- 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 is an altered state of consciousness. It is a mental and physical state that is different than the normal state we as humans function in most of the time. There are various ways to enter a trance state including, but not limited to meditation and hypnosis. There are also different depths of trance. Some are very deep and the subject is completely unaware of what is going on around them and there is no movement. There are also lighter trances wherein the subject is able to move and perform tasks, but there is still a separation from their surroundings. Different kinds of trances will be used depending on the situation. Generally a person begins in full waking state, is gradually led into the trance where they are either left to journey on their own or guided by the person doing the induction. After either the journey or after a set amount of time the induction is reversed and the subject is brought back to their normal waking state.
Meditation is a practice that may lead to a trance state. It is the quieting or calming of the mind. There are many ways to do this, yoga, seated meditation, chanting of mantras are a few examples. The main objective is to intentionally give the overactive mind time and space to rest outside of normal sleep cycles. Some people may use self-hypnosis techniques in their meditation practice.
Hypnosis is a technique used to induce a trance state. Like meditation, this can take many forms ranging from the stereotypical focusing of attention on a physical object to the verbal queues given by a therapist as they guide a client into an altered mental state.
- Give a brief history of hypnosis. (min. 300 words)
The story of hypnotism has many characters and twists. Here are some key points in the history of hypnosis.
While modern hypnotism got its start in the 18th century, its roots go back further. The Egyptians had something known as “Temple Sleep” where a person would go through a preparatory period of repetitive and rhythmic prayers coupled with eating or drinking herbal mixtures. Once they had gone through that process, they were led into a dark room, told to relax and sleep during which they would meet the gods who would give them the cure for whatever illness they may have (Ancient Hypnosis).
Asclepius used similar technique. The client went through a preparatory process and was let into a dark room and told to recline and relax. When the client was in a sufficiently relaxes states Asclepius would enter the room and whistler statements about the clients health and lightly touch them (History of Hypnosis).
The modern history hypnosis that most of us know begins with Franz Mesmer. He believed in something called “animal magnetism”. Basically, that the human body contained a magnetic fluid that he could manipulate to treat patients (History of Hypnotism).
Marques de Puysegur, a student of Mesmer, hypothesized that, in order for Mesmer’s technique to work, the patient had to have the correct type of personality. If they did not have the correct type chances are they would not see any benefit (History of Hypnotism). At this point in history the medical community was not totally sold on the idea of Mesmerism but there was no official denouncement. Some practitioners were allowed to continue with their work, especially as it dealt with pain reduction but others lost their medical licenses(History of Hypnotism).
James Baird figured out, accidentally, that trance was commonly induced by the patient fixing their attention on a physical object. He is also the person that coined the term “hypnotism” (History of Hypnotism).
Charrnot was a 19th century neurologist and thought that the trance state brought about by hypnosis as actually a seizure (History of Hypnotism).
Bernheim theorized that it was a type of sleep state and Hull saw it as a normal physical reaction rather than a mystical one and that it tended to work better on some people and not as well on others (History of Hypnotism).
Hypnotism was also used in civil war battlefield hospitals when there was no anesthetic available for surgery or amputations (History of Hypnotism).
In 1955 the British Medical Association finally approved the use of hypnotism as a therapeutic technique. The American Medical Association’s approval followed in 1958 (History of Hypnotism).
Milton Erickson and Dave Elman shifted from using physical objects to fix attention to verbal induction. This is also around the time that it was recognized that in order for hypnotism to truly work, the client must believe that the process will help them (History of Hypnotism).
Cove stated the phenomenon of “Self-hypnosis”. He also recognized that the client had to be an active participant in the process (History of Hypnotism).
Hypnotism is still a bit mysterious and misunderstood. From its start there have been various theories about how it can be of help, if in fact, it can be at all. As illustrated above, there have been many people that have contributed to bringing hypnosis to the medically recognized therapy we know today.
- Describe the ethical issues surrounding neuro-linguistic programming and hypnosis. (min. 150 words)
Because techniques such as hypnotism and Neuro-linguistic program are still somewhat mysterious, some people fear that they will be taken advantage of, or have some awful thing happen to them should they be hypnotized. One of the biggest fears people have is that they will be forced to do something against their will. Not only is the fear that will they be forced to do things against their will, but that those acts could be contrary to their morals and ethical standards or even criminal, like a sleeper agent that has been secretly programmed to carry out an assassination. We, of course, are influenced to do things we might not ordinarily do on a daily basis. It is called advertising. Marketing professionals are masters at getting people to act and think in certain ways as are politicians, any kind of sales person, and even religious figures. Thankfully these manipulations are more benign than the assassin example. Unfortunately though, there is one situation that is all too real and is fresh in a lot of people’s minds: False Memories. The false memory phenomenon proved that these fears of malevolent manipulation are not completely unfounded. Like all humans, therapists have biases and like most people, information they find tends to be vied in such a way as to confirm those biases. If a therapist is stuck on the theory that abuse is the root of all issues, then as they are leading a client to retrieve memories, it is possible to convince the client that horrible things happened to them when, in fact, they didn’t (Hypnotism).. This is one of the many reasons why knowing your own biases and working to neutralize them is so important for any one in a helping profession (Hypnotism).
- Identify and describe three instances where trance is found in ancient Indo-European cultures. (min. 150 words each instance)
Trance is found all over the ancient world, usually in conjunction with divination or the receiving of inspiration. The ancient Greek and Roman seers used trance in their work. There appears to be certain behaviors that indicated that the seer was actually in trance. It is said that when the Pythia was truly in trance she would speak in unintelligible languages (Luck 241). Sometimes they wouldn’t even speak, just make noises. Generally their eyes would roll back in their heads and once the trance was over, they would not remember anything that happened (281). Another similar example is that of Cassandra in Seneca’s Agamemnon. Cassandra was a seer and when in trance she would shake and then suddenly go silent (276). If she was not sitting still, her movements would be very unusual. She would move in ways that were obviously not her standard way of moving (276). She spoke that being in trance was like being “swept into madness”. Once the trance was over she would collapse, possibly from exhaustion (276).
The Norse tales speak of a technique called seidr (Davidson 117). This practice was linked to the goddess Freya. Women called volva would travel from village to village offering their seership skills to the village. When their services were required or requested, they would sit upon a high chair (117). The villagers would sing and chant in order to aid the process of inducing a trance within the volva. Once the Volva enters a trance state, people wished to would ask questions and receive answers from the Volva. Most of these questions pertained to the villager’s daily lives rather than issues of cosmic importance (117). There may have been questions about how crops would do that year, or about the state of a relationship. Like Cassandra, when the Volva came out of her trance state, she would not remember the questions she had been asked or the answers or advice she imparted (117).
Yet another technique can be found the Great Magical Papyri of Paris (PGM 11:76-79; Luck 95). The described technique very closely resembles scrying. The preparatory steps, however, are much more complicated than that of a modern day seer that scries. In this ritual the seer must first contact Helios on the Moon’s third day, get on the roof naked save for black ivy, lie down on a clean sheet at noon, and veil your eyes. Wrap yourself in a sheet and recite a charm (Luck 94). A bird will land on them to signal that this part of the rite is over (95). An offering is then made to the earth (95). At this point the scrying commences. The water source required varies depending on what kind of being you are communicating with. To that olive oil is added. The seer then gazes at the sheen produced, contact the deity and ask whatever questions they wish. They will then hear the answer to the question. After the seer is done, they are to speak another charm to release the spirit with which they are communication.
- Describe three ways trance can be used in your personal or Grove spiritual practice. (min. 100 words each)
I have used trance for various things in my personal practice for years. The thing I use it most for is journeying both internal and external. A trance enables me to shift into a state where I can go deep into my own unconscious and search for answers or patterns that are not available to me when I am in my normal waking state. It settles my chatter box mind and allows the deeper levels to work and communicate the information stored there. I also journey outside my own subconscious and into the realms of the Kindred. By doing so I am able to commune and communicate with specific deities or beings that I am working with such as the Gatekeeper or one of my Patrons. It is within trance that we meet and I learn from them.
I also enter into trance when I am doing divination. I find that the readings are much more accurate and the information communicated much more effectively and efficiently if I am in a trance state rather than normal waking consciousness. I usually enter trance using focused breathing, and then ask to connect with a Patron to aid in the reading. I do this before pulling any Oghams or cards because I want the guidance from the very beginning. Once the symbols have been selected, I use that guidance to deepen the reading. I have found that the information flows faster and it feels like the information is coming from outside my own brain as I am translating what I see in the symbols to the person that I am doing the reading for.
Within the grove or groups setting, I like using a light trance state to bring everyone together. This can be done a couple of ways. If a short induction is used at the very beginning of a ritual, it can serve as a type of signal to get into a ritual or magical mindset. Usually I do this with a focused breathing technique like having everyone take a few deep breaths and finding their center. If I do this, I use the Two Powers meditations to deepen this mind set. If using the Two Powers without the beginning induction, I use the breathing to begin, and then use a combination of breathing and visualization to establish a grove mindset and then deepen the connection that participants have with one another within the ritual time and space. I think this helps with the overall energy flow.
- Identify and explain three methods of attaining a trance state. (min. 150 words per method)
There are many different methods of getting into a trance state. The three that I will be discussing are Sonic Driving, Visual Focus and Breath.
Sonic Driving is probably most often associated with Shamanism. While its popularity may have revved up from that association, it has become a technique that is used outside the Shamanism sphere. Sonic driving is really a very simple concept. There is a steady repetitive simple sound played or produced at length (Encyclopedia of Shamanism). Drums are probably the best known instrument for the production of Sonic Driving recordings, but there are some that use rattles or other instruments. Anything that can be used to produce a simple repetitive sound could be used. There is no complicated rhythm, just a strong single beat. The tempo is usually fairly rapid. It is believed that this repetitive sound increased theta waves in the brain thereby inducing a trance state (Encyclopedia of Shamanism). Dr. Felicitas Daniels Goodman used a tempo of 210 beats per minute (bpm) in her work to induce trance states (Gore 19). This is a very rapid tempo, but seems to work fairly well.
Visual concentration is another method of inducing a trance state. This is a technique that I remember hearing about many moons ago when I was first beginning by journey on the Pagan path. It was popular beginning meditation exercise. When using a physical object outside of yourself to induce a trance (Object Focused). The subject literally stares at something for an extended period of time. All of their focus is on one singular point. This is how stereotypical swinging watch of the hypnotist works. Gazing at the flame of a candle or mandala are two other popular techniques but almost anything can be used but it shouldn’t be too small or too large. You shouldn’t have to strain your eyes to see it or any of its details but not so large that you have to move around to see in all (Object Focused). The object offers an anchor point for your consciousness; a place for your mind to return to if it wanders off during trance induction.
The third technique is that of breathing trance. This is an easy technique that can be, and is, used in a variety of ways. A person can attain everything from a light trance all the way to a deep level trace. It is used by weight lifters preparing to relax and focus before going for personal records, yogis use it as they move through poses, and it is even used during child birth. Using breathing to induce a trance is basically focusing on the inhalation and exhalation of the breath (Goodman 19). Like visual concentration, breathing trance gives the conscious mind something simple to focus on and lets the deeper levels come to the surface. It is the technique that I use the most. In fact, I believe that everyone has, at some point in their lives, shifted their mental state from active and agitated to more calm and settled by taking a few deep breaths. How many times have we told an upset person to “take a deep breath” to calm down?
- Using one of the three methods described in requirement 6, 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 really enjoy using breathing trance as a technique for entering into trance. I find that it is the easiest way for me to shift between states. It is also a technique that, at its simplest, requires no accessories. This allows me to do this any time or anywhere.
The first thing that I notice when using breathing is that my breathing becomes deeper. Thanks to my musical training, I tend to breathe from my belly normally, but when using it for trance work, the breaths get even deeper. My inhalations penetrate deeper into my lungs and my chest and belly move more that during “normal” breathing. Next I start to relax. With each exhalation more tension flows out. I generally6 feel like I am sinking into a huge extra fluffy mattress. The space around my body seems to take on a semi solid form and mold itself to me creating a cradle of sorts. At a certain point I reach a type of equilibrium and feel like I am floating. It is at this point that visualizations usually begin. They usually start with geometric shapes kaleidoscoping in front of my eyes. Sometimes it stays like that, but at other times the geometric visuals give way to more realistic visions. During a recent trance I found myself in what I consider My Clearing. I was sitting on soft grass inside a small ring of standing stones. I felt the winds ruffle my hair, heard the birds singing, and felt the sun on my face. Within the trance I centered and connected to the two powers. I watched the two streams twist and mix with one another. It was very relaxing. I just sat there in my inner clearing and watched the energies mingle. Eventually my inner meditation/trance session ended. The clearing began to fade and I knew that it was time to return to the waking world. I gradually returned focus to my breathing and brought myself back to this world.
- Describe what happens to the body during a trance state from a physical standpoint. (min. 300 words)
What happens during trance can vary from person to person, but there are some physical changes that seem to be fairly consistently seen. Since the brain is what is what controls the rest of the body, we will start with the changes that occur there. Most people know that there are different types of brain waves. Some, like the ones produced during waking states are fast. Others, like those that occur in sleep are slower. There are, in fact, for separate brain waves that are talked about most often: Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta. A conscious, alert adult’s brainwaves are usually of the Beta variety. When inducing trance, they then slow first to the Alpha waves of the Daydreamer. After alpha waves comes theta waves which generally signal the attainment of a trance state. The long slow Delta waves are an indication of deep sleep (What Are Brain Waves).
Ingrid Mueller of the University of Munich has also done work regarding effects of trance. As it turns out, the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol may actually raise a bit at the beginning of the trance induction process before eventually reducing as the trance continues (Physiology and Neurobiology). The same thing happens with pulse and blood pressure (Physiology and Neurobiology). Beta -endorphins are also released during trance. They are proteins that our bodies produce and they are the cause of the “warm fuzzy” feelings that often accompany trance and meditation (Physiology and Neurobiology).
Most people are not aware of the brain wave and brain chemistry changes mentioned above, but they do recognize the physical feeling that such changes create in the human body. I personally experience them as a sense of increasing relaxation followed by a heaviness enveloping my body. Everything becomes warm, fuzzy, and very relaxing. There is a very pleasant feeling of sinking and floating and kind of a static-y numbness as well.
- Keep a journal for five months detailing the trance work that you have done. Write an essay based off that journal that examines your practice over these 5 months. 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. (min. 600 words)
I took this requirement as an opportunity to try a trance induction technique that I had never tried before as well as to give one that didn’t seem to work another chance. One of the first things I did was to give Sonic Driving another shot. The results were not great at first. I began with the traditional single drum beat. The first couple of times I attempted it, I was unable to remain still. I felt twitchy, like I was compelled to move my arms and legs, fingers and toes. I literally could not stay still. Combine this with a horrible headache and I just about gave up on the Sonic Driving technique after 3 weeks, Instead I added a short recording of nature sounds at the beginning of my sessions. Listening to that first helped to get my mind and body settled down a bit. I was no longer twitchy, but I was never able to get into a good trance. I did this for the next 6 weeks. After 5 weeks , I switched from listening to a single drum to a rattle. That made an enormous difference. With the rattle I was able to let go and finally get into a good trance state. I spent weeks 6, 7 and 8, exploring the inner landscape that appeared using this technique. It was similar to my normal clearing, but less lush. It was also warmer. My clearing tends to be a bit chilly and I tend to arrive when it is dusk, dawn, or evening. This new landscape was warm. I arrived in full daylight. It was more energizing whereas where I normally journey is calming. I found it to be an interesting contrast and not unenjoyable.
Once I was able to successfully use Sonic Driving, I decided to add body postures. I did these on weeks 9 – 14. I used Belinda Gore’s book Ecstatic Body Postures to select what postures I would try. The first was the Bahia Posture (98). Part of this posture involves sticking your tongue out and I wasn’t sure I could maintain that for more than a few minutes. I was pleasantly surprised. After a few moments, everything just went numb. The warm fuzziness of the trance state allowed me to stay in the posture. This trance was fairly uneventful. I did see some kaleidoscopic geometric images towards the end of my session, but mainly just darkness with a lovely floating sensation. The next one I did was The Chalchihuitkique Posture (100). This is another seated posture. It was much more active and produced lots of snippet visuals. Nothing long or coherent. It was like flipping channels on the tv. There was much more realism that with the Bahai posture, but the images in no way former a coherent whole. Next I tried a standing posture, The Longman of Wilmington (125). That did not go well. I fell over twice before giving up. I didn’t even make it into a trance state with this one. The next week I tried a supine posture, the South American Lower World Posture (132). I had the best results with this one. I slipped easily into trance and had coherent long lasting visualizations. This was a dark one and by dark I mean dimly lit. Everything was dark or in shadows. There were figures, but they were mainly amorphous like shadows dancing. There was warmth like from a fire but there was no corresponding illumination. I remember one very cleat face at the very end but everything else was blurred or shadowy. There were others that I think would have been interesting, but due to some physical limitations, I was unable to even get into the postures.
Along with the Sonic Driving and Postures I tried Dancing. I have, on several occasions, slipped into a trance state when dancing to complex drum rhythms when I hadn’t intended to and I wanted to see what would happen when I did it on purpose. First thing I learned : Put the cats in a separate room. In all seriousness, an open area free from obstacles and hazards is a must! I slipped into trance very quickly with this technique. I felt a complete sense of freedom during the dancing trance. It was like I was inside a 3D kaleidoscope dancing with the swirling patterns and colors. The downside is that, while dancing I felt no discomfort, but afterwards my knees, back and hips began to protest, as did my lungs. I see this as a great incentive to get into better shape so I can extend these sessions! Due to the physical side effects I just did this on week 15.
After all of this I took 3 weeks to go back to my tried and true method of music + breath work. I like to use instrumentals that are either extremely ephemeral or are so intricate that you can put yourself inside the music and let it swirl all around you. It makes for very interesting results. What I particularly enjoy is that you can use the same piece twice in a row and have different journeys. In this case I listened to music by Dixon’s Violin, Anugama, and David Hykes and Harmonic Choir.
The following week, I attempted to follow a recording of myself reading my trance induction script. Unfortunately I could not get past the weirdness of hearing my own voice. I changed tactics and narrated in my head and it was fantastic. I even used it at work we I had a particularly nasty day.
I ended with Philip Carr-Gomm’s guided meditations. They are spectacular. I recommend them to anyone. I used “Clothed with Flowers” which is a beautiful healing journey that I adore as well as “The Healing Isle of Moy Mell”. Both begin with a guided trance induction then let you journey on your own before ending with a reversal of the induction. I have short conversations with my patrons during these.
I have always used trance in conjunction with magic and ritual. I think that the ability to maintain a light trance is a must for successful magic, ritual, and divination. You need to be able to work and focus while simultaneously allowing your brain to be open to other states. With magic, I find that being in a light trance enables me to feel the energy I am manipulating with better clarity. This applies to healing work as well. In ritual, especially when opening the gates, the trance lets me commune with the gatekeeper more directly. The altered state also aids with divination by allowing communication with whatever being or energy that is being called on or tapped into for the symbol selection as well as allowing intuitive interpretation. Without trance, divinatory interpretation can become cold and sterile. My best divinations happen when I am in a light trance and the thoughts and connections just flow.
I enjoyed trying out the new techniques. Having a tried and true method of trance is great but it is also nice to see what else is out there. One thing that struck me was how different the experiences could be depending on the method. I have my own inner grove that I have been going to for a while. I am comfortable there but comfort rarely leads to growth. It was cool to experience the different climate of the rattle induced trance and enjoy the swirling designs and shadow scapes that occurred in some of the postures. I have gained more tools for my toolbox and that is always a good thing!
- Create a self-hypnosis tape to put yourself in trance and go on a spirit journey and bring yourself back out. Submit a script or audio file, as well as a summary of your results. (min. 200 words for the summary)
Settle into a comfortable position. Take a deep breath and feel it filling your core. Gently exhale.
Take another deep breath, once again breathing into your center.
Now, as you inhale feel warm sunshine on your feel.
As you exhale, feel all the tension flow away.
As you inhale the warmth moves up to your calves.
Exhale and feel your muscles melt and relax.
Next, your knees – all tension fades.
The warm sun move up to your thighs, again, exhale and relax.
Up again to the lower belly and hips, as you exhale feel these muscles release.
Next the warms spreads to your navel, melting tension in your belly.
Inhale again as the sun warms your ribs and chest. Exhale the tension.
Your fingers, hands and arms melt under the warmth of the sun.
Then your shoulders.
Next, your neck and throat.
Now to your jaw.
Feel your teeth unclench as the warmth of the sun begins moving upwards on your head and face.
Your lips relax
Then your nose, ears and eyes.
Feel the worry lines melt off of your forehead and finally feel all tension leave your scalp as the sun fully engulfed you from the tips of your toes to the crown of your head.
Bask in this sea of light and heat. Float on the beam of warmth and comfort as you continue to breathe deeply. Allow yourself to go where you need to go and see what you need to see.
(Pause to allow for journeying)
Return from your journey to your warm floating astral self.
It is time to return to normal space and time.
Imagine the cool silver light of the moon slipping over your toes, beginning to revive and revitalize.
Next this shimmery light move up your calves to your knees,
And to your thighs
The calm silver light creeps up your hips, further awakening you.
Then to your abdominals.
Your hands and arms are bathed by the cool comfort on the moonlight.
Then your shoulders
Your neck and throat.
Your jawline and face are splashed by the silver moonbeam as it move ever upwards, awakening the muscles of your forehead and scalp until, finally, you are filled with the moons refreshing silver light.
Gently wiggle your fingers and toes, then arms and legs and when you are ready, open your eyes. You are relaxes and revitalized. Energized but at peace.
When I tried this while listening to the audio file, I could not get past the weird disconnect of hearing my own voice. It was extremely disconcerting and for the life of me I couldn’t relax enough to do much of anything. Eventually I gave up on listening to the audio and just used the script and my inner voice to guide myself. I used a meditation timer app on my phone to indicate when to start the return. When done this way it was great. I loved the way my muscles just melted as I visualized the bean of sunlight slowly moving from body part to body part. I would feel the warmth spreading it added to the warm fuzzy feeling that generally accompanies the beginning parts of trance for me. The return was good too. The silver moonlight was cool but not freezing cold. There was just enough of a contrast to wake up my conscious mind without shocking it. The coolness was also kind of silky and definitely refreshing. I have even used this on my lunch out at work during a particularly nasty day. Once again I used my meditation timer app to signal the return. It was a short 10 minute session, but it helped a lot!
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