I thought I would take some time to discuss what I have found to be successful when trancing Olympians (the twelve Greeks deities who live in the Sky, under the rule of Zeus and Hera), as a Hellene. I work differently when working with non-Olympians, and especially have a different protocol for working with underworld deities.
Obviously, this is a gnosis-related practice. A good portion of what I am going to write will be based upon my personal mystical experiences, or reports I collected from my students.
This methodology assumes that you have other people working with you. If I said that I always used “best practice” for trance, or that I always worked with a warder, I’d be lying. I simply try to do as many of the “right things” which I have noticed make things either better or easier as I can, and most importantly, try to make my divine guest as comfortable as possible.
I recommend having trance primarily occur in the context of a devotional. I find that the process is much fairer, kinder and more civilized when I do.
This methodology does not address the problem of filter. I have a separate ritual which I use to identify what my filter looks like, and another one for encountering the energy of a deity in isolation. In tandem, those two rituals gradually help a person to work through filter by showing them who they are, what their own energy signature looks and feels like, and by helping them to feel a deity’s presence as distinct from elemental energies or whatever else might be floating through. Filter, in my opinion, is a long-term problem which has no short-term fix.
Some starting assumptions — or, my paradigm
Olympians are not impure. You do not need to be purified after working with Olympians. Their energy will not leave toxic residue all over you. Impurity, in a Greek context, generally results from things which open the way to the Underworld, such as birth and death. Yeah, you’d want to purify after calling Hades, or Eileithuia, but not after calling, for example, Zeus. The same extends to trance mediumship.
Olympians desire worship and care about their reputation. The implications of this are pretty straightforward: if you have something which the other party desires, then you are not a meaningless entity in this equation, even if you don’t believe that the gods love and care for their communities (I believe that they do, of course). Thus, if you outline for an Olympian what you value, what you think is fair, what you need, and what your community standards are, they’ll probably try to accommodate you. That said, communication is important. If you don’t tell them, before trancing them, that you are a vegetarian, don’t expect them to know that they shouldn’t eat meat in your body. Clear communication about purpose and expectations is key. Trust that if you show them love and respect, they will return the favor.
Hospitality is important to Olympians. The laws of hospitality in Hellenic culture dictated that the guest (the deity, in this case) should neither be too demanding of their host, nor should they do damage to the host’s abode (your space, your body). “JUST TAKE ME OVER!” might work with a deity from another pantheon, but I have seen people attempt this with Greek deities — even with Dionysos — and either struggle, or wind up with some strange results.
A deity jamming themselves forcefully into a human’s body runs a risk of doing damage. Damaging the abode of your host is not acceptable according to their culture. Therefore, the process will tend to be slow and careful, unless they are very well familiar with your body and what it can handle. You will need to be exceedingly patient as they poke and prod and figure out what is going to work, and not rush them, or let anyone else rush them, to speak. Just as a guest in the ancient world would have prided themselves on needing very little and eating very modestly at the dinner table, Olympians will tend to be gentler and quieter than seems necessary, at least when working in a purely Hellenic context. Do they have enough power to short you out? Sure. But they’re totally capable of restraining themselves, as indicated by the myth of Semele, who had to trick Zeus into an oath before she was able to touch a part of him that would harm her.
Olympians are Radiant. Even if the energy isn’t being jacked through your system, you should be able to feel a presence in the room, if you’ve called an Olympian. They all seem to have a brightness about them, in my experience. Apollon is bright like the sun. Hermes is bright like sunlight glinting off of polished silver. Artemis is bright like the full moon. Zeus is bright like lightning. Poseidon is bright like the crests of waves. Dionysos is bright and hot like there is a theater-style spotlight on him. Their presence adds, rather than subtracts, energy from the room.
Trance mediumship is about building a relationship. You can expect your first session with an Olympian to be mostly about them figuring out how your body works, and what you can handle. Don’t expect them to be there to deliver some extremely profound message the first time. They’re in no rush. They’re immortal, and they don’t have some eschaton breathing down their neck. If you don’t create an environment that makes it awkward to do so, they are inclined to be quite genial, and fun loving (for a certain value of fun, depending on the deity).
The general purpose isn’t to get marching orders. You might ask advice, if advice is needed, but you shouldn’t wait until you need something to do this. The purpose is to build a relationship between the deity and a human or humans.
Olympians are beings with will, agency and emotions. I shouldn’t need to say it, but I will say it anyway. These aren’t archetypes or energies. They’re people. Treat them with the same sort of consideration that you’d extend to any other sentient being with free will.
Preparing the Space
I. Purify the space. I use khernips for this.
II. Propitiate Hekate and Hermes, ask them to clear the space. There are a lot of dead people hanging around, waiting for something to do, or someone to pay attention to them. They absolutely will, if they think they can get away with it, pretend to be whatever deity you are calling so that they can eat the cakes and drink the wine, and feel the warmth of being alive again.
The Hellenic attitude about the dead is that there is a time and a place for them, but largely the time is at the Deipnon (or at the certain festivals), and the place is in the Underworld.
Rather than waiting for an unpleasant altercation between a grouchy deity and a sheepish spirit, I nip the problem in the bud by calling Hermes and Hekate to minister to them and help them get to where they need to be in advance of the working.
Libate to the two of them, and ask them to care for the dead, and to keep you safe from them.
“I call to Hekate, bright-coiffed daughter of Perses and Asteria, three-bodied Hekate of the crossroads, mother of Medea, Queen of the Dead. What dead are here, and what dead may later enter herein — gather them up, give them solace and comfort, and lay them to rest in their proper place. To Hekate, sponde!” (Here, pour her a drink offering)
“I call to Hermes, son of Zeus and Maia, messenger of the deathless and the dead, god of the Herm, god of boundaries, psychopomp. What dead are here, guide them, show them the way home. Whatever dead may enter while we work, guide them, too. To Hermes, sponde!” (Here, pour her a drink offering)
II. Because you have just opened up the way to the Underworld, purify the space again. No further purification of the space should be necessary.
Setting the Table
The paradigm here is very much one of having a guest over. Set a table. Have food and drink that you can share with the deity once they arrive in addition to whatever offerings you might be pouring.
Include the following:
- A lovely table cloth
- Pretty plates
- A candle or two
- An incense or something else that smells nice, like potpourri, or even a fresh orange with some cloves stuck into it.
- Something to fidget with, like a vase full of feathers, a small silk pillow, cymbals, a doll with a silk dress, or an unsharpened dagger. Tailor whatever it is to the interests of the deity.
You should also have a station near said table where people can wash their hands before sitting down. Try to make the space look homey, inviting, comfortable and attractive.
Part 1: Begin a Devotional Ritual
I. Libate to Hestia. It is my contention that it is proper to propitiate Hestia at the opening and close of a devotional to one of the Olympians. This is not a universal opinion among Hellenic Pagans. Some believe that the “first and last” referred to the first and last fruits of the harvest. Others contend that this has something to do with the lighting of the fires in the bomos, and smothering them. My personal contention is that Hestia made a personal sacrifice for the harmony of the Olympians, and thus should be honored. More importantly, Hestia is a goddess of hearth and home. In my article about the Mithras Liturgy, I noted that the mystic begins the journey by nailing down the way home. Hestia’s presence is extremely useful for mediums in terms of assuring a successful re-connection to mundane reality.
II. Request the presence of the deity with whom you would like to work. The initial invocation (if, indeed, you do any further invocation) should be specific. I like to include the parents and the known associates of the deity. An example:
Hear me, Hephaistos. Virgin-born son of Hera, Father of Thalia, Eucleia, Eupheme, Philophrosyne, Cabeiri and Euthenia, set upon an ass by Dionysos, great god of invention, hail! Come and be present here.
Be aware that, depending on circumstances, the deity may not want to join you right now, or may not be interested in doing a mediumship session. There could be a hundred reasons why not. Maybe there is someone present who isn’t ready to be in the presence of the deity. Maybe the deity has nothing to say right now. Maybe politics are happening. The reasons why might not have anything to do with you, or even mortal affairs, and might not be any of your business.
Don’t force it, and don’t fake it. Furthermore, don’t promise on behalf of a deity that they will come through. Just as it isn’t ok for a deity to force a trance session on a human, it is not ok for a human to force one on a deity. Just like any kind of intimacy, things might start out ok, but the deity may suddenly no longer wish to participate. They might plan to be channeled, but then, at the last moment, decide that it’s not going to work.
It is definitely not ok to speak on behalf of a deity if they aren’t feeling it, or to pretend to be them if they aren’t there. You wouldn’t like that if someone did that to you, so don’t do it to your gods.
Have another activity available, if the devotional isn’t going to go in a trance direction. Do a Myth Embodiment exercise, lead people in drumming and chants about the deity, or do some other kind of exercise that kicks off spiritual power of a palpable sort. Having nothing planned and begging and pleading with a deity to do something they’re not really into isn’t fair to them. They are your guests, and you need to see to their comfort.
Likewise, you might decide at the last minute that you’re not feeling up to carrying a deity. That’s ok, too. Having a plan B is a good idea for all of these reasons.
Part 2: Agreements.
So the deity has shown up, they’re down for the general idea of being tranced, and you are down with the idea of trancing. Great! You should take some time to hash out agreements for the session. You can do this before the ritual, or once they show up. I honestly do recommend planning these things out in advance, but that isn’t always feasible.
The temporary contract should cover the following:
How long the deity will be there. “As long as you want” or “Until I’m tired” are fine answers, but I often like to have a time window.
Any concerns you may have. Trance states are the same as hypnotic states, neurologically. What you expect a trance state to be like and what you expect it to do to or for you will shape that trance state profoundly. If you are afraid of something, it’s not because you expect it not to happen. Get those concerns out of the way before you start trancing. Items like, “don’t eat peanuts” might go in this section.
Objectives. State what you are hoping the trance session will do for the community. In my experience, deities find this sort of information very helpful.
I will often let a deity look through my eyes, and read over the contract, then use automatic writing to sign it (which has been exciting when the deity was unfamiliar with the Latin alphabet), but the important part is the thinking through these facets of the interaction, and communicating them to your divine partner.
Again, after looking at your terms, the deity might decide that the situation won’t work for them.
Part 3: Hospitality Protocol and Calibration
You can explain/see this part of the process either as metaphysical tech, or as hospitality protocol. My explanation will be something of a hybrid.
BEFORE SPEAKING. There is a certain order that things are done, in Hellenic culture, when we receive a guest. They should be offered a bath and new clothes, fed and given drink. Only when these were accomplished was it considered proper to engage one’s guest in conversation.
A hot bath. In the best hospitality situations, a host will offer their guest a bath. The journey, it is presumed, has been tiring and messy. They’re sore and covered in a bit of road dirt. Unless the deity decides to manifest physically, I replace the literal bath with a metaphysical one. I “pour” the bath by drawing currents of energy from the natural world, and help the deity into the bath by consecrating those currents of energies to the deity.
Here are some instructions, to be said aloud to a group of people you are working with.
Feel the energy of the sky. What is its mood? It is calm and clear, or is it turbulent and stormy? Is it lit with sunlight, or with the light of the stars. The sky is radiant. Draw the light of the sky downward, in a column, into your space, bright and cold.
Draw it down to the ground, then extend your awareness into the Earth. Note that it is full of life. Beneath the concrete and asphalt, perhaps there are tree roots. Certainly, the soil is alive with bacteria. Beneath the bedrock, the planet is alive with volcanic activity. Draw up that power and pressure, dark and hot, and mingle it with the energies from above.
The heat of the Earth warms the air. The light of the sky returns that energy. Focus on the exchange, and build that column into a current.
Lay hands on that column, and let us consecrate it to the Goddess Athena, that she may bathe in the energies of our world. Repeat after me:
Ah – Athena
Eh – Athena
Ay – Athena
Eee – Athena
Aw – Athena
Ooh – Athena
Oh – Athena
From a more metaphysical perspective, what we are doing is creating a path for the deity to ease their journey into deeper manifestation. They can do this for themselves, but it’s nice and appreciated if we help.
Moreover, once bathed in the energies of the material, the medium will be better able to perceive the deity in the room. Don’t rush the medium, but instead, assure that they do, in fact, perceive the energy and present location of the deity.
Fresh Clothes. After a hot bath, a wealthy host would offer their their guest new clothing. In the context of a trance devotional, what you are actually offering them during this phase is the temporary borrowing of the host’s body. This is written assuming that this is the medium’s first time trancing the deity in question. Such extensive calibration might not be needed if the deity and mortal have a lot of experience with one another.
These are instructions I might speak to a first time medium while facilitating:
Invite the deity to sit where you are sitting, and invite them to observe as you move your body.
Invite them to notice what you see, hear, and feel.
Tap each of your fingers in turn, then tap your hands, then lift each of you forearms.
Wiggle your toes, tap your feet, swing your lower legs a little. Twist the trunk of your body left. Twist right.
Lean your head left, right, back and forward. Open and close your mouth. Hum.
Now, do the same thing, but let the deity try it after you. Be patient with this part. If you are distressed, expect them to wait until you are calm. If they are uncertain about whether you are ok with proceeding, they might not. Be sure to clarify, each time, that you are ok with them doing it.
Ask them to slowly increase the amount of their energy present in your body, until it just starts to become uncomfortable, and then decrease it to a comfortable level.
Let them, if they will, explore what is on the table, and then, when both of you are comfortable, you should stop doing things, and just let them do.
In general, I don’t push the medium to “let go” or “release control” because it gives them the idea that step one of trance is being gone and out of the way. It isn’t. That idea intimidates and frightens some people, and often causes them to paradoxically become hyper-vigilent about “am I here? Am I not here? Am I in a deep enough trance?” This actively interferes with the process.
Once the medium stops actively doing things, and sees that the deity isn’t there to burn the house down, they will naturally relax and slowly fade to the back. Or not. Because whether or not the medium is “gone” isn’t what’s important. What’s important is that the deity is able to use the form as they need to, and that they are able to enjoy the hospitality which is being offered.
Drink. Pour out drinks for all present, and raise a toast to the deity.
Food. Have a snack or a meal together. The deity may or may nor speak, but don’t pressure them.
Conversation. Let the assembled people greet the deity. Let the deity talk about their journey and say whatever they would like to say.
Entertainment. Optionally, you might have some activity or entertainment planned. You might take the deity for a walk, invite them to listen as someone sings, tell them a story or some jokes, or watch something on a television or laptop. This, too, is a normal part of Greek hospitality, though traditionally, it would be a bard singing a story from mythology.
Part 4: Closing.
The deity will, at some point, depart. They’ll usually tell you before they go, and say goodbye, but not always.
This is the time to offer a more extensive prayer or hymn, in the spirit of farewell, and to formally thank the deity for their companionship and guest friendship.
Offer a final libation to the deity, and then close with an offering to Hestia.