This entry is mostly adding my own experience to a rant Elizabeth posted yesterday to Twilight and Fire about possesory work. You should read that first: Possession: A Rant.
This is something that I struggle with often. As someone who has been rewired energetically to make it easier for me to carry Deity, I do not feel that it has made me more special or unique. I do not feel like it gives me more or less authority to speak on behalf of the Gods – if anything, I feel I have to be more judicious when giving spiritual advice, and make a marked difference between my own thoughts and feelings and messages from the Gods. And if I’m not sure which is in play, I would rather err on the side of taking responsibility for what comes out of my mouth, rather than duck it by claiming Someone Else said or did it.
In fact, I take is as a moral imperative that I never excuse behavior that my body does, or words that my mouth utters, by passing the blame onto the Deity in question, even if that’s really what happened. I feel strongly that I am the gatekeeper here – I gave the Deity in question permission to use my body, I am the one who negotiated limits and boundaries, and if the Deity does something hurtful, or even worse, illegal, while wearing my skin, it’s ultimately me who has to pay the piper. I mean, would you actually consider telling a police officer, “Sorry I was running naked with a knife dripping in blood, but it wasn’t me, Sir. It was Kali Ma, who had possessed my body”? I didn’t think so.
The behavior that seems to anger Elizabeth the most is when someone uses the framework of possession in order to have their words or actions carry more weight than when it’s just Joe the Spirit Worker. It’s definitely on my check-list of how to spot a faker, when the God spends some or all of its time telling people what a great person the horse is, or that you should take them more seriously, or do nicer things to them. In a similar fashion, it greatly upsets me when someone asks for tangible or financial contributions because they have a close relationship to a Deity, making someone feel as though buying Joe a new tablet is the same as making an offering to Kali Ma.
I see any form of possessory work, from shadowing (the God is more audible to the horse than usual, and the horse follows instructions from the God and does what the God tells them to do) to aspecting (the God is present as a separate entity in the body, but does not take over the body or mind or the horse entirely) to full possession (where the horse has no control over what the Deity says or does, and frequently has no memory of the event), as sacred Work. And I really mean the work part – when I go to a ritual or a fete intending to be an open head, I prepare for it like I was about to do a great deal of physical and emotional labor. I make sure I’ve eaten well and am fully hydrated; I wear comfortable clothes and sturdy shoes. I do not see this as a fun way to spend an afternoon, or a cool trick I can show people – this is hard on my body, and harder on my mind. After a ritual where I’ve been carrying for quite some time, I am basically a quivering mound of Del-flavored jello. I don’t enjoy how it makes me feel, and I really don’t enjoy having hours of my life wiped from my memory.
I agree with Elizabeth whole-heartedly that although most people have the ability to experience some level of God-touched-ness, experiences closer to full-on possession require astral body modifications or a great deal of physical preparedness. For example, if you were to look at my astral form, I have a very obvious hole on the top of my head. I have had to learn, over years of practice, how to stretch that hole open enough so a God can slip their way in with the least amount of resistance. On top of that, I do other forms of devotional work to prepare my body for the experience – I will typically eat food the God would eat, or if I’m unsure as to whom I am preparing for, I will eat simple foods and drink water for at least a day or two, sometimes as long as a month, depending on the nature of the ritual.
I don’t always get to choose when it happens. This cuts both ways, in my life; sometimes Gods just show up unannounced, no plan in place, and start pushing on my port. If I’m lucky, I can strike a quick deal with them that I accept that this is something that They want, but if They could just give me a little time to be better prepared, to honor them the way they deserve, then I would be happy to oblige. Sometimes this works, and sometimes they don’t care or the need is too present. On the other hand, sometimes I’m asked to provide a body for a Deity at a specific time and place (like, for an ordeal), and no amount of training, tricks, and sheer will will force it to happen. I’ve walked out into a ritual more than once and announced, “I am speaking on behalf of Loki, who is watching from afar” or some other key phrase that makes it clear that I can still perform in the ritual, but that the possession isn’t going to happen.
So yes, even I, who have been doing this possessory thing for more than a decade, am not always successful. I find someone who claims they can always horse on the drop of a hat suspicious. After all, like Elizabeth said, it’s not about us and our desires, but about the Gods. And no matter how much you may want Loki to bear witness to your rite, if he’s not interested or is engaged elsewhere, there’s nothing I can do to change that.
Also, because I’ve heard a few cases of this, I would hold suspicion against anyone who claims they can channel a God for you via the Internet. I mean, I could see someone passing on messages they get from a Deity via email or IM, but I can’t imagine even the most tech-savvy Gods sitting down and typing on a keyboard when they could just go to your house and give you the message themselves.
That leads to another point: Possession is not the only, or the best, way to communicate directly with a Deity. People like it because it feels immediate, and the communication is usually less difficult to interpret. However, a big part of all of this is faith – and unless you live with someone who is wired to horse, who has a close relationship with that Deity, and has the mental and physical wherewithal to do it on a whim, at some point you’re going to have to learn how to communicate with your Deity without an intercessory. I’ve had several clients who have solicited me for possessory work, but in the end, they were doing it merely because they doubted the communications the Gods were sending to them directly, and all they really wanted was for the God to verify that what they heard/felt/experienced was really true. I’m sorry, but that’s just not how faith works. And anyway, in the one case where I acquiesced and the God spoke to their devotee, all the God did was berate them for not listening to Him on their own!
To sum up: I believe the ability to engage in possessory work is not egalitarian – that is, just because you want to learn how, that someone should or can teach you, and that you will be able to reproduce the ability on demand. I believe aspects of possessory work can be taught, and if you have the innate ability you can be trained on how to wield it as you most want.
I do not believe lending your body as a horse somehow makes you cooler, better, more important, more worthy of listening to, or closer to your Deity than someone who cannot or chooses not to.
It is a sacred Work that should be viewed with respect, and treated as a holy wonder, not a parlor trick to prove how more spirit-workery you are.
Everyone remembers Paul Revere, and very few people know the name of his horse. That’s the way it should be in possessory work, too.