Identify and describe three instances where trance is found in ancient Indo-European cultures. (min. 150 words each instance)
Three cultures that had historical notations of trance-like work in the Indo-European cultures are the Norse, the Hellenic, and the Irish cultures.
Shared throughout the Greek and Roman cultures, one example we have that shows trance-like historical connotations are the Dionysian Mysteries. This was a savory ritual where participants would ingest intoxicants and engage in trance-like activities in order to remove inhibitions with the intent of returning to their natural primal mental state outside of social restrictions. Bacchus and Dionysus were both generally associated with madness, more of a divine madness however. The induction rites associated with the Dionysian Mysteries had a very trance-like structure based on a death-rebirth theme and spirit possession (Wikipedia). Part of these rites required dance and rhythm that was representative of the “invocation of spirit”, similar to possession. The thought behind these trance dances is that it was a form of liberation from society where participants were considered more equal than current society allowed. They believed they would gain divine power and knowledge through trance. I can certainly sympathize with this method of trance, as rhythm is my top method for trance through drumming and the only way I feel completely comfortable allowing my mind to “let go”.
(Word Count: 181)
In Irish culture, after lengthy conversation with both Kirk and Sean since my Irish culture knowledge is limited, I learned of an old trance custom called the Taghairm. During this ritual, a seer is wrapped in a cow’s hide that has been previously sacrificed for this purpose. The seer was then placed somewhere quiet, alone, and was left to sleep and await for spirits to arrive in his dreams to deliver messages and inspiration (Sacred Texts). I am suspect at the ability for trance-like states while sleeping, I suppose it is possible given the proper environments.
This particular custom is thought to link the seer to the divine through the skin of the cow, because the intent and sacrifice of the cow prior linked it to the divine through purpose. This would allow the seer to procure enlightenment through a meditative sleep trance and some sort of mental acuity during this time of solace.
(Word Count: 152)
In some of the old Norse Culture, Seiðr had many different methods of a trance-like state. One in particular, Gandr, is where the *gothi would send a “mind-in-shape emissary” forth. This was generally done through “spinning”, or a representative act of “spinning” such as yarn, which is then sent out like a whirlwind and then comes back. Several historical references relate to the spinning concept, such as folklore suggesting that skilled sorcerers could steal milk from other peoples cows by milking a rope (Andrén). The emissary is referenced multiple times as some sort of spun thread or magic wind that has been spun by a type of sorcerer.
There is a Saami poem called “The Son of the Sun” that depicts three win-knots that contain the soul of a new human, which is another reference we see in the lore of magic wind or something spun that acts as an emissary carrying something. I sort of picture this like a boomerang effect in that what you send spinning outward would eventually return to you, for whatever good or bad.
(Word Count: 179)