dancing with the gods

art journal spread

When I was 11 or 12 years old, I became fascinated with the occult. I think my interest was inspired, in part, by my favorite childhood television shows – Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Wonder Woman, and The Bionic Woman. I grew up witnessing strong women accessing unfathomable powers, and I saw no reason why I shouldn’t have access to those same powers myself. And don’t forget – I also went to church every Sunday, and was fed a steady diet of miracles and resurrection. So for a few years I raided my library’s “130” section (the section of the Dewey Decimal classification system where books on the paranormal and the occult can be found), trying to unlock the secrets of my own inner powers. When I look back on this period now, I find it remarkable that I never once questioned that those powers existed. To my pubescent mind, it was only a matter of accumulating enough knowledge, and then I’d certainly be able to live a magical life.

Well, it probably doesn’t come as any surprise that I didn’t uncover the mysteries of leaping tall buildings in a single bound, or making objects materialize with a wriggle of my nose or a bob of my head. And by the time I was a university student, my interests had shifted somewhat – to psychology and phenomenology, and the inner workings of the human mind. I was still looking for answers to magical questions, though. And at this time in my life, I came across the work of anthropologist Wade Davis. I was fascinated by his his studies of the zombies of Haiti, and by his descriptions of Vodou (voodoo). I eventually read everything I could find on the subject of syncretized New World religions such as Vodou and Santeria.

In these religions – as well as in their African origins – worshippers believe they are literally visited by the gods during their ritual ceremonies. One or more gods will descend upon individuals present, and “mount” them. For a time, the chosen worshippers become possessed by the gods, and continue to participate in the ritual as gods. When the ritual is over, the gods return from whence they came, and the individuals are themselves once again.

I loved this particular interpretation or understanding of transpersonal energy. I loved the idea of being inhabited by a god for a period of time, and then returning to regular life again. Something in this process really rang true for me on a very deep level. I understood the longing for God – the desire to unite with God permanently, once and for all – but I also instinctively knew that human bodies couldn’t bear permanent possession by the divine. It would be like putting a million volts of energy through a 120-volt appliance. It would blow your circuits – make you mad. If accessed unconsciously through addiction, it could even kill you.

But if approached with respect and humility, with mindfulness, consciousness, and intention, then temporary access to transpersonal energy can nourish your life. I may not have the superpowers that I longed for as a child… but I continue to heal myself emotionally and physically, with the soul medicine that I bring back from trance. And I continue to create, with the help of my creative genius.

Do you have experience dancing with transpersonal energy? Does it overwhelm you? Or nourish your life?

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Art journal spread, October 2005. Wax crayon and pencil on paper.