As I prepare for my final supervision session before earning my certification as a hypnotherapist (woot woot!) it felt right to revisit my letter of intent upon joining the training program with Shauna Cummins’ Divine Feminine School of Hypnosis. In this short essay, I link the skill of hypnosis with ancient cultural practices of making trance to home human habitation inside Earth’s dreaming. Hypnosis induces trance and breaks spells as well. If we are spellbound only by the world of our species, disaster results, a fate suffered with extinction by the passenger pigeons. They couldn’t wake up from their trance quick enough to recover, but we humans still can. I share a powerful shadowy dream of my own that broke this spell in my own psyche.
Perhaps you’ve heard about the passenger pigeon, a creature who has become a sort of poster child for the human proclivity to extinguish the incredible abundant offerings of life from Earth. The story is an all too common one these days, a heart wrenching nostalgia for the times when salmon ran so thick the rivers throbbed as silver veins, pumping blood to the heart of the land. Passenger pigeons once blackened the skies in massive hordes, falling to the ground without even an aim. Hunters did not consider the possibility of their extinction; it seemed preposterous. And then they were gone.
But as easy, and usually true, as it is to wrap up the story as human greed, it wasn’t so simple with the passenger pigeon. They were migratory creatures, but unlike the salmon, did not attune to particular places on Earth, but to each other, to the massive body they formed as they flocked from forest to forest. Under the trance of each other’s movements, they mastered the art of profligacy as assurance against predation. As their numbers declined, the spell diminished, the depth of their trance loosening its grip, until finally, they had no way to orient.
I look forward to learning more about the history of hypnosis, especially from a feminine perspective, as I begin my training with the DFSoH. I know already that it is an ancient practice, induced through drumming and dance, ritual and ceremony, long before the word hypnosis was coined. Like many land-based cultural technologies, hypnosis is a way to break the spell of the conscious, ego-driven mind, and the culture’s own conventions, and drop into the trance of Earth’s dreaming. These days, we are much like the passenger pigeon, entrained to each other, without a tether in Earth’s wider web.
Recently I had a disturbing dream that communicated something of this idea. I arrive at a pub with a group of friends. It is a seedy sort of place, with drunkards dozing off. A show begins and the audience is transfixed by the master of ceremonies, hypnotized by his very presence. It is clear to me that this man has a strange power, which has brought these people here beyond their will to be initiated into his cult, a process sealed by beholding a grotesque performance. The master reveals a big machine, with a metal conveyor belt. He lowers a man onto it and sends him through, belly down. As the belt moves him toward the audience, a blade removes his face. I make a run for it, wanting nothing to do with this horrible scene, and leave my friends behind, who are too deep in his spell to come with me.
As a student of depth psychology, I recognize this dream as an enactment of shadow. While I run away from the scene in the dream, it is the reality of my life in the unconscious. I believe the dream is trying to tell me I was massively identified with my persona, with how I attuned to the human world, unable to break its spell on me. And, as a shadow figure, the master of ceremonies has a power that I wield only unconsciously, but I could come to know and use with intention.
I believe humans are migratory creatures, our journey a psychospiritual one, that pulls us to our spawning ground, to our offering place, to our niche in the web of life. That is, if we are willing to fall under its spell, and if we are not so entranced by some other story that we can hear its song singing us home. There are quite a few good reasons why I want to learn hypnosis - because it is a damn relief to find a skill that can help us without our trying so hard, because of its delicious performative possibility, because it feels good, because it offers welcome access to the unconscious more than any other waking life modality, but it is this reason - to be in service to Earth’s spell - that I am its student.
To fall under Earth’s spell, we have to live in the trance of our inherent goodness, our beauty, and our worth. I look forward to learning various hypnotic healing techniques so those I work with have easier access to wholeness, and break the spell of critical inner voices, over-told victim narratives, habits of evasion and self-harm, and the tendency to conform to the social world instead of to the inmost Self. To fall under Earth’s spell, we have to connect with the deep well of wisdom in the unconscious. I look forward to learning hypnotic techniques of waking dreaming, to meet inner guides, ancestors, dance with dream figures and explore the previously unknown. I hope to continue growing my own Self and Earth attunement through the course, and gain a deeper confidence in working as a practitioner of the psychological arts.