The Power of Trance: Shamanic Rituals and Techniques for Altered States of Consciousness

Although shamans often enter a trance state during their practices, not all rituals require this as a mandatory condition, and many tasks can be performed in a normal state of consciousness. In cases where altered consciousness is necessary, a shaman can use various methods, each of which can send him into an ecstatic trance. In this state, a shaman can acquire the abilities of the spirits, become clairvoyant, and embark on journeys to the spirit world. In most rituals, several techniques of entering ecstasy are combined to enhance the overall effect.
shaman with a drum near the campfire
The environment and presentation of the ritual play a crucial role in its effectiveness. Conducting it at night favors entering a trance, and moreover, many spirits are not as powerful when invoked during the day. People present during the ritual can assist the shaman by echoing parts of his song, beating drums, or shouting in the same rhythm. Circular dances can also increase the energy and give the shaman an impulse that facilitates his journey to the Upper World.

The most effective method of entering a trance state is rhythmic drumming on a shamanic drum. Scientific research has shown that repetitive rhythms with a specific frequency of beats can induce a hypnotic state similar to a shamanic trance. The drumbeat rhythm should not be constant like that of a metronome but fluctuating: the frequency of beats should slowly decrease and increase, and the intensity of the strikes should vary, depending on the shaman's state of consciousness at the moment. Siberian tribal drums usually have a relatively large diameter and produce a deep resonating sound, the vibrations of which resonate through the body. Often, the drum is held near the face or above the head, so that its vibrations resonate in the head and upper body with great force.

The construction and decoration of the shaman's drum must be seen in a special dream. Before starting to make it, it’s necessary to refrain from sexual contact for several days, and before starting work, the shaman should wash well.
Experienced shamans usually have several drums. When they die, one of them is burned along with him so that the shaman's soul can take a journey to the heavens on the drum.

Before starting the ritual, shamans often consume alcoholic beverages and take breaks to smoke tobacco. In many regions of Siberia, juniper is used, which is a mild hallucinogen when its smoke is inhaled. During the ritual, the air in the yurt becomes dense due to the large amount of juniper smoke. A stronger hallucinogen used is muscarine, which is found in certain types of mushrooms. These mushrooms have been used in the traditions of Mongolian and Siberian shamanism since ancient times, not only during rituals. Shamans may consume them in dried form to achieve an ecstatic state between ceremonies.

Another way to reach ecstasy is by climbing the World Tree. By symbolically ascending the World Tree, a shaman actually goes beyond this world, entering the world of spirits. The World Tree is nine steps high, and as a shaman climbs higher and higher, the singing, drumming, and encouraging shouts of the people gathered at the ceremony bring him into a state of ecstatic trance. Some shamans demonstrate contact with the spirit world by performing throat singing and overtone singing. It is the overtones that serve as proof of the shaman's contact with the world of spirits, while his physical body remains on earth.

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