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Author Topic: Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?  (Read 5375 times)

SatSekhem

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Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?
« on: August 22, 2011, 07:44:34 pm »
I recently bought Drawing Down the Spirits... by Raven Kaldera and Kenaz Filan. Prior to this, I had never really thought about deity/spirit possessions before. I have been possessed by a deity before, but in regards to various pagan religions (from the African diaspora religions to the Neo-Pagan movement), I had never realized that the feelings on this are both strong and diverse.

So.

How do you feel about possession? Where does it fall in your religion? Do you think it exists? If so, why? Do you think that those who have claimed to be possessed are crackpots? If so, why?
« Last Edit: August 22, 2011, 08:23:03 pm by RandallS »
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Re: Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2011, 09:07:13 pm »
Quote from: SatSekhem;14925


How do you feel about possession? Where does it fall in your religion? Do you think it exists? If so, why? Do you think that those who have claimed to be possessed are crackpots? If so, why?


Call me crazy, but I know it exists. I've seen it. I can't go into too much detail here because of some privacy issues, but it scared the $#!t out of me, and I don't scare that easily. I watched a feminine face take on some subtle changes that made it look masculine (and yes, I know how that sounds). I suppose it doesn't always have to be like that, but this was NOT a friendly possession.
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Etheric1

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Re: Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2011, 12:06:40 am »
Quote from: SatSekhem;14925
I recently bought Drawing Down the Spirits... by Raven Kaldera and Kenaz Filan. Prior to this, I had never really thought about deity/spirit possessions before. I have been possessed by a deity before, but in regards to various pagan religions (from the African diaspora religions to the Neo-Pagan movement), I had never realized that the feelings on this are both strong and diverse.

So.

How do you feel about possession? Where does it fall in your religion? Do you think it exists? If so, why? Do you think that those who have claimed to be possessed are crackpots? If so, why?

Does it happen?  I am pretty sure it does, but I do think it is SUPER RARE and generally cannot happen without a fair amount of help in bringing it about - directly or indirectly. Such as someone playing around carelessly with spiritual endeavors.

If you want to read a reasonably good book on the topic, I suggest John Zaffis' book Shadows in the Dark.  He's a lay person but is reasonably scientific about his approach to the subject.  It's a very disturbing book though, it really screwed with me after I read it.
I think this is one case where the Catholics get it right: they are very skeptical and look for every alternative before they even give it more than a second thought.  Way more likely to be a psychological condition.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2011, 12:10:46 am by Etheric1 »
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Re: Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2011, 12:44:13 am »
Quote from: SatSekhem;14925
How do you feel about possession? Where does it fall in your religion? Do you think it exists? If so, why? Do you think that those who have claimed to be possessed are crackpots? If so, why?

 
It exists. I say that because it's happened to me.

Probably not the sort of possession that happens in African diaspora religions, but a milder form of deity possession has definitely happened to me. With Brighid and Morrigan. It's pretty intense. Both times there were witnesses who confirmed that I was not myself.
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Re: Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2011, 09:07:47 am »
Quote from: SatSekhem;14925

How do you feel about possession? Where does it fall in your religion? Do you think it exists? If so, why? Do you think that those who have claimed to be possessed are crackpots? If so, why?


Possessory is a part of my tradition's semi-regular work (by which I mean a couple of times a year on average), so, yes, I believe it exists, have done it, and do not think I'm a crackpot.

I *do* think it's a complicated thing to do, not something to do lightly, and not something to be done without good reason. (The guideline I go by is that it's something done in service of the community, not of the self, and that you need to make sure there's appropriate support before, during, and after for the person hosting the deity. And, of course, that you don't invite any deity or other entity without knowing them well - and as a favorite elder of mine says, loving them beyond all reason.)

I do think it's an immensely moving and powerful tool used thoughtfully - though like any other tool it can be abused. (And yet, that doesn't mean we don't use tools...)

The experience that convinced me that it was real was a very early ritual (a couple of months in) with the group I trained in, where I heard a particular goddess telling me (not quite word for word, but phrase-for-phrase) of a letter my father had written to me before he died. I had not talked to the priestess in question about that letter. (I had mentioned that my father had died when I was in my teens, but that was about as much detail as she had.)

Doing possessory work myself, of course, is even more convincing - I haven't done a lot of it, but what I've done has been very meaningful, both for me, and in the group context it was done in.
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monsnoleedra

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Re: Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2011, 03:49:28 pm »
Quote from: SatSekhem;14925
.. How do you feel about possession? Where does it fall in your religion? Do you think it exists? If so, why? Do you think that those who have claimed to be possessed are crackpots? If so, why?

 
I do believe it is a frequent occurance in my pathwalk, Shamanic being the best descriptor though not truly shamanic.  Yet I also think it goes back to the old notion of one being Ridden, Driven or Possessed.

Ridden basically equated as spirits or entities that share ones life through their body but are passive in appearance.  Driven nearly the same but the entities or spirits are more active in thier approach and usage in the body.  Then of course Possessed being those entities or spirits that seek to fully take control of the body, even to the point of usurping the place of the bodies own spirit force.  Granted more to it than that general description but a common point of discussion for the groups I moved with in the late 70's and 80's.

Though I think many tend to equate the concept to the Hollywood portrayal of possession with Linda Blair and her spinning head type thing.

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Re: Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2011, 04:52:27 pm »
Quote from: monsnoleedra;15374

Ridden basically equated as spirits or entities that share ones life through their body but are passive in appearance.  Driven nearly the same but the entities or spirits are more active in thier approach and usage in the body.  Then of course Possessed being those entities or spirits that seek to fully take control of the body, even to the point of usurping the place of the bodies own spirit force.  Granted more to it than that general description but a common point of discussion for the groups I moved with in the late 70's and 80's.

 
That's a good point that many people forget (though it's something discussed in the book mentioned in the original post) - there are definitely different layers of possesory experience, though the terminology a given group/path/etc. uses may vary (quite) a bit.

The way I learned it goes like this, though which one-word label people use for it varies a bit. (And, just to complicate things, multiple layers may be present in any given ritual where you're doing possessory work...)

[one additional note on this, at the end]

- Presence: This is the one some systems don't consider a step, but I think it's useful in understanding what we're doing as a larger spectrum. This is where you feel the presence of the deity in the space, but it's not particularly directed/focused/aimed at anything.

This is the level that I think most deity-based ritual work assumes is at least a potential outcome when you do ritual of that kind - you invite deity, maybe they show up and you know they're there. (Though, as with all invitations, it's not a sure thing until it actually happens.)

- Inspiration: the deity is present in your awareness, but not in any particularly concrete way: an impression rather than clear words, for example, but it's quite easy for the host to understand their wishes/intentions. However, the host needs to translate those wishes/intentions/etc. into things other humans understand.

I always think of this one a bit like describing a painting to someone else. Done competently, you'll get something like the same basic description ("There's a white house on a green hill") but a lot of the details will depend a great deal on who's doing the describing. I might notice the range of colors, someone else might comment on the brush strokes, someone else might talk about the lighting or perspective. Which can be very useful, or very opaque, depending on the translator.

- Conversation: the deity conveys more specific information, usually in terms of phrases or sentences, but they're not necessarily lengthy, complete, etc.

My experience has been that this one often crosses with the previous one: you get a lot of fuzzier "describe this thing to that person" and then a couple of phrases of very specific stuff to pass along. Or you get fuzzier stuff for most people in a group, but very specific phrasing to give one or two.

This can also be some degree of action, but it's usually pretty mild action.

- Direction : This is, I think, parallel to what you describe as Driven, monsnoleedra. Deity or entity is more or less controlling the action, but the priest/ess is still aware of what's going on, and usually has at least some input in how stuff's being done.

("Look, I know you're a Goddess, but really, standing in the fire is not a good thing for humans." or "I know you like mead, but this body needs to go to work in the morning, so if you're going to drink, take the alcohol with you." type boundary enforcing is a common one here. Or sometimes mediating how something's said: the deity may have a strong opinion about how to approach an issue with someone, but be okay with a slightly different wording/framing/whatever.)

I actually think of this more like horseback riding than driving, myself - horses have minds of their own, and a healthy sense of self-preservation, so doing things that they don't think are good for them can still put a roadblock in the way.

A lot of people I know describe this one as being sort of like backseat driving: you can comment (and if you're hanging out in the back seat, it's sort of assumed that your opinions might be useful to the experience) but you're not the one making the final decisions.

- Possession is of course the last category, when the deity is completely in control. Often, in these cases, the person hosting the deity has very little memory of what happened, or what they said, and they may experience something totally different than the rest of the group during the time of the working.

(This part is a big part of why it's advised you need a support staff, so that someone else can enforce your boundaries for your body when you're not there to do it for yourself.)

And some pretty amazing things can happen when full possesory work happens. (One I've seen was someone who was normally very disabled by chronic medical issues dancing throughout a three-hour ritual, in movement patterns very much not her normal style, and not suffering for it the next day.)

Ok, the additional note:

One thing that can happen in community settings is that people can get sort of hung up about "Oh, well, I go way deep all the time". My HPS had gotten bitten by that one, back before I started with her, and she was very insistent that a) that while it's something we'd have the option to learn after initiation, it was not required within the tradition and b) that if you're talking about something done in the service of the community, the *form* of that service should make sense in the community.

Not every ritual needs the Big Momentous Deity Doing Amazing Things experience. Often, what's needed - and what's appropriate - is a much lighter touch. A skilled priest/ess should be able to negotiate that, and aspect/draw to the appropriate degree.

(This also has some substantial benefits, to my way of thinking, for the priest/ess themselves: for everyone I know who I've seen do legit full Draw type work, it's tiring and draining for a period of time - sometimes a day or two, but sometimes for longer (sort of like a really long adventure-filled day can be: great at the time, but the recovery takes a while to catch up with you.))
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monsnoleedra

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Re: Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2011, 05:19:27 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;15384
That's a good point that many people forget (though it's something discussed in the book mentioned in the original post) - there are definitely different layers of possesory experience, though the terminology a given group/path/etc. uses may vary (quite) a bit.

The way I learned it goes like this, though which one-word label people use for it varies a bit. (And, just to complicate things, multiple layers may be present in any given ritual where you're doing possessory work...


Oh I very much agree on the levels and degree's of depth with it all.  In some ways to me it's like the various levels utilized when speaking of invoking / evoking and the things that go with those.

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Re: Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2011, 06:20:06 pm »
Quote from: SatSekhem;14925
I recently bought Drawing Down the Spirits... by Raven Kaldera and Kenaz Filan. Prior to this, I had never really thought about deity/spirit possessions before. I have been possessed by a deity before, but in regards to various pagan religions (from the African diaspora religions to the Neo-Pagan movement), I had never realized that the feelings on this are both strong and diverse.

So.

How do you feel about possession? Where does it fall in your religion? Do you think it exists? If so, why? Do you think that those who have claimed to be possessed are crackpots? If so, why?

 
I've only ever done it once - a drawing down. It wasn't unpleasant, but I've never felt the need to do it agian.

My thoughts are this: yes, possession is real, but it only happens by consent. How that consent is defined can differ from tradition to tradition (for example, in diaspora traditions it seems that just showing up is a form of consent) but it must happen on a two-way level.

As to those who claim possession, such as the "I was possessed by the holy spirit" and "I was possessed by demons," I don't really believe that's what's going on with them, at least, not 100%. Sometimes I think, especially in the case of the latter, it's some good-old bearing of false witness/avoiding responsibility for actions, but sometimes it may be a minor contribution to a bigger problem. I do think malevolent entities exist, but I doubt any entity would consider itself malevolent, and that fine point also works its way into my consideration of the validity of a possession.

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Re: Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2011, 07:11:56 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;15384
That's a good point that many people forget (though it's something discussed in the book mentioned in the original post) - there are definitely different layers of possesory experience, though the terminology a given group/path/etc. uses may vary (quite) a bit.

The way I learned it goes like this, though which one-word label people use for it varies a bit. (And, just to complicate things, multiple layers may be present in any given ritual where you're doing possessory work...)

[one additional note on this, at the end]

- Presence: This is the one some systems don't consider a step, but I think it's useful in understanding what we're doing as a larger spectrum. This is where you feel the presence of the deity in the space, but it's not particularly directed/focused/aimed at anything.

This is the level that I think most deity-based ritual work assumes is at least a potential outcome when you do ritual of that kind - you invite deity, maybe they show up and you know they're there. (Though, as with all invitations, it's not a sure thing until it actually happens.)

- Inspiration: the deity is present in your awareness, but not in any particularly concrete way: an impression rather than clear words, for example, but it's quite easy for the host to understand their wishes/intentions. However, the host needs to translate those wishes/intentions/etc. into things other humans understand.

I always think of this one a bit like describing a painting to someone else. Done competently, you'll get something like the same basic description ("There's a white house on a green hill") but a lot of the details will depend a great deal on who's doing the describing. I might notice the range of colors, someone else might comment on the brush strokes, someone else might talk about the lighting or perspective. Which can be very useful, or very opaque, depending on the translator.

- Conversation: the deity conveys more specific information, usually in terms of phrases or sentences, but they're not necessarily lengthy, complete, etc.

My experience has been that this one often crosses with the previous one: you get a lot of fuzzier "describe this thing to that person" and then a couple of phrases of very specific stuff to pass along. Or you get fuzzier stuff for most people in a group, but very specific phrasing to give one or two.

This can also be some degree of action, but it's usually pretty mild action.

- Direction : This is, I think, parallel to what you describe as Driven, monsnoleedra. Deity or entity is more or less controlling the action, but the priest/ess is still aware of what's going on, and usually has at least some input in how stuff's being done.

("Look, I know you're a Goddess, but really, standing in the fire is not a good thing for humans." or "I know you like mead, but this body needs to go to work in the morning, so if you're going to drink, take the alcohol with you." type boundary enforcing is a common one here. Or sometimes mediating how something's said: the deity may have a strong opinion about how to approach an issue with someone, but be okay with a slightly different wording/framing/whatever.)

I actually think of this more like horseback riding than driving, myself - horses have minds of their own, and a healthy sense of self-preservation, so doing things that they don't think are good for them can still put a roadblock in the way.

A lot of people I know describe this one as being sort of like backseat driving: you can comment (and if you're hanging out in the back seat, it's sort of assumed that your opinions might be useful to the experience) but you're not the one making the final decisions.

- Possession is of course the last category, when the deity is completely in control. Often, in these cases, the person hosting the deity has very little memory of what happened, or what they said, and they may experience something totally different than the rest of the group during the time of the working.

(This part is a big part of why it's advised you need a support staff, so that someone else can enforce your boundaries for your body when you're not there to do it for yourself.)

And some pretty amazing things can happen when full possesory work happens. (One I've seen was someone who was normally very disabled by chronic medical issues dancing throughout a three-hour ritual, in movement patterns very much not her normal style, and not suffering for it the next day.)

Ok, the additional note:

One thing that can happen in community settings is that people can get sort of hung up about "Oh, well, I go way deep all the time". My HPS had gotten bitten by that one, back before I started with her, and she was very insistent that a) that while it's something we'd have the option to learn after initiation, it was not required within the tradition and b) that if you're talking about something done in the service of the community, the *form* of that service should make sense in the community.

Not every ritual needs the Big Momentous Deity Doing Amazing Things experience. Often, what's needed - and what's appropriate - is a much lighter touch. A skilled priest/ess should be able to negotiate that, and aspect/draw to the appropriate degree.

(This also has some substantial benefits, to my way of thinking, for the priest/ess themselves: for everyone I know who I've seen do legit full Draw type work, it's tiring and draining for a period of time - sometimes a day or two, but sometimes for longer (sort of like a really long adventure-filled day can be: great at the time, but the recovery takes a while to catch up with you.))

 
Wow!  That is a really great post on this topic. Thank you!
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Re: Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?
« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2011, 09:35:02 am »
Quote from: Jenett;15384


- Inspiration: the deity is present in your awareness, but not in any particularly concrete way: an impression rather than clear words, for example, but it's quite easy for the host to understand their wishes/intentions. However, the host needs to translate those wishes/intentions/etc. into things other humans understand.

- Conversation: the deity conveys more specific information, usually in terms of phrases or sentences, but they're not necessarily lengthy, complete, etc.



In my new age phase some years ago, I attempted channeling work, (which for all intents and purposes I'd say are the same as deity possession, but with other entities), trying to contact angelic beings. To the degree that I succeeded, it never went beyond these two, but I did meet a professional who occasionally dipped well into the Direction level. And it's funny you should mention describing pictures, because that's exactly what she did most of the time; she got pictures in her head that she had to describe/translate for the client. But also her guides would occasionally speak directly through her mouth.

One variant of the Conversation that I often ended up with, was with sentences or words or phrases that became more complete as I went along. Writing two or three words, and then another few words would show up in my head. Not quite automatic writing (which would be the next level, I guess).
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Re: Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2011, 01:05:45 am »
Quote from: SatSekhem;14925
Re: Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?


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Re: Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2011, 01:51:00 am »
Quote from: Garm;15657
Where ever they want me to

 
Nice!  :thup:
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Re: Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?
« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2011, 12:51:15 pm »
Quote from: SatSekhem;14925

How do you feel about possession? Where does it fall in your religion? Do you think it exists? If so, why? Do you think that those who have claimed to be possessed are crackpots? If so, why?


I've been meaning to buy that book at some point. It's a topic of interest to me, that said, I choose to reserve judgement on such matters. I'd have to see it/experience it for myself. As others have said, it's possible to fake a possession, but I also think it's quite possible that there is a rational explanation for it and we're just not there yet scientifically.

It would be an interesting experience, I think.

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Re: Deity/Spirit Possession: Where Do You Stand?
« Reply #14 on: September 02, 2011, 10:58:41 am »
Quote from: SatSekhem;14925


How do you feel about possession? Where does it fall in your religion? Do you think it exists? If so, why? Do you think that those who have claimed to be possessed are crackpots? If so, why?

 
It's kind of hard to argue against something when it's happened to you, so yes, I believe it exists. I've had it happen to me, and seen it in other people.

Voodoo 'gods' tend to find people who deny possession and take them for a ride. Others are maybe a little more polite most of the time.  

With that being said- there are people out there who are 'crackpots', or are just faking it.

Things like this are a little hinky when it comes to how you want to react. On the one hand, it's important to extend credibility to others-as you want them to extend it to you. Since you can't really see exactly what is going on in someone elses head, you can't really just say 'this guy is real' or 'this guy is fake'.

Overall, you should trust your own judgement on this one and take it as a case-by-case basis.

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