letter never sent

I’m just going to say my bit here and go back to being quiet for a while.

There sure is a lot of talk of possession here. My questions are: possession by who, and more importantly, for what reason?

I was never introduced to (insert deity names here), and don’t know them. They weren’t part of what I learned, so I have no idea if they would like me – or if I would like them.

I hope my questioning of what seems to be a very common practice in some of the Bloodrose-related traditions is not blasphemous or shocking, but I have trouble believing that I am the only person on this list who has very serious questions about letting disembodied beings take control of their body.

And I also have trouble believing that I am the only person who has questions about what possession means in a tradition where, I was told, one of the goals was to be Self Possessed, to let my own Godself manifest in the here and now. I don’t quite see how letting some disembodied being use me for a while is going to help me in any particular way. And I can see a lot of ways where it could really screw me up.

I don’t want to be the wet blanket, but that’s what concerns me. It doesn’t seem to match up with “God is Self, and Self is God, and God is a person like myself.”

I will freely admit that my one personal experience with a possessory tradition was when I was involved in Charismatic Christianity for six years. I was able to see people manifest all kinds of possessory behavior. The unfortunate part was they were still racist, sexist, and homophobic. One minute they were singing beautifully, speaking in tongues and trancing out – then the next minute, they’d say that God wants you to vote Republican, homosexuality was evil,  and that Christians shouldn’t own black cats because they are the familiars of witches.

As insane as it will sound, I will go further and admit that the same spirit attempted to possess me during a church service. I was able to resist this possession, with a great deal of effort. I am not sorry I did this because whatever spirit was possessing them certainly had little if anything to do with Jesus and what Jesus taught.

So my experience may have poisoned me a little. But I am curious about the practicality and the purpose of possession. In my experience in the charismatic Christian movement, the purpose of possession was to reinforce their faith more than anything else. It had little to no practical result. Certainly, no matter how much I spoke in tongues, I was still prone to the fierce depressive episodes that were immune to laying on of hands and prayer, and were only relieved 15 years later, after I had left the church, through therapy and Welbutrin. One would think that the spirit that was possessing them, and attempted to possess me, would have been courteous enough to tell me at some point that I had clinical depression and needed talk therapy and medication.

I am interested in an open and frank discussion on this subject. I hope this does not sound too cranky, but I am getting a little tired of the coy hinting and the winking over the heads of others when making references to received teachings. We are all initiates here. My feeling is that either we should speak freely, without references to initials or nicknames, or we should not speak about anything meaningful at all and confine the list to birthday greetings and flirting.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “letter never sent

  1. i couldn’t agree more. i think you should send this letter and that the smugness onlist needs a little deflation.

  2. Jenya

    i love you dawg. cuz you say it like it IS.

    i have some ideas of why folks might pursue the possessory state; most of them have to do with service to the community or the Gods, in terms of giving Them hands with which to bless things or people or mouths with which to speak to folks. i’m not a fan of the ‘totally checked out’ form, but i’ve had great success with the more ‘i’m still here’ form; have been doing that in public ritual for many many years.

    and look how good i’ve turned out 🙂

  3. Jay

    I want to agree with what Jenya said, in terms of my experience seeing it done well and in a helpful way.

    Personally, I don’t include trance possession (aspecting, etc) as part of ritual techniques. I think that being too spirit-led can be problematic. I don’t really think the advice of otherwordly beings is the most useful nagivating the complexities of this world.

  4. John

    I haven’t been keeping up with blog reading lately, so I saw this when Jenya spoke of it.

    I won’t say I’m deeply experienced with possession. But I do have experience with it in various forms, and have thoughts and opinions about it. End of caveat one.

    I’m also usually not as black-and-white or blunt as I’m planning on being in this reply, but I thought I’d try it on, just to see. But behind that is my belief that there are many views of “truth”, and what I have to say may hold a piece of it. There are many other views. End of caveat two.

    >I hope my questioning of what seems to be a very common practice in some of the Bloodrose-related traditions is not blasphemous or shocking,

    I believe that respect for traditions is a good thing. I believe that expecting others to respect a tradition is a good thing. I also believe that being unwilling to listen to respectful questions borders on the negative form of dogma. (I believe dogma in it’s positive form is a guide when there is a problem in connecting (including learning) with connecting to spirit. I believe dogma in it’s negative form is based in control and fear.

    So I believe the unwillingness to consider a question may come from four places.
    1. The belief the questioner is not learned enough to understand the answer (and maybe event he question).
    2. Not being willing to give the answer “To answer that, first you need to understand these million other things”.
    3. Fear of not being able to answer the question.
    4. Fear the question will not fit in a currently held view (with leanings towards that view being the “one, true view”).

    I think the world could use more acceptance for blasphemous, shocking questions.

    Course I also believe in something I think Sharon wrote of recently. Escaping from the crab pot. Not needing to tear others down in the process of holding one’s own beliefs.

    (Wait! Did I just do that when I stated my own opinions!?!)

    Whew! And I haven’t even started giving my thoughts on your question!

    Regarding Charismatic Christianity – I was raised Catholic, so I don’t have a lot of direct experience with that. But for some reason, when I was a teen, Morgan Hill (where I lived) became a center for a lot of Non-Denominational Christian gatherings. So I had some exposure to it. It mostly made me rather uncomfortable, as something didn’t quite seem right with it. But that may also have been it’s strangeness and unfamiliarity.

    That being said, I believe I experienced what people called “being filled with the spirit”. In these cases, a person was speaking from the heart, expressing a great wisdom and joy and truth without ego or expectation. Disagreement might be received with disappointment, sadness or compassion, but never anger or judgment. (In it’s own terms – it was accepted in a Christlike manner).

    Looking back with the eyes I have now, I think that at some of the possessions in Charismatic Christianity might be driven from ego-driven want (and some are actual and divine). There isn’t always lot of training or protection around this in Christianity, or a lot of willingness to work through one’s own demons. So I suspect it could be the equivalent of simply throwing oneself open and “trusting” that it is the Holy Spirit that comes in without being discerning about it. Maybe it is, but maybe it isn’t. Maybe some of it is an internal battle of being possessed by Holy Spirit, Godself, other entities, one’s internal demons, or whatever terms you might want to use, all at the same time. My name is Legion, so to speak.

    (Note the implication here that there are also multiple forms of self-possession. I can be possessed by Godself. I can also be possessed by my own internal demons).

    Speaking of possession from a multiview perspective, I can see both the dangers listed above as well as benefits.

    I’ve never “been ridden” (full possession) (unless you want to count blackouts while drinking), so I can’t speak to that.

    But I have experienced “two-headed” possession in several forms. I believe in the most positive forms, “two-headed” possession is sort of like being possessed both by Godself as well as another entity. Or perhaps Godself is a part of the gateway for the other entity, as well as being a protection for you.

    Which also implies that perhaps it is safest to attempt other forms of possession only when one has some sort of proficiency at self-possession as well.

    (Hmmm… Come to think of it, which means that posessory work could be dangerous to those who don’t have a strong sense of self. Or to those who want to escape ordinary reality (rather than be able to live in all realities).

    As Jenya said, I believe one benefit of possession work is the benefit to the community. It provides the community an opportunity to have a physical encounter with a non-corporeal form (deity, Orisha, or whatever else). It provides an opportunity for the entity to speak in actual, out-loud words.

    I believe there is a noticeable difference between one “playing the part” or one carrying the deity plus other bits (perhaps as you described earlier) and one actually carrying the deity.

    I believe in it’s most positive form, it also involves developing a deep relationship, and it takes time to create that relationship. Just as in actual relationships. It’s an intimate thing to do.

    BTW – I also believe that means we are able to set appropriate boundaries with the deities we carry. The beings are huge, so I’d guess only a part fits really well. In developing that relationship, I can set the boundary so that it is the part most appropriate for the ritual in question, as well as the part most appropriate for me.

    *Sigh* And sometimes it seems easier for me to find appropriate boundaries with non-corporeal beings that it is for me to do so with people… But I guess it’s good practice. 🙂

    Positive intimacies have benefits in return, I think. Along with that, I believe that holding possession also allows the being to modify the person being possessed. Show them things, and allow the body to physically experience that alternate reality, rather than simply be told of that (or spend the years developing the ability in other ways).

    It also means that I can continue to have a closer interaction with that being in non-possessory states.

    Let me ask you this. Is self-possession the be-all-and-end-all? Or is it also important to develop relationships with other deity as well?

    Two examples I can share with you. For a Samhain 2006 ritual, I carried what we called “The Dark God”.

    On Feri Friday at J’te’s last near last Samhain, Medusa took us on a journey to meet a very old being. I won’t go into more detail about that. But when I got there, my reaction was – “Hey. I know you. I think I’ve even been you. But you’re a whole lot bigger than who I worked with before”.

    But it also gave me a sense of comfort about the journey, as I was encountering someone I was familiar with.

    Example number 2
    At an Ile meeting, I was put into possession by with Obatala, mainly just to give me the experience. Mostly it was an interesting experience. But at one point, I looked at the opele (divining chain) and said “that’s not just two dimensional, is it?”

    In the tradition I practice, the opele is a representation of portals in the earth, with the portal being open/closed being represented by the way the opele lands.

    These portals are located in the earth on two intersecting tetrahedrons. One pointing up, and one pointing down. A two dimensional projection of this would be the Star of David. Another name for the three dimensional representation is the Merkabah – which opens up into a huge body of lore.

    In one fell swoop, that possession took me from an intellectual knowledge to a physical experience of many different pieces fitting together. There are still understandings (or intuitions I can’t always put into words) which are tied in with all that. If you ask me, that’s a wonderful benefit that came from possessory work.

    I hope you my blathering on was OK, and at least somewhat coherent. It seems I had a lot to say about this. It is something I think about a lot…

    BTW. Not that I’ve read more than a few pages, but Ivo Dominguez book “Spirit Speak” has a lot about things related to this topic.

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