Trance and Trauma

Trance and Trauma October 16, 2015

Trance and Trauma photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.
Trance and Trauma photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.

Possession and Trance are to many a fascinating mystery. I recently sat on a panel about possession as part of the amazing event Hexfest in New Orleans. We talked about tips, techniques, and experiences- both positive and negative. The panelists were given a list of extensive questions to ponder created by Vincent Piazza. One of the most interesting dealt with the inherent connection between trance and trauma. Many of you know I have an extensive background in anthropology, even a few degrees, and this gives me a unique perspective as both a practitioner of Voodoo and a scholar. In the early days of anthropology Trance was often seen only as a bizarre manifestation of a traumatic experience. Tribal shaman were thought to have been marginalized, or fringe members of society who took on a spiritual role. It was as if they were kissed by the goddess or fingered by the devil, depending on your outlook. As my godmother often says about the more bizarre spiritual practitioners today “ These people are crazy, they can’t make a living any other way. “ That’s funny because it’s true.

However, not all kooks are psychic, and not all psychics are kooks. So what then is the real connection between psychic ability and trauma ? We are hard pressed to find an answer from traditional science as it depends on repeatable experiments. Anyone who has ever dealt with psychic phenomenon knows that consistent is the one thing they aren’t. Possession experiences can very often be traumatic as the I.M. Lewis text Ecstatic Religion states “The initial experience of possession, particularly, is often a disturbing, even traumatic experience, and not uncommonly a response to personal affliction and adversity.”

Possession by Ged Carroll. Licensed under CC 2.0.
Possession by Ged Carroll. Licensed under CC 2.0.

What then is possession? Escape? Release? Protection? The most likely answer is a portion of all of these combined. The same probably holds true for demonic possession, but for now I am talking strictly about spiritually inspired possession experiences that are helpful in nature. I have seen people healed emotionally and psychically thru spirit possession in New Orleans Voodoo ceremonies that I have facilitated or attended. Most often those possessed, or those in attendance, are given important messages and guidance from the divinities, called Lwa or Orisha, depending on the tradition.

Recently the New Age Shamanic movement has taken up the banner of traumatic healing through Shamanic soul retrieval. While this doesn’t necessarily involve possession, it is saying that there is a direct connection here. Trance and possession are again ways we can move past and through trauma to healing. Indigenous North Americans and Asians also have a history of hardship bringing on spiritual transformation. There is the 1907 report of a Chuckchee shaman who was told in a vision to “be a shaman and be strong, and you will have plenty of food.’ So it seems that shamanic trance can both heal and provide.

Some more of my thoughts on the reality of Voodoo and Santeria Possession-

It is a delicate dance between trance and trauma. Their relationship could be interdependent, but is certainly complicated. There are no easy answers here. I’m sure I will have more to say on this topic, so watch this space, as they say. Everyone’s experience is unique and also valid. I would love to hear your thoughts, feelings, experiences on the connection between the two. Please post them in the comments below, and if possible help a lady out and remember to share !

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