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Trance 1, Requirement 7

Identify and explain three methods of attaining a trance state. (min. 300 words per method)

Sonic Driving

Sonic driving is the use of noise to induce trancework. It can involve rhythms, such as a drum beat or rattle beat, or it can involve tones, such as resonance from a gong, bell, or other instrument. While it can be accompanied by action, posture, or chanting, in general no active work is required by the person experiencing the trance.

The most common application of sonic driving in the modern Neo-Pagan world is drumming. A number of different drum beats are used to create or foster different experiences. Also, rattles and rhythm sticks are sometimes used to induce trance or create energy in a ritual. An interesting way to look at musical signals at the start of a rite (such as our own common "nine knells of the bell") is to think about them as a method of sonic driving that is quick and effective for putting people into a light trance state in preparation for ritual.

One of the most common rhythms is 210 beats per minute, which is approximately three times the normal heartrate of a person not at rest. There are many other options available, as well, from very slow to even faster than 210. Experiences can be had at all ranges of rhythms and speeds.

Tonal driving is a specific subset of sonic driving, relying primarily on the tone and resonance or reverberation in order to induce trance. While the experience is very different, it has many similarities with the other varieties of sonic driving as well.

Sonic driving is known to increase heart rate and blood pressure¹ among other things, even when at rest and not actively engaged in trancework. It is widely considered that the changes the body experiences during sonic driving are responsible for the trance induction aspects that are experienced. Those who experience sonic driving, even when at rest, experience exhaustion at a much faster rate than those who are not listening to sonic driving.

¹ - see "Effect of sonic driving on maximal aerobic performance"

Body Postures

Often used in conjunciton with sonic driving, body postures were first devised as a method of entering trance by Dr. Felicitas Goodman, who indicated the following:
  1. Posture is important to trance.
    • The idea was inspired by an article by psychologist V. F. Emerson in 1972.²
      • This article studied changes in body function during meditation in different body positions. In particular:
        • Galvanic skin response
        • Hormone secretion
        • Blood pressure
      • Posture seems to be the key to results
        • How do you choose the postures?
          • Look at the large bodies of ethnographic representations
          • Some postures repeat and are common among cultures

When each person was posed in exactly the same manner (down to the degree in which their back was elevated from the floor), there emerged a sudden commonality in experience. While the Emerson article took the first steps, it was Goodman who conducted extensive experiments (university students in the 1970's were more than happy to experiment with just about anything, apparently, and were quick to volunteer).

What she found was that the magic and the experiences that we read about in the sagas and myths of our people are not impossible feats, or the imaginings of our ancestors, but they are literary representations of the processes and experiences that can be obtained by the act of positioning the body in certain ways and entering into a trance-state.

The first thing we can take from this work is that religion and the body are intertwined in a way that few of us ever think of. When we stand before our altars, or raise our voices in ritual, how do we position ourselves? I'm willing to bet that each person who has done ritual for a long time will have a series of actions that he or she performs for each ritual. This, of course, does not mean that you need to begin with a set of ritual motions, but most people will find motions that make them feel "religious", and each person will naturally find these motions on their own.

Taking off this same train of thought, though, we can see that it's possible that a set of ritual motions that are developed by our more experienced members might help some of our newer members to connect with the Spirits on a similar level. Sometimes, suggestions on how to stand, where to place your hands, and how far back you should tilt your head might bring someone who isn't "feeling it" a certain measure of commonality of experience.

Another thing we might consider is looking into the same forms and postures that our own ancestors represented. Sitting in the same position that Cernunnos is represented in on the Gundestrup cauldron while listening to a steady and rapid drum beat might bring about an entirely new experience, and perhaps even one that is more accurate than all the historical information that we have gathered about Cernunnos to this point.

² - Emerson, V. F. "Can Belief Systems Influence Neurophysiology?"

Guided Trance

By far the most common type of trancework I have experienced in ADF is the guided trance. In this, usually using certain key phrases from our cosmology and a few Neuro Linguistic Programming and hypnosis techniques, a person is told what to do with their body, what they should see, feel, hear, smell and even taste, and guided along a set path to a specific destination.

The simplest version of this sort of trance induction in ADF ritual is the Two Powers meditation. Here, the cosmos is described and the powers that affect it are explained in a visual and sensory way. Rituals may also involve deeper trance inductions, but our general public ritual most often does not.

The Clergy Order Work has used this form of induction during retreats, and while I hope to see us expand to more work in the future involving other methods, I think that for what we are doing, this is ideally suited for the current Order Work, and particularly for transmitting the gates and signposts to a first time initiate.

Most often, this method will require a second person to actually do the guiding that this trance form is known for, but two distinct possibilities also exist: First, there is the possibility of recording yourself and playing it back in order to induce the trance on your own (an example of this occurs in requirement 11 of this course); and second, there is the ability to actually lead a trance verbally and experience it at the same time.

This second possibility interests me most, since I have experienced it while guiding meditations and trancework during our Grove rituals and particularly during Druid Moon rites within the Grove. It makes for an interesting experience, and it can be easy to let this run away with you, but it's also a very deep experience when done with a Grove that trusts you to do this.


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