When I tell people that part of my spiritual practice involves ecstatic body postures, most of them look at me like I've grown a second head. The practice of assuming a specific pose and holding it while slipping into trance goes back millennia in many different cultures around the world, but it's a practice that isn't very well known in modern times. I'd like to change that.

Ecstasy isn't a word we hear very often in terms of Pagan spirituality, but I think humans are hard-wired for it. In fact, I think the modern world is ecstasy deprived and many of us are looking for that kind of experience, the numinous alive within and around us. We can use the simple, ancient technique of certain body postures to induce ecstatic states that enhance our spiritual experience and bring us closer to the divine.

The purpose of an ecstatic posture is to direct your meditation and trancework to a specific destination, so to speak. In that sense, ecstatic body postures are similar to different drumbeats: They help "tune your radio to the right station" for whatever kind of trancework you're doing.

There's not a lot of information available about ecstatic postures, but one of the best resources is Belinda Gore's book Ecstatic Body Postures: An Alternate Reality Workbook. She looks at sacred figurines from around the world and across time, exploring them as examples of ecstatic postures that are meant to be used for specific purposes. She includes a couple of Minoan figurines in the book, and that's what got me started on this subject.

Over time, we've incorporated a number of ecstatic postures into Modern Minoan Paganism (MMP). The one you're probably most familiar with is the Minoan salute, a pose in which you stand upright with the back of your loosely-curled fist against your forehead and your back slightly arched. Here's my explanation of my basic method for journeying using an ecstatic posture - using the Minoan salute as the example posture. I've taken to using this pose to begin Minoan ritual, to bring myself in sync with those energies. There are also variations on the Minoan salute that generate slightly different trance experiences. In MMP, we use the basic  Minoan salute to honor the divine both in formal ritual settings and in less formal situations, such as meditating or making offerings on our home altars. We also use it to show reverence for natural features such as rivers, mountains, and constellations.

There's a second pose we use as well; I call it Shading the Eyes. It takes me to certain places high up in the mountains of Crete. I've often thought that it was connected with the Minoan peak sanctuaries. I like to use this one at the New Moon or on the night when the first sliver of waxing crescent Moon - Diktynna's Bow - is visible.

We also rely on a posture from Cycladic figurines that probably represent spiritworker psychopomps from those early cultures. This pose takes me to the Underworld, the Realm of the Dead, when I have work that needs to be done there. This posture is also a good example of why we need to try out these methods for ourselves and figure out what works best.

In order to give people a good view of these lovely figurines, museum curators display them upright, as if they were standing up. But that's not how they were designed. Every single one has been found lying down in ancient tombs. If you look at their feet, they're not flat but are angled out so it's obvious they weren't meant to stand up. In her book, Belinda Gore describes using this posture while standing up, the way the figurines are displayed in the museums. But that didn't work well for me and might even have been dangerous if I hadn't had some good shamanic training. When I tried the posture lying down, though, the way the figurines were placed in the tombs, it worked well and safely.

I should point out that these poses are for worshipers or spiritworkers, to be used in ritual and trancework. There are other kinds of ecstatic postures that are for use by clergy leading rituals. The Upraised Arms posture is an example of this type, and it's one we use in MMP. It's found in the bell jar figurines and one of the Snake Goddess figurines. I recommend using this sort of pose only if you're experienced with ritual trance possession and/or have teachers who can guide you through the experience. The book Lifting the Veil by Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone is an excellent introduction to the practice of trance possession.

I encourage you to try out ecstatic postures in your own spiritual practice. If you don't have any spiritwork training, please seek out resources such as Diana Paxson's excellent book Trance-Portation so you'll have at least a basic framework for how to journey safely. Then experiment slowly and gently, allowing yourself to learn at your own pace. You might be surprised how far you can go!

Happy journeying!

In the name of the bee,
And of the butterfly,
And of the breeze, amen.

 

Original artwork: Isopata by Laura Perry, a modern art interpretation of the design on the gold seal ring from the Isopata Minoan cemetery at Knossos

 

Updated 21 Jun 2021