This is part 2 of my post on using singing, toning, chanting, and other ecstatic techniques for aspecting and trance possession in ritual. You’re really going to want to read Part 1, and you’ll also likely want to read this post on the theology/function of aspecting and trance possession.
Using ecstatic techniques of singing, dancing, and drumming to draw down deities or get possessed by spirits is both an old ritual technology and a new one. It’s been used for thousands of years and you see this in the tribal customs of many religions that have continued on to the present day.
It’s a technique that also has become used more and more in modern Pagan groups, though many Pagan groups have had to rediscover it since certain traditions didn’t seem to use any ecstatic processes for this ritual function. Thus, as these techniques are rediscovered, the old is new again. However, it means we have to re-look at these techniques and look at what will work for us in our own traditions and rituals, and what won’t. And it also serves to burrow down a bit into why it works.
I’ve had a few questions lately related to aspecting and trance possession, so I thought I’d do another couple of posts on the topic, specifically on how to approach aspecting/drawing down when you’re a pantheist, atheist, or generally working with deities as archetypes instead of as polytheistic gods. I also want to get into some of the ecstatic trance techniques I use and how those can be used with aspecting and drawing down.
I get asked a lot of interesting questions when I travel and teach, or from people on social media; often, they are people I don’t really know all that well. Though I primarily teach leadership and facilitation skills, people often ask me, “Do you have a spell for that?” I’ve also seen people post rants on Facebook about some of the–for lack of better words–sloppy tendencies of many Pagans to take shortcuts. Both of these in many ways tie into some of the bad habits many people fall into when facilitating rituals, as well as issues of personal and spiritual growth. Often these are what I can classify as beginner mistakes, but they aren’t mistakes limited to people new to Paganism.
The most current issue of Circle Magazine is themed entirely on rituals. It’s a great read with lots of tips and tools for ritual facilitators. My own article, Ritual Facilitation: Designing Impactful Rituals, ended up being way too long for the magazine, and so I pulled out a section of it and just created an entire article from that piece. Thus, this article will perhaps have more context if you read the article in the magazine. Below I focus on the specifics of designing processes and how this connects to the design of ritual.
In many of my articles on ritual facilitation I talk about designing rituals rather than writing them; design means to plan. I also talk a lot about the flow of rituals and how each piece of a ritual layers and prepares people for the next piece. What might surprise you is that some of my own background as a web designer and usability consultant impacts how I approach designing rituals.
I’ve been on the road for about two weeks, and I have about a dozen blog post ideas swirling in my brain, but I thought I’d ease in with a ritual technique, since this is something I use frequently when I teach and lead rituals and lots of people ask me about it. My pet name for the technique is the Trance Hammer, since I came up with it during a Brigid-themed event.
As I’ll be teaching a number of workshops on ritual facilitation at Pantheacon, ConVocation, and Paganicon, I thought I’d offer up one of my articles on leading rituals that is included in my book, Ritual Facilitation.
I’ve also created a Facebook group with the intention of discussing and teaching techniques for leading more potent rituals. Feel free to join up if you like!
Raising the Sacred Fire: How to Build and Move Energy in Ritual
Together we are singing, moving, dancing, chanting, and drumming around the fire in the center of the circle. The energy builds and slows then rises up again. I move the drum beat, and the drum beat moves me. We draw closer; I look into the firelit eyes of people around me and we smile as we sing. We drop the chant down to a whisper, then bring it back up again. Our song is a prayer for transformation, a prayer for our individual gifts to be transformed on Brigid’s Forge into their highest potential. I am singing for my gift, and for the gifts of everyone there. Our prayer is singing, movement, rhythm, and our shared intention. The chant moves into a tone that rises and falls like a fire at the bellows until we hold the silence together.
This is part two of my article on Warding in Ritual. You’ll want to read part one for this to make sense. However–having written on the topic at some length, I think I can sum up my approach to warding in ritual as “the things I do to keep participants safe in ritual.”
Here are more questions that have been posed to the panel.
I already talked a bit about “mundane” safety, which in my work is synonymous with warding. But it would serve to go into a few more details here. Sometimes people aren’t necessarily interested in taking speaking ritual roles but might be available to help manage the door, help people with a disability, or do other work like making sure there’s kleenex or water available. That’s part of the safety of the ritual space–accommodating people’s physical needs–and thus, it’s part of warding.
There is that moment when I’m leading a chant with a group of people, and we’re drawing in closer around the fire. They have tears streaming down their faces. They are feeling and connecting and I can see the rapture on their faces.