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More Talk About Possession

Maggi Setti has written a very interesting article that goes along nicely with my post Possession, A Rant on a Rant, over at, one of of the oldest Pagan websites. Her take, called Faking Possession, A Deep Concern for the Pagan Community looks at the problems raised with more Pagans becoming interested in trance possession.

First, she addresses her own fear, one that I’ve heard many times. Some people seem to think it’s fun and easy to just hand all of what makes you human over to some other Entity, sometimes known and sometimes not, and let them do whatever they want for as long as they want. There’s also the opposite side, however, that some fear losing that kind of control so much that they can’t relax into an experience that might be beneficial for them and their community.

The real reason I wanted to write about this article, however, is that she takes a point that Elizabeth at Twilight and Fire started this off with – that some people use the concept of possession as a way to cause trouble, call attention to oneself, or to make someone(s) put more weight on their words than if they just said them as an everyday person. She likens this behavior to other ones that show a similar lack of reverance to the Gods and respect for those leading a ritual:

There are also a disturbing number of people who come to festivals and exhibit over-the-top attention seeking behavior. Such behavior could include inappropriate acting out in someone else’s ritual, hysterical mob behavior, inappropriate substance abuse during fire circles and rituals, and fake possession (whether in ritual or not)…

In the best scenarios, only the ritual leaders are aware of issues and the participants are left to their experience, unaware of such disturbances. In the worst cases, the public drama of the event disrupts attendees, stresses out organizers and medical staff, and scares children and newbies. If I had been an observer to some of the hysterics that happen at Pagan festivals early during my path, I would have hightailed it back to the mundane population and my engagement of the occult would have immediately ended. We are going to lose people that potentially might be our future leaders if we allow this ridiculous behavior to continue! This is why when people who are psychically sensitive see this sort of thing sometimes assume that all ritual and magick is a hoax. It is time to call out this behavior and have it stopped in a calm way that does not promote public drama and lead to gossip.

Ah, but therein lies the rub. I have been a part of such a “calling out”, when a possessory rite happened at an event, and afterwards several of the attendees decided that the person undergoing the possession was faking it. Even though this happened several years ago, the community in which this happened is still somewhat broken along the lines of “those who thought it was real” and “those who thought it was faked”.

When I work at a public trance possession rite, I do my best to open all of my senses – not just the psychic ones – to be aware of subtle shifts and changes that tend to happen around actual engagement with Deity/Spirit. And sometimes, even when someone truly believes they are possessed, it isn’t because they wish to be a “fake”, and actually, more often it’s a case of the person feeling “drunk” off all of the energy in the room and they become slightly disassociative.

But still, I’m open to ideas from anyone as to how to have the conversation with someone about a false possession without creating needless drama. For now, I tend to allow them their experience, and let the people present make their own judgement as to whether the experience felt “real” or not. However, if someone asks for my professional opinion, I tell them the truth. I just lack a tried-and-true way to initate a conversation with someone who continually has disassociative experiences that they call “possession”, but lack the oomph of touch of Gods.

About Del

A shaman who writes about spiritual things, but not in that namby-pamby "everything is light and fluffy" sort of way.

2 responses to “More Talk About Possession

  1. Eric S ⋅

    For me, I have had a number of ecstatic and trance experiences from a variety of sources but I have always known they came from within. My view of these things is very internal. I think the core thing to push is that mystical truth is rarely transferrable and we need to emphasize personal responsibility in all cases.

  2. EVCelt

    In UToS, we tend to leave a lot up to the judgment of the Guardians, as well as acknowledging a wide range of possession and possession-related experiences. A lot of it comes down to: is the person engaging in dangerous behavior or being overly disruptive? If yes, then the Guardians and others act to correct that; otherwise if they’re not doing any harm to themselves or others, and not behaving in ways that will piss off the spirits, etc. we generally just let it go. And there’s a strong attitude of “trust but verify”- if someone who is or claims to be possessed by a spirit is doing/asking for something that is way out of character for that spirit, then comparing it to other experiences with that spirit, divination, etc. is in order.

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