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Illustration Copyright Paul Stevens 1989


An Article on Channeling
by Rhea Shemazi & Ted Gill - Copyright 1991

The word "Channeling"

This is the word we picked to represent the many allied skills/experiences of which we are writing. Its over-use in the New Age press causes some reluctance in this choice but it has the benefit of being otherwise fairly neutral in meaning. Many of the people who engage in the processes we are defining as "channeling" may disagree with our use of this term. We mean no offense or disrespect, but are merely seeking a word which provides a common denominator to discuss the topic.

CHANNELING: Some Context

Channeling is a form of religious ecstasy wherein communication and communion with deity and the spirit world is embraced. It is a mystical experience which is best comprehended by direct personal experience. The ecstatic experience - of contact with deity - is, within the Craft, one of the central and pivotal mysteries. As such, access to the specific keys or technology of channeling is carefully guarded. As Sagana once said in a discussion on initiation "you can say whatever you like about the mysteries (people won@#146;t understand what they@#146;ve not experienced); what we guard within the Craft are the secrets, which are procedural things to do with the mysteries."

Within coven training, the novice will experience the High Priest/ess, and possibly other elders, channeling the Goddess and God of the Craft. The novice will, under carefully controlled conditions, be introduced to these energies. Gradually, once initiated, their training will approach the place where they lead a circle for the first time and perform the "Drawing Down of the Moon" and other rites where channeling of deity may occur. It is only at the moment of truth, when it happens for them, that they know what degree of "possession", they will both experience and be comfortable with.

This phenomenon may be accompanied by a range of experiences - all the way from a tingling feeling over the whole body, a feeling of intoxication, of being "cloaked" in the presence of the deity, to the sensation of weight on the shoulders and pressure on the back of the neck, concluding in complete occupation of their body by the deity, who will then often have things to say to individual celebrants or to the coven as a whole.

This is not to imply that channeling, or "possessory work" as it is also known, only occurs in the context of a coven. This is simply the place where it is most commonly seen within the Craft. Some pagan festivals are designed to re-create a specific mystery tradition where possession or ecstasy were historically common. It is possible at such events to see this kind of work done.

Channeling requires both talent and fine control. In Ecstatic Religion (Lewis, 1971) it is stressed that a shaman is a master of spirits, "with the implication that this inspired priest incarnates spirits, becoming possessed voluntarily in controlled circumstances., ..., The apprentice shaman must also learn how to attain enlightenment or "light", that mysterious luminous fire which the shaman suddenly feels in his body and which enables him to see all that is otherwise hidden from mortal eyes. This gift of illumination, in return for a surrendering of the self or part of the self, described in the classical language of mysticism as gnosis - a fusing of man and divinity - is part of controlled spirit possession everywhere."

While I would argue against surrendering any part of the Self (your core identity), holding the view that this Self is (and should be) inviolate, the concept of surrender (in whole or part) of the physical vessel, the body, for a specific period of time and purpose follows the pattern suggested by Lewis.

The priest/ess in Wicca makes a compact, a contractual relationship, with the deity they work with. One of the most important aspects of this contract is that it is a negotiated contract. This special relationship may develop into one like a spiritual marriage. "Ecstatic communion is thus essentially a mystical union; and, as the Song of Solomon and other mystical poetry so abundantly illustrate, experiences of this kind are frequently described in terms borrowed from erotic love." (Lewis, 1971)

Imagine, if you will, that you are a lens, attracting and focusing a the light of the sun. The finer the lens, the clearer the light shines through it. The light (of deity) is so bright, however, that it will show every imperfection and flaw in your character. The process of preparing for this ecstasis is like that undertaken by a lens maker, finely grinding and polishing the crystal until it is as nearly perfect as possible. Imagine how much clearer the stars are viewed through a powerful telescope, than through binoculars or the naked eye. Likewise, imagine how much clearer a channel the trained priest/ess is.

There is always the possibility of a person working in this area becoming destabilized, and this is what all the cautions are aimed at. No one wants a student to come "unstuck" on them, to lose touch with reality, to become dysfunctional both within a Wiccan and societal context. To return to our lens analogy, if the glass shatters and fragments it is a delicate task to put the pieces back together again.

Some Warnings Up Front:

1. Channeling in any form is a powerful and potentially hazardous practice. It tends to be addictive, or at least extremely seductive, and can result in ego inflation, personal identification with deity and other psychic and psychological aberrations. As with any power source, it should be used sparingly and with extreme caution.

2 Effective and safe channeling depends on good magickal discipline. Proficiency at grounding, centering, visualization, elemental balancing etc. should be well established before engaging in such work. Psychological imbalances in the practitioner can result in intense, undesirable, and unexpected side-effects and reactions to this practice. The severity of such effects is substantially reduced by complete and effective grounding both before and after opening to channel.

3. Until considerable experience is gained in this practice it is best to always have a "trusted other", that is, a backup, when channeling is anticipated to occur. This person should be briefed and rehearsed on what to do in the event something unexpected happens.

4. It is not a good practice to depend on your coven to "catch" you when you channel, that is, to ground and re-center you. Of course we expect our coven-mates to look out for us in such situations. However, continually having to depend someone else to re-establish our equilibrium for us indicates laziness or a lack of ability to take care of ourselves @#151; neither are advisable in this sort of work.

5. Don@#146;t expect all entities which can be channeled to have your best interests at heart. Your body/spirit is your home, you should neither give it away nor let it be ransacked by a stranger.


Personal / Psychic Preparation

(Know Yourself)

- Be (or become) psychologically clear and balanced

- Don@#146;t overlook getting therapy (Some deities are bad therapists @#151; don@#146;t wait to find out)

- Develop your magickal skills (centering, grounding, breathing, working with energy, protection, movement, sound, concentration, visualization, tools, creating sacred space etc.) They should be automatic and require minimal conscious control.

Intellectual Preparation

(Know your deity!)

Do good, in-depth research to discover the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, & WHY of the deity you are going to work with.


Who worshipped the deity? Why?

What was/is their history?



Is it arid, tropical, mountainous, temperate?

Place of Origin of the deity:

Geography, archaeology, importance to the deity / worshippers


Earliest mention of the deity

Changes through time @#151; why did they happen?

Some deities are imported to cultures which don@#146;t really understand them @#151; watch for this.

Absorption by or of other deities

Name of the deity:

What is its meaning?

What variants of the name are there

Are there sub-names, titles, or epithets?
(The variation of names often represents absorption of local deities into the form of a more general deity. These local deities can have very different temperaments. Work for maximum specificity!)

Form of worship:

Specific gestures, postures, motions, etc.

Sacrifice? Of what? How messy is it?

Sex? With whom or what? For how long?

Drugs, sacred foods and drinks

Processionals, dances, flagellation,

Indulgence, abstinence, profligacy, asceticism,

You name it, it@#146;s been done in the name of a deity.

Are YOU willing to do it? Is there an

alternative or substitute?

Does the deity actually care what you do (some don@#146;t)

What IS important to the deity, anyway?

Season, day, time, plant, animal, stone, metal, color, fabric, geographic location, type of terrain, number.

Does the deity relate to other deities? If so, better look them up too.


Where to go to find the information you need.

(You are probably going to find that if you want to do serious work you@#146;re likely to get real familiar with the library before it@#146;s over. This is particularly true if you are interested in little-known deity forms or well-known ones who have been poorly researched.

Libraries are actually very friendly places and are staffed by people who are paid to help YOU find what you are looking for, whatever it may be)

Primary Sources:

The people themselves

Their texts

Secondary Sources:

Scholars who have translated the texts & their opinions

Anthropologists mostly @#151; beware of cultural bias.

Archaeologist who have uncovered their homes, temples, and art & their opinions.

Tertiary sources:

Encyclopaedias @#151; a good place to start

Comparative religionists @#151; Mircea Eliade for example

Comparative mythographers @#151; such as Joseph Campbell

Popular sources:

Good for points of view, and for pointing you in the right direction. BAD for the level of detail, accuracy, and specificity required in research for channeling.



Having done, or at least gotten a good start on the research (It@#146;s never really done in our experience) begin introducing yourself to the deity. Introductions are extremely important. It is necessary to build rapport with the deity just as you would with any new acquaintance.

Perform devotionals

These don@#146;t have to be big, just a greeting and acknowledgement are all that is necessary. Sincerity counts most of all. Devotionals are not meant to be occasions for channeling. We are merely setting the stage.

- Set up a shrine (your research should guide you)

- Speak a greeting to the deity

- Perform an adoration of the deity (any or all of the following can be included)

- Spoken words

- Gestures/postures

- Visualizations of the divinity or a symbol

- Offerings (incense, sacramental food)


Either before or during the channeling (particularly the first time) establish the ground rules with the divinity. If they want more than you are willing to give STOP. This involves specifying what you are willing to do for/with the divinity and for how long as well as what you expect from them. An entity you invite into your body doesn@#146;t own you.

I@#146;ve never heard of a case where a true deity wasn@#146;t willing to engage in negotiation, although some will gloss over the point if it isn@#146;t brought up. One of the reasons why the Witch@#146;s word is his or her bond is because of the potential consequences of breaking your word to a deity. Don@#146;t give your word lightly to a deity and above all keep it.


CHANNELING: The Practice


1. Always work in a space that is magically prepared by having been cleansed, consecrated, and sealed. To fail to do this invites the most unpleasant experiences with entities you never wanted to meet in the first place.

2. Make sure that you are physically and psychically prepared for the working. Channeling can be exhausting.

3. Make sure that you have provided yourself with personnel and materials (salt, food, blankets, juice) to stop the working, ground the energy, and tend to your physical and psychic needs in the event all does not go according to plan.

4. Provide yourself, in advance, with a plan so you can tell whether or not things are going according to plan.


Notes on the process:

Use everything you know about the deity to enhance the atmosphere of the circle and make it desirable/recognizable to the deity of interest. As many of your senses should be engaged by this as possible. Incense, gestures, chants, music, food, pictures, and symbols, all of it should connect with the deity so that the deity can experience it through their contact with you.

A number of physical sensations have been experienced by those who engage in this sort of work. A particular individual may experience any number of them or something completely different. Be flexible. Use all of your senses.

It has always been appropriate to make some sort of offering to deity. By virtue of the process of channeling an offering is made but that is not necessarily the offering the deity wants. Ask the deity. Again, negotiate. Gobs of pure gold are hard to come by these days. If that@#146;s what the deity wants you may need to find a substitute. Explain the problem. Many pre-Christian deities aren@#146;t familiar with the concept of "personal relationship to deity." Priest/esses are expected to have large supporting theocracies to provide them with the wherewithal to make offerings. Times have changed and deities seem to be able to hear this. Sincerity really does count.

Basic ideas for offerings:

- Your body

- Your worship and that of your circle

- Your energy by whatever means you may raise it (dance, sex)

- The deity@#146;s accustomed gifts, Cedar-of-

Lebanon oil, for example

- New offerings from the current place/time, Northwest cedar oil, for example. This makes the bridge to here/now.

Deities can be surprised, particularly if they are obscure and relatively un-worshipped. The first time they make the scene in the nineties it may subject them to something that looks a lot like culture shock. Be prepared for this (more offerings seem to work.) They may not be used to manifesting is a body which is of the gender of the priest/ess. The surroundings may be unfamiliar. This can cause some instability in the manifestation. Give the deity a chance to stop having a cow, but don@#146;t be afraid to stop the channel if it isn@#146;t stable and the person indicates that they need help. It@#146;s always better to bail out and try again some other time than to risk the stability of the person involved.

Some Of The Entities "Out There"

The reason for a fully consecrated, sealed circle, is selectivity. The circle is only open in the direction decided by the celebrants, and most particularly, the High Priest/ess or whoever is center-polar for the ritual. There are many beings, entities, wraiths, otherworldly beings, spirits and phantasms, angels, daemons, nature spirits, godlings and elementals "out there" as well as deities (both well disposed and otherwise).

Some Emergency Procedures For
Experienced Guides / Helpers:

It is crucial that the High Priest/ess be prepared to carry out emergency procedures for a circle where channeling is planned. It is well to realize that any time invocation is intended the deity may well decide to visit. Emergency action may be necessary when a first experience with deity is planned, or when something gets out of hand. Below are listed some actions which will tend to stop a channel and ground the practitioner:

1. If the priest/ess hasn@#146;t taken off the jewellery specific to the deity, remove it.

2. If they are standing, press downwards on the shoulders, "catching" the deity, and grounding it out.

3. If they are losing balance during a channeling, lower them to the ground. Wait to see if further action is required (i.e. if they are in distress and signal you).

4. Salt on the tongue will bring a person back to themselves; as will vitamin C powder (the ascorbic acid acts as a sufficient shock to re-awaken the body@#146;s defences).

5. Blow in their ears, balance energy between the base of the neck and their "centre".

6. Strike a bell behind them, at base of spine, spiraling the sound up the spine.

7. Consecrate the wine and cakes and ensure that they partake of them. Food and wine (or juice) will help.

8. Call them by their circle name. If necessary, put them in the center of an energy chant, calling them by all their own names, nicknames etc, reminding them who they are.

Always be sure that the person actually requires your assistance, and never interfere with the officer of the circle who is responsible for this. It@#146;s best to ask a person who is dealing with such an experience if they need help, rather than just wading in. A team of people accustomed to working together in these circumstances is terrific, especially for a large-scale festival situation. Remember that the wrong action in such circumstances can be worse than no action at all. If in doubt, the safest things to do are:


Offer the person:

- Salt, food, drink

- Hot tea/coffee/soup

- A warm blanket

- Rescue remedy

Wait to be helpful if necessary, but don@#146;t intrude unless asked. Leave anything else to those most experienced.


The tremendous explosion of written information on magickal and religious experience has brought the practice of channeling and related activities out of the darkness. This darkness came from both disbelief in the validity of the practice and the careful guarding of its methods and goals by those who possessed these secrets. It has become apparent that there are a great many cultures/religions which engage in processes which look similar and yield results which are fairly consistent. The information which is usually lacking is the specific methodology by which these groups control the process. There is a very wide range of intensity in the channeling process. In some cases the intensity which would be normal in some cultures or religious systems can possibly extend beyond the comfort or safety level of those of us who are attempting to live in Western culture. It is actually not terribly difficult to establish communion and communication with the "Spirit World." The problems usually arise from the lack of knowledge, training, experience, and discipline required to maintain the desired level of control of the process. The information about these aspects tends to be closely guarded by those who have won them by trial-and-error or received them through oral tradition and private training. We have attempted here to shed some light on some of the issues involved, as well as some techniques which can enhance the safety and control of the process.

Afterword: This document was written by Rhea Shemazi and Ted Gill. Copyright 1991 by Rhea and Ted

Published in Australia  1984 - 1990
In Seattle & Sydney 1990-1994 - and Sydney/Seattle Webzine 1999
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