Nick Brinks Blog

The Range of the Ways of Ecstatic Trance

     There are many shamanic ways for healing and seeing into the beyond, the world of the spirits, ways that are being taught around the world.  With our move to New York I am finding that there are many people using and teaching various shamanic ways here in the Hudson Valley, probably as many different ways as there are practitioners of these shamanic ways.  Each of these ways that originated with the ancient and contemporary hunter-gathering cultures is meaningful and valid, each offering something to learn that bring us back to living at one with and healing our Great Mother Earth.  The shamans of the past and those of the hunter-gathering societies of the present each had/have their individual ways for seeing and healing, some relying upon or using vision quests, other using various other ways of inducing trance.    

     From my training as an instructor of ecstatic trance from the Cuyamungue Institute and the research of Felicitas Goodman I learned that ecstatic trance is trance induced with rapid stimulation to the nervous system, and specifically with the shaking of a rattle or beating of a drum at approximately 210 beats per minute.  For some of the world’s shaman this trance is attained through rapid dancing to the beat of a drum until falling in trance. From my many years of experience first with hypnosis and for the last 12 years with ecstatic trance, with practice, trance can be induced in 15 minutes or even less and that any of us can enter and benefit from such trance, not just the shaman of the community.

     I believe that the earliest peoples knew this and even lived in the dreamlike world of trance, but as time went by and consciousness evolved into a more rational state, the use of trance became the specialty of the shaman, and for the shamans’ powers to be recognized by the community they needed to make a show of their ability, thus other ways to entering trance such as by rapid dancing, isolating themselves from others such as being tied up or bound while being held in a special sacred space, or going on a vision quest often for several days became their way.

     I believe that what Goodman has especially added to understanding these shamanic ways is the meaningfulness of the postures used by the shamans.  Each shaman probably had only one and a very limited number of specific postures used and probably specialized in one or a couple forms of trance, whether divination, healing, metamorphosis, journeying into the underworld, initiation, etc.  From Felicitas Goodman’s research and the ritual she taught, we now realize the power of the posture and that we have the ability to experience a broader range of journeying experiences, thus adding greatly to the ways of the shaman as being taught today.   

     Shown is the Celtic Cernunnos Metamorphosis Posture from 100 B.C. from the Gundestrup Cauldron the now resides in the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.   Nicholas E. Brink, PhD

Cernunnos d.JPG