Ecstatic Trance Postures

Translations are always a challenge but here is an English version of Machado’s poem (click here)

Having gotten Parzival to the Externsteine where he learns his true lineage, looks at the consequences of his actions, and finds his spiritual compass, I have to ask how these insights were precipitated.  Wolfram tells us that our protagonist and his knightly mentor Trevrezant:

  • live in isolation
  • eat only the wild herbs they gather in their area of the woods
  • drink only water
  • spend time in prayer
  • repeat the stories of their lineage

Isolation, fasting, prayer, and creating appropriate context are present in initiatory rituals worldwide.  What Wolfram doesn’t talk about, either because it was so widely known as to be taken for granted, or because it was so widely frowned upon as to be life-threatening to mention it, is ingesting psychoactive plants that grow in the forest such as:

  • The Witch’s Flying Broomstick or Belladonna
  • The Green Fairy or Wormwood
  • or Groa, the wise grandmotherly Amanita Muscaria.

Neither does he openly discuss  what we would now call shamanic journeying. Since I have no way of recreating the medieval mind, culture and/or environment, I decided to reframe my question to ask:

  • How can we 
  • as multi-racial, multicultural, 21st century individuals
  • precipitate such insights
  • and/or experiences?

Discussing and ingesting psychoactive plants not only skirts serious legal issues, there are many different psychoactive plants specific to different continents and ecologies and our varied human cultures have developed specific relationships and rituals with them.  Rather than wade into the conflicts, controversies, and complexities inherent in that realm, I turned to the one thing we all share as human beings:

  • the inner geography of our common human body

In her book “Where the Spirits Ride the Wind’ Dr. Felicitas Goodman PhD Emeritus opened the door for modern individuals to recognize the ritual instructions found pre-historic human images and experience their profound effect on our psyches. She came to call them Ecstatic Trance Postures and my first experience with Felicitas and her work was with the Lascaux Cave posture in 1977:


It was a rather warm midsummer’s day when she asked me to go lie on the side of  the hill in Cuyemungue in this position and close my eyes while she rattled.  Although I was quite hot, my eyelids were red from the mid-morning sun shining through them and the stony New Mexico hillside was remarkably lumpy and uncomfortable; as soon as she began to rattle I was promptly greeted by a whole realm of beings who expressed their delight at my long-expected appearance and burst in a frenzy of action with a lengthy agenda of the work that needed to be done.

I was 19 at the time, reeling from an auto accident that reactivated all of my old injuries from being thrown out of my mother’s car as a toddler, and was adamant that before I immersed myself in the realms of spirit that I managed to create a foundation for myself in the mundane world. So I worked with the living descendents of the Las Caux cave horses for many years before I actually began to write about them (click here)

As a visionary teen, I was Felicitas’ control for her research on Anna-Lisa Michelle.  As a research subject for her work with the ecstatic trance postures I was not nearly so satisfactory because of my intense, personal, and complex relationship with the beings of the alternate realities.  She was seeking predictability; I was and am a conscious, a responsive and responsible, participant in a co-creative experience focused on sustaining the well-being of the infinitely complex, self-renewing, and ever-changing web of life that transcends worlds.

That really doesn’t fit into an academic laboratory mind-set. We also had a couple of severe philosophical differences.  Her stance was that:

  1. the alternate reality was a fixed and static environment unaffected by human activity
  2. the practice of using body position to influence the visionary experience was no longer a living practice among indigenous Peoples

My experience was that:

  1. the use of ecstatic trance postures by indigenous Peoples is alive and well, but considered a secret only practiced among knowledgeable individuals
  2. one of the primary purposes of the ecstatic trance postures among indigenous Peoples was to create and maintain the health and well-being of the web of inter-relationships of the greater life-sustaining community of all our relations throughout all realities

So while I am the bare-foot Sara in her book that shepherded her first batch of students at the new-born Cuyemungue Institute safely through the summer time desert hike in Bandalier National Monument while she had her initiatory experience  there in 1979, I wasn’t a regular at her workshops. We did agree that our own body is the door way into the visionary initiatory experience and our path to finding our role in repairing and sustaining the web of life; and I am profoundly grateful to Felicitas for finding a way to open that door for all the lost souls of our times.

Now, it is time to learn to use the ecstatic trance postures constructively.

Click for the beginning, or for Parzival’s Quest or for the next


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