Trance is an animist practice that shifts our mental states so that we can access different ways of thinking and relating to reality.
Entering into trance is like re-tuning a radio; you don’t go anywhere, but the signals you’re picking up, and so the information you receive, changes.
Trance practices are helpful when we:
- Want to receive new teachings from our guiding ancestors or lineage members.
- Want to influence the physical world at a more malleable level, such as the energetic level.
- Develop our mental and energetic flexibility, to enhance our creativity, problem solving and expression of emotions.
- Need to divine on questions that are complex or challenging.
- Are working on the energetic level for healing or protection.
- Want to work through our altars to influence the relationships we’re working on.
- Need to interact with spirits for any reason.
- Need to gain experiential understanding of a relationship, problem or wound through spirit flight.
There are different types of trance, from the light trance we all enter when we’re reading, watching TV or falling asleep, to the deep, transformative levels of trance accessed during spirit flight, hypnosis and sensory deprivation.
Trance practices are at the core of animism, and as such can be used to enhance almost any animist practice. However, as an advanced practice there are contraindications to the use of trance, which I talk about here.
There are a huge number of methods for entering a trance. Some of the most common are drum rhythms, dance, song, sensory deprivation and single-pointed focus. The essential element of trance work is that we are changing our mental state from our normal, everyday state; anything that helps us achieve this can be a method for working with trance.
To begin introducing trance into your animist practice, you could work with the rhythm of a drum or your voice to enter a light trance before doing a divination.
For a refresher on the basics of divination practice, join the free 12 week Foundation in Animism course here:
Art is a collection of creative practices that can be used as tools in animism.
Art is part of fundamental human expression, and has been intertwined with animism since the beginning of human existence. Art includes painting, sculpting, singing, dancing, poetry and storytelling; the most primal of our languages.
Art as an animist practice allows us to step out of our restrictive language and behaviour codes, exploring the wilder and numinous sides of our natures. It gives us the tools to express things that are beyond words, like feelings, experiences, visions and connections.
Art both depends on and strengthens all of the principles of animism. It gives us a way to work with reality directly, explore our relationships deeply, practice the courage of being open and authentic, and make contact with our untamed natures.
Art is a great tool for when:
- We need to communicate or record feelings or experiences too intense to express in words.
- We’re working to honour and nourish a relationship.
- We need to re-claim our own feelings and perspectives.
- We need a reminder in our environment of an experience, relationship or teaching.
- We want explore a difficult, complex topic more deeply.
- We wish to share the beauty and power of our experiences with others.
To use art as an animist practice, we simply need to choose a medium and give ourselves some time.
You can use any artform that will work for you, from sculpting clay to felting wool to writing poetry to impromptue dance. The art that you create doesn’t have to be perfect; we aren’t focusing on creating saleable ‘pretty’ art, but on expressing authentically.
For more about creativity and imagination in animism, join the free 12 week Foundation in Animism course here:
Plant work is the collection of practices that center around learning from the wisdom of plants.
Plant work acknowledges the power of plants as teachers. It can include herbalism, where plants are used physically as medicines, and also energetic practices, ceremony, altars and other animist tools.
Plants are very deeply rooted and offer many layers of teachings, as well as tending towards being very long term allies due to their slower pace than animals. They are supportive of intense healing, as well as being powerful protectors and guides to more mystical experiences.
Different plants provide different teachings; some will help us understand and nourish our relationships while others will teach us warriorship, boundaries and power.
Plant work can be helpful in a wide variety of situations, depending on the plant you’re working with:
- When we need protection, plants such as rosemary, rowan or blackthorn can strengthen boundaries and clarify energy.
- When we need guidance in spiritwalking, plants such as yew and various fungi can be knowledgable guides.
- When we need physical healing, many plants offer powerful nourishment and antibacterial properties through teas, poultices and baths.
- When we need to develop a particular relationship, such as with the wild feminine or with the land of our ancestors, plants such as rose, gorse and hawthorn are good teachers.
- When we need to clear and prepare an area for working a ceremony, the smoke of a plant we have a good relationship with is helpful.
- When we need to honour and nourish a relationship, such as on an altar or craft work, working with plant oils is an intimate offering.
To practice herbalism and plant work, we need to establish a strong, healthy relationship with at least one plant. Working with this plant will include growing the plant, ingesting it (if safe), using it for smoke and oil, making remedies and teas from it, and other animist practices like altar work and crafting.
For more about the principles of animism practice, join the free 12 week Foundation in Animism course here:
Silence is a practice in many spiritual traditions. In animism, silence works to increase awareness, connection and knowledge of our relationships.
Practicing silence is such a common and important tool because it allows us the space to get to know ourselves, to experience our inner worlds and at the same time become aware of the more subtle aspects of our relationships with everything around us.
Silence can be an act of power that develops our warriorship, and can strengthen our imaginations by getting rid of distractions and giving us a space to work within creatively.
And combining silence with the natural world can by particularly powerful; by allowing our human words and concepts to fall away for a time, we get to experience how nature communicates, and how that relates to our own inner natures.
Silence is a perfect tool for when:
- We’re feeling overwhelmed by our day to day lives and need some space to let everyone unwind before we can work with it.
- We’re working with a deeply held or complex pattern of feeling and energy within us, one that needs to be coaxed into a form we can work with.
- We’re open to establishing a more conscious relationship with a space, element or spirit of nature, where language and symbolism isn’t as useful.
- We’re looking to increase the power of another practice, such as ceremony or altar work.
- We need a socially acceptable act of power to work with throughout the day.
- We’re exhausted and depleted energetically and need to spend some time recovering ourselves and our energy.
- We need to truly see a situation so that we can accept it.
To use silence as a practice, we simply need to be silent. This practice doesn’t require that our environment is silent, although that can sometimes help, but rather that we ourselves become comfortable not talking.
This is easier at first when we’re alone, especially out in the wilds. But as we strengthen this practice, we can practice silence around other people, either privately or in community.
For more about the fundamental principles of animism, join the free 12 week Foundation in Animism course here:
Working with the elements is about working with the essential fabric of reality; most cultures have envisioned that reality has five fundamental elements, through which we can work with reality itself. The most common variation is earth, fire, water, air and spirit or void.
Working with the elements allows us to go beyond human concepts and language, to the heart of experience. The elements wind through everything that exists, and so in working with them we can work with our relationships to the whole of creation.
Working with the element is helpful when:
- We need to access a relationship that’s abstract or not grounded in physical reality, such as relationship to an emotion.
- We need to explore the underlying feelings and patterns of a relationship.
- We need to solve a problem that we can’t put into words.
- We’re experiencing a journey that needs map points to guide by.
Element work involves using the foundation tools such as ceremony and altars to express different aspects of an element. We can use any system of elements that is familiar and makes sense to us, but we have to remember to stay within that system so we don’t start to mix systems up.
For more about ceremony and altars – the foundations of element work – join the free 12 week Foundation in Animism course here: