I’ve been exploring shaking recently. The kind of trance state that often goes by names such as the Seiðr (seething*) or simply as ‘shaking’ within the Christian tradition (hence The Quakers et al). There are a couple of good books on the market which explore this approach, Jan Fries Seidways and Shaking Medicine by Bradford Keeney (which comes with a nice CD of sounds to shake to).
[*Ed’s note: I have been asked to point out that despite recent use by some individuals equating the similar sounding words ‘seiðr’ and ‘seeth’, they are in fact from very different etymological origins, and historically unrelated. Further information about more plausible etymologies of this word can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seiðr. Seiðr covers a wide range of complex magickal techniques, and should not be taken as equivalent to the technique of entering trance by shaking. We apologise for any confusion! NW]
As I’ve already mentioned shaking trance turns up in many spiritual traditions, and there are many techniques you can use to get into that state. But as with most things in magick (especially in the DIY-punk-inspired style of chaos magick) no guidebook is as good as your own experience. Playing with this state I’ve discovered that, unsurprisingly, if I spend some time stretching (using yoga, tai-chi and other non-stylised movement) getting into the shaking trance is easier than if I plunge straight in. Sometimes a rattle helps, so there is a neat ouroborous feedback loop feedback from one’s own movements through sound and vibration (even if you’re shaking to pre-recorded sound) and back into movement.
Different shakes can arise. Sometimes they start at the periphery of the body, but for me the deepest and most powerful ones start at the root – the dan tien, the muscles of the core. As with much martial arts practice the idea of allowing movement to arise from the belly, the spot we quite literally grow from (attached to our mothers via the umbilical cord) makes movement of the arms and legs deeper and stronger than if the limbs are used in isolation.
The shake can go through phases. Faster or slower, moving the body around in the space or keeping it fairly static and merely vibrating; shivering on the spot. The rule is, feel into it and go with it.
So what’s the point? There are many different uses of shaking trance. There are the physical and psychological healing benefits. By shaking ourselves we unblock channels of lymph, energy, blood and mentation. We stir the blood and stimulate the organism with global sensation. Vibrations pass though the organs as well as along the arms and legs. We feel good.
Then there are the more clearly esoteric uses. Shaking trance can be used as a state to build energy or gnosis for acts of results magick, casting sigils and all that. But for my money one of the most interesting features of it is the oracular or inspirational use of shaking.
Like some aspects of Seiðr there is a sense in which this trance can be regarded as passive. The practitioner is carried away by the vibrations of the bodymind; spontaneous glossolalia, song and even prophecy may arise. They may be a sense of the body changing into other animal or mythic forms, emotions well up, dislodged from the depth of the mind, floating up to awareness. So although the technique is one we deliberately employ there is very much a sense that the practice unfolds through the practitioner rather than originates from him or her. We create the conditions for kundalini to strike up the sushumna; light the touch paper and our occult organism does the rest. We shake out obsolete patterns and dance into the Mystery.
Try it for yourself!