The hallmark of a shamanic trance is that it is induced. Consequently, shamanic practitioners and journeyers are very interested in different ways of inducing trance. I’ve tried some different methods myself, one of which I haven’t seen mentioned in this context, so I thought I’d share.
Probably the most common method used by modern North American practitioners is drumming. Live drumming, either performed by oneself or a partner, is excellent, but I’ve always used a drumming track and headphones. Shamanic drumming tracks are readily available and are said to be just as useful as live drumming, though I imagine that drumming for oneself adds to the rhythmic, hypnotic experience. That said, I know I could never keep up drumming and journeying at the same time!
Another method is the use of consciousness-altering chemicals, otherwise known as plant medicine, entheogens, or psychedelics. One needs caution and know-how to go down this path. In addition to research, one ought to speak with the plant spirits themselves as well, otherwise you are doing no more than just taking a drug. What I’ve tried is mild — a so-called flying ointment of my own making — but has produced some good results. Still, I don’t use it often.
Rather, my favourite method for inducing trance is through the act of sweating. I don’t know the physical mechanics of why it works, though I can guess at things like changes in hydration, electrolytes, and body temperature. It’s definitely not a unique idea, but I haven’t seen in mentioned in the wealth of literature available on how to journey. Certainly great physical exertion and exercise would be a great way to sweat and alter your consciousness, but I take an easier route (and perhaps safer one, given that I faint easily). I simply take a very hot (but not uncomfortable) bath. It brings up my heart rate and aids my poor blood circulation for starters. Then, as I begin to sweat more, I find my focus sharpening and the Otherworlds coming within close reach.
Naturally, everyone works differently. I’d be very interested to hear of other ways of inducing trance, or your experiences of what works best. Happy journeying!
I promised my wife I’d put this up on my blog, and haven’t got around to it yet!
As a witch and shamanic practitioner, I love scented oils and candles. Many months ago I began making my own flying ointment, and that progressed into making moisturizers, soap, candles, and other bath and beauty products. It really is great stuff, and we love making it! So if you’ve ever wanted a moisturizer, soap, or candle in your favourite scent, we might be able to make it for you. I made an autumn scent that I absolutely adore, and we’re working on new witchy scent combinations too. Have a look: http://journeytreehedgewitchery.weebly.com/products.html
I have refined my ointment-making skills, now that I have proper ingredients like grapeseed oil and beeswax. My wife came home with belladonna a week ago and I’ve been playing with it (carefully) ever since! I’ve also found that passion flower does nice things for me, which was unexpected, and the result is almost a spiritual ADHD remedy. I’ve been making mystical lip balm as well, with milder but still potent herbs.
Here’s a small jar of flying ointment I made for a friend:
Here is some ‘mystic’ lip balm and ointment:
Last night my wife and her dear friend and I went on a country drive to enjoy the extra-bright full moon. I had wanted to do something for the full moon but thought I needed something more than candles and incense and prayer. So I slathered myself up in my homemade flying ointment and off we went.
I was very surprised when I began to feel physical effects from the ointment, since I used none of the more poisonous ingredients. It felt like the veil between worlds had thinned; everything felt alive. I felt wonderful and slightly distracted by pretty glowing streetlights, though my mind was still sharp.
We drove for about an hour and a half, sighting two raccoons and — surprisingly — a possum. I prayed and asked for communion with the spirits. Earlier that day I had pulled the Communion card from my Earth Magic deck, which I have pulled several times recently.
I’m not a very visual person; I wish I could say I saw spirits last night. But I felt them. I knew they were there, speaking to me. And there is nothing disappointing in that. I need to open my mind a little more and stop harping on the visual side of things, since I access the spiritual realms in a different way. I am learning, slowly.
Yesterday evening I held a ritual for an important otherworld journey to seek advice about my wife’s leg pain. I bathed in salt water and prayed for protection and a vivid journey. I drank tea with sage, sweetgrass and mugwort. I selected a long comfy dress I’ve never worn to be my ritual clothing. I created sacred space and burned wormwood and mugwort. I rubbed my homemade flying ointment on my inner elbows, wrists, neck, and ankles. Then I took up my rattle and began to journey.
The journey felt intense and I received much-needed answers. I was told an herb for arthritis pain and one for sciatic pain. I had my doubts but researched them later and found them both valid — they have been specifically studied for these ailments. I need these kinds of verifications once in a while and they always blow me away. But the main message was not herbs but of action, and I need to pay attention.