Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Astral Projection and Trance

One thing that werewolves do that is separate from the more social rituals I've discussed previously is sometimes called “projecting the Double”. Claude Lecouteux, in his excellent Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies (originally titled Fées, Sorcières, et Loups-Garous au Moyen Age ), discusses this subject at length, giving many examples from northern European sagas. One of the most interesting passages is from Nennius's Historia Britonum :

There exist certain men of the Celtic race who have a marvelous power that they get from their ancestors. By a demonic force, they can, at will, take the form of a wolf with large sharp teeth and often, thus metamorphosed, they attack poor defenseless sheep. But when people armed with sticks and weapons come toward them, they flee nimbly and cover great distances. When they are of a mind to transform themselves, they leave their human body, ordering their friends not to change their position or touch them in any minor way whatsoever, for if that were to happen, they would never be able to return to their human appearance. If, while they are wolves, someone wounds them or hits them, the wound or mark on their [animal] body is found in exactly the same place on their [human] body. [Lecouteux, pp.110-111]

But there are many other examples, not all of which have to do with transformation into wolf form. Some transform into other animals, such as bears, mice, cats, and the like, and others travel in their human form, but are also in a state of ecstatic trance, leaving their human body behind. In nearly all of these cases, the person who is entering these ecstatic states is emphatic that their physical forms are not to be touched, and frequently they demand that no one is to say their name. Having been in ecstatic trance myself, I can say that these are important precautions, if only because it can be difficult to maintain the state without falling back into one's body and normal consciousness or losing the events like a fading dream!

So, it is important for a werewolf to learn how to do this. I can't teach this in a single article like this one. There aren't many books that cover the subject well, but if you can find one that works for you, or better still if you are lucky enough to have a teacher in person, or even better have a natural affinity for trancework, then you should use that. The subject matter you should be looking for is sometimes called “ astral projection” or “lucid dreaming”. If you would like my suggestion, I recommend Robert Bruce's excellent work on “astral projection”, Astral Dynamics . “Astral projection” is a way of describing the sort of deep trance that is called “projecting the Double”, and Bruce includes a detailed discussion of exactly how to do it. If, like me, you prefer a structured method of learning, he has another book, Mastering Astral Projection , co-written with Brian Mercer, which presents a 13-week course of exercises that will almost certainly lead to successful deep trance, or “astral projection”. He uses a model of the “energy body” which I don't entirely subscribe to, but which is very useful in developing his method. Now, some people might dispute my recommendation, but I can say that I have learned how to engage in deep trance using the method Bruce describes. If there is a different method you wish to pursue, by all means do what seems best to you. In addition, there are other methods, such as this one , available for those who don't wish to, or are unable to, spend money on learning to project the Double, though I can't vouch for its effectiveness.

While in these ecstatic states, it is very easy, I've found, to change the body of the projected Double into a form that is desired. My very first deep trance state found me diving into deep water, changing into a seal form (seals are one of the animals associated with the Wind-Wolf type of god, at least in Gaelic countries; in Mediterranean areas, the association with sea mammals tends to be with dolphins instead), and swimming to the bottom of the sea, where I found a coral castle that undulated slightly in the current. At that point, I got excited, and the rest of the experience remains hazy to this day (I seem to remember meeting someone, and I was given something, but the details are mostly lost to my memory). Let that be an object lesson: keep calm.

These experiences seem quite real, or at least realistic. Most people have had a dream which they couldn't tell from waking life, except that strange things happened (or, stranger still, that nothing notably strange happened, but later conversation confirmed that the events did not occur in waking life). That's what it's like when the Double is projected. There are other similarities with dreaming, too, such as the fact that the experiences can quickly fade from memory (and I've found that keeping a dream diary, a notebook beside the bed with a pen or pencil so that you can record key words and images from dreams immediately when you wake, is very helpful in developing the ability to recall these experiences). Perhaps they are dreams, but if so, they are of a special sort. Robert Bruce, who I mention above, discusses these phenomena in some detail.

Dreams. The metaphysics of projecting the Double are debatable. One could approach it as a literal separation of awareness, and perhaps a “ subtle body”, from the physical body, and this is certainly plausible. It fits the facts both historical and contemporary, which have indicated that sensitive people, or people who are distracted by other activities, can see the projected Double, though frequently briefly and in the corner of the eye. Another approach might see the process as one of deep meditation, in which nonlocal sense impressions are converted into a feeling of separated awareness. Those who don't accept that there is a literal nonphysical component of the self, but who are at least agnostic on the subject of “Remote Viewing” (for which there is surprisingly ample evidence available to those who don't dismiss the subject out of hand) could approach the idea of projecting the Double from this point of view. Finally, there are those who don't accept nonlocal sensory impressions, but who might view the whole exercise as meditation without reference to any of the claims of literal separation in these practices, and I hope that such people can at least suspend their distrust of unusual practices to get the demonstrable benefits of meditation. Unfortunately, there is no study to date of the benefits of this sort of meditation, as neurological studies tend to be concentrated on “mindfulness” meditation, which is a particular type of meditative practice common to Buddhism. Ecstatic meditation of this sort, unfortunately, is apparently of less interest to modern neuroscientists (though there is some discussion out there, mostly focusing on so-called “Tantra” and orgasmic ecstasy, which I would say is related to the sorts of “out of body” experiences of astral projectors, werewolves, witches' flight, and shamans – and remember that werewolves are seen as particularly associated with some types of erotic games and activities).

But this is all discussion. The reality is that these practices are experiential. Go do something.


  1. Several things...

    1) Lecouteux's information is very flawed at that point. First off, it is definite at this point that no such figure called "Nennius" wrote the Historia Brittonum, and so the work is now known simply by its title. Second, the text from which he is quoting is not the Historia Brittonum itself, but instead the Irish translation/version of it, Lebor Bretnach, which has additions in it that the British Latin original lacks, including the account above. And third, I think the account above isn't even the version from Lebor Bretnach, as that one is much shorter, and mentions Laignech Faelad of Ossory. His translation is very strange (the insertion of "Celtic" for example...!?!), but it seems closest to the version of this story by Bishop Patrick of Dublin from the 11th century, if I'm not mistaken.

    2) I had not realized that so many people equate astral travel and lucid dreaming--I think they're quite distinct things, even though I'd say both are potentially spiritual experiences. I've done lucid dreaming on many occasions, and have had transformations of various sorts therein; I've done shamanic journeying that has had the same sort of character; but I've never done astral travel. Hmm...I suppose, though, it might be a matter of definition.

  2. Keep in mind that Lecouteux's book is translated, itself. I've no clear idea of how well the translator did, not having the original, nor a good enough command of French to puzzle it out if I did. The salient points are about (1) leaving the body behind (2) with instructions that it is not to be disturbed. Is that present in the original?

    There's a whole lot of discussion about what dreams are, what astral travel is, and so on. There is certainly some connection between them, though whether that is entirely due to the speculation about their metaphysics or whether it is a direct connection (sleep-as-trance-state) is debatable. I remain agnostic, but the connection is interesting, and the techniques are similar, at least in the way I learned to do it.

  3. Unfortunately, Lecouteux here is taking his info directly from Montague Summers; and while Summers sort of gets it right (though he's using an outdated translation with some incorrect contextualizing info, which is what you have above/what is printed in Lecouteux), Lecouteux has misunderstood Summer's reference/discussion.

    The info in it is essentially correct, but the details are totally off...

    A certain monograph that I know quite well clears this all up considerably...! ;)

  4. Oh, and please write me an e-mail if you'd be interested in having my old photocopy of the Borgeaud Pan book...