I need video (actual or staged) of religious trance states
March 3, 2021 4:51 PM   Subscribe

I need to understand what this feels like, or at least what it looks like.

I don't know how many modern religions or other spiritual practices involve practitioners experiencing trance states with external manifestations. Are there any? And is there video?

This could be any sort of trance: possession; prophecy; convulsions; ecstasies; etc. -- although what I'm specifically interested in is trances where there is some sort of verbalization accompanying.

I see some "speaking in tongues" stuff on Youtube; and Sufi Dervish shows for tourists. The Sufi show had no verbalization, though. The Pentecostal material comes closer, but in the historical events I'm trying to understand, people were verbalizing coherent phrases.

I swear I'm not here to disrespect anyone's practice. I'm just trying to understand this (historical) phenomenon, and was hoping there might be contemporary clues that would help me visualize what was going on.

Fine with a depiction in a movie, if it seems like a plausible representation.
posted by fingersandtoes to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Jesus Camp has a lot of good Pentecostal tongue speaking. From children, no less.
posted by phunniemee at 5:07 PM on March 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think that in my tradition (initiatory Wicca) you will be hard-pressed to find decent video, because the rituals in which this happens tend to be oath-bound or at least too private/sacred to film. If you really want a staged recreation, you could try "Legend of the Witches" (1970), but honestly you're probably better off not watching that. In any case, what's more interesting is what's happening on the inside, which doesn't capture well onto film.

If you're willing to read instead, two books I would recommend are "Lifting the Veil: a Witches' guide to trance-prophecy, drawing down the moon, and ecstatic ritual" by Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone (2016) and "The Uses of Ecstasy: ritual and practical mysticism in Wicca" by Samuel Wagar (2012). Both of these include first-hand descriptions of trance, trance-possession/prophecy, and trance-ecstasy (like the experience of direct contact with a deity) by the people who underwent them, as well as descriptions from people who witnessed others in trance.

A couple other places to look are Vodoun and seidr.
posted by heatherlogan at 5:21 PM on March 3, 2021

In N!ai, the Story of a !Kung Woman, I believe her husband does this.
posted by Melismata at 6:36 PM on March 3, 2021

I don't believe there's vocalization inherent in it, but Yogic Flying is a quite prominent physical manifestation of a particular program of Transcendental Meditation.
posted by SquidLips at 8:43 PM on March 3, 2021

Best answer: Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson from the electronic / industrial band Throbbing Gristle and later COIL moved to Thailand in 2005 and filmed a lot of ecstatic rituals at the vegetarian festival in Krung Thep which he set to music as part of his Threshold House Boys Choir video/music project. They're available on Youtube. Here's Form Grows Rampant (2007), a 47 min piece. Wikipedia entry about it here.

The videos feature young men in trance states, tongue-slashing, fire-walking, piercing, exhaustive/frenetic dancing, flagellation. I'm not sure what kinds of content warning to give, I think I should note at the very least that the film-maker's gaze is unusually voyeuristic – implied by the lingering, slowed-down footage – and you may also be concerned about incipient Orientalism; these criticisms were made when the films were released and following Sleazy's live performances which screened them. I suspect the videos can be particularly uncomfortable to watch if you find this kind of music upsetting (roughly: 'post industrial' electronic drone), but if you're interested in having something of an experience yourself while seeing people carry out ritualistic exercises, then I think this is probably quite an effective way to achieve that. (No doubt other footage of these observances exists online, in a more strictly documentary fashion!).
posted by Joeruckus at 3:20 AM on March 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

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