tried a few different times, it seems that this kind of induction is easier when I am not truly interested in what the audio is.
I then tried auditory confusion to bring me into trance. In this instance, I played two completely different pieces of music, one into each ear. This was Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony and Ives’ fourth symphony. The first is a very melodic and overall pleasing work, the second being a very discordant work. I again, laid on the couch and tried to go into trance while listening to the 2 pieces of music. I tried to let the music bring me into a trance. This did not work for me at all. I kept changing my focus from one ear to the other as various pieces of the music caught my interest.
Sonic driving was the next method I tried. For this I used the Drumming to Journey To CD. This CD is completely filled with a single shamanic type drumming session that has the last tract be a call back to bring you out of trance. I laid down once again on the couch and listened to the CD set for a 15 min session. I went into trance very easily and I was able to do journeying and magic during the trance with no problems at all. This is really not surprising to me as I have been using this CD for a while for this exact purpose.
Movement, specifically dance, was the next thing I tried for trance induction. I this case, I again used the drumming CD, but I danced to the drumming. This did work, but I didn’t get into anything but a light trance. I think that the fear that I was going to fall on the slippery floor (it was a smooth tile) kept me from going deep. This has worked in the past for me though when outdoors with live drumming and a fire.
Chanting was the next method I tried. In this case I used a chant that I learned early in my Neo-Pagan life, She changes everything she touches. I have no idea why this chant popped into my head as I hadn’t sung it for years. It did though, and I chanted, and it worked well for me. Within a few rounds of the chant, I was in trance.
Trance journeying was another thing I did throughout the journal period. This was usually part of every trance when I got into trance. As long as I was able to get into a trance, I was able to do a journey. The journeys varied from just popping into the home I created in the trance world, doing a journey from where I physically was, or putting myself at a specific starting place and journey from there.
I have found trance to have some, but not much, impact on divination. With divination I use a symbol set that have relatively set meanings and trance really does not make much of a difference for me. Only once in a great while do I get some kind of extra message or meaning while doing trance with my divination. It is so infrequent, and I have gotten similar responses when not in trance, I do not believe that for me trance does anything for my divination practices. If I was using something other than a symbol set, such as scrying, then I could see how trance would be of use.
For magical work, trance does help some. This is mostly because I am able to better visualize what I am doing and what effect I am trying to elicit. I also found that if I was trying to influence something, I was able to travel to that place and do the magic where it would do the most good. For example, if I was doing Reiki for someone, I would journey to them, or visualize them in front of me, and do the healing. This worked much better for me than doing it outside of trance.
In ritual is where I find trance to be most useful. I find that when I start ritual, if I go into trance, I at least feel better connected with the energies that I am dealing with. The visualization of the beings that are called in is much easier. I also find that I can emotionally dethatch myself from the ritual. This last point was extremely helpful a few years ago when my grove did the Memorial Day ritual at Wellspring. The ritual got extremely emotional at the praise offering section and the person who was supposed to hallow the waters was unable to because of the emotions. I was in a trance and was completely detached from the emotions I would have normally felt, and I was able to continue on with the ritual.
- 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)
This script was first conceived as part of an all night vigil for my grove to go meet the spirit who turned out to be our patron. I have since taken this and refined the script some and did a couple journeys on my own.
Focus on your breath…. Take a deep breath in…. and out… in… and out… and as you’re taking these deep breaths in… and out… you notice that your body is becoming more and more relaxed. Focus on your feet and push the tension away. See the energy move slowly up your legs and watch it draw the tension out of your body. Draw the energy up your body and as it comes up your chest feel your core relax. Wash the energy down your arms, clearing away the tension from the day. Draw it up through your neck, and out your head. Your body is now relaxed and ready to journey.
Now see yourself in the middle of a clearing. Off to one side, you can see a path into the woods… Walk down the path. As you go, the trees get thicker. The path gets darker, the trail starts heading down. Follow the path down, into the forest. Feel the trees close around you. Go deep into the woods….
You reach the end of the path, and come to another clearing. In this clearing you find a fire. Around the fire, you find many beings dancing. As you get closer, you see Ancient beings. Take some time here be with your ancestors…
Now, when you are done communing with the ancient ones, you continue on your journey. You continue down the path. Deep into the earth… The trees getting tighter and tighter around the path… As you go down the path, it gets darker, and warmer. It feels like you are traveling down a tunnel, deep into the earth.
At last, you reach the end of the tunnel you come onto this huge clearing. As you look around the clearing you find a massive tree in the center. Walk to the tree…. When you get there, start circling around it. As you go around, you come to a well circled by the roots of this massive tree… Continue walking around the tree. After you around another quarter of it, you find a bunch of small sack at the base of the tree. Pick one up. Notice that it is full of nuts that would be pleasing to a squirrel.
Continue on around the tree. As you walk, you feel this presence near you. Look around, you find a huge Squirrel, larger than any you have ever seen or imagined, there, in front of you. Offer him the nuts from the sack you picked up. Get to know him. Learn from him what you need to learn, what he wants you to learn. Commune with the Squirrel…
When you are ready, thank the Squirrel. Follow your path back around the tree. Walk past the well, and across the clearing. Find you way up the path. Feel the tunnel of trees slowly thin out and become a cool path again. Enter the clearing with the fire where the Ancient Ones were, and find the clearing to be quiet, but the fire still raging. Go past the fire and continue up the trail. Feel the trail going up. Feel the trees opening up. Feel the air getting lighter… the path getting wider, clearer. At last you reach the clearing you started at.
Take a breath. Concentrate on what you have experienced. Remember what the Squirrel told you, and your experiences with the Squirrel. Remember your time with the Ancient Ones and what they have told you. When you are ready, return to your body… take three deep breaths, and rejoin the world.
I first did this journey as something completely impromptu, loosely describing what I was seeing as I was leading the group through the journey. I have done this journey a few times since on my own. In all cases, I have found that this journey was successful and a powerful experience.
The trance induction portion has for me been a very effective way of relaxing my body. It is this relaxation that helps me get into a deeper trance. When I get to that point of total relaxation, I then visualize myself in what I have come to consider my home base, Lake Tear of the Cloud, and I take off towards the goat heard path for Gray peak. While I know that this trail in real life goes up, the trance wording does make it feel like I am heading down hill.
By the time I have reached the Ancient beings or Ancestors, I am really into a sound trance. I have spent a good deal of time communing with them, and got plenty of advice from them, whether or not I ask for it. The second part of the journey again puts me deeper into trance. By the time I reach the end of the path, I feel as if I had been traveling through an actual tunnel through the earth. That is how tight the trees are, but when I look back, it just looks like a normal path from a clearing.
My experiences around the tree have been varied too. If it’s not obvious by this point, the tree is Yggdrasil. The well has consistently been Mimir’s well for me, as I always see a head in the well, but to date I have not spent much time there, or asked any questions of him.
The nut sacks were a completely random thing that popped up during the original journey, and has been kept both because it works as an offering to Ratatosk, and there is the humor associated with the term “nut sack”. The communing then with Ratatosk is also a very powerful experience. I have gotten good advice from him, and have definitely formed a deeper connection with him as a result of these journeys.
The journey out is really not that remarkable. The overall theme is things get lighter both in the quality of the light, and the feeling of a weight lifting off of me. This is a bit weird to me as I don’t ever feel the weight being put on when going down. When I do finally come out, I do remember what has happened, and I am in a relaxed body.
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