Monday, June 20, 2016

Trance 2


1.     Describe your regular method of entering basic trance. (min. 300 words)
How I enter a basic trance does vary a bit depending on the purpose of the trance induction.  With divination or magical workings, I prefer a deeper trance state. However, for general rituals or other less involved work I most often use a simple breath control technique to enter trance.  I will focus on my breath, inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly, focusing on each breath and the feeling the air filling my lungs.  I start with a one count breath in and out, and gradually slow my breathing until I reach nine count in and out.  At that point, I am typically in a light trance state which works fine for most rituals.
However, while this is the type of I do use most often, if I am entering trance to do a larger magical working, I do prefer to use sonic driving. Sonic driving allows me to enter a deeper trance state and focus more intently on the work at hand.  For this type of practice I will approach my altar, put in my headphones, and listen to shamanic journey drumming tracks, like those by Katie Weatherup (Weatherup).  I still try to steady my breath initially as the track begins.  However, the steady beating of the drums seems to course through my brain and into my body, clearing my thoughts, relaxing me, and taking me into a much deeper trance than simple breathing can.       
My method of trance again varies slightly if I am doing divination for a group ritual. During most of the ritual I will stay in a light trance state.  However, when it is time for me to take an omen I begin by planting my feet firmly on the ground and taking a few deep breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth. This begins my movement into a slightly deeper trance state and grounds me in the ritual space. From this point, I use a trance method I first saw performed by Rev. Jan Avende during her initiation trials.  I pick up a handful of dry bay leaves in my right hand and hold my oracle bag in my left.  I crush dry bay leaves in the palm of my hand speak to Apollo, saying something along the lines of “Apollo, mighty god of the Sun, poetry, and oracles I call to you now.  Guide my hands, help me to see, speak through my voice.  Let me hear the message I need to receive.” These words, combined with the sound of the crunching bay leaves, the texture of them in my hand, and scent of the crushed bay leaves deepen my trance and allow me to focus intently on the omen work I need to do.  I then kneel on the ground, spreading my dress or robe in a fan in front of me.  All of these steps combined move me into a deeper trance state, still able to focus on the ritual, but at a much more intense level.    Realistically though, no matter what work I am doing, the controlled breathing technique is always there at the beginning to help guide me in the right direction.

2.     Explain the use of trance in group ritual, including trance techniques including the Neurolinguistic Programming techniques of "anchoring" and "leading" in trance induction. Give an example of how you would script this use in ritual. (min. 500 words for the essay, 200 words for script)
Trance can be a very useful tool within group ritual. It can be utilized in several different ways, such as establishing a group mindset at the beginning of ritual or focusing the energy and intent of the group on a common goal or working.  In ADF, introduction to group meditation often begins with the “Two Powers” meditation, which is introduced and explored in the Dedicant Path study program. This meditation helps to connect the participants with two energies of the cosmos and is regularly used within the ADF Core Order of Ritual.  I have seen it used in many different forms as a centering technique to establish group mind at the beginning of a group ritual. 
Neuro-linguistic programming is one tool for trance that can be useful in some group practices.  It is defined as “a system of alternative therapy intended to educate people in self-awareness and effective communication, and to model and change their patterns of mental and emotional behavior” (Oxford Dictionaries).  This practice claims that it is possible to use trance along with hypnotic suggestion to make changes to the thought processes or behaviors of a person. Within trance, neuro-linguistic programming can utilize anchoring along with pacing and leading techniques to inspire and guide the participants in different ways.
In NLP practices, anchors are “stimuli that call forth states of mind” (Ward).  These anchors can be visual, auditory, or kinesthetic.  We often use anchors within group trance practices, even without realizing it.  Repeated phrases in guided meditation, or the ringing of a bell to initiate the start of a group rite both illicit responses from people and can act as anchors within a ritual.  If you regularly use a specific drumming rhythm in trance work, when you hear that same rhythm you may begin to find yourself moving into a trance state unintentionally.  These anchors can be useful in group practices because they can help a group of people focus on and attach to the same “anchor” which will help to keep them somewhat in sync with each other. 
Anchoring can also be combined with “pacing and leading” techniques.  Pacing and leading allows you to “pace” the current experience of the participant and then lead them in a different direction (NLP Nation).  This does require that the participant has enough trust with you to allow you to lead them to some place new or different. Consistent group work may be required for some people to be comfortable with these techniques, while others may be more comfortable participating right away.  Verbal pacing and leading techniques can be found in many guided meditations.  The pacing occurs when we verbalize things the participant already knows, such as pointing out their breathing, or their feet standing on the ground.  The leading happens when an action or suggestion is made to the participant to move their thoughts in a certain direction.  For example:

Breathe deeply, feeling the air fill your lungs (pacing)
Listen to the wind in the trees high above (pacing)
Feel your feet solidly upon the ground (pacing)
Now feel the tension in your body begin to release (leading). 

This is just one basic instance to show the gradual changes that NLP pacing and leading can bring about.  In this example, pacing it used to remind the person of their surroundings and their place in it, and the leading is used to help guide them to relaxation.  While this is a basic example, additional work can eventually allow for group practices with larger changes through leading. 
Script:
Find a comfortable position, either standing or sitting.  Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out.  Breathe deeply, feeling your breath fill your lungs. Listen to the wind in the trees high above.  Feel your feet solidly upon the ground.  Now feel the tension in your body begin to release.  Let all your worries fade away as you continue to breath in and out.  Feel the tension releasing from your head and neck, from your shoulders, your arms and hands, feel your belly relax and soften, feel any remaining tension flow away from your legs and feet. 
Relaxed, we can now connect to the powers of the cosmos.  Once again, feel your feet solidly on the ground, connecting you to the power of the earth.  From your feet, feel roots dig down, deep into the waters of the earth.  Feel those waters rising through the earth and into your feet, cooling and soothing you.  Feel the waters continue to rise, up through your legs and into your torso.  Feel the gentle waters continue to rise, filling your chest and head until you are filled with the waters of the earth.
Now, turn your face upward and feel the warm rays of the sun upon you. Feel the golden warmth as it spreads across your face and down, through your chest, warming the waters deep within.  Feel it travel through your torso, and into your legs, filling you with its spark until it again reaches the ground below your feet. 
Feel these combined energies of the cosmos deep inside of you, calming, and inspiring.  Feel the energy they bring to you and this ritual.  Take another deep breath and find yourself relaxed and comfortable and ready for ritual.  Wiggle your fingers and toes.  Take a moment to settle in, and then open your eyes. 

3.     Describe three experiences of trance. These trances must come from three different methods chosen from the list below: (min. 600 words for each experience)
Dance/Movement
Date:  1/30/2016
Omen:
·      Mu – Hard work leads to good return
·      Iota – The work is never done
·      Phi – Take responsibility for your actions
For this trance, I was on my fourth week of my Odyssey trance work.  I did a brief ritual, where I described Telemachos’ journey through the valley of Lace.  At the end of this valley, he found himself at the gate of King Menelaos while the city was holding an enormous marriage celebration.  I talked about the joy of the celebration, the connection they were building, and the people dancing through the streets.  All of this information was intended to help me build a mental picture of the celebration, and prepare myself for the work at hand. 
Trance through movement and dance is something that I’m not super familiar with in any formal way.  However, the feeling that overtakes me in the middle of a concert, dancing and surrounded by the energy of strangers is something that I love and this often feels very similar to the feeling of deeper trance states.  Dancing seemed like an appropriate way to journey through this part of Telemachos’ trip, so I decided to give it a try, and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised.
I wanted to re-create the atmosphere of a concert or celebration the best that I could in the comfort of my own home so I started a drumming track and turned it up loud enough that I could feel the beat in my core.  I felt the vibrations as they rose through my feet and into my body, filling every part of me.  I listened to the drums and began at first to sway with the music.  At first it felt a bit awkward to be dancing alone, but I continued swaying, building energy and increasing my movement slightly until I felt those tensions begin to fade and started dancing.  I moved around the room, swirling and dancing by myself, picturing the people dancing all around me.  I could hear their laughter filling the air behind the beat of the drums.  As the dancing continued and the trance deepened, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of warmth and joy.  I could see the strangers all around me and feel their energy flowing through me.  The dancers took me by the hand and pulled me into their dance.  I hopped with them, unsure of my steps, but trying to follow along.  I could feel the dirt under my feet and see the dust flying all around us, like a mist.  The ground began to grow warm under my feet and the people started to fade into the mist.  I continued dancing and felt myself begin to sink into the earth, but I didn’t stop dancing and felt no fear or concern.  I kept dancing until I found myself completely encased within earth, like a seed.  I could feel the pulse of the earth awake around me, like the heartbeat of a mother.  I was comforted by her embrace.  However, I could also hear the call of the warm sun above, and knew that I could not ignore it. I stretched my arms up, tentatively at first, then more assured.  I reached through the soil above me, stretching toward the sky and until I finally broke through the sod again.  I kept stretching upward and growing, once again swaying with the rhythm of the world, and dancing with the wind.  I looked at my body and saw a powerful tree growing toward the sun.  I knew my roots are buried deep into the earth.  I looked back up and watched leaves grow on my branches.  Time seems to speed up and the leaves turned brown and fell to the ground.  While the leaves were gone, the drumming of the earth softened, but didn’t completely fade. I still felt the earth pulsing beneath me, alive and waiting.  Suddenly, the drum began to grow louder and I could see buds sprouting on my branches.  The drum swelled and I stepped out of the tree, full of new life and the anxiousness of spring.  I realized then that the louder drum was my callback to end my trance.  My dancing slowed and eventually stopped.  I was exhausted and sweaty, yet somehow still full of excitement and energy. 

Visual Concentration
Date: 3/1/16
Omen: 
·      Mu – Hard work leads to good return
·      Zeta:  Flee the storm
·      Iota – The work is never done

For this trance, I was on my fifth week of the Odyssey trance work.  I once again performed a brief ritual before doing this trance.  In this ritual, I honored Calypso, goddess and nymph from the mythical island of Ogygia and daughter of the Titan Atlas.  I then described Calypso’s discussion with Odysseus while he is homesick.  She tells him that she loves him and wants to keep him with her, but that she will set him free and help him to build a raft and give him supplies to return home.  I then performed my trance during the “working” section of the ritual.  Odysseus built a raft to help carry him home, and I wanted to simulate those actions.  I decided to ask Calypso to aid me in building a raft of my own.  However, instead of a raft to send me home, I wanted a raft to help me remember what it is that keeps me afloat when I feel lost at sea.  I sat out my supplies, and began to focus.
I stared at the sticks laid before me, and the strings that would bind them all together, focusing on them and what they represented. I visualized the important things in my life, those things that mean so much to me.  I let my mind wander as I focused, running memories through my head.  When I knew what I wanted to do, I reached for my small toolset and began carving into the wood.  I could see the words seeming to lift out of the bark before I carved them in.  I scratched in the name of some of the people closest to my heart, my family and friends.  I carved the things I like most about myself.  I wrote about the Kindreds that keep me moving forward on my path.  Before long, I ran out of sticks to carve and was full of gratitude for all the joy that these things had brought into my life.  I then picked up my ball of twine and began trying to bind all these sticks together.  Some of the sticks seem to fit well together, while other seem to need to be bent or moved to work with the others.  The work is hard and tiring.  I feel my fingers slip and some sticks fall out of my small raft, and I have to begin again, doing the work over, but knowing I had to continue.  As I began to again wrap the sticks in twine, binding them together, I felt a warmth in my hands like someone holding mine to guide me.  My thoughts drifted to Odysseus and how desperately he missed his home and wanted to be with his family, and then to Calypso who let him free even though she so desperately wanted to keep him with her.  I then found myself picturing the faces of my loved ones, and the memories that we have made together, and the potential for the future.  Before I knew it, I looked at my hands and realized that the raft was finished, the sticks wrapped together securely in twine, with the words I had chosen carved into their wood. 
This trance work was much different than the other work I have done in the past.  Typically, there are symbolic visions that help to guide my thoughts and work.  However, with this working, there was only thoughts of my loved ones, with the symbolism being in the work I was doing with my hands.  I ended this journey full of gratitude and love, overwhelmed by the things that help to keep me afloat when I can’t seem to find my own way home. 

Spoken Guidance
Date:  3/7/16
Omen: 
·      Epsilon – You desire offspring of righteous marriage
·      Upsilon – This is a noble undertaking
·      Beta – With luck, you will have help

For this trance work, I wrote the script below, and then recorded myself reading it aloud.  My own voice is not typically my favorite thing to listen to, but with trance work I’ve learned that I quickly forget that I am listening to myself and can begin the journey without any trouble. This trance was done as my sixth week of the Odyssey work, in which the raft has been built by Calypso and Odysseus and he sets sail toward home, leaving her behind.  For this trance, I performed the same ritual as the week before, once again calling to Calypso to continue my work with her.  During the working section, I then settled myself into a comfortable position, and began the recording of the script below.  As the words were spoken, I could hear the waves begin to crash into the tiny raft I was sitting on. I could feel the wind on my skin and hear the birds in the sky high above me.  I look around me and there is only ocean as far as the eye can see. I lay back on the raft and feel the rough wood against my back.  I lay there and watch the sun begin to set and stars begin to glow brightly in the dark sky. In the darkness, I can see land up ahead of me, the fires of a city burning brightly against the darkness.  However, as I near the land, dark clouds fill the sky and begin to roll toward me.  Strong winds push me away from shore as the waters begin to grow choppy. The waves increase, growing rougher until they knock me into the bitter cold water. In that moment, I was overwhelmed with the fear of being lost, and thoughts of being alone forever.  I begin to cry as I feel the fear of no one noticing that I’m gone.  Just when I feel that all hope is lost, my head breaks the surface of the water, and I once again see my raft.  I pull myself out of the water and back onto the raft.  There I find a woman sitting and waiting.  She is bright in the darkness, but her features are still hard to make out.  Instead she exists just as a glow, almost like a firefly in the darkness.  She hugs me, warming my skin and I feel dry again.  She tells me these trials will make me stronger and to persevere.  She says the gods are with me on this path and with hard work I will do great things.  The raft breaks below my feet, but instead of crashing back into the water, she lifts me above it and flies me over the waters to the distant shore above.  She leaves me in the sand, trying to catch my breath, and I open my eyes to find myself again seated at my altar.
Script:
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax. You find yourself standing on the shore of a beautiful island.  The sands are warm under your feet, and you can hear the waves of the sea lapping at the shore.  You’ve spent four days working to build a raft, side by side with the goddess Calypso, but now it is time to set sail.  In the water in front of you, you see a sturdy raft.  Logs of aspen and alder are lashed together, a large sail stands in the center, and rations fill an end of the small boat.  Take a step forward and feel the wood under your feet.  Feel the raft rock under your feet, and step again fully onto the raft.  Turn back to the shore, and listen to Calypso as she sends you off, lovingly and tearfully.  Understand, that you are loved.
Quiet time for 1 minute. 
Your raft drifts away from the island, and the sail catches the breeze, and pulls you deeper to sea.  Sit back into the raft, and look up into the sky.  Watch it turn from blue, to orange and red, purple, and finally black and filled with stars.  Amongst the stars you see the Pleiades, Ursa Major, and Orion twinkling brightly.   Several days pass uneventfully, giving you time to think about the world, and reflect upon yourself.  As you once again approach land, you notice clouds beginning to fill the sky.  In the distance you see a storm rolling your direction, and feel the winds pick up, pushing you again away from the shore.  As you begin to feel despair, a gust of wind knocks you into the water.  At first you’re overwhelmed by waves as they continue to crash into you, again and again. 
Quiet time for 1 minute.
However, you don’t give up hope, and you continue to fight.  You thrust your arm above the surf and feel your raft.  Grasp the corner of a ship and pull yourself up onto the raft again.  Seated upon your raft, Ino, ancient sea goddess sees you and takes pity upon you.  She appears to you and shares her message with you.
Quiet time for 1 minute.
Ino tells you to release the raft and swim, and she will wrap you in a veil to keep you safe.  While you contemplate holding your ground, Poseidon shatters the raft and you are again dropped into the sea. But Ino keeps her promise and wraps you tightly, keeping you safe until you reach the shore, safe and sound.

4.     Submit an original trance induction script based in ADF symbolism (e.g. Two Powers, Fire/Well/Tree, Three Realms, etc.). (no minimum word count)
I initially wrote the following script as part of my work with the Demeter and Eleusinian Order.  I used it to help to connect with Demeter and build a relationship with her.  It utilizes the Two Powers, along with common themes connected to Demeter.
Script:
Take a moment to make yourself comfortable.  Stand in a comfortable position, or sit on the ground and adjust until you feel content and relaxed.  Take a deep breath in and exhale as you close your eyes.  Take a deep breath in and exhale slowly.
While you continue to breathe deeply, allow your body to relax, releasing the tension from your head and shoulders, from your arms and hands, from your chest and torso, and finally from your legs and feet.  Allow that tension to flow away from your body as you relax into your position as you continue to breath slowly and evenly.
In your mind’s eye, see yourself as a stalk of wheat, swaying in the breeze, golden and full of life. Feel the wind upon you as it blows past.  Feel the warmth of the sun shining down on you.  Look around you and see that you are not alone, but instead you are one stalk in a field of many, each growing and moving on their own, yet similar in many ways. 
Now look back upon yourself and hear your breath.  Breathe deeply, feel your roots grow down into the ground beneath you, through dark soil and rock, through the history of the world, each breath driving your roots deeper into the ground.  Feel your roots break through the soil and dive deeply into the cool, nourishing waters of the well below the earth.  Feel your roots dance in the cool, chaotic waters. 
Once more, take a deep breath and feel the waters pull up through your roots.  Feel the waters climb up through the earth and into your body, flowing into the stem and filling the leaves that make up your body. Breathe again and feel the cool waters rise into your head, flowing into the kernels of knowledge and growth.  Feel it overflow, and return to the earth below. 
As you stand proudly, filled of the nourishing waters of the earth, breathe deeply and turn your attention to the bright sky above.  See the light of the moon, the sun, and even further away, the stars of potential glowing brightly in the distance.  Feel yourself reaching up, from roots to tip, stretching to feel the warmth of the light above you.   Feel the rays of light, warm and comforting, upon your face. 
Breathe deeply and feel the warmth of the sun shining down upon you.  Feel the light warm down through your head and into your body, warming the seeds of thought and down into your stem and leaves.  Breath again and feel the warm light shine into your roots, warming the earth around you.  Feel it spread through the field around you. 
Feel the warm light and cool waters dancing inside of you, combining and filling you with potential.  When you’re ready, feel yourself step forward, out of the stalk of wheat and into the field surrounding you.  Feel the soil beneath your feet. Watch the wheat dance around you.  Watch the stalks sway lightly, and then part, revealing a path in front of you.  Follow this path through the golden field.  As you approach the center of the field, you see many paths of different size and shape leading in the same direction, a labyrinth.  Follow your path into the heart of the labyrinth.  There you see a robed figure, waiting patiently for you to approach.  This is Demeter, glorious mother and goddess of growth.  Demeter approaches you, welcoming you to her space.  Speak to her.  Ask her to teach you her secrets.  The goddess looks at you and extends her hand with a smile.  Take her hand and follow her through the labyrinth toward the place where her secrets are hidden. Listen to her words, and let her show you her mysteries. Listen to her message, meant for your ears only, and follow her words.
It is now time to return to our realm. Let Demeter guide you back to to the entrance of the labyrinth, watching the signs along the way so you can return to her again.  Thank Demeter for meeting you at this place, and for providing you guidance along this path and listen to any parting message she has for you.
As she turns to walk away, see your path returning into the field. Follow the trail, back to your stalk of wheat.  Take a deep breath and step into the grain, feeling the warm light and cool waters still flowing within.  Take another breath and as you exhale, feel the two powers begin to release, light energy flowing up from your roots, through your body, and back into the sky high above.  Feel the waters flowing down, through you, and into the soil below.  Take another breath and find yourself back in your own body, relaxed and comfortable.  Wiggle your toes and fingers.  Take a moment to settle in, and then open your eyes. 


5.     Submit an original trance induction script based in Indo-European Mythology. (no minimum word count)
As part of my working for trance course, I created a continuing trance/magical working that would allow me to work through the story of the Odyssey, from Greek Mythology as an internal journey.  This script was written for the chapter that describes Telemachus as he visits the Council in the city, and prepares for his journey ahead. 
Script:
Lay back and take several deep breaths, first in, then out.  And again.  Dawn comes, showing rosy fingers through the mist.  You find yourself awake and sitting in front of a new path, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin.  Feel it energize you and shine light into the darkest corners of your being. Follow this path into a distant town.  As you enter the sleepy village, you’ll see a circle of people sitting at the center.  Approach this Council, and take a seat amongst the people there. 
Listen to their voices for there has been no council held for many years, but now, at your request, the Council has once again been summoned.  As the voices begin to quiet, take a deep breath, and introduce yourself to the council.  Explain to them your plight, the journey that lead you hear, and the journey you wish to take.  Listen to their guidance and their blessings for the journey ahead
Quiet time for 3 minutes.   
With the blessing of this council, feel Athena, mighty goddess of heroes as she approaches you.  Know that she is here to aid you in this journey and to keep you safe on your travels. With her blessings, you will be granted the ability to learn what you need to know to make this voyage and return home safely.  She takes your hand and leads you away from the council and back out of town.  Walking with Athena, you find yourself on the path headed toward the sea. Feel the cool breeze on your skin and the salty mist of the water.  In the distance you see a huge ship waiting for you to approach.   Climb aboard this ship, and take a seat next to Athena, who has already boarded and is waiting.  You feel a deep push from the shore, and the ship is cast off.  With full sails, the ship sails west into the dark sea as the sailors around you drink and toast to the gods.  
This is only the beginning of this journey upon which there is so much to learn.  But for now, we will leave this journey and return to the mundane.  Take a few deep breaths, in and out.  When you’re ready, wiggle your fingers and toes, and open your eyes.

6.     Describe the process of creating your inner locale, the challenges and aids you experienced in the creation of this locale, and (optional) its appearance. (min. 1000 words)
Creating an inner locale has been an interesting adventure for me.  It has allowed me to understand more of myself and my spiritual practices, along with what is important to me.  Working with my inner locale has also improved my ability to do trance journeys, and increased my interest in doing them.  The more I explore and learn, the further I want to go.  However, no matter how much I enjoy this work, it isn’t always easy work or a fun process to undertake.  While exploring, I’ve never felt lost, but I have had times where a path didn’t lead where I thought it would, or where some location wasn’t where I thought it would be.  I haven’t decided if this is because the locale changes as I continue to work, or if I just occasionally misremember where things are located.  There have been times where the exploration is lonely, or brings back sad memories.  Not everything in the inner locale is happy or shiny, and that alone makes it difficult at times.  However, while, learning about my inner local has been challenging at times, even when I am most frustrated I know it is such an important work to undertake.  Through different trance practices and explorations, I have watched the space grow and change, while also finding new parts that I am sure existed before without my knowledge. 
My inner locale started with just a grove, a quiet place filled with trees, with a shining lake at its center.  On one end of the lake is a hearth fire.  It exists as a brick fireplace, standing on its own with no other walls around it. Even when it rains in this locale, the fire continues to burn.  This simple local represents the fire, well, and tree and seems to be my starting point for most working.  It acts as a sort of axis mundi, giving me access to all paths through it.  Sometimes, during meditation or stressful moments, I would picture this grove and find myself relaxed and at peace without ever having to go anywhere.  Other times, I would walk among the trees, listening to the nature spirits around me, occasionally hearing the splash of water as it met the shore, or the crackling of the fire in the distance.  As I’ve continued to do trance work, I have learned that my inner local is much larger than I originally thought. 
As I walk through the trees, I’ve learned that there are many paths that lead in many different directions.  Each path seems to lead to its own location, and all of them seem relatively short, meaning I can get to from one location to another quite quickly.  It isn’t necessarily that the space is small, but instead that the paths themselves seem to act like doors between the different locations.  One particular path leads me out of the trees into a clearing, where I find the first of the gateway needed for my regular clergy work.  I found this link unintentionally while doing other trance work in my inner locale, but it was a pleasant surprise.  Doing my clergy work, I now start standing on the edge of the grove of trees to find my way. 
Walking in another direction eventually leads to the sea, which definitely didn’t seem possible.  I found this path during one of my Odyssey workings from the outside.  I was standing on the shore next to the sea, and as I walked up a path toward a city, I found myself walking through the middle of my inner grove.  It was comforting to know that all the work I am doing is interconnected in some way, but it still surprises me a bit each time I find myself back within my grove.
Among the trees, between the different paths, there are also several different shrines and meeting places for the Kindreds I have worked with as well.  Hestia and I often meet at the hearth fire by the lake.  She sits in a chair, stoking the fire, and her presence fills me with warmth.  Even when she isn’t there, I know the fire burns brightly if I need her comfort.  Deeper in the woods, exists a temple filled with books.  It is in this temple that Athena and I meet and discuss life and my path.  As the deity that I work with most often, her shrine has grown exponentially, expanding from underground caverns to turrets high above to oversee the vast world. The archive of knowledge kept there is overwhelming and stunningly beautiful.  Again, even when she isn’t there, I can feel her presence amongst all the words. 
On the opposite side of the lake is a path that leads me to a cave.  This cave leads me deep underground, where I work with the ancestors.  I honor them by approaching them in their own space instead of making them always cross into my realm.  I’ve also worked with Persephone and Hades in this cave, but that is much less frequent.  This space isn’t always dark and gloomy as some may expect, but it often feels more blessed and joyous, like a family reunion instead of a funeral.  Other times, it is damp and sad.  It’s the shrine that seems to change the most from day to day. 
Yet another path leads me to a wheat field, with a labyrinth at the center.  This field has grown through my work with Demeter.  Another leads to a small stone shrine for the Hittite sun goddess Arinna.  I’m certain there are many other shrines to uncover as I continue to explore.  I hope to continue to build relationships with the Kindreds, and make a strong enough connection with them to necessitate a shrine for them.  I do believe that as I continue to grow and work, this space will continue to grow and change with me. 
Most often, I make my way through the inner locale on my own without any guides to help me.  I’ve spent enough time here that I am comfortable wandering alone and am not afraid, especially since nearly every path seems to lead back to the center of the grove at some point.  However, there are three separate animals that I have followed through the inner locale at some point.  The most often present is a red fox, full of playfulness, leading me deeper into the woods.  He runs and jumps, turning to make sure I follow him, but always leading me to some place bright and happy.  The fox brings me so much joy, and I’m always happy to see him there.  More occasionally, a great horned owl will help lead me through the woods to find a new place, or to help me see from high above the clouds.  I have seen the owl most often when I’ve been given a task by Athena and am needing help to find what I am looking for.  The final animal guide I have experienced here is a beautiful little box turtle.  The turtle finds me on the edge of the water, and leads me in, helping me to explore the lake and find the hidden caves and paths that are hidden below its surface.   
In addition to the animal guides, I have regularly worked with Hecate, the goddess of the crossroads, in order to help me determine which direction I should take next.  She doesn’t give me the answers, but instead shows me some of the possibilities of my actions so I can choose for myself. 
All of these guides definitely give me many different opportunities to learn and explore.  I don’t think I will ever see everything my inner locale can hold, but I look forward to trying.  I think the most surprising thing about exploring my inner locale is that there is nowhere that I can’t get to from it.  It truly seems to be the gateway for me to explore in any direction.  Each path seems to be directly connected to the others, no matter how far apart they seem. 
7.     Journal for five months, continuing the trance work journal you began in Trance 1. Provide an essay based on this journal detailing how your experiences have affected your practice. (min. 1000 words for the essay)
During Trance 1, I took the time to introduce myself to many different deities, and to try to build a relationship with them.  I enjoyed this experience and created many new and important relationships, which have been so beneficial for me.  However, for Trance 2, I decided to take things in a different direction and focus my work more internally.  While working on this course, I was simultaneously working to complete Magic 2 and Divination 2, so I created a set of magical and trance workings to aid with that process.  I established a set of rituals that would allow me to journey through the tale of the Odyssey.  For me, trance is a such a useful tool for focus and connection.  It allows me to feel more attached to the magical work that I am undertaking, so the relationship between them has been an important part of my personal practice. I saw this journey through the Odyssey as a way to get to know my inner self more thoroughly, and to work through some of my own insecurities and personal struggles on a transformational level.  I wanted to try to improve myself through this work, and utilizing trance and magic seemed to be an appropriate method to do this.
I began the first week of journaling on December 31, 2015.  With a new year in site, I knew I wanted to make some improvements to myself, and undertaking this work seemed to be appropriate. It wasn’t a “new year resolution” but instead a positive opportunity to change, with an easily remembered date to start from.  I created a journey to meet with Athena and recreate her meeting with Telemachos and encouraging him to go on a journey.  I listened to her guidance as I began my own voyage.  In that moment, I watched the flame dance.  I felt the warmth of the fire, like a hand on the top of my head.  The heat rolled down my neck and into my shoulders and chest, down my arms.  The embrace was soft and warm, like being enveloped by wings, and I knew that this work was going to be challenging, but so important for me. Initially, I had intended to do a different trance working each week, to work through the tale week by week, but I found them to be very deep and emotionally exhausting, so ultimately I felt it was necessary to space those specific works out to approximately every three weeks instead.  This gave me time to reflect and process between each one. 
After meeting with Athena, I continued through the Odyssey, and admittedly I’m still taking this journey as I write now.  So far I have done eleven different workings of various styles.  Some of these workings have included guided meditations that I have written, such as the ones found in the questions above.  Others have been physical creations, such as building a small raft, which I’ve described in question 3.  I’ve met with the council in the village square and answered their questions, I’ve made nine offerings to Poseidon as they did at Pylos, I’ve met Calypso and heard her wisdom, built a raft with her, and then left her and her island behind…there is much I have done, but I know now more than ever that I still have so much to do.   I look forward to continuing this journey and seeing where this work may take me. 
Working through the Odyssey has allowed me to become more comfortable with trance and magical workings overall and have allowed me to explore many different types of trance induction. I’ve discovered what works well for me, and what is less successful. I’ve learned that in my practices, more involved magical workings are easier for me if I use a deeper level of trance than I typically use in a normal ritual.  I’ve found a new level of focus through trance that I didn’t think was possible for me, and that has also helped to improve my public ritual work as well.  It’s also dramatically grown my inner locale, which has been an unexpected side effect.  However, while the trance with the Odyssey has been so influential and important to my practice, it has not been my only working through the past six months.
For example, I’ve more recently started to use a light trance state during my weekly healing rituals.  I use controlled breathing before doing these workings and feel more energized and focus throughout, allowing me to feel the healing is more productive.  I also utilize trance during my ancestor veneration each week.  On Sunday morning, I get out of bed, go to my kitchen, and brew a pot of tea.  As the water boils, I allow myself to enter a light trance state and focus on the work at hand.  I pour two cups of tea, one for me and one for the ancestors.  I then approach my altar and give them their morning drink.  The steam from the tea allows me to feel the mist approach as I walk to my altar.  At the altar, talk with the ancestors and try to listen as well.  This has become an important part of my weekly practice.
Through the last six months, I have also started to use trance much more regularly than I did in the past.  I use it to prepare myself for public rituals, connecting to the earth around me and focusing my intent on the ritual I’m about to perform.  This has allowed me to feel more confident in my presentation skills and more at home in public ritual.  Again, this is something that I did not anticipate ever finding comfort in.  I also find myself using trance techniques in my mundane life, when I have a project that needs to be completed or requires my intense focus. 
After seeing the work of other seers through the past couple years, including Revs. Rowan Grove and Jan Avende, I also started using trance work as a regular part of my divinatory practices.  My personal technique is a combination of the practices I have seen utilized by these two inspirational women and is more thoroughly described in question one.  In general, I use several trance induction techniques to perform divination, including the use of controlled breathing and sensory queues to enter a trance before I perform my work.  These layers of induction allow me to enter a deeper trance state relatively quickly, which is important in public rituals specifically. I’ve found that employing trance during my divination practices had allowed me to give deeper readings, and has also allowed me to feel more connected with the magic of the oracle.
Overall, I feel that trance work has greatly changed and improved nearly every aspect of my spiritual practice.  It has allowed me to connect to myself, to the natural world around me, to the nature spirits, and the ancestors.  Trance allows me to feel more comfortable performing rituals, and receiving omens.  It has become a very important tool in my practice and I’m grateful for the lessons that I have learned through it.
8.     Describe an experience of leading a trance induction in group ritual. (min. 300 words)
Trance induction in group ritual can be very intimidating.  It can be awkward at times, especially if you are working with people you do not know well, or at all.  However, it can also be a beautiful moment that allows people to connect on a whole new level.  I am one of the coordinators for Pagan Pride Day Omaha.  Each year, we start our event off with a brief, uplifting ritual and a group meditation to start the day off successfully. Our most recent ritual was written to welcome to community and honor the nature spirits in the park we were celebrating in.  The PPDO committee along with my Grove performed the ritual in front of a large group of spectators. The sun was peeking through the trees as we hailed the spirits of land, sea, and sky.  In the midst of this ritual, I guided two powers meditation to prepare us all for the day at hand.  Each participant was asked to listen to their heart beat and slow their breathing. 
As I looked at the circle of strangers I could see them all shift and move, trying to find their comfortable space.  I could see their eyes begin to close and watch them as they began to relax as they listened to my voice.  I continued with the meditation, guiding them to feel themselves become a tree.  To push their roots down into the earth and bring the cool waters back up into their body.  I could see some of them struggle, having never done this type of meditation before.  I increased my descriptiveness, to help build a visual for those who needed aid.  After a moment, I guided them to feel their branches grow up into the sky to greet the warmth of the sun and pull that warm light back into them as well.  I watched as many arms raised and faces turned to the sky.  It was a beautiful sight to see so many people filled with joy in that moment.  It’s an instance I look back to with much appreciation when I feel struggles within the community.  I let the participants focus on the mingling light and waters in their bodies, and then the energy was released back into the cosmos and the ritual was completed.  The ritual was very well received, and several people approached me after the ritual to talk about the meditation.  Not everyone felt connected to it, but many had, and that was such a great experience for me.



Works Cited

Bandler, Richard and John Grinder. Frogs into Princes: Neuro Linguistic Programming. Maob: Real People Press, 1979.

NLP Nation. Leading their Thoughts using Conversational Hypnosis. 2016. June 2016. <http://www.nlpnation.com/conversational-hypnosis-pace-lead.html>.

Oxford Dictionaries. Neurolinguistic Programming. n.d. December 2014. <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/neurolinguistic-programming>.

Ward, Ken. Mind Mastery Course - NLP Anchoring. 2016. 2016. <http://www.trans4mind.com/personal_development/mindMastery/anchoring.htm>.

Weatherup, Katie. Shamanic Journey Drumming. 2006. 2016. <http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/katieweatherup>.



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