Recently I had a interesting conversation with an ADF member about her new friendship with the local river spirit. She had been getting headaches and was trying to figure out if that was connected to her spirit workings or not. I hope I gave her a couple good ideas, but the thing that I really carried away from that conversation was Science.
I have noticed a theme with pagans. We like science. We also feel stupid for believing in fairy tales and invisible friends and science all at the same time. The thing is, Science is not the Theory of Evolution. (Which is true folks, get over it.)
Science is a methodology.
That means it's a grouping of tools and a way of thinking logically about the world. This can be applied to anything. Even invisible friends. So as I continue sharing my thoughts on trancework I will occasionally be pointing out when scientific method might be useful as a way of assessing this nebulous timey wimey world of spirit.
In a previous post I mentioned that I have noticed two main categories of trouble with trance. In the first category are the people who want to experience all the cool imagery the feeling of the divine watching over you, the synchronicities and seeing what never was and what might yet be. But they can’t. They get so far and no further. It all seems hazy and nebulous, like a bad game of lets pretend. There’s those moments when you close your eyes, see the back of your eyelids and wonder when the fireworks will start.
Then there’s the people who can’t seem to find the off switch to this roller coaster ride. They space out in the car, in the grocery line, or during boring lectures in school. They have super realistic daydreams about weird shit that they wouldn’t really choose to imagine if they had the choice. What do you do when your imaginary friend talks back?
Interestingly, I’ve found that many of the same techniques work for both folks. It comes down to one word:
Yep. Like learning an instrument, a science, or a martial art, it takes practice. This means that if you want to get good at trancework you’re going to have to do it. Frequently. This goes for the people who are bored by staring at their eyelids as well as the people who can’t get the vision faucet to turn off. The point in either case is to gain control.
The trick is to keep the practice interesting.
So. Let’s start by breaking down the skill sets:
I see them as: envisioning, emptying, connecting, maintaining the signal, getting clear signal, knowing the lore, building relationships, and doing the work.
This is the daydreamers ability. It involves being able to make pictures in your head. When you read a book and imagine what the characters look like, this is envisioning. It’s a good one to start with and easy to practice anywhere by simply closing your eyes and imagining anything. Starting with basic shapes is good. Try making a circle, then change the color. Then make it a sphere. Turn it into an apple, or a globe, or a tennis ball. This is a fun game that only has your imagination as the limit. It’s Minecraft in your brain.
Welcome to Zen Buddhism, Dorothy, but know that the yellow brick road is an illusion, just like everything else. This is the “empty mind” and I am aware how annoyingly impossible it is to achieve. It’s like trying to empty a sink while the faucet is running. But total success isn’t important. The ability to reach for and find stillness is an incredibly important skill when you’re trying to figure out what in this trance thing is you, and what might be Someone Else trying to chat. Plus, when you’re trying to consciously fill your mind up with one specific thing, it’s a lot easier when it’s not already filled with your work task list for the next three weeks.
You know that transcendent thing that people talk about? That connection to something larger than themselves? This is what I am talking about here. Psychologists have researched the phenomenon. There is a specific part of the brain that is triggered. This is the part of trancework that is about getting out of your own head and into something greater than yourself. The first two are about getting control of your own brain. This is where you jump like a fool into the unknown!
Maintaining the Signal:
Do you remember when you started learning to ride a bike? There’s this moment in the process where for a moment, a beautiful glorious moment, you have it! Then you fall over. Trancework is like that too. That balance of focus and openness can be hard to achieve. Learning how to make it last, how to shut it off when you don’t want it, and how to make it flow well is all part of maintaining the signal.
Getting a Clear Signal:
We all have doubts, fears, and hopes. We want things, we desire things. Sometimes we’re not even aware of what we want. Our shadow selves sneak into our workings and tell a convincing tale. For trancework to be useful we need to know how accurate it is. Are we actually reaching anywhere or anyone other than ourselves? Divination is a big part of this one, as well as are skills that teach us how to discern our own ego from that which is not ourselves. It also leads into the next set of skills.
Studying The Lore:
Because making it all up just isn’t good enough. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some amazing, empowering, transformative experiences that had absolutely no grounding in the lore. At first. As I delved more deeply into primary sources, reading scholarly articles on Gods and Spirits that ranged from Irish Celtic to Proto-Vedic I’ve become aware of patterns I did not know of before. I know everyone can’t spend their life researching this stuff, but part of studying the lore is networking with those who can. Read what you can and at least try to know enough that you can gauge whether an expert has expertise or is just another loudmouth with an agenda. By knowing the lore, or knowing someone to ask, you can find the context for your work. I have become increasingly convinced that the ancient knowledge wasn’t compiled by a bunch of idiots and fools. It’s a resource, and a powerful one. The Gods and Spirits certainly can and do change, but just like you want to know the history of your boyfriend you want to know the history of your Gods.
I work in a paradigm of polytheistic pantheism. I encounter Spirits everywhere. They have personalities, likes and dislikes. However, They are not human. The Wind really doesn’t care about a lot of the things you and I care about. A tree takes a lot longer to talk than a cat. Each plant, rock, and bug has a story to share. Each God and Goddess has many aspects, skills, and desires. It takes time to build any relationship, and it is worth the time and effort. So reach out. If you see an image of a cats eye, leave some catnip on the stoop. Record your efforts and look for patterns. Leave offerings. Pretend it’s all real, even when you doubt it.
Doing the Work:
Once you’ve got all the cool toys, the wands or stones, the spirit friends and impressive list of Godly buddies what do you do? If you spend all that time to train yourself you will eventually get to the point where you can reliably go into trance. You will find that there are some things you are good at, and some that are harder for you. Having acquired the skills, then you have to use them. Will you use them to heal the land or to help the people around you? Will you use them to create beautiful poetry or make magic? The answer is dependent on your skills and inclinations, but you’ll only find out if you keep at it.
In the following weeks I will be posting about each of these categories, sharing what I’ve learned and what I’ve seen that’s worked. I will be pulling on modern psychology, neurological research, and experience to help people find out how to get to the second star to the right and straight on til morning.
Thanks for reading! If you liked what you read, do me a favor and pick up some of my swag at RedBubble! Not only will you get neat stuff, but I will make a little money with which I can buy some of the weird ass books I want on Lithuanian culture, pastoral counseling, and women in the ancient world.