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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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)
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.
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
Warnings Up Front:
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
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.
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
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.
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.
/ Psychic Preparation
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.
good, in-depth research to discover the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE,
& WHY of the deity you are going to work with.
worshipped the deity? Why?
was/is their history?
it arid, tropical, mountainous, temperate?
of Origin of the deity:
archaeology, importance to the deity / worshippers
mention of the deity
through time @#151; why did they happen?
deities are imported to cultures which don@#146;t really understand
them @#151; watch for this.
by or of other deities
of the deity:
is its meaning?
variants of the name are there
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!)
gestures, postures, motions, etc.
Of what? How messy is it?
With whom or what? For how long?
sacred foods and drinks
abstinence, profligacy, asceticism,
name it, it@#146;s been done in the name of a deity.
YOU willing to do it? Is there an
the deity actually care what you do (some don@#146;t)
IS important to the deity, anyway?
day, time, plant, animal, stone, metal, color, fabric, geographic
location, type of terrain, number.
the deity relate to other deities? If so, better look them
to go to find the information you need.
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
are actually very friendly places and are staffed by people who
are paid to help YOU find what you are looking for, whatever it
who have translated the texts & their opinions
mostly @#151; beware of cultural bias.
who have uncovered their homes, temples, and art & their opinions.
@#151; a good place to start
religionists @#151; Mircea Eliade for example
mythographers @#151; such as Joseph Campbell
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.
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.
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)
Visualizations of the divinity or a symbol
Offerings (incense, sacramental food)
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.
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.
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.
Make sure that you are physically and psychically prepared for
the working. Channeling can be exhausting.
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.
Provide yourself, in advance, with a plan so you can tell
whether or not things are going according to plan.
on the process:
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.
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.
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
ideas for offerings:
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-
oil, for example
New offerings from the current place/time, Northwest cedar oil,
for example. This makes the bridge to here/now.
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.
Of The Entities "Out There"
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).
Emergency Procedures For
Experienced Guides / Helpers:
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:
If the priest/ess hasn@#146;t taken off the jewellery specific
to the deity, remove it.
If they are standing, press downwards on the shoulders, "catching"
the deity, and grounding it out.
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).
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).
Blow in their ears, balance energy between the base of the neck
and their "centre".
Strike a bell behind them, at base of spine, spiraling the sound
up the spine.
Consecrate the wine and cakes and ensure that they partake of
them. Food and wine (or juice) will help.
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.
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
A warm blanket
to be helpful if necessary, but don@#146;t intrude unless asked.
Leave anything else to those most experienced.
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.
This document was written by Rhea Shemazi and Ted Gill. Copyright
1991 by Rhea and Ted