In her follow up to Trance-Portation, Diana Paxson teaches the fine points of channeling deities. From monitoring the condition of the channeler to interacting with gods that may not read status updates on the human condition, she is thorough, intersectional, and ground-breaking in her examination of the mediumship skill set.
Possession, Depossession and Divine Relationships delves into the implications of voluntary possession. Drawing Down the Moon, a cornerstone Wiccan ritual, invites the God/ess or a specific deity to borrow the body of a priest/ess in order to deliver messages to witnesses. Paxson, herself a Heathen, discovered as a guest during one of these rituals that the gods of her own pantheon also responded to invitations for channeling, despite (at least at one time) no historical evidence of the Norse tribes using mediumship in their spiritual practices. Her curiosity inspired, Paxson went on to investigate other spiritual traditions that used such practices, and in this book she puts together a well ordered piece on best practices and pitfalls of possession along the way.
While everything this book covers is valuable – really, required reading of anyone who plans to partake in possessory ritual – two particular topics stand out: the first, setting boundaries with deities and the second learning to identify “horse talk” or when a priest/ess allows his/her opinions to override the actual intent of the visiting deities, even while ostensibly possessed.
An important factor to understanding mediumship is understanding the range of relationships those who practice possessory trance have with those that temporarily overtake their bodies. Along the way she identifies how in each people may choose their level of service and degree of submission to that higher power. While this concept of setting limitations with deity flies in the face of some acculturated Christian notions of relationships with the divine, it makes absolute sense when viewed from the place of a person hosting a guest.
The less discussed but often encountered issue of a priest/ess allowing his/her own opinions to slip through also receives sensible treatment. Not only is this in some ways dangerous to observers, who themselves are often in a vulnerable state while engaging with their deities, it is sometimes anathema to the ritual to even comment on a suspicion that perhaps it’s not at all what the divinity thinks or feels. Paxson acknowledges that even the most practiced priest/ess can get at best fuzzy messages from divine influences – that’s just the way it works, and sometimes the way it doesn’t.
For anyone who ever intends to Draw Down the Moon, or attend a ritual where some sort of possession may take place, read this book first. It covers the topic far beyond the basics of grounding and centering, and gives a realistic, community-based view of these practices.
~ review by Diana Rajchel
Author: Paxson, Diana
Weiser Books, 2015
264 pp., 21.95